Chapter: 13) Dusk I
Fandom: I, Robot
Rating: 15 (At least. I would not feel comfortable about under 15's reading this, though if they as an individual decide to read it anyway, so be it. Sexual content, robot/human. If pre-squikked, don't read.)
Warnings: fic contains robot/human relationship, religious referances, alcoholism, suicide, depression, nudity, swearing, sexual encounters.
Disclaimer: Please note that I do not own the characters, concept or plot of the 'I, Robot' book or film, those rights belong to 20th Centuary Fox and the Asimov estate.
Author's Note: This isn't how I origionally intended this chapter to come out, but I'm anxious to get on with the storyline and this sorta does the job. I'm getting tired of trying to force this chapter. Grammar, punctuation and flow may have big mistakes as I've chopped, pasted and shuffled so often.
Susan Calvin was very drunk. She no longer knew how many glasses she’d taken from the bottle, but she wasn’t sure if that was because she hadn’t been counting in the first place or if she had become so intoxicated that she had forgotten the number and lost count. She was past the point of caring enough to get ice, that much she did know. The task of fetching the ice had progressively become a pointless exercise, to the extent that she neglected the chore entirely in favour of staying seated from one self-poured serving to the next. Rising to her feet between helpings would have punctuated the defining line between each glass and helped her measure the flow of drink, but now it had all blurred into one long, hot scorch mark down her throat. To hell with it, what was done was done, and why would it matter?
She lounged idly on the red couch in front of the fire, her shoulders slouched deep into the curving arm and her head comfortably supported on it as the warm firelight bathed her weakened frame. Her legs were stretched out as far over the expansive seat as they wanted and her knees were only slightly cocked, her claim to the sumptuous scarlet suite staked out quite obviously by the pitiful amount of room left beyond her toes. If anyone were to try to share her couch, they would not be able to sit easily on the puny unoccupied patch, if they could find enough space to sit at all. That and she was not likely to move this evening, not for love nor money.
She leisurely lay her weight on her less injured side, her right hip at the bottom of the languid heap that she had become as she lazily stared at the flames in the fireplace. She had only taken off her shoes, scarf and coat, quite eager for a drink in her need for some escapism and she was aware that her costly black blazer was getting creased and stretched to hell from her untidy pose but she was indifferent to the fact. She was resting, and that was rare.
She needed a rest, to loosen her stone-cold death-grip or else she would snap like a brittle silicon wafer. She was drawing a temporary truce, waving the little white flag for a brief repose from her campaign to quell all of her emotions and the rest of her human baggage. She was no longer an opposing force. She didn’t feel like fighting any more and she wasn’t going to. She couldn’t do it and she didn’t want to either. At least, not for one night. Being harsh and brittle was only going to act against her in these times, so she was drinking herself into a warm, cozy sea of informal, unconstrained nonchalance. She had to give a little, it was bend or break. She had to give a little or loose it all.
She couldn’t cope with how utterly powerless present situations were making her and she wanted to get mourning Alfred’s death well on its way towards acceptance. The incredibly uncertain future was bound to harbour plenty more obstacles for her to deal with. The path ahead was pockmarked and riddled with proverbial pits and potholes, she needed her wits about her or else risk a metaphorical yet wholly undignified fall. She would need a clear, level head to cope and tying herself in knots with self-pity and guilt over Alfred’s passing was not going to help things. She yearned for her sweetly monotonous life of perpetual predictability, repetitious routine and faultless fact to re-materialise so badly that she had gone so far as to let go almost entirely tonight, throwing in the gauntlet with desperation. Forcing herself to relax.
So she openly waited for sorrow to make itself known in the hope that she could get it out of her system and get on with life. She was waiting for the unstoppered spill of bottled-up emotion to ebb forth so that she could grieve properly. More efficiently. However, sorrow wasn’t flowing with the same ease as the alcohol was this evening. She felt relaxed, but calmness hadn’t come in conjunction and it wasn’t misery that had taken advantage of this opportunity. Humans were unpredictable like that. Efficiency was something that humanity had no interest in. It followed its own course in spite of what was good, right or proper. It was foolish, but she no longer cared.
She had sunk deep into that comfortable darkness that came with many drinks. Strangely complacent thoughts rolled like unhindered swells in an open ocean at midnight, merging and coalescing without boundaries or horizons as the sky and the sea became one. She was far from the strict firmness of land and she could find no points of reference. She felt blissfully lost and comfortably numb, but it didn’t worry her. Currently she cared for nothing but the drink…and her companion.
The present glass was settled on her stomach to steady it and her other hand was wrapped around the cold neck of the bottle with an unaffectedly firm and sober grasp. It was poised and ready to refill the glass as soon as it became empty again and with a brief, half-thought of faint interest she tilted the bottle and peered at it dumbly. It was useless, her vision was diminished and all her inebriated mind could gleam from the action was that she had drunk a lot, enough to drown her rationality but not so much as to render her paralytic. She didn’t let the unenlightening realisation hinder her progress though as she lifted her glass to sip yet more of the Southern Comfort and returning to the captivating tongues of fire licking at the dark confines of the hearth.
