Posted on 2011-10-31
Fitzwilliam Darcy, President and CEO of Pemberley Robotics Co, had invited a small group of his colleagues and friends to his (naturally palatial) mansion for dinner. All the guests were male. Fitz liked it that way. Not that he was, you know, gay, or anything. Not that he would judge, if you were. He flattered himself that he was as manly a man as you could find: he liked cigars, football, whiskey, and cars, and never watched a romantic comedy if he could help it. He just plain didn't like women, except to look at. From a distance.
That was why he was so excited about his announcement. He fidgeted while the other men helped themselves to his stash of expensive cigars, poured themselves cocktails, and exchanged jokes and insults. (Because this is what men do when they get together.)
While he waited for their attention, Fitz noticed that Chuck had helped himself to a gin and tonic. He sighed and shook his head. That was why Chuck was never going to make it any further in the company. Real men drank whiskey.
"How's the beta testing going, Chuck?" asked Fred with an elbow to the ribs that nearly sent the gin and tonic down the front of Chuck's purple-striped tie. (Oh Chuck. Purple?)
"You know, not bad, not bad at all," said Chuck, trying a suggestive wink that ended up a little too obvious. "I'm a fan of the 3.7 version. Runs quiet, stays out of my way, and she's got nice clean lines."
"Clean lines, ho ho," put in George. (Of course George.) "What about curves, Chuck?"
"That too! Fitz is really going to take over the world with next season's line up."
"Well, that IS the plan," said Jerry from Marketing. "A PemberBot in every household."
Fitz saw his chance. "Speaking of plans for next season's line up," he started - but he hadn't spoken loud enough over Chuck's hearty blare.
"And who wouldn't want one! At this price point, they're cheaper than marriage by a long shot! Am I right boys?"
Fitz winced. He wished Chuck wouldn't say "boys" in that faux-jolly way. He repeated his announcement, louder this time, while the snickers were dying away.
"Speaking of plans for next season's line up, I invited you all here to make an announcement relating to that exact subject."
"Another brilliant Fitzy idea?"
"Figured as much," said George. (He would.) "You don't get cigars for no reason around here."
Fitz ignored George. "Well, I hate to call myself brilliant, but I really think this is a winner. I've been working with Development on an entirely new model I think is going to make all the rest look like 21st century vacuum cleaners."
Warming to his role, with the eyes of the room on him, he gestured grandly at the door to his right.
"Oh right, sorry Fitz." Chuck leaped up and opened the door. Fitz hit a button on the remote control he pulled from his pocket, and into the room walked a woman clad in an extremely skimpy cocktail dress.
Well, not really a woman. (Fitz didn't care for them, in general.) It was a woman-shaped robot. But she walked naturally enough that if you weren't familiar with PemberBot products, you might not have known she wasn't human.
The men applauded and wolf-whistled.
"I call this one the LizzyBot," said Fitz. "LizzyBot 3000 to be correct. And we've really outdone ourselves this time. Just wait until you see the feature package -"
"I'm seeing a feature package right now, and I like it," shouted George. (Typical George. Fitz didn't particularly like him, but he was a whiz with ad copy.)
"Too bad yours doesn't compare," said the LizzyBot unexpectedly. She had a clear, soft voice, and didn't enunciate too much or too little.
George looked delighted. "Hey, so the rumors about a snarkiness install weren't exaggerated after all!"
Fitz felt the presentation was getting away from him. "Like all PemberBot products," he intoned in his President-and-CEO voice, "LizzyBot 3000 arrives with top-of-the-line factory-installed capabilities including our Premium Housekeeping skill set, the Childrearing plug-in, and of course Erotic Massage. But besides that, we've expanded our standard memory bank to provide for twenty-three thousand additional learned activities -"
"Like Passion Mode," Chuck interrupted enthusiastically. "I must say Fitz, is the Passion Mode programming backwards-compatible with the 3.7 Janes? I mean, my Jane is fine but she's getting a little… boring, you know?"
"How on earth do you know about Passion Mode? No one outside of R & D was supposed to hear about that." Fitz was incensed. (Someone was going to get sacked.)
