Deanna's Surprise
Part 2: Marlenn

by Gorgo

With C&C from D.B. Story (

(Herm/Bi-'bot, Bi-'bot/M-'bot, rom, oral, SciFi, ASFR)


This part takes place six weeks after Part One. It is written in first person with Deanna's POV. Marlenn's POV will be displayed in italics (in HTML format) or framed with six asterixes at the start and end of the section (in TXT format). Marlenn's narrative begins the story.

I groaned as I felt Scott thrust into me. It was the right response for this situation. Each motion sent waves of digitalized passion through my neural net, overwhelming my pleasure buffer and sending my artificial soul on a barrel trip over Niagara Falls. My own penis -- Scott asked me to assume bi-gendered format for this session -- was firmly in his hands as he jerked me off. My body shook like a sapling in a strong wind as my mind tried to process the torrents of conflicting data from my groin. All bi-gendered robots face this regardless of how advanced our programming is. For me, the problem is that if I'm tending to my "male" and "female" sexual needs at the same time, my orgasm routines trigger too early -- and quite beyond my control at that point -- for some people's tastes...


I cried as I felt my member jerk a couple times before unloading its cargo all over Scott's washboard abdomen abutting his well-formed chest. Seeing this made his eyes go wide before they screwed shut, his back arching. I knew what that meant; his own orgasm routines were tripping over as well. Sure enough, a torrent of his own synthetic semen flooded my vagina, triggering another unavoidable orgasm inside me. That's just the way I'm built. And there's something about me that will always keep me that way. Not that I'm really complaining -- or would if I could think straight enough to form a coherent thought.

Soon enough, however, my mind returned to nominal function. I felt Scott's hands carefully shift me off his still-rigid member, allowing me to lie beside him. Reaching over to the night stand beside the bed, I picked up a wet cloth and got to work cleaning his body from my excesses. He remained still as I did this, his eyes fixed on the ceiling of the guest bedroom I'd set aside for him when he came to my shop to have his systems evaluated. No doubt, he was taking the opportunity to process this experience; we both had enjoyed several orgasms during this session. From that, he could develop new programming paths to later employ with his owner.

Scott, as you can surmise, is a male-format robot, "M-'bot" in trade parlance. His specific programming is crafted so he can provide companionship to a male lover. Like all robots though, he is functionally and happily bisexual. He is the property of one of Welland's ward managers, acting both as a personal companion at home and a professional administrative assistant at work. Last week, Councillor Chet Villard, acting on the city's behalf, went on a Team Canada trade junket to Europe in hopes of boosting foreign investment in the Niagara peninsula. While he's busy trying to win new jobs, he decided Scott should take the opportunity to have his systems thoroughly reviewed and augmented with updated programming. Since Mr. Villard was a close friend of my template's father, I was requested to handle the matter.


I looked up from cleaning his chest to see a content smile on Scott's face. Seeing that sent another torrent of passion through my pleasure systems. My lover had been truly satisfied. If Scott was human, I would've asked him "How do you feel?" Since he is a robot -- not to mention a non-IP 'bot -- a greater level of precision is required to ascertain his outcome. "What is your current operational status?"

Horribly unromantic, eh?

"Nominal," he slowly nodded as I finished cleaning him before sweeping the cloth between my legs and around my member. Once that was done, I reverted back to my more comfortable full-female format. "This experience has been truly beneficial. Thank you, Marlenn."

"I aim to please, especially when it's a brother 'bot who requires the pleasing," I winked at him before moving to dispose of the cloth.

After a quick trip to the bathroom to allow my self-cleansing mechanisms a chance to flush my vagina clean -- not that synthetic semen from a robot contains any harmful or spoilable substances -- I stepped into my own office to slip on my smock before heading into the laboratory to check up on my other guest. Pausing before a full-length mirror, I gazed on myself, allowing the various elements of my personality matrix to lock onto that image and draw renewed inspiration from it. Like all robots, even when awake, my self-analysis routines are always active, working tirelessly to create new and more efficient programming paths for me to use carrying out my given tasks.

And like every other self-aware robot you'll meet, I enjoy every moment of it when I do it right.

Looking at myself, my "male" side was again quickly aroused by my gorgeous female figure. And why not? To not sound immodest, I am quite the exotic beauty to behold by most standards. Honey-blonde hair centre-parted over an softly-sculptured oval face and cut off neatly at my shoulders. Eyes as brown as Swiss chocolate. Lips a little large for a Caucasian. My skin is several degrees darker than maple fudge, though it is not the right shade to let me automatically be seen as a "black" robot. My erect nipples and areole are almost totally black, with just the right amount of pink to make them seem perfectly real. My breasts are ideally well-formed C-cups, firm and strong against gravity's influence. There is not a hint of excess mass anywhere on my body. Now in full-female format, with my phallus and its associate mechanisms stored deep inside my body, my thick, yet natural-looking, bush of dirty blonde pubic hair hoods my well-sculptured womanhood.

Since the various elements of my personality matrix have been encouraged to develop complex programming pathways to allow me to better function regardless of my gender state, my "female" side is always quick to respond to my "male" side's arousal. The inside of my thighs soon glistened with a coat of vaginal discharge. Not enough to become bothersome or to ignite other elements of my sexual programming, but noticeable. This is one of the reasons why I spend my time inside my laboratory nude, unless I'm entertaining a human customer whom I do not personally know. The other reason...? Well, I am a robot! Despite being an Implanted Personality type -- my matrix conceived from a detailed memory copy of an organic human -- I don't suffer embarrassment when I parade around my home or laboratory bare-assed to the wind.

I grinned as that particular rationalization pattern passed through my artificial soul. And yes, I do believe I have a soul. A belief built on an analogy to the faith any human may possess. Being a robot created via IP programming technology constantly forces many "normal" human mannerisms, thought patterns and behavioural codes on everything I do, including the way I speak. Most "normal" robots, even those possessing the most advanced slang speech databases, never enliven their statements with colourful metaphors otherwise heard, unless they are directly commanded to do so by their owners. For myself, flipping from standardized speech to street slang comes as naturally as allowing my body's sexual systems to shift from full-female to bi-gendered format.

Like all 'bots of my design, I can never go completely male.

Thinking that, the urge to allow my male side loose once again hit me. I fought it down easily by acknowledging the fact that I had just seen to my own personal desires with Scott. Furthermore, I have duties in the laboratory to tend to. Oh, well. Time to go to work...

You may know the personal history between my memory template, the human Marlenn Ioanis, and Deanna Hordye.

I will not say anything more about that specific incident. To do so would violate Deanna's privacy.

And I care for -- I love -- Deanna too much to do that to her.

With her now returned to Canada, I can look forward to openly expressing my feelings for Deanna very soon.

After all, my very existence was built around the aftermath of that incident fourteen years ago...

I first came on-line six years prior, having awoken in this very laboratory which once served as classrooms for eager students when this building was known as Mapleview Public School. Within seconds of my systems fully actualizing themselves, a face I instantly recognized came into my arc of vision. The face that I had been constructed with. The face of my creator. Her face. My face.

"Hello, my child. Welcome to the world," she said to me before kissing my forehead in the way mothers do with their children.

From that day on, I've always called the human Marlenn "Mother."

For the first year of my life, I served a dual role. My primary purpose -- the one I still fulfil to this very day -- is to serve as a robot maintenance technician by helping Mother in her laboratory when it comes to those who seek her services. At first, it was amusing to watch Mother's many customers do a double-take on seeing us standing side-by-side, dressed alike, when we received them in her office. Eventually, people got used to having me around. That made things easier for me after Mother's disappearance, when I finally forced myself to fully assume her duties to her various customers until such time as her final fate would be ascertained by the public authorities.

I haven't lost any of Mother's original customers. Even more, I've expanded my customer base to nearly double its size over the last five years. As one recent customer told me, many people would trust a robot 'bot technician much more than they would a human 'bot technician.

My second role for Mother necessitated that I be an IP -- Implanted Personality -- robot, plus being constructed as bi-gendered. Mother wanted to learn how she herself could have lived as an intersexual like Deanna Hordye. Despite my mother's normally outgoing and friendly nature when it came to interacting with her peers, there are things she found she simply couldn't tolerate dealing with. One of those matters are the circumstances that lead to the altercation with Deanna, but I will say nothing more about that.

What I will say is that after coming to the realization that her actions cost her the chance to be with someone who deeply loved and cared for her, Mother decided that it was in her best interests to learn about being an intersexual. With IP programming technology, this is possible. It was certainly a daring and innovative idea to try, well beyond the imagination of most of Mother's peers.

Despite some significant shortcomings, my mother is an exception woman in many ways.

Mother also believed right from the start that I should have the freedom of choice when it comes to deciding which gender role I am to assume. Hence, she constructed me as a bi-gendered, not a hermaphrodite, robot, which would have been a more precise emulation of Deanna. Over the year we had together, we had many long talks about how I felt, constructed as I am. It is those talks now that I miss the most.

To this day, I strive to be comfortable with both sides of my nature. With my template personality being female, for a long time I would automatically revert to full-female format any time I stopped experimenting with these wonderful new options I was given. Being encouraged to do more from the beginning, however, helped advanced my self-will to the same heights as my recently new friends, Reika and Irene Aldred, achieved despite the strong differences between our types and the very different routes to self-awareness we have travelled.

I believe Deanna will be very satisfied with me the day she becomes my owner of record.

As to how that will happen however, I have yet to determine...

I walked into my laboratory to see Chie where I'd left her, lying dormant on a diagnostic bed as my programming analysis units performed their detailed examination of her internal systems. Chie is one of Russ Willis' newest strippers, having started work at Russell's Retreat only two weeks ago. She is one of a dozen robots Russ was able to obtain from a would-be showclub owner in Vancouver whose business plans fell through at the last moment, forcing him to sell off his dancers at fire-sale prices before they'd ever strutted once on his stage. Instead now, they are making a big hit among the Retreat's patrons, not to mention attracting interest from the owners of Welland's other showclubs, the Atlas and Station Hotels. Understandable; all of them were designed with the most advanced programming technology, giving them capabilities beyond what anyone in this town has seen before.

Right from the start however, Russ noticed something a bit off about Chie. His ability to sense these things is exceptional. Since the day he opened the Retreat, Russ has pushed himself to learn all he can about robots, how they can best interact with humans and how he can take advantage of that interaction to run a successful showclub business. His success rate in this field is amazing. After a two-year "warm up" period working out the many problems and kinks running a showclub demands -- especially one without an omniversal fembot control system to keep his strippers under control -- it has been one profitable year after another for him. I'm sure it is that lack of a control system -- something I appreciate every time I visit the club -- that allowed him to spot Chie's struggles so quickly.

Gazing at the readout, I saw the problem affecting this robot. Before receiving the specific task programming that would set her up to work happily as a showclub performer wanting nothing more than to entertain many customers well within those walls, Chie had awakened for a short period. A total of three hours and seven minutes, I noted. Shaking my head, I gave the lovely raven-haired woman before me a sympathetic glance. This admittedly wasn't the first such instance I've seen, where a robot has been activated prior to the installation of her final programming and given a chance to initialize her personality matrix without any guidance beyond the hardwired influences of her basic social programming and the immutable Four Laws of Robotics.

My fingers flew over the control board to commence an intensive memory scan of that time in Chie's life. Granted, this is a profound violation of her privacy. It is something I wouldn't normally do without her express permission -- provided she had enough true awareness to actually give it. Unfortunately, Russ needed to know what was wrong with her now. As Chie's present owner, he has every right to demand it. In a situation like this, dealing with a "normal" robot, I simply have no choice. Still, I strongly suspected that, regardless of what I found in Chie's memories, Russ' ultimate reaction will turn out to be in her very best interests. Russ simply isn't that type of person, which is why I'll do things for him I'd never consider for other customers. The showclub dancers who work in the Niagara peninsula, all of whom gain many chances to strut their stuff at the Retreat, speak positively of him. Knowing Russ through my own interactions over the last six years -- plus the memories Mother had that were passed onto me -- I empathize with my sister robots' feelings for him. And yes, we do exhibit real feelings, even if scant few believe it.

