This is a sequel to My Android Family - Clea.
I'd like to say this was inspired by Silent Lurker's Aquaphobia.
Believe me, his little short was the FIRST story I've read in a LONG while
which gave me goosebumps as it progressed to its conclusion! Major kudos
and a gracious nod to him, along with my hopes that he will do a sequel
sometime very soon. ^_-
Tim Reynolds blinks, then looks up from his desk. "Oh, hi, Randi!" he smiles as the pixie-cute, blonde seventh-turned-eighth grader steps into his private bedroom at the Niagara Children's Aid Centre near downtown Welland. "C'mon in! What're you doing here?"
"I came to see you, dummy!" Randi Kane smirks. As tall as Tim though a year younger, she wore her hair in cute pigtails to her shoulder. Her eyes were twin pools of amethyst. "So where were you, yesterday? I thought you wanted to watch some videos."
Tim blinks, then sighs. With what happened to him yesterday after delivering papers, he had forgot. "Oh, I'm sorry, Randi," he bows his eyes apologetically. "After I got finished with my papers, Clea Webster invited me to her place to relax."
Randi blinks, a flash of puberty-fired jealousy appearing in her eyes. "Oh, I see," she pouts, turning away. "I thought you liked me, Tim!" she sniffs crocodile tears.
Tim jerks. Randi always loved teasing him like this; she got him every time. "Aw, Randi, don't cry!" he rises, placing his hands on her shoulders. "I'll make it up to you, 'kay?!"
She blinks, then smiles, turning to embrace him. "I know you will," she grins, then leans up to kiss him.
Tim sighs. Randi's childish flecks seemed experimental, not as passionate in comparison to what Clea had done to him yesterday. A shudder runs through him as those wild hours flash back through his mind, then he relaxes as he gently deepens the kiss, forcing Randi's mouth to part as he sticks his tongue in to tap hers. Her eyes widen in surprise, then a content sigh escapes her as they turn their heads into a more comfortable position.
Pulling apart, they stare into the other's eyes. Randi seems breathless. "Whoa, that was wild!" she gasps, then smiles. "But really nice. You okay, Tim? You're kinda spacing out on me."
"Yeah, I'm okay. Just..." he pauses, then sits. "I really had a funky experience at the Websters. I wish I could describe it, but...jeez, it's just too wild to put into words."
"Did they do something to you?" she blinks, sitting beside him as they gently grasp hands.
"Nah, 'course not!" he assures her, then smiles. "I...well, I..." he pauses, then sighs. "Promise you won't get jealous?"
Randi blinks, then slowly nods, fearing where this might lead to. "I...found out yesterday that...Clea's got a big-time crush on me," Tim sighs, then stares hopefully at her.
She blinks again, then relaxes. "Why?"
"Just what I mean," Randi asserts. "I mean, she's a year older than you, she's probably got loads of boys ready to go out with her who're a hell of a lot more normal than you...why would she want you, Tim? It don't make sense!"
You don't know the half of it, Randi, Tim sighs, then blinks as his personal phone rings. One of the things he actually didn't mind too much about the centre was that the residents all had their own private extensions. "Hello," he picks it up.
"Hello, Tim. How are you?"
He gags, recognizing that very cultured voice. "M-monique?"
"Yep, it's your favourite android grandmother," Monique Webster titters playfully. "Are you doing anything today?"
"Um...n-nah, not really," Tim shakes his head, then notices Randi staring quizzically at him, mouthing, "Who's Monique?"
"Wonderful! Why don't you come down and visit for the day? I can't imagine what the people at that place refuse to do to make your lives a little more pleasant during the summer holidays."
Tim blinks, then feels his cheeks flush. "S-sure...I'd love to come." He then remembers Randi. "H-hey, Monique, would you mind if I have my friend come with me?"
Randi blinks surprisedly. "A friend?" Monique wonders.
"Yeah. Her name's Randi Kane. She's been stuck in this place a lot longer than me. She can use the break."
"Why, of course she can come. Did she want to do something with you yesterday before you got detained with Clea?"
"Okay, no problem," Monique chuckles. "If you want, get some videos and we'll watch them together alright? The girls are out with their friends and their mothers are working all day, so we'll have the run of the house to ourselves, okay?"
"Okay, we'll be there! You're the greatest, Monique!" Tim sighs, smiling at Randi. His fellow orphan nods, grinning in return. Tim was right when he mentioned how little Randi got away from the orphanage. "We'll see you soon."
"Bring bathing suits; we'll get some sun while we're at it," Monique adds, then lowers her voice. "Can I trust her, Tim?"
Tim blinks, then sighs. "I hope so."
"Alright, we'll play it by ear. I love you, Tim. 'Bye."
"'Bye," Tim sighs, then hangs up. "Wow!!"
"Who was that?!" Randi demands.
"Clea's grandmother," Tim stares at her, then seeing her eyes widen in shocked surprise (most likely because of the familiarity between them), he waves her down. "Oh, relax, she's really cool! You'll love her when you meet her! Get your videos! Let's go!"
"Okay!!" Randi nods...
* * *
The doorbell peals, then the door opens to reveal a smiling Monique Webster, now in a soft satin beach shirt over a velvet-black string bikini. Staring at her, Tim feels his heart fire once again in his throat. Save for her silver hair and the laugh lines, she seemed a woman in her mid-twenties instead of her mid-fifties. Geez, whoever built her sure wanted her to look great.
