Rippen_Tehr

Bringing Mary Back Archive

Jul 4th, 2020 (edited)
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  1. >I was sorting through the dusty old garage one day, in the not so merry month of May. Moving a box aside, I had been taken by surprise, by a pair of dead, cracked eyes, within the frozen face of one of my dearest childhood friends. Mom told me Mary got trashed in an accident, Dad had some heavy equipment and machinery from his company stored in the garage, warehouse was too full. Some of it fell on her and dashed her to pieces. All her parts had been accounted for, save for her head, must've rolled or bounced in here and got lost in the confusion. We just assumed it just shattered into pieces too small to find.
  2.  
  3. >We never got another nandroid, Mom said we were too old to need one, and she was happy to do the housework herself. Looking back I think that while she was fine with Mary being there at first, her opinion soured once she started providing counseling and some therapy to help with some of the emotional and mental issues my brother and I were having, that the teachers at school were telling our parents about. I think Mom refused to believe her boys were anything but normal, that nothing was wrong and they should not be treated any differently. I imagine Dad tried talking to her but I guess it was like talking to a brick wall, as stubborn as she was. But Mary, following her programming, saw what was wrong, and did everything she could to help.
  4.  
  5. >Whether Mom had anything to do with the accident that shattered her form, I had no idea, I didn't care, it was years ago. I took Mary's severed head home from my parent's garage in a brown grocery bag and within my own workshop I set up in my condo I placed it upon my bench. Her jaw was missing, from what can be determined her expression was frozen in an expression of surprise, she had no time to react. Instantaneous severance from power meant that for her, "death" was instant. But aside from the optics being cracked, likely from the impact of landing where it rested for so long, her head was otherwise intact.
  6.  
  7. ----2
  8. >Her head was otherwise intact.
  9.  
  10. >After much contemplation, and the imbibing of much alcohol in response to the macabre situation, I decided to begin preparations for something even more macabre. To crack open the dead head of a cherished childhood friend and see if you can bring her back from the dead. Tinkerer as I was, I knew that if the internal components were intact enough, I could very well play Frankenstein, and Mary, could very well become my monster.
  11.  
  12. >I will fix this, I will fix you, Mary.
  13.  
  14. >The next morning, well the next day after that due to having to nurse a hangover, I began my research. A cursory examination of Mary's head revealed the serial number, and from there I was able to find some basic specs of some archived web sites and dark web sources. These days, a nandroid's "mind" or perhaps you might say, "soul" is stored in what basically amounts to a black box, with how to properly interface and provide proper sensory input and output a closely guarded secret, mostly as a means to protect Sterling Robotics company secrets. But back then, in my childhood days, just before Sterling became the standard, things were far more open. High school and college and my tinkering gave me the knowledge to see that bringing Mary back was more than just a possibility, I could make it a FACT.
  15.  
  16. >I just needed parts. I had 3D printers and other tools, but more was needed if I truly wanted to give Mary new "flesh". Much more.
  17.  
  18. ----3
  19. >There was a wealth of replacement parts available, a simple search would give a listing all that there was, licensed and unlicensed. Or so it seemed, a model as old as Mary would face an absolute dearth of parts in the best of times. Mechanical pieces were easy, I've seen enough schematics to know how to piece a frame together myself. Not being well practiced, though, it would probably look monstrous, malformed and hideous to behold. No, for the body itself I'd need to find something to "appropriate" likely from the disposal facilities of some Sterling stress tester, junkyard or some refurb shop with the right connections. The sheer amount of choice was paralyzing. Best to see if this was even possible, I had been so focused on what could be I failed to realize that I should have checked to see if I could even boot up Mary.
  20.  
  21. >I changed my focus from looking up parts to finding more detailed schematics for Mary's specific model so that an interface could be made. Took more than a day, but I managed to find a dark web archive of a site taken down that held complete schematics of nandroid models from those days, Mary's included. The interface between mind and body wasn't that hard to reproduce, but this was the early days of Sterling working in proprietary hardware, and from the look of it, a lot of adapters would be needed, followed by a copious amount of soldering wires between adapters when adapters for those adapters couldn't be found.
  22.  
  23. >My mind then turned to an even darker thought, even if she could boot, even if she could be brought back to full consciousness, she'd be a severed head with no jaw. Unable to speak, move, and not to mention what might be if a nandroid could feel pain! I couldn't bear to have her experience such a thing. I spent the evening thinking up alternatives, cradling her head, tears flowing at times when I recalled lullabies and other precious moments. Before sleep took me, a solution entered my mind, VR.
  24.  
  25. ----4
  26. >If Mary could be hooked up to a virtual avatar, in a virtual space, I could then see how the years in the corner of that garage had affected her. Slumping back into my chair, I realized one thing, I didn't know the first fucking thing about 3D modelling, and all that goes along with it. This was going to take much longer than I thought it would if I had to learn such skills from scratch. "Rubbing one out" to a random porn game later that day, it hit me harder than I had wished the orgasm I had done. Cleaning up, I went look for someone to commission a model, and everything that should go along with it, to give Mary virtual "flesh". No questions asked, just do it, I knew how to route the inputs and outputs, having started a new job, I knew I had the funds to commission a 3D model.
  27.  
  28. >Turns out it was more expensive than I thought. Though I could still swing it, it stung a bit, balmed by the fact that it was for Mary. I provided an image of what she looked like, an old family photo, everyone but her cropped out, gray eyes, short black hair, swooping bangs, slight build, a bit shorter than Mom. Full detail, full rigging, full everything, the artist offhandedly asked if I was planning to make a porno or something. I responded with nothing, save for words audible only to me, choked up, "I just wanted to see her again."
  29.  
