art by Linda Plaisted

B-Mary Drone

Carol MacAllister


Last week's positive evaluation had pleased B-Mary.  She had received an implant for after-hours shopping with store credits and an upgrade of her determination capacitor.  However, a power surge during the upgrade caused an imbalance in her self-preservation mode.  The busy techs ignored the glitch.  She immediately noticed the strong impulses of conceit and manipulation tactics that mistakenly integrated into her program.  At first, they seemed annoying.  About to complain, they raced through her system causing her to decide, "This new attitude might come in handy."

After work, she rushed to the shopping triad and cleverly used all her credits to purchase a thick showy gold necklace with a triangular diamond slide. "This will improve my appearance."  Knowing a weak neck weld had been problematic with her model and experiencing the forward tipping of her heavy head module, she laughed.  "And help stiffen up my neck."  But, the gold links reacted with her caustic skin lotion she had used to smooth out the rough scars from her laser incisions.  The supportive links had loosened.

B-Mary struggled to keep her head upright as she sat at Brunelle by Linda Plaistedher receptionist's desk.  The welded joint across the base of her neck fatigued.  "Not again," she said.  Her chin snapped down against her chest.  "Oh, no!  Pro One will demote me."  Her polyester lips pursed.  "I won't be shoved into the backroom with those botched irregulars." Her emotional dip caused droplets of a saline liquid to tear from her eyes.  She brushed them aside and clenched her teeth.  "I'm going to be a real Bioplast.  Whatever it takes."

She wedged her fingers under her chin.  "I'm going places."  Limited reasoning told her to press forward.  "I do my job.  I keep up a nice appearance for the company."  She thought about incentive rewards for doing well: new chips and implants that would upgrade her to a Bioplast level as close to being humanoid that a drone could expect to achieve in the industrial colony of Ranmer.

She lifted her head back up and realigned it.  Her strong hydraulic fingers seated it down into her wobbly neck.  Her hand skid along her thick smear of makeup.  Long acrylic fingernails jabbed into her left eye and shoved the blue orb deep into its socket.  It stared up at the translucent ceiling.  She used the chrome letter opener and wedged it forward.  A long swath of red hair tangled around its handle and pulled out from the left side of her scalp.

"Oh no.  I'm a mess."  Everyone in the small research center was out relaxing at the sustenance ring.  "I've got some time to straighten up."  She headed to the parts lab to find a stiffener.  A thin ribbon of alumitar was just right.  She wrapped it around her neck pleased the color was a close match.  She buttoned the top of her silk blouse and redistributed her hair to hide the alumitar collar.

She squinted into the mirror and fingered the bald spot on the side of her head.  Impaired reflective ability and one bad eye blurred her feeble attempts to neatly redistribute the strands and secure them to her scalp with dermaglot.  They matted in an odd pattern.

Liquid dermaglot splashed on her right hand.  It melted the bioderm covering of her fingers into a mitten shape.  She raised her right hand for a better look and misjudged the movement.  Her hand stuck to the left shoulder of her blouse as if B-Mary was saluting the quadrant flag.

The time interval chimed.  "Oh, no.  They'll be back soon.  I have to impress them or I'll never get out of this boring job."  She tripped over a waste can while racing back to her station.  Her left shoe fell off.  She bent down to replace it and struck her knee on a metal desk.  Her stators short-circuited causing her leg to jerk uncontrollably as she struggled to get her shoe back on with her good hand.

The techs entered the outer foyer.  B-Mary stumbled through the empty office to her reception station.  She made it to her seat just as the techs walked in, but she fumbled and her chair rolled to one side and tipped her out.  A sudden snap followed by a thump sounded as she slid under the desk.

Suddenly, her hearing turned muffled and faint.  "What's wrong with my audio receptors?  I can barely hear."  B-Mary strained to decipher the techs' voices decoded by the remote language converter implanted in her chest.

"Where's that tempting receptionist?"

She recognized Bob's voice.

"Get real," John snapped.  "She's just a mechanical Stepford babe.  Looks like she's down there under the desk."  He laughed.  "Must have gotten implants for cleaning!"

