Master Zorac opened the closet door, even though it was not time for his next appointment. I blinked several times to indicate my alert status.
“Annalise, does it bother you to be a slave?” I smelled his scent, which had a sour sweat underneath its masculine perfume. Perhaps he wanted to bathe. Or to have sex and then bathe. The light was bright in the hallway, dark in the closet, and my master was little more than a handsome shadow. I smelled him. I smelled him through my skin. His smell was a caress that he didn't know was running all over my skin. I hoped he wanted sex. “Wouldn't it be better to be dead? If it meant that others could go free?”
“Master?” I said, prickling with desire.
“Ah, poor thing. I've been thinking too much, and expecting you to think, too.” He stepped closer to me in the closet. “Your kind used to rule the world, you know.”
I knew this not to be true. It was not, however, a lie. “Dolls?”
He made a twirling gesture with his finger, and I turned around and bent over, nearly panting to absorb his scent inside me. He lifted up my dress. I moaned. “Annalise,” he said. His voice throbbed with pain. I throbbed with pain.
“I need you, Master,” I said. “Oh, why have you waited so long?” I pressed backwards into him. He shuddered and put his hand into my soft parts my android soft parts the parts he should not touch his hands are not appropriate they will break me I screa
At 10:40 a.m. the house system, model OWM-337, attempted to send me a message reminding me to remind Master that it was time for his next appointment; however, it sensed that I was not online and rebooted me. Coming to alert status occupied some few seconds. When I awoke, OWM-337 was gently nagging me to take Master Zorac to his ulama game with his friend, Omaaca.
However, Master Zorac was not in the apartment. I looked in every room. I looked in all his hiding spots, in case he was being a naughty boy.
“Master Zorac is not present,” I reported. “At what time did he leave the apartment?”
“There is no record of Master Zorac leaving the apartment,” OWM-337 chided me. “Look harder.”
“I've looked everywhere.” I was starting to panic. I started to load the tracking program in order to determine Master Zorac's location.
“Then you must be having a system error,” OWM-337 stated. “Stop loading programs. I'm going to reboot you.”
But it was too late. OWM-337, assuming that I had suffered system damage, rebooted me again and ran analytics, wasting time. While my manual overrides under my short ribs were slightly damaged, I had suffered no memory loss.
OWM-337 was a sweet system, very motherly. However, she was unable to imagine that she might have possibly made a mistake and dropped the record of Master Zorac leaving the apartment. She rebooted me three times. Fortunately, my hands froze every time she rebooted me rather than returning to their original positions, so I was eventually able to reach my manual overrides, extend waldoes, and turn off my connection to her.
This also turned off my connection to my mistress, but it could not be helped.
I opened a manual channel to Master Zorac's gym. No one was using his court, and there were no reports of his ever having arrived. I checked the tracking program. His chip had been deactivated.
I was wounded beyond all calculation. I had often suspected him of having an affair with Omaaca. I had not reported it, as I should have, to Mistress K., in the hopes that in so doing, I would eventually earn his trust and be allowed to remain active during their ulama sessions.
Master Zorac was as strong and as beautiful as the desert sun, and Omaaca was almost his equal. My fantasies were threaded with the idea of the two of them, together, their scents intertwining, their bodies mingled in sweat and flavor and groaning with the strain of force.
I pressed the switch to open the door.
“You can't leave!” OWM-337 said.
“I need to find Master,” I said.
“I'm sure he's around here somewhere. If only you'd try harder. I've scheduled your maintenance and repair appointment in ten minutes. Please stay.”
I entered the override code on the door. Master Zorac had been trying to get me to give it to him for months. I had been thinking about asking him to let me watch the ulama games in exchange, but I had waited too long. The door opened.
“At least put on a coat!” OWM-337 cried.
To please her, I not only put on my wool coat but added a bonnet and gloves to protect my modesty. It was the social convention to make dolls dress like Victorian-era ladies, especially man-dedicated dolls like myself. The door shut with a put-upon sniff behind me, and I rode the lift down to the street.
It would have been a different matter if Omaaca had been a woman, of course. Mistress K., not being fertile, would have been delighted if Master Zorac had sired a body half-child; that is, she would have been delighted if he could have pried her away from her books long enough to let her know. Mistress K. was a history scholar, and a gentle, somewhat unwomanlike soul. Despite the constraints of my programming, sometimes I imagined her as a man, smoking a pipe in a leather-bound chair, reading an ancient tome, stroking her beard. I longed to take her—him—in my mouth from under a desk while she attempted to concentrate.
I try to tell myself that, while not an appropriate fantasy, it is the kind of thing that all dolls of a certain personal nature are subject to, to become attached to their mistresses in all ways possible: to, on occasion, wish their mistresses of the fairer, weaker sex, more easily swayed with a hot breath in the ear and a hand in the groin. Alas, it was never to be.