"Tim!" Monique smiles, leaning down to kiss his cheek. "How are you?!" she hugs him, then gazes on Randi, who just stares in slack-jawed amazement at her. "And you must be Randi! I'm pleased to meet you," she gently squeezes the younger girl's hand.
"Pl-pleased to meetcha, too, Ms. W-webster," Randi stammers.
"Now, it's alright, dear," Monique waves them inside, then escorts them to the kitchen. "Please, call me Monique. So, how long have you and Tim known each other?"
Sensing the older woman's desire for friendship, Randi feels herself relax. "Since he came to the orphanage. I got taken away from my parents when I was seven...and I've never really got along with the others at the centre...so it was nice to have someone be my friend. Tim's the best guy I know of, Ms...er, Monique."
Monique laughs, opening the refrigerator to pull out a pitcher of juice. Tim shudders on noticing it was grape juice, remembering how a spill of that stuff yesterday had turned his whole life upside-down. Pouring her guests glasses, Monique hands them to Tim and Randi, then guides them into the living room. "Of that, Randi, we are in total agreement," she indicates the couch, then notices the younger girl's bag of videos. "Oooh, what'd you bring?!"
Randi pulls out three tapes. Taking one, Monique loads it into the VCR over the television, then walks over to lay out a quilt on the floor. "Here, why don't you two lay down here and relax? I'll get some pillows."
"Okay," Randi drinks the rest of her juice, then sets the glass aside as she sits on the quilt, yanking off her T-shirt and shorts to reveal a simple blue one-piece swimsuit. "Wow, she's really nice," she whispers to Tim as she picks up the VCR remote, then clicks the movie on.
"Yeah, she is! Her whole family's the same way," Tim shrugs off his T-shirt and jeans to reveal a plain pair of swimming trunks, then he sits beside her.
Monique comes back, having taking off her beach shirt, hands full of pillows. "Here you go!" she places them down on the quilt, then notices the movie Randi had loaded into the VCR; Sleepless in Seattle. "Oh, I love this one, Randi!"
"Yeah, I saw it three times already," Randi grins as Monique sits beside her. Her eyes are quick to scan the older woman's body. "Wow!!" she gapes. "Geez, when I get to be your age, Monique, I sure hope I'll look as good as you do!"
"Why, thank you, Randi...and I'll bet you'll be even more beautiful than me when you're my age!" Monique returns.
Randi laughs. "Shhh!" Tim shushes them. "I wanna see this."
They relax as the film begins. Tim actually liked the movie. Partially because he didn't want to seem uncaring when it came to Randi's feelings and interests, partially because it had that sort of warm and fuzzy feeling to it that always made him relax. Randi always sympathized with the son of Tom Hanks' character in this movie, who only wanted someone to marry his dad and be his mother.
She had scant memories of her parents that didn't include the deep pain she felt because of her father's drunken rages or her mother's indifference to Randi's sufferings. It was only at school that Randi's abuse was discovered by sympathetic teachers and steps were taken to decisively resolve it. Still, having spent the better part of seven years in a children's aid home, she would gladly wish to have a normal family around her again.
As time passes, Randi feels herself shift closer to Monique. The older woman is quick to notice, then smiling, she draws her arm around the teenager's shoulders. Randi gazes at her, then smiles as she leans on Monique's arm. Watching this from nearby, Tim grins. Monique's fun-loving and youthful nature won her a lot of friends according to Clea. Randi would just be the latest.
As the movie winds down to its climax atop the Empire State Building, Tim then hears a gentle snore from nearby. Turning, he sees Randi asleep, her head leaning on Monique's shoulder. The older woman had remained still throughout, allowing the girl the chance to rest. "Is she okay?" Tim whispers.
"She seems really tired," Monique muses, then reaching for the VCR control, she shuts the movie off, then rewinds. "Randi?" she gently prods the girl. "Randi, are you okay?"
"Sleepy..." Randi mutters, then her eyes flutter. "Oh, is the movie over...?" she tries to rise.
"My, you ARE tired, aren't you?!" Monique clicks her tongue, then she shifts herself to boost the girl up. "I think we best take you down someplace cool so you can sleep, okay?!"
"You sure...?" Randi wonders. "You don't haveta..."
"I insist. After all, my granddaughter and I kept you away from Tim yesterday, so consider this a payback. Bring the blankets please, Tim? We'll go downstairs."
"Okay," Tim rises...
* * *
Monique's bedroom is warmly furnished and walled in dark woods. Drapes were now drawn over the windows so that the sun wouldn't beat in and bake whoever was in here. Her bed is heart-shaped, quilts and blankets thrown over it. Walking in, Monique lays the sleepy Randi atop the quilt, then gently parts the girl's hair. "Oh, she is precious," she smiles, gazing at Tim. "Who on Earth would beat up a beautiful child like this?"
"How'd you know she was beaten?" Tim asks.
"I saw what was left of the scars on her back," Monique sighs, then leans down. "Randi?"
"Y-yeah...?" the girl rubs her eyes.
"You get some sleep now. Tim and I'll be upstairs, okay?"
"Okay..." Randi smiles. "You're really nice, Monique."
"I do try," Monique leans down to kiss her forehead, then rises. "We'll see you later."