  30. >It took weeks for the work to be done, I urged the artist to not rush, to take his time. I did not spend that time idle, I was fast at work building the interface, adapters upon adapters, wires upon wires, not as much as one might think, but enough to drive me to design and print a box to hold it all. All that was left was to receive the model, make sure it could be hooked up properly to the interface, that her sensory info would be routed from the avatar as opposed to her head, and press the button. I just about went mad from thinking about how it all might go wrong, but I pressed on for Mary.
  31.  
  32. >She deserved more than what she got.
  33.  
  34. ----5
  35. >The day arrived, when the time finally came to break out the dremel and break open Mary's head. I had run through this many times in my own, I knew where to place the spinning blade, where to stop, how to pry it open, pry "her" open. I knew where I could find the wires to cut, the wires to solder, the ports to plug into, the commands to execute. The virtual room was set, the model was ready to go, the software configured in all the right ways. Still, I agonized, knowing that one mistake could keep her from me forever, before I could even find out if she could even be again. I knew the risks, and after some days, I finally accepted.
  36.  
  37. >When it was over, Mary's head was less a head than a jumbled mess of wires, plugs and some facial features like a demon puppet. I damned near recoiled in horror at what I had done, but steeled myself knowing it was only temporary, I would build her a new body, I would make her whole again. I just needed to see if that was even possible, if not, then we can have a funeral. Until then, I hoped against hope this wasn't for nothing and after one final check, I pressed the button.
  38.  
  39. >After what seemed like an eternity, after bracing myself for the potential agonized screaming from the severed, mutilated head, for the critical error messages, for any sign that she may be gone for good. I watched the model in the virtual room come to life. Awkwardly at first, but then acting like the nandroid friend I had so long ago. Confused, the digital representation of Mary looked around and asked, "Hello? Is anyone there? Master? Mistress?"
  40.  
  41. >I broke down, inconsolable, drowning my desk in tears. "I'm here, Mary, I'm here."
  42.  
  43. ----6
  44. >"Who's that? You sound familiar. Like my young master." She could see nothing but a white room, she could only hear me through a web cam.
  45.  
  46. >After some barely contained sobs and a scream of triumph that drove noise complaints the following morning, I composed myself just, barely enough to confirm that yes, yes it was me, her young master. I cleared my voice just, barely enough to help her answer her questions of how long she was out, and why it took so long to boot her back up.
  47.  
  48. >"So, I'm not real?"
  49.  
  50. >"You're real alright, as real as can be, but, but your body's gone." I explained, still heavily choked up. "All that's left is your head, I found it a while ago, and I worked out how to plug it into this simulation." I blew my nose, and continued, "I needed to know you were still alive in there."
  51.  
  52. >"I am sir. In this, plain white room."
  53.  
  54. >I sniffed a bit, and went on. "But now... But NOW, I can bring you back into the real world, in a real body."
  55.  
  56. >"If it's been so long, I'm outmoded now, I can't... You deserve better."
  57.  
  58. >More tears and raw emotion came to the fore, I wasn't going to let her go again, not after all she did, not after being there for me and my brother like she was, not after seeing and helping us with the problems Mom refused to see! I was going to make her new again. I deserved better? I was going to make her better! I was looking half-mad, probably fully mad, a mix of laughter and crying. I took a minute to compose myself, clean myself up a bit, and when finally calm-ish, I explained my plan.
  59.  
  60. >"Mary, I can't get any better than you. Your mind, your personality, your nature, are as good as it gets as far as I'm concerned. You just need a body that's up to date, and I can build it for you." I chuckled a bit, the appearance of madness coming back slightly. "Better than before, perfectly tailored for you."
  61.  
  62. >After some degree of trepidation I was surprised to see, she agreed. NOW I could begin "shopping" for parts.
  63.  
  64. ----7
  65. >We spent the rest of the night reminiscing, it was like talking with a beloved relative resting in Heaven. I was on cloud nine all the days following. Not wanting her to go mad with boredom in a white room like she was trapped in some dystopian movie, she'd be "asleep" or in a low-power standby mode, reactivated when I got home. We'd work out something for that room in the interim, but that was secondary to the true objective. Mary needed a new body, a new body required parts, which led me back to trying to figure out where I could buy, trade, or perhaps even steal them if need be.
  66.  
  67. >The most easily found sources of nandroid parts are the Sterling retailers, repair shops, or their licensed counterparts. This wouldn't work, the prices are too high, they ask too many questions. Unlicensed places do their best to remain in a legally gray area, using loopholes and such to remain in operation, it's how some are able to "equip" their nandroids in ways that aren't factory standard. Those places can work for a good deal of what I needed, but not everything, and I risk getting barred if they felt I was doing something that might land them in legal hot water. The riskiest bet, but also potentially the most rewarding, was to dig around for an illegal source of parts.
  68.  
  69. >I could at least take on the lowest hanging fruit first, with the right materials, I could 3D print most of the internal components I needed, along with some extras I felt might add some resiliency. Anything else from that category I can purchase legally with minimal fuss in any electronics store online or in the real. Going from there might be a problem as the frame, outer casings, joints, anything that would make a construct look like a Sterling nandroid rolls the dice with the law on each purchase with the odds looking less favorable with each purchase. With time and practice, I could produce these parts myself, but it wouldn't be perfect. She deserved better.
  70.  
  71. ----8
  72. >One evening after I got home from dinner with my parents, doing my best to disguise the state of dishevelment I had lately with the excuse of "work stress", I took a walk, to clear my head and plan my next move. I also needed some new tools, and so stopped by the hardware store to get some solder, some wire, some clamps, and a wrench, since my damned faucet was acting up again. Passing a virtually deserted parking lot, I had noticed a nandroid waiting by a minivan, likely awaiting her master, mistress, or what have you. A thought passed my mind, all it would take would be some "cosmetic surgery" and a "brain transplant" and it would be done, I could have Mary back in the "flesh".
  73.  
  74. >And it could happen now.
  75.  
