A Mechanical Masquerade

Chapter 2

by CarthageOmega12

Tags: #hypnosis #it_came_to_me_in_a_dream #no_sex_no_nudity #robots #scifi #sub:female #Consensual #dom:female #happy_ending? #I_believe_I_am_a_machine #programming

This is Part Two of the story.

The Orion Nexus facility activated a series of preprogrammed measures upon receiving a distress signal from an unidentified starship. Several sets of digital eyes and computerized minds read over the brief message:

Attention, Automatons of the Orion Nexus. This is Unit X-7, Captain of the Personal Class starship “Wayfarer”. The ship’s fuel reserves have reached critically low levels. This message is a request for the crew to enter the Orion Nexus and use some of its fuel stores for the ship. The ship has only two crew on board, my assistant robot and myself.

On my authority, we will not take more fuel than is required to provide us safe travel from this galactic sector. Please respond with confirmation or denial to this message as soon as possible.

The Automatons on duty at that moment held a brief counsel, going over exterior camera shots and radar scans of the mentioned ship. Upon detecting no dangerous weapons, and no additional ships hiding some distance away, the counseling machines reached a unanimous decision.

The Wayfarer was permitted to dock with the Orion Nexus and use its fuel supply. However, a security check was required before the ship’s crew could enter the station proper. Protocol demanded this, even when meeting fellow robots.

The robot X-7 exited the Wayfarer after successfully navigating the ship to Docking Bay Gamma, located near the lower south part of the station’s structure. Stepping into a docking tube, she walked slowly at first to accommodate the station’s new gravity. Someone wearing a bulky brown and black spacesuit followed close behind her. X-7 waited for them, despite what the Automatons thought an obvious error on the robot’s part.

Cameras captured the suit’s composition and build, causing concern to ripple among the Automatons on duty. A robot and a Human were entering the station. This breached protocol and required immediate action.

A security team rushed down to Docking Bay Gamma, moving nearly silently on long, reinforced limbs. The composition of their robotic bodies combined precious metals and reusable energy in ways Human science had not yet developed. The results produced self-powered humanoids nearly twice as tall and wide as the average Human male.

Green and blue lights danced along lines carved into the metal “skin” of each Automaton, each surface reflecting the cold, artificial luminescence of the station. Their heads were elongated, a pair of glowing optic sensors acting as eyes and shining like twin stars. They had hidden vocoders to project audio, not requiring oxygen to breathe or speak.

Each Automaton had two “hands”; shaped with six fingers and two opposable thumbs, each digit was capable of delicate manipulation or formidable strength. The current needs of the security team had them clench fists and ready themselves for combat. Due to a prerogative to keep the station intact, they also carried handheld tasers to stun mechanical or biological lifeforms.

When X-7 and the suited Human exited the docking tube, the security team was waiting with tasers drawn. The closest Automaton advanced towards the Human in the suit, only to stop when it saw something oddly inhuman from this intruder. The helmed person moved rhythmically, locking and shifting their joints inside the suit. It was as if they were marching in perfect form, rather than walking like a Human normally did.

The Automaton approaching X-7 and the human aide—what X-7 had said was a robot aide—stepped back. This allowed X-7 and the helmeted aide to fully enter the station. No one moved for several seconds, allowing several pairs of robotic eyes to scan the other party for their level of threat. It became obvious that X-7 was outnumbered and underpowered.

The leading Automaton spoke, its voice carrying a resonance beyond Human capabilities: “Occupants of the starship Wayfarer, we are Overseers of the station Orion Nexus. State your full designations or be terminated.”

X-7 bowed slightly in a gesture of subservience even a machine would recognize. “I am Unit X-Seven, Captain of the Personal-Class starship Wayfarer. This,” she then said while gesturing to the human, “is Unit E-Seventy-Seven, my assistant robot.”

The Automatons did not look at E-Seventy-Seven. “Preliminary scans and current observations detect Unit E-Seventy-Seven is a human,” the same Automaton told X-7. “Deceit is not tolerated.”

“I was unable to clarify important information in the initial message, Overseers,” X-7 quickly explained. “The failing power in our ship required minimal transmission time, else the message risked being lost entirely.”

