“End programming sequence.”
Tess’s eyes filled up with life again. She noticed Ash looking at her, and turned crimson.
“…this isn’t what it looks like!”
“So, you werent’t brainwashing yourself just a few seconds ago?”
She stammered, her mind grasping at a possible justification, finding none.
“This was supposed to be an anniversary gift,” she said defeatedly.
Her partner was looking at her intently, silently nudging her on.
“I know how you like robots,” she continued, “and I…I dunno, I wanted to surprise you with a perfectly programmed…me.”
“That would be lovely.” The warmth in Ash’s voice was comforting. “What kind of robot?”
“Well, the obedient kind, of course,” she said, blushing a little. “I don’t think a GlaDOS scene is covered by blanket consent…” They both laughed at the joke.
Ash shot her an enigmatic look. “Would they be programmable?” they said. They seemed to be trying to coax a particular answer out of her, but Tess didn’t know which.
She considered the question. “I mean, probably, yeah. There’s no reason I wouldn’t, um, obey an order to start behaving in a certain way.”
“Ah. A lot of potential from mischief, then.”
“Well I did put in safeties and everything!” she quickly added, suddenly self-conscious. “I know how important it is, I wanted to do it right…”
“So you wanted to be an obedient, programmable robot for me.” Ash was stating the obvious, but just hearing it spoken out loud made her squirm a bit. They noticed.
“You know,” they said, “I’m having a hard time picturing you being all cool and robotic, seeing how blushy you normally get…not that that’s not adorable.”
“I had a fix for that!” she countered. “I’ve been getting better at amnesia, so I thought maybe I could make myself forget about all the…hotness, just while I’m in robot mode.”
“That’s a great solution. You have such a wonderful mind, love.”
Tess frowned again. “But I wanted it to be a surprise!”
Ash smiled mischievously. “It was. I was very surprised to find you practicing moving around like a ’bot. Kinda hot, too.”
Something clicked in Tess’ brain. She hadn’t been doing tests tonight, only reinforcing the main programming.
“You–! You’ve been watching me…?”
They nodded. “Played with you a bit, too. It’s a good script.”
“But I don’t remember…wait.” She half-remembered standing in her room before, standing stiffly while Ash was talking to her.
“You are getting good at amnesia, love.”
A few more memories came to her. Moving around robotically, undressing while Ash watched. Some of it she remembered from her tests the previous night, but she could have sworn she was alone the entire time, even though Ash was also home at that time. She couldn’t tell if her memory was jogged naturally or hypnotically. The thought of being controlled that way…
“I can’t believe I forgot…all that,” she said, trying to take it all in.
“It’s like I was saying…mischief.”
“Well now I’m almost glad I haven’t gotten to putting a trigger in. I didn’t expect it to be so powerful!”
That remark made Ash’s smile grow wider. “What makes you think I didn’t put a trigger in? Those memories of yours are proving so unreliable lately…”
A sudden rush of fear – the good kind – swept through Tess’ mind, quickly turning into excitement. They’re right, she thought, I can’t know whether they put something in or not. She searched her memory, tried to figure out whether she’d interpret orders given to her robot self as post-hypnotic suggestions now she was awake.
“Matter of fact…” they continued, “how do you know you’re not a robot right now ?”
Tess blinked. She felt like herself, in control of her thoughts and actions. Surely she hadn’t gotten that good that she could hide something like this from herself like this? Perhaps Ash was simply bluffing to make her squirm.
“No…no, I think I’d know. That’s a hot fantasy, though.”
“I have good news, then. End personality simulation.”
A brief look of shock passed over her face, before being replaced by the empty, vacant stare of a machine. Her body straightened up, assuming the programmed pose. Her now blank mind waited for the next instruction.
“Oh, that’s too cool!” said Ash. “Okay robot, restore all of Tess’s hidden memories. I wanna see the look on her face when she wakes up…”