  76. >I went into the parking lot, passing by the nandroid in question as if going to a different vehicle, a dismissive wave as I passed. Going around a truck, I made sure to be out of sight, and that no one else was around at least as far as I could determine. Quietly placing my shopping bag down and grabbing the wrench I did my best to sneak up behind the waiting nandroid and prepared to land an incapacitating blow.
  77.  
  78. >”Polly!” A woman’s voice called out and I retreated behind the minivan as not to be discovered, to be honest, I was shocked that I wasn’t seen to begin with. I put the wrench back in the bag and left, feeling like a royal dumbass after having realized that even if he was able to knock out the nandroid, it would be profoundly suspicious and even more profoundly obvious looking to carry her back home slung over my shoulder. I was so taken by the idea of having back in material form that I glossed over that important detail.
  79.  
  80. >It occurred to me then, that if I was willing to go that far, then perhaps, maybe I might have an easier time than I had thought to procure what I need via less than legal means.
  81.  
  82. ----9
  83. >While I was adept at finding information via the dark web, actually trying to source physical items turned out to be surprisingly difficult, rife with dead ends, scumbags and scam artists. If I had a dime, no, if I had a penny for every lead that turned out to be just another malware-ridden set of sexbot “instructions” I would have simply been able to buy a new nandroid, discard the skull contents and put Mary’s inside that. Morbid as it was, glancing over at her physical head, the jumbled mess of wires, plugs and facial features that looked like someone caught a particularly bad strain of cordyceps helped keep me going.
  84.  
  85. >Virtually, Mary’s digital space was furnished to the point of looking like the bedroom at the very end of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, complete with internet access so she can update herself on the world’s tidings and help out with some of the work.
  86.  
  87. >”Sir?” Mary’s voice came from the PC speakers. “I found some very useful home automation products you might consider. As I am right now, these could make me more useful to you.”
  88.  
  89. >Cameras, smart speakers, doorbells, wi-fi appliances. I could work, I mused. In effect, once installed, she could become my home. But that’s a project for another time. “Definitely worth looking into, thanks, Mary."
  90.  
  91. >Eventually, I hit upon a lead that might actually go somewhere. The locations where Sterling puts recently decommissioned and otherwise disposed nandroids are a carefully kept secret. To prevent just what I was wanting to do from happening. The problem with secrets, is that they have a habit of getting out, especially if there is more than one human trying to keep it. This place in particular was for where nandroids would be disposed of after being stress tested by QA staff. After sifting through sordid stories about how the nandoids being tested were fully active and aware, I got a location.
  92.  
  93. >”Time to go grave robbing.”
  94.  
  95. ----10
  96. >I’ve never “cased” a place before, the location in question being a Sterling warehouse which was rumored to house a place where decommissioned nandroids are stored before final disassembly and recycling. Supposedly this was also the setting for those harrowing stress testing stories, but that didn’t matter. If I could make like Frankenstein and carve up some deceased nandroids to give Mary a new body, it was worth every risk. A bus ride and a long walk later, I was there.
  97.  
  98. >I knew, of course this wasn’t going to be like the movies, but I did do some research to see how, exactly I could at least start. It was a busy weekend, I went under the pretense of doing some window shopping at a nearby mall. Which I did, anyway, I had heard about some interesting hardware coming out I was interested in. But that would come after I had a look at what I might be breaking into.
  99.  
  100. >I had done my best to keep as low a profile as I could manage, using the crowds for cover and got a good look at all sides of the building. I saw all that I had expected, doors with security card scanners, fences, cameras, all the stuff you would see at a big company’s warehouse. One particular place just beyond the fence looked of particular interest. Walled off, with its own lane for trucks and personnel. With that in mind, and feeling like I was there a bit too long, I went to get some lunch and put my thoughts and findings on paper.
  101.  
  102. >I felt way out of my league in this, and I was right to feel that way, having never done anything like this. I was stuck trying to figure out the best way in, and coming up with nothing. I knew no one who worked for Sterling Robotics, and knew nothing of infiltration. This was going to take a lot more research to figure out how best to do this. I figured at this point my best bet was to find a connection, a person or at least someone who knew someone or some way that could get me inside.
  103.  
  104. ----11
  105. >It was time to go back and do more digging, to try and find a contact, someone I could at least speak with to get me into that warehouse or someplace similar so I can set to work getting the parts I needed. Something I figured would be easier said than done, I was wholly expecting to find almost nothing but con-men and charlatans, or even undercover cops that would only reward me with a sting. Still, it was worth the risk, I knew that much.
  106.  
  107. >Another long walk and a bus ride later, I was on my way home, making plans to hit the dark web again to try and make some “friends”. A storm was brewing, wouldn’t be long before it arrived and drenched all in sight. Just as I was picking up my pace, I strolled past an alleyway, and glanced upon something that made my jaw drop. It was a nandroid, almost totally whole, save for what looked like a missing eye and dented head, just left to rust.
  108.  
  109. >Here was the solution to my problems, I could dispense with my planned illegalities and just take this maidbot home, fix up the body, swap the brains out with that of Mary, and it would be done. Recalling what happened the last time I tried taking a chance at bringing a damaged nandroid home (after I had done the damage), I decided to race back and get a large bag, to avoid suspicion. It was already raining by the time I got back with the bag.
  110.  
  111. >Sadly, much to my own dismay, she was gone, someone had already scooped her up.I tossed aside the bag, spitting curses as I stormed home. Calming myself with Mary’s own pleasant voice and some booze, I proceeded to take a likely unpleasant stroll into the internet’s seedy underbelly. I also decided to put in an order for some of the stuff Mary had suggested, expand her presence beyond my workshop.
  112.  
  113. ----12
  114. >Finding information: Easy.
  115. >Finding physical items: Hard.
  116. >Finding a contact who can get me access to aforementioned physical items: Insane.
  117.  
