Monday, April 25, 2011

Many take for granted such simple things in life; the invigorating smell of coffee, the warm massage of a hot shower, the sensation of a hand clenched in theirs, the taste of morning fog, the feeling of watching home disappear in shadows in a car's rear view mirror.

They are simple, and yet it is these things which make our lives so different from others less fortunate--especially those with no beating heart. Those, who are not human.

Today, though, was different. Today, one less simple thing was being denied of Lilobot. For the first time, she was going to be allowed to leave home.

"My carpool ride home fell through, I need you to come pick me up from the school," Lil heard Alesha groan over the phone, the noisy class of students in the background making it difficult to pinpoint her words. "You loaded up that driving... sub-rou-whatsit Brad wrote for you, right?"

"Of course, Mrs. Kane!" Without a moment's hesitation, Lilobot checked on Brad and Margo--who were both napping in the bedroom--and grabbed the keys from the counter and rushed into the garage, where the car was waiting for her. "Oh, you out-dated vehicular transportation unit, how I have dreamed of this moment!" If she'd known how to squeal, at this moment, she likely would have.

The Twinbrook map included in her driving subroutine led her straight where she needed to go, though it would be a lie to say that Lilobot didn't take her time getting there. The sights on the sides of the streets amazed her; buildings she'd never seen, people she didn't recognize, noises and smells she'd never processed before.

And then, there was the school. Lil stood on the sidewalk like a tiny child staring at the utter majesty of the Taj Mahal, barely able to comprehend the craftsmanship of its building or the wonders that took place inside.

"It's... it's so grand. An entire facility dedicated soley to the processing of knowledge for the younglings of human-kind! If only--"

"Hey! Hey you! Rust bucket!" From behind her she heard a voice she did not recognize; it belonged to a boy, who stood among two others that apparently had snuck up behind her while she was distracted with the building.

Lilobot carefully wheeled herself around, and--of course--was amazed to see not only one young boy, but three! And they wanted to speak to her! "Greetings, children!" she responded with the most normal voice she'd been able to compile so far from watching Simmore Girls with Alesha. "Isn't it a beautiful day outside, today?!"

"Say what?" The boy in the middle looked to his mates to the sides, who both broke out in chastizing snickers. "Yeah, sure--whatever, tin can."

"Actually, my outer structure is made mostly of a high grade poly-carbonite alloy mixt--"

"Oooh, lookit me, I'm so cool I know what I'm made of, oooooo... Seriously, bucket, we don't care."

"I... oh."

"Since when did did the science facility start letting it's toasters wander around outside, anyways? I thought they were all locked up in cages for those pointless AI experiments the newspapers keep writing about."

"AI... Experiments? No, I--I'm not an ex... experiment. I'm a fully functioning Intellectual Emotive Unit..."

"Yeah, right. Like it has feelings," he chuckled to his pals. At this point, Lilobot had gone from confused to worried. What was going on?! Didn't the world know about simbots? About her? "They could have at least given you a less ugly face, ya know."

"My... my... You're hurting my feelings," Lilobot openly admitted, now unsure what else to do.

"Feelings? Robots don't have feelings. You can't even feel. You're just a a toaster on legs."

"I'm... I'm going to leave, now," Lilbot started to mutter, now backing away; but it was already too late. The boys had discovered a new game to play, and they weren't letting her get away so easily.

"Who said you were allowed to go, rusty? Didn't they teach you manners? Learn your place, you're just a servant, that's all robots are for... And we didn't say you were allowed to leave."

Lilobot's eyebrows quivered a little in her face. Were they right? Was she not allowed to leave? It was like, all of a sudden, she couldn't remember... Nor could she move; all her joints had frozen stiff in place, only gently quivering as her eyes shifted from one boys foul expression to the next.

It was a new emotion: fear.

It was odd, how utterly powerless she became underneath the pounding of their heels. The sensation was strange; she had no nerves, but sensors detected dents in her outer shell, screws falling from her joints, several cables in her legs coming disconnected. Even if she knew how to run, there was no way she could.

And yet here, at their mercy, she pitifully allowed them to continue; they were humans. Her masters. Weren't they allowed to do as they pleased to her? Wasn't she only constructed as a tool, a servant to the whims of those who truly lived? That's what they said... wasn't it?