"'Kay..." Randi closes her eyes as the two step out of the room, Monique closing the door behind her.
"Well, she should be fine," Monique smiles, then gazes at Tim. "So, have you had some time to think about what I asked yesterday?"
Tim blinks, then sighs as they head upstairs. As he passes the door into the old storage room that now served as the Websters' first aid post, he suppresses a shudder. "I dunno. I mean, I care a lot for you and Clea...but to be like you...I'm not sure..."
"It's alright," she wraps her arm around his, leaning over to kiss his cheek. "I must agree that...the change would be pretty profound...but compared to what you have now, I think it'll be something of an improvement." A pause as they walk back into the living room and relax on the sofa, then, "Are you worried that you might loose your friendship with Randi if you become Terri?"
Tim sighs. "Yeah. I mean, if it wasn't for Randi, I'd really have a rough time of it at the centre. I'm not one to make a lot of friends, Monique. I guess it's because...well, other people my age seem to act so...well, like they don't know what to do with themselves. The girls...sheesh, when it comes to things like their favourite actors or rock stars, they flip from one thing to the next. Go crazy buying clothes and all that...it's hard just to try to keep up with them, ya know? And the guys...well, it's either be a jock to try to impress the girls or dig into the books or surf the Net and get called a nerd. And if you're not accepted by anyone, you...geez, you don't WANNA know what happens to you."
Monique hums. Since she had granddaughters attending high school...and with Tim about to start high school in September...she had a reason to be concerned. "Yes, it's a wonder why we don't have more incidents like Columbine High and elsewhere. It shocked me when there was that 'copy-cat' incident in Alberta after what happened in Colorado...never mind what happened to that poor first-grader in Michigan. God, I never want it to happen here."
"Me neither," Tim blinks, then stares at her. "What about you, Monique? I mean...what happened, anyway? How did you...?"
"Come into this world?" Monique lightly smiles. "As Clea told you yesterday, we've no idea who created us or why. One day, we woke in this barn outside of town. There, we had some of what you saw in the store room, plus a computer diskette with an explanation of who we were." A deep sigh. "According to the legal records, I was born 54 years ago. I married young, had Mary and Samantha when I was 19, then lost my husband to an auto accident years later. I possess a masters in science specializing in biotechnology and I work as a teacher and research professor at Brock University."
Tim blinks. "Wait! What about your husband...?"
"He really existed," Monique nods. "And that...makes the mystery about us even more profound. He's buried in the cemetery across from the Seaway Mall, believe it or not. I...visit his grave from time to time. Now that begs a question: what happened to the real Monique Webster, not to mention both her daughters and both her granddaughters? Did she exist at all? If she did...what happened to her and why was I created to take her place?"
"Oh, man, this is weird..." Tim shudders.
"That it is," Monique nods. "But...fortunately, we're not alone in analyzing this. We have friends in very high places. A sort of 'safety net' in case we get into trouble."
"So people do know."
"There's one agency in Ottawa who is in charge of handling cases like ours: the Communications Security Establishment."
"Never heard of them."
"Not surprising; CSE is rarely mentioned in the news," she smirks. "They're a special security agency, doing some things the FBI would do in the States. They deal a lot with technology in the communications field. That's how they found out about us."
Tim slowly exhales. "So they can find you if they want? How many androids are out there, anyway?"
"About two thousand scattered across the country," Monique asserts. "And even stranger, Canada's the only country that has androids like us. We've looked everywhere. You'd think androids like us would appear in the States or Japan first, not here."
Tim scratches the side of his head. "Yeah, that's true, I guess..." he trails off, then stares warily at her. "Um...do these guys at that place...CSE?...they know about...?!"
"You?" Monique's eyebrow arches. "Yes, I e-mailed them about you last night after you went home. They contacted me this morning and said if you want to come live with us, we can make arrangements and you'd be out of the aid centre pretty quick."
"I can live with you?" he gapes.
"Yes. If...you don't want to be an android, that won't be a problem," Monique smiles. "You can still live with us. Clea would love to have you here. I would and so would the others."
He hums, then stares at her. "Can Randi come, too?"
She blinks. "Do you want her to live with us?"
"Sure...I mean...if it's no problem...!" he flusters.
"Alright, I'll pass the word along," a delighted smile crosses her face. "Though she'll have to be told."
"Yeah," he nods. "I dunno. I know she's seen all the common sci-fi stuff...Trek, Star Wars, X-Files and all that...but if she finds out that you're all androids..."
A telephone rings. Monique blinks, then rises, walking over to pick it up. "Hello?"
"Monique?!!" a panicked woman's voice breathes out in relief. "Oh, thank God I got to you!!!"
"Dawn?!" Monique blinks. "What's wrong?!"
"It's Krista!!" the other woman replies. "She cut herself, then fell into the pool and got a lot of water inside her!!!"
Monique shudders, then sighs. "Alright, bring her here right away, Dawn! I'll take care of her!!"
"Oh, thank you, Monique! Thank you!! We're coming right now!!" Dawn replies, then the line is cut.
"What's wrong?" Tim tenses.
"One of the other android girls living in this part of the country...up in Fenwick to be exact...had a bad accident. Worse than what happened to Clea yesterday. If things like that ever happens, everyone knows to bring them to me."
"Can I help?"
