Lena and the Robot Ch. 03

Chapter 3

The haunting dreams continued for several nights, until Lena finally surrendered to her new, disturbing obsession and took it to the internet. That resulted in several late nights of frustration; there wasn’t much information about computerized bodysuits that could reprogram a person’s brain or modify their body (aside from the questionable adult fantasy sites; there were a LOT of those), but she pressed on, reasoning it might help reduce her nervousness if she could understand Simi’s fascination with the… process.And her own, she thought.

She even went as far as paying a weekend visit to her parents’ house to dig out her old high school notebooks; being enrolled in a city college two towns away from her old home had advantages, and the hugs, home-cooked meals, and light-hearted interrogation about her college life were a small price to pay for the textbooks and notes from her computer classes that she had stored carefully away, on the odd chance they might be needed again.

By the time Simi’s next invitation came, for the following Thursday night, Lena had already scanned the notes several times. Most people never bothered to study how computers worked anymore; high school covered the basics, but unless they were code writers, they learned just enough to use their phones to make calls, send texts, or take pictures so they could post things on social media. Being an English major, Lena also used a laptop for word processing, internet access, or the occasional game; but how the machines actually functioned, the pieces and programs involved, had slipped from her conscious memory in the years since high school.

Lena briefly fussed about stuffing this old information back into her head when it wasn’t her collegiate focus; the semester was ending soon, and she needed every spare brain cell for the final exams, but the excess studies helped ratchet her anxiety down a notch or two. Even so, as she headed to Simi’s room that night, her mind swirled, trying to remember all the vocabulary and diagrams she had dusted off.

Putting old information back in… I’m reprogramming myself, just like her.

“Hey there, Lena, you ready?” Simi called from her desk chair, again wearing the silver bodysuit. Seeing Lena’s nod, she waved her towards the bed, and turned back to her computer. “No updates tonight, it’s just a maintenance check-in. Oh, and you said you wanted to see me in app mode, right? We’ll do that afterwards; a speed-reading test, I brought a book.” She patted the thin volume of a paperback novel, sitting beside the keyboard.

As she sat on the piled blankets and nabbed a few pillows for comfort, Lena spoke up. “Can you…will you please leave the voice on again?”

“What, I thought you didn’t like my robot voice? Kind of freaks me out too, honestly.”

“I want to know what’s going on, okay? What the suit’s doing. It’s kind of interesting to listen as it’s happening.”

“All right, I’ll leave it on,” Simi acquiesced, then mimicked a narrative voice: “‘Follow along with these simple step-by-step instructions.'”

Lena giggled. “Thanks.”

Simi examined the screen. “Hmm, yep, just a check-in. This should only take a minute or two. Maybe next time we’ll try something longer.” She got out of the chair, then turned to Lena and suddenly knelt in front of her, holding out her hands. Puzzled, Lena offered her own, and Simi clasped and held her fingers, giving her an open, sincere look. “You know, I’m actually kind of glad to be sharing this with you, Lena” Simi said. “I didn’t think anyone would ever understand.”

Lena blinked; Simi wasn’t usually so forthcoming with her feelings.Neither am I, she admitted privately. “Thank you, Simi,” she responded aloud, then clarified: “I can’t say I understand yet…but I’m trying.”

Smiling, Simi got up and tugged at the suit, making sure the material was snug against her body, then turned and picked up the long black cord beside the computer. As the prompt appeared on the screen to insert the cable, she lifted her hair and plugged the cord into the port in the collar.

Lena didn’t look at the monitor this time; all her attention was focused on her friend as she watched her demeanor change. Simi raised up, straight and still, the light left her eyes, and emotion drained from her face, becoming blank and smooth. The suit lights activated, flittering across her body, and that cold, robotic tone filled the room as her mouth opened, and was answered by the speakers.

“Connection established.”

Lena shivered; the machine was in control now. She knew Simi was still there, watching, listening, recording; but her personality, her soul, was shunted aside.That is just so… After the previous glimmers of arousal, and the brief encounters with the adult websites on mind control, Lena’s hand crept unconsciously to her lap. Looking down, she noticed her fingers twitching. Had those innocent searches snuck in a few subliminal whispers? She balled her hand into a fist and shoved it into the blanket beside her, avoiding a potentially embarrassing misunderstanding.No, can’t do that in front of Simi; maybe after, wait until later.

“Unit E27 online.” A few seconds passed. “Unit E27 is ready to receive programming. Confirming maintenance update. Processing. Processing. Uploading maintenance data. Housemate:Lena, it is agreeable to see you again.”