She just didn't understand... why did it have to hurt.

As luck would have it, few more moments passed before Alesha finally emerged from the school to find where Lilobot had parked the car.

What she saw: not what she expected.

"What do you think you're doing?!" Alesha screamed, advancing on the boys with the haste of a protective mother, quickly spooking them off of Lil's frame, over which she hovered as she yelled. "This is completely out of line!"

"I--I--" the 'gang leader' responded, suddenly caught off guard once caught by a teacher. "I just thought--"

"Well you thought wrong! I did not expect such cruel behavior, especially from you, Dave! This is unbelievable. I am calling all three of your parents as soon as I watch your legs carry you away from here this instant!"

"I I--we're sorry, Mrs. Kane... I didn't realize--"
"Yeah, it won't happen again--"
"It's my fault, I thought it would be funny--"

"Funny, to attack an innocent, helpless lifeform?! This is despicable, you three. Get away from here, now, before I have it in me to call the police, because so help me, I will!"

As she watched the Dee, Prudence, and Rotter boys run away in shame, Alesha made a note in her head to do just as she'd promised to do; but first, there were more important things to be done.

Her eyes closed; her lungs breathed deeply. She didn't want to look down; Plumbob, she didn't want to look down.

Yet, drawn as a moth to a flame, Alesha's gaze was lured to Lilobot's maimed shell. "L-Lil?" she stuttered, eyes flowing from head to chest to legs, searching for any sign that life sparked within her. "Lil?"

Alesha gulped, then tiled down onto her knees and gently cradled Lil's head in her palms. She knew there was a switch here, somewhere... Brad had showed her where, in case anything went wrong, but she couldn't exactly remember--

--but her fingers stumbled upon it before her memory could serve her fully. Movement spurred back into Lilobot's joints, and light flickered back into her eyes; Alesha quickly rolled her up onto her knee, trying to prop to the poor simbot up from her fetal position on the ground.

"Lil--are you okay?"

"I believe I am... more or less... in-tact," Lil responded, but her voice was weak and fragile.

"Lil, why didn't you protect yourself?! Why did you let them do that to you?!"

"Mr. Kane... knew you were afraid of me... so he... disabled my... *scratchybzzt*... self-defence protocols to ensure minimum risk. I was okay--I did not want to hurt you..."

Guilt suddenly flooded Alesha's heart, drowning the corners of her eyes with tears. This was all her fault; she made Lil defenseless, and then drew her like a lamb to the wolves. How could she have been so stupid?!

"Why... Why did they wish to hurt me?" Lil asked, her hands still shielding her cowering face. "Did... Did I do something wrong?"

"No Lil," Alesha choked, her hand resting against the cold, cracked husk of Lil's hair. "You did nothing wrong. They just don't understand, okay? They can't."

"I just wanted to be liked," Lilobot wheezed, her eyes whirring back and forth, as if searching there, on her chest, for the answer. "So I could be normal."

Alesha closed her eyes again, thankful that Lil had not lifted her gaze towards hers. She didn't want this fragile thing to see the sadness in her eyes.

It was sadness inspired by memories... No one likes you, Alesha. You're dumb. Poor. We don't like being around your types--just leave! We don't want you, here!

"I do not understand, Mrs. Kane. I do not understand why they must do that."

"I know, Lil," Alesha sighed, her arms draping around her simbot, and her forehead lowering to graze the cold, dented metal below her. "And I don't think we ever will."

The hours passed at what seemed like light-speed; Brad was able to get Lilobot back into working condition just in time for them to head over to the Bottega, where they'd already started to make too many plans that they knew they couldn't cancel now.

For the most part, though, Lil and Alesha's moods were able to pick up enough for the festivities ahead: it was an occasion worth being happy about, after all.

Unfortunately, Alesha's mother was not as sympathetic to the day's earlier events as Alesha would have thought. As she recounted the attack on Lilobot, even her mother's gentle nature couldn't help but sympathize a little with the boys.

"But mom, she's harmless... People should be allowed to prey on anyone like that, much less the weak."