"Yes. Krista's parents are both organics," Monique moves to clean up the living room, Tim moving to help. "While I'm busy with Krista, I want you to keep them company. Don't be afraid to talk to them, either; they can share a lot about their experience with their daughter with you."
"What about Terri's body?" Tim wonders. "Where do we put her while you're working on Krista?"
"In my kitchen downstairs. It'll be alright..."
* * *
Ten minutes later, a 1980s-era station wagon pulls into the Websters' driveway, doors opening to reveal a middle-aged couple, hastily dressed. Looking at Frank and Dawn Manning, Tim could only smile. So much like his parents, dead for two years. Then his blood chills as Frank opens the back door, unbuckling someone and gently lifting out what looked like a fifteen year old girl with short-cut black hair and blue eyes. She is dressed in a two-piece swimsuit, a towel wrapped around her. Standing by the garage door, which provided easy access to the basement, Monique sighs, then gently takes Krista Manning in her arms. The android teen is quivering, a garbled squeal emitting from her mouth, smoke puffing from nose and ears as her body jerks. A massive breakdown of her primary circuit relays, the android professor sighs.
"How did this happen?" she wonders, carrying Krista inside.
"She was practicing a high dive when she slipped and cut herself in her side on the board before falling in," Dawn frets as they step into the storage room, Frank closing the door behind them. The Mannings knew how to keep things secret when dealing with their daughter's uniqueness. "We tried to drain the water from her, but it was too late; too much got in."
"Oh, Krissy..." Monique bites her lip. "Did you execute a shut-down of her central mind?"
"First thing we did," Frank asserts.
"Good; we can revive her," Monique pulls the towel away from Krista, then winces on seeing the ugly gash under the right side of her rib cage. Pressing her belly button, she opens the other android woman's circuit hatch, then winces on smelling the burnt circuits as smoke billows out. "Damn!! You two better get out of here and wait upstairs; I've got work to do!" she turns on the special ventilation system she had fitted to this room.
"Alright. Good luck, Monique...and thank you," Frank squeezes Monique's arm, then departs with his wife.
Sighing, Monique takes a deep breath to steady herself, then reaches behind Krista's neck to press into the indentation formed between the base of her skull and the tendons connecting it to the spinal column. Click! The skin around Krista's head of raven hair parts, allowing Monique to draw off the girl's scalp and access the central programming leads into her brain. "Good, no water damage," she whispers, pulling up diagnostic cables to insert into several datajacks in a row on the girl's crown, then turning to the diagnostic computer beside the bed, taps controls.
Power floods into Krista's mind, allowing her to access the circuits controlling her head and voice. "Wha...?" her jaw opens, then she blinks. "Where am I?!"
"Hi, Krissy," Monique smiles at her, moving to enter the other android's field of vision. "Looks like you had a real bad accident in the pool. Your dad had to shut your mind down to save you."
She blinks, then sighs. "How bad?"
"I'm about to find out. Hang tight."
* * *
"What's all that noise...?"
Randi's eyes open as she sits up in Monique's bed, rubbing her eyes as she looks around the darkened space. The sound of running footfalls on the stairs had wakened her from a restful sleep. With that, she slides out of bed, then heads to the bathroom to relieve herself. The door leading from the downstairs kitchen to the foyer connecting to the stairs and storage room was closed. "Man, what time is it?" she stifles another yawn, then rising, flushes the toilet before heading into the kitchen...
...then she stops, her jaw dropping in shock on seeing a nude girl of sixteen standing beside the doorway leading to the foyer!
"Shit!!" she gasps.
Randi then blinks on not sensing a response from the other woman. Staring at the leggy blonde with the nice boobs and trimmed pubes, Randi blinks, then approaches her. No movement, not even breathing, stirs any part of the other woman. "Whoa..." she raises her hand to touch the other woman's arm, then gapes on feeling room temperature. "A mannequin?" she wonders, then stares at the girl's groin. Reaching down, she feels the coarse hair, then her eyes widen as a finger slips into a vagina. "Whoa, you even got a real snatch?" she hisses, drawing her hand back, then hums. "You must be one of those realistic love dolls I saw on the Net once..."
Had this been here when Monique carried her downstairs?
Randi turns to the door, moving to find Monique and Tim, then she pauses, gazing back at the unmoving woman beside her. She seemed so...so perfect; even with those love dolls, you could tell they were manufactured. Did Monique help make this...whatever the heck it was? Why? What was this for, anyway?
Still, if she was a doll...?
Randi smiles as she reaches for one of the "doll's" arms, then pulls up. The arm moves with slight resistance, yet there was no snap-snap-snap! of plastic or metal joints being clicked into a new position. When Randi lets go, the arm is still...but with the shift of the centre of gravity, the "doll" topples. Randi gasps as she catches the "doll" before she crashes onto the linoleum floor, then grunting, she drags the stiff form into the bedroom, planting her on the bed before dropping down beside her. She then gazes on the "doll." The arm was frozen at a quarter-angle. "You weigh a ton!" Randi mutters, then shifts the "doll" to lay on the bed.
Staring at her, Randi hums, then flipping on the nightlight by the bed, she looks around the room. Gee, Monique sure had a lot of books to read. Rising, she walks to one shelf, then blinks on seeing a white binder. On the spine was a card, CSE-2S CIVILIAN ANDROID DESIGN/ANALYSIS NOTES written in clear script on it. Randi blinks, then turns back to stare at the "doll" on the bed.