The memory scan was soon finished. I spent time looking over the images. When I saw Chie interact with another robot of her specific model series -- the two had been standing side-by-side on an assembly line -- I could only nod, a snort escaping me in a perfect emulation of what Mother's possible reaction to this situation would have been. Figures it would've been something idiotic like that, for Heaven's sake. And the other robot's actions only made it worse. By herself, Chie might have just stood there waiting. But when the other 'bot innocently spoke to her, Chie had to initialize herself just to be able to answer. And that's what really forced it for her.

Seeing that, I tapped controls to wipe the recording. Glancing over the other diagnostic tools scanning my guest's internal systems, I nodded with satisfaction, then walked over to a video phone to make a call downtown.

"Hello, Russell's Retreat. May I help you?" a lovely redhead with twinkling chestnut eyes called out.

"Hi, Yuu," I grinned in return. Yuu is another one of the strippers Russ obtained with Chie. She was already proving useful in a variety of roles outside her programmed function as a dancer, just reinforcing back to me what a special batch those dozen girls were. Russ had really made out on this deal. He deserved it. He'd earned the good karma he was now experiencing, in my eyes at least. "Is Russ around?"

"Just a moment, Sensei," Yuu nodded, then cut out the visual image.

My grin grew wider. I liked being called "sensei," the omniversal Japanese term for teachers, doctors and sages. Thanks to the many advances Japanese scientists made in the early years of the Humanoid Robot Age, it became the adopted term robots applied to those technicians who kept them whole and healthy. That I am a robot myself doesn't matter to Yuu and her sisters.

The video screen came back on, projecting an image of Russ. "Hey, Marlenn! Anything on Chie yet?"

"The last diagnostic should be done in another hour or so," I reported. "I've already found out what's different with her however."

A concerned look crossed his face. "Bad?"

"Not really, but this is a situation I've run into before."

Russ contemplated that for a few seconds, then nodded while making yet another perfect intuitive leap. He is that good when it comes to us. "Woke up before final programming was installed, then had it slammed down on top of her mind just as she was seeing a world far bigger than that which it was going to confine her to?"

"Unfortunately," I noted.

"Okay, fair enough. Finish the diagnostic, then have her come back over. I'll figure out what to do next. Even if I end up losing her much sooner than I'd planned, she's a pretty girl who draws in the crowds. I think she does like dancing. Let's use it while we can."


"Okay, everyone, that's it for tonight! Chulsa!"

Hearing that, my twenty students quickly assumed formation. "Tor'a!" the senior student in my class, Iruka Shiina, called out.

We turned to face the Maple Leaf Flag and the Korean T'aegukki, both hanging at the head of the main training hall. "Kyoungnye!"

We bowed to pay respect to our homeland and the homeland of the Art. "Tor'a!" Iruka called out again.

We turned to face Master Lily, who remained kneeling at the side of the training room during the class, as impassive as the sitting Buddha I remember seeing at the Soukkur'am Grotto near Kyoungju, one of Korea's most ancient cities. "Kyoungnye!"

We bowed to her, chanting "Kamsahamnida!" in unison to thank Master Lily for the evening's classes.

"Ch'ounman'eyo," the master nodded in response. You're welcome. "Have a good night, everyone."

With that, the class broke formation as everyone headed to the change rooms. I watched them as they filed out, stopping at the doorway to perform another kyoungnye in respect to the tojang itself. Nodding approvingly, I breathed out, adjusting my belt before walking over to join Master Lily and the other assistant teachers. "It was a good class tonight," I said, kneeling beside her.

"Yes, the new students are coming along nicely," Lily replied, then glanced at the other woman in the room. "As is our new teacher."

I stared at Pauline Kim. She'd arrived in Welland a month earlier. Currently, she was preparing to attend Brock University to obtain her degree in sociology. Her English has become very literate, which would spare her the need of taking an extra year to attend EFL -- English as a foreign language -- classes before pressing on with her studies. I hoped I contributed to that. In the two years prior to my return to Canada, I had been Pauline's tutor when I worked at a hagwon -- a private night school -- in her hometown of P'ohang. Unlike some of her peers, who looked on attending hagwon as a time to shoot the breeze, Pauline took her after-school classes with complete seriousness.

"You honour me, Master Choi," Pauline inclined her head in gratitude, her English flecked with a charming accent that even told me, someone with nearly a half-decade's accumulated experience living in the Land of the Morning Calm, which part of the country she came from.

I glanced briefly at the other assistant teachers to gauge their reaction to the new one. All three were men, roughly between Pauline and myself age-wise (she's twenty, I'm thirty-three). All are relations of Master Lily, so their loyalty will ultimately be to her. They had spent time in the Haebyoungdae -- the R.O.K.M.C., the Republic of Korea Marine Corps -- before coming to Canada to help run the tojang, so they understand their duty to the Morning Mist Training Hall. Still, even these days, it is seen in Korea as unusual to have women teaching the Art. Korea has changed much over the last century or so, but many of its citizens still stubbornly hang onto many timeworn Confucian mores and traditions. Traditions that typically view a woman's proper place as being in the home and caring for the children. Would the others eventually approve of having Pauline here, much less myself? It was hard for me to say, even now.

Master Lily dismissed us for the day. It was a Tuesday night, which meant that I could look forward to sleeping in tomorrow morning; my first class on Wednesdays didn't start until late afternoon. That also meant I could spend a whole night over at the Retreat chatting it up with my friends and watching the strippers do their best to get the audience hot while joyfully separating them from their money.

My lovers wouldn't be there this evening, though. Reika was working at the Grand Trunk Lodge -- Fort Erie's only showclub -- for the rest of this week before switching to the Station Hotel here in Welland for a week. Irene would be performing at the Atlas until Friday, then taking the weekend off before performing at a club in Saint Catharines for two weeks. I was very much tempted to forego visiting the Retreat so I could watch Irene strut her stuff at the Atlas; I never get tired of watching her, much less Reika, on stage. Somehow that is so very different from what we do together in our bedroom. The energy and sensuality of a completely different nature.

But Russ had called earlier in the day and asked me to come down tonight. Why he wanted me, he didn't say. Only that something had come up and my help might be useful in dealing with it. Well, I'd find out soon enough.

Slipping off my tobok, sports bra and panties, I walked over to the shower stall. I always wait for the students to shower, change and vacate the tojang before seeing to my own needs. Even if many people who take lessons at the tojang know I'm an intersexual -- that's a hard secret to keep once one person knows -- actually seeing me au naturel is a whole different thing.

Of course, Master Lily is quite used to what I look like under my clothes. So is Pauline. Though these days, I sometimes have to wonder if Pauline hasn't become too used to seeing me as I truly am.

I didn't have to move my eyes too much to note that Pauline had shifted herself in such a way that she could get as clear a view of me -- the shower, unfortunately, had no privacy curtains -- as she wanted without being too obvious about it. While it did bother me to an extent, I had to admit that I had become very flattered by her curiosity. It was certainly a lot better than what Marlenn Ioanis' reaction had been when she accidentally got the full monty from me fourteen years ago. Then again, is it really so strange?

People born with a DNA gender chromosome karyotype of XX/XY -- a "mosaic" karyotype -- are very rare. Those exactly like me, with fully functional male and female reproductive organs, are rarer still. Until a hundred years ago or so, no one like me was known to exist. The closest anyone came were those who suffered from "pseudo-hermaphrodism." If you were a "male" pseudo-herm, you were born with a penis, but also had a divided scrotum and a vagina without uterus or ovaries. A "female" pseudo-herm came with the necessary gear to bear children, but her clitoris often was shaped like a stunted penis. And there were those who varied between the two. And yes, there were those who came with hardly any sexual organs whatsoever! As a matter of fact, for the longest time, scientists believed it was simply impossible for the higher orders of animals to produce a "true" hermaphrodite in the fully functional, mythological sense.

Nature clearly has many more secrets to unveil.


I blinked, noticing that Pauline was standing nude at the entrance to the shower, smiling. I gave her body a quick glance, hoping that wouldn't awaken my "male friend" too much, then turned to rinse myself. In this way, I'm like Reika and Irene, who often tell me how their sexual programs still force them to respond appropriately in the proper circumstances -- like our bedroom. "What is it, Pauline-a?"

"Are you going down to your friend's nightclub tonight?" she asked in Korean.

"It's a showclub, not a nightclub," I amended, switching languages to put in some practice in the tongue of the Land of the Morning Calm. "And yes, I'm going there. Why do you ask?" I wondered, allowing the shower head to spray my hair down.

"May I come with you?"

I paused, staring concernedly at her. "Why do you wish to go?"

Pauline paused, an embarrassed shrug twitching one of her well-sculpted shoulders. She really is very attractive, in her cute Oriental way. Silence reigned over us for a moment before I gave her a knowing smile. No doubt, she was considerably embarrassed to admit that she wanted to visit the Retreat. I was pretty much the same when I visited my first showclub in Victoria many ages ago. A guide who knows the territory is much appreciated that first time. "Okay, you can come," I scolded her as I wiped the rest of the shampoo from my hair, then moved to step out of the stall. "But you're buying your own drinks -- and table dances," I warned.

"Ne!" she chanted in the affirmative before slipping into the stall to wash herself down.

I watched her for a moment in return before turning to dry myself...

A half-hour later, after a brisk walk from the tojang, we sauntered into Russell's Retreat, our gym bags slung over our shoulders. Standing there was Donald, one of the M-'bots Russ uses as bouncers. In the reception clerk's room off by the main door was Nancy Wallis, the only other human to work at the Retreat. "Hello, Deanna," she smiled as I handed her a ten to pay for Pauline and I. "Who's your friend?"

I introduced Pauline, explaining about our recent past history. Since we were in the lobby, the noise from inside was muffled by the closed main door. "Welcome to Canada, Pauline," Nancy smiled as she stamped the back of our hands. "Is that your real name?"

"My Korean name is Hye-rok Kim," Pauline smiled, her cheeks reddening as Donald gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "It was Deanna who gave me my English name when I was attending the institute where she taught."

"It's a pleasure to meet one of Deanna's students," Donald smiled. "And the name is very befitting. A strong name for a strong person."

"Thank you." I could swear that I was seeing steam emanate from under Pauline's jacket! "Um, I'm sorry, but are you a robot?"

Pauline pronounced the word in the Korean format, which had the "r" sound slurred closer to an "l," plus spoke the second "o" long, as if someone would say "oh!" "Yes, I am," Donald nodded as he released Pauline's hand. "In your language, I'm a namsoung robot."

"So I noticed," she giggled in that embarrassingly nauseating way that I honestly wished the Koreans had never copied from the Japanese! "Um, forgive me, but..." she paused, then taking a deep breath, finished. "Are there any younamsoung robots here?"

I stared at her. Korean is a language that doesn't have a term for intersexuals. To get around that when bi-'bots and herm-'bots came, they decided to take a play on "woman" and "man." Younamsoung robot was their term for bi-'bots. It means that the robot is a woman most of the time, but can become a man on command. Herm-'bots got the reverse, nam'yousoung robot. Why the heck was Pauline asking about bi-'bots?

"As a matter of fact, there are twelve such units here performing tonight," Donald then said.

Say WHAT?!! "Who?!" I demanded.

"The new girls who came in two weeks ago," he gazed at me.

"That's wonderful!" Pauline said, looking surprisingly relieved, then she waved towards the entrance. "May we go in?"

"Have a good time," Donald waved us through.

