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Meat Puppets

by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

Table of Contents
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
part 2 of 7

It was the dead of night as the women assembled down in the basement. There were more than enough seats to go around, and they each got seated before the meeting began. There was going to be an important lecture tonight on a matter that concerned them all.

Carmilla walked in, leading after her a skimpily dressed young woman. Carmilla was a woman of around forty, looking angry and tired. She was well dressed in a business suit, almost in total contrast with the happy and youthful woman that tagged along after her.

The older woman put her briefcase on a desk, adjusted her glasses and then clapped her hands to get attention. “People, may I have your attention please?”

The noise died down a little.

“All right, most of you already know me. For the rest of you, my name is Carmilla. We are all here for the same reason: a plague has descended upon us all, in the form of these... abominations!” She spoke loudly and pointed at the young girl. The girl smiled and waved at the crowd.

“I actually found this one roaming around the recycling plant. She can’t speak, but I guess that’s not the only thing wrong with her, because she was thrown away,” said Carmilla.

“She’s only a 2802,” said another woman from the crowd.

“That’s right,” said Carmilla, “but she’s still a threat.”

Carmilla opened her bag and produced a small knife. “The 2802 models were only the beginning: look at this,” she said, grabbing the robot’s arm. She proceeded to poke it with the knife so hard that the short blade came out the other side. Then she drew it back.

The robot pulled her arm back and gave Carmilla a look of anger and disgust. Blood flowed freely from the wound.

“Look at all that blood; they bleed, these machines, but it is not human blood. It’s a synthesised liquid that keeps the flesh alive. And they are covered in real flesh. Look.”

Again she grabbed the robot, and this time took the time to cut a piece off of the arm. The robot looked rather disturbed but did not protest. This sort of thing was not part of her programming so she didn’t know how to react.

The blood flowed in even greater volume than before, but she seemed uninterested. An assistant appeared holding a small dog. Carmilla smiled at the dog, and fed it the piece of flesh. The dog looked very happy to have it.

“The point is that dogs don’t eat plastic. Twenty years ago the 2802 models were the last word in biomechanical engineering. They weren’t a threat. A woman could still pick up a guy at the bar. And if we didn’t want them, they could buy one of those things,” she said and pointed at the robot, who was nursing her bleeding arm.

“Don’t worry about her, when she bleeds out, the only thing that happens is that her flesh begins to rot — because she is, after all, still robotic. Watch.”

She poked the robot in the eye with the knife, twisted it and pulled. The eye came out of the socket, and so did a lot of wires. The robot actually looked offended at that attack, and stepped back.

“It’s the 9141 we have to worry about...”

“A 9141 stole my boyfriend!” yelled yet another woman from the group.

“I know, and that is why we are here. We don’t have a chance now that the 9141 models have appeared,” she turned to an open door to her side, “Maya?”

Another woman appeared. She was tall and slim with long brown hair.

“Hi, my name is Maya and I work for New Level Technologies.”

The group booed at her, but Carmilla waved her hand and calmed down the group. “Let her speak, she can tell us everything we need to know about the new model.”

“Yes, I admit I did some work on the 9141... damn, I feel like I took part in making the atom bomb now... but let me tell you about them: they are today — were — the last word in biomechanics. Everything in them is grown and maintained by nanites, little bugs that are made in the lab, each for their own use. They have bones similar to ours and bleed just like our friend over there.” She pointed at the robot, who was trying to stuff her eye back in.

“But they are not human, not by a long shot, and not technically alive either. You see, they don’t age, because that’s not living tissue, although it is organic and self-maintained. But that’s complicated. We don’t have an assembly line; we have vats that we use to grow them in, from about ten vague specs, but they don’t all come out looking alike, even with the same specs. That’s why no two are alike, just like real women.

“All that would not be any problem if they weren’t psychic. They have an array in their bones that senses what people around them are feeling, and they compensate for it. If someone in their vicinity is upset, they try to make them happy, or at least less upset. They aren’t vicious killers or anything; we have to think of the legal issues. But it is this sensory unit that they use to take away your boyfriends.”

“Take away our boyfriends? Lady, I haven’t had sex since those things came out!” yelled a woman from the back.