"An android...?" she whispers, then pulls out the binder to stare at the cover. The title was repeated there. Walking to the bed, she sits beside the "doll," then opens the book. On the front page was a typed letter, dated a year ago, with Monique's name and home address at the corner, addressed to some place in Ottawa.
What it says floors her:
Honoured friends of the Communications Security Establishment,
On behalf of myself and my 1,927 fellow android women who have woken up across this beautiful country over the last five years, I thank you for taking the time and patience to help us and yourselves better understand who and what we are in the spirit of freedom and understanding Canada is famous for.
I wish I could report to you anything further on our trying to better understand who it could've been that created us in the first place, much less the ultimate purpose behind our creation, our being substituted for those organics whose identities we currently possess. To date, the investigators, both android and organic, have yet to turn up any interesting clues.
Given the potential problems foreign intelligence agencies, terrorist organizations and unscrupulous businesspersons could provide if our existence becomes general knowledge outside the bounds of the Establishment and our own community, I suggest at this time that our investigations towards that vein be halted. When our lives are fully secure or if luck comes our way, we can begin again if need be. Many of us, though racked with questions over our origins, would prefer to get on with their lives, be a positive contribution to Canadian society as a whole.
These notes enclosed with this letter are, as requested by the Establishment's Technical Analysis Bureau, a detailed analysis of (as you choose to designate us) the Type 2 sentient android. If the Establishment desires to employ some of us, these notes will be invaluable. I pray that in case our creation was ultimately for ill purposes, the Establishment can use these notes to ensure that we do not ultimately become the ruin of Canadian society.
I thank you for your attention.
Monique Josephine Webster
"Whoa...!" Randi gapes, then turns the page before her jaw drops again on seeing the general diagram of an android's external body. Seeing the box around the navel, she notices the marking CENTRAL CIRCUIT ACCESS HATCH, then begins to pick her way through the book to learn more. "Here we are..." she leafs through the index, then blinks on seeing a chapter marked INITIAL PROGRAMMING AND WAKENING PROCEDURES. Turing to that, she begins to read.
Humming, she stares at the unmoving android beside her, then begins to look around the room. If Monique herself was an android, she would have to have some datadisks and circuit buffer disks around here...should she? Opening the nightstand, she then grins on seeing several silver disks. Checking the diagrams in the binder, she confirms these are buffer disks, then she draws one. Kneeling beside the android, she presses her belly button.
Click! The android's circuit hatch opens. Pulling the skin away, she notices the central control relay nexus. With that, she loads the disk in. Hearing it click in place, she restores the piece of synthetic skin, then allows it to re-seal. Okay, once she has a buffer disk in place, she can be powered up, Randi hums, then looks at the binder. The initial power feed to her brain was located in the back of her skull, but the scalp had to be taken off to do that. Reading how, Randi reaches behind the still android's head to press into her flesh.
Click! The android's cranial access ports are freed of the scalp and her hair. "Whoa..." Randi whistles on seeing the grey skull dotted with tiny program disk hatches, datajacks to allow her to be hooked to outside monitors and an omniversal jack in the back of her skull about the shape and size of the input jack for any standard household appliance. That's right; she can be jacked up on 110 easy, Randi hums, then looks around. She grins on seeing Monique's computer, then walks over. Staring at the machine, she sighs on seeing that the central processor's power plug could be taken out. Removing that, she heads back, jacking the female end of the power cord into the android's skull, then plugs her in.
Wrrrr! The android stiffens, then her body seems to soften as power begins to flood through her. Staring at Monique's notes, Randi reads that if the android was being jacked up through city power, she wouldn't need much. Her power cells, once given a start-up charge, would keep her going long enough for her to consume food and have the sun or another light source charge her through collectors built into her skin. I bet they do a lot of sunbathing or visit a gym to get under solar lamps, Randi hums.
The android's eyes blink, then her mouth opens, a monotone voice announcing her first words. "An.droid-U.nit-One-Nine-Two-Eight-now-ac.tive." Blink. "Start-up-pro.ce.dures-ex.e.cu.ted-prop.er.ly." Blink. "Sys.tems-di.ag.nos.tic-com.plete." Blink. "No-phys.i.cal-er.rors-de.tec.ted." Blink. "U.nit-pre.sent.ly-has-min.i.mum-op.er.a.tive-po.wer. More-de.tail.ed-re.charge-re.qui.red-with.in-six-point-five-hours." Blink. "This-u.nit-has-no-u.nique-u.nit-self-de.sig.na.tion-phrase." Blink. "This-u.nit-re.qui.res-per.son.al.i.ty-pro.gram.ming." Blink. "Speech-pro.to.col-in.it.i.a.ted-to-bet.ter-fa.cil.i.tate-con.tact-with-or.gan.ic-a.wak.en.ing-a.gent." Blink, then a smile crosses her face. "Thank you for waking me up," she gazes on Randi, her hand reaching out to gently grasp the teenager's. "Can we be friends?"
Randi's eyes roll into her head as she drops in a dead faint beside the android. Blinking, the taller woman rises to gaze at the unconscious organic girl, then she rises, unplugging herself from the power jack to restore her scalp to normal. She had the basic operative programs all her kind were given on activation, but beyond that, she was at the emotional level of a newborn baby.