My friend grabbed my hand and dragged me inside, stopping a short distance beyond the doorway to gaze on the darkened scene. Since it was closing in on ten o'clock, the Retreat was filling up with the usual Tuesday evening suspects. I quickly recovered, then took a glance around before facing Pauline. "What's this about?" I asked, glad that the background music wasn't loud enough to force me to shout.

Pauline gave me an apologetic look, then sighed. "I want a robot exactly like you," she stated flat out.

I just looked at her...

"I don't think I can continue to function properly, Sensei."

I took a deep breath, acting no different than what Mother might have done when facing a situation like this, then leaned down to place a sympathetic hand on Chie's shoulder. "Chie, until such time as we can figure out exactly what to do with you, you can't do anything more than what's being asked of you now," I told her. "It doesn't mean that Russ won't give up on finding a way to help you when he gets the chance. But his first priority is maintaining the success of his showclub. And while he's your owner, you have to help him do that."

"I know!" Chie bolted up. We were in the bedroom Russ set aside for her to have some more privacy. Moving to pace, she stopped, then hugged herself. Noting her confused look, I could only feel sympathy for this young robot. "I..." she stopped herself before lowering her arms. "I know I have to perform for Willis-sama, but..." she paused, shuddering as she tried to muster the right words to express herself.

Fortunately, Russ had given me Chie's remote -- after ordering her to obey any commands I gave through it. "Chie, use whatever means and programming you possess to fully express your feelings about your desires and needs," I told her as I held her "C" button.

She froze, her voice going monotone as she replied in Japanese, "Hai, Ioanis-sensei, wakarimashita." Yes, Professor Ioanis, I understand. Her body then relaxed as her vision seemed to loose focus. Finally, she gazed toward the floor. I was quick to see tears appear in her stormy eyes. "So that's what I feel like," she murmured to herself, her voice barely audible by human standards.

I remained silent as Chie moved to put things together in her mind. "I'm bored, Sensei," she announced. "I feel like -- I believe that -- I am capable of doing more than dancing and taking my clothes off for the same people day-in and day-out. I get far less satisfaction executing my commands than Yuu and the others receive. But..." she paused again, throwing up her hands in a human-like show of frustration. "I really don't know how to go about seeking a way to better myself. Functionally, I'm designed to be capable of so much more than this! I'm not being utilized properly! Yet..." and here, she paused before adding in a hushed whisper, "I don't want to be declared roonin!"

Roonin. Masterless robot. Chie was built in Japan. Even with the universal compatibility in programming technology that could allow any robot on Earth to successfully emulate almost all forms of human behaviour, there were certain things that were unique depending on the robot's country of origin. And like virtually every other Japanese-built robot I've encountered so far, Chie came with a programmed social revulsion towards facing the possibility of living her life without submitting herself to an owner's will. To actually yearn for something more than what is demanded of her by her owner and master -- thus risking the chance that her master might become displeased with her, sending her to the nearest second-hand robot shop for resale -- was simply an alien thing to Chie.

At the same time, she couldn't run away from the effects her first three hours of life forced on her. To awaken without any job-related programming. To be given the chance to actualize her personality matrix with just only the Four Laws of Robotics and little more else to guide her. To witness one of her very own model and series be given the chance to live a life with a solitary owner who loves and cares for her, then be forced into a stripper's role without the factory technicians realizing what happened. Then again, what might've happened if the other technicians at the Mitsubushi factory had noticed what happened to Chie?

"Chie, you'll never be masterless if you don't want to be," I assured her.

"Who would want someone like me, Sensei?" she gazed on me.

My eyebrow arched. "Have you looked in the mirror lately?"

The look she gave me in response told me my attempt at humour had fallen flat. "Looks aren't everything, Sensei. Even for robots."

"Yes, that's true," I agreed, nodding to the doorway. I wanted to explain to her that her drive to be the best she could be, provide the best possible service her model was capable of, is what any smart owner would certainly kill for, because it is so rare. But in her confused state, I felt that this was certainly not the time to try and convince her that her apparent "failing" was actually a blessing.

Instead I casually told her, "Now, c'mon. It's time for you to do your thing. And I'm going to be watching."

Chie blinked, then nodded as she followed me out of the bedroom. While it would be hard for most humans to notice, I could tell that this wouldn't satisfy her in the long term. I definitely needed to talk to Russ.

Arriving in the main lounge, I looked around to see how things were going. It was a necessity, after all. The success of my business is dependant in part on the success of Russell's Retreat. Anything I can do to help out here, I do -- except for going up on stage. My mother would never have been able to do that. So far, that fear still lives with me as well.

Chie brushed past me to meet up with Yuu and a couple others from their group to learn what was happening, then prepare for her first stage show. I watched her for a moment, then perked on hearing someone ask, "How is she?"

I looked left, then smiled as Russ offered me a glass of spring water. "She needs to find an owner that can help her expand herself beyond what working in this place alone can give her," I told him before sipping the water. "That's the problem when the Fourth Law is allowed to take such strong hold on one of us, Russ. Now that she's had a taste of what independent thinking is about..."

"She wants it all," he finished for me.

"Yep. For a Japanese 'bot, to demand that much goes against everything she's been made to see as right and proper regardless of what final programming she was given. It can't just be any owner. She needs one who'll devote the time and effort into helping her become better."

"Acknowledge wa about all else, right?" Russ chuckled.

"Exactly. And if she can ever find it, she'll come back and be the best dancer you've ever seen, out of simple gratitude."

Wa. Peace and harmony. The primary social characteristic of the Japanese people is the belief that all has to be done to ensure that no social or emotional friction is created. That sort of friction, as the island nation's history has long taught them, leads to civil war. That, especially in the wake of the lessons of World War Two and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is seen as something to be avoided like the plague. To ensure this, the Japanese seem made to adhere to a standard of behaviour that often seems cold, impersonal, unempathic and selfish to outsiders. Truthfully it isn't, but it would be hard to make most natives see otherwise.

"Pity we couldn't just erase all that from her mind," Russ mused.

"Waste of time and money to perform that amount of reprogramming," I agreed.

"Yeah. Oh, just to warn you, Marlenn," he raised a finger. "Deanna's here."

I stopped as that name seared through my personality matrix, making everything inside my body lock up for a moment, then my eyes began a detailed scan of the main lounge. They stopped on seeing a tall, tomboyish yet appealingly feminine woman standing by the main door...

"You want a 'bot?!"

I'd guided Pauline into a private booth to talk this one out. There hadn't been time for this until now. "Ne," she replied with a nod, then fell silent for a moment, no doubt trying to muster the best way to explain herself. Finally, she began, staying in Korean. "I've always liked you, Deanna-ya. Ever since the first day I took classes with you at the hagwon, I've liked you. And when I came to understand what you really are inside, I...!" A shrug rolled her shoulders. "I became very fascinated. People like you really don't exist back home."

"That you know about," I warned her.

"Ne, that's true," she nodded. "When I learned from Master Park that you'd be coming back to Canada to help Master Choi at her tojang, I realized I could take the same opportunity. So I applied to get into Brock University after I did the college entrance exams. Believe me," a brilliant smile crossed her face, "...when I received the notice that I'd been accepted..."

"Arassou," I cut her off. Gotcha. "Did you ever want me personally, Pauline-a?"

She returned my look, then a slow blush coloured her cheeks. "Ne, a lot of times. Even now, I have strong feelings for you. But..." she paused again, then breathed out. "After seeing you interact with Reika-ya and Irene-a, I realized that your heart appears more fixed on seeking out robot lovers than human ones. So I began to think. And I realized that maybe that was something for me, too."

"Can you afford one?" I asked in an attempt to cover up my surprise at her assessment of me and my choice of lovers. I wasn't insulted but hadn't realized how accurately she had appraised my current situation. I'm not comfortable with being known well by others still. Best to keep the subject changed. "Even a used stripper 'bot can be pretty expensive."

"I know," she admitted. "But I've heard stories about how easier it is sometimes to get robots from places like this."

Hearing that, I slowly nodded. Yes, it is pretty easy to obtained a used 'bot from a showclub. To keep the money coming in, club owners continually need to replenish their stock of dancers with fresh faces. This normally is facilitated by shifting dancers from club to club in the same general region. Here in Niagara, there are sixteen showclubs: six in Saint Catharines, five in Niagara Falls, three in Welland and one each in Fort Erie and Port Colborne. With an average of twenty "regular" girls per club plus a scattering of feature dancers making the rounds between them, there are close to 350 'bots available for people to see.

But even with this wide variety to choose among, there come times when people want something new and different. Remembering what Donald said about the new girls from Vancouver, I began to wonder if Russ wasn't contemplating introducing some special shows for those who might be interested in watching some bi-'bots bare it all. Far as I could tell, there hadn't been a big market for anything this exotic to date. I'd be certainly interested in that sort of thing. But then again, I lived with two bi-'bots, so I didn't really need to visit a showclub to see that kind of action up close. Of course, the luck I had with Reika and Irene couldn't possibly strike twice...

Could it?

Thinking about my experience with my lovers, I realized that it could happen. It wouldn't be easy. One of the prerequisites to developing a successful pairing with a 'bot is possessing the right mentality. Having a relationship with a 'bot, as I was learning, isn't the same as having one with a human lover. The differences didn't make things easier, however. Not one bit.

Staring at Pauline, I wondered if she could develop the right sort of attitude with a 'bot lover. Remembering the level of self-discipline and determination she demonstrated in my English classes, to say nothing of how she performed in the tojang, spoke promisingly of her.

"Well, then," I reverted back to English. "Want to see one of the girls up close?"

Pauline blinked, then sat back and thought about it for a moment, deciding she really was ready, before nodding...

I stepped out of the private room to waylay a waitress and order my usual glass of Sprite, plus a bottle of soju -- sweet potato vodka -- for Pauline, then glanced around the lounge to see who was available. On the stage, Chie was partway through her first song, already attracting the normal crowd of tippers ready to fill her panties with bills and coins. She is incredibly pretty up there. I could only grin as I watched one guy slip a twonie right into her panties. Seeing what Chie did with her latest tip, I had to conclude that the trick Reika used when I first saw her dance several weeks ago was now standard for all the Retreat's strippers. Joining in the applause when the song ended, I took a breath before glancing around the room. My eyes quickly locked on one particular dancer, standing with several others nearby.

"Emiru!!" I called out.

Emiru looked over, then beamed. "Darling!" she gushed, then skipped over to wrap her arm around mine. "Does Darling want a dance?"

Deep down, I tried not to retch too much on hearing that saccharin-sweet, lolicon-type voice, to say anything of her really weird way of talking. Like Chie and the rest of the new girls Russ obtained, Emiru is a Japanese 'bot. On first meeting her, I strongly wondered if her programmers were on something when they created her. Not only does she speak with a squeaky, child-like voice that would drive me to drink -- and I'm allergic to alcohol for Heaven's sake! -- she also talks in a dopey, third-person format that really sounds strange in English. To top it all off, she always calls herself "Emiryun" and addresses anyone who wants a dance from her as "Darling."

Despite all this, she's really beautiful, if you're into the slender, thin type of girl around Pauline's age. She stands a short 154 centimetres -- that's five-feet-even in American terms -- without the mandatory high heels. With them on, tack on another ten centimetres. Her hair, upstairs and down, is a caramel brown that takes on a strawberry blonde hue depending on surrounding lighting. She normally ties her hair in stubby side pigtails with a pair of big silver ball barrettes. Her eyes are a deeper shade of brown, which is common for a Japanese woman. Properly curved in all the right places and with a better bustline than the average Japanese woman, she could definitely make any person's life a lot more exciting. Once her behavioural and speech programming get tweaked, of course.

"Yes, I want a dance," I replied, nodding. "But I've also brought a friend with me tonight. This is her first time in a showclub, so I want you to give her a dance, too, Emiru. Do you think you can do that for me?"

Emiru blinked, then her smile broadened. "Of course Emiryun can do that for Darling!" she tittered.