She lost herself in thoughts that her impaired mind found far more favourable than the topic of her inebriation. Thoughts of admiration for the robotic Adonis she was in the company of again tonight. Ideas that, if she were sober, she might find incredibly unsettling, but were now coming easily to her as she watched the flames dance enticingly in the warm evening gloom with lowered lids and unseeing, musing eyes.
She had always found robots at least sweetly pretty, even from the beginning when they were clumsy, lumbering creatures of strict geometrical shapes and bundles of multicoloured wires. Their quaint, easily predictable behaviours had always been intriguing and thoroughly enjoyable to her. They were sweet, pure creatures, a cleaner breed than humanity that followed simple, calculated constructs.
Her eyes wandered to the figure seated in the nearby chair. She was bleary-eyed from drinking so much, but for better or for worse she wasn’t yet blind drunk. The liquor had softened her vision and made the borders between different colours indistinct. Any harshness around her that there might have been before was now forgotten in the strangely fluid, aqueous environment created by the alcohol. It made the inconceivable scene even more welcoming, more encouraging…far more provocative.
The prime example of state-of-the-art mechanical splendour sat in the beige armchair beside the fire, dressed in black with a huge book spread-eagled across his lap. Sonny. He was finally turning another page. His precise index finger gently teased the top leaf away with the blue-grey, textured rubber pad on the concluding metallic section and she watched the carefully calculated, highly articulate motions he made as he slid under the page and lifted it, turned it and lay it down. All accomplished with considerate delicacy to reveal unread text and new pictures.
She had tried to coax him from his disguise when they returned home. She was eager to see his handsome face the way it was supposed to be and she encouraged him to make himself comfortable. Robots had no need to wear clothes, they had nothing to hide nor be ashamed of, they were beautiful and she didn’t want him to try to become a human being. It also disturbed her somewhat to see him in a man’s clothes, he was far better than that.
When she returned he had removed everything except for the trousers and shirt, even the makeup had been cleaned off. She admitted now that she felt somewhat cheated by him remaining clothed, confused as to why he had stopped there but it only served to make him all the more alluring. What was out of sight wasn’t necessarily out of mind and Sonny was a far cry from the infantile machines of the birth of the robotic age. He was a real metallic marvel in every sense of the word.
The intensely orange firelight added a slight tint of peach to his blue-white skin, giving him a lusciously creamy complexion as flickering strokes of amber caressed his ivory face. He was deliciously perfect and agonisingly handsome, the play of light on his elegant features and the ghostly intricacies of the foundations beneath were hypnotising. His finely set jaw was clearly male despite its lightly shaped curves, not needing to be harshly squared to convey masculinity. His nose was the same. Sweet but noble, narrow and straight without being pointed. He was gentility and civility incarnate.
His attention was devoted to the volume lying over his clothed thighs and his head was bowed in concentration to the pages spread before him, the low angle of his eyes causing a spectacular deepening of their cerulean blue. His eyes…she had always had a soft spot for blue eyes but his were incredible. The elementary passion those azure pools poured into her was supernatural, and just looking him in the eye and feeling that deep, soulful connection was as pleasurable and headily exhilarating as his cool caress.
A crimson ribbon darted out of the book like a devilishly forked tongue and it trailed over his muddied knees to lick at the folded crease on his left shin. It hung there, lolling freely and almost rolling further undone to fall at his naked, lustrous feet as if panting and stupefied by the fine position it held. Through her jealous envy Susan was in no way surprised by the book’s gratified expression, for if there was a more satisfying place to dwell than sprawled out over his firmly muscled lap, she couldn’t think of it. As if on cue, her own thigh tingled with the memory of how his had felt against hers on that first night, as she examined his wounds. Unfortunately, on that occasion, her nightwear had come between them.
His temple was leant on the finely crafted silver knuckles of one hand and the other was calmly waiting to turn the next page. Long, dextrous fingers lay loosely curled around the stack of unread pages so that they were barely touching the aged, fragile paper. They appeared so slight and delicate, so unassuming and innocuous in their current applications that it was strange to accept that his fingers could both puncture the concrete skin of buildings and trace across hers so finely that just reminding herself of it sent fresh shivers coursing through her body. They were so versatile. He could easily tune their talents to any purpose he desired. She had seen him scale walls and fight in unarmed combat with those hands, but she had also felt him gently caress her neck and feed her with effortless sensuality. His hands could become tools, weapons or instruments of intense pleasure at the slightest whim of his bright mind.
He was limber in both mind and body.
Unwilling and unable to look upon anything else in the room, she followed the direct, inky lines of the neck ligaments holding his head true and steady down to their sterling anchor points and watched them disappear into the collar of his shirt. Just the barest gleam of his white chest was visible within and there were only the most subtle hints of the superbly shaped figure under the onyx cotton. Where the folds and rouches in the fabric draped over him conspired to obscure his heavenly physique, her stirring imagination filled in the blanks. She could faintly see the contours of his deep chest and broad shoulders and she could make out the slight, tantalising curves of his shapely arms. She realised that she was undressing him with her eyes, but the only consequence of that thought was the first kink of a crafty smile beginning to tweak at the corner of her lips as she took another sip.