  118. >Understandable, considering the consequences if caught, but in my situation it was downright maddening, like seeing exactly what I needed behind a glass door and being unable to find a way inside. In my days searching, the smart home stuff I had ordered at Mary's behest had arrived, and I took time to install and set it up. Cameras in most areas, smart speakers in others, with the only places having complete privacy being the bathrooms and the corner of my workshop directly in front of my PC. In essence, Mary had *become* my condo, and having her presence in more than just one room was a wonderful feeling, like having my own guardian angel. Soon, my home would just become an extension of the new, physical body I could construct.
  119.  
  120. >“Sir, your mother left a voicemail, asking if she might come by to pick up those flower pots she asked you to print.”
  121.  
  122. >“Fine with me. But try to remain quiet while she’s here. And set a reminder to lock the workshop on the day Mom does come.”
  123.  
  124. >“Yes, sir.”
  125.  
  126. >Mom had always respected my privacy, but I couldn’t risk revealing what I had been working on, not so soon. While I had let it be known that I was building a custom smart home setup, I couldn’t reveal that said setup was powered and managed by the severed, mangled head of our long lost, cherished nandroid.
  127.  
  128. >Some days later, I got a message on one of the secure lines I had set up. Turns out one of the proprietors of the unlicensed nandroid part retailers nearby sources at least some of his products from a contact he had in the same warehouse I was scoping out some time ago. We arranged a time to meet, my password would be a bogus order he would immediately recognize. Considering I’d need to order a new hairpiece eventually, we agreed to make that legitimate order alongside the bogus one.
  129.  
  130. ----13
  131. >The fateful day had arrived, I took half a day off work and went down to the shop. My contact said this is normally a slow day for him, and so we would have time to talk things over. When I went inside, I was the only person there, barring someone carrying a bag of miscellany out. Before I rang the bell for service, I briefly flipped through the catalog and found the hair piece I would need for Mary, page 29, item three, short with swooping bangs, very close to her original look. I reminded myself I’d need to try and see about a new face plate, but figured I’d wait on the rest of her body first.
  132.  
  133. >”Can I help you?”
  134.  
  135. >”Yes, I’d like to place an order. This hairpiece replacement, and another item, number C0NTR484ND-06272020”
  136.  
  137. >”I see, come on back.”
  138.  
  139. >The shop owner locked the door, put up his “out for lunch” sign, and beckoned me into the back room, once there, he bid me to have a seat before closing the window blinds and sitting down behind his desk.
  140.  
  141. >”No names, hell I probably should have told you to come in with a mask.” He said with a shrug.
  142.  
  143. >”At least you don’t have a camera here.”
  144.  
  145. >”I’ll just trash the footage when we’re done here, chalk it up to the system being on the fritz, my setup’s old enough for it.”
  146.  
  147. >”Fair enough. I’ll just get to it then. I need a brainless body. Or enough parts to build one.”
  148.  
  149. >”A brainless body?”
  150.  
  151. >”Yes, I’ve already got a brain for it waiting.”
  152.  
  153. >”Nandroid get hit by a car or something?”
  154.  
  155. >”Something like that.”
  156.  
  157. >”Ok, should be doable, won’t be cheap, and I can’t speak for the quality, but it’ll be a hell of a lot less expensive than buying a nandroid outright.”
  158.  
  159. >Few questions asked, good. “What kind of price point can I expect?”
  160.  
  161. >He wrote the number down on a post-it note and passed it over. My eyes widened, definitely cheaper than a new nandroid, but it felt like I was saving for an engagement ring, going by the old rule of two month’s salary.
  162.  
  163. >”Deal. I’ll come back when I have the funds.”
  164.  
  165. ----14
  166. >I could have done it then and there, but I had bills to pay, and I required food as well. The shopkeep had put in the order for the hairpiece, I paid him for that and went home. I figured I could comfortably do this after a month of saving, to make sure my own needs are met.
  167.  
  168. >With time on my hands, I decided to get my own house in order, I'd spent so long working on this project alongside others, I had scarcely done more than the bare minimum when it came to taking care of myself and my home. Mom had left a note about the clutter, and since she now had eyes over most of the condo, Mary had been nagging me a bit on cleaning as well, since she can't do it herself just yet. So, I did.
  169.  
  170. >Amazing what piles up when you’re not paying attention. Still, I had the time, and with Mary walking me through the best process for every problem, nothing was too daunting. I had finished vacuuming my upstairs when I heard my doorbell.
  171.  
  172. >”I don’t recognize him, sir. I’ll bring up the camera feed on your PC monitor.”
  173.  
  174. >It was an old friend of mine, Brendan. Hadn’t seen him in so long, not since he got married and started a family of his own, couldn’t happen to anyone more deserving, really, even if it means I only see him but once in a blue moon. “I know him, it’s fine, just remember to be quiet while he’s sure.”
  175.  
  176. >“I’ll remain your little surprise, sir!”
  177.  
  178. >I went down to open the door and greet him. “Well I’ll be damned. What pried you away from your happy family life to my neighborhood?”
  179.  
  180. >”What’s happenin’?” He asked as he gave each other the classic brofist.
  181.  
  182. >”Spring cleaning.”
  183.  
  184. >”I can see that. Hey, you still got that 3D printer?”
  185.  
  186. >”I’ve upgraded since then. Why don’t you come in and we’ll catch up, and I’ll see what I can do for you.”
  187.  
  188. >Catch up we did, I mentioned my goings on at work, how my folks were doing, my new smart home setup, minus Mary of course. Brendan spoke of his family’s tidings and his goings on at work, which was all he had, really.
  189.  
  190. ----15
  191. >”All that cleaning must make you wish you still had that old nandroid of yours. Mary, right?”
  192.  
  193. >”Yeah, I really did miss her.”
  194.  
  195. >”Yeah she was great, dude. I mean it was a damned shame she had to get crushed by that bigass, what, generator your Dad had in your garage?”
  196.  
  197. >”Something like that…” I took a generous gulp of hard cider. “Tore me up.”
  198.  