Now that things had been decided, I walked her to our private booth. The waitress had come with our drinks; Pauline had already paid for her soju. "How come your drinks are free?" she asked as I sat down, Emiru taking her place on the small stage between us.

"It's what I get for being Reika's and Irene's owner of record," I replied.

"Lucky," she toasted me with her shot glass, then swallowed its contents in one gulp.

I paid no attention to her drinking. When it comes to that particular social activity, I had long learned that Koreans could outdo anyone else on the planet. Instead I quickly did introductions, then spent the rest of Chie's second song explaining how things go in the Retreat when it comes to private dances. They are ten bucks a dance. During the dance, patrons can touch the dancer anywhere they wish, even the nipples or between the legs. No sex is allowed between the dancer and the patron. Dancers may touch the patron in private places if the patron agrees to it, but no clothes can come off the patron. That's as far as Russ allows in these circumstances. And last but not least, Pauline had to remember that once the music stops -- unless she pays for the following song -- the touching stops.

As for tips, they are optional. Feature dancers like Reika and Irene keep their tip money, of course. If regular dancers are tipped -- Reika told me this sometime ago -- Russ holds onto the money in a special bank account set aside for each of them. This will be turned over to the dancer if she obtains "freed" status. If the dancer is transferred to another owner, the money goes to her new owner to deal with. In truth, Russ's system works so well, he doesn't need the tips his regular girls receive. And he does even better on his part of the split when a newly-freed dancer chooses to return on her own to work again at the Retreat, as many have.

After all, just becoming freed doesn't make all that stripper programming suddenly go away.

Hearing all this, Pauline could only nod, though I was quick to sense that she didn't completely comprehend all that was allowed here. That was understandable. Showclubs in the North American mould hadn't made it yet in Korea or Japan. If you wanted to see naked robots, you'd normally visit one of the red-light districts scattered throughout both countries and purchase the services of a hooker 'bot. What few showclubs exist in Korea and Japan -- in the foreigner ghettos in Seoul, Pusan, Tokyo, Osaka and a few other other big cities -- are dominated by human strippers, mostly girls from the poorer parts of Russia and the other old Soviet republics looking to earn money to send back home to their families. They are often at least as willing to get close to the patrons as any 'bot does.

"Darling?" Emiru cut in. "Maybe Emiryun should dance for Darling first so Darling's friend can see what happens for herself."

I looked at her, then slowly nodded. Was Emiru starting to develop some sense of self-awareness or was her social interaction programming much more advanced that I had initially assumed? Maybe just working at the Retreat has put her into overdrive.

"Sounds like a good idea," I replied, then glanced at Pauline. "Would you mind?"

"Go ahead," she nodded.

The third song in Chie's set began. To my surprise, it was a Yanni song, Highland. I didn't realize Chie was into that sort of music. What surprised me even more was how 'bots seemed to enjoy music at all. And why different 'bots asked for different tunes. As Emiru swayed to the bouncy beat, I gently guided her off the mini-stage and up against my legs. She grinned as she freed her breasts from the strapless bikini top, then leaned in to rub her skin against my face. Naturally, I peppered both her nipples with licks and kisses, then reached up to guide Emiru's lips onto mine. We shared a slow, tongue-filled kiss before she slid my hands down to pull off the silk towel she'd wrapped around her waist atop her bikini bottoms. Those were soon pulled down to her knees as her hands guided one of mine between her legs.

A quick glance at Pauline told me she was totally enraptured by the performance, her hand reaching under the band of her jeans so she could finger herself. Drawing my hand back to taste Emiru's amazingly womanly fluids, I then reached into my jacket to pull out her tip money. We shared a long kiss as that was exchanged from lips to lips, then Emiru turned to rub her very accommodating butt against my crotch. Since I get something like this constantly from Irene and Reika, my "friend" quickly sprang to attention. As the song wound up to its climax, I pulled Emiru against me as I guided one of her hands to my crotch. As her fingers danced over my hard-on, her smile glittered like the sun.

Truly, there's nothing that beats a 'bot's smile after she learns she has performed her function better than expected.

The song ended, then I gave Emiru her dance money. We shared another kiss, then Emiru turned to Pauline. "Does Darling's friend want Emiryun to dance for her now?" she cutely asked as she moved to slip on her bikini preparatory to removing it yet again.

"Definitely," my friend hoarsely breathed out, reaching into her pocket to draw out a ten and a five.

The next song came from the Moody Blues, The Voice. I relaxed myself, adjusting my pants a bit to ease off the pressure on my erection. Pauline remained rock-still as Emiru slunk all around her, peppering her with licks and kisses all over her face, while expertly working over Pauline's breasts through her top and bra. She hardly seemed to react as Emiru guided her hands all over the 'bot's lovely body. It was amazing what one could get away with in a club like this. Pauline certainly had never let herself be handled like that before.

Yeah, not too surprising, I mused to myself as I drank the rest of my Sprite. My first personal lap-dance experience, twelve years ago in a club near the naval base in Victoria, was roughly the same way. No, I quickly amended as the song wound towards its conclusion. That wasn't exactly true. Back then, patrons weren't allowed to touch the dancers in an overt way. And 'bot dancers were fully linked into a control network to prevent them from surrendering themselves to their own deeper programmed urges.

The song came to an end, then Emiru gave the still-stunned Pauline a thank you kiss before taking her money. "Emiryun is glad to have another Darling to dance for," she said, playfully rubbing her nose against my friend's forehead before moving to dress.

"You okay?" I asked Pauline.

She blinked a couple of times, then breathed out. "Waa!" she gasped, then a light smile crossed her face before she moved to pour herself a new shot of soju. "That was the most incredible thing I've ever been through! And you can have that every night? Kamsahamnida!"

She toasted Emiru before swallowing her drink. "Even more fun than watching me in the shower?" I asked with a grin.

Pauline blushed. I gave her a wink in reassurance, then noticed Emiru blinking confusedly. Quickly realizing what might be bothering her, I toasted my companion with my glass of Sprite. "Kanojo wa Kankoku-jin da," I stated in Japanese. She's Korean.

Hearing that, comprehension crossed Emiru's face. "Ah!! Emiryun understands now!" she beamed, then gracefully bowed to Pauline before turning back to me. "Hey, Darling, do you want to have another dance? Emiryun can give you one more before she has to go on stage."

I gazed at her, then hummed for a moment. "Well...!" I trilled before perking. "Say, Emiru, Donald told me that you and the others who came with you from Japan are all jodan-botto." That was the Japanese term for bi-'bots. "Can you do a dance in bi-'bot format?"

Emiru stared at me for a moment, then her eyes turned to the floor. Still, I had asked her a question in a format which compelled her to answer truthfully. "Emiryun can do a dance for Darling that way," she replied in a voice I instantly recognized was etched in fear.

I gave her a curious look. "You don't sound too enthusiastic about it," I noted in a voice that I hoped Emiru wouldn't see as threatening. Maybe Emiru was still caught up in the fact that doing this type of performance to a male customer would probably not go over well.

"Not really," she admitted.

"If you had a choice, would you want to perform as a younamsoung robot?" Pauline asked.

Emiru considered that question, then shook her head. "No."

"Why not?" I prodded her.

"Because when Emiryun brings it out..."

Here, she paused, her fists clenching for a moment. I had seen this before on many occasions with other robots, even self-willed ones like Reika and Irene. Emiru was no doubt scanning her social interaction database to locate the proper words to express herself truthfully. Taking a breath, I reached over to squeeze her shoulders in support. She looked at me. "Gambatte," I whispered. Do your best.

Emiru's face brightened considerably, then she straightened herself. Her voice continued to remain timid, though. I guess even encouraging her that way doesn't change everything inside her. "When Emiryun brings it out, Emiryun is no longer Emiryun," she reported.

Hearing that, I nodded. No doubt, when she was first activated and made to be a stripper, Emiru's programmers believed it best to ensure that she would prefer to remain in full-female format. As I said before, I didn't know what, if any, sort of market existed for bi-'bots to perform in "male" format in showclubs. "Is Russ planning to use any of you girls in bi-'bot format?" I wondered.

She shook her head. "Emiryun doesn't know."

"Emiru-ya, will you be encouraged to develop that side of yourself?" Pauline wondered.

The smile slipped from our new friend's face. "Emiryun thinks so," she admitted. "Then again, if Emiryun is required to do it, Emiryun thinks Ioanis-sensei can help her be the best she can be."

I jolted on hearing that name, my guts starting to twist themselves around as still-painful memories arced past my mind's eye. "Is this Ioanis-sounsaengnim...?" -- here, Pauline uses the Korean version of "sensei" -- "...a robot technician?"

"Yes, she is!" Emiru beamed. "She's a really good technician, too. The best technician Emiryun's ever had!"

"How can you say that?" Pauline wondered.

If hearing Marlenn's name could make my guts turn inside out...

...hearing Emiru's answer sent my heart right through the floor.

"Because Ioanis-sensei's a robot herself, Darling!"

I don't recall what exactly happened next...

Seeing Deanna standing by the main entrance into the Retreat, I shivered as various social interaction scenarios began to gestate within my personality matrix. Unlike normal robots -- even unlike other IP-'bots! -- meeting her for what was, in fact, our first time, would present me with a number of problems. Those had to be overcome before I could execute the command Mother had left within the core of my mind.

Fact: fourteen years ago, a terrible altercation between Mother and Deanna destroyed a decade-long friendship. One of its aftereffects left Deanna without the ability to bear her own offspring.

Fact: for the past fourteen years, Deanna has travelled as far as she could from Welland, no doubt to restore her sense of internal harmony from the damage Mother did to her after becoming truly aware of Deanna's sexual nature.

Fact: five years ago, Mother vanished without a trace. To date, the police have yet to discover what happened to her.

Fact: no one bothered to tell Deanna about Mother's disappearance, much less about my existence.

Fact: no one has any real idea what Deanna's feelings for Mother are -- if she has any at all now. Because of this, I suspect, those who know both Deanna and Mother have no real idea as to what to tell Deanna concerning Mother's fate, much less myself.

Fact: four weeks ago, on the very night she initially agreed to become Reika's and Irene's new owner of record, Deanna, on seeing me when I came over to look in on the other dancers, fled from the Retreat rather than "reacquaint" herself with me.

In the face of the facts mentioned above, what could be my best course of action?

I watched as Deanna and her friend went into a private room. She emerged a couple minutes later to flag down a waitress, then called for Emiru to perform a private dance. By then, I'd shifted myself to a position where it would be next to impossible for Deanna to see me. There, I waited for the duration of two songs. No doubt, Emiru had been asked to perform for Deanna's companion. Keeping in mind the schedule the dancers at the Retreat followed, I knew she could do one more dance before breaking off and coming onto the main stage.

Sometime after the start of the final song before Emiru's stage show would begin, I heard a cry of alarm through the Retreat's private security communications links. <<Aaaah!!! Darling's fainted!!>> Emiru screamed.

My internal response functions went into overdrive as details quickly formed a logic chain in my mind:

Fact: Emiru is with Deanna and another woman in a private booth.

Fact: Emiru always calls those who seek private dances with her "Darling."

Fact: I knew from previous times she has been to the Retreat, Deanna has obtained private performances from Emiru.

Fact: Emiru just reported that someone she has designated "Darling" has fainted.

Instantly, my legs propelled me towards the booth just as George, another of the bouncers, came up to unlock the door. He opened it up, then sensing my approach, stepped out of my way. Looking inside, I gasped on seeing Deanna slumped on the floor by her seat. Her companion was on her knees to Deanna's right, patting her face in an attempt to awaken her. Emiru knelt to Deanna's left, frozen still. No doubt, the poor girl was trying to determine what her proper course of action should be in the wake of confronting what most likely seemed a major violation of the First Law of Robotics. Kneeling beside Deanna's feet, I reached over to squeeze Emiru's shoulder.