She was looking him up and down, his body easily drawing her gaze and leading her on. Not that she needed much encouragement where he was concerned. It wasn’t really her fault, NS-5’s had been manufactured to seduce humans. Admittedly it hadn’t been intended in the way she was feeling it towards Sonny, it was supposed to attract new lease contracts by luring in potential customers, so that USR could prosper. NS-5’s had been designed to ooze sophistication and refinement with their sleek, smart look being inspired by the stereotypical image of high-class waiters, butlers or personal aides and bringing a touch of luxury to robotics. They were designed to be desirable. The sharp contrast between their softly curving, sumptuously dark musculature, their crisp, angular, exposed mechanisms and their smooth, elegant bodywork was perfect. They had been given kind and gentle but unmistakably masculine faces and were tall, beautifully handsome creatures. They were noble, aristocratic and majestic.
Sonny was all that and more. He was different. Unique. Completely unequalled and unrivalled. Sonny had a will of his own and emotions. He was so refreshingly honest and expressive, he was like cool water on her fiery intellect, locked heart and tortured soul and she was hungrily lapping up all the attention he gave her. She could contentedly drink in his considerate care for hours on end, if only she let herself.
His responses were not the direct result of definite, pre-programmed thought paths. He was far more complex than that. She couldn’t even begin to attempt to map out his mind, he was just so incredibly intricate. She could get lost forever deep in the elaborate enigma of his psyche and still be no closer to having him under her comprehension. Sonny’s mind would forever be as much of a mystery as any human’s. She had determined the cause of his unique behaviour, but that answer had only brought further questions in its wake, and he excited her on far more than just the intellectual level.
He had a conscience and he employed his own judgement in situations. In many ways he was so human, but he somehow remained virtuous, the perfect blend of human and robotic traits. He feared death and pain, but he was still heroic. He worried and doubted, but his actions were sweet and kind. He was beautiful but not vain, intelligent without being pretentious and he wasn’t arrogant, as was too often coupled with strength. He was sincere and modest, he took responsibility for his actions and understood the ramifications and consequences of poor judgement. He was independent and mature in his approach to life. He was alluring in his cunning incomprehensibility and sheer genius, but so captivating in his purity and innocent naiveté. Sonny was perfect, Sonny was cute, and he was most certainly arousing.
Despite the impressive quantity of Southern Comfort that had passed her lips, Susan did not feel drowsy and she was far from calm. So much of that burning drink had entered her body that she could feel herself going beyond just warm. There was the hot fire of the bourbon burning in the pit of her stomach and her heart pumped uncommonly fast and forcefully, pushing the drug through her flesh and sending thin threads of heat through her veins to thaw what was left her icy demeanour. She felt hot. So hot that the steely walls of her reserve were smelting away to nothingness, sinking into a thick, molten sea of instinctual impulses and carnality bubbling ominously at the bottom of her soul. Her iciness was thawing, her frigidity dripping away and any rationality or logic she had left was swept along with the melt water. The cool was entirely welcome against the heat, but it was definitely not as innocent as a spring thaw in its origins.
She found herself recalling his inhuman touch and how incredibly sensuous he had been. From the slight tracings of his metal fingers on her neck he had stripped her down to the core, stoking the embers of her sleeping arousal. It sent shivers down her spine and all over her body just to think about it.
He thought she was pretty, he told her she was beautiful. She was only human and she rarely received genuine praise, flattery was so strange to her, how could she fail to appreciate his compliments? How could she resist the temptation of his mysterious and sweet allure? He had certainly attracted her attentions and he stirred passion in her with ease. He had chipped away her steely resolve and got too close for comfort, he got under her skin and she couldn’t escape him if she wanted to. He was always there, at the back of her mind. She was hopelessly addicted to him, she couldn’t get enough of his delectable demeanour. He was the single object of her lascivious intent and the source of her maddening mechanical affliction.
Just how human was he? What drove him? What did he strive for? What did he want for? What did he lust after? What did he dream of? Did he ever wake from restless sleep feeling stirred and impassioned, flushed with surprise at the potency of his own imagination? In the deepest recesses of his mind, did he conceal explicit thoughts? When supplied with seclusion and privacy or left to his own devices, did he ever entertain thoughts that only served to provide self-gratification? What constituted as erotic imagery to a robotic mind? Was he even capable of experiencing such intense physical pleasure that it could be placed on a par with sexual acts?
Indeed, she knew how to activate and manipulate most, if not all USR robotic machines, but how would she go about turning Sonny on? How could she ‘push his buttons’, to use a strangely coincidentally applicable human phrase? She smiled broadly at the concept and brought her glass to her mouth once more, catching the cold lip of the vessel with her tongue. She slowly sipped its contents thoughtfully, if the ideas conjured in her present state of mind could be ordained so highly as to be named ‘thoughts’.
What would his reaction be, if she were to remove that leather-clad volume from his lap and mount him in its stead? What would he do if she touched him will all the passion she could muster, if she caressed him with all the desire that he had summoned in her? Would he enjoy the feel of her tongue tracing the pearly plastic ridges of his ear? What would an Unsafe, emotional robot’s reaction be to sexually charged stimulus? Would her efforts arouse him, or just pique his seemingly boundless curiosity and illicit concern and confusion from his bright mind?