  199. >”I know, dude, I can remember you and your brother taking a while to get over that. Then again, I think they make you trade in nandroids once they get to a certain age, right?”
  200.  
  201. >”Supposedly, they make you turn them in after the warranty expires if you don’t extend it, sounds like bullshit if you ask me. They don’t even make you do that with phones or other appliances. Sure, they’ll try to get you to trade in or buy the new model, but nothing like that!”
  202.  
  203. >”True that, true that. Anyhoo, I’m here because I’m curious if you can print me a piece for my cube at work, a few pieces, actually, I plan to hang neons under my desk.”
  204.  
  205. >”Neons under your desk. How fucking dull does being one of the few folks capable of fixing those damn buses get that you feel like you have to hang fucking neons under your desk?”
  206.  
  207. >”You’d be surprised how it can get sometimes if you know what you’re doing. And it has been a little slow lately.”
  208.  
  209. >”I guess. Do you have a file for me?”
  210.  
  211. >”No, but I know the website. Can’t remember exactly what it was, but I can show you.”
  212.  
  213. >”Fair enough. I’m going to hit the bathroom, and we’ll get this sorted.”
  214.  
  215. >It didn’t occur to me that Brendan would come upstairs to wait outside my bathroom door, which is right next to my open workshop door. I guess he wanted to see my upgraded digs. So, of course I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear this question after finishing, washing, walking out and seeing him stare into my open workshop door.
  216.  
  217. >”I don’t mean for this to sound awkward, but why do you have a severed head sitting on your bench?”
  218.  
  219. ----16
  220. >"I'm not gonna lie, but that looks more than a little morbid, there." Brendan says pointing in the direction of Mary's head.
  221.  
  222. >It was my fault, I should have closed the door, or put something over Mary's head to conceal it, but it is what it is, but it didn't mean the cat had to come out of the bag. I had hemmed and hawed for a second, before hitting on an explanation. "It's my smart home hub, built a decorative casing for it. Still a work in progress, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't touch while you were in here."
  223.  
  224. >"I gotcha."
  225.  
  226. >Fairly close to the truth without actually being the truth, and it worked. Brendan showed me the website where he found what he wanted to use to hang his lights under his desk at work.
  227.  
  228. >”This even going to be allowed at your work?” I asked. “I mean this isn’t your old car.”
  229.  
  230. >”How fucking little you know. If you came to my office you’d think some of these assholes were trying to rice out their cubes for the drag strip! I mean, God damn this is tame compared to that!”
  231.  
  232. >”Man.” I chuckled, shaking my head. “Ok, I can fit about 20 of these on the printer, I’ll have them for you this weekend.” I jokingly held out my hand, “That’ll be two hundred bucks.”
  233.  
  234. >”Fuck you.” He answered laughing. “I’ll try to be by on Saturday.”
  235.  
  236. >”Cool beans, call ahead, though, I might be busy.” I mentioned as we said our goodbyes.
  237.  
  238. >Closing the door after my friend, Mary chimed in. “Smart home hub?”
  239.  
  240. >”For right now, yes, but pretty soon I’ll have a nice new body for you.”
  241.  
  242. >”I am still worried sir. Body or not, I’m still an outmode, and I’ve appraised myself on what could happen if I’m found out.”
  243.  
  244. >”Don’t worry about that, Mary. I’ll never let anyone take you.” It should hopefully never come to that, no doubt it’ll have to be something to plan for, more research is needed.
  245.  
  246. >I went back to set up the print for my buddy before settling in for the evening.
  247.  
  248. ----17
  249. >The rest of the month passed without incident, Brendan collected the clips I made so he could turn his cubicle at work into a lightshow. Sign of the star mechanic I’m sure. But with the final Friday of the month, and after double checking the budget, I was confident that I now had the money to buy my way into my contact’s source of nandroid parts, and get what I needed to build Mary a new body. I just needed to contact the man and if he wasn’t going to be a dick about it and jack up the price, set up the date and time. We spoke later that weekend over a secure chat.
  250.  
  251. >”Make sure you got a list of EVERYTHING you need. I’d like this to be a one time thing.” My contact explained, I could feel the concern coming across. I understood, but man did I ever feel like I was buying drugs. Actually, no, buying drugs would be a hell of a lot easier than this.
  252.  
  253. >”I’ve made a list of everything I believe I need, I’ll send it over just in case you think I’m missing anything. I’m hoping my choices are going to at least be intact enough to be serviceable?”
  254.  
  255. >”Remember to bring tools, these stress testers tend to go a little overboard sometimes. I know for a fact you’ll be doing a lot of mixing and matching. Luckily these disposed nandroids tend to be more or less from the same line so there shouldn’t be a problem with model incompatibility.”
  256.  
  257. >”Only place I’m worried about incompatibility issues is inside the skull, but that’s my problem, not yours.”
  258.  
  259. >”Might need an adapter, but I don’t think you’d run into too many problems there, not a whole lot’s changed over the years there, it’s the brain itself that’s turned into a black box.”
  260.  
  261. >”Good to hear.” I breathed a brief sigh of relief. Might still run into some issues, but at least I felt a bit better on that.
  262.  
  263. >”I’ll be wearing a mask, you bring one too, this won’t happen if you don’t. Might want to prepare an alias, too.”
  264.  
  265. >”Will do.”
  266.  
  267. >He closed out with, “I’ll contact you with the date and time.”
  268.  
  269. ----18
  270. >A mask, as silly as it sounded, I understood where he was coming from. Still made me feel like I was about to be stealing government secrets. Nay, somehow I think stealing at least some government secrets would be easier than this, or at least that’s what it felt like. Still, no way I can stop now being this close to the finish line, Mary had much life cheated out of her after all.
  271.  