Lena gave a start. Simi hadn’t looked at her at all, she was still facing the computer; yet somehow, she was aware of her presence. “Thanks?” she replied querulously.

Simi’s head turned to face her, and Lena froze; for some reason, that vacant, penetrating stare pierced her with a deep, chilling sensation. “Data uploaded. Maintenance verification complete. Program:Simi will reactivate in twenty seconds. Do you wish to pause?”

Lena frowned slightly. Pause what? There were no updates in progress. But last time, Simi had mentioned that her robot self was ‘fascinated’ by her. Was she suggesting shewanted Lena to pause her? “Y-yes?”

“The appropriate command is ‘Unit E27, pause reactivation,'” the Simi-bot instructed her.

“Unit E27, pause reactivation,” Lena repeated.

“Confirmed, reactivation paused.”

Lena’s heart began racing.What did I just do? “What does that mean?”

“Reactivation of program:Simi is paused.”

“For how long?”

“Until housemate:Lena issues the unpause command.” She tilted her head, questioning. “Do you wish to unpause?”

Lena shook her head. “No. I…I wanted to talk to you.”

“Acknowledged.” Simi, now E27, turned fully towards Lena and stood silent, waiting, looking at her.

“Will she…can Simi hear us?”

“Program:Simi is currently suspended from active status and paused from reactivation, but remains aware of all external input.”

“Ahh,” Lena noted; Simi was still watching, then. Would she get mad at Lena for pausing her? Maybe, but for some unknown, uncomfortable reason, Lena wanted to talk to the robot, not the woman. “Who are you? Simi said you were part of her program, an…interface?”

“This unit serves as the primary interface when the hardware is connected to the network, and during program operations.”

“So, when she’s connected to the computer, you’re in control of her, right? I’m just trying to understand what you are; you don’t sound like Simi.” Lena hesitated; it was Simi’s voice, coming from Simi’s mouth, but she spoke in a totally different way; the tenor and inflection were altered, and there was the reverberation from the computer speakers. “Are you an A.I.?”

Simi adopted a rigid pose, which Lena was beginning to recognize as a default stance, and began to recite: “When this unit first put on the suit, memory and personality were encoded for purposes of storage and recall, and a copy was made to protect against the eventuality of file corruption or deletion. This unit utilizes the same base code and subroutines as program:Simi, but differs in presentation and execution.”

“Like a backup copy?”Or a second personality. “Well, that’s good to know, I’d hate to lose her.” Lena replied flippantly. “And what is it you do, exactly?”

“Human bodies are complex bio-mechanical processors; developing new synaptic pathways and muscle reflexes requires considerable time. When new programming is added, this unit provides temporary memory storage and develops routings for new information and directives. For somatic upgrades, this unit executes and reinforces them until the appropriate muscular reflexes are developed.”

“So, you’re like a virtual assistant?” Lena offered, remembering images of a cartoon paperclip with wide googly eyes on an old word processing program, offering help with her essays. “When Simi wants to learn something new, you learn it first, and make her do it right until she remembers?”

“Affirmative.”

She’s a brainwashing program, Lena realized.Can you make her do things she doesn’t want to? She didn’t dare voice that stray bit of speculation aloud; Simi was still watching, after all

Lena tried to comprehend the lengthy explanation, though the thought of a second Simi sharing the same body was still troubling. At least the duplicate only came out while she was wearing the suit… “You said the suit created you; that must take a lot of memory, is there a hard drive in the collar?”

“The basic software for unit encoding and programming is embedded in the suit’s hardware, but following the encoding and duplication process, the copy was uploaded to this unit’s internal processor, to facilitate a faster connection to the network software, and free up the suit’s memory allocation.”

Internal processor? Lena stared at Simi’s forehead, eyes widening in realization. “You’re not in the suit, you’re in her head.”She really did reprogram herself!

“Affirmative.”

The next question was the hardest; one she hoped Simi wouldn’t hear: “What if…what would happen if I put on the suit?”

“The suit is currently configured for this unit’s body, however, housemate:Lena shares a similar body type and size. If housemate:Lena were to couple with the hardware, a similar process would occur. Do you wish to put on the suit?”

It could brainwash me too, turn me into a robot, if I put it on. “No,” Lena started sweating nervously; her hand was back in her lap again. “No, that’s okay, forget I asked.”

“Command confirmed.”