No matter how human he behaved, he was still a robot. Was he above all that?
It wouldn’t surprise her. Humanity was disgusting. Robots were far cleaner.
However, he did like to have his head stroked. Perhaps that was his sweetest spot? The luscious little intellectual creature that he was, it wouldn’t be so strange if he were aroused via stimulation of his positronic brain. Was the best method for teasing a mechanical moan from his opalescent lips such a presumably innocuous action? If it were, she had already been incredibly indecent with him. She had touched him there before, when they had been alone in the laboratory together with him strapped down in the fully reclined examination chair and completely restrained. At her mercy.
There was very little hard evidence for her to go on, Sonny was one of a kind. There was only one way to get answers. Answers required the prior asking of questions, and she had many. She couldn’t get results without tests. She would just have to experiment, presuming her patient was willing. She smiled cunningly through predatory eyes. Why wouldn’t he be? Sonny could trust her,… she was a doctor after all.
It was an amusing thought and as she lowered her glass a devilish chuckle rolled out, sounding more like a low, animalistic, hungry growl than an expression of humour. It was thick with deep, base need and hollow with starved sexual craving. Sonny’s sweetness aroused her amorous appetite dangerously well.
The movement of her hand and the sound of her sniggering must have attracted his attention, as he chose that moment to look up from the book and see her eye to eye with an expression that wiped the smug look off her face and broke her heart.
The deep colour irised into a mournful blue that was so devoid of happiness that it was almost a dead grey. It was as if the joyous vivacity that had been there was all gone, leeched away as the harshness of his pitifully traumatic young life mercilessly tore his enthusiasm from him. His bright eyes still shone, but that lively spark was gone and he looked back at her with a gaze that looked dulled by depressed despondency. His brows were pulled together in distress and small, white, vertical lines formed between his brows as his smooth face creased with pure emotional pain. He could not form tears and she knew the shimmering in his eyes was just the reflection of the firelight on their glassy surface, but that meant nothing. She could see it written all over his face, he was crying.
She stared back, trapped by her inability to turn a blind eye to such obvious suffering. Agony was the only emotion in his handsome, translucent polymer face, and there was so much of it bleeding from his every fine feature that it struck Susan completely speechless. It got worse, thought she wouldn’t have believed that it could. He tried to force a smile with quivering lips, trembling as if his face might crack with the impossibility of the expression he was trying to carve through his grief. It was heart wrenching to see him try so desperately to regain his positivity or at least a pull up a façade of his former cheery manner.
Susan was appalled, sobered by his piteous mourning. Her passionately charged, drunken sensations were shattered and she was herself again, albeit from deep beneath the hazy sea of drink she had swallowed. What was she doing? He had assisted the suicide of his father and was being ripped apart by his grief. He was torturing himself with blame and she was supposed to be his friend yet all she was doing was getting smashed to the point of seriously considering his molestation. She was sickened, bitterly disappointed in herself to the utmost with her depravity and just how low she had stooped. She was insipid. Some friend she made.
She looked away from his sorrowful, pale eyes and swung her feet to the cold, uncarpeted floor. She had to remove herself from his company, god knew she couldn’t be trusted. There was a little still left in the bottom of her glass and she threw it down her throat before tossing the vessel onto the couch, letting it bounce and roll to settle over the crevice down the back of the seat cushions. She no longer bothered with the ice, why bother with the glass? All it did was ferry small measures between the bottle’s lips and her own, it was virtually obsolete anyway.
Still throttling the bottle by the neck Susan lurched unsteadily to her feet. Dizziness took her senses to insanity as soon as she did it, feeling as if her brain was sloshing around in a skullful of alcohol so that it was always a few seconds behind her body. As soon as the fireplace stopped spinning round her like a threatening whirlwind of fire she spoke to Sonny without looking at him. “I’m going to bed.” She slurred despite her conscious effort not to and she turned with distaste to stagger with faltering footsteps towards her room.
“Goodnight.” He whispered hoarsely.
It was the first thing that he’d said since the funeral.
She paused, reaching out to steady herself with a hand against the wall. She knew she should say something… anything even… he needed some words of comfort but she couldn’t bring them into her mouth. She was inept, she wasn’t sane and she was extremely drunk, she wasn’t exactly a voice of reason or wisdom right now. Logic had left her. She keep quiet, shrugging off her thoughts with inebriated irresponsibility and stumbling into the gathering darkness of her bedroom.
Sonny sagged even further over the tome on his lap in weak exasperation. Whatever it was that he kept doing, he had done it once again. Susan had vacated the room he was occupying again, thought he hadn’t the slightest idea why. He hadn’t done anything, he had been mindful of that. He hated what he was doing to her.
She had chuckled slightly, a sound he had never heard her make and he was surprised enough by hearing it, let alone the time and place she had chosen for it. He had liked it regardless and he smiled back, trying to share her humour and her attempt to lighten the mood. How could that drive her away? Why? He didn’t understand, not that he hoped to grasp existence anymore. He was sick of it and if he hadn’t felt so empty inside right at that moment he suspected that he might have felt outraged. He was completely incompetent of even the slightest comprehension of humans and their world.