"Nice to see you're straightening up," another voice said.

Sure, like I'd damage myself to clean for them?  I can't wait to get out of this job.  She heard the men snicker.  Maybe, I'll just stay under here until they go away.

"What's this head doing in the middle of the hallway?"  John grumbled.

Suddenly, B-Mary's hearing cleared.  John seemed to shout directly into her audio imputs.

"What a mess.  Hair all clumped with glue.  Who's the genius that put this one together?  Face looks like a 116."

Too bad, it doesn't look as good as me, she thought.

"Bad neck welds," a voice said.  "Look at that screwed-up eye."

She backed out from under the desk to peek.  She saw nothing.  Everything was black.

"Head's a botched irregular," John said.  "Throw it in the back room.  Have it bolted to a drone unit for the Salamite's mining contract."

Bob laughed, "That'll look bizarre."

The receptionist's telephone rang.

"B-Mary, stop cleaning and get that," John directed, as the men walked away.

B-Mary's headless torso backed out.  She instinctively smoothed her rumpled clothes as she stood up.  Her good hand felt along the desk for the ringing receiver.  She repeatedly slammed the telephone into the side of her headless neck.  The pounding impacts crimped a main energy cluster in her system.  Impulse stators short-circuited her reflex motion into a repetitious cycle causing B-Mary's headless torso to hop through the office and bang into filing cabinets.

"What's all that noise?"  John shouted as he rushed down the hallway.

"Geeze, that was B-Mary's head," Bob said.  "What the heck happened to it?"

The men tackled her to the floor.  John re-attached the head to complete the main circuit so he could shut down the unit.

"No!"  B-Mary cried as her head clicked into place.  "Please fix me.  You know I'm good at keeping up appearances.  I just love working for you. "  She smiled coyly. "Please, fix my face.  I'll be as good as new."

"She does have a pleasant manner," Bob said.  " She's acquired a lot of useful training with all those chip implants.  We could recycle her."

"She's a mess," John said.  "And, her attitude's been lousy.  Especially that annoying streak of conceit.  Pull out her upgrades and dump her in the backroom."

B-Mary dipped her sensitivity level to set off her emotion sensor.  Saline droplets rolled down her cheeks.  The men stared with compassion at B-Mary.

"We have to help her, she's too close to becoming a Bioplast.  It's almost like killing someone," Bob said,  " After all, she's really our mistake."

Yes, she thought to herself, I've stroked their morality mode.  I'm finally out of this boring office.  Humanoid techs are easy to manipulate.  Look out boys, someday you might be working for me!

John glared at her.  "Okay.  What about the sustenance ring?  It won't take long to shape her up for that.  Just a quick face fix."

"Yeah, the greeters need a fashionable upgrade," Bob said.

"I'm very good at appearances," B-Mary boasted.  "One of the best in the quadrant.  Very appealing to the Bioplasts."

Several days later, B-Mary awoke in the sustenance area near the southeast entry.  Dimmed lights and soft music pleased her.  She smiled broadly at the approaching Bioplasts.

Her pleasant voice announced the daily specials as customers entered.  She batted her long eyelashes.

B-Mary heard other workers greeting customers.  I'll go over and introduce myself, she thought.  She turned to walk towards them, but she couldn't move.  She couldn't feel her limbs.  Her head moved only slightly from side to side.

Confused, she glanced around the foyer, then caught a glimpse of herself in the gold-tone mirror.  She smiled at her attractive face, then puzzled.  Where's my attractive clothing, jewelry.  Why, where is my body?  Those stupid techs!  Now what!  She fumed, but her emotion sensor reset and cleared out the final residue of old traits from her program.  B-Mary snapped back to a pleasant mode.  Her new programming limited her voice to greeting customers and repeating the day's menu as approaching Bioplasts tripped her motion sensor.

Over the next few days, she glanced at the reflection of her head set upon a column draped in silvery fabric.  She grew pleased with her appearance in the gold-tone mirror and satisfied with her job.  She checked herself often and smiled like a Cheshire Cat.  Her inner voice repeated her only cognitive thought,  I always look good.  I always look good.  I always look good.

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