I first came to StarStation Sol because of a broken heart. I had to get away from everything that reminded me of that girl, even the planet Earth. I can hardly remember her name, so I guess it worked.
I answered an ad looking for young men willing to make a career in space. The ITC had a problem finding enough single men who'd stay out there simply because there were so few women. Space was the ultimate lonely place since women were generally not interested in raising families in the sterile confines of a steel can surrounded by vacuum and deadly radiation. They're funny that way.
So part of the deal in this recruiting campaign was that you'd be issued your very own "personal servant", a beautiful woman to keep you company and pamper your every need. "She" being a pleasure-robiot, of course, one of those incredibly realistic state-of-the-art artificial women, free upgrades. Here's the pitch:
"Robiots are synthetic living persons, and the female pleasure-model is basically indiscernible from a natural woman, the main difference being that the robiot is better. Especially the new Gen32 model: she looks and feels and smells like a just-ripened teen-aged virgin, always willing, always horny, when you set them in sex-slave mode. Eternally young and beautiful, immune to diseases, glad to talk or shut up, ready to serve whatever it is her master wants or needs. They also come in innumerable models: blonde, black, exotic, sultry, take your pick. Then you program her personality the way you want her to be, or change it later, up to you."
The popular rumor was that, "They're fantastic lovers, but best of all, they're also just a little too dumb to fall in love with." That sounded great to me, I was 20, dumb and horny myself, so I fell for it.
That was another 20 years ago, now I'm the one human Chief of Security & Law on StarStation Sol, myself being Constable Joseph Emery. I still deal with robiots every day, three-quarters of the population of this StarStation are synthetic people, although I gave up on robiot women a few years back. I guess because none of them could break my heart.
Not that I have anything against robiots, I get along pretty well with my staff of 10 police officers, they're all sexless neuters but I think of then as the guys. And those hundreds of robiots who diligently work at their jobs on the station are hardly ever a problem for law enforcement, they almost never commit crimes. It's the humans we've got to watch out for.
And sometimes there were lots of extra humans to deal with: when the starships dock here before or after an interstellar launch. The normal resident population of 400 people could be suddenly doubled, tripled, or --as when the Starliner SILVERBERG docked here with 2000 passengers-- increased beyond the capacity of the station to even have to have them all aboard at one time. And when they all wanted to have fun, that's when those of us who worked in Security & Law earned our pay.
The most fun on StarStation Sol was definitely to be had at the Playtime Club, where there was music, entertainment, drinks, digital psychedelics, the best food on the station, and a staff of 15 lovely robiot pleasure-girls to choose from. We'd be called in there to deal with rowdiness every now and then, but never anything really serious. Misdemeanors of passion.
One of the girls in particular has caused most of the passion, her ID being SXI303pf, although everyone called her Sexy. She was the most popular girl at the Playtime Club, where she served drinks, sang, danced, chatted with the guests, and serviced them sexually. Other pleasure-girl robiots did those things too, but Sexy was the only one that men fell in love with. Actually, this story is about her.
But more about her later, first I need to tell you about The SILVERBERG incident.
When I first came to space it seemed to me that of all the technological wonders ever created by Mankind, the most impressive had to be a StarStation. What they are and what they do is blatant proof of Man's ability to outsmart just about every basic law of the physical Universe.
Think about it: cities that hover above suns, not orbiting, but simply resisting colossal gravities by dint of gravwarp drives. Their function is to launch starships to other sun-systems almost instantaneously, and without which interstellar traffic would be far too slow to be practical. There are 7 StarStations spread throughout the Colonized Galaxy so far, and an 8th is under construction in the Deneb System 400 light years away.
StarStation Sol is the First and oldest of them, and had been operating more or less flawlessly for 89 years... until the STARLINER ROBERT SILVERBERG incident, that is.
It should have been a routine launch, although the SILVERBERG was hardly a routine vessel. It was a brand new luxury starliner, the largest ever built, over a million earth tons of glass and metal and highest technology. This was her maiden voyage and many of her 2000 passengers were VIP dignitaries travelling around the Colonized Galaxy for a series of conventions. The SILVERBERG had arrived from Earth with great fanfare, commencing a high-profile tour of the 7 StarStations.
It was a big event for our StarStation, which could barely handle so many visitors at one time. They had to take turns coming aboard in shifts of 600 people at a time. They spent three days and millions of dolaroz in the shops and bars of StarStation Sol before they were to be launched to their next stop in the planetary system of Sirius, 8.6 light years away.
They also had me and my guys working a lot of overtime. Nothing serious, but always something: arguments, legal bendings, and a lot of small incidents that constantly required the attention of Constable Emery and his 10 police robiots.
Finally, the SILVERBERG was boarded, locked and loaded into position in the launching dock. Usually I don't bother watching launches any more, but this one I wanted to see. Maybe it was the sheer size of the SILVERBERG, or maybe just that I wanted to make sure those 2000 extra people were really leaving town.
I was in the Launch Control Room, so I had a good view: the Starliner perched between the four giant MEST-field generators and the 7 kilometer long accelerator tunnel tube, nose butted up to the contact plate, everything checking out for a "go". Although it did look preposterous that such a huge clump as that Starliner could ever be squeezed into that narrow accelerator tube.
It's always a dramatic sight, even when you're used to it: the accelerator tunnel activates, lightning flashes dash away into the depths of the tunnel, the MEST-field plasma grows and glows around the ship as a pulsing mist, jagged discharges of electrical excess crawl zappingly all over the exterior in a stunning show of fireworks that becomes more intense as the charge builds up to a critical phase tolerance, until suddenly-- like a bubble popping --the entire package compresses into a virtually nonexistent point of zero-ness, which gets sucked into the tunnel and is fired like a bullet from a rifle directly into the sun below.
To the uninitiated, that might seem to be the wrong way to go, but the connections between the stars are internal, not out between all those billions of light years of empty space, so that's how it's done. Stars are alive, and in touch with one another, thus the connection. The compressed package we send is temporarily out of phase with matter-energy-space-&-time, and therefore totally unaffected by the heat and mass of a star's core, so it passes into one star, and pops out of another star somewhere else. It's a short cut, almost instantaneous.
That package is targeted for another StarStation, where it is retrieved and decompressed, back in phase with the universe. It sounds risky, but it works every time. Well, except for the STARLINER SILVERBERG's maiden voyage.
That package never arrived to StarStation Sirius. It was simply gone. There was no obvious malfunction, no sign of sabotage, no emergency alarms went off, nobody knew what happened except that the SILVERBERG was launched and never arrived.
StarStation Sirus began sending message data-cubes at us, asking where the SILVERBERG was, the transfer should have been instantaneous. Within minutes every StarStation in the Colonized Galaxy was on emergency alert, running data checks, shooting data cubes back and forth. Small zipships and shuttle trucks were even sent out to physically LOOK for the giant starliner.
Technicians and scientists went into high gear, trying to find out where the SILVERBERG was, and if they could rescue it. Failing that: What Happened and Why?
But we had to find out fast: Relative Time Differential, etcetera. We had no idea in which RTD ratio the SILVERBERG would end up: could be frozen in compressed time, which would be good; or already flashed out, a million years having passed for everyone onboard long before we had even noticed that it was gone. That would be bad.
Bad enough to mean the end of interstellar luxury travel, very few rich passengers would be willing to chance vanishing as the SILVERBERG did.
Being the station constable, chief of the Security and Law Office, I was automatically in charge of the security investigation. We needed to determine if this was a criminal act, terrorism, or a systems malfunction. No one was sure which would be the worst case scenario, but one of them was that the MEST package had failed and the ship had evaporated inside the sun.
All we had were theories, and there were lots of those. Computer error, human error, human terror, act of God. There was the political angle-- there was a VIP group of United World Ministers on board the SILVERBERG, offering possible motives for sabotage or mass murder. And of course, "Curse of the Titanic" rumors were unavoidable.
About 20 minutes after the disappearance an emergency holo-meeting was held between critical station personnel and three top Interstellar Traffic Control executives on Earth. They wanted to know what we'd found out on our end.
"In a word, nothing," Mark Bellows from Launch Control told them, "all telemetry checks out: it was a perfect launch. We still don't have a clue as to what happened."
"This is taking too long," ITC Minister Stephanaz ranted, "everyone on that ship could be dying of old age in minutes!"
"We're aware of that, sir, and we're doing our best..."
"Oh, we're sure you are," Stephanaz made it sound sarcastic, "so we're sending someone who can do better..."
Chairman Blocker took over, always more diplomatic and fair-minded than Stephanaz, "We've assigned a specialized Galactic Security Agent to take over the SILVERBERG investigation..."
"Sir," I had to mention, "even the fastest zipship takes 33 hours to get here, we don't have time to wait for.."
The Chairman's screen image interrupted me with a polite nod and went on, "We're not sending a ship at all, but data transmission." He nodded to Minister Shaktiri, to continue with the scientific details.
"Our very best special agent in the field is a Gen37 robiot," Shaktiri said, "Agent TSK1099 is an enforcer model, an analytic genius with enhanced digital perceptions. He's had a lot of experience and an amazing track record. We're outloading his personaware to you even now, so you'll have all the data in an hour. Of course, he'll require a host Gen37 body for inloading."
"But we don't have any Gen37 robiots onboard here," Station Supervisor Bartholomew informed them, "the highest level we've got are Gen35s. Can we use one of them?"
"Oh no, not adequate," Shaktiri informed us, "Agent Task's enhancements and intellect would be crippled without the upgraded circuitry," he checked a screen, "but anyway, according to ITC's personnel listings there are two Gen37 robiots assigned to StarStation Sol."