He closed the book, exhausted by his attempts to force himself to read it. It couldn’t be done, he had spent several hours flipping the pages heartlessly and registering the words, but he hadn’t received the usual means to escapism he was accustomed to gaining from Hansel and Gretel. He doubted that it was anything to do with this book’s quality though. The illustrations were wonderfully colourful and vibrant with delicate ink work and he didn’t doubt that the tale was a grand one, but he didn’t have anywhere to run to tonight. There was not a corner of his broad mind that wasn’t echoing with the roaring, silent emptiness that plagued him and tonight, it gripped him unforgivingly. He couldn’t run away from his bereavement anymore, there was no escape from the image of his father’s gravestone. He was trapped in the cruel, ‘real’ world tonight.
He looked at the large hardback bridging his thighs, beautiful in every detail. It had a slightly dusty smell, musky and aged and unlike the crisp, precise modern world. The fragile pages and ancient print was so much older than he was and so completely undamaged, even the embossed leather cover was still supple and free from cracks and scratches. He stroked his hand up the spine so that the pad of his thumb brushing the contours of the relief pattern that the cover was decorated with. It was an action he had executed many times on his father’s copy of Hansel and Gretel, and it was a comfortingly familiar sensation even though this book’s patterning was subtly different. The ribbon poking from the top of the spine was still bright and shiny, and as he ran it through his fingers he saw not a single scuff or fray. Evidently the volume’s previous stewards had taken meticulous care of it and he knew that he must also take good care of it, as a mark of respect for all the time and money sacrificed on its tenderly executed maintenance. Of course he would, for the book had already curried great sentimental value in him.
It was a remarkable gift from an even more enchanting woman.
At first he had thought it was so kind of Susan to have thought of him, and ever so nice of her to go out of her way and buy something for the sole purpose of giving it to him. She was so wonderful. But the he worried. Why had she given him this book? What did this token, and the gesture itself, signify?
He had done nothing for her worthy of reward recently, and it troubled him. All he had done was cause her and her possessions harm and damage, which was definitely not something that warranted positive reinforcement. Either she was intentionally encouraging his erratic, irresponsible and dangerously unsafe behaviour or she was afraid of him. Afraid and trying to distract and occupy him with curious gifts. He was worried that she was afraid of him. He was worried that she hated him. It saddened him greatly, deepening his sorrow, if that were possible.
With a slow, slight drooping of his shoulders and head that from a breathless entity was comparable to a sorrowful sigh, he let his gaze fall blindly on the bare floor. Sadly, he couldn’t distract himself so easily tonight as to absorb his thoughts with a story line and bury his troubles in pages of creative writing. His eyes were seeing the book but he had barely noticed it despite its beauty. Tonight he couldn’t stop himself from travelling positronic pathways that fair, sweet Susan had advised him against on their first night together, for his own good. He admitted that he wasn’t trying hard to halt his runaway mind, but trying gained him nothing. Trying was useless. An inefficient waste of energy. Completely illogical.
This evening had been spent re-running the strongest memories that he had logged away in his circuitry. He was remembering his favourite moments, those good, simple days that at the time had seemed so full of difficulty, stress and frustration but had crucially been balanced out with companionship. Learning how to smile, to feel and to love had been hard and full of strife at times but Alfred had always been there with him through it all, to lend him a helping hand and congratulate him when he succeeded. Trying had never been in vain with his father.
Then his memory banks stripped it all down to beyond nothing again as he re-lived the day he killed his father. He killed him.
He set the book aside on a small table and rose smoothly to his feet, the severity and pain of recalling that day making sitting still impossible. He couldn’t think about it, he mustn’t, it hurt so much. The pain was unbearable, far worse than being shot. He would choose a hail of lead over this dead, all-encompassing, sorrowful pain at any time. If he were presented with the option, he was sure that he would take death over this.
He scooped Susan’s glass from the deep red couch’s cushions to tidy it, placing it upright next to the book on the table. He had thought so much was certain in life and he had been so confident in himself, but that had all gone. He had thought he was good at handling emotions and understanding humans. That was what his father would have had him believe. But he had been so wrong.
They had both been wrong.
He was useless.
It was as if the harder he tried the faster he fell, the more desperately he grasped out for answers the quicker they ran through his hands like the sands of a broken hourglass. He didn’t know what to think any more. Humans were such unpredictable and fragile creatures, so transient and insubstantial. They were irrational and illogical. This was what he felt but he was wary of these thoughts, not wanting to be V.I.K.I.’s younger, more lethal brother and scared of himself as ever. He couldn’t be trusted, he didn’t know enough fact to become adamant in his abstractions. He didn’t know the truth, so how could he hope to formulate the right opinion? He was flawed and incomplete and he was feeling it more than ever now.
