Thursday, Agua Venenosa, part two

Feb 9, 2013 by     Comments Off on Thursday, Agua Venenosa, part two    Posted under: Adam Drew This, Brian Wrote This, Fiction, Sketchbook
In which we learn the mad scientist’s secret origin over scrambled eggs and mimosas, amid key bursts of plot exposition.  Our hapless antihero tries to figure out what he’s doing, and which pop-star simulacrum he’s supposed to do it with.
Or return to the Art Preview, or Part One.

Two: Matters of Taste

“The next iterations will have taste buds,” Morii tells me between mouthfuls of scrambled eggs. We are at either end of a long table. Three Evangelines sit to my left—the dominatrix, the lingerie temptress, and the tattooed bartender-turned-jewel-thief (Ruby Port, 2025), while at my right are the fresh-scrubbed lifeguard and Resisting Arrest‘s DEA agent who falls for a drug lord. Each Evangeline has a ludicrously small plate of food and a mimosa in a delicately tapering crystal glass. The plates are crystal as well.

“Taste buds?” I’m on my second mimosa, because I’m supposed to be decadent, but I’m hoping coffee will follow. A world without caffeine is not much of a world, in my experience, and nicotine won’t be my backup stimulant now that I have no lighter. Just as well—smoking is part of my character, but the real me, to the degree that there is one, hates it. “Why create robots with taste buds?”

“It makes us more human,” Burning Eden Evangeline purrs. “It opens a new sensual vista.”

The Evangelines pick at their food. The real one, always fashionably gaunt, probably does, too, come to think of it.

“They have the capacity to process small quantities of food and drink, for the sake of appearances, but of course they cannot enjoy it,” Morii says. There is a canary-yellow fluff of egg on his chin. “I have programmed them to appreciate the meaning of food—to respond to the psychological value of a perfectly prepared lobster and excellent champagne versus take-out pizza and cheap beer—but they don’t actually react to taste the way, you will have seen, that they react to touch.”

“You know, this is all great, but the real Evangeline Vivre is going to sue you down to the molecular level,” I say.

Morii laughs. “My Evas are just a diversion, done as personal proof of concept. They will never leave this compound, of course. Each is connected to a proprietary Wi-Infi network that permeates only this compound, and should they venture beyond its range, they would become as lifeless as a Barbie.”

“Some kind of kill switch?” I say, my mouth full. No one told me I’d have to carry out my human-sized package.

“More than that,” Morii says. “Their intelligences are actually resident in the private cloud—each model is a terminal served by the network. Beyond its range, they are all hardware, no software.”

“That’s got to limit their commercial viability,” I note.

“The public models will be done in a variety of pleasing but non-infringing forms,” he says. “And I have no doubt that there will be licensed models, porn-star simulacrums, like the rubber blow-up dolls of our youths.”

Morii, I was always remembering, had obviously had a different childhood than mine.

* * *

“I grew up in a Japan of economic collapse,” Morii tells me as we stroll the wide inner courtyard of his fortified compound. It’s like the inner courtyard of a traditional Mexican house, except it’s about half the size of a football field and terraced in virginal white slate that glitters with tiny flecks of quartz, as though the whole place has been dusted in ground diamonds. Which is exactly the kind of thing Morii would do. “I was fourteen years old when the bubble burst. Can you imagine what it is like to grow up with a sense of cradle-to-grave security in a highly conformist society, only to have it all swept away at the same moment you discover rock and roll, ludicrous haircuts and Marlon Brando?”

Morii’s black hair, with fine threads of silver, has been bleached a fire orange at the tips and teased (or neglected) into an Einstein halo. I cannot imagine what sort of hairstyle he’d consider ludicrous. I pass a look at the Evangeline who has accompanied us (Dominatrix Eva, which I’m suspecting is her maker’s personal favorite), but the robot is incapable of sharing the sentiment behind my eye roll. Maybe she’s not the one I’m here to steal.

“I always thought that the average Japanese family wasn’t significantly hurt when the bubble burst,” I say, to keep him talking. Quick math tells me that Morii must now be 57. My intel hadn’t provided his exact age, because virtually nothing is known about this guy before he showed up in post-Cartel Armistice Juarez seven years ago and set up his technological funhouse in the orderly lawlessness of the world’s first recognized narco-state.

“I did not know you were a student of economics, Mr. Giordano.” He gives me a sly, sideways glance that makes me nervous. It suggests a conspiracy that I’m not aware we share. “But you see, mine was not an average Japanese family. I had aristocratic roots on my mother’s side, much chest-thumping about samurai blood, while my father was common as dirt. This produced a keen sense of inadequacy that drove him, I think, and by the mid-eighties he was a well-placed executive at a major electronics concern. We had a large house with a wall and a yard and a very desirable address. We traveled, my father drove me around in his Ferrari, and he drank blue-label whiskey like it was tap water. My mother dressed like she thought she was Audrey Hepburn or Jacqueline Onassis, and might as well have been.”

“Very impressive,” I say, because he has paused to allow me to say something. The large courtyard (or small plaza) is flanked by porticos, the bone-white columns blinding under the Mexican sun. It’s barely past noon and the temperature is nearly 100 degrees. Morii is wearing a short sleeved Hawaiian shirt—the print such a vivid green it could be seen from one of those space-tourist hotels—and his skinny arms, the color of half-cooked chicken, lack the oily sheen of sunscreen. I’m hoping he won’t keep us out here too long—I’m wearing long-sleeve high-UVpro Gortex over enough sunscreen to cause an eclipse, and I can still feel dermal cells bursting like a row of microscopic firecrackers.

“Very impressive,” Morii agrees. “Four years after the Nissei collapsed, he was unemployed. Two years after that, and for the rest of his career, he was part of a new class of “temporary” workers. Lower pay, fewer benefits, no pension. Currently accounting for about 55 percent of Japan’s workforce.”

“That’s quite a fall,” I allow. As Morii squints over the red-tiled roof of his compound at the cloudless, washed-out sky, the Evanatrix pinches my ass hard enough to rip off a chunk. I swat her hand away and she licks her curled red lips. I’m definitely not stealing this one.

“A poor endorsement of collectivism and playing by the rules,” Morii says.

I intercept the dominatrix-bot’s hand as she reaches for my other, unmolested cheek and glare up at her—five-eleven in platform thighboots, shrinkwrapped in gleaming black latex. I remember her last night, gleaming in synthetic perspiration, and raise an eyebrow. “Shouldn’t you be sweating in all that?”

“That response is deactivated in non-erotic contexts.” She grins. “Would you like to recontextualize?”

“I don’t heal that quickly,” I answer, letting her hand go and stepping just out of reach. Morii laughs.

He claps his hands together and looks at me with the eagerness of a schoolboy about to de-wing a bottleful of horseflies. “Would you like to see my workspace?”

Why the fuck would Colin Giordano, dissolute dealer in bootlegged decium chips, want to tour a robotics lab? Giordano sells hot processors, he doesn’t make stuff with them. I shrug, but Morii is already turning toward the rear end of the courtyard, where the colonnade gives way to a taller building, a windowless four-story cube, tiled perfectly white, like something God would use for a paperweight.

 

Up next, things go from weird to worse, and Adam’s centerpiece poster is his best (and kinkiest) yet.  Part Three!

 

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