Authors: Roxy Mews
Tags: #Science Fiction;Artificial Intelligence;Romance
Pleasure is not a malfunction.
Coral-600 is the first and only one of her kind. An artificial intelligence prototype with realistic skin over her metal frame, she was deemed too expensive for mass production and gifted to the royal family.
She cannot legally have a relationship with a human, and it never entered her electronic brain to want moreâto break the law. Until she meets Quinn, and her DNA-enhanced skin tingles with a completely new sensation. Desire.
His body damaged beyond repair in the war, Quinn survivedâbarelyâby agreeing to have much of it rebuilt. His royal relatives have taken him in, but it's tough adjusting to a body that doesn't come with instructions.
As Coral helps Quinn cope with his new body, the connection between them reaches the melt-down point. But unless she can convince the authorities that humanity runs deeper than flesh and bone, she'll have her CPU wiped cleanâpermanently.
Warning: This book contains artificial and natural flavors, lubricant (lots and lots of lubricant), and fun with oh-so-hard drives.
For Dan. Thanks for cleaning all those dishes so I didn't have to drink my coffee out of a bowl while I was writing this. Believing in me didn't hurt either, and I can't wait to pop the next champagne cork with you.
Thanks to Morgan, Jamie and Toni for reading the early versions. Let's bunk together when the robots take over.
I always watched humanity from a distance. As a servant, I never wanted to do anything but my job before. Living in the castle with the royal family was to make their lives more convenient, not mine. I'm programmed to please the royal family. Every time I told a stranger it was my job to please the king they would laugh behind their hands and turn from me until they could make their faces more somber. I had no idea what they were giggling about.
The Coral-600, that's my model number, was not programmed with slang and local cultural vernacular. The Coral-600 was supposed to pick that up. Well, the Coral-600 wasn't able to do that. Why? Because people whispered. They didn't explain. I was supposed to learn things from the people around me and be able to blend in, but no one would answer my questions. They shouldn't notice I'm here, and for the longest time, they didn't. Then
came to visit.
Quinn was not informed of my robotic status. He was told I was “the help” and to be ignored. There were other robotic servants in the household, and other machines, but I was the only one with artificial intelligence-based programming. The queen's intelligence and her manners were quite artificial, but I'd been told that is impolite to say out loud.
Etiquette was programmed into my initial database, but that's an ever-changing set of data points. Humans have changed so much since I was initially turned on. I've served through three generations of royals and each and every one of them was determined to change something. I have been given many uniform changes as well, but have yet to find one that I like better than my own skin. My mechanics are covered with skin, and that is quite enough cover if you asked me. Which, of course, no one ever did, and it would be improper etiquette for me to volunteer that information.
The few times people did inquire about me, it was only about my physiology. My skeleton and internal organs are human engineered. It's all accessible through the Parliamentary library, but from what I understand, the royal family has chosen to keep my existence to themselves. They don't seem to mind when I discuss my body with others, only when I attempt to do so nude.
I'm not all machine. I was bio-engineered to have skin, and hair, and eyes and all of the nerves and touch receptors of a human. I was also given ears, but they're only for aesthetics. It's my understanding that the Coral-100 was designed without ears and was poorly received. Personally, the extra orifice is not a pleasure to maintain, but I'm the only “Coral” to still exist. If ears let that happen, so be it.
Quinn had ears as well. In the weeks he was in the palace I never saw him trim hair from his like the king does, and I attempted to watch him as often as possible. Quinn didn't interact with the royals like other visitors. He didn't eat with them at meals, and he didn't partake in coffee in the morning. He must not malfunction without coffee like the queen does.
I was in the process of replacing the drapery I'd cleaned when Quinn first spoke to me. I noticed him watching me as I positioned the tails to hold the panels open and allow the morning sunlight in. When I turned to him to see what he needed, he had to look up to focus on my eyes.
“I apologize for staring. Your name is Coral, right?”
I nodded and waited for him to place his request.
Quinn's brow furrowed. His head turned slightly to the side and I noticed that his facial hair glistened in the sun coming through the clean windows. I made note to always have the windows spotless. The stubble on his face was enhanced by the sunlight, and it would be a shame to deprive the rest of the palace of his beauty.
I realized a bit too late that I was not replying in a manner that was pleasing to him. Before I could correct my mistake he began to leave.