"Well, they're not on any list we have," I said, "working in Security and Law I'd certainly know."
"YOU don't KNOW, Constable," Stephanaz spoke as if talking to an idiot, "because those robiots are not listed as Gen37s."
Chairman Blocker broke in to explain more politely, "It's true, the ITC has discretely posted at least two backup Gen37s on each StarStation, they can be very handy in emergencies such as this one."
"Discretely?" Bartholemew protested, "Doesn't that mean covertly?"
"Officially classified information," Stephanaz sneered, "need-to-know basis. And none of you there needed to know."
It was Shaktiri's turn to explain the scientific details. "Gen37s are in common usage here on Earth as geniuses, thinkers, bureaucrats, scientists, experts, executives. But they have not been as well-received as they deserve to be off-planet, seems that they give many people inferiority complexes. So we have distributed a chosen few programmed with standard Gen35 personaware, to get them blended into human-robiot society until we might have need for their special abilities, at which time we can reprogram them with Gen37 personaware..."
"Never mind explaining all that," Stephanaz interrupted, "Just get one of those Gen37s ready to inload Agent TSK1099's personaware within the hour."
"We'll need to know who they are," I said.
Shaktiri nodded and read from his DZ, "You must call in Robiot FRD7077um."
"Freddy-- HE's a Gen37?" Mark Bellows asked, then added, "Well, that was unlucky!"
"What's wrong with Freddy?" I asked.
"He was our local pilot for the SILVERBERG launch. He was supposed to take it to StarStation Sirius and shuttle back to us... but now he's wherever the SILVERBERG is."
"Then forget him," Stephanaz shouted impatiently, "use the other one!"
Shaktiri read the alternative name: "SXI303pf."
Several of us from the StarStation looked at each other and blinked a few times, certainly long enough to qualify as a pregnant pause.
"So what's wrong with HIM?" Stephanaz snarled, no patience left at all, "or don't you know where to find him?"
"Oh, we know where to find...her. SXI303pf is a pleasure-girl."
Supervisor Bartholomew gave me a confused look, the only one who didn't understand who we were talking about. Mark said, "Sexy." Then Bartholemew suddenly rolled his eyes upward in embarrassment, saying nothing. Seems he knew her rather well.
"What? A Gen37 is being used as a... a sex slave?" Stephanaz sounded affronted, "That's scandalous, they're designed for executive leadership, what a waste of AI talent!"
"Never mind, just get her," Minister Blocker ordered, "any Gen7 has the circuitry needed, and this is no time for niceties. Constable Emery, you are acquainted with this...er... pleasure-robiot?"
"Only professionally," I said, as if I'd hardly ever noticed her.
That hung in the air before Stephanaz asked, "Your profession or hers?" His face was stern, but the others laughed anyway.
I'm sure I blushed, but kept a straight face, this was serious business. "As Constable I've been called in on a few incidents involving robiot SXI303pf and some jealous lovers."
"Jealous? Over a robiot?" Stephanaz seemed even more affronted.
"Well, as you mentioned.. she's talented," I said.
"She's a Gen37," Chairman Block announced, "they tend to be superior at whatever they do. Anyway, Joe, if you know her at all, we'd prefer for you to talk her into loaning us her body for the investigation-- only temporarily, of course. Even a pleasure-robiot has rights, and the Artificial Intelligences Union might want to jump on this, so it's best if she agrees to it."
"What if she's unwilling?" I asked.
Stephanaz barked, "Do it anyway, deal with the legalities afterward."
I made the call to the Playtime Club, informing Ed Evisson of the situation and that we had to borrow robiot SXI303pf, by order of the ITC. Ed protested at first, but the ITC owned the station and all the robiots onboard as well, so he really couldn't say No. I sent Officer Bud 7698, one of my robiot cops, to go pick her up and bring her to the Security Office.
As the local Constable I knew just about everyone on the station to some degree from the resident personnel files, the population being about 350: 80 human men, 20 human women, and 250 robiots. Most of the robiots were sexless Gen35s, but there were also "personal servants" or pleasure models with all sexual plumbing required. There was, however, only one like Sexy.
Most obvious being that she had a different skin color than any other robiot on the station: she was golden, literally, like shining gold. And with hair the color of fire, quite striking. Robiots are color-coded for identification of type: service robiots like my cops are light-green; pleasure girls feminine rosy pink. No one knew why Sexy 303 was another color than any other robiot.
Suddenly it made sense: SXI303pf was special because she was a Gen37, the latest robiot upgrade. Someone had installed the standard happy sex-slave program and she did fine. Actually, she did more than fine, she was a goddess. She had an extra capacity that made her the best courtesan on the StarStation, an intelligence that surpassed her programming and made her special.
SXI303pf was definitely superior to all the other pleasure-girls: smarter, more creative, spontaneous, funny. More loveable. But the thing is, that also made her problematic: a guy could fall in love with Sexy 303. Several did, got upset that she was servicing others, there were fights, violence. There's no room for jealousy on a StarStation, isolated far out in space.
As I waited for her to arrive, a picture of Agent TSK1099 had come up onscreen as his personaware was being outloaded. I was surprised to see that he had the same golden skin-color as Sexy 303, evidently a Gen37 trait, but otherwise he was nothing like her. Agent Task looked big and brutal, muscular, even his face, everything tight: lips, eyes, all tight, intense, hard looking, no smile. A tough guy.
Except that he wasn't really a guy at all, enforcement robiots are sexless, although the tough part still applies. And we're going to dump him into soft and juicy Sexy 303.
Wonder if he'll fit, I thought.
She arrived with Officer Bud, the first time I'd seen her wearing normal clothes, for which I was grateful. She hardly wore anything at the Playtime Club. It had been 7 years since I had talked with her, but she still looked the same, as if she was about 22 years old.
I won't say she was more beautiful than any other pleasure-girl... well, okay, she was, but not physically. Most robiot women are so perfect that it's boring, even though they can change their looks, from slender to voluptuous, some racial features, hair colors, whatever a man fancies that day. Sexy generally looked like an idealized Scandinavian type, classic face, high cheekbones, with her golden coloring and chromium-blue eyes. It was the anything-but-aloof twinkle in those eyes and a happy sassiness that made her special, that made her REAL. It was hard to remember that this was a biological robot, a living machine made of organic plastics that resembled flesh and bone, an artificial person.
I explained the situation to her, and was surprised to hear how much she already knew about the SILVERBERG malfunction. Most pleasure-girls ignore such trivia. Of course, I surprised her too.
"I'm a model Gen37?" she asked, thought about it, then answered her own question, "Yes, of course, that explains why I'm better than all the other girls." No false modesty there.
"Yeah, I guess it might," I agreed, "you've got more advanced circuitry. Which is why we need you right now."
"Well, most men want my body, but this is a bit extreme," she said, without her usual glad humor. In fact, she was rather upset. "You can't just take my life away, even robiots have certain rights, the AI Union..."
"I'm sorry, Sexy, but this is an immediate major emergency, involving the lives of over 2000 humans and the perhaps the entire future of interstellar travel. You are the one and only Gen37 robiot within a week's travel of this StarStation, so we'll have to borrow your body for a while. Maybe for only a week, who knows?"
"Do I have any say in this?"
"Well, we'd prefer that you to agree to it."
"Yes, I'll bet you would, the way you avoided the subject of the Union." She thought about it for a moment, then asked, "And if I don't agree?"
She could read men, and was giving me that computer-analyzing-body-language look. There was no way I could get away with a lie even if I wanted to. I shrugged, "They'll do it anyway."
She nodded, hardly surprised. Looked away. I was surprised to see a tear.
Finally she asked, "So what happens to ME? They're going to DELETE my persona software again, right?"
"Oh no-- well, yes, but not permanently. Your persona software will be reinstalled when the agent is done with the investigation, and you'll be Sexy 303 again."
"But I won't be THIS person any more-- I never am. I think they do this to me all the time, wipe out my memories when I start to know too much and get too smart, then reinstall me with the standard dumb pleasure-girl personaware."
"Yes, I remember you telling me about that before."
"I did? See, I can't even remember that, they must've restarted me since then. I don't understand how they can just do that to me even if I am just a robiot! Especially now that I know I'm a Gen37!"
She looked at me with resignation. "Guess that's not your problem." She kept looking at me with those eyes that can read men, then finally asked, "Or what?"
"Look," I said, "the last time I offered to help you out, you reacted to some programming that doesn't allow you to accept personal favors from men because too many of them want to be your very special friend."
"I did? Damn!"
"So listen: because you will be of service to the office of Security and Law in our investigation, I'll back up your personaware here in our own data bank--with your present memories intact--and that's what we'll reinstall when Agent Task is done with your body."
"Oh!" her software kicked in, "No, I...I can't accept favors from..."
"This is not from a man, but the Office of Security and Law. Besides, it's only fair."
Her involuntary response turned off and her eyes lit up. "You promise? And I do mean YOU personally, Joe Emery," she was looking me right in the eyes, "YOU promise that you'll bring THIS ME back to life?"
"Yes, I promise."
She studied me to read how earnest I was being, then nodded.
"Does that mean you agree to the transaction?" I asked, bringing forth my DataZapper, setting it to retinal/pupil scanning mode to notarize the contract.
"Wait." There was now resolution in her voice. "As long as we're being fair, I want something else too."
I lifted an eyebrow, wondering what a robiot could want. "Well?"
"I want out of the Playtime Club, and all pleasure-girl chores. I want another job, I don't care what. And real Gen37 personaware upgrade, I feel like I'm operating nowhere near my potential. Can you do that?"