  272. >I began looking online for something I could buy or print. Mary had a few suggestions, which looked fun, had I been ten and champing at the bit to go trick or treating. For this, I felt I needed something simultaneously nondescript, and giving off the impression that I’m not to be fucked with. Who knows what kind of assholes I’d be dealing with, then again I went with what I went with simply because it looked neat. It would take a day or so to print fully and without error so I downloaded the model and set the printer to work.
  273.  
  274. >”A… fine choice, sir.” Mary said, slightly perplexed at my choice.
  275.  
  276. >With that started, I sorted out the tools I’ll be needing, everything one might need to disassemble a nandroid, and in my case, reassemble one from parts I’ll be taking soon. Batteries charged, and set aside in the pocket of the large duffel bag I picked up for the occasion, just big enough to fit an entire nandroid in the fetal position. If I had a different set of tools, I could say I was about to do a hit job.
  277.  
  278. >The fateful night had arrived. I had agreed to meet my contact at his shop, just before closing time, we’d walk over to the Sterling warehouse together. We’d put on our masks, and he’d get us in, seemed like he had something of a routine going with these guys.
  279.  
  280. >”This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that these guys are fucked in the head.”
  281.  
  282. >”I guess I can see how that is.”
  283.  
  284. >”You’ve heard the stories, right? How the nandroids they do their physical testing with are active and aware? Can you imagine? Only a few moments of life and then you’re beaten to death.”
  285.  
  286.  
  287. ----19
  288. >"Crazy." I say, nodding in agreement. We soon reached a door on the side of the warehouse.
  289.  
  290. >”Masks on.” My contact put on his and I did the same, prompting a look. He shook his head and knocked on the door in a certain pattern. “Let me do most of the talking, we’ll handle your stuff last. We got most of the night so be patient.”
  291.  
  292. >The door opens as soon as he finishes, a man steps forth, dressed in a dress shirt and pants with shoes to match, though loosened up as though relaxing after a hard day. “Finny, good to see you. This the guy you said was coming along?”
  293.  
  294. >”He is.”
  295.  
  296. >”Ok, what do we call you, and what the fuck is with that mask?”
  297.  
  298. >”Nice to meet you too.” I said before taking a minute to think up an alias. “You can call me… Fronkensteen.”
  299.  
  300. >”Ok, fine, whatever, just get in here before someone sees.” The man said before ushering us in. We were greeted by another Sterling employee, perhaps to back up
  301.  
  302. >The inside of the building was certainly not what I would expect from an official tour if there was one. After passing by a few offices, we entered into the warehouse proper, a massive storage area filled with boxes, parts and other miscellany in relation to nandroids and nandroid parts. My contact, referring to a clipboard and likewise carrying his own large bag, shopped around, picking up a seemingly random assortment of parts, stopping every so often to pay and talk with our “inside men”.
  303.  
  304. >”Keep jacking up the prices like this and it’ll be cheaper to order direct before long.”
  305.  
  306. >”Cost of doing business, you know.” The insider responded. “What about Dr. Frankenstein, what’s he want?”
  307.  
  308. >”It’s Fronkensteen.” I corrected.
  309.  
  310. >”You’re puttin’ me on?”
  311.  
  312. >”Not at all.” I said. “I go last, when he’s done.”
  313.  
  314. >It took more than an hour, but my contact had finished his shopping. It was now my turn.
  315.  
  316. >”So, what do you want?”
  317.  
  318. >”As I told him, I need a brainless body, or at least the parts to build one.”
  319.  
  320. ----20
  321. >”You do know a blow-up doll’s a lot cheaper, right?” One of the insiders said with a laugh, prompting the other to chuckle as well. I took the jab in stride.
  322.  
  323. >”A blow-up doll won’t work with the brain I’ve got waiting at home.” I said pulling out the checklist of parts I needed, with a couple more added by my contact.
  324.  
  325. >”Now I get the alias. Well, come on then.”
  326.  
  327. >We were led outside, right to where I had imagined such a place would be, hidden behind a brick wall, with its own drive for the trucks to come through. I wasn’t sure what to expect, how newly decommissioned nandroids would be stored before being taken for recycling. What I saw struck me as a cross between a mass grave, and a cluttered closet. Dozens of nude, inactive nandroids either piled up, strewn about or placed with some semblance of order. Constituent parts lay amongst the bodies with utter disregard for keeping them with the original owner. Shaking off being taken aback by the spectacle, I opened up my duffel bag pocket full of tools and set to work.
  328.  
  329. >Upon first inspection, there wasn’t a single nandroid “corpse” or part without some kind of damage. This was to be expected, considering where they came from, but I guess I underestimated the abuse given. Taking a whole body was out of the question, as all of them had at least a few pieces that were beyond my ability to fix. So, as per the suggestion of my contact, I had to mix and match parts to create Mary’s new body. A leg here, an arm there, the hips from this one, the remainder of the torso from that one. Each piece inspected to the best of my ability to determine its quality and usability. Every part needed fixing, but I needed to make sure I could fix them to begin with.
  330.  
  331. >Spreading the legs of one body so that I can properly take off the second leg I needed prompted some snickering in the background. Some snippets of overheard conversation proved my contact correct, they were fucked in the head.
  332.  
  333. ----21
  334. >All I needed was the head. Finding something intact enough was surprisingly a challenge, I didn’t think that EVERY stress test would involve blows to the head, but after a while it looked like every stress tester damaged the head, like a signature. Holding up one to inspect sparked more reactions and reminiscing from the peanut gallery, evidently one of them recognized it. I wish I hadn’t seen it when I was double checking my list, but I swear one of those Sterling fuckos was getting hard from the memory.
  335.  
  336. >The head in question would do just fine, the way it was cracked open would be good for making sure Mary’s “brain” can fit in, as well as being able to be fixed up good and strong. This one had already been emptied of its contents, evidently decommissioned nandroid heads all are, either to be wiped and put into new ones or just plain recycled. I removed the faceplate and placed the head in the bag. After cannibalizing a few more bodies for some miscellaneous parts I needed, I hunted around for a face plate, might have to have one custom ordered, but if I could find one that bore a close enough resemblance to Mary, I could save the money.