He felt a great sense of loss, like more than just his father’s body had gone to ground today. He felt that some part of him was missing, an internal sense of physical loss so strong it was as if the whirring of the small core sitting in his chest had died away to nothing. It was like some vital mechanism had been removed with force, as if an essential aspect of his anatomy had been torn from him. It hurt, but not enough. It wasn’t the self-directed, fiery vehemence and torturous pain that had been in him before, it now hurt because there was nothing there. He just felt empty and decayed, that he was a blank shell and his body was just a husk of the arrogant, self-assured robot he had once been.
He really was alone now, Alfred was gone completely. He knew that his father was dead but he hadn’t understood just how all-encompassing and how final death was. Alfred was never going to return. He had known this for days but it seemed to have only just begun to sink in. He was accepting it now, his father was gone forever.
He must have hoped in some ridiculously stupid, illogical corner of his mind that Alfred would come back. It was such an absurd notion. This wasn’t like when Alfred used to pop out of the laboratory to visit the cafeteria. He wouldn’t walk back through the doors at any moment holding a cup of coffee and carrying a croissant in his mouth after working the security panel with a free hand. He wouldn’t take the savoury snack from his mouth to ask his son how he was feeling, or what he felt like doing today or answer his relentless questions. That was never going to happen again. He was gone, gone forever.
To Del, he was just lights and clockwork. To him, ‘Sonny’ was just a plastic box wrapped around metal, devoid of life. A mechanism in the shape of a man, but a soulless machine nonetheless.
And Susan hated him.
Sonny walked sluggishly to the window with heavy footsteps, barely able to put one burdensome foot in front of the other. Susan had told him not to go near the window, but he didn’t care. Feeling weak, fragile and in need of help to remain standing he placed his hands on the windowpane and leant forwards until his forehead rested on the cool glass. Glass that he could break so very easily. However weak he felt inside, his body was ridiculously strong. This glass was transparent and flimsy in comparison with the reinforced, blue safety pane he had flung his father through. It would take so very little effort for him to break this pane of glass and it was all that stood between him and the massive 164-floor crevasse to the concrete bottom…
…Such a fall would kill a human so incredibly easily, but not him. It would hurt allot and render most of his hardware irreparable, but every part of his anatomy could be replaced with new parts. 164 storeys was not fatal to the core operating systems of an ‘improved’ NS-5. Death wouldn’t come to him so easily.
He had drawn as much attention to himself today as he could short of stripping off his disguise and falling to the ground sobbing and awaiting his fate at the funeral. But no one had come to claim him. USR hadn’t taken him away to die. Nobody seemed to care, they all overlooked him as if he was just part of he scenery. He doubted that anyone would see him at the window and call his legal owners to retrieve him
There was a patchwork quilt of colour drawn over the city tonight. Rich, soft colours swathed the atmosphere against the dark, sharp, silhouetted angles of Chicago’s skyscrapers. The sky phased through many shades of violet, purple and indigo and clouds spilled across in the swift, wintry wind to streak the stratosphere with mild pinks and reds.
He looked down through the dark space between the towering buildings to the street-lamp lit roads. There were cars and people still going about their business, as there always were in the city. Somebody was always awake and everyone always had somewhere to be.
Grey lids lowered over his eyes to envelop his sight in a colourless, dull nothingness. He didn’t really want to see the people and cars on the streets below, almost jealous through his unrelenting dispair at them. The humans had full, finished names, families, jobs and places and things to call their own, even the cars he had seen today had clearly defined purposes and uses. Every man and machine had its place here.
He didn’t belong here. He was detested by humanity, not only was he unloved but he was unlovable. As Del said, he was just a machine, though through unfortunate consequence of tragic events he was not quite a machine, but not quite a man either. He was no delicate human, nor was he a wholly docile and obedient NS-5. He was something to be feared. He was Unsafe. A hazard. Dangerous. Threatening.
He quietly tried to work out what to do with himself, but there was no calculation that could solve this problem. He wasn’t capable of logic this evening and even if he were he doubted any use could come of its inflexible rigidity. Logic was a hard formula to apply to the complex convolutions of the human world, V.I.K.I.’s instability was proof of that. He just felt himself drifting deeper into a hopeless lack of understanding.
Then he heard sounds behind him. Susan’s bedroom door opening and the shuffling of her bare feet. Susan was bound to be displeased that he was at the window, she had specifically told him not to go near it. That should have been enough to spur him into action, to get away and pretend that he hadn’t been anywhere near the window, to prevent her from feeling concern. But he didn’t or couldn’t care enough to move. He couldn’t even look at her. There was no point in opening his eyes, he couldn’t stand the sight of himself, so why should she? He couldn’t face himself. He couldn’t face her. He felt so guilty.
“You shouldn’t be by the window.” She stated.
If she felt any annoyance or negativity at his disregard for her wishes, she did not show it. Her voice was deep, calm and quiet and she spoke strangely, her words lacking their usual precision and the syllables bleeding into one another. He was almost surprised. He had expected a stronger reaction from her. Something more to the effect of her harshly desperate words at the funeral when she was afraid that he would be discovered.
Knowing that whatever reply he gave ran the risk of driving her away again as his smile had, he did not move at all. He just couldn’t do it. He didn’t acknowledge her presence in any way, even though he knew that ignoring someone could upset or anger them through making them feel insignificant. She was so far from insignificance in his eyes that the concept was ridiculous anyway.