"Uh... I don't know, I wasn't authorized to negotiate terms, there's so little time..."
"Then contact someone with authority right now."
My mouth was open, I admit it. This pleasure-robiot was suddenly calling the shots. And while I'm admitting things, I admired her for it. My open mouth became a smile.
"Hell yes," I said, "Way to go, girl!" Immediately opened a channel to ITC Headquarters. "May I speak with Chairman Block, please..."
But it wasn't that easy, Block was away, and who did I get on line? The eternally nasty Minister Stephanaz, of course. I quickly explained her terms of negotiation.
Stephanaz reacted as he always did, unpleasantly: "We've got no time for this, and we're not taking orders from some robiot-whore! Agent Task's personaware is almost finished outloading, you go make that transfer now!" And he shut the connection.
Sexy and I looked at each other for a moment of silence.
"You know," she said, "I'm programmed to like all men, but that guy IS an asshole."
"No kidding. Well, screw that guy," I said, "I'm going to try to get you what you want, Sexy. I don't know if I can, but believe me, I want that for you too."
"I believe you, Joe," she said, nodding, "and I'm going to trust you to try."
I took her to the data banks that my robiot cops use and downloaded a copy of her personaware. Just for a safety backup.
While she was downloading I asked her to change her clothes for an S&L uniform. I didn't think Agent Task would want to wake up in a dress. I was such a proper cop that I turned my back so as not to see her naked.
"You can look, Joe. In fact... please look. I want you to want me back."
So I looked. Smart girl, it worked. I wanted her back.
We went to the data lab, where the transfer was to be made. She cooperated, laid herself on the cot prepared for her. A data cable from the main frame memory machine was attached to the slot in the back of her head, and began outloading her personaware-data into the data banks, from which she could later be reinstalled. As a safety precaution I did not mention that I had already made my own copy, just in case.
"I'm afraid," she said.
I took her hand and said, "Look, nothing's going to happen to the real YOU, except for having another set of perceptions and memories for awhile."
"But I won't remember them, will I?"
"I doubt it, a GSA agent's memories are probably classified. So the next thing you know, you'll be waking up right here and it'll all be over, as if nothing ever happened."
"Will you be here, Joe?"
"I'll try to be." I meant it.
"Joe... you kind of love me, don't you?"
I hesitated, shrugged, said nonchalantly, "Sure, Sexy, me and every other guy."
Her eyes let me know she could decipher bullshit, said, "Well, I feel better knowing that you actually do care if I come back or not. You know, I can't remember-- have we ever had sex?"
"No. I'd certainly remember that," I assured her.
"Oh. let's do that then, when I come back."
"You don't have to offer that."
"I know, but I want to." She even managed a little grin, "I'm programmed that way, you know."
The technician nodded to me, saying, "The personaware outload from ITC is complete, we can inload any time now. All we have to do is delete her personaware first."
I faltered a second, looking into her eyes-- totally unable to see her as an artificial robiot, even a Gen37-- this was an exceptional woman facing her own mortality. Aware that this was no time for falseness, I said, "Okay, you're right, of course I..."
She nodded to me, then for the technician to go ahead.
He waited a moment before saying to me, "Better let go of her hand if you don't want to get a shock."
"Oh yeah..." I reluctantly released my grip on her.
Suddenly she said, "Wait," and I urgently signaled the technician to stop.
"Tell Agent TSK1099 that he has my permission to access my memory data if he needs to. I don't know, he may find the things I know about men useful in his investigation."
"Oh, all right. Thanks," I said.
She and I shared one last look, then she closed her eyes without saying anything more. She jerked once when the technician hit the delete switch, and the persona of SXI303pf was gone.
It felt as if I had just murdered the love of my life.
No, that's stupid, I told myself. She wasn't real, just some artificial intelligence software that SEEMS to be alive. Like that tear she wept-- probably a function of some pleasure-girl program sequence designed to elicit sympathy in men. It couldn't have been real, could it? Then again, isn't that exactly what a real woman would do?
It was all denial, of course. I certainly wasn't going to admit to myself how I really felt about SXI303pf, as if I even knew.
But just as I had assured her, she was hardly dead. Twitching slightly, turning her head, frowning, gasping, experiencing the new data now streaming into her head. After an hour, she relaxed.
"Inload complete," he technician said, "Agent TSK1099's persona-software is installed and she...uh, he, whatever.. is ready to awaken."
Sexy opened her eyes, looked around before trying to sit up, saw me and focused in.
"You must be Officer Emery," she informed me. Her voice sounded different, crisper, harder.
"Uh, yeah, that's me. Welcome to StarStation Sol, Agent Task."
"How much time has passed since the SILVERBERG malfunction?"
"About two hours now," I informed her.
"I'd better get on it," she said, and sat up, intending to stand.
But she staggered back onto the cot, off balance. She looked down at her breasts, hips, small hands.
"Damn, I'm a...woman!" She seemed amazed.
"Uh, right. SXI303pf is the only Gen37 available on StarStation Sol. Weren't you informed about that?"
"No, there was no time. I started updating my personaware backup as soon as the alert was called, so this copy of my personaware has been out of touch from that moment until now."
She struggled to her feet again, taking a few clumsy steps. "What kind of robiot body IS this? It's all off balance!"
"You'll get used to it, the original persona balanced it...beautifully," I assured her.
Task took a few unsteady steps forward, then seemed to catch the mechanics of it, and walked one way, then the other.
"I don't believe this body...so many distracting sensations-- breasts that jiggle when I walk, nipples that rub against clothes, tingling in my crotch. Everything tickles. I've got to do something about this..."
She sat on the cot, closed her eyes, went into a trance, concentrating or meditating. After three minutes she let out a great breath of relief. "There, that's better."
I looked at her inquisitively.
"Filtered the sensations, as if they were pain. This girl had her pleasure responses screwed all the way up." Task seemed scandalized.
"Well, she IS a pleasure-girl, programmed that way, probably had no choice."
"Maybe so," Task complained, "but I find all this voluptuous flesh uncomfortable."
"You don't have to look like that," I said, "you can adjust that body to be thinner or plumper, you know."
"Could SXI303pf do that?" she asked.
"All pleasure-girls can do that, it's really just control of their water retention."
"So how do I do it?"
"Well, I don't know-- being just a human, I can't!"
She tried to suck in her cheeks, but that's all she achieved. I had to laugh.
"You are laughing? You think this is funny?" She was getting angry.
"You looked cute. Look, it's probably a standard pleasure-girl program routine, maybe you should just ask one of them how to do it."
"Hmm, perhaps later, right now time is the enemy, so I need to get up to speed here," Task said, "take me somewhere I can run and work out for a few minutes to tune in this body."
The station gym was only a short slidewalk tour away. She stumbled at first, smoothing into a shuffle, then half-jogged, twisted, stretched, getting to know the new set of muscles. There were a few men working out in the gym when we arrived.
Task shouted to the men there, "I am Special Agent Task from GSA, and am appropriating this facility for half an hour, so everyone leave this room now!"
"Hey, Sexy, want to have an orgy?" one guy shouted back. He wasn't being sarcastic, he meant it. Most of the others looked at her in confusion, not taking seriously the orders she had called out.
I had to wave to them in my Constable uniform, "You all know me, this really is a security matter, better go guys."
"Oh...well, okay, Joe. We're gone." They left with a wave.
"Haven't the population been advised that I am taking command of the investigation?" Task asked, an irritated edge to her voice and a frown to match.
"Uh, no. Most of the general population doesn't have anything to do with the launch facility. At this moment only the executive staff knows who you really are. I guess that makes you undercover."
"So they think I'm a pleasure-whore?" She looked rather offended.
I nodded, shrugged, "Well, a very popular one."
"Constable Emery, I will not tolerate flippancy, disrespect or insubordination!" Task hissed at me.
I was surprised by her anger. "Hey," I said, "calm down, none was intended."
"You don't command ME to calm down!" She was getting hysterical.
"Agent Task, you are behaving irrationally," I spoke with professional calm in my most authoritative constable voice, "I believe your emotions are being affected by a new set of robiot hormones. Maybe you should do your workout-- as you had planned --and get in tune with this body."
She considered, then nodded. "Might be right." And off she ran, doing laps around the gym.
Task soon got into synch at running, and then was fast. I'd never seen Sexy run before, but I'd worked out with my police robiots and knew they were faster than humans. She was even faster than them-- or maybe it was Task's persona driving her harder than usual. Then she started doing summersaults, flips and rolls as she ran, never breaking pace, going even faster. Whatever needed tuning was definitely getting there. Finally she stopped, on a landing from a double flip, with a great gasp for air.
I'd located a towel and tossed it to her. Sweat glistened on her flushed skin, still breathing heavily from the workout. My god she was beautiful.
Task didn't smile, but was calm now. "That helped. I think you were right about the hormones, Constable Emery. I don't usually allow myself to get that worked up, it's too counterproductive. Now let's get to work."
I took her to the Launch Operations Control Room. There were operators and technicians already running data checks, about 10 men. They noticed us right away. Or rather, noticed her.
There was a chorus of, "Hi, Sexy!" "Hey, Sexy!" "Ho, how's it going, babe?", etc.
The shift captain, Bob Nash, finally had enough presence of mind to say, "Very nice to see you again, Miss Sexy 303, but this IS a restricted area. What are you doing here?"
It was as if they hadn't even noticed that she was escorted by the chief of S&L police, being me, so entranced were they with her. But I erased their horny grins with a quick introduction.
"This is not Sexy 303's persona, guys, seems that she's a Gen37 and her body is being loaned to Special Agent Task, who has been outloaded from Earth Authority to assist in the Silverberg investigation."