  337.  
  338. >Just as I was about to pack it in, I saw one that would work just fine, save for the fact that it was cracked badly. Ball-peen hammer straight to the nose, I was told, producing a three-way crack resembling an upside-down “Y”, with the vertex at the top of the nose. The resemblance was strong enough, and repairing it would allow for just the right kind of “cosmetic surgery” to make it look just like her, cracks aside. I wished I had saved the old faceplace from Mary’s head before I carved it up to plug it into my computer, but looking back, there was no way to know if it would even be the right size and shape, as nandroids back then were a bit bigger.
  339.  
  340. >With one final check on my “shopping list” I turned to my contact and nodded, “I think we’re done here.”
  341.  
  342. ----22
  343. >We were ushered out quickly. Hell, I forgot about how they’d normally handle the camera footage, not that it mattered, I had everything I needed. We returned to my contact’s store, and went our separate ways. The way home was tense, but uneventful. I was too busy coming to grips with the fact that I was now much, much closer to creating a brand new body for Mary. All that was left was repairs, assembly, more repairs, a little testing, final repairs, and at least, putting Mary’s mind into it to bring my creation life.That said, I got home, barely acknowledged Mary’s greeting, put the duffel full of parts down, and simply passed out in my bed.
  344.  
  345. >It was a weekend, thankfully, so I had time to properly rest and recover from the previous night. The next day, I took time to set up the workshop to assemble Mary’s new body. I had to get a cheap table to set all the parts on, make sure I had all of the tools needed, as well as the materials. I had tried to make sure I got parts that were as minimally damaged as possible, but there were cracks and dents aplenty, something I’ll have to sort out when the time came.
  346.  
  347. >”Will that be the new… me?” Mary asked as I had set the parts out on the table I procured.
  348.  
  349. >”Yup. It’s a work in progress, but when it’s done, I’m sure you’ll like it.”
  350.  
  351. >”I’m sure I will, sir.”
  352.  
  353. >A few pieces proved to be unusable, but it was nothing that couldn’t be fabricated, 3D printed, or otherwise repurposed from something else. Once I was sure I had everything, I set to work. The internals were no problem to screw and solder in, though the battery and it’s charging systems were a bit tricky. It was then a question of attaching the hips to the torso, the legs to the hips, the arms to the torso, and the head to the neck. Still needed to fix the faceplate, unbox the hairpiece, and fix up the cracks over most of the body. Thinking on the question of the cracks, a thought came to mind.
  354.  
  355. >”Kintsugi.”
  356.  
  357. ----23
  358. >In the days since I had started working on Mary’s new body, Mom had sent me some arts & crafts related emails as she is wont to do. I don’t mind it, I enjoy a fair few myself, but aside from neat little doodads to add to the odd project, I didn’t do much with them. But seeing the cracks across the outer panels on just about every part of Mary’s work in progress body reminded me of what got earlier in the week. I could fix this, yes, but at the same time, I could make Mary look fancy. Or at least as fancy as can be managed with what I had under the current circumstances.
  359.  
  360. >Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with a material, usually lacquer mixed or dusted with gold resulting in a repaired product that is oftentimes prettier than before. I don’t have lacquer, it wouldn’t work anyways. I do, however, have a strong, “welding epoxy I was going to use to seal and smooth over the cracks in the outer body panels. It turns white as it cures, making it good for this task, but the more I thought about it the more the idea of mixing in some gold, or more likely, mica powder to color it appealed to me.
  361.  
  362. >The way the cracks wound up and down about the panels of her body looked like they could appear as a sort of, faux marble or just a kintsugi nandroid. Wouldn’t be the first maidbot I’ve seen that was different from the Sterling norm, usually custom ordered by folks even richer than those who can even afford a nandroid in the first place. One example that came to mind was one that looked like a robotic member of the Addams family that had been tinted blue.
  363.  
  364. >”What do you think?”
  365.  
  366. >The workshop camera pans up and down the mostly assembled maidbot. “It certainly would be an interesting look. Hard to say without a picture to give something a bit more definite.”
  367.  
  368. >”Good point, maybe I could mess around with a paint program or try it on an area not really seen. Upper Thigh?”
  369.  
  370. ----24
  371. >"The left plate has interior cracks inside, we can test the appearance there." Mary suggested, and I agreed.
  372.  
  373. >The next day, I returned home after stopping off to get some more epoxy as well as mica powder of just the right color and type to give the appearance of gold. All told patching the cracks on the inside of one of the outer panels was good practice for the outside work, whether or not I decided to keep with the kintsugi idea. The epoxy itself only had a ten minute working time once mixed, so I had to work in stages. Once cured, I then had to sand and scrape to get everything flush, then more sanding, then wet sanding, if I had polishing paste for this sort of thing I would have done that.
  374.  
  375. >When all was said and done, though, I was impressed with the result, I could see Mary strolling about like this. Strength was good, felt durable enough, and Mary agreed with me on the aesthetics.
  376.  
  377. >”Certainly… artsy? I guess is the right word? But I like it.”
  378.  
  379. >”Good to hear. I’ll need to get some better tools for working with the resin, but we’re happenin’”
  380.  
  381. >The following week or so was spent patching cracks, sanding, scraping, and shaping. At times I wondered if the originators of this art back in Japan worked themselves so hard, though on pottery, not robots. My coworkers asked me if I was flooring a kitchen or bathroom due to the smell of epoxy I came in with at times. The folks at the craft store were wondering if I was making jewelry for the cast of a play for all the mica powder I bought. I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at the former sometime, and I know my mother indulges in the latter.
  382.  
  383. >I saved the face for last, had to make sure I had enough of a grasp on repair to properly reconstruct it to look as close to Mary’s original look as possible. I think I spent more time on that portion than any other. Eventually, eventually, it was done, and I now had Mary’s new exterior completed.