What could she do?
Her eyes then fall on a binder beside the girl. Taking it in hand, she opens it, then begins scanning the notes. Humming, she places the binder aside, then looks around the room. No doubt, this bedroom was the residence of one of her model of android. If so, where would she keep the datadisks she could use to program herself with the necessary information she needed to survive? Staring at the unconscious organic, she sighs, then leans down to jostle her awake. "Excuse me, please! Are you alright?"
Randi moans, then her eyes flutter open before she cries out in shock on seeing the doll-android-whatever hovering over her face. "GET AWAY FROM ME!!!!" she shrills, backing away as fast as she could move from the other woman. "TIM, WHERE ARE YOU?!?!"
* * *
"What was that?!" Monique looks up.
"Sounded like some girl in your bedroom, Monique," Krista hums, trying not to gag at the smell of burnt circuits billowing from her opened chest and abdomen.
"Girl...?" Monique blinks, then she pales. "Randi!!"
She races out of the examination room, passing through the kitchen into her bedroom...then stops, jaw dropped on seeing Terri on her feet, staring confusedly at a whimpering Randi in the corner, curled into a frightened ball. "Oh, no...!" she sighs, then walks over to Terri, reaching behind the younger android's head to draw off her scalp. "You shouldn't've been woken now."
"Why is she afraid of me?" Terri asks. "I mean her no harm. She woke me up. Why would she believe I would hurt her?"
Monique sighs, then stares at Randi. The girl had stopped sobbing, now looking warily at the two androids nearby. Taking a deep breath, Monique nods, then hands Terri her scalp. "Wait right here and don't do a thing," she instructs, then heads back out.
Terri blinks, then stares at Randi. The younger teen, running the android's words through her mind again and again...I mean her no harm. She woke me up. Why would she believe I would hurt her?...slowly rises, then approaches the android. "I...I'm...I'm sorry..." she lowers her eyes. "I didn't mean to c-confuse you..."
Terri stares at her, then smiles. "It's alright," she places a hand on Randi's shoulder. "I'm pretty confused as is right now. I guess you didn't have any real idea what you were doing when you woke me up. It's okay. I'm not angry at you."
Randi blinks, then stares at the taller woman. "Thanks."
Monique returns, two gold datadisks in hand. "Here you go," she hands them to Terri. "These are omniversal data programs I made. A sampling of my experiences mixed with both my daughters and both my granddaughters. Your name is Terri Karen Reynolds; first given name spelt T-E-R-R-I, second given name K-A-R-E-N, family name R-E-Y-N-O-L-D-S. More information will come in due time, but I have to help repair another android. Understood?"
"Yes," Terri nods, taking the datadisks in hand.
Randi's jaw drops. "You built a sister for Tim?! Cool!!"
Monique blinks, then sighs. "Yes, you could say that," she stares at the younger girl, then gently draws Randi in. "Oh, you poor girl. Forgive me, please, Randi, for scaring you like this. I didn't mean to cause you such a fright..."
Monique jolts, then looks down as her circuit hatch opens, Randi pulling away the synthetic skin to gaze inside her. The younger girl gapes at the glowing circuits and wires, then puts the hatch cover in place, allowing the skin to reseal. "S-sorry..." Randi stares at Monique. "I...I saw the letter in that binder...I didn't want to believe...I...oh, geez..."
"It's alright," Monique sighs. "I'd love to explain it all to you right now, sweetie, but there's another android...the adopted daughter, if I may, of a working couple living here in town...that I have to tend to. Terri, stay with Randi and keep her company."
"Okay," Terri nods.
Monique heads out. Randi watches her go, then stares at Terri. The android sighs, then sits on the bed, holding up the datadisks. "Care to do the honours?"
Randi gazes at the diskettes, then taking them, she inserts both into the top of Terri's skull, forward of the datajacks. Both disks click into place, then the android freezes, her voice going back to its frightful monotone. "An.droid-U.nit-One-Nine-Two-Eight, self-de.sig.na.tion-Ter.ri-Ka.ren-Rey.nolds, pre.sent.ly-re.cei.ving-per.son.al.i.ty-pro.gram.ming." Blink. "This-u.nit-will-re.quire-ten-point-five-min.utes-to-down.load-and-pro.cess-in.for.ma.tion." Blink. "This-u.nit-will-shut-down-main-sys.tems-for-du.ra.tion-of-down.load.ing." Blink. "Speech-pro.to.col-in.it.i.a.ted-to-ex.plain-this-u.nit's-sta.tus-to-or.gan.ic-a.wak.en.ing-a.gent, self-de.sig.na.tion-Ran.di."
Blink, then she smiles, gazing on Randi. "I'm going to go to sleep for a bit while all this gets put into my head, Randi, okay? Can you put the power cord away before we start a fire here?"
"Ah...r-right..." Randi pulls the cord she borrowed from Monique's computer, then puts it back before sitting on the bed. By this time, Terri has reclined herself on the bed. Randi walks back to sit beside her. "Terri?"
"I'm sorry if I got you into trouble with Monique."
"It's alright. Okay, I'm gonna go to sleep now."
"Okay," Randi nods.