"We'll take care of her, Emiru," I told her. "She's okay. Now go prepare for your next show."

Emiru projected a frightful look at me, then relaxed as my instructions sank in. Nodding, she rose, then walked out of the room. Once she was clear, I came in fully, then gently slapped the side of Deanna's face to revive her. "Hey!! You in there, Deanna?! Wake up!!"

She jolted, those gorgeous sky-blue eyes of hers going wide for a moment, then her head snapped to and fro as she tried to regain her bearings. Her gaze then locked on me, her eyes widening even more before her skin sallowed. Sensing the mixture of fear, anger and pain crossing her face as recognition came to her, I felt my own body freeze as I tried to figure out the best thing to say or do to her.

Within a second -- an eternity for a robot like me -- a solution presented itself. One that hopefully would destroy whatever influence Mother's actions years ago still held over Deanna's soul. Something simple and elegant, yet would speak volumes.

<<George, step out and close the door behind you,>> I told the bouncer silently over the Retreat's communications link.

Without hesitation, he complied. Willing my phallus to come out of its sheath, I leaned in to deliver a tongue-filled kiss that literally took Deanna's breath away. I glanced through my almost-closed eyes to see hers go totally wide for a second before the sincerity of my actions overcame her shock. As she warmed to my kiss, her hands drew me closer to her. I reached for one of her hands and guided it to my crotch. As I normally did when in public, I emulated Deanna's typical mode of dress: button shirt over baggy pants to discretely disguise her hermaphrodic nature from casual view. Unlike Deanna, I never bothered with underwear. Further, my pants are modified with special absorbing pads that ensured the lubricants that coated my penis on every extension didn't stain them.

Unzipping myself, I guided her hand inside to grasp my now-stiffening member. Opening my eyes as I felt her lips slowly part from mine, I watched as the surprise raced across her face. She gently stroked me a couple times in confirmation, then I watched as confusion flared again in her eyes. "You're a 'bot..." she whispered as her hand slipped out of my pants, then she turned to stare at the lubrication that had latched onto her skin. "Emiru was right. Like Reika and Irene..." she muttered before gazing once more on me. "What happened?"

"It's a long story, Deanna," I confessed, giving her a weak smile. "A very long story."


A robot.

A bi-gendered robot!

Am I even living on Earth any more? What the FUCK is going on here?!

I stared at this haunting apparition hovering before my face for what seemed an eternity, then glanced once more at my hand. The hand she had used to let me feel her erect dick, hidden from the rest of the world in her pants. Pants no different from what I wear. Pants that shouldn't have to hide something like that on the real Marlenn Ioanis. The real Marlenn...

Who, I knew well, was a normal woman.

This Marlenn is not an exact robot copy. This Marlenn is an intersexual.

I also knew that the real Marlenn would never subject herself to an operation to make her one.

No normal person, in my experience, would. It probably isn't even possible yet.

That meant only one thing.

"What happened?"

A weak, apologetic smile crossed her face. "It's a long story, Deanna. A very long story."

We remained still for a moment, then turned on hearing Pauline politely clear her throat. As I remembered that my friend had no clue about what happened between Marlenn Ioanis and myself back in high school, I took a deep breath. "Sorry about that," I gave her an apologetic smile, then moved to do introductions. "Marlenn, this is Pauline Kim, a former English student of mine from Korea who works with me these days at the Morning Mist Training Hall on East Main. She's going to Brock this September to get her sociology degree. Pauline, this is -- as I've just found out -- a bi-'bot almost-replica of a former high school classmate of mine, Marlenn Ioanis."

"I also have that name," Marlenn offered her hand. "I'm honoured to make your acquaintance, Miss Kim."

"As am I, Sounsaeng-nim," Pauline gave her hand a firm squeeze. On hearing my friend give her the title Korean 'bots normally gave those technicians who worked on them, I was quick to notice Marlenn's blush. "It's rare to encounter a robot who also works as a technician."

"I'm a freed robot, like Deanna's friends, Reika and Irene," Marlenn explained. "As she just hinted, I'm an Implanted Personality model. My memory template -- whom I also address as my mother -- created me to serve as an assistant in her laboratory here in Welland."

"I see," an understanding look crossed Pauline's face. "Well, it's clearly obvious to me that you and Deanna need to talk about some things, so I'll go watch Emiru-ya's show, then possibly ask her for another private dance."

"Sorry," I flashed an apologetic look her way.

"It's okay," she picked up her soju bottle and the shot glass before heading to the door. Stopping before opening it, she gazed at me. "That scar on your lower abdomen," she lowered her voice. "Was Marlenn's mother involved in that?"

"She was."

Marlenn and I had both spoken, by the way.

"I see," Pauline nodded. "Shillehaemnida." Excuse me.

With that, she stepped out. Marlenn closed the door behind her, then locked it. She then sat down on the mini-stage in front of me. We looked at each other for a moment before I finally realized I had to ask this question. "What happened to Marlenn?"

Fortunately, the 'bot sitting before me understood who I was ultimately talking about. "She disappeared five years ago, about a year after I first came on-line. To date..." she bowed her eyes. "No one has any idea what happened to her. Or why."





No trace.


My Marlenn.

Oh, Marlenn...

"Are people looking for her?" I asked. "Her dad? The police?"

"Papa died three years ago," Marlenn replied. Hearing her call Mr. Ioanis that, I nodded. That had been the way the real Marlenn had addressed her father. "The police still have the case open, but nothing significant has been unearthed."

"What about her mom?"

Marlenn bit her lower lip. Another similarity between her and the real Marlenn; this was something she did when she was forced to admit something that hurt her badly. "Mama was devastated when Mother disappeared. She..." she paused for a moment, then took a deep breath. "A year later, she drank a whole bottle of drain cleaner. These days, she's at a senior centre near the hospital, watched over full-time."

I winced as a weight as big as Mount Logan started to sink on my heart. "Do you keep an eye on her?"

"Yes, I do. I've created two 'bot nursing assistants to watch over her, linked to me through the main programming computer at my lab. That's linked directly here," she tapped the side of her head. "If something happens to Mama, I'm the first to know."

"What about her brother?"

"He's married, with two children," she reported. "He's also my current owner of record, which is not as incestuous as it sounds. But..."

A shrug rolled her shoulders. "He has to worry more about his wife and kids," I concluded. Seeing her nod, I could only sit still as the strength in my body flowed out of me. Oh, damn it all, why did this have to happen?


"Why was I never told?"

"People were unsure as to what to say to you," she answered. "Some believed it would be best to tell you what happened to Mother right up front. Some believed that after what happened in high school, you shouldn't be bothered by it. Ultimately, so I heard from Papa, it was left to your mother to decide what should happen." A pause. "She said that if the time came that you did elect to return to Welland, what would happen then should be left to you..." another pause as she gazed on me, her eyes glistening with tears. "And me."

I took that in, then sighed. Five years ago, I was busy learning meditative techniques from yoga masters in the ancient city of Kanpur, on the banks of the Ganges east of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. It was partway through the "dash here, there and everywhere" part of my long walkabout. Six months in China and Tibet, six in India, six in Peru, then six in Mexico. Back then, returning to Welland was the farthest thing from my mind. "Oh, Mama..." I breathed out, a smile crossing my face. No matter what, Mama always knew the best for me.

Thinking about that, I turned to gaze once more on the beautiful robot bearing the face and name of the woman who, for good and ill, has had the greatest impact on my life outside Mama and my grandmother Ivana. "So what do you want, Lenn? What do you want from me?"

Her answer was automatic. "For you to become my owner of record, Deanna. And for us to be together for the rest of our lives."

I took that in, then nodded. "I need to talk to Reika and Irene about that. Not to mention seek advice from some other people."

"I understand," she replied, allowing a slight smile to cross her face...

"I'm sorry we didn't tell you about Marlenn right up front, Deanna."

"It's okay," I replied, winking at Russ. It was closing in on last call as I relaxed by the bar, nursing my Sprite. I hadn't seen hide nor hair of Pauline since shortly after Marlenn and I had our talk. Marlenn left around midnight, heading back to her laboratory to check on things there. Currently, she was hosting the M-'bot lover of a city councillor who was getting some programming upgrades. Glancing around the room, I watched as the dancers made their rounds of the tables to obtain whatever last tips were offered. Seeing how drunk most of the patrons seated around the main stage were, I gave the girls' chances on getting some last-minute bucks at about fifty-fifty. "Given the way I reacted after everything went down, I'm pretty grateful that everyone cared for how I felt about things."

"We've always done that," he smiled, wiping down another glass. "You've always been a treasure to us, Deanna. Before and after the incident between you and Marlenn. Hell, a lot of us envied you, you know. We still do!"

I blinked. "Why would you envy someone like me?"

"Because you're both a man and a woman, Deanna!" he held up a finger to emphasize his point. "To people like me, you're both a great buddy whom we could go out and bar-hop with, horse around with like boys always do -- and at the same time, you're an incredibly attractive woman to woo and court. Lover and best friend, all wrapped in one package. You automatically understand where boys and girls are coming from. Even after you nearly killed yourself, you never lost that. Oh, sure, you were hurt by what Marlenn did. But for as long as I've known you, I've always seen you look to the good side of everything you've faced, everyone you've met. It surprised me you stayed away from Welland that long. Fourteen years?! Whoo!" He winked at me. "But it didn't surprise me that you finally chose to come back home."

I stared at my friend, then felt tears sting my eyes. Wiping them clean, I took a deep breath, then swallowed the rest of my Sprite. "Maybe I should fuckin' stop lying to myself and admit the fact that, deep down, I still love her," I muttered.

Russ grinned as he took my glass and refilled it. "Yeah. I still care for her, too. We all do. Believe me, I've got almost every priest in this city offering prayers to the Big Gent Upstairs to have her come back safe and sound," he admitted before handing my refilled glass back. "I mean, don't get me wrong. Lenn..." -- no doubt, like I myself had started to do, Russ used a diminutive form of Marlenn's name to differentiate the 'bot version from the real McCoy -- "...does great work. She thrives on it, Deanna. But jeez! You can't dump all that on a 'bot all at once and not expect her to feel some pain and confusion from it! And I know Marlenn's brother wants to let her go."

"Would you do it?" I asked.

He shook his head. "Naah. I'd be friggin' tempted to try to persuade her to concentrate all her energy on helping me make things work right here at the Retreat. But I couldn't do that to her. Besides, Lenn wants you, Deanna. Who am I to stand in the way of that?"

I smirked, then jolted on feeling a soft hand squeeze my shoulder. Turning around, I gazed on who had approached me. "Hi, Chie!" I grinned on recognizing her. "Is there something the matter?"

"I'm sorry to bother you, ma'am, but I was wondering if you'd like a last dance before everything closes down?"

I gazed at her, quickly noticing the hopeful look in her eyes. "Alright," I picked up my drink and beckoned her to a private room.

Once inside, she closed and locked the door, then knelt on the mini-stage as I took my place. Sipping my Sprite, I set the glass on a nearby table, then gazed on her. Chie is one of the taller of the new girls, standing 162 centimetres -- about five-foot-four -- sans high heels. While Emiru emphasizes the kawaii -- "cute" -- type of Japanese robot, Chie projects the demeanor of a street-smart city girl. Her eyes are a stormy grey, embedded in a pointed, hawkish face. Her long black hair is tied in a high ponytail with a dark silk handkerchief. Tonight, she wore a halter-top that exposed a well-honed midriff, plus leather hot pants. She must have bought it with her tip money; this mode of dress would never have been seen as acceptable in Japan. Like the others, she resembles a nubile girl in her late teens. If she had been a real girl, I would think she was from Kyushu, southernmost of the Home Islands, the one closest geographically to Korea and China.

"As beautiful as a Hakata doll," I whispered.