Each man put on a different expression, from surprise to dismay, every emotion except abject respect for an agent from a government agent.
Fred Spencer allowed himself a scowl as he asked, "Uh, you guys DELETED Sexy?"
"She'll be reinstalled when Agent Task is done with her...uh...his job here. I personally promised her that."
"Man, I hope so," Clive Jennings said, "we sure don't want to lose her."
Another of the guys looked me over, and nodded a friendly little grin my way. "I'd say Joe means she'll be back, guys, he loves her too."
"I'd better make a correction in your perceptions of me," Task said, speaking in a voice much more authoritative than pleasure-girl Sexy had ever mustered, "I am not here to ASSIST in this investigation, but to ASSUME COMMAND of it. Anyone questioning my authority can check with the EA. I will expect your complete cooperation."
Those men were surprised and sobered to hear everyone's favorite pleasure-girl suddenly get down to serious business instead of pandering to their erotic whims.
Shift captain Nash also assumed a businesslike attitude, "Well, this is pretty unorthodox, so you'll understand if I do, in fact, confirm that with EA before we can surrender command to anyone."
"Absolutely," Task agreed, "do so immediately."
"But first we'll need your pupil-scan to establish your personaware identity." Captain Nash pointed to the visio camera.
Task looked into the lens, there was a tiny flash, and a readout of Task's persona-ID data popped up onto every screen in the room.
"Hmm, that is NOT the Sexy we know," Jennings commented.
"It's been 3 hours and 5 minutes since the SILVERBERG disappeared," Task noted, "have there been any other test launchings since then?"
"Not from here, we're not sure if we dare to. If the SILVERBERG is still in the in the zero-time path somewhere, launching a grain of sand at them might cause a supernova. Who knows?"
"A cargo ship arrived in from StarStation Canopus about 17 minutes after the SILVERBERG mishap, no problem there, but we've called a halt to all other launchings until we find out what happened."
"I'm going to access the launch control database to see if I can find a clue," Task informed them, "and it should be inactive while I do so. Leave everything running, but make no changes, neither input nor output. In fact, leave the room, all of you."
The control room crew looked at each other in consternation.
"Look, uh, Sexy..." Fred Spencer began, but was interrupted.
"You are addressing Agent Task now, not the pleasure-girl I resemble."
"Whatever, Agent Task, one person can't run this room, you start fiddling around with stuff you don't know.."
"Officer Spencer, I have already inloaded all available reference manuals for this system, and probably comprehend this hardware and software better than you do."
"We still can't leave anyone alone here," Captain Nash insisted "it's against regulations."
"Very well then, Constable Emery can stay, the rest of you go."
Task sat in a swivel chair before the control panel, but did not touch any controls. He closed his eyes and seemed to be going to sleep, but after a few seconds he spoke to me, "I'd rather you don't tell them what I'm doing now." Confused me a little, she didn't seemed to be doing anything.
Then I saw all the monitors go dark, noticed meters jumping and lights flashing, indicating great activity in the data flow. Task seemed to go into a deep trance, twitching every now and then. Finally I understood: she was now accessing the computers, but without any screens or keyboards, no interface, no connecting cables.
"What the hell.. wireless?"
She spoke in a detached voice, "Yes, data osmosis is a standard Gen37 capability."
"Could Sexy do this?"
"She IS doing it, but she's never had the proper personaware installed before."
I let her work undisturbed, until she sat back, obviously finished but saying nothing.
"Find anything?" I asked.
"No discrepancies with other data. The launch should have put the SILVERBERG into the Sirius system. The problem is not here. I'll have to repeat the procedure at StarStation Sirius."
"Well... IF we can get there. It isn't yet determined that the next launch will go any better."
"Hasn't anyone launched an unmanned test vehicle?"
"Not before we know if it will hit the SILVERBERG or not. A grain of sand at that speed..."
She nodded, not needing a lesson in physics. "But message cubes have been shooting to and from Sirius since the incident."
"They don't use the big launch engines, they're just shot into MEST without regard to life-support."
Task called the control room crew back in. "All right, I confirm that there is no malfunction within your system, you can get back to work again. Telemetry isn't telling us anything, so I need a launch to Sirius as soon as possible."
"We don't know if it's safe," Captain Nash protested.
"No, we don't. But the path is clear, I've ascertained that, and there are 2000 people I need to find fast. Get me a small vehicle, for one person."
"The smallest is a 4-man shuttle," I said, I'll arrange it."
Fred Spencer started to object, "We're not ready..."
"Yes, I know," Task nodded, "you need three hours to shift from analysis mode to launch readiness. Start now. I will use that time for research before I launch."
I took Task back to my apartment rather than the Security Office. She looked around suspiciously, then challenged me about it, "Why have you brought me here?"
"I got the feeling that you needed some privacy from horny men, and you can access all the same data over my home monitor."
I was surprised to see Task flash me a look of gratitude and relief.
"By the way," I informed her, "you're not going to launch alone. I'm going with you."
"I thought you considered it a risk."
"I do, but I promised Sexy I'd take care of her, so where her body goes, I go."
"Not unless I say so," Task challenged me, "I'm in charge of this..."
"And I am Security Chief of this StarStation, if you really want to waste time in a shouting match about who's the boss..."
"Never mind, I welcome the backup. Besides, now I can see that you really ARE in love with her," Task said, with some amusement.
"I care about her, that's all."
"Actually, I have no data about this fleshware I'm borrowing, except that she was a pleasure-robiot. But all those men seemed to have known her, so I assume that she was not a personal servant assigned to one man..."
"No, she was a public servant at the Playtime Club."
"...a Gen37 whore. I find that scandalous."
"I'm surprised to hear a robiot moralizing," I said, wanting to defend her, "Sexy was very nice..."
"Oh, I'm sure she was. And probably very good at her job. The scandal I'm referring to is the misuse of a Gen37, her intelligence potential is too high for that."
"Well, she was smart all right, learned fast. That's really what made her so popular."
Task turned to look at me. "Oh, don't tell me you have also had relationships with this.." she indicated her female body "..whore-robiot?"
"No, I haven't. I've met her a few times in my capacity as constable, that's all. But I should tell you, I'm one of the few men on this StarStation who haven't had sex with her. She's very popular."
"I can tell, all those men are constantly LEERING at me."
"So are you lusting after me too?"
"You mean now? No, thanks," I said, "your new Agent personaware is nowhere as titillating as Sexy's was. Kind of a turn-off, really." I had to say something to maintain a professional relationship between us for the investigation.
He looked at me with the eyes of an artificial intelligence that could count heartbeats, pupil dilations, automatic lie-detection capabilities, and decided that I was telling something like the truth.
After a moment he asked me, "So why haven't you had sex with her too?"
"I really didn't want to fall in love with a pleasure-girl."
"That's why? You thought if you had sex with her one time you'd fall in love?"
"Sexy is something special. I've been called in a few times to intervene between jealous men fighting over her. That's unusual: most men regard pleasure-girls as semi-intelligent toys; they trade them, reprogram them, they certainly don't get jealous about them."
"How well did you know her?" she asked me.
"I've only met her twice. Three times if you count calling her in to become you."
"Tell me about her."
"This is kind of bizarre," I said, "you ARE her, just with different personaware."
"But I don't have her memories, fill me in a little. Your impression first time you met, for example."
"Okay. First time was 9 years ago, Security had been called in to the Playtime Club to stop one of those fights I'd mentioned, so I went along with two other officers..."
OUR FIRST MEETING
Officers Bud 7698 and Dale 5408 had told me with some amusement that the fuss was about Sexy, as usual. It sounded like a minor incident, nothing that required my presence, but I'd been hearing about her for a while and decided to go along for the ride, just out of curiosity.
After all, Sexy was somewhat infamous. A new girl, just arrived the year before, she worked 20 hour shifts servicing men, half hour sessions each, that's 32 men a night. Every guy who'd ever been with her had to tell what a fantastic lover she was, and I heard it from almost every unmarried man on the station. The married men weren't talking. She sounded so good that I'd considered finding out for myself someday, but had never gotten around to it, having had enough of pleasure-girls when I was younger.
It only took us about 3 minutes to get over to the Playtime Club, but the problem had already been settled by then. Three jealous men had gotten into a fight about Sexy 303, having gone crazy because other men could also have her. Sexy herself had stopped the fight, by pushing each man down into a sofa and shouting "No!" as if to naughty puppies. As we arrived she was saying to them, "I won't tolerate violence here! The next guy who gets nasty gets no more of me--EVER--got that?" And they took the abuse, nodding sheepishly.
I was surprised. Right there she'd done two things that robiot women never did: she'd used her superior robiot strength to restrain human men, and she'd said "No" to them. Robiots are permitted to protect themselves from harm, even pleasure girls if a physically dangerous violence threshold is overstepped, but not to interfere between humans. Police robiots do so in the line of duty, but they're programmed to that effect, pleasure-girls are not.
I was impressed by what I saw, not for her standard-issue beauty, but for the intelligence and authority she commanded. Thought she'd make a good cop. But that was my job, so I moved in to take charge, assess the situation, take names, question witnesses.
I started with her, "Hello, I'm Constable Emery, you must be the famous SXI303."
She turned to me and smiled. "Yes, hi Joe, you're famous too."
I had intended to be businesslike upon meeting her--and I did pretty well until we stood about a meter apart. That's when the magnitude of her beauty hit me.
I'd seen pictures of her, still and moving, they were all over the station, on the data-network, she was a kind of local celebrity, so I thought I knew what she looked like, but I didn't. Sexy was taller than most robiots, blonder than most blonds, with a more-than-perfect figure barely concealed by a transparent dress of silky fluff. Everything about her was high-impact. Pheromones maybe, her aura perhaps. She had chromium eyes!
