Thursday, Agua Venenosa, part three

Feb 11, 2013 by     Comments Off on Thursday, Agua Venenosa, part three    Posted under: Adam Drew This, Brian Wrote This, Fiction, Sketchbook
In which we are given a tour of the high-tech lab, meet more robots, and things begin to go wrong.  The robots are not as sexy as the ones we’ve met so far, but they are a lot better armed.
Or return to the Art Preview, or read Part One or Part Two.

Three: Quintessentially Me

We cross the paths of two Evangelines in the antiseptic corridors of the celestial paperweight. They’ve changed clothes, so at first I’m not certain whether they were among my quintet of playmates, or represent another wave of celebrity effigies. If Morii has more of these hidden around the complex, I may never figure out which one I’m supposed to boost out of here. Vague intel and a half-assed mission brief are a sure way to get killed—I should’ve known better than to take this job.

One of the Evas is wearing a closely fitted graphite blazer and short, tight skirt over a blood-red silk blouse, open at the throat. Her hair is up in a neatly arranged French twist. The other sports a long pony tail, set high on her head, and wears a gold tank top and tight, tapering jeans.

“Jenny was having trouble with the wireless,” Ponytail says. “Jenny” was the Vivre character in Resisting Arrest, and then I recognize the outfit. At the same time, I recognize that Ponytail is dressed as the off-duty lifeguard right before Bikini Sunrise‘s first big sex scene. “We came to do a quick diagnostic.”

Triplet Vivres follow us through a security door. Morii opens it by flattening his palm on a touchpad on the wall and leaning toward a small slit where a blue glow accompanies a retina scan. Inside the door, an armed guard is shaped like Jimmy Darren, Vivre’s megahot costar in Burning Eden. This black-clad Darren shows no emotion, no reaction to our presence, and has none of the smoldering charm that marks Darren every’s monotone performance.  I note that he also lacks pores or the slightest wrinkle or blemish. He looks waxen, whereas the Evas would pass unnoticed for human in any crowd—if Evangeline Vivre could pass unnoticed anywhere on Earth, of course.

“Earlier prototype,” says Morii, noting my scrutiny of the guard.

“Freestyle, tactile, all the while free to be what you see, quintessentially me,” says the lifeguard, a snatch of playful rap from some Vivre song I can’t place. If the song was on the Bikini Sunrise soundtrack, I don’t remember it, and I’ve probably streamed that film four or five times. Morii cocks his head at the nonsequitur, but then we reach the lab and he’s immediately absorbed in the technical difficulties of his faux fed.

Jenny-the-randy-DEA-agent settles into a chair that might’ve been dental surplus, except for the three ceramic electrodes coming out of the head rest, which she places against her temples and forehead.

“I was going to have a jack at the base of the neck, because that’s so classic,” Morii says from a touchscreen built into the smoked-glass desk along the wall. “But I didn’t want to compromise verisimilitude.”

DEA Eva’s eyes move from me to Morii, just at the periphery of her vision, without concern. Attentive, but without the anxiety of a patient under medical exam. At the other end of the lab, Eva the dominatrix is curling the lifeguard’s pony tail around her latex-gloved hand like it’s a tether. She’s slinky and devious, while the lifeguard pays almost no mind, watching me instead.

“So what’s the problem?” I ask Morii as he swipes through screens of wireframe images and scrolling data. If DEAva is my target, and defective, can I wait for repairs before the extraction? You’ll know which one, I’ve been told. And don’t make your move until you do. If they’re all essentially the same except for wardrobe, why does it even matter?

There’s so much I don’t know here, including how I’ll get the right robot to my car. I figured out last night that the Evas are surprisingly light for machines, but a hundred-fifty pounds of plastic and ceramic is still a hundred and fifty pounds. My half-baked plan now is to identify my target by late afternoon and borrow her before dinner, ostensibly for a one-on-one apéritif, but actually dragging her to my car and hoping the cartel enforcers don’t try to pull me over before I get us into the highly fortified compound of the U.S. consulate.  It would be easier if I could bring back just a head, but no one sends me the easy jobs.