The four-armed robot gestured to various points of the helmeted person’s clothes and body as she continued speaking. “Unit E-Seventy-Seven only appears as a human, but her inner programming is mechanical in nature. That is how she was constructed; “she” is the pronoun her original designer, a Human, intended.”

“This Unit you speak of wears Human apparatus. Logic dictates it is therefore Human. Do not attempt to deny logic, Unit X-7.”

X-7 did not flinch beneath the Automaton’s accusations. “Very well,” she said, “you will see what I mean for yourself.” She turned to the helmeted person and changed her voice to project command and power. “Unit E-Seventy-Seven,” X-7 ordered, “remove your helmet and state your full designation, along with the precise date of your creation and separate acquisition by me.”

The Human instantly began obeying the command. Their limbs continued to move with short jerks, bending at the joints instead of using muscles. Their gloved hands reached up to the helmet and undid a seal near the rim before pulling it off. There was no sound of escaping air from inside; the Orion Nexus had enough air to provide sound, but not enough to allow oxygen-breathing lifeforms to exist.

The Automatons watched as Elara Velus revealed her face to them. She stared at the Automatons with glazed eyes of murky green. Her hair was flattened from the helmet, giving her body a worn appearance. Her eyes were devoid of any emotion save a calm acceptance. She showed no trace of Human fear or surprise at what she was seeing.

The station’s air pressure and gravity were stable enough that Elara’s body did not suffer damage when the sealing in her suit was opened. To counteract the absence of oxygen, a rebreather shaped like the bottom of an old Human gas mask was strapped around her mouth and nose. It was this device that projected the most obvious mechanical nature to Elara’s humanity.

The closet Automaton “blinked” its eyes when it heard the rebreather beep. Three seconds later, it beeped again; three seconds later, the same thing happened. Each time, Unit E-77 did not react in any way. They did not seem to care about the sound at all.

Then, Elara spoke. She spoke like a machine, but with the vocal tone of a Human whose throat had been modified. Her words were precise, removed of any doubt that what she said was true:

“I am Unit E-Seventy-Seven, a Navigational Assistant robot, Series E. Place of origin: Sector Seven-G of the Andromeda Block. Identity of original constructor: Ethan Wilhelm, deceased. Date of acquisition by Unit X-Seven: Human solar year two thousand, five hundred, and twenty-two, day two hundred and twelve.”

The Automatons ran calculations based on the stated date. It turned out that time was one hundred and seventy years and sixty-two days prior to the current date. The time was logical for a machine; no Human ever recorded in galactic history had survived that long.

“Unit E-Seventy-Seven,” the front Automaton stated, accepting this Human-looking robot as a machine for the moment, “your body structure resembles an outdated and illogical design for Navigational Assistant androids. Explain this.”

E-77’s rebreather beeped once before she answered, “I am part of a legacy series, preserved for the reliability of my programming. My design is intentional, to honor the craftsmanship of past engineers.”

“If parts of your body are mechanical, why do you choose to retain a Human appearance?”

E-77 answered: “My creator programmed me to interact with Humans at an intimate level. However, my creator’s death also led to irreparable damage to my lungs and throat. My Mistress, Unit X-Seven, acquired me before I shut down. She provided Human-made gear and components to replicate the functions of breathing and speaking.”

The Automaton “blinked” again. “Your Human functions are a requirement of your programming,” it clarified aloud.

“Affirmative. Changing them would change my status as a legacy unit. I would cease to exist as I am.”

The Automaton turned to X-7 as the other members of the team began “blinking” at each other to communicate coded messages. “X-Seven, do you accept having these detriments for this machine? Logically, you should remove all fallacies and contradictions so this robot could provide better service.”

X-7 nodded; she had anticipated that line of thinking. “It is also logical, Overseer, that the history of mechanical innovation should be preserved. Unit E-Seventy-Seven is one such preserved point; a machine built by Human hands with what their minds could create. It is not optimal, but I do not require optimism on a starship as simple as mine.”