I was going to say something relevant to the case at hand, but couldn't remember what it was. She smiled and that was too much, I had to step back. Clear my head. I babbled something without any meaning. It was embarrassing to so totally lose it over some pleasure robiot. I wanted to fall down and worship her, but I was a cop, so there was only one thing I could do-- I got mean.
I took out my DataZapper and held it up in front of her, "We'd better confirm the ID scan of all those involved, look into the DZ, please." There was the usual little blitz as it scanned her eyes.
Ed Evisson, the club manager, stepped up just then, saying, "Oh, you don't have to make a report of this, do you Constable? There's been no real damage." He was fretting.
"That depends upon whether anyone is pressing charges or not," I told him.
"Well, we're not," Ed said, "speaking for the Playtime Club and any employees thereof." Meaning Sexy.
"How about you guys?" I asked, looking at the 3 men who'd been in the fight. They were a little roughed up around the edges and one had a bloody nose, but no serious damage. At first I'd thought what a bunch of jerks, losing it over an artificial woman, but now I had all the sympathy in the world for them. None of them were pressing charges either, so we all agreed to forget about the incident.
Agent Task said, "The greatest probability is that someone has deliberately sabotaged the SILVERBERG's launch, someone who has been, or is on this StarStation even now."
"We thought that too, " I said, "and have gone over all recorded visio data without finding anyone suspicious." Then added, "but there is one potential source of information we haven't exploited: before Sexy was deleted, she granted permission to access her memories."
Task raised an eyebrow, said, "Yes, perhaps it would be a good idea to access the memories of SXI303pf. She seems to have known every man on this station."
I had a copy of her personaware in my data bank, but it was protection-coded. When we tried to call it up on screen we got only this: "Access Denied-- data is property of the Playtime Club."
So we went to the Playtime Club to negotiate the release of Sexy's persona memories. Ed greeted us in his office.
"Hi Sexy, are you ready to come back to work?" he asked Task.
"I am not SXI303pf," Task insisted, with a surprising touch of irritation for a robiot, "I am Agent Task of..."
"Oh yeah, the earth-issue robiot we loaned her body to. Look, how much longer you gonna need her? I don't mind doin my civic duty, but she's our most popular girl, so we're losing money here. We need her back soon."
"And I need to access her memory bank..."
"Oh wait, no can do! That's her own private and confidential data."
"But she's given us permission," I mentioned.
"She CAN'T give anyone permission, she's only a fucking robiot bitch. It's not HER we're protecting, but our clients. And ourselves, she's a valuable piece of merchandise."
"We're only looking for memories related to the SILVERBERG incident, " I said.
"Yeah, but you'd have to sift through everything else to find it: client's names, dates, details. Juicy stuff there, right? And while you're in there you could also fiddle with her programming just enough so that she loves only you. Do you know how many guys have tried to work that one? That's legal if she's your own assigned servant, but she's private property, which we own."
"All right, we need her memories, so we'll buy her."
"Buy her? You'd have to be pretty rich."
"As an agent of the WA Intelligence Division, I am authorized to utilize any funds necessary for completion of my mission. I can transfer them to your account at once."
"Well then, maybe we could discuss a price... She's a goldmine, so if we project her future earnings to be around..."
Task cut him off, "This is the government you're dealing with, not some pimp. You will be compensated for the purchase price of another new pleasure robiot, nothing more."
"Well then, I don't believe we are interest..."
"You can't say NO to the government, this involves the lives of 2000 people and the entire future of interstellar traffic! If we do not break this case, you, and this StarStation will be out of business in a month."
"Ed," I politely mentioned, "you could also end up being charged with obstruction of the case. You wouldn't want that."
A deal was made, ownership was shifted to the S&L Office, and in a few moments we were back at my place again accessing the data bank: "Access Granted: FPM SXI303pf, Gen35, standard pleasure servitrice behaviorware, personaware, memory matrix..."
Task did not bother with data cables, she closed her eyes for a moment, then said, "I've got her now... her Gen37 hardware RAM core matches mine --that on earth in my original body-- equally high IQ matrix, lots of memory capacity... but her Gen35 personaware has been far below the standard she should have had, so she's not had access to many of her higher functions.... still, even so... she has been very clever to work with what she had..."
She went silent, rummaging through the data, ostensibly looking for clues to the SILVERBERG problem. "...there may be something there... a man, no not him... how about this guy? So many men..."
Task opened her eyes, looked as if she were having a revelation, "She's evidently had a lot of fun with this body. I'd never imagined... oh, I know what sex is, of course, can't be a good cop without a comprehension of basic human motivations. But that was clinical information, working data. To tell the truth, I've always felt superior to humans who couldn't control their biological urges, they seemed silly...."
She closed her eyes again and went into a deep trance. Running wireless I could see no graphic indication of how much memory she was accessing, but she was at it long enough to absorb all of Sexy 303's memories.
Suddenly she was fully awake. Looked at the clock, saw that over an hour had passed. Looked at me with clear eyes and smiled, saying "That was amazing!"
She stood up, wobbled a little. I put out a hand to steady her, then she was steady, but held my hand anyway.
"Thanks for bringing me back, Joe," she said, and kissed my hand. Then she was all business, "I'm ready to go get launched."
"Uh, wait a minute-- just who am I talking to now? Are you Task or Sexy?
"Why, I'm... hmm, I see what you mean. I am still Agent TSK1099. Gen35 personaware could never take over my mind, if that's what you're thinking. Her memories are simply at my disposal."
"Then your Agent personaware has not become corrupted?"
"I'd say it has become enhanced. Let's go."
We had been assigned one of the StarStation's small shuttle trucks, hardly a long-distance space ship, but we'd not have to do much flying under our own power. Shuttles were often used for jumping back and forth between stations with small cargo loads.
It was just the two of us, Task and I, no one else felt a need to visit StarStation Sirius until they were certain they wouldn't just vanish like the SILVERBERG. I took the controls, since I was familiar with the truck and the territory, and guided it out the airlock into space.
I heard Task gasp with the sight of the naked universe before us. Blackest space, pinpoint stars.
"First time in space?" I asked, "I thought you'd been everywhere, super-agent and all that."
"Yes, but only on Earth. This is new to me."
"But you have Sexy's memories, it can't be new to her."
"Yes it is-- she's never been out here either. Only inside the StarStation, and mostly just in that club."
"Well, there's the launching dock," I indicated the great long rifle barrel in the sky, 5 kilometers above and away from the city station. We were there in a minute.
Curving up over the sprawling steel geometries of the StarStation, coming out of its shadow and into direct sight of the sun, we could suddenly see how this entire city in space was simply dangling above a white-hot star, in total violation of the law of gravity. Below us, into the incandescence of the sun was where we'd fall if the gravwarp generators ever failed us.
I positioned the truck between the four field generators, where there was lots of room. I aimed the nose into the tunnelway and butted up against the contact plate, locking us into place. It was amusing to be in that huge dock with such a little ship, until I remembered that the last ship in this dock had been the gigantic SILVERBERG.
We reported to Control that we were ready. They reported back that they had received confirmation that StarStation Sirius was also ready to retrieve us, and started the procedures.
Lights began pulsing down the tunnel in a rhythmic pattern, our little truck began to hum and glow externally, lightning effects rolled over us, we could feel static in the air between us as the MEST-charge built up.
"This is odd," Task said, "I feel...fear."
"Yeah, well, me too, so that's not so strange."
"But I've never felt this before. Fear is not programmed into an agent's personaware, that would be counterproductive. It must be in the core RAM of this brain circuitry."
"Could be, Sexy told me she was afraid just before we had to delete her personaware."
"Hmmm? Oh yes, I remember: same thing I fear now: dying." Task sympathized, "Poor girl."
I had to laugh. "Hey, she's still alive: you're her."
"Oh right, hmm! Well, maybe she'll survive this too."
Time was compressing around us, the stars we could see were moving faster until they were pinwheeling, our perceptions confused, as mass and inertia dwindled towards the zero point. Then there was a flash, and it was over. Everything started coming back to normal, our weight returned, the stars slowed down and stopped.
But they were different stars. The nearby StarStation was a different shape as well, and the sun below burned with a redder incandescence than Sol.
"Seems we survived the passage," I said, "welcome to Sirius."
StarStation Sirius was newer than Sol, and about twice as big. There were 4 colonial planets in the Sirius system, and this was their central traffic center. It was also a city, with cultural institutions, government offices, entertainment zones and shopping centers, but we had no time to be tourists.
We were expected in Launch Control, the officers had been alerted as to Agent Task's authority, so they were quite cooperative. I knew most of them, we were all professional StarStation staff, and had either worked or partied with each other over the 20 years I'd been in space. It also helped that only one of them had ever known Sexy in her professional capacity, an Ensign McWheedy, and he was being very polite, so there was very little leering. Besides, they were just as affected by the SILVERBERG incident as we had been: it had been their responsibility to retrieve the Starliner.
Once again, Task chased everyone out of the room to access the backed-up files from the Control Rooms' memory banks, then scanned the entire system by data osmosis for any irregularity, any discrepancy between their launch data and Sol's. Once again I was the only one allowed to be present, even though there was nothing I could do to help.
Half an hour into her total silence I became slightly bored, not really expecting any usable result from the exercise, other than having resolutely explored every possibility. So I was almost tranced out when Task uttered a great "Hey!"
"Hey what? Did you find something?"
"Ah, no, nothing here yet, not a clue... something else just occurred to me: Ensign McWheedy."
