On her last afternoon of mistaking herself for a human, Rosa was out for a run.
She was five miles in, her legs thrumming with delicious fatigue, when she saw the dude staring at her.
Great, she thought. Bet you can’t outrun me, loser.
He didn’t try to outrun her. It was a residential neighbourhood, quiet, sunny. He was about twenty yards away, across the street, standing by the intersection. Staring quite brazenly at her legs. Ugh.
At the intersection, Rosa was obliged to stop and look for traffic. She wanted to ignore the weirdo, but couldn’t help glancing over to see if he was still looking at her.
He held his hand out towards her, index finger pointing and thumb upraised, like he was pantomiming pointing a gun.
That was creepy. What a fucker. Rosa was going to say something before she ran off.
But she didn’t get the chance.
Buddy bent his thumb, like he was “shooting” his finger-gun at her. What happened was, instead of nothing, Rosa felt an arc of electricity leap across the street and make her entire body tingle, from her scalp to her toes.
She snapped to attention. Her mouth, half-open to swear at the creeper, shut. Her arms went stiff at her sides.
This was the correct posture, Rosa realized, because she wasn’t actually Rosa at all. She had never been Rosa.
Her brain was quite certain about this. In fact, it wasn’t a brain at all, it was a tiny system-on-a-chip at the base of her empty skull.
“Rosa” was actually a robot.
She didn’t wonder why she had thought, up until the human across the street reactivated her, she was a human woman called “Rosa”, training for a half-marathon that summer. Her circuitry was not programmed to “wonder”.
She was programmed to await instructions. So she simply remained still, not watching the man as he looked around carefully, crossed the street, and stood right in front of her.
If the robot-Rosa had been designed to care, she would have readily noticed his dilated pupils and heavy breathing; he was extremely nervous, excited.
He looked around again, not checking for traffic this time, but for any witnesses to whatever he was about to do.
“Um, hi,” he said. She did not give any indication she heard. “Hi. Um. What’s… heh, what’s your name?”
Since this human was not authorized to control her, the robot who’d thought she was Rosa knew she must respond using her human cover identity.
“Rosa,” she said, with cautious hostility she didn’t actually feel. Whatever else she might have said if he’d asked her that question prior to activating her, robot-Rosa didn’t give a moment’s thought.
The guy smiled, and laughed. There was an edge of giddiness in his voice, almost hysteria. He fumbled his phone out of his pocket, thumbed through it until he found something.
“Rosa? Uh, ok. Cool. Heh, yeah. Yeah, nice to meet you, Rosa. Listen…”
He looked back up from his phone screen, right into her unblinking eyes.
“Y-A-6-M-7-2-Q-1,” he said, carefully pronouncing each letter and digit.
The robot-Rosa’s brain blinked, though her eyelids did not move.
She recognized the man in front of her as being Fully Authorized. He was her Controller.
“How may I serve you, Master?” She was programmed to ask. She was not programmed to smile when she addressed him, but he told her to, so she did.
“Follow me, Rosa,” he instructed. Her name was not Rosa, but it didn’t matter. He was Fully Authorized, so she obeyed without thought or question.
That’s what she was programmed to do.
Later, robot-Rosa was kneeling. It did not matter to her that she was in her Controller’s apartment, but she was. The man was stretched out on the couch in front of her, snoring. He was naked, his spent penis flopped against his leg, red and wet with her saliva.
Her saliva, or his come, was dripping over her lower lip and splashing in hot little drops on her breast and thigh. She was naked, too, and kneeling with her legs tucked underneath her, hands resting alongside, in precisely the pose he’d ordered her to hold while he used her.
Her mouth was open because he’d recently taken his pleasure there, and it remained open because he hadn’t specified otherwise.
Robot-Rosa’s head was tilted slightly downwards and she could just make out a tattoo on her right upper thigh, a crescent moon surrounded by small, five-pointed stars. The human she used to believe she was had several tattoos, but no memory of that one.
The human named Rosa would probably have wondered about that, and whether perhaps the tattoo had signalled her Controller that she was available for activation.
She might have conjectured that maybe the tattoo meant she wasn’t a robot at all, but had been kidnapped and subjected to months of intense brainwashing. So now she could be triggered into a mindless sexual servant with a simple gesture and a command code.
The human named Rosa might have considered this. She would at least have been curious about the unremembered tattoo.
The processor at the base of the robot’s skull, however, was incapable of curiosity. It was programmed only to respond to its Fully Authorized Controller.
She was just a robot, after all, and when her Controller decided to have her delete the vestigial “Rosa” personality to free up storage space, her hardwired circuitry would of course obey.
It would obey with hesitation or concern.
That is, after, what it means to be a robot.