Terri closes her eyes, then breathes out before her body locks up. A soft whrrr! echoes from her brain as the datadisks begin to download. Staring at her, Randi smiles. Geez, she expected that androids like Monique and Terri would be nasty, like those creepy things in that old movie about the amusement park she had seen once. But if what she understood of these androids was true, they were more like Data on Star Trek with a full understanding of human emotions. That was a good thing, Randi hums.
She then remembers Monique's letter to Ottawa.
Almost two thousand android women living in Canada now.
Some of them lived here in Welland.
She could have gone to school with androids as her classmates!
This was seriously heavy stuff...
* * *
"Are you worried about your young friend, Tim?"
Tim jolts, then sighs, gazing at Dawn Manning. "Yeah! Geez, I was worried so much about how you'd be reacting to what happened to Krista, I totally forgot about Randi!"
"Oh, it's alright, son," Frank chuckles. The Mannings and Tim relax in the living room upstairs. "There was nothing really to worry about concerning Krista. If they're about to face a total systems meltdown, just shut down their central mind. There's a knife-switch built into the main lead between their brain and control nexus. Once it trips, any energy backlash from the nexus won't hurt their minds. The first rule of Android First Aid, Tim. If you and Clea are going to start dating, you best remember that."
"R-right," Tim flusters. "Geez, how many androids live in Welland anyway? I thought the Websters were all alone."
"Five hundred and nine," Dawn sighs. "The first thing the Establishment did when they found out about the androids was shift them to out-of-the-way locales so they could live their lives in peace and harmony. You have to admit that Welland is that."
"No thanks to those fools in Toronto not finishing work on Highway 406 like they should," Frank smirks; he worked at Atlas Steel in the northern industrial part of the city and hoped the long-delayed expressway would be finished sometime this decade.
Tim hums, then stares at Dawn. "Mrs. Manning...do you ever wonder what happened to your...well...real daughter?"
Dawn blinks, exchanging a look with Frank, then she sighs. "All the time, I guess. One night, Krista disappears...then two nights later, this woman who looked like her, talked like her...and yet was an android replica of her...shows up at our front door wondering why she had been built and programmed to look like our daughter in the first place. We still...hope deep down that the real Krista is out there somewhere...or if she was somehow turned into the android Krista, we could find some way to bring her back out. I...God, I hope whoever did this didn't murder our baby just to replace her with an android...it would...!"
She sinks into her husband's embrace. "Forgive us," Frank sighs. "These last few years have been...strange ones for us. The whole insanity haunting us...it gets to us from time to time. But we grin and bear it. Monique and her family...they've been an anchor for those like us. Organic parents with android daughters. But...they need their own emotional pillar to grasp at times since all of them are androids themselves. And I think...you've been picked to be that pillar."
"But...geez..." Tim shudders. "I'm only fifteen..."
"Age in this case doesn't matter, Tim," Dawn assures him. "In a way, Monique is younger than you emotionally. There's always the temptation to weigh in the morals of mainstream society in strange cases, but this whole situation just won't allow it. Don't worry. If you become part of their family, Tim, those 'moral purists' out there won't be able to interfere no matter what you do."
"But what's right and wrong?" Tim asks.
"A good point," Frank chuckles, then blinks on hearing the telephone. Rising, he picks up the receiver. "Hello, Webster residence." A pause, then he smiles. "Hello, Erica! Yes, Krissy got herself hurt. Don't worry; Monique's taking care of her right now." Another pause. "Yes, her mind wasn't affected at all. I shut it down before the damage could've caused memory loss." A pause. "I guess we'll be staying here until Monique finishes with Krissy. Oh, can you call Mary, Sam and the girls and tell them what's happened so they don't panic when they come back?" A pause, then he nods. "Yes, that'll be fine. Okay, thanks." He hangs up.
"Who was that?" Tim asks.
"Erica Christianson," Dawn explains. "She's the 'block warden' for all the androids living in Welland. If something big happens, she's usually the first to find out, then gets details to pass onto everyone. Very nice girl deep down even if she...spends much time on the road riding that motorcycle of hers."
"Of a sorts," Frank nods. "She's a loner by nature, but when you finally earn her trust, you have a friend for life."
Tim hums, then blinks on hearing footsteps. Everyone turns as Monique emerges from the kitchen. "Monique..." Dawn rises.
"I...drained the access moisture from Krissy's body, then put her in a regenerative cycle to allow her circuits and other systems to rebuild themselves," Monique smiles. "She'll need to stay here all night to ensure nothing goes wrong, Dawn."
"Oh, thank God!" Frank sighs as the Mannings share a warm embrace with their android friend. "Thank you, Monique."
"Anytime and always," Monique smiles, then sighs. "Look, you two look really beat; I don't want you both to risk driving back to Fenwick in the shape you're in now. I'll set up the guest house in the back for you two, alright?"
"Alright," Dawn nods...
* * *
Later that evening...
"Yeah, thanks. 'Bye."
Tim sighs, hanging up the phone. "Was there any problems?" Monique looks over her shoulder as he walks back into the kitchen.
"Nah. She was worried that Randi or I did something wrong that forced us to stay with you guys. Man, what's with the people in that place?" he sits at the kitchen table.
"That's part of the reason we want you out of that place, Tim," Monique clicks her tongue, then walks over with a plate of fresh nachos covered in cheese and salsa for them to eat. "I mean, it's fine and fair for the state to want to take care of those who can't care for themselves or who were abandoned, but they should try to do a decent job of it at least...eh?"