“I'm sorry. Iâ¦I justâ¦nevermind.”
I watched him go down the hall to his room. He was pleasing to view as he walked away as well. He had excellent musculature. His shoulders were broad and the muscles beneath his shirt moved harmoniously as he walked.
But I returned promptly to my tasks as he rounded the corner. I had put myself twenty-three seconds behind my usual schedule. I adjusted my pace to correct the deficiency.
I'm supposed to work during the day and only interact on my own free time after dinner is served. I have survived by following the rules. I haven't been replaced or recycled in three generations. I would hate for them to notice me too much and realize the human skin I wore and maintained was changing.
Donations of skin were rare, and unfortunately my manufacturers went through six transplants before the cells fused to my biometal properly. The specimen I currently wore was from a young female model. In order to maintain her skin's elasticity and youthful appearance, cells from quickly-regenerating sea life were infused into it.
Quinn had a youthful appearance to his skin as well. He filled the doorways when he entered the room. When he came to decline his place at the dinner table for the fifth night in a row, I noticed his symmetry ended at his waist. His penis was far too large to be contained in the trousers he wore, and was slung to the left.
I was working dinner service with the other maids that evening and Paisley, one of the staff on duty, shoved her elbow into my side.
“Stop staring at his package.” She whispered into my audio receptors.
Paisley knew I was mechanics and was one of the few people who spoke to me as she would other humans. I appreciated that. I also appreciated that Paisley would explain when I was doing something wrong. But this time I was confused.
“He has no parcel in his hands. I was looking at his penis.”
Paisley made a snorting sound I knew meant she was attempting to conceal laughter.
“It's bad manners to look at a man's penis before your first date. At least, it's bad manners to be caught doing it,” she explained.
“All men with large penises should wear kilts. Then their penises wouldn't interrupt the lines of their otherwise symmetrical bodies.” I looked at Quinn's penis again, even though I wasn't supposed to. “Or perhaps they should just live naked. That would be even more pleasing.”
Staring at Quinn's package was something else I added to inappropriate etiquette that night. I was sent back to my chambers early that evening.
The housekeeping programmer, Miss Matilda, had dismissed me quickly when my mouth began to salivate at the thought of Quinn nude below the waist. I would have asked one of the other maids if their salivary glands were malfunctioning as well, but Quinn had smiled at me, and I decided the research wasn't necessary at that moment.
I made sure to tip the edges of my lips into a similar smile. I did not want to be rude. A man should definitely receive a smile when he had such an impressively-sized penis. The human women on staff got to stay because they could control their salivary glands in Quinn's presence. For the first time in my memory, I really wanted to be human.
Sitting quietly in my room made me uncomfortable. I was programmed to constantly gather more information. I have the desire to learn new things. This drive kept me from being recycled as well.
“Coral. Could you please put on some clothes? Geez.” Paisley Compton shared my living space. She had volunteered to live with me because it gave her full access to the bathroom. Aside from the time I took to clean my skin and hair I didn't need to use the other facilities as long as I didn't consume human food or drink.
“I am in my room. You told me before that this was the only place for me to be without clothes that was acceptable. Has this changed?” I looked at Paisley and waited for her to answer. She threw my uniform into my lap. I caught it, of course. My reflexes were perfect.
“Normally I don't care if you cavort around our room and flaunt that flawless skin. It gives me great motivation to skip dessert and makes me mildly question my sexuality, butâ¦” Paisley stopped and waved her hands to hurry me up. I reluctantly replaced my uniform. I didn't bother with the undergarments. My roommate smiled and continued to walk around the room in an agitated matter. “We have a visitor.”
I stopped buttoning my blouse halfway up to my neck. “We don't have friends. Who is visiting us?”
“I have friends.” Paisley was upset that I pointed this out, but she didn't socialize outside of her trips to the town tavern on the weekends. She shook herself and forced her mouth into a smile. “And you're my friend, Coral.”
I found an odd warm sensation at that comment. I was a useful servant, and a maintenance-free appliance, but no one had ever called me a friend before.
“Then you are my best friend, Paisley.”
“Aww.” Paisley squeezed her arms around me, and I returned her greeting. “You're so sweet, Coral.”