"Yes, but, fear and misunderstanding inspires a lot of things in people, and sometimes you just have to understand that they're acting on instincts that perhaps are justified." As she spoke, Eva Drudge--Alesha's mother--continued to look across the room at Lilobot suspiciously. It was difficult enough being in the same building as that thing, much less the same room. "Are you sure it's okay to let it hold my grandchild?"


At least the rest of the party was going along smoothly; Amelia seemed nearly back to her usual self again, and Naomi was even spending more time looking longingly at the bundle of baby Margo than she was dumbstruck by the fact she was being held by a mechanical being.

"Think maybe I'd be allowed to like... hold her, later?" Naomi asked sheepishly, as if wondering if the child would reach out and bite her if she wasn't given permission.

By the time everyone finally arrived, they decided to get the cake going--and Alesha, being the proud mother, did the honors...

...of bringing Margo one step further along in her life.

Unfortunately, Margo had to share the day with two other special people who needed to--though were not ready--to take the sparkly path to gray hairs and crackling bones.

"I always hate it when this happens," Meredith mumbled as she stared down at her hands.

(Trust me, Mere--we all do.)

But, at least old age didn't leave the eldest of the Kane line too much worse for wear.

By the time everyone had had their fill on cake and socialized each others' ears off, the sun had fallen beneath the horizon, and the family had started to mention heading home to their beds; however, there was one last thing that needed to be taken care of before everyone departed.

"Well, while we've got you all here in one place, we may as well break the news now..."

Alesha's faced seemed to glow as her gaze drifted towards her husband's, and they drew together so he could rest his hand upon her shoulder "... We just found out--we're having another baby!"

It seems that, no matter who, where, or when--such news is regarded with impassioned excitement. Babies are born every day to the richest and the poorest of folk, and yet it is these--it is family--that delight in the fact that there is one more addition on the way.

And to say that the room was quiet after Alesha and Brad's announcement would be a complete and utter lie.

"Congratulations, honey," Meredith whispered into Alesha's ear as she bounded over and sweeped her daughter in law into her arms; the room was still buzzing with excitement--excitement well earned, and well-deserved.

Finally, out of everything that had happened, lately, something was going right.

However, it may indeed be the last thing to do so.

"C'mon, just one more pull... You can do it. You didn't dig your way out here just to fall at the end, woman." Her voice was poisonous to her own ears, but her own discouragement pushed herself to try even harder. She wasn't going to take that kind of lip from anyone--even herself.

With fingers already caked with grime, nails long since broken and cracked, the woman's hands hoisted her body free from the hole, where she collapsed--exhausted--onto the cold, damp ground.

After her journey to the open world, it took some time for the jailbird to remember how to use her legs and arms again. Even her lungs seemed not to believe that what they were breathing was truly air--it was all so strange, from what she'd been used to. A dank cell... cold cement... the cage of metal bars.

But, no more.

"Freedom!" Carolina Leman screamed to the open air, uncaring who might hear her victory cry. It would be only moments before she was gone, as far away from this path to misery as her legs would carry her. "Finally, freedom!"

With her gaze to the open sky and her arms rushing at her sides to catch the air about her, her mind was flooded with the thoughts that had driven her to achieve such a goal. Smiling, she said some small thanks to the man who had inspired her to find a way to reach the surface. If it weren't for him--or for her intentions--she'd be staring at those gray walls for the rest of her life. But now, she had a chance for something better, something greater, even if it was only but a small taste of life before the end.

A chance, for revenge.


Reaching Out

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Though the tension between Brad and Alesha Kane was palpable over the next couple of days, things steadily grew back to normal in the Kane household--at least, as normal as they could. Alesha, having few ungrateful bones in her body, quickly forgave Brad his choice of nanny--and his choice of words--though Brad, feeling as though he'd let his wife down, took a bit longer to recooperate.

However, as days passed and their stress levels waned, Alesha and Brad once again fell into the passionate embraces of their honeymoon years, where things between them had never looked brighter.

... And then there was Lilobot.

Much to Alesha's amazement, Lilobot turned out to be exactly the type of nanny Brad said she would be. From dawn til dusk, she waited on Margo hand-and-foot as if she was some sort of princess; too young to know the difference between sim and simbot, Margo regarded her new caretaker as she did any member of the family.