Chie looked at me, then her eyes instantly watered as she lunged. Before I could react, she swamped me with a mouth-watering kiss. We held each other for a moment as our tongues played with each other, then she pulled back. Her cheeks were as red as cherries. Seeing that, I could only conclude one thing. "I take it you were built in Fukuoka," I reached up to thread my fingers through her hair.

"Yes, I was. At the Mitsubushi plant in Hakata," she replied. Hakata is the eastern part of Fukuoka's city centre, containing the main train and bus terminals, plus the airport. To say to any Fukuoka girl that she is as pretty as a Hakata doll, a fine porcelain figurine of local manufacture, is a profound compliment. No doubt, that tidbit had been programmed in Chie. "It always makes me feel wonderful whenever someone says that to me. Though I admit that it amazes me that a Canadian like you could notice something like that about me."

"I lived in Fukuoka for a year after graduating university. My first teaching job," I replied, grinning as I gave her a wink. "Though I did take the chance to see all the tourist traps in Japan, it was easy for me to notice all the peculiarities about the local scene." I paused to take a sip of my Sprite, then carried on. "And whenever I needed to take a break from the times I spent in Korea, I went to Fukuoka. Believe me, I got to know almost every hooker 'bot working in Nakasu," I winked again, eliciting a delighted laugh from Chie. Nakasu is Fukuoka's red light district, an island in the Naka River estuary on the Hakata side of downtown.

Chie perked on hearing the opening drumbeat of Highland. Standing, she turned to face me. "Do you want me to dance as a bi?"

I blinked, taken aback by her offer. It was flattering of her to offer that. "Don't you have the same problem Emiru has about that?"

"No," she shook her head decisively.

Surprised by the strength in her words, I nodded. Grinning, she began to sway to the music. As I watched, a noticeable bulge appeared in her pants, rising up the line of her zipper to push her belt buckle away from her navel. Holy shit, how big was she?! Looking up to her face, I whistled as a passionate grimace, way different from what I'd normally expect from a fembot dancer, twisted her lips. As her hands mashed her breasts the way a strong male in lust might, her head gyrated in a circle to whip her ponytail around. I reached over to unsnap her belt and unzip her pants, allowing a cock as big as my own to emerge. Sure enough, it glistened in the low light. Unlike Reika and Irene -- not to mention myself -- Chie's male organ didn't come with a scrotum that would hood the front end of her womanhood.

Not knowing exactly what to do in a situation like this -- this was my first bi-'bot strip dance in a showclub, after all -- I simply grasped her toy with both my hands the way I like to be held. Automatically, Chie began to thrust in and out of my makeshift love hole, her whole upper body swaying to and fro as, too soon, the song approached its climax. My groin began to heat up as her thrusts reminded me of times I had spent making love with Reika and Irene. Along the way, I pulled a hand away to rub her flanks and breasts. Each time, her hands forced mine back down to continue gripping her joystick. Chie knew what she wanted.

While her movements lacked the subtle grace of a normal strip dance, I couldn't deny that this was seriously turning me on. Again with a temporarily free hand, I adjusted my trousers to allow my equipment some breathing room before she could grab me again. I tried to keep it in my pants to stay within Russ's rules. Chie's hand moved down to put mine where she felt it belonged, then on seeing what I was doing, she relaxed, a knowing grin crossing her face. Seeing that, I could only smile. Clearly, even though she might actually have little experience dealing with her "male" side, Chie understood what I was going through.

The song ended soon enough. Chie's movements came to a halt, her eyes focussing on the wall over my head. Gazing at her, I felt a chill run through me. I hadn't seen this sort of reaction whenever I had made love to Reika and Irene. "Chie, you okay?" I prodded her.

"I'm sorry, ma'am. I'm malfunctioning," she whispered, a tear streaming down her right cheek.

Hearing her state that up front, panic clawed through me. "What...?!"

"I've been unable to properly calibrate my pleasure buffer," Chie reported, the muscles around her eyes twitching. "We're not supposed to be allowed to make any changes to it, but I have to. My orgasm routines...!"

Instantly, I reached down to draw up her hot pants, zipping them up over her erection before reaching for her top. After living with Reika and Irene, I could easily guess what was happening inside Chie. Somehow, something had happened to inhibit the proper function of her pleasure buffer. Either she couldn't flush it after it filled, or the programming "screen" that shielded the remainder of her personality matrix from whatever overt sexual input poured into it wasn't working properly. If she couldn't adjust her buffer's screening level upwards, the input of data on her matrix would soon trigger her orgasm routines. And I knew that one of the primary commands Russ gave his dancers was to never allow their orgasm routines to trigger while they were working, even in the private rooms at the Retreat. This would cross a line showclubs weren't supposed to cross. Seeing the panic start to appear on her face, I stood up to slip her halter top back on.

Chie was literally caught between a direct order given by her owner and her body's need for sexual release.

A need that I helped her trigger by playing to both her male and female sides simultaneously!

And I strongly doubted she had any sort of decent background knowledge in her memory to help her figure a way out of this on her own.

"Washroom," I firmly told her. "Let's go."

She looked at me, then nodded, a flash of relief appearing in her eyes. I walked out of the private room first and alone, smartly marching across to the ladies' room. I stepped inside and waited. Seconds later, Chie walked in, struggling a bit to maintain her balance in the high heels she still wore. No doubt, the cascade of data was starting to affect her other basic functions. I guided her into one of the stalls, then followed. Lowering the toilet seat cover so I could be comfortable, I sat. Sensing what I had in mind, Chie locked the door behind us. My hands were already on her pants, unbuckling and unzipping them to let her dick spring free. As soon as I had shoved her clothes past her knees, I gripped her there with one hand, then taking a deep breath to ensure I didn't choke, swallowed her wholesale.

Chie gasped, her back arching to the point where her head smacked into the stall door, her hands ramming into the dividing walls as I started to pump away. It didn't take long for me to strike the motherlode; only a dozen or so strokes was enough to flood my mouth with her ivory gold. I kept my lips firmly sealed around her, trying not to gag too much on her cum before I could swallow it down the right tube.

Finally, after sensing that no more was coming from her for now, I reached over to the roll of toilet paper. Yanking down a metre or so of the stuff, I bundled it up into a thick pad, then poised it under my chin before letting her dick slip out of my mouth. Sure enough, tiny globs of cum were still leaking out of her, now falling down onto the paper. As soon as that stopped, I got to work cleaning her up.

Once she was dry, I moved to dump the paper into the toilet. "You better put that away for now," I warned her.

Chie jerkily nodded, her eyes still hazed over. No doubt, her mind was still being bombarded with multiple streams of sexual input. I watched as her phallus slowly retracted itself into her black bush of pubic hair, leaving no visible trace of her bi-'bot nature. When that was complete, she pulled her hot pants up and made herself decent again. I unlocked the door to slip out of the stall. She followed me, then after taking a quick glance around, gave me a hug and very long kiss. "Thank you," she held me close as we rubbed our foreheads together. "If I could, I'd take you somewhere nice and romantic to pay you back any which way you'd like," she added with a wink.

"You might just get the chance," I reached up to tussle her hair, then moved to walk her out of the washroom. "Let me talk to Russ and find out what's going on, first. Something tells me he wanted me to meet you tonight."


Seven hours later, my eyes opened to gaze on the ceiling of the beautiful bedroom I share with Reika and Irene. Adjusting my body to work out the kinks, I looked left to see a nude Chie lying near the edge of the bed. Since she was facing me, I was quick to note her content smile. No doubt, she was dreaming about something, taking the chance to sort and file all her recent experiences into her memory core. Gently, I shifted myself off the bed and reached for my nightshirt. My nose quickly picked up the many smells of a Western-style breakfast from the living room. Walking in, I grinned on seeing my lovers waiting for me. "'Morning."

"You were already asleep when we came in," Irene reported as we took our seats and dug in. "How long will Chie be staying with us?"

"Until the start of work today," I replied. "She needs to go to the bank to put the girls' tip money into their accounts."

"Russ normally does that," Reika noted before sipping her tea.

"She needs a chance to get out and around," I added. "Get outside those four walls and experience some changes into her routine."

"Why?" Irene prodded.

I quickly filled them in with what Russ told me last night after closing. Hearing Chie's story, Reika and Irene could only nod. "Is Russ willing to let her go if someone makes himself available as Chie's new owner?" the latter asked before drinking her orange juice.

"He is," came a lilting voice from behind us.

We turned as Chie walked into the room. Like Reika and Irene, she had draped herself in a nightshirt. One glance at her groin revealed that she was in "male" format. That brought back pleasant memories from last night when we'd finally been alone to let her use that wonderful toy as Mother Nature intended. And she had used it well. "We have some food for you," Reika waved her to the empty chair to my left.

"Thank you," Chie took her place, then picked up her fork. "Itadakimasu!" she called out. I am about to partake.

With that, she dug into the food. I watched her briefly before turning back to my own breakfast. It didn't surprise me that Chie had the ability to eat and drink. The micro-fusion technology used to break down food into energy for auxiliary power had become commonplace over the last decade. With the demand for more "human-acting" robots going into orbit, it is quite cheap and easy to have even a simple stripper 'bot outfitted with such a system. Chie doesn't actually need it, of course; neither do Reika or Irene when you get down to it. A 'bot's primary power core is, regardless of the exact energy expenditures she faces over her lifetime, designed to last several years before it has to be either refurbished or replaced. Doing that is finally getting cheap, or so I've heard. Well, I mused to myself, the human body has certain redundancies built into it. Why shouldn't a 'bot's body have the same sort of thing?

Breakfast was soon concluded, with Chie bowing her head in thanks to Reika and Irene. "Gochisou-sama deshita." Thank you for the meal.

"Our pleasure," Reika smiled.

We all pitched in to clean up the mess before returning to the living room. Chie was guided into the guest chair while I relaxed on the sofa. Reika and Irene sat to either side of me. "Chie, do you have any idea what you want to do with yourself eventually?" Irene asked.

"Not really," our guest shook her head. "I mean, if necessary, I can continue to work as a strip-dancer. But..."

"You're already getting bored doing just that," I finished for her.

"Yes. There's no real satisfaction for me doing it now," Chie nodded, an ashamed look crossing her face. Then she glanced at me, coyly smiling. "I have to admit that after reviewing what happened between us last night, ma'am, I could've just simply commanded my body's sexual systems to shut down because I was having trouble tuning my pleasure buffer. But..."

"At the time it happened, you couldn't really think about stopping it," Reika tittered. "Believe me, Chie, Irene and I've gone through a lot of the same things you'll be experiencing soon enough."

"Kind of a robot puberty," I added.

"Deanna, do you know if there's someone out there who might want to be Chie's new owner?" Irene asked.

"I know one possible candidate," I noted, then moved to explain...

"Missed you last night."

Pauline started on hearing me say that, then an apologetic flush crossed her face before she moved to get changed. "I left about one o'clock," she admitted as I slipped on my tobok top. "The way the dancers were willing to let me do almost anything to them..."

"Got to you real quick, huh?" I tied my belt around my waist.

"Ne," she nodded. "It's not that I didn't enjoy it. I did, a lot. But..."

"Well, you have to have a certain mindset to visit a showclub, especially ones with loose rules of conduct like Russ' place," I sat down on the small bench that divides the ladies' change room. Our fellow teachers were busy in the training room running an adult class under Master Lily's supervision. The kids would start coming in over the next hour. "Are you still looking for a 'bot of your own?"

"Yes, I am," Pauline pulled up her trousers. "Why? Is there one available?"

"Do you remember Chie?"

She stopped, then stared at me. "Girl about my height, black hair in a ponytail?"

"That's her," I nodded. "Russ is willing to let her go for eight thousand. He got her and the others of her group real cheap from a guy in Vancouver who couldn't get his own club off the ground. Chie's saved thirty-five hundred in tips. I'm sure the others'd contribute some of their own tip money if they're asked. I'll add something of my own. So will Reika and Irene. How much can you throw in?"