"Fitz! You did ask me yourself to proofread the draft of the product manual. I thought the chapter on how to implement Neverending Honeymoon Bliss sounded a bit sketchy - I mean, you have to admit the part about the Shy Innocence Reset Button is almost too good to be true - so I ducked into development one evening to test it. I sort of… stumbled on Passion Mode by accident."
"By accident?" George hooted. (This time, George wasn't far wrong.)
Fred backed him up. "You slept with Fitz's prize Bot by accident? How exactly do you manage that, Chuck?"
"Not quite, I just -"
"Yeah, what, you just thrust in exactly the right spot and -" George wasn't going to let this one go.
Fitz reigned them in. "Passion Mode looks like it's going to be a great success, yes, but technically it's not out of Development yet. There might be a few bugs that we need to work out before we release it. But there's more: we're thinking of selling personality add-ons for an additional price. Things like Warm and Sexy Baker Lizzy, Sassy Artsy Lizzy, Anachronistically Feminist Lizzy, Precocious Musical Genius Lizzy -"
"I tried that one too," cut in Chuck, irrepressible. "Doesn't she have any options besides Lyrical Soprano and Coloratura Soprano?"
"Not yet," said Fitz patiently. "Moving on, George already brought up the snarkiness module, which is technically called Enhanced Dialogue Retort Capability, or EDRC, but you're going to have to work on a snappier name for Marketing, Jerry."
Jerry looked thoughtful.
"And I'm sure you've noticed the refinements to the eyes. They're the brightest and most lifelike yet."
Here the LizzyBot swiveled them toward Fitz with a most uncanny expression. Unfortunately none of the men were actually looking at her eyes.
"I'm seeing refinements to something else, Fitz." (This, for once, was not George, but Fred. George always had a bad influence on him.)
"Okay, okay! Yes, we've completely redesigned the body detailing. But here's the best part. To add to the customizability I was mentioning before, the chassis has been built completely independently of the body, so we're going to offer interchangeable style options. We're calling them 'skins.' Consumers will get to choose from a style brochure so everyone can have their own fantasy Lizzy. They're not truly custom, of course, you simply choose between pre-manufactured and factory-stocked body models. But it gives the impression of customizability, and we anticipate licensing independent designers to introduce premium-level skins in the future -"
Fitz was babbling, but the clamor from the other men was increasing.
"Come on, Fitz!"
"What do the models look like?"
"Do you have the others here?"
"This one is only the prototype body, but I have artist renderings of three concepts so far," Fitz said, pulling some blueprints from his desk and unfurling them across the table.
As the men crowded around, the LizzyBot silently appropriated a steak knife.
"There's a curvy model," explained Fitz, pointing, "with dark hair, of course. That's the LizzyBot 3000JE. Then there's -"
"I'll take her. How much are they retailing for?" (George of course.)
"Then there's a thinner, leggy version -"
"That's the LizzyBot 3000KK."
"What are the letters for, Fitz?"
"I don't know - that's the Design department's designation. When they come out in retail we'll give them a clever marketing name."
"What's the third one look like?"
"Design is calling it LizzyBot 3000JAFF. It's… well… you see." He pulled out the third blueprint, and for the first time all the men fell silent.
"Yes, I see," said Fred, sounding a bit dazed.
"Are the eyes violet?" George was attempting a casual tone, but clearly he too was affected.
"Something like that," Fitz said. He was smug. Of course he'd been somewhat dazzled the first time he saw it, too, but no one had to know that.
"And look at the -"
The LizzyBot struck.
There was an extremely violent, but mercifully short interlude.
The LizzyBot wiped the blood off her steak knife onto the edge of the tablecloth. The door opened and another Bot entered. This one was slightly worn around the edges and didn't walk quite as smoothly as the Lizzy.
"Oh Liz," it said reproachfully. "Chuck too? I thought you were just going to injure him."
"You should have heard him," said the LizzyBot, Dour Speech Effects of Doom at full capacity. "He said you were boring without Passion Mode."The End