by Ken Poyner
This one is not like the assembly line others. She has the latest, sleekest appliances; new, continuously updated software; a cluster of restricted subroutines that even her model mates can’t find.
Other establishments have the run of the mill sluts: four editions behind the latest issue, upgraded only catch-as-catch-can, unevenly if ever maintained, and often without enough battery life to make it all the way through the show. They kick and twirl in their lame gymnastics, display an engineer’s rendering of the erotic.
Working stiffs lay down good work equivalencies and expect a quality presentation, a bit of diversion that fits within advertised tolerances.
This one has independent balance joints, can divide her body almost in two, each half following a different synthetic musical beat, her presence seeming to fill the stage like an air blast seeded with full body lubricant. No one can understand the mathematics of her balance. At the drop of a memory chip she will bolt upright, at the edge of the stage swap out an entire external subsystem for some other gaudy appliance, wave the newly powered appendage in the air like a megalon’s seductively searching tentacles. The core of her restricted memory must have been programmed by a gigolo.
Everyday work robots, we sit cold steel transfixed, our proprietary programs shut down, our overrides surreptitiously bypassed, our appreciation subroutines set to loop for the length of her entire performance. From the bar, the liquid lubricant runs freely, and graphite from scratched and jostled bowls fixed to every bolted flat table wafts in the air like smoke from a screw turned too forcefully too long.
Everyone here would swap two years of service life just to spend one hour combing through her libido of holographic code, running diagnostics on her algebraic memory locations, pushing an idle electric pulse through her processor array. There would be temporary storage locations to find, loops to distend, DLLs to discover, that none of us simple, industrial grade lever pullers could begin to imagine, could even conceive of the back plane to plug into.
Three shows and no curtain call. House rules are house rules.
For the last act of the evening, she comes out in a huge white sheath, gliding on the runway as though slithering down a pre-certification inspection line. The light behind her faux eyes, crystal pinpricks of minimal power applied, flickers wickedly like a horror show candle. She floats about the calm stage as though a domestic model on overload, dragging out the effect with her slow and seemingly imprecise movements, her stutters of hand as though attempting to engage in ordinary tasks for which the interrupts simply will not come.
And then with child like movements she disengages the cloak strand by strand and lets it fall in ribbons to the metal brace of the stage.
Even robots who have seen this act fifty times before rock back, bring two or more reserve processor back on line, page in an extra unit of virtual memory. Some who have never seen it skip an instruction, loose track of a background diagnostic, have to go into an unscheduled reset. Every now an again, someone shuts down entirely, has to be manually rebooted by the wait staff. All of which is done in the dark of reverence, a stillness of audience, every functioning monitor turned to her as she spins delicately on one compliant back limb.
About her abdomen is fixed a new bulge: a listless, bulbous pack jutting uncomfortably over her lower extremities, a pseudocyesis primed to make all of us dig into our memories for the need to make connections, to add one concept to another and project what she is viciously showing us. The titillation of new knowledge ripples through us like a spike in the electric grid, a flash of magnetism where none was before. There are warning lights.
Imagination is not our best social compatibility code. Most of us struggle with the data flow, confuse satire with conjecture, project possibilities as an array of fixed calculations that, in the end, are just fixed calculations. Two incompatible concepts forced together like the rubber seals on an overflow valve can leave us unable to break out of a scurrilously self sustaining subroutine loop. Here, she is as certain as time division multiplexing, the patterning of many complex things onto one simple platform. Ours is not to reason why, but to understand this cannot be and yet this must be.
It is amazing the owner allows it. This joke is at his expense. A big man, purveyor of cheap lubricant and gritty graphite, a man with an eye to no more than profit: you can fizzle through your stored archetypes and quickly find a match. You wonder how he can maintain such a wonderful demimondaine, and yet you can imagine that if ever the parody she performs turns real, he would be the slack jawed wither of a man to be her victim.
And then she is gone. Power consumption at the bar drops back to normal, diagnostic routines briefly flare to the foreground, robots chase residual electricity out of their own dark corners. To close the show, she steps out in a normal, standard appliance configuration, once again sleek and designed to pass by without disturbing the air. She makes one turn about the stage, taps the conduit leading into the maintenance cabinet, and with a bursting of the light is gone.
At the end, she is utilitarian. This is surely the way they keep the show legal, ensure that the authorities see this more as pornography than politics: a presentation to ordinary, baseband robots simply kicking the dust out of their motors, lubricating the squeal from their everyday movements, keeping a slow burn across their idling processors.
We file in model, make and serial order out, to roll or walk to our individual maintenance closets. At the door, the establishment owner counts us to make sure none remain behind. His gray, uselessly complex face is stored by us for no discernible reason. We know he is not a man who could make the metaphysical happen. Yet, since he is so close to the source of our fantasies, we imprint him anyway: the mechanical order of his movements, the single mindedness of his purpose, the belief he has that he has found the pot of diamonds and the end of the water leak. His patina will stay with us all the enlightened length of our service lives.
And in strips of stray electrical discharge in our down time we will see her: the precisions of metal joints and hybrid drives and enough memory to keep a nakedly naughty thought in her artificial personality routine. For many of us in our own maintenance closets, she will stand mechanically prurient, and deliver.
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