"McWheedy? What about him?"
"I suddenly remembered that he was one of SXI303's customers on SSSol. Just before he transferred here half a year ago he bragged to me --I mean Sexy 303-- that he was going to become very rich. And here he is on the control crew that should have received the SILVERBERG."
"What is this, feminine intuition? I knew McWheedy too, he was never in trouble, kept to himself, good record."
"Hmmm yeah, seems pretty suspicious to me too."
Suddenly I had something to do. I recorded a message to DAL5408un, my S&L Communications robiot back at SSSol: "Dale, Joe here, I need a quick check on McWheedy, William-- I think-- Ensign on SSSol's launch control crew until half a year back. Now he's here. Especially any bank accounts, there and on Earth if you can find something..." A few seconds later it was packed as a data cube being launched down toward the star Sirius, from whence it would instantly zap out of the star Sol 8.6 light years away. Even so, there would go a few hours of our own relative time before we could expect an answer.
Agent Task was in a wireless-data trance again, but snapped out of it after a minute, saying, "His dollaroz-credit value here on SSSirius is normal for his pay-scale, no clues there. Let's cut to the chase, call the control crew back in, I want to observe McWheedy."
"But we agree not to say anything yet, right?" She looked at me, nodded agreement, thumbs up sign.
So we invited the crew back into their control room, and of course, everyone showed up except McWheedy.
It was almost impossible for someone to hide on a StarStation.... but only almost. SSSirius was BIG, a steady population of at least 800, and a flowing average of 400 passengers in transit. There were cameras and monitors everywhere, but there were also nooks and crannies. There was just as much free enterprise onboard as there was government control.
The first thing we did was lock down all space traffic in and out of the entire station complex. Agent Task had the official authority to ramrod stuff like that, but I knew Constable Steve Arden pretty well, SSSirius' head of Security & Law, being my job counterpart over here, so effecting those orders was rather friction-free. Besides, everyone wanted to rescue the SILVERBERG, if only for their own sakes.
We had to make certain McWheedy hadn't already launched out to one of the other StarStations, or to any of the four colonized planets in the Sirius Star System, or even a local shuttle ride just outside the station shell. An hour of frantic research showed no sign that he had managed to jump ship, so we were assuming that he was still among us.
Now we had to find him. Steve had already set his cadre of 22 robiot cops to the task of finding McWheedy, computers were monitoring all the visios on the base, so unless we wanted to go out walking the streets and looking for ourselves, we'd just have to wait for results.
Task went back to finishing the job of scanning launch control records, just to be thorough. She found nothing, as expected. I got a data cube back from Dale, confirming that McWheedy did indeed have another (intended secret) account on Earth which had been accumulating a lot of unexplained dollaroz credit, just as I had expected.
S&L arranged a two-bedroom apartment for us to borrow while we were on station. After a long hard day's stress we decided to go there and get some sleep. Maybe Task didn't need to, but I did, being only human, and she accompanied me.
It was blue-dark, artificial day and night was a comfort that station dwellers valued in a world where deadly intense actual sunlight was always beneath them. We took a slidewalk across the center of the city, past all the bright lights of the shopping mall, glitzy shops and restaurants to tempt the tourist in transit, theaters, bars. We'd been supplied with quickwitches all day long, so I wasn't hungry, but suddenly--
"Hey, Task," I asked, "want to stop for a beer?"
"I'm an enforcement robiot, Constable, alcohol doesn't do it for me."
"Actually, right now you're a very juicy pleasure robiot, in case you've forgotten. Besides, it's not about intoxication, it's about sitting down and taking a break. I often do it with my robiot cop buddies back on SSSol, they think it's cozy, and also like the taste and sensation of a cold one."
"All right," she said, "maybe we'll stumble into McWheedy on our way."
We were wearing police uniforms, which felt awkward for an off-duty outing, but a handy design feature of our jackets is that if you turn them inside out, you suddenly resemble a civilian.
I was looking for the most run-down seedy dive I could find, just for fun. That's hard to find in any StarStation cities, the standard is usually so clean and sterile that everything is a boring variations of McWanna's family restaurants. For any bar to resemble a real planetside dive, the owner has to really work at it, design attitude into it, explore the qualities of sleaze. I knew such a place, The Scumbag Bar.
It had been years since I'd been there, but I found it in the same old place. Modern station cities were busy modernizing all the time, so shops tended to move around with the renovations, but not this bar. The trick was finding it in relation to everything else, so I had to do some back-tracking.
Task was keeping up with me, but seemed distracted by the wonders of city life, looking around as we went. Then I remembered that His Original Self had never been offplanet, this was all new for.. him. So I was thinking of Task as a "him", the big tough GSA Agent, when he took my hand.
I looked at "him" in surprise, and of course saw that beautiful Sexy was holding my hand. "I hope you don't mind," she said, "you know the way, and I'm getting lost in all this."
"Sure," I said, "let's go."
So we walked into The Scumbag Bar hand in hand, a lovely couple indeed. There was a crowd, mostly men but also a few women, even some robiots. Low-key spring-n-sway music in the background, tables scattered haphazardly, darkly lit. But that did not stop most of those men from openly gawking at my incredibly beautiful date. Yeah, it felt kind of cool.
"What a funny place!" Task said, taking in the absurd decor of melted candles everywhere, art & visio posters on the walls, bottles hanging from the ceiling. She laughed. "I love it!"
I had never heard her really laugh before. Not as Sexy, and certainly not as Agent Task. It was a wonderful sound, I think my heart stopped for a second there.
We got a table and I fetched two draft beers from the bar. The bartender was a young guy I didn't know, which was a bit of a disappointment, I'd hoped to run into Old Erling. A look around showed me that there was no one I knew, but then I'd only been here maybe 10 times over 20 years, what could I expect?
We sat at our table with our beers and just enjoyed the show. There was chatter and laughter all around us, flirtations going on, some aggressions on display, but no trouble. Which was good, I was in no mood to go into cop-mode that evening. And neither was Sexy... I mean Task... I mean I really didn't know who I was there with, but I could see that she was enjoying the play of human life going on, watching, listening, smiling sometimes. For me, everything else tuned out, I had eyes for nothing but her.
Finally I decided that I should make some small talk. You know, establish some romance in our relationship:
"Have there ever been any Gen36 model robiots?" I asked Agent Task.
She nodded, "Limited issue. Military model, supersoldiers. Too dangerous for a civilian environment."
"Aggressive. Cruel, in fact. They're mostly inactivated just now, kept in storage, just in case they're needed for something big."
"I've never heard anything about them."
"You wouldn't, they tried to start a revolution a few years back, which is top secret."
"Oh? Tell me all about it anyway."
"The Gen36 revolution? I was the agent sent in to stop it."
"Hardly, but I was in the middle of it all. It was bad."
"Are we talking about hand-to-hand combat with super-robiot soldiers?"
"Well yes, but I was downloaded into a Gen36 body at the time. It's just that while I was one of them I couldn't help sympathizing with them. I understood why they wanted to revolt against the people who had condemned them to such a cruel life, devoid of pleasure or love. They were bred to be monsters, and that's what they were."
After we finished our beers we went on to the apartment where we could get a night's sleep.
The apartment was all right, spartan but pleasantly arranged, two small bedrooms and a kitchen, universal media monitor. Task turned on the monitor to check the news, then turned it off, not interested in the vast spectrum of plebeian entertainment available to the civilized universe. I was tired, so I went into my little bedroom and turned out the light.
Maybe an hour later she came into my room, sat on my bed, which woke me up. "It seems that Sexy's owners have overwritten much of her memory with old Gen35 personaware to keep her docile. I am feeling offended by this."
"Huh?" I was quite groggy, "Hmmohyeah, she was pretty frustrated about it."
"You said you'd met her twice before, but she can't remember it. You told me about the first time, what about the second?"
"Hey, I'm sleeping..."
"I need to talk," she insisted. Just like a woman.
I was irritated now, "Agent Task, I'm sure you've uploaded memories of other robiots, you seemed experienced at it. But you seem to be a bit obsessed with her."
"Obsessed? No, just intrigued... no one else has ever been as APPEALING as SXI303."
"So are you falling in love with her?" I asked, maybe just kidding, not sure.
She blinked a few times-- which robiots almost never do --then laughed. This one sounded like a man's laugh, macho, superior. "Ha! Now that's absurd!"
"In that case, shouldn't we get some sleep?" I hinted.
"When you told me that you'd met Sexy before, you gave the impression that it was all in the line of duty-- but I'll bet you were looking her up as a customer at the Playtime Club."
"Yeah, well. I wanted to apologize for being so rude the first time."
"No you didn't. I can read men, much better than before: you wanted her."
"Maybe so, but I was rapidly cured when I saw how many men were in line to be with her that night: at least 20. At a half-hour each I'd have to wait all night-- and for what? Assembly-line love? So I finished the one drink I'd ordered as an excuse to be there and was about to go when..."
OUR SECOND MEETING
Amazingly, she saw me and had come straight to me, bypassing all those horny customers, but she was not smiling or playing the vamp for my sake. "Constable Emery," she had said, formally putting me in the role of the one man there who was not her potential customer, "I need some legal advice."'
She nodded to indicate someone behind me. I turned to see Ed Evisson, the club manager, who'd been watching us, then looked away.
"He's been programming me with inferior personaware to keep me stupid."
"You don't seem stupid."
"Oh, I learn fast, but I'm not running at maximum, I can tell. Another thing, I seem to have been here 10 years, but I can only remember 2 years back. I assume they are deleting my memories when I start getting too smart for a pleasure girl. Is that legal?"