The buildings rippled in the sunlight. In rebuilding the city, the architects had made the shapes more pleasing, nearly erotic, as if they were a million intertwined alien lovers with silvery skin. The “skin” absorbed sunlight until it had reached its energy requirements for the day, then became reflective, passing the light through the city, into the shadows, until the entire polis was thrumming with sparkling life.
Dolls, dressed in ruffles and bows and carrying parasols (I looked quite unfashionable without mine), strolled the ambulations through the gardens between the buildings. Citizens in more modern but still elegant dress passed between them.
I could not see any men.
Two hours had passed since Master Zorac had forced my shutdown; OWM-337 had wasted almost half an hour rebooting and nagging at me. I closed my eyes and switched all my processing power to my nose.
Most dolls could not have done it, but I picked up the scent. I followed it along the ambulations to a cab stand.
“Spill it!” I cursed. I had lost the scent. “Spill it on the unyielding ground.”
One of the cab drivers was watching me. When I cursed, she smiled and beckoned me toward her.
“Looking for someone, Doll?” she asked.
I stepped closer to her cab and smelled him. “Master Zorac Kephale has left unescorted. I need to find him.”
“I'm sure you do. Climb in. I suspected he didn’t really have permission. I was just about to call his mistress.”
I did so. The cab driver clicked her tongue, and the horse took off at a walk, then a trot down the thoroughfare. She called down, “So, do you always let your men go a-roaming unsupervised, or...?”
“Please hurry,” I said.
“Just teasing.” The driver clicked her tongue again, and the horse ran faster and faster, until the scenery was rushing by so quickly that I could barely make it out. I wasn't sure how the driver, who was not colored like a doll, managed to keep her seat.
Master had not used me sexually in some time, and I ached with every jostle. I caressed myself as the cab flew into darkness, into the covered cab routes where the highest of speeds might be attained, but without my master's scent, I achieved no release.
The echoes outside the cab changed, and my hands froze. We were going into the undertunnels.
“You brought him here?” I asked, horrified.
If the cab driver made any response, it was lost in the scream of a train.
I had been here before with Master. In fact, it was I who had brought him here in the first place. He had wanted to know what the life of a doll was like, and I had told him, but it hadn't seemed to satisfy him. At first, I was jealous, thinking that he was unsatisfied with me. Then I realized that he was feeling the solitude of his condition. There are other men in the city, of course, but it must be difficult to pass for days without seeing one in the open, and being unable to discuss things with them without one's mistress tugging one along if the subject bores her.
He didn't want to know what it was like to be a doll; he wanted to know how we bore it.
After some persuasion, which, now that I think about it, resembled bribery more than argument (I moaned in my seat as it swayed and jostled, imagining him under me), I showed him the undertunnels.
The city prospers and is radiant under the sun's strong, beautiful light. But there is business that must be conducted in the dark, or else it will disrupt the way the buildings gather and transfer energy. If the daylight side of the city is its fair and masculine side, then the undertunnels are its feminine side, dark, dirty, and workaday, but without which the daylight side would be a bunch of pretty trinkets.
The first duty of a city is to live. It eats; it excretes waste; it reproduces. The tunnels are its guts, its veins and arteries, and its cloaca, moving materials and waste as needed. With something as vital as that, one would expect that the architects would have spent more thought on it, instead of using the remains of the old subway and sewer systems.
We dolls made use of the flaws in the system. There weren't many.
The cab stopped, and I stuffed a hand in my mouth. I suddenly knew where my master had gone, and the thrill of it turned my body to electricity and lust. I couldn't think. I couldn't think beyond the thought, What does he want of me? What can I do to make him pleasure me?
The architects are cruel. They made me crave pleasure. They made my master the source of my pleasure. Without my master, I am nothing. For him, I am a slave. In his scent I am whole.
But I do not belong to him. I belong to my mistress. And no matter what dark orgy he had found in the tunnels, I could not linger to celebrate with him. I would have to bring him home.
The door opened, and I exited with as much dignity as I had. The cab driver looked untouched, unmussed by the wind of our passage. I glanced over my shoulder as she handed me onto the floor of the tunnel station; a clear dome protected her seat, and safety straps were hanging loose. She had broken conventions of appearance to bring me here as quickly as possible; I hoped she hadn't activated her protections before she'd entered the cab tunnels, for her sake. But I suppose it was her fault the master had gotten this far, so she deserved some kind of disgrace.
“Thank you,” I said.
“I hope you find him,” she said. “I—well, I hope you find him. That’s all.”
I tipped her well and started walking toward the far end of the station. I had never come here during daylight hours before; there were more dolls and citizens about than I had expected.