“They stalk the men at bars, and seduce them before we real woman can even get close!” said another from the far corner.

“And once they’ve got them, they never leave!” said an agitated woman near the front.

“Yeah! They don’t leave! I once picked up a guy, and he took me to his apartment, and there was one of those things waiting. It had cooked dinner! It watched us... you know...” said another one further back.

“Wait, the robot watched and you went along and screwed him anyway?” asked Maya.

“I’d run out of batteries...” said the woman and shrugged.

“You were talking about the sensory array,” said Carmilla.

“Yes, the sensory array is linked to the quantum-nanite brain, and since the robots we produced are primarily meant as elaborate sex-toys it is programmed to please men, give them what they really want. If they want sex, they get that, if they want someone to prepare steak, they get that, if they want someone to argue with them, they get that, whatever is needed gets done. They are really designed to be much better than the real thing.”

That last comment caused some stir, and someone even threw a rock at Maya.

Carmilla had to wave both of her arms to get attention and calm the crowd down. “There is more,” she said, “listen,” she turned to Maya and said: “tell them about the HDE.”

“Yes, the HDE...”

“I heard on the radio that was just a rumour!” said someone from the crowd.

“You wish,” said Maya flashing a cynical grin.

“I just told you about the TGJ-9141, which is psychic and all-accommodating. I’ll explain: “TGJ” is just code for the physical structure. It means nothing if you aren’t a part of the developing team. 9141 is the model neural setup. You have never seen the HDE-9141, but there are some in research now. It is actually referred to in all the files as the HDE-9141B, but nobody actually cares about that. Everybody names them Maria or Julia or Jessica or Bambi or something or other. We could call them Super-Mega GT Turbo, and it wouldn’t make an ounce of difference.”

She waved her hand. “Anyway; one escaped just last night. She knocked me out and stole my clothes. The last I heard she had bought two hamburgers with my credit card. That implied that she has already caught someone.”

Maya smiled. “I had the specs in my pocket at the time. If she has lost it, all is well, because without my work the project will be delayed for a couple of years. In that time enough of us can infiltrate it and either harm the company from within or cause it to go and develop something else, like missiles. Or something that doesn’t take all our men and sleep with them.”

“You heard the lady, the robot has got the plans for itself, we need to find them and destroy them!” said Carmilla. The women applauded.

But Maya waved her hands and yelled at them to stop. “Listen! You can’t just go out and find her.”

“Sure we can, we just need you to give us a picture of her and we will find her for you in no time,” said someone from out in the back.

“That’s useless. This isn’t the TGJ model, remember. The HDE can change shape!”

And the room fell silent.

“She can’t change her displacement, but she can change her shape: the colour and style of her hair and the features of her face in the blink of an eye; she can vary her height by almost 15 centimetres, but she has to increase her girth to compensate — she will never be downright ugly. Keep that in mind before you go and beat up some old homeless woman. This is after all a sex toy. But it is not hopeless; she has a lo-jack beacon. We just have to follow the signal.”

“Hey, if she has a locator, then why hasn’t the company found her already?” someone asked.

“Mr. Ericsson wants to see how she’ll fare out in the real world. If it goes well, the poor schmuck who gets her will unwittingly be the NLT commercial campaign.”

“Doesn’t he know about the specs?”

“No. If he knew about those, the robot wouldn’t still be loose.”

Carmilla moved in front of Maya and spoke. “Our mission is simple, women; we have to go and destroy the robot prototype and the specs on how to make it.”

And then she turned to Maya and asked her for the locator. Maya got it from her purse, and they looked at it.

“It’s not far away, let’s go!” Carmilla said.

“Not so fast!” said one of the women.

Everybody stopped.

“How will we destroy the robot? Are you two sure that it can be destroyed?”

“Well, I suppose it will be easy,” said Carmilla, “but since you asked, I have a few crates in my car courtesy of Sue from the Military Armaments Corporation.”

The women looked at each other.

“There aren’t enough for everyone, I’m afraid,” said Carmilla.

It didn’t matter. The group decided to keep them as a last resort. Then they filed out of the basement, some of them giving the broken 2802 model robot a good kick or a shove on the way out. It was pretty much reduced to trash when the last woman had exited.

* * *

To be continued...

Copyright © 2007 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

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