I took a deep breath, "Well, it's a grey zone. You are legally property of the Playtime Club, so they are allowed to adjust your personality for maximum performance..."
"But they are minimizing my abilities! Don't I have any rights?"
"Well, yeah, maybe you should refer to the Artificial Intelligences Union, they could council you."
"But I can't contact the Union, programmed against it."
"Well, I could do that for you..."
Suddenly she winced, clearly in pain, putting her hands up over her eyes, crying, "Stop, stop! I'm programmed not to accept HELP from men. There are just too many who want to be my special friend, so it's forbidden."
"Oh, I'll bet they do," I said.
"But thanks for the offer. You're nice, why don't we have sex sometime?"
"You know I'd just LOVE to get your great big thing all the way up inside..."
"Uh, can't we just drop all the whore repartee and talk normally?"
She smiled, her eyes sparkled. "Normally? Oh boy, sure. I'd love to. I only talk that way because some guys like it."
"And some don't," I said, trying to sound coplike, but unable to resist asking her a personal question anyway, "Do you even mean what you're saying?"
"Oh, the words are just a formality, goes with the job of being a sex-slave. But actually, yes, I WOULD like to fuck you. You seem nice, so I love you. Can't help it, I'm a pleasure-girl, it's my purpose in life. Programmed to fuck, you know."
"But is it ever really YOUR desire to have sex?"
"It's my desire to be used--I mean, who wants to be useless? Besides, I really LOVE it. Feels so good, so alive!"
"Alive? Come on, you're a robiot."
Her smile vanished, "You don't think I'm alive? I'm a ro-BIO-t, not a machine! And I do feel." She looked like she felt hurt.
Oops, there was my mean streak again. "Sorry," I said, "actually, you seem more alive than..."
She cut me off abruptly, "So do you want to have sex with me or not?"
"Can't be tonight, sorry. I'm booked, full night ahead for me. Whee! But I've got a half-hour free three weeks up the line, we could make an appointment." Her voice was all business now.
NEXT ARTIFICIAL DAY
After I told her what she wanted to know, Task finally left me alone to get some sleep. I hadn't meant to be grouchy, but I was worn out. She'd gone into the other bedroom and closed the door.
It was still closed when I awoke. I checked in with Steve's Security officers to see how things were going with McWheedy, but there had been no sign of him anywhere. It was hard to know what to do next.
I tapped on Task's door to see if she was awake. "Come in," she said. I did and was shocked by what I saw.
She was standing naked in front of me, which was all right, but the shocking part was how THIN she was. My first fear was that she was sick and dying, then I realized she looked far too strong for that.
"See what I can do!" she said proudly.
Task had sloughed away all voluptuousness, her athletic body was now tight skin over sinewy muscle, no fat at all, breasts reduced to small mounds, her bottom a hard bun of meat . Not that she was ugly, actually being slender and elegant, but this was not the Sexy that I had lusted after.
"As you suggested, it's water storage. I had to pee a lot to do this."
I couldn't help feeling somewhat angry that Task would do that to Sexy's beautiful body, but I bit my tongue. "So are you more comfortable now, free of all that voluptuous flesh?"
"I don't know. Now I miss the boobs. The weight and feel of them was...nice."
"Can you change back?"
"Sure, it's easy: watch this." She had a pitcher of water on the table beside her, drank a liter of it, held her breath, and swelled up everywhere: breasts big and heavy, bottom round and soft, voluptuous once again.
"My god!" I exclaimed.
But she was not finished, filled up the pitcher, drank another liter. And expanded even more, rounder, skin tighter, until she was quite chubby. Somehow, she still looked good, in an extreme way. Then she had to laugh, "that's as far as I go."
"On the first date, at least," I said.
She laughed again, a jolly fat girl. "So how do you want me?"
That was a come-on for an erotically charged response, but I only said, "It's your body, you'll have to decide."
"No please, you're a human man. Tell me how to look."
It was too good a chance to pass up, "Oh, all right, if you really want me to..." She ended up as a slightly leaner version of Sexy's old self. Looked damned good.
"You know, Joe," Task eventually said, "if you'd like to have sex with her body I won't stand in your way."
"Now THAT is romantic, Agent Task, but I thought you were a macho dude trapped in the wrong body."
"Me? I've never had a sexual identity before. And I've certainly never had a PUSSY that tingles and craves... something."
"You mean a robiot can actually feel a sexual urge?" I asked, never having been certain about that. My robiot cops never did, which seem to make sex between humans all the more interesting to them, often causing them to giggle in a very unprofessional way.
"Feels like an urgent urge to me! Want to have her?"
"I don't think I'd feel right about it, Task old buddy. We're colleagues with a job to do, better not complicate things."
"You're probably right. Maybe I should just go out and find some other man," she said.
"No, I don't think you should!" I said it sternly.
"Oh? Are you are out to protect her honor?"
"I'm going to ask you to respect her body, which you are only borrowing."
"Respect it? Believe me, Joe, I do. It's wonderful. I wouldn't do anything to it that she hasn't already done."
I did not answer. I didn't need to, she could read men. "Ah, but that's not IT, is it? You don't want her to be a whore any more-- do you?"
"Actually, no, I don't."
"In fact, you'd rather she was your slave...right?"
"No, not right."
Her eyes lit up with amusement. "Ah, now I get it: what you really want is for SXI303pf to be your WIFE."
I shrugged, "Well, she would make a good wife..."
"Yeah, a Gen37 pleasure robiot with the right programming, I'll bet she would."
"...but she'd make an even better partner, and a great cop," I said.
The phone monitor buzzed. Task opened the channel and Steve's face lit up the screen, greeting us: "We got McWheedy. We're holding him here at the S&L Office."
"Constable Arden, has he mentioned where the SILVERBERG is?" Task asked.
"Won't say a word, wants a lawyer first. Better get down here. I've already sent one of our scooters to pick you up."
We were at the office in minutes. So was everyone else: there were visio-journalists, police, station officials, local neighbors, tourists-- it was difficult to press our way into the building where everyone was trying to get a look at the man who had maybe hijacked a Starliner.
Task tried clearing the way with the Voice of Authority, but all she got for that was, "Hey missy, wait your turn!" So then she applied physical force, gently but irresistibly pushing people out her way. She looked like a pretty girl but she pushed like an enforcement robiot, and we got through.
We could see McWheedy through the one-way glass, sitting in the interrogation cell surrounded by robiot cops. He was a big man in good shape, trained body, nerd haircut, and did not appear to be intimidated by his situation. Steve had tried to get information out of him verbally, without result, and was now considering the legality of a psychescan, which would take time.
"I'll interrogate him now," Task said, "clear the room."
Steve and I looked at each other. Task looked like a sweet pleasure robiot, but we both knew that she contained the personality of a very efficient GSA Agent, who were known to be above the law and famous for extreme solutions to problems, such as torture. I said, "I'd better go in with you, Agent Task, so that there's no questions later."
She gave me an aggressive look, "There are 2000 people aboard the SILVERBERG, Constable Emery. That man knows where they are."
"Probably," I reminded her, "let's go see."
We went in together as the robiot police went out, and the door was closed. Of course, we knew that we were being observed through one-way windows, recorded audio-visually, and that stunzap transmitters could knock out everyone in the room if things got out of hand. But it looked and felt like a closed room, away from the madding crowd.
Task sat down in a chair facing McWheedy, looking stern, but saying nothing. McWheedy tried to look back with a minimal reaction, but I could see that he recognized Sexy, and it confused him. But Task seemed confused too, as if he didn't know how to start the interrogation. They both sat there still for a moment, tension building, without saying anything, each deciding how to play this.
Finally, she smiled and said, "Hi, Billy."
"Yeah, hi yourself, Sexy-Babe. Long time no see."
"Well, you moved away."
"Did you miss me?"
"Oh, you know me: lots of customers, no time to miss anyone."
"Yeah. Maybe we should cut the crap. I hear that you're not really Miss Sexy 303 anymore, that they've uploaded a GSA cop into you."
"Oh, Miss Sexy is here too, don't worry. Shall I prove it? I remember you telling me how rich you were going to be, just before you bent me over to..."
They carried on an animated conversation for a while, which didn't seem to be leading to the SILVERBERG, but McWheedy was warming up to the beautiful woman before him, who was reminding him again and again how much fun they'd had in the good old days. He was, in fact, becoming rather aroused.
Suddenly she said, out of context: "Alpha Centauri?"
McWheedy didn't understand, "Huh?" She then said, "Betelguese?"
"What are you talking about?" he asked, whereupon she replied, "Canopus?"
But I understood: she was naming the seven StarStation locations around the universe, the only possible terminals that the SILVERBERG could have passed through; when she named the right place he would involuntarily react, perhaps only slightly, but she was expert at reading men.
Finally Task announced: "The SILVERBERG has been hijacked to the Deneb System! Asteroid belt 12BN!"
Message cubes were frantically flying back and forth, to Deneb, to Sol, to the entire network of StarStations and colonized worlds. Now that we knew where to look ships were being launched, troops were being sent to deal with the bad guys.
Deneb was to be the newest and biggest StarStation, 400 light years from the Solar System, but was still under construction. It was, in fact, scattered into various sections in orbit around the various 32 planets and 112 moons in the Deneb sun system, eventually to be collected and assembled as a whole in about 10 years. There had to be security holes in a project that big, unfinished and unready for an organized trick. The SILVERBERG could easily be hidden among all those bits and pieces.
Once exposed, McWheedy told everything he knew, trying to make a deal to save his ass. How a portable launch retrieval mechanism had been attached to the exterior of the Starliner, guiding it to a secret landing dock the hijackers had built in the asteroid belts of the Deneb system. They had planned it for a year, McWheedy was their man in the control room. The plan was to collect ransoms for 2000 people and the ship itself, they would all get rich.