Morii mutters his way through the diagnostic data, and here in his natural element seems less like the glib, swaggering cartoon and more like a genuine scientific genius, perhaps a generation ahead of his contemporaries and utterly devoted to crazy things like making celebrity android sex toys and palm-sized military drones capable of autonomously navigating a target’s house and killing him on the toilet. (You don’t own a couple square blocks’ worth of outer Juarez without having seriously tapped the military-industrial-narco complex.)

“You like my lab, Mr. Giordano?” Morii asks, now running his fingers slowly along DEAva’s forehead like a techno-phrenologist. His eyes are closed. DEAva’s are fixed on me.

“Sure.” I glance around the room. It’s maybe thirty feet long by fifteen, ringed with a glass counter. The glass is a smoky green-gray, like a wine bottle full of diesel exhaust. There are touchscreens built in at intervals, enough to host a team of six, though I know Morii works entirely alone. Between the staggered screens, the countertop is a riot of wires and parts and tools, and blocky devices that must be ad-hoc test equipment that Morii cobbles from stripped parts to suit his unique needs. Above the counters are plain cabinets, the same featureless white as the rest of the room. In the middle of each short wall is a door, one of them the one we all came through. “I mean, a lab’s a lab, right? I’m more a sales and marketing guy than R&D, you know?”

He steps away from DEAva, and speaks softly to her. “I’ll have to fix you tomorrow, my darling.” His patient removes the diodes, and her master grins at me. “Yes, that’s right. Illicit merchandising is the province of Colin Giordano.”

“Yep, and I’m eager to close a deal.” I do not like the feline gleam in Morii’s eyes. It’s something a professional rat can’t fail to notice.

“Of course.” Then Morii says another name, with the same shit-eating grin, and this time it is my real name. The sound of it is like the kick of a defibrillator. Morii touches a finger to his smartband and the far door, opposite our entry point, springs open, Two more Jimmy Darrens enter, clad in black suits with skinny black ties, pointing guns at me. They’re ceramic, the guns, and the color of a cheap flower pot. Weirdly, they match the Jimmies’ dress shirts. Though I don’t recognize the guns’ model, I’d go 50-50 that they fire nonlethal ordinance. But nonlethal ordinance hurts like a bitch, and is not necessarily non-crippling ordnance at such short range.

“I am trying to figure out what exactly you are after,” Morii says. He shrugs. “There are many things, of course, but which makes a U.S. spy so eager to visit my little ranchero and spend his time playing with my toys?”

“First off, I have no idea what you’re talking about, and if this is some hardball negotiation technique, it’s not going to work,” I say. “And second, if I wanted anything besides to sell you the decium chips your enterprise so definitely needs, it would be one of your playful sex kittens for my own.”

Though a lot of my attention is absorbed by the muscular robots with guns, I see that Morii is intrigued. He can’t tell whether I’m staying in character or have just confessed my actual objective. When facing a lunatic genius with no qualms about violence, intellectual puzzles are a literal lifesaver.

“I told you, my Evas are private-cloud intelligences confined to this compound,” he says. “Remove them, and the mind shuts down and the self-destruct initiates.”

“What?” I consider this information, deciding that Morii probably isn’t going to lie about specs. At the same time, I’m still in character, and indignant as all hell. “Are you telling me I spent all night in bed with five live bombs?”

“They do not explode, you cretin,” Morii says. “They simply fry internally in such a way as to leave nothing useful to analyze or reverse-engineer. And I saw the video—if they had been bombs, you certainly wouldn’t have set them off.”

“That’s hurtful,” I say. I’m facing Morii, two Johnnies and a pair of Evangelines. More hyper-strong, feel-no-pain humanoids than I want to fight. “Hurtful, and also very creepy. You wanna put an end to this little muscle show and we can sit down and trade semiconductors for bullion?”

Morii’s expression doesn’t change, and his lips don’t even move. “Shoot him,” he says, and the sharp crack comes so fast it nearly drowns out the second word.


Next:  Our hapless hero finally learns which android he’s supposed to hijack—but does he figure it out too late?  Part Four awaits …


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