After not too long, Margo ceased to cry any more in the night; Alesha discovered, one morning, that it was because Lil had started taking her 'recharge' cycles right in the baby's room, so that she had nothing to fear. Lilobot's level of care was a thing of beauty.

But, not only had she proven herself a worthy babysitter, she'd also shown herself to be a worthy maid. It was a welcome surprise to Alesha that not only had Brad programmed her with such gentleness towards their daughter, but a particularly strong neat streak.

What can you say; when Alesha came home from work to find her entire house radiant and fresh from roof to floorboards, she just about smooched their new metal companion right on the cheek.

... However. To say that Lilobot was 'perfect' would be an unfortunately misplaced overstatement. In all capacities she had been specifically designed for? Yes; perfect, exceptional, brilliant. But everything else? ... Well. There are some things that Brad could not forsee, for all his levels of genius.

See, it's a dangerous thing, to build a robot that you never intend to leave the house and yet program them with an insatiable curiousity for the world. It wasn't long before every nook and cranny of the house had been inspected, cataloged, and re-cataloged in Lil's positronic matrix... and that's when the trouble started.

Lil began to grow restless. Bored... Caged.

It started with simple things.

"If I just stick this screwdriver straight into the input receptor, and turn it a radial degree of 16-percent, I can increase our reception by three hundred--"

Lilobot paused, and cocked her head to the side.

"Wait, is the screen supposed to crack like that?"

Needless to say, Bradley was not pleased.

And then, there were those pesky things called rules. Bull-plumbob she couldn't immerse herself in water! Come now, if she was going to get clean, she was going to do it the same way as everyone else!

"Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles! Soapy surface tension really is so remarka--"


After they managed to get the power back on, and after three hours of Brad and Alesha boredly blow drying Lilobot's electric components, Brad finally was able to fix her back into operation mode.

Needless to say, Bradley definitely wasn't pleased.

Though there was a junkyard only several hundred feet from the house, Lil's duties--and her rules--restricted her from traveling there when she was running low on supplies, and sometimes when Brad was a bit late getting her her next collection of scrap...

"Why, this looks like it has all the components I need!"

Unfortunately, Alesha was not as excited to see her mother's record player about to be smashed as Lilobot was.

And then, there was the art that Lilobot just couldn't seem to master.

"Guys! GUYS! Come look! The blended mixture of flour and eggs appears to finally be baking! Can't you smell them?! I'm making COOKIES!"

Needless to say, Bradley was furious.

Day after day, it was the same ol' drill. "Don't do that, Lil!" "Lil, NO!" "You're doing it wrong!" "Lil, you're going to burn down the house!"

All she wanted was to have a bit of fun. You know, fun? Didn't human sims understand fun? Lil was starting to think that they didn't--or that, she didn't.

"Maybe I'm b-broken," her mechanical voice wheezed to herself at night, when her melancholy box of bolts had begun to consider giving up. Maybe she'd stop trying, maybe she'd turn off her emotion matrix... maybe she'd run away.

Things just weren't looking up for Lilobot. At least... not yet.

"Hey Liiiiillllll," Alesha voice cried from the kitchen one Saturday afternoon. There was a particular spring in her step that morning, and it just wouldn't go away. Ever since Lil had joined their household, Alesha had never felt more relaxed and free... And she had come to realize, it wasn't because of Brad. It was because of Lil.

Despite Lil's shortcomings, she truly was trying. There was an innocence about her that Alesha identified with, and she knew: it was time to give this a shot. It was time to stop treating her like a simbot, and start treating her like family.

Food was always a good place to start.

"Yes, Mrs. Kane?" Lilbot asked in a bright voice as she happily bobbed into the room--a voice that had improved considerably since her creation day. "Was there something you needed?"

"No, no, not really--" With a glance down at the plate, Alesha mustered her courage and continued, "See, I just... I made you cookies!"

Lil's mechanical eyebrows wiggled in surprised. "Cookies? For... For me?"

"Yeah! See, Lil, I--" This was a lot harder than Alesha had imagined. "I know things have been rough for you lately, but I haven't shown you how much I appreciate everything you do for the family. Any... Well... I want to make it up to you. I know it's not much, but, well..." Her eyes averted to the cookies again. Man, did they smell good.