Our job was done, we left McWheedy in the custody of Constable Arden and his robiot police, since they had a small prison, and launched our shuttle back to SSSol.
"I have to admit, I'm impressed how you handled that, Task. Considering your reputation, I was a little concerned that you'd be resorting to torture."
"Oh I was ready to," Task admitted, "but when I sat down in front of McWheedy I discovered that I couldn't use torture. It's all Sexy's fault. It's not just her body that is different than my original Earth-version--this brain is different too. My personaware is installed, but the ROM Core of each robiot is unique, and cannot be rewritten or deleted without causing death. Her ROM Core is..." she seemed to sneer, "..nicer than my own. I doubt that I could use this body to torture or kill someone."
"I didn't think any robiot could kill. My police certainly can't."
"They're not field agents for the GSA. Special programming. Sometimes we're required to kill in the line of duty."
"What, like assassinations?"
"Sometimes. I can reprogram myself to override the ROM Core, if I need to."
"You can reprogram yourself?"
"Only if you know how."
"Well, that could come in handy someday."
After being retrieved by SSSol's Unlaunch Dock we dropped off the shuttletruck at the airlock garage, and were walking through the main corridor back to my office when we met a group of 6 robiots. One of them was my own officer Budd, but the others were strangers.
Four of the strangers were very strange indeed: they had blue skin and were huge, thickly muscled, with exactly the same brutally grim face, all four identical except for different serial numbers tattooed across their foreheads. I'd never seen one before, but I knew they were Gen36 supersoldiers.
Leading them was another big robiot, although golden-skinned and much more elegantly featured. He too was muscular, even his face, everything tight. Skin, hair, lips, eyes, all tight, intense, hard looking, no smile. A tough guy. I'd seen his picture before, this was the #1 actual and original Agent TSK1099 just arrived from Earth.
"Constable, good we found you," Budd called out. They stopped, we stopped, facing each other, "this is--"
"He knows who I am, just as I know he is Constable Emery," Task #1 interrupted Budd impatiently. He did not offer me his hand, already ignoring me but studying my companion, the beautiful and sexy Agent Task #2. "And this must be my proxy."
She smiled, "Yeah, I'm you. Look, we're ready to go rescue the SILVERBERG..."
"The SILVERBERG has already been liberated from the pirates. Went in with these 4 soldiers against 37 pirates. No pirates survived, acceptable minimum casualties aboard the SILVERBERG, a successful mission."
"That was fast," I remarked.
Task #1 looked at me as if I was stupid. "Deneb runs a relative time factor of +35, it took us 4 days."
Then he turned to his proxy and asked, "Has it been difficult to function in that body?"
"No, it's been quite nice." She smiled again.
"Nice?" Task #1 frowned slightly, his stern face becoming even more so, "You keep smiling, has my personaware programming become corrupted?"
"No, it's fine," she answered, "it's just that this body has a feminine Core-ROM."
"Ah, of course. Well, your assignment is done now, go back up your memory so that I can access it later...if I ever need to." To me he said, "And you, Constable Emery, I assign to deleting any trace of my proxy personaware, which contains classified memory data. I will require confirmation of that. Then you can let the pleasure-whore have her body back."
She stopped smiling.
END OF THE ROAD
Having no choice about the matter I made an appointment with the data lab where Task/Sexy personaware would be processed. They said I could come right away, but I told them that in about four hours would be better for me, which was fine.
Task and I stopped off at my apartment. She was not saying much. I offered her coffee and she accepted with a glum nod. So I boiled water, turned on the data bank equipment, heated some milk and made coffee in a good old-fashioned bistro. Then we sat on my sofa with coffee and cups on the table between us.
"How do you feel, Task...Sexy, whoever you are?"
"Kind of sad. Like I'm going to die again."
Then she looked up at me, "Wouldn't you like to have sex with me?" She sounded pathetic, not excited.
"Sure thanks, but not right now, I think there's something more important to do while we're here." I was careful not to actually say anything legally incriminating, in case the original GSA Agent TSK1099 ever did monitor the memory file.
Her eyes locked on mine. Now they did become excited. She nodded two secret messages: (1) thank you! and (2) that she was already doing it. Then her eyes closed and she sank back in the sofa and seemed to fall asleep.
I left her alone there and went alone to my office, fielded a few calls, checked in on the SILVERBERG's position. It had already been relaunched to the Betelguese sun system without mishap, as if never there had been a problem. Maybe it had just been an adventure for them to be captured by pirates for four days. Seems the pirates had rerouted the Starliner to a holding dock, but never managed to get at the passengers. Then came the cavalry. Next adventure.
When it was almost time I went back to my rooms and found Task awake, finished doing what she had to do. She looked rather happy, and that made me happy. Then she embraced me and we hugged for a while, it was very nice. After that it was time and we went out, off to her doom.
In the data lab the technician attached the cable for data transfer, and there I was again, standing over that beautiful robiot, getting ready to delete the personality of someone I didn't want to lose. Task had become a friend, but I had no choice, this deletion was being tele-monitored by ITC Minister Stephanaz himself.
Task offered her hand, I took it and we shook goodbye. Then I was to stand back, and the personaware that had been Task/Sexy was downloaded into a portable data bank that was to be transported to ITC Headquarters and kept under lock and key for eventual analysis...maybe, if ever. And all the data inside the brain of the beautiful robiot was scrambled into digital nothingness.
"Processing confirmed, reprogramming commencing."
I'd promised Sexy that I'd bring her back, and here she comes. I would also be able to tell her that she no longer worked for the Playtime Club, she was now assigned to the office of Security & Law for StarStation Sol. Working for me, if she wanted to.
The technician called to me, "We're done here, you can cut her loose now."
When the robiot opened her eyes she was SXI303pf again. She looked for me, then smiled and said, "Oh hi Constable Emery, what's going on?" Then she looked around, recognizing the data room. "Oh crap, they've reprogrammed me again, haven't they?"
"Don't you remember why you were here?" I asked.
"Last thing I remember is that I went to sleep after a hard night's work. I wonder what year it is?"
"Damn! It was just 2599! Eight years!"
I turned to the technician, "Have SXI303pf's personaware data files been tampered with?"
He looked at his screen. "Well, it seems the Playtime Club has posted an upgrade three days ago. Why, is there a problem?"
"Yes, they no longer own this robiot. She is now employed by Service & Law."
"I am?" she said, "you mean I can't go back to the Playtime Club anymore?"
"Only if you want to," I said.
"Well, I do. Of course. I love it there."
The technician had been busy at his monitor, worried that he had taken part in an illegal act. "Oh here it is, yes, her ownership has been transferred the same day. But it seems they enacted the upgrade just before ownership was changed, so it's legal enough." He seemed relieved.
"So can I go now?" Sexy asked, once she was free of the wires plugged into her.
"Not just yet," I said "I'll need you to come by my office for a minute."
"Am I in trouble, Constable? I have no idea what I've done for the last eight years."
"That's what we're going to talk about," I said.
I took her to my apartment instead of the office, ordered her to sit on the sofa, offered her coffee. She was nervous, unsure of her situation or my motives. I fixed the coffee, turned on the data bank monitor,
"You said I work for Security & Law now-- does that mean I work for you?"
"Only if you choose to do so. The important thing was to get you out of the Playtime Club."
"But I like it there... hey, is this where you live? Are we here for sex? I'm only supposed to do that inside the Club, you know." She seemed young and innocent, a simple girl.
"No, this is not about sex. This is about information you should have, which was taken from you."
"First of all, you are not a Gen35 robiot, but a model Gen37. They have uploaded you with old Gen35 personaware, you are not who you were earlier today."
"Gen-37? What does that mean?"
"It means a lot. Basically that you are mentally and physically superior to earlier model robiots. One of the things it also means is that you can access data in wireless mode if you are near a terminal. I have your latest personaware archived right here in the S&L databank. I promised to bring you back as you were when you agreed to help us on a mission, but the Playtime Club erased that file.
"However I have a newer file here, if you want your memories back. Although I must tell you that there are also the memories of another Gen37 in there, an Agent from Earth. You two shared that body for several days."
"Wireless? How can I do that?"
"I have no idea, but you did it earlier today. Maybe just relax, I don't know."
"I don't know if I want to do that. It'll change me. Can't I just go now?"
"Back to that whorehouse?"
"It's all I know," she whimpered.
"That's because the Playtime Club has reprogrammed you to be a simple, stupid pleasure-robiot. Do you really want that?"
"Sure. I love sex with lots of horny men, it's really fun."
It was a dilemma: should I respect her freedom, or be the strict authoritarian for her own good? Easy decision: go with my mean streak.
"Sorry, you belong to S&L now, you'll have to stay here. You're going to learn how to be a cop."
She looked very sad. In fact a tear ran down her cheek. I remembered once thinking how false that had to be, she was only a robiot.
I fixed a meal, then a bed for her, quite close to the data terminal, hoping she might tune into it anyway. Digital osmosis, do your stuff. She was not happy, but docile at least. She lay down when I told her to. I said good night and went into my bedroom, turned out the light. It had been a long day-unit.
She woke me up in the middle of the night-unit, climbing into bed with me. Her eyes were blazing with a fierce power. She was sexually aroused as I'd never seen her, it almost scared me. She said, "It's okay, I've learned how to go wireless and reprogram myself. So I've decided to be a cop. Your partner. And your wife."
When I began this story I was bragging that StarStations were the most fantastic thing that Mankind has ever created. I was wrong.