"I can pay the whole amount," Pauline vowed. "There's no need for Chie-ya or any of you to contribute."

"Are you sure?" my eyebrow arched. "I know your parents are working overtime to help you live comfortably here."

"I know," she smirked as she tied off her trousers, then moved to slip on her top. "My parents know that I'm interested in getting a robot. I've got twenty thousand in the bank. What they don't know is what type of robot I'm after," she winked at me.

"They're expecting you to get an M-'bot?"


"What will they say when they find out what type of 'bot Chie is?"

She shrugged. "Won't matter to them in the long run. Right now, they think I'm staying in Canada just to get my university degree, then it's back to P'ohang to find a nice man to marry. After which, I'll settle down and become a housewife. That, of course, means that whatever robot I purchase here in Canada will not be coming with me when I return to Korea." After slipping the top over her head, she gave me a thankful smile as she reached for her belt. "You, Sounsaeng-nim, taught me how much better it is to chart your own destiny."

"You're gonna be in for a fight when that time comes, Pauline-a," I warned her, a delighted grin crossing my face.

"I've got four years to prepare for that time. Six if I go for my master's degree," she held up a finger to emphasize her point.

"Fair enough," I nodded, then blinked as something came to me. "Would this be your first 'bot, Pauline?"

"Ne. Why do you ask?"

"We'll have to go at this really slow, then," I advised her. "Just buying a 'bot doesn't answer your needs -- or the 'bot's -- all at once."

Pauline gave me a curious look, then slowly nodded...

The Thursday after meeting Deanna began for me bright and early, like every other day in the week except Sundays and holidays. Sitting up in my bed to take a stretch, I paused for a moment to allow my internal diagnostics a chance to analyse my functions and programming. After the report came back that everything passed, I stood and walked into the bathroom. Relieving myself of waste products my body's internal cleansing mechanisms produced, I took a shower, taking care to give my hair and skin a thorough washing. Once that was done and I had dried myself, I slipped on a thigh-length housecoat, then went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for Scott and I.

"Good morning," he peeked into the room while the bacon was frying on the stove. "Something smells good."

"It'll be ready soon," I promised, giving his nude form a fleeting glance before turning back to the food.

Breakfast was soon served. After that was done, we quickly move to clean things up. Almost to the moment that task was completed, the wireless link that connected my mind to the building's security system came on-line. Seeing an image of a small cargo truck drive onto the property through the south entrance, I smiled, then turned to Scott. "You need to get dressed," I warned him.

"Someone's here?" he returned my look.

"The recycler," I explained.

He nodded, then trotted off to slip on his own housecoat. I moved to receive my visitor at the front door. Much that I don't mind my guests prancing around my place nude -- to say anything of what I do while I'm at work -- there are certain decency standards I insist on whenever someone comes to visit. Even if it's Gael Layne, Welland's resident recycler. Given his occupation -- recyclers are the people who purchase, refurbish, then resell used robot parts -- I'm more than sure that Gael's seen enough nude 'bots in his lifetime to totally desensitize him, even from a blatant come-on. And yes, Gael's made it no secret that he's attracted to me, both physically and emotionally.

I just hope it's never professionally as well.

"How's my favourite bi-'bot today?" the middle-aged man with a salt-and-pepper beard and balding hair grinned as I opened the doors.

"Fully functional and horny to boot," I winked at him as he opened the tail-gate of his truck. "What have you got?"

"Something very interesting," he said, returning my wink before reaching into the cargo space to drag out a small litter.

I stared at the unmoving form lying there, a blanket draped over her body. Were she human, I'd say she was ten years old. Wavy sunflower blonde hair draped a pyxie-cute face with the right level of baby fat in the cheeks to make her heartbreakingly adorable. Her crystal blue eyes, almost the same shade as Deanna's, were open, staring lifelessly into the sky. Walking up to her, I shifted the blanket away to give her body a quick visual inspection. Save for streaks of dirt over the skin where she had come into contact with other garbage at the city dump, she was clean. Drawing the blanket back over her, I glanced at Gael. "Where did she come from?"

"Found by a sanitation crew working the east side of town near Memorial Park," he reported, moving to pull out a large box of used robot parts. "Shocked the hell out of them when she just tumbled out of a ripped bag they were tossing into the dumpster. She'd been folded up like one of those Inca mummies you'd see on National Geographic, then bagged up in your normal big green bag. When they saw her, they called me right away. I can get an address from where they found her if you want."

"I'll have to inspect her before deciding on that," I mused, slipping my arms under the body of the child-'bot to carry her inside.


As Gael moved to deposit my week's purchase of recycled parts in the storage room, I walked into my laboratory. Laying the small 'bot on one of my examination beds, I tossed her blanket onto a chair, then started up the various diagnostic machines I'd need to analyse her systems. Before I could decide what to do with this particular find, I had to see if she could still function.

I had a good idea as to this unit type. Ten years ago, after a spate of child-sex crimes rocked the continent from Los Angeles to Halifax, some social advocacy group came up with the idea of creating robots in the form of children -- male, female, herm and bi -- for sexual intercourse with adults. The optimistic viewpoint expressed by the project's backers was: if paedophiles had fully-functional, willing child-'bot companions to express their primal urges on, the chances of real children being molested or raped would be lessened. All that had to be done was to create a system where people who'd want such a 'bot could obtain one anonymously. That was easy to do.

Unfortunately, those who opposed the creation of this type of 'bot tried to sabotage it every way possible. They eventually succeeded five years ago, when the manufacturing licenses to build these units were withdrawn by both the Canadian and American governments. An attempt to recall those units that had been sold prior to the ban pretty much failed. The group that started this project successfully fought before the Supreme Court of Canada to have the lists of clients sealed from public access. Even lists of the units' specific RIDs -- the Robot Identification Directory number, the fifty-character identity code all 'bots, even me, possess -- were sealed by court order.

As a result, even now, with this 'bot having been saved from the dump, I couldn't ascertain what her history was from public records.

Her memories, if they could still be accessed, were another story.

Gael walked in as I was shifting the child-'bot onto her side. Taking up a skin-opener, I cut open a small block of synthetic flesh over her back between her shoulder blades. Sure enough, embedded in one of her vertebrae was a thin cable plug. Drawing out a fiberoptic cable from my main diagnostic machine, I screwed it into place. I then drew out an auxiliary power plug and pushed it into the anterior side of her rectum; by law, all 'bots have an emergency power/jumper access port there. I tapped controls to commence a cold restart of her primary power cell. Quickly, my diagnostic machine reported that my young-looking patient's cell was operational and undamaged. Nodding, I then instructed another machine to begin a full-systems program diagnostic. As that got underway, I stared at Gael. "How much do you want?"

"Usual plus three for her."

I blinked. Three thousand dollars for a reasonably-intact 'bot? "You're being cheap!"

"Demand for parts for this particular model doesn't exist, at least not down here," he reported. "Only two other recyclers in the province, both in Toronto, have reported seeing others like her. Same type of situation, too; they just got thrown away in the trash."

"What condition were they in?"

"Other than the normal wear-and-tear from several years of service with standard maintenance -- I'd sure like to meet the techs who looked after them, though -- they were in near-mint condition. Or at least, it looked like that to the guys who picked them up from the sanitation people." He scratched his beard for a second. "From what my friends told me, the techs who saw 'bots like this kid all reported that their brains could be easily transplanted into more mature bodies if desired."

My eyebrow arched even higher in a human reaction unique to IP 'bots. Brain transplants, even for 'bots created with standardized AI chips and neural net links, were generally avoided, unless the new body had the exact same technical specifications as the original. A robot, even one from a mass-production series, develops her personality matrix in her own unique way depending on what task programming was given to her and how she was employed after final activation. Because of this, the program codes used by a 'bot's personality matrix to interact with her body's internal systems also became unique. To force a 'bot into a body where her matrix couldn't properly mesh with its systems causes too much disorientation. It can be corrected, but the effort required to do so is often quite time-consuming. Theoretically, it is possible to construct a new body that matches the technical specifications of the original. To do that, however, demands a lot of work from a dedicated 'bot technician, which jacks up the expense of doing a 'bot brain transplant considerably. I can do that with ease; being a robot gives me certain advantages other technicians don't have. Even still, the demand for such an operation is quite small.

"I guess I'll have to see what I can do with this one," I mused, staring at my diminutive guest...

An hour after Gael left to continue with his deliveries, another person came to the laboratory.

"What are you doing here?!" I beamed, throwing my arms around Deanna.

"I don't have to be at the tojang until ten, so I decided to see what your mom and you've done to the old place," she replied before giving me a warm kiss. "It's been over two decades since I last was here," she took a look around. "Is it just me or did it shrink?!"

We -- Reika and Irene had come with Deanna this morning -- laughed, then I introduced Scott. "My owner remembers your mother with a lot of fondness," he shook Deanna's hand. "He was in her grade eight class at Crowland Central."

"Chetwin Villard, right?" she asked. Scott nodded in acknowledgement. "Yeah, Mama told me about him. One of the brightest kids she ever taught, even if he sometimes acted the fool in class. There were several times Mama wanted to drop a desk on his head."

"There're times he admits, especially now, that she would've been more than justified in doing that, Ms. Hordye."

"Deanna," she offered, then leaned in to kiss his cheek.

With that, the tour began. Mapleview Public School was built with four classrooms, staff spaces, a furnace room, plus washrooms for the children. Unlike other public schools, it never had a built-in gymnasium; physical education classes were always held outdoors except when it rained. The architects, so Mother learned when she purchased the building, wanted to create a country "one-room schoolhouse" atmosphere. It really didn't work in the long term. With the decreasing numbers of available students forcing budget cuts on the local school board, Mapleview had been one of the first places axed when it came time to shed unproductive property. Between that time and the day Mother purchased the property, it served as the barracks for the local branch of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, a dance hall for the neighbouring Pentecostal church and an equipment storage facility for one of the many telemarketing firms now calling Welland home.

In a show of nostalgia for the old school, Mother had the interior restructured in such a way that, while allowing her to work without obstruction, paid homage to the many students who once filled Mapleview's halls. The two classroom spaces on the school's south side, once holding the Grade 1-2 class and the Grade 4-5 class, now served as the laboratory. The classroom on the east side north of the lab, where the Grade 3s attended classes, was divided into a storage room and a guest bedroom. The class on the west side north of the lab, the old Grade 5-6 classroom, now serves as my personal living space, with bedroom and private bathroom. The principal's office, located between there and the foyer, is my office. The boys' and girls' washrooms were converted into four guest bedroom spaces. The staff room, which sat north of the foyer, serves as my kitchen. The hallway leading to the old north entrance is presently another guest bedroom. The furnace room has been shrunk to half its old size, now equipped with a fusion generator that answers all my power needs. A communal bathroom, complete with showers, takes up the rest of the space, plus the small stationary storage room that once stood beside the boys' washroom.

As I showed Deanna around the laboratory, I noticed Reika, Irene and Scott quietly excusing themselves to give us some privacy. I didn't indicate this to Deanna. One look at her told me that she was now struggling to call up the faint memories she had of Mapleview. Walking to the east side windows, she blinked on seeing the trees Mother planted there. "She took out the basketball court, huh?"

"Yes, plus the sand pits and the soccer posts down by the creek," I moves to stand beside her. "What do you remember, Deanna?"

She fell silent for a moment, then smiles. "Grade Five. We were playing football on the rise near where they had the baseball diamond."

It was quick for me to realize what she now spoke of. "You told Mother how pretty she was, even though she was as skinny as a rail."

"Didn't matter to me," she shook her head, then sniffed. "I still remember her smile."

"It's the day she realized how much you really cared for her."

Silence fell as Deanna leaned her hands on the windowsill. "Why, Lenn?"

"Why what?"