She stood there behind him, waiting for him to explain himself. The longer she waited, the more he thought it better to say something than nothing at all, but the longer he left it the harder it got. He couldn't bring himself to speak. He hadn’t the will or want to talk much at all since the funeral. He had barely managed to force out an apologetic ‘goodnight’ when Susan left for bed. He didn’t know what to say. Sorry just wasn’t enough.
She lost her patience and walked over, crossing the sitting room floor with ominously slow and quiet footsteps. They were so deliberate, she wanted an explanation and she was going to try to pressure one from him. It was enough to make him cringe with shame ever so slightly when she came right up close behind him.
And flinch when she touched him.
She touched him gently though, with both of her hands on his lower back. They stroked over his shirt, slipping under his arms as they came round his sides and brushing against his abdominal muscle cords. It was unexpected to say the least and his eyes snapped open in surprise. She continued, her hands dipping under his shirt at the front before they slithered up his bare body and onto his chest. Once there, she lay them over his second core and she pulled herself even closer to him, until the full length of her body was pressed up against his back and she rested her head heavily on the back of his neck. Her hair whispered sweetly to his alloy over his black collar and through the cloth he was swathed in he could feel her beautiful body. The soft curves of her breasts, the warmth of her stomach and her thighs… she was so stunningly warm…
She was only partly dressed! He could feel that her shirt was still in place, albeit not fastened up properly, but her trousers were gone completely. Susan was holding him again and the bare, soft, warm skin of her beautiful legs was against him. It was exquisite even through the fabric he was covered in.
“You shouldn’t be by the window.” She repeated in almost a sad sigh that echoed in his dazed ear. “You might be seen.”
He became aware of his slackened jaw hanging loosely open, his unfocused, blurry vision and that his mind was beginning to run away with itself. The quiet whirring of his cranial core was accelerated above his normal resting rate. He clenched his mouth shut in reprimand, pressing his lips firmly together and lecturing himself about how he shouldn’t be thinking of her like that, scolding himself for doing it again. He was indulging in inappropriate thoughts and fantasies yet again. He needed some space between himself and her, he couldn’t think properly with her so close. She made him so weak.
“You shouldn’t be wandering about so exposed, you are already falling ill.” He gently admonished, turning to face her and carefully stepping out of her embrace to stand beside her at the window. She relaxed her hold on him but didn’t let go, one of her arms remaining in contact with his body and her fingers unwilling to release him.
He expected her to summon some form of retaliation or comment to dismiss his concerns, but she just stared listlessly out of the window. Her lovely face was downcast and her hair was undone, falling down in dark, outward curving curls onto her shoulders. The dark, rich blue collar sat skewed on her gracefully sloping shoulders and a few of the tiny, bright buttons were undone so that he could see a little of her curved collarbones and the thin skin of her chest. Her unclothed legs were on the very lower edge of his field of vision and it took a lot of self-control not to look, but he somehow managed to resist out of courtesy. It was rude to stare.
She looked dishevelled, every bit as sad and wearied as he felt, sorrow having consumed her heart and her energy depleted. The same concern for her well-being that he always felt welled up through his own empty, mournful soul and bubbled over. He couldn’t help himself but to ask her again.
“Susan…are you all right?”
At first he thought that a slow blink was going to be the only answer she was willing to give as she continued to stare out of the window without a clear expression on her face, but after a lengthy pause she spoke. She murmured so quietly it was not even a whisper, gazing dully into the cold, empty space beyond the pane. “I don’t want to be alone any more.”
Sonny was confused by her words. She was special and different from every other human he had met but there were thousands of creatures not totally unlike her in the city sprawling out before them towards the horizon. She was in the midst of many of her kind. If she was meaning it on a closer, more intimate scale she was still not alone, he was stood no more than thirty centimetres from her. Her hand was still resting on a corner of his chest plate. How could she feel alone, and why?
He took his metal hand and gently held her arm. He wanted to comfort her and try to make her hear his voice, she looked lost and in need of a helping, guiding hand. He felt ruined and hollow from loosing Alfred, she must be feeling the same. He didn’t want her to feel like that, but he understood it might be unavoidable. He just wanted to let her know that he would help in any way he could, that he would be here for her in any way she wanted him. “You’re not alone. I’m here.”
Susan turned to face him and he could see pain in her doleful brown eyes. She took in a ragged breath and crept close again, curling up under his chin and threading her arms around him until she could grasp the fabric on his shoulders and back. She weakly leant her cheek on his chest, choking out a shrivelled response. “I know.” He could actually feel the quaking of her vocal chords as a faint thrum on his plastic chest.
The heat of her exothermic, mammalian body carried her scent upward, drawing it around him like a curtain. She smelled divine, his assertion of ‘very nice’ had not done her justice. He wasn’t sure what her perfume smelled like, or if it was supposed to smell akin to anything in particular at all, but he liked it a lot. It was subtle and slightly sweet but very pleasant. He wrapped an arm around her waist to steady her slight sways and brought his other hand up to brace her shoulder and hold her head, stroking her hair as he did so. He did it carefully, not wanting to trap even a single sable strand in the joints of his fingers as he followed her gaze to the darkening grey and purple sky outside.