“You haven't tasted me, how do you know my flavor?” I pulled from the embrace. “Besides, you are my only friend, therefore you will automatically be my best friend.”
“Coral, we really need to work on your people skills, but I don't have time for a lesson. Quinn is going to be here in a couple minutes.”
“Why is Quinn coming to our room? Doesn't he have his own? I refreshed the entire west wing for his visit.” The queen had wanted every room freshened before he came. He only used one room, but apparently the dust covers were creepy.
Quinn staying at the palace had doubled my workload, but I got a lot of help from the other mechanical staff. We worked through the night just as easily as through the day. Some of them did need recharge time, but give us a few extension cords and we were in business. My own body was powered by a perpetual motion mechanism, but magnetic recharge stations seemed to give me an extra jolt of energy. Paisley called it my mechanical coffee.
“Quinn pulled me aside after dinner and asked if he could talk with you. I think he likes you.” Paisley squealed. Her high pitch was grating on my gears, but even more so on my circuits. Once again I did not understand her excitement, but unlike everyone else over the decades, Paisley would explain.
“I don't understand.”
Paisley sat down on the small bench at the foot of her bed. She patted the space next to her and I understood the signal as her wanting me to sit next to her.
“Coral, we've been roommates for a long time now.”
“You have only worked in the palace for six years.”
Paisley huffed her breath and the bangs she wore these days jumped off her forehead. She did this when she explained things to me. She became frustrated when I didn't grasp certain concepts “Coral, that's a long time for people. A lot of marriages don't last this long. But that's not my point. Before I arrange this I need to know howâ¦erâ¦lifelike you are.”
“My skin regenerates, and my motors are perpetual. I am very lifelike.”
“Noâ¦I mean, I know you have breasts, because you have them on display every night. You also obviously have all the outer lips that lend to the womanly look, but do you have a happy girl bean?” Paisley lowered her eyes and looked where my legs met my torso.
Oh. “Are you asking if I have a clitoris?”
“Unsexiest word ever. Who names our body parts? But, yes. Do you have the internal and external parts of our bodies that let us get horizontal with hotties? And more importantly, do you know how to enjoy having them? Even if you don't, you still have breasts and a mouth, and most men can make due with those anyway.”
Paisley was off on her long soliloquies that I would record in my inner ear monitor and ask her to explain later. It was difficult for me to sort through all of her information, and I was getting ready to move the audio files to my research database when I realized she was frowning at me.
“So do you?”
“You asked eighteen questions. Which one should I answer first?”
Paisley bit her bottom lip and puffed up her bangs again. “I'm going to hear a recording of myself again later, aren't I?”
“It's a good thing I like the sound of my own voice. Do you have working lady bits?”
Paisley called a vagina lady bits. She also called it other things like a love canal and a happy hole. “I have a vagina.”
“Okay, check that off the list. Now. Does it work?”
“A vagina is a hole into the body. Yes, I have one. I don't have a uterus, so my vagina cannot produce offspring or menstruate. I was also given a clitoris. It was included in the complete skin and nerve fiber transfer.”
“Yeah, I'm not going to tell you how jealous I am of the no-period part. What I mean is, can you experience the best part of sex? Can your eyes roll back after a ride on the climax coaster?” Paisley held my hands and pulled them into her lap.
“Do you want to have intercourse with me?” I knew Paisley preferred men, and this was all very confusing.
“If I swung that way, in a second, but no. I'm asking because I think Quinn wants to have sex with you.”
“That's not part of my job in the palace. The queen made that very clear when I first began my service for her.” I pulled my hands from Paisley's. I was owned by the palace, but I did not like the idea of being a sex android. Sex was supposed to involve emotion. I didn't want to have sex because I didn't have emotions. At least, I didn't think I did.
Some of the education I had received from Paisley had me experiencing the world differently, and I wondered if the way my sea life DNA was working its way into my mechanics wasn't affecting the circuitry. I collected data differently since I met her. The data from Quinn seemed to process very differently.
“Honey, I'm not saying it's your job. I'm wondering if you would
to.” Paisley just stared at me.
She had learned to wait for me to process things. Sometimes I needed more time to process. Did I want to have sex?
“Why do you have sex, Paisley?”
“Because it feels good. It relieves stress. I'm sure it also makes my skin much more vibrant.” Paisley leaned in. “And it. Feels. Good.”