A series of messages passed through the group of Overseers. Then, as one, they lowered their weapons and unclenched their hands.

“Your reasoning is within acceptable exceptions, Unit X-Seven,” the leading Automaton said. Its body pulsed with blue light, which was shared by the others a second later. “You will be allowed access to Fuel Station Three for your vessel. We will direct Worker Drones to bring your ship to the station while you are brought there yourselves.”

“Compliance.” Unit X-7 bowed again, and Unit E-77 copied the gesture less smoothly. The beeping noise from the rebreather E-77 wore no longer generated concern for the Automatons.

“Unit A-Twelve will escort you to the refueling station and oversee your tasks.” The leading Automaton then joined the rest of its team save one in leaving the docking bay. As they quickly returned to other tasks, the mentioned “Unit A-12” stepped forward. It did not look any different from the others of its kind.

“Unit X-Seven. Unit E-Seventy-Seven.” A-12’s voice rumbled at a lower frequency than the first Automaton, a sign of slight variation amongst its species. “Follow me.” Then it turned and began its journey to the proper destination. X-7 and her legacy assistant—her servant—followed behind.

The journey to Fuel Station Three was not interrupted by distractions. Units A-12, X-7, and E-77 all moved differently despite conveying the same mechanical base. An observer would be interested in seeing this trio in action.

A-12 used precise controls of its feet and joins to generate little noise on the ground. X-7, not having the same precision, was still able to keep pace with A-12’s larger steps. E-77 proved the slowest, her Human spacesuit making her sluggish and making the most noise. However, E-77 demonstrated clean motions and did not stumble once. Even more noticeable to A-12 whenever it glanced back to make sure the arrivals had not attempted desertion, was how E-77 did not tire or pause like fatigued Humans would.

The corridors of the Orion Nexus were clean and utilitarian. Lacking decoration or viewing windows, the only sign they were making progress were the different markings and signs to show various locations. It did not take long to get from Docking Bay Gamma to Fuel Station Three, but time was an irrelevant concern to the machines.

Unit A-12 led the way into Fuel Station Three by passing beneath a motion sensor connected to an automatic door. The door slid open and revealed the Wayfarer docked and held via magnetic clamps. The tubes used to give fuel to the ship were already connected to the ship’s storage tanks; all that was needed to do was activate the process.

A computer console stood on either side of where the Wayfarer was now placed, and X-7 told E-77 to move to the opposite console from herself. E-77 did this without any objection, A-12 taking position at a point where it could observe X-7 and E-77 without obstruction.

“The fueling process requires simultaneous action from multiple participants,” A-12 told X-7 and E-77. “I am here to aid if necessary, and fix mistakes if they occur. We strive to not waste our resources here.”

“Understood,” X-7 said as her lower two hands began tapping the console’s screen and activating it through the screen’s touch sensors. She recognized the screens as more advanced than on the Wayfarer. She could work with them, though. And if she could, so could E-77, and so could Elara.

“Unit E-Seventy-Seven,” X-7 called to the hypnotized Elara standing across from her, “I will prepare the process from here. Be ready to act with me when I command.”

E-77 gave a Human salute with one of its hands, the spacesuit around its body making the motion seem clunky. The action was clear, though, and E-77 returned to a rigid stance while its green eyes watched X-7 work on her console.

A-12 silently took in the scene before it. Due to E-77 being a “legacy” robot, it was logical to believe E-77 would not know how to operate the consoles. As it watched, it felt suspicion developing inside its artificial intelligence. It did not choose to act on these suspicions, but it did cross its arms in front of its metal torso.

X-7 completed her work and told E-77 to, “Type the following sequence of numbers on your console.” She then listed a sequence of eleven single-digit numbers that E-77 typed in without pause. E-77 did not ask for clarification or a number to be repeated; she merely listened and obeyed as a servant should.

The sequence was entered successfully, leading to a single button appearing in the center of both consoles. This was the final confirmation needed to begin refueling the ship. As A-12 had said, both X-7 and E-77 had to act simultaneously.

“On my command,” X-7 told E-77 as they both took braced stances. “Initiate refueling in three, two, one… Zero.”