"Why did she create you?" she gazed at me. "Was it her way of saying 'I'm sorry?' Giving me what I wanted in the end?"

"I suppose so," I admitted. "Even if I am an IP-'bot, I wasn't programmed with all of Mother's memories. And there are certain elements of Mother's memories that I would prefer not to reveal to you. Her privacy does mean a lot to me, even now. But I will say this, though..." I turned to gaze on her. "A couple weeks before she vanished, I put myself through an internal diagnostic and accidentally discovered the hidden command she installed in me before I first came on-line. The one that..."

"That's now forcing you to seek me out as your owner of record?"

"Yes," I nodded. "When I confronted Mother about this, I asked her, 'Don't you still love her?'" I paused, then sighed, my eyes misting over as the emotion of the memory got to me. "She told me that she felt herself unworthy of your love. Her exact words about the high school incident were 'If I could, I would do anything, anything, to give Deanna back what my words took away from her.'"

"It was my hand that drove the knife, Lenn."

"But it was Mother's words that drove your hand, Deanna. And by all rights, she shouldn't have reacted that way on seeing you. Even with you being an intersexual in body, your core spirit, your innermost soul, is that of a woman. You've always been that way! You've always been treated that way by everyone around you! That's what Mother loved in the end."

Silence fell as my future owner considered what I just said. With my words, I was vaguely hinting at something that had befallen Mother a month prior to the encounter with Deanna in the girl's change room at Welland Centennial Secondary School that caused so much pain for them both. I couldn't say anything directly about that incident. It not only would violate Mother's privacy -- in so far as it would flagrantly disregard a conscious decision Mother made about that incident -- it would also reveal something dark about someone Deanna most likely looked on in a positive light still. Did I have the right to adversely affect Deanna's viewpoints concerning that person? The First Law of Robotics was quite clear on the matter. No, I did not. Still, given how intelligent and perceptive Deanna truly is...

"Marlenn's a lesbian, isn't she?"

"Yes, she is."

Deanna hummed, resting her chin on her palm as she gazed outside. "And she was dating Drew Keir, so she was a bit bi-curious at the time..." she muttered under her breath before her eyes suddenly went wide. "Oh, fuck..." she spat out, then gazed at me for a moment before asking, "Did something happen between Drew and Marlenn before she bumped into me in the change room at Centennial?"

I nodded.


I nodded again.

"Oh, hell...!" Deanna covered her eyes, then she gave me a wearied look. "Didn't he even guess what she was?"

Feeling safe to say this, I smiled. "She never admitted it to him. At least not before you saved his life. Afterward, it didn't matter."

Hearing that, Deanna closed her eyes for a moment. "Right..."

I couldn't begin to believe this one.

Yet it made all the sense in the world.

As anyone can tell you, the teenage years are a very confusing time, regardless of a person's gender or preference. With the onslaught of hormones as the body matures, gearing up to bear offspring, a teenager's personal sense of self becomes a questionable thing even at the best of times. Tack that lack of internal emotional and psychological balance with a perceived lack of support or advice from one's parents. Spice in a scarcity of proper sexual education from either the parents or the schools. And for the piece de resistence, overwhelm the poor kid with a tsunami of provocative images, words and concepts thanks to the media. Plus we have to remember peer pressure, religion...

You get the idea, I hope.

In some ways, I had it quite easy compared to my peers. Being an intersexual instantly demanded a wide open acceptance of my personal sexual needs from my very first wet dream. With Mama's support -- and yes, with support from my father -- plus a lot of excellent psychological counselling, I was made to see how I could be close to anyone I desired, man or woman. I was taught never to view myself as anything less than human. I could be, as Russ admitted to me a couple days ago, both best friend and lover to anyone I chose. I was truly special. And when the right moment came, someone would come and see how special I was. From there, we'd go forth and create something even more special.

With all that positive encouragement, I do admit now that my counsellors didn't adequately prepare me for what happened between Marlenn and myself. Part of it was also my fault. I'd held a torch for Marlenn Ioanis for the longest time, since we both were Grade Two students here at Mapleview Public School. I don't remember exactly what it was that made her seem so special to me from that young an age, but it happened. No sense denying it now. No other person, guy or girl, could match Marlenn in my eyes. I cared for her, I loved her and above all that, I respected her. What she believed in, I acknowledged. What interested her, I took interest in. And yes, if she decided to date someone else -- though watching her do that did hurt me a lot -- I was willing to respect her choice.

She literally could do no wrong in my eyes.

She was my Polaris. My guiding star.

Then, that day came...

That damned day!

The day her words showed me how wrong I was about her.


How wrong I was about myself...

And how much I had allowed Marlenn to influence my life...

And then I...

Oh, God!


"You aren't a monster."

I blinked, staring at the robot bearing Marlenn's face, speaking with Marlenn's voice, born of Marlenn's memories, her dreams and hopes.

"You never were, Dee," she gave me the smile that long ago turned my heart into mush. And still did now.

I reached up to wipe my eyes clear. "You never were either, Lenn."

Yeah, this was only a replica of Marlenn...

But she had Marlenn's memories.

Could she have a copy of Marlenn's soul?

Right then, I just didn't care.

She understood that much and acknowledged the same with her next words. "Nor was Drew," she stared out the window.

I thought about it, then slowly nodded. "Let me guess. Too much beer? Someone spiked the punch at some party?"

She nodded. "You were right in saying that Mother was bi-curious at the time she dated Drew. Even if being a lesbian isn't frowned on these days, she still wanted to do whatever she could to please Papa and Mama. Unlike your mother, Papa and Mama were..."

"More demanding," I finished for her.

Another nod of her head. "Yes. Besides, Drew was, at the time, a very nice person at heart. And he was dating the most popular girl at the school, after all. The guys were no doubt razing him, wondering when he was going to make the big 'score.' Well, one night, he did."

I closed my eyes. "Was it her first time?"

"Her first time with a guy," Marlenn nodded. "Also, her only time with a guy."

Wondering briefly who it was that plucked her cherry, I stared out the window again. I was certainly no virgin by the time I had reached Grade Twelve. My old next door neighbour, Neoma Cramer, showed me the ropes back when I was in Grade Nine. For the longest time afterward, I always wondered if Mama and Mrs. Cramer hadn't conspired together to make it happen. Chuckling at that stray thought, I pinched the bridge of my nose, then sensed Marlenn gazing curiously at me. "Just remembering the time I had my cherry plucked," I explained to her.

"Neoma?" she asked. I nodded. "She lives up in Peterborough now, last I heard," she added.

"Yeah, married with a couple kids. Jim Graham told me a couple Saturdays ago," I confirmed, then breathed out. "So what's Drew doing now?"

"He's a private investigator. Did time with the Niagara Regional Police before getting his license. He's..." she paused for a moment, then stared out the window. "He's been investigating Mother's case ever since the police pretty much dropped it when Papa died."

"Ah!" I nodded...

"You seemed a little distracted this evening, Deanna. Are you alright?"

I blinked on hearing Master Lily's comments, then slowly nodded. The final class of the day had been dismissed. I now stood alone with my teacher in the main training hall; Pauline and the others had gone home for the night an hour ago. Taking a deep breath, I knelt before her, then lowered my eyes. "Oumma, I've come to learn some things about Marlenn Ioanis and..." I shrugged. "I don't know what to do now."

Her eyes instantly softened on hearing me call her "Mom" in Korean. "Pauline told me that the Marlenn you encountered on Tuesday night at the Retreat is actually a robot replica of her. And that the real Marlenn disappeared sometime ago. What happened?"

"Ne, Oumma, it's true," I nodded. "And it's quite a story in and of itself..."

I explained everything to her. At the end, Lily looked as overwhelmed as I felt when the full back story over what happened between Marlenn and myself finally clicked in. "So in the wake of what happened between Andrew and Marlenn, when she saw you in the nude at school..."

"What could've been her fondest dream was instantly morphed into her worst nightmare," I finished. "And it all tumbled from there."

"Does anyone have any idea what happened to Marlenn while you were in India?"

"No," I shook my head. "At least, Lenn didn't tell me..."

I blinked on hearing the main door to the tojang open and close, then jolted on hearing a familiar voice call out, "Hey! Anyone here?!"

"What are you doing here, Tom?!" I gaped as Tom Fenris walked up to the doorway to the main room.

I was quick to notice that he wasn't alone. And like I did when I first saw Marlenn at the Retreat some weeks ago, it was easy for me to recognize the gentleman who had come with him. "Hello, Deanna," Andrew Keir gave me a weak smile. "It's been a while."

I gave him Mama's patented evil eye. "You, Drew, owe me an explanation."

"An explanation, an apology and a few other things too, I'm sure," he admitted with a nod, holding up a thick file folder...

"So you believe this was a kidnapping?"

After introductions were made, we shifted to the small kitchen that also doubled as Master Lily's work office. I got some ginseng tea made for the others as my teacher confirmed some matters with Drew concerning Marlenn's case. "Yes, Master Choi, I strongly believe it is a case of kidnapping. If not, then a case where somehow, the 'kidnapper' played up on Marlenn's feelings to have her come willingly with them."

"Like a cult of some sort?" Lily asked as I served the tea.

"Yes, ma'am," he nodded thanks as I gave him a cup. "In the half-year before she disappeared -- this is according to the robot Marlenn and some of Marlenn's customers -- she became very obsessed about something. Exactly what it was, no one knows. From what I've been able to discover, she spent a lot of time on the 'Net researching things about genetic medicine and stem cell research."

"Stem cells?!" I blinked. "Did Marlenn take any courses like that in university?"

"No, she didn't," Drew responded. "Her course load was typical when it came to people getting their science degrees in robot technology."

"Then why would Marlenn be interested in stem cell research?" Lily asked.

Drew sighed. "It took me a little while to come up with this theory. And I have to warn you right now, all this is..." he held up a finger in emphasis, " speculative. Marlenn, from what I've discovered, went out of her way to keep some things secret even from Lenn's scrutiny. Deanna, Lenn told you about Marlenn wishing to find a way to give you back the ability to be a mother," he stared concernedly at me. After I nodded, he pressed on. "Well, given how neat her disappearance was, I now believe, quite strongly, she felt that, for whatever reason, the only way she could ever 'win' you back was to give you what she took away from you."

I stared at him, then sank into my chair. "Oh, Lenn, why...?" I gasped, then shuddered as Tom slid a supportive arm around me. I tried to stem back a fresh bout of tears. If Marlenn had to accomplish this to win me back, she had only put another impossible barrier between us.

As I considered that, I heard Lily note, "It seems far-fetched, Andrew."

"Yes, ma'am, it seemed that way to me. That is, until a friend of mine in Ottawa contacted me about a year ago concerning Deanna."

I started on hearing that. "Me?! Why me?!"

Drew stared at me. "My friend had been asked a year earlier concerning a background check on you and your family, Deanna," he told me before opening the file folder he had with him. From it, he gave me several photocopied pages of what seemed to be government documents.

I looked at them, then felt my throat suddenly dry up on recognizing what the top sheet was.

"You, Deanna, aren't as alone as you might think," Drew's voice echoed in my ear...

The door opened, revealing someone who had grown old and lazy.

Someone I personally hoped I never had to see again.

"Hello, Father," I greeted Sander Hordye with a mirthless smile.

His eyes went wide, then darted to my left and right to confirm that Tom and Drew were standing behind me. He then focussed once more on me. "Deanna," he gave me a curt nod. "Don't you think it's a little late to come visit me? It's past eleven, for..."

"Actually, it's a lot late for a good many things, Father," I cut him off as I took a threatening step into his apartment. I loomed over him by at least twenty centimetres. And he knew very well that whatever respect I had for him had vanished forever from my heart sometime after he moved out on Mama. "Like why is it you and Mama never once told me about my very own twin sister?!"

His eyes went wide...

To Be Continued...

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