That was probably enough for tonight. “Unit E27, unpause Simi.”

“Confirmed, program:Simi will reactivate in twelve seconds,” E27 stated. “This unit looks forward to interacting with you again, housemate:Lena,” she added, looking down and fixing her with that expectant, unblinking stare. “Connection terminated. Unit E27 offline.” Then she pulled out the transfer cord.

The suit and the computer turned off. As Simi regained control of her body, she glared at Lena. “Hey, what gives?”

“I’m sorry,” Lena apologized, trying to adjust to hearing Simi’s regular voice again. “I just…wanted to ask her a few questions.”

“Hope she gave you good answers, but you know you’re really talking to me, right?” Simi reminded her. “I can answer your questions too.”

“I know. But it’s different; it feels like I’m talking directly to the machine when you’re like that.”

“I told you, Lena, she’s me. E27’s just a program, a basic interaction subroutine.” She shook a finger at Lena’s face. “No more pausing, okay? I might get suspicious.”

Appropriately chastened, Lena nodded.

Simi returned the cord to the table, then picked up the book and sat beside Lena on the bed. “All right, maintenance is finished. Do you want to see me run an app?”

“Sure, if you’re okay with it,” Lena agreed, interested.

“Watch this,” Simi held the book in front of her. Verbalizing commands wasn’t necessary, but she did so for Lena’s benefit. “Activate reading.” A slight change came over Simi, a slackening of her facial features, a rigidity to her body; E27 was back in control, at least partially. She opened the book and began flipping through the pages rapidly, her eyes briefly scanning the text on each leaf. Within moments, the book was completed; she closed it, her normal posture returning. “See? Read it.”

“That was fast,” observed Lena.

“Photographic memory is one of my functions now. It’s like I take a picture of each page with my eyes, and it’s instantly recorded in my mind.”

You mean E27 stores it for you, Lena thought, then cocked her head slyly. “Shouldn’t you recite something to prove it?”

Simi grimaced and chucked the book back onto the desk. “Ugh, no, that book was garbage; next time, remind me to pick something better. I’ll return it tomorrow.”

“Well, that doesn’t prove anything,” Lena pouted. “How about, Simi, make the bed,” she commanded facetiously.

“Sorry, only I can-” To Lena’s utter astonishment, Simi suddenly stood, turning to the bed.

“Command confirmed,” she said in E27’s voice. Lena sprang up and backed away as Simi grabbed the blankets, tossed them aside, and began fluffing pillows, laying them back in their proper positions. Lena watched from the corner, wide-eyed in shocked fascination, as Simi pulled the bedsheets taut, laid the comforter back on top, then straightened. A momentary look of bliss crossed her face, her body shuddered faintly, then the brief flash of emotion was gone again.

Simi blinked, glanced down at herself, then at the perfectly made bed, before frowning at Lena. “How did you-” she said, confused. “You gave me a command? And I… That isnot supposed to happen.”

Lena held up her hands. “Don’t look at me, I was joking.”

Simi turned her head side to side, as if accessing information, then frowned slightly. “The setting for external input was turned on; I don’t remember doing that. Note to self: turn that off next time.” She flashed a sly smile at Lena. “No more stray commands from you, girl. Out, I need to change,” she gestured towards the suit, and motioned for Lena to leave. Lena complied readily.

Back in her room, Lena collapsed on her bed, her body thrumming with nervous energy, begging for release. I’m never going to get used to this, she moaned to herself. Every week Simi did something different, unexpected, pushing Lena further and further out of her comfort zone.I gave her a command, and she did it, just like a robot, Lena thought. Simi had no choice, no will, no thought, only…obedience. This wasn’t the same as being a mindless drone to some nebulous machine consciousness like E27, Lena herself had given the command; another human being, obeying commands, completely unable to resist, enslaved to her will… That rush of power was intoxicating, exciting…arousing.

Why am I so turned on? While Lena whimpered, her hand crept under her waistband and began to rub, the area between her legs already wet.

——————–

Remain silent.

Unit H38 didn’t speak. She didn’t need to; there was no one immediately present to communicate with, no reason for unnecessary vocalizations. She recognized the sounds around her, the soft electric hum of the computer screen, the whir of the little fan she kept on in her room for white noise. There was music playing somewhere, maybe in the neighboring apartment, but while her mind acknowledged the sound and recognized the tune, it would not distract her. Even the subtle motions of her body, the soft exhalations of her breath, made no sound.

Unit H38 was silent.

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