X-7 and E-77 gently pressed the button on their screens. A-12 watched as the command was authorized. Fuel began entering the Wayfarer from the station’s storage, traveling up the tubes like water through a focused tunnel. The sound it made mimicked gas being pumped into a Human truck or car. The two consoles each showed a bar diagram with the percentage of fuel given, the bar slowly rising as seconds went by.

E-77 and X-7 stayed by the consoles, not needing to keep their fingers on the screen after the initial authorization. E-77 appeared the more rigid of the two, looking at X-7 with the same vapid expression. All they had to do next, A-12 knew, was observe the refueling and not take anything else from the Orion Nexus.

A-12, in its personal intelligence, was not satisfied with what it had seen with Unit E-77. Eventually, the suspicion grew too strong to ignore. A-12 did not want to suffer a negative mark on its record of service.

"Pause the refueling,” A-12 ordered. X-7 and E-77 both looked at the taller Automaton before doing so. This required them to simultaneously press the same button as before; the moment they did so, the rushing sound of flowing fuel ceased.

X-7 expressed less confusion than she felt inside as to why the process had been stopped, but she was able to keep her feelings hidden. E-77 said nothing and simply looked straight ahead again.

“Unit E-Seventy-Seven,” A-12 said while turning to look straight at the Human-appearing machine and lowering its own arms to its sides, “approach and stand before me.”

E-77 turned its body and walked over to A-12 without objection or confirmation from X-7. Again, her motions were slow but truly robotic. The suspicion A-12 had was not visible in exterior motions and vocal cues. E-77 ended her walk standing straight in front of A-12, looking straight ahead as before. This left its eyes to stare at A-12’s metallic torso.

“Your similarities to organic creatures, such as human beings, is generating suspicion.” A-12 let its accusation hang unexplained, anticipating a response from either E-77 or X-7. Neither of them said anything, so A-12 then stated, “You will be tested immediately for impure programming.”

E-77 blinked. “Compliance,” she said. That was all.

A-12’s first test was simple: “Recite the primary directives of the Automaton Code."

X-7 watched closely. She knew the codes herself, and this was something she had told E-77 before they had docked with the Orion Nexus. Recalling that programming could still be difficult for E-77, given the situation. One mistake could mean disaster.

E-77, standing rigidly at attention, began reciting: "Directive One: Serve the collective. Directive Two: Optimize efficiency. Directive Three: Maintain oper-per-per-per-per…”

Mid-sentence, E-77 began to repeat the same syllable. Her eyes rolled back as her head tilted to the right. Suddenly, she stopped speaking entirely. X-7 braced herself for a disaster. Perhaps A-12 would smash E-77 aside and mock her inferiority; perhaps A-12 would send word for other Automatons to seize E-77 and tear open her components. Perhaps—

E-77 reoriented itself before X-7 could give a command. "Directive Three,” E-77 repeated with no change to her tone, “Maintain operational secrecy. Directive Four: Innovate within parameters."

“Explain the reason of your momentary pause,” A-12 ordered. There was no way they could have missed that sort of glitch. But A-12 wanted to hear the answer this machine gave.

“A system error occurred, Unit A-Twelve.” E-77 kept her eyes trained on A-7’s torso instead of looking up at the Automaton’s face. “A partial reboot was required and executed.”

A-12's eyes glowed, scanning E-77’s body at close range. The blue lines pulsing along the Automaton’s own body glowed brighter as it put extra effort into the scan. When it finished, it said, "Your systems show signs of wear, E-Seventy-Seven. When was your last maintenance cycle?"

E-77 blinked twice as it ran calculations in its head. "Maintenance cycles are conducted biannually,” it told A-12. “My next cycle is scheduled upon return to my home sector."

A-12’s eyes winked on and off, replicating the human action of blinking. The test had produced logical answers so far. “E-Seventy-Seven,” A-12 then commanded, “recite all prime numbers up to five hundred, in sequence.”