Footsteps on the stairs. Both turn as the door leading to the garage foyer opens, revealing Randi. Terri is behind her, wearing a thigh-length night shirt Randi dug from Monique's wardrobe. "Hi, Tim!" Randi smiles, then waves to Terri. "Meet your sister."
Tim blinks, then his jaw drops as he rises, walking over to gaze into Terri's eyes. "H-hello..."
"Hello, Tim," Terri smiles, then leans up to kiss his cheek. "I'm so glad I've got a nice brother like you. I love you."
Tim flusters, then sighs, staring at Monique. "No doubt, you're both hungry," the older woman rises. "I'll make some more nachos. Oh, Randi, Tim called the centre earlier. If you want to stay with us tonight, you can, alright?"
"I can?!!" Randi yelps as she sits down at the table, then she grins. "Cool!! Thanks, Monique!"
"Anything for a friend," Monique smiles. "How are you adjusting, Terri? Any problems with your programming?"
"No, I'm okay," Terri smiles, plucking a nacho from the plate and nibbling it. "Is there going to be any problems getting me fit into society like a normal person, Monique? After all, I wasn't built to take someone else's place, y'know."
"It'll be alright," Monique assures her. "Our friends in the government are pretty good in establishing records. Once we've got you into the system, few people will really care either which way. So, Randi...how do you like Terri? Isn't she nice?"
"She is," Randi gushes. "She's the most beautiful doll I've ever seen...even if she's an android inside."
Terri grins, leaning over to kiss Randi's cheek. "I'll always be your doll, Randi," she whispers.
The younger girl stammers, shying away. Tim laughs as he nibbles another nacho, then he blinks. "Um, Monique...if we're going to stay here tonight, where're we gonna sleep? You lent the guest house to Krista's parents and she's in the store room..."
"It's alright," Monique assures him. "Randi, you and Terri can use my room. I'll be probably up all night keeping an eye on Krista. Tim, would you mind sleeping in the living room?"
"Okay!" Tim and Randi nod...
* * *
"Hi, there. You're Tim, right?"
"Yeah, I am," Tim smiles, gazing at Krista. The latter was still on the diagnostic bed, a blanket covering her. Her scalp was still missing, leads plugged into her head to ensure her brain was shielded in case something went wrong as her body mended itself. "Your parents are really nice, Krissy. They were really worried about you even if your dad was being cool about it."
The android teen laughs. "Yeah, Dad's always like that!" she smirks, then sighs. "Look, I wanna get some sleep, okay? I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"Okay. 'Night," Tim smiles.
Krista closes her eyes, then the tenseness in her body fades as her primary systems shut down. Tim sighs, then stares at Monique. "Well, she'll be alright," the older android sighs, waving him to a chair beside a computer. "That's good."
"What're we gonna do about Terri, Monique?" Tim asks.
"Well, now that she's woken and has been given a personality, I'm quite loath to attempt to erase it from her mind," Monique sits beside him. "Besides, I think deep down, you'd like the idea of having a sister you can call your own."
"Yeah, sure, I don't mind," Tim smiles, then sighs. "But what if I want to be an android myself?"
Monique blinks. "Do you?" her eyebrow arches.
He takes a deep breath, then nods. "Yeah. I mean...when I talked to Krista's parents...I could tell they love her very much. It ain't really no different than normal girls with normal parents, so I guess...it'll be okay. Monique, can I ask something?"
"Why aren't there any boy androids?"
She hums, then shrugs, lightly smiling. "I really don't know. Try as we might, those of us like myself who have the knowledge to create androids haven't once succeeded in creating a boy android who can be sentient. Oh, yes, we've made Type 1 boy androids..."
"Those are in essence 'dumb' robots," Monique sighs. "I'm rated a Type 2-S...'Two-Sentient' is what that means. Put simply, it means I'm a fully self-conscious person, no different than you. Try as we might, we've failed every time we tried to make even a normal Type 2 boy android. I'm not really sure why. The best guess is that the synthetic tissue used to build us won't allow us to evolve a sentient boy android. So, for the time being, we can only make girl androids." She then gazes intently at him. "Would you mind becoming a girl, Tim?"
"Does this mean I gotta love boys?" Tim warily asks.
"No, of course not," Monique giggles. "We're all functionally bisexual, Tim. That means we can have sex with either boys or girls and it won't bother us. Clea's love for you won't change if you become a girl, Tim. And if you don't want to be intimate with a boy, you can always refuse their advances. There's no problem."
"I hope not," Tim hums, then sighs. "Okay, if I become a girl android, what happens to me? I mean, I'm a boy..."
"No problem at all. You'll be given a new identity to conform with your new looks. Tim Reynolds will disappear forever and no one will connect you with him after the conversion. It's all quite legitimate and very safe."
"Okay," Tim nods, then sighs.
"Tim?" Monique gently prods.
He stares at her. "Let's do it."
"Okay," Monique nods.
Tim then grins, reaching over. Click! "Tim!" Monique gasps as he opens her circuit hatch.
"I love you, Monique," Tim kisses the tips of his fingers, then touches her central relay nexus.
Her blue eyes soften. "I love you, too..."
The End (?)