"That is very generous of you, Mrs. Kane!" Lil responded, her voice perky and clearly surprised. "I am most grateful! However, my internal processes are designed to digest raw metal for repairs and maintanence--but I'm sure I'll enjoy them anyways!"

"Ah... Oh. I... didn't think about that." DUH. Duh, Alesha. Robots don't eat food. 'Great, I could not look any more stupid right now,' she thought to herself. "I just thought that, since you're always trying to learn to make them..."

"Oh, I just saw on TV that children particularly delight in the partaking of baked goods! I wanted to learn, for when Margo is old enough to *bzzt* insert Nom NOM *bzzt* them. However, my olfactory synapses detect that that chocolate would likely not damage my internal crushers--so I will gladly put some in my belly!"

"Er... okay." Alesha's eyebrows raised; but... At least Lil's conversation skills were getting better.

Watching Lilobot eat her first cookie was possibly the most bizarre--and most adorable--things that Alesha had ever seen. Crumbs were flying everywhere despite Lil's tragic attempts at neatness; she was constantly bobbing her head from side to side, back and forth, to try to get the pieces to fall the right way down her throat. "Nom nom!" she remarked occasionally--clearly, she'd watched too many lolcat videos.

And yet, her face betrayed a happiness Alesha had never seen her experience before. She wasn't sure if Lil could even taste the cookie, but the sensation... the new experience... Being, for once, allowed to act like a human.

Alesha couldn't help but feel a hint of pride.

Their afternoon cookie-fest was ended abruptly by Margo's cries, and for several more hours Alesha didn't get a chance to converse with Lil about the experience. By the time she got some one-on-one time with Lil again, Brad had already returned from his fishing trip, Margo had already been put to bed, and the sun had already set.

"So?" Alesha asked, a sheepish smile on her lips. "How was it?"

"It was... thankful."

Alesha furrow her brows, clearly confused. "What do you mean?"

"I thought I was broken, and that I would need to be fixed for you to like me. I didn't want to be fixed. I am... happy... I think... with who I am. I want you to be happy. So I am... thankful... for your gift. Now I do not have to be fixed."

"No, Lil," Alesha said with a soft smile. "In fact, the only thing Brad has talked about upgrading is your speech... cortex... thingy. So you can communicate better."

"Oh, but I am working on that! I am fixing it myself, through adaptation and processing of arduous amounts of television content!"

Alesha laughed. "Yeah?"

"Allow me to demonstrate!" Lil responded with a particularly dramatic bow, and a fake "clearing" of her throat.

"Hey! Yo! What up, dawg! You my homey! How 'bout you jump in mah low rider, yo?! Fo shizzle, nizzle! *bzzzt* I ain't tellin' you, whaaaaaaaaaaat?! You so sly! I'm gonna bounce yo Plumbbob so high you gonna think the sun turned green, yo!"

It took every muscle in Alesha's body to try and not burst out laughing--and unfortunately, they all utterly failed. "That.. That was..." She nearly doubled over in tears.

"Was something *bzzt* wrong?" Lilobot asked, quite confused what was so funny about her performance.

"That's... not how you should talk, sweetheart. I think you need to start watching some different stations... But, for an impression? That was... pretty... good," she managed to get out between heaving laughter.

"But I... But... Oh, well. I believed all human content to be relevent--"

"Look, how about I show you some real television, alright? As long as you promise never to talk like that again... I think I can promise that Brad will never try to 'fix' your speech mabobby. Deal?"

"Er... Deal," Lil said with a heavy, robotic sigh.

"Alright," Alesha said with a slight squeal, grabbing Lil's hinged elbow and tugging her towards the stairs. "Now, let's go watch some Simmore Girls and introduce you to some real TV!"

She could feel the guitar string tremble under her fingertips. In a way, it made her feel alive again. Whole again.

Amelia had taken to performing, again, though not for work. She'd picked up some two-bit job at the theatre, just doing maintanence for the upcoming stars that graced the stage that she had used to walk. Naomi was clearly the bread-winner, but Mia had taken her mother's advice and started working just to keep herself occupied. It sure beat sitting around the house, waiting for an undead monster to walk through her front door and finish the job.