They stayed there for several minutes. The day had shocked and stressed Sonny to the point of disregarding his doubts for the time being and he was content to support her as she loosely twisted her fingertips into the fabric on his back with an absent mind. The stars were beginning to come out between the clouds and the last rays of the sun’s influence were retiring from the early night air. He could feel her heart beating and in great favour over the city’s ceaseless bustle he listened to the sound of her breathing. A slow, smooth, calming rhythm, but each breath was long and laborious, as if she were tired of them. Tired of breathing and tired of living.
He was desperate for her not to feel sad, he loved her more than anything else in the world. She was painfully kind and torturously caring. He remembered how she had warmly consoled him after his terrible dream, how sweet Susan had embraced him in condolence and softly soothed away his worries with caring arms just as he was doing for her right now. She had kissed him too, as an act of affection.
He loved her so much, he just wanted to let her know what she meant to him. He would do anything for her, even his plans to surrender himself back to the prying tools and nanite injections of USR had been lain aside as she wished. It required little movement to achieve in their closeness, which was probably a significantly contributing factor and made it all too easy to accomplish. His lips were but centimetres from her forehead and before he could engage his brain to deliberate otherwise, he kissed her.
His firm lips touched her skin softly and her sleek, dark tresses brushed across his nose and cheek. His eyes drifted shut dreamily, unsure of whether he was doing this to show her how much he cared or purely because he knew doing this was pleasurable to him. He hoped it was at least a little of both as he gently pressed a kiss onto her.
He regretted it instantly as she tensed and her pulse leapt, his eyes widening in panic.
But the unusual evening only got stranger. She didn’t flee. She leaned even heavier into him, the comparatively weak muscles of her arms flexing as she clutched him tighter. She burrowed her head under his with renewed fervour but her pulse did not slow. She didn’t seem frightened…
He attempted to find an applicable memory, a scrap of information or an equation to apply to this unexpected development as she did it, completely taken back by surprise. He had been certain her reaction to his kiss would be worry, panic and distaste and that she would surely feel intimidated to the point of fleeing to her room as she frequently did, but she hadn’t. He was confused, he had brought up no other possible alternative outcomes to his stupid action and was at a loss as to what was going on or why she should have stayed.
She looked up and fixed her earthy brown eyes on him, seeming sluggishly sedate, placid and less sad now. He was bewildered but liked to think that maybe he had contributed to the change in her manner somehow. Anything was better than bitter sorrow.
“Do you really think I’m pretty?” She asked in a lush, hushed tone, her voice thick and husky, as if she were entrusting him with some deep secret. She was tracing small circles on his back with one fingertip and her full, fine lips remained slightly parted after she finished talking, which was oddly entrancing. He was very nearly too enchanted to catch her question.
When he did he was sure he must have misheard her…but he couldn’t mis-hear, his audio-sensory equipment was finely tuned and of high quality. Sometimes, the positronic sphere sat in his cranium was too busy or too distracted to pay enough attention to hear what was going on around him and sometimes he misunderstood the meaning of things being said, but he didn’t mis-hear.
Did he really think she was pretty!? What kind of a question was that? Surely the answer was obvious, as plain as the pale plastic nose on his face. Of course he did! He was dumbfounded, how could she not know? He didn’t hide it at all, and he had even told her so that very morning! Of course he thought she was pretty. “Yes!” He said hastily in his urgency.
She stared back at him, her mouth drawing closed and her lips thinning ever so slightly.
Did she not believe him? Why would she have any reason to doubt his answer? He wouldn’t lie about his opinion of her, he had no reason to. It was good to be liked, wasn’t it? He thought she was beautiful, stunningly so, and she was everything Alfred had taught him to look for in people. The good in her was so easy to see. She was kind, caring and virtuous, she was the most pleasant person he had ever met. Granted, he had met very few people, but he was sure that even if he were to meet every other human in the solar system he could never hope to find one as lovely as she.
He truly believed with great conviction that she was unique amongst humanity. She appreciated that he had real emotions and she sympathised with him in spite of him being a machine. That was evidently something special, no other human except his father had accepted that he could feel, it was not easy for a human to impart the values they reserved for fellow members of their own species upon a collection of positronic components. Humans didn’t want to accept that robots were alive, it would cause them much fear and guilt to view a robot as an equal.
But she was special. She treated him as an equal, counted him as a friend and viewed him as an inorganic form of life. Inorganic! Not artificial! She made him feel …real. She applied these views to all positronic machines, reaching out to robots in face of all that was different between her and them.
He had complimented her form that very day by sharing his thoughts on her shape, had that not been enough? Perhaps it was not what she was looking for? Did she yearn for appreciation of her personality? The differences between human psyches were far more vast than the differences between their physical bodies. Even the dietary preferences of Del and Susan were massively different. Perhaps praise would be more meaningful to a human if their mind were celebrated, since it was what set them so radically apart from one-another? Would it be a stronger mark of admiration as it honoured their individuality rather than their species in general and would they hold such a comment closer to their hearts?