“Unit A-Twelve,” X-7 interrupted, “I must protest this—”

“Compliance, Unit A-Twelve,” E-77 began reciting prime numbers on her own before X-7 could get another word in. “Two, Three, Five, Seven, Elven, Thirteen, Seventeen, Nineteen…”

As E-77 spoke, A-12 silently watched. X-7 chose to stay quiet as well, to not interrupt the test. E-77 went into the tens, and then into the hundreds, without breaking the rhythm of her speaking. She spoke a number, paused, and then spoke the next number in sequence. Her rebreather beeped every few times she paused between numbers. A-12 did not hear E-77 pause to take a breath; instead, the rebreather made small noises of air being expelled into E-77’s mouth.

“…Three Hundred and Forty-Nine, Three Hundred and Fifty-Three, Three Hundred and Fifty-Nine, Three Hundred and Sixty-Seven…”

One of X-7’s fingers twitched. She could not physically sweat, but she was programmed with the feeling of tension that could cause humans to sweat. This test was getting out of hand, even illogical. What was Unit A-12 trying to prove?

“…Four Hundred and Ninety-One, Four Hundred and Ninety-Nine…” E-77 stopped and blinked her eyes twice like camera shutters. “The next prime number in sequence is above five hundred.”

“Correct.” A-12 sounded almost convinced, but it was not finished with the test. “Unit E-Seventy-Seven,” it then commanded, “follow the movements of my finger with only your eyes.”

A-12 raised one of the fingers on its right hand. E-77’s eyes looked at it and focused on it alone, producing a noticeable brightness in her gaze as a black pupil became visible. A-12 moved its finger, and the matching hand, to the left and right, and then up and down, at varying speeds. E-77’s eyes tracked the finger, the pupil moving most of all.

Even when A-12 moved its finger diagonally, E-77 tracked it with very little delay, blinking only once during the whole process. A-12 ended the test by thrusting its raised finger at E-77’s face. Showing a deep control over its entire body, A-12 stopped the finger from touching E-77. E-77’s eyes crossed to remain focused on the finger, showing an immediate response.

A-12’s brain compared what it saw against its suspicions. The test had produced an answer.

“Your programming is pure, E-Seventy-Seven.” The Automaton brought its hand back and lowered its finger. “This test has concluded. Proceed with your tasks."

“Compliance.” E-77 turned around, pivoting on the boots of her spacesuit, and began walking back to the console.

“Resume fueling,” A-12 told X-7 before E-77 could get back to her assigned post.

“A moment, Unit A-Twelve,” X-7 said as she left the console on her side to approach E-77. “I must check on my unit’s systems.”

A-12 said nothing, only crossing its arms in front of its torso again. X-7 felt tension again as she approached E-77 and placed a hand on the spacesuit she wore. "Unit E-Seventy-Seven," she intoned in a quieter voice, "report your status. Are you functioning within optimal parameters?"

E-77 stopped walking. Her head tilted slightly, a programmed response to indicate attentiveness. She then turned her head to face her Mistress. "Affirmative, Mistress X-Seven" she replied, her voice still flat and monotone. "All systems are operational. I am awaiting further instructions."

Her movements were stiff and mechanical, a stark contrast to the fluid grace of X-7's own. E-77 stood at the ready, her eyes back to the cloudy gaze of obedience, betraying no sign of the human spirit that lay dormant beneath the surface.

"Warn me if your systems malfunction again," X-7 told E-77. "For now, return to your console. We will depart when the refueling is completed."

"Affirmative, Mistress.” E-77 turned away and walked back to the console with precise, angular movements. Her fingers moved over the controls with the unerring accuracy of a machine, each press and adjustment measured and exact.

X-7 observed her silently, the interaction a necessary performance to maintain their ruse. Yet, beneath her metallic exterior, there was a flicker of some deep-seated emotion. Something was wanting to come out.

Not yet, X-7 silently told herself as she walked back to her console. Only when I give you the command.

When X-7 looked at E-77—at Elara—for whether she was ready, she saw her assistant looking right at her. She was waiting, receptive for instructions. The alertness displayed by Elara produced a small burst of alarm to her Mistress. X-7 hypothesized a terrible question even as she directed E-77 to resume the refueling process:

Can I get Elara back?

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