But, music was still her life. The Steel Stallion was getting tired of it's old bluegrass performers, so twice a week Amelia got to strum her stuff to a crowd of drunk rednecks grinding it up on the dance floor. They didn't hear her--didn't see her--but she knew, she wasn't there for them. She was there for herself.

But who that was... she wasn't sure anymore. Her face was not the same. Nothing had changed--and yet, everything had changed. There was something within her she didn't recognize anymore, and to look upon her reflection disgusted her.

It was the emptiness, in her eyes. She tried to hide it, tried to fight it, but it was no use; something that night had been taken from her. Something she'd never get back.

"So tell, me, Amelia... How have you been feeling, lately?"

Doctor Harris de Wynter. Nice enough guy, Amelia guessed. Had his heart in the right place, and was clearly a brilliant psychiatrist. Clearly, because he was expensive. Naomi footed the bill without hesitation, but it didn't make the whole thing less dreadful when Amelia sat down on the cushioned chair for Crazy People to spill her guts to Mr. Stranger.


"Oh, sorry, I was just... I was just thinking."


"Just the Steel Stallion. Been playing there off and on the last couple of weeks. They did some remodelling, it looks pretty nice now--just was thinking to myself that it's too bad they can't remodel the people that go there."

"Any particular reason why you'd want them to be remodeled?" Dr. de Wynter asked, with what Amelia assumed was feigned curiousity. He was just trying to get his money's worth outta her, she knew it!

"They're just... typical Twinbrookians. Don't know how to shower, can't dance worth a penny, don't tip, hump anything that moves..."

"Do you wish they were more like the people you knew back in Bridgeport?"

"Bridgeport? I... Maybe." Amelia paused. He clearly was trying to direct her someplace she didn't want to go, so, still avoiding eye contact, she continued rambling to the opposite corner of the cieling. "It's more just that every time I go in there, I see someone that has no business being around other sims. Like, my brother. I mean, seriously. The guy can't stay faithful to his wife for one second. All I wanted to do was go and have a nice drink, but no, he's gotta be there wooing some tart like he's--"

"Amelia," Harris cut her off.


"Ms. Kane, I must be frank. You clearly are avoiding the reason you're here. I understand, this is very hard for you, and I do want you to take your time to get comfortable, but this is your third session in my office and you've made every possible attempt not to talk about your experience in Bridgeport... And unfortunately, if you do not talk about it, we cannot fix it."

Dr. de Wynter clearly was right, but it didn't make the topic any easier. She didn't talk to this to anyone, not even Naomi... What made him so different? The fact he had a certificate of Prudeness on the wall?

"Look, it's just... It's just not easy. We're talking, I went through things that most people don't even believe are possible. I don't want to sound crazy. Because I'm not crazy. But what happened... was crazy."

"Amelia, you have to trust me, that I do believe you to the fullest. I don't believe that you are delusional, or that what you went through wasn't true. I've been briefed fully on the specific facts of what happened... But it's your job to fill me in on the details, from your perspective."

"The details? The details? You mean, the fact that my boyfriend betrayed me for immortality? Selling my blood to the highest bidder, so he could get a pair of fangs and kill more innocent women?"

"Were you in love with him?"

"Yeah. I was. I loved him... More than I thought I loved anything in the world. He was everything I wanted. Artistic, cool, dark, dreamy, exciting, daring... He treated me like a goddess. Treated me like I was the love of his life until he tried to suck me dry, watched me fall to the floor at his feet. Laughing. Like it was some sort of game."

"And then..."

"He died. Right before my eyes. I watched him kill me, and then I watched him die. The man I loved."

"Jerod Grant was clearly a very disturbed individual, Amelia. But you shouldn't think that what you felt for him was fake because he was fake. You were mislead, like so many people are, and  you were betrayed. There is no greater pain then that. And it will take time, for you to learn to feel that way again. To trust someone, again."

"Can we please... can we please talk about something else? Like, daddy issues or something? I don't feel very good," Amelia croaked as she looked down at her knees, trying to keep herself composed.

"Of course. I think we've covered enough about that topic for one day."

She wanted to cry, but the emptiness filling her prevented it. She would have died just to have one tear...

... but deep within her, part of her knew: she was already dead.


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