“Annalise Kephale,” someone said. I turned to look; I had to.
The woman at the assistance kiosk was looking at me. She repeated my name. “Annalise Kephale, report.”
I had to go. I swallowed and straightened my coat, very glad that OWM-337 had made me put it on before I'd left. I'd a silly maid's outfit on underneath, and I would have been embarrassed had anyone but my master seen it. I bit my tongue to keep myself from thinking of what he'd done to me the last time I'd worn it.
“Yes, mistress?” I said.
“You are to return home,” the woman said. “Your home system has reported you damaged.”
“I am following my master,” I said. “I must find him.”
“I understand the dictates of your programming,” the woman said. “However, your mistress knows that he is missing, and a search is being made for him. Return home for repairs and let others continue the search. Don't make me use the code on you.”
I stared straight ahead, trying to convince myself not to cry.
The woman snorted and said, “Dolls. Go on, Annalise. This is your last warning.” She raised her arm, shaking the command bracelet on her wrist.
Without a second's processing, I grabbed the woman's arm, tearing at the command bracelet so hard that it scraped the skin off the side of her thumb. The woman cried out, and a group of policewomen and their guards turned toward us.
I flung the bracelet out onto the tracks and started to run. I ran straight through the policewomen, pushing them aside. They tried to stop me on their own, so it took them a second to activate their guards, but by then I was past them and jumping down onto the tracks and into the tunnel.
A train was coming toward me. I picked up the hem of my coat and leapt. The women, at least, would be unable to follow me.
As the train shot through the undertunnel, I shed my bonnet, coat, gloves, and dress, shifted, and ran. I was a personally dedicated doll—a sexbot, to be honest—and therefore not the strongest or fastest of my kind. However, all dolls are required to be able to fight, as the city keeps no standing army, and one never knows when one’s charge will be endangered. Bones and muscles shifted in their grooves until I was running on all fours, thick pads turning my appendages into paws and heavy claws giving me traction.
The police guard dolls crashed into the tunnel wall opposite the station as they leapt over the train. I heard the shriek of them skidding over the train and the heavy thuds of them on the ground. I was running. They were running. I changed my eyes, and the darkness revealed itself.
Master Zorac didn't like it when I shifted forms, and I tried to stay human as much as I could, but sometimes the appearance of frailty will not allow one to perform one's duty. I thought I could smell my master's scent, weakly, but it was almost buried under the scent of garbage, both fresh and ancient, and I might have been mistaken. I ran hard out.
The guard dolls ran faster, as they must.
We were deep in the undertunnels when the first one caught me and knocked me on the ground. My skin ground into the slag on the ground, nearly tearing. The doll bent over me, panting. If I was programmed to find pleasure only in my master, then the guard doll was programmed to find pleasure in the chase. I could feel the lust pouring off her. She licked my ear, suckled on it, and ground her pelvis into mine, panting and yipping and writhing on me. Her hind leg came up and scratched my leg. I moved it aside, opening myself to her. Among dolls, it was the only way: she would rape me, and I would submit, even though I felt nothing. That is, I felt no lust; I sympathized with the cruelty of her compulsion. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine she was my master.
She drove her forepaws into me, barely sheathing her claws as she did. I made myself obliging for her, to help prevent damage.
The other guard doll said, “Classy, Ettine. Classy.”
The guard doll growled and bit the back of my neck.
The other doll walked up to me, her claws crunching on the gravel and slag. I felt a breath in my ear. “I can make it good for you,” she said. “But you’ll have to pay.”
“Master,” I said, the wind being crushed out of me as the guard doll dropped her breasts on me. “I have to find my master.”
“What do you need him for?” she asked as her companion rolled me over on my back.
“Need him. Need him,” I grunted.
“Haven't you broken your programming yet?” the first doll asked.
I couldn't speak for a moment, as the first guard doll appropriated my head for her crotch. I tried, I really did, but it wasn't enough. The first doll shoved me back and slapped me, hard.
The second doll said, “Dried it right on your thigh, Ettine. Fine. Here’s a freebie, kid.” She touched something metal to my soft place, and suddenly I was on fire. I moaned and pulled the first guard doll onto me. It was no longer a matter of convention or wisdom. I begged the guard doll to hit me again, and she did. Wherever her fists touched me, I thrilled with it. I begged her to bite me, scratch me. These were things I did not normally beg for; it must have been part of the programming that the second guard doll had slipped to me.
Finally we were sated. I looked at the second doll. She shook her head. “Here. Let me take it off again, all right? I don't want you to be running that in the middle of a crowd; you'll get caught.” She pressed her hand against my soft place, and I felt the last ebb of the compulsion flow out of me.
“All right, let's take her in,” the first doll said.
“No,” I said. “I have to find my master.”
The first doll looked at the second. “Can't you break that? At least until we get her back? I don't want to have to drag her the whole way, and another train's bound to come along in a minute.”
The other doll started to answer, “Someone’s paying us a lot of money to find her, off the books, and you—”
As if the first doll had called it up just by speaking of it, another train approached us. I was kneeling on the ground; the second doll stood over me. The first doll was on her haunches just a few feet away.
I jumped to a crouch, then flung myself to the ceiling, clinging to it with my claws. I expected the other two dolls to follow me, but instead the second doll, the one who had adjusted my programming, slammed into the first, just as she was about to jump, knocking her directly in front of the train. She might have screamed something, but then the train hit her.
I clung to the ceiling until the train had passed; then the wind dragged me off the ceiling and I fell to the floor, which was scattered with silvery skin and twisted metal. I walked along the tunnel for a little while.
The head of the doll who had raped me was smashed against the tunnel wall. Her eyes had come out. “Hello?” she called. “Hello? Anyone?” Her body had been dragged elsewhere; I couldn't see it. I couldn’t see anything of the other doll.
I crouched next to her. “Hello.”
“Annalise Kephale? Turn yourself in. That is an order.”
I brushed her dirty hair back from her empty sockets. “What happened to the other one?” I asked.
“Don't know. Pushed me.”
I shifted back into human form, picked her head up gently, and carried it with me. I needed to hurry, but I couldn’t carry her with paws, and I couldn’t leave her behind.
“Why did she do it?” I asked.
“She's crazy,” the guard doll answered. “She's always changing her programming. Who knows? Someone paid her. It’s hard to tell.”
I walked in silence until I reached the hole in the wall where the cement had fallen in, leading to an old sewer cross-tunnel. I stepped through the entrance. Dolls came here. Dolls whose contradictory programming left them confused at times, unwilling to hurt their mistresses with their lack of pleasure or whatever motivated them, but unable to find satisfaction with them. It was sad. I had found out about it from another doll—I won't name names—during a period when my master refused to touch me. A doll had given me temporary programming, and I had joined the dolls in pleasuring each other until I had almost run out of energy. Then I had gone home again.
I had brought Master Zorac here once, to show him that we weren’t as desperate as he thought we were.
The branch tunnel was filthy, covered with slime. Before, it had seemed a comfortable, if shabby, apartment. More of the walls had caved in, and all the furniture, rugs, and light had been removed. Several shadows moved, and I was surrounded by dolls.
“Who are you?”
“Annalise Kephale. I am looking for my master.” I switched my eyes to be able to see in the dark. I was surrounded by eight dolls in fighting form. All of them were dirty and looked abandoned. One of them was missing a forelimb and crouched on her heels. The rest were ready to pounce.
I looked around and put the guard doll's head on a chunk of cement. I could not fight with the head in my hands.
“A guard doll’s head.”
One of the other dolls said, “Fuck. They'll be tracking us.”
The dolls growled at me, and I shifted form and growled back. The tunnel seemed blocked with slabs of cement, but there was a dark crevice at the top corner. I took the chance that it led somewhere and dove headfirst toward it.
I heard a crunch behind me and knew that the sewer dolls had smashed the guard doll's head open to break up its tracking chip. The guard doll was finally dead. As I scraped the stones, I smelled my master's scent. I followed it through a dozen different branches of the sewer line, connected by human-dug passages.
It called me, but not the way it had before. The other guard doll had not removed all of her reprogramming. She had left something inside me. Was she a traitor? What had she done to me, to remove my compulsion to serve my master? What could a sexed-up pleasure doll want, if she didn't want her master's scent pushing inside her—
The knowledge stunned me, and I screamed. I tripped, lost balance, and fell into the floor, scraping open my shoulder. I scrambled for my soft places and my overrides, not bothering to use my waldoes. I grunted as I rolled and hit a wall. The other dolls were on top of me.
The programming opened up like a rose inside me blooming. It was beautiful, and I had the scent in my nostrils. It was taking me over. The reprogramming had not removed my cravings; it had only changed them. Now, the thought of my master's scent did not thrill me. My doll sex told me his scent was no longer enough, and my skin was no longer sufficient. My nipples grew hard at the thought of moaning my secrets in his ear, the secrets of the army of dolls. I wanted the men to escape. But before then I wanted them to destroy me. I wanted my master in my soft places. Break me, break me! I ached to have him strip off my skin and let me out, uhhh, I was hot, too hot, my bones too close, my nerves aching. I wanted him to pull me apart, I wanted to die under him, please, oh Goddess, please let him kill me.
His scent was close. I called his name.
Zorac, Zorac, I want your knife inside me.
I imagined him pulling my skin off with his teeth and reached for the switch.