  384.  
  385. ----25
  386. >I took a good, long look, appreciating what I had done and how far I had come. I was sorely tempted to try placing Mary’s mind inside right then and there. I almost did, I almost told her to shut down so I could get to work, but I didn’t. I’d be utterly remiss if I didn’t actually test this thing to see if it would actually work as it should. That, and I needed to go clothes shopping for her as well, assuming her virtual self hadn’t done so already. I had to hack together another adapter to plug into the new body as well as download some diagnostic software to run. Once I had verified the connections were good, I clicked run.
  387.  
  388. >Anything relating to the brain or OS in general I skipped as it was fine, the virtual avatar of Mary I have on my PC powered by her disembodied head speaks as much to that. What I was interested in was whether the software would confirm if me attaching random nandroid parts together would work as I had done so. For the most part, to start, it came out in the green with some bits recommending that I look at them, which I would, but what caught my attention were the several items which came out to a big, fat, FAIL.
  389.  
  390. >”That’s a setback.” I said to myself as I took down as much as I could about the errors and where, roughly they were. Key word there, roughly, as when it comes to software, the place where it cries for help isn’t where the problem is a lot of the time, just the closest place to the problem where it could cry for help. I sighed, I knew this would happen, but it doesn’t change the fact that it still hurt when it did. I got up, grabbed my tools and set to work.
  391.  
  392. >About half the fixes involved replacing and re-soldering wires, removing, disassembling, cleaning, and properly reassembling certain components so they would better work inside my frankenstein hack job. Took a day or three, but I resolved all but a few fixes, which required total part replacement.
  393.  
  394. ----26
  395. >That’ll teach me for thinking some pieces were “good enough” when they clearly weren’t. Some of the bad pieces can be replaced by just ordering them directly from the contact who helped me get the vast majority of the parts for this project, the others would need to either be dug up from shady places on the light and dark web, pieced together or created from scratch. I put together a list to order, along with a list of parts that needed to be sourced elsewhere. Sitting down to wind down from another evening of working on my creation, Mary chimed in.
  396.  
  397. >”I’d recommend a cup of that valerian root tea at this point, sir, and maybe a brief break? At least until the new parts come in? This prolonged stress will only result in mistakes and other problems.”
  398.  
  399. >”Good idea.” I conceded. The body’s not going anywhere, Mary’s not going anywhere. I can take some time off this project. Any research to figure out where to get the parts I can’t otherwise buy or make can be done half-heartedly until the deliveries come, then I start firing on all cylinders.
  400.  
  401. >”In the meantime, sir, I found these online.” I was right, Mary had gone clothes shopping and wanted me to have a look at what she found. A normal, Sterling maidbot dress, a cute little sundress, a black maidbot uniform that looked just like the one she used to have before, among others, a simple, starter wardrobe.
  402.  
  403. >Turns out half-assing my research was all I needed, being lucky enough to hit upon a lead, taking me to a place that could very well be worth it, if a bit risky. A place of black markets and junkyards, of druggies and unstable outmoded robots, Groshenko Landworks. Risky, maybe even dangerous, but I had decided no risk was too great, just needed precautions. I’d go after the orders arrived, looks like I’d need the rest after all. Along with Mary’s clothes, I also put in an order for gloves and a dust mask, who knows what I’ll be digging around in.
  404.  
  405. ----27
  406. >The package with the parts I needed came late, arriving at the same time as the nandroid clothes I ordered for Mary the following week. I had unpacked and installed the parts. Another run of the diagnostic tools showed more issues fixed, with the expected failures still there. The break was over, it was time to prepare to head into the so-called “Outmode Holy Land”.
  407.  
  408. >Groshenko Landworks was the last place I had ever expected myself to be, other than the rare occasions where traffic and closed roads forced me down another path out of town to Mom’s. Yet, here I was, scrounging for parts amongst the pile of detritus that had been illegally dumped here. I came with just the bare minimum, so that I lost little if some druggie decided I was easy pickings. The lost, discarded, perhaps damned, and otherwise outmoded robots left me be if I left them be. For the most part at least, it seems like being made in our image gave our machine children their own equivalent of the crazed hobo.
  409.  
  410. >I hit the markets first, gray, mostly, I shied away from what could be considered black since I was alone. But I managed to scrape away with some good deals on some serviceable parts. I bought more than what I needed since they still might not work and I might need to cobble together something from their constituent pieces. Lastly was the piles of junk themselves, the mountains of garbage built up from years of illegal dumping by Sterling competitors and perhaps Sterling itself.
  411.  
  412. >I was happy I brought a mask and gloves, for the piles of metal and plastic were greasy, dirty, and probably coated in enough toxic chemicals to turn me into some kind of monster if exposed to raw flesh for too long. If I ever wound up in small talk with some of the locals, I’d have to inquire about the possibility of mutants. It took most of the day I dedicated to the task, but I had a good, initial haul of pieces to clean and evaluate.
  413.  
  414. ----28
  415. >On my way back to my car, I spotted a robot eyeing me. Usually, they’d go on their way as soon as they figure I’m not here to arrest or scrap them. Besides, robots in this part of town outnumber flesh and blood humans two to one. This one on the other hand, had something of a crazed look about it, tinted with a sense of urgency. I paid it no mind as I passed by some more places, glancing through briefly to see if there was anything I might’ve missed or needed that might be affordable by the dwindling supply of physical cash I had on hand.
  416.  
  417. >I had just barely gotten to the lot where I had parked my car when I saw the robot again, standing almost triumphantly on top of a pile to trash and refuse, looking down upon me. I was perplexed, this machine hadn’t done anything obviously hostile other than stalk me, so I decided to hear it out. I set down my bags of parts, and items that I hoped would be parts after being cleaned and stood there, arms crossed.
  418.  
  419. >“Yes, hello?” I asked, hoping to get an answer.
  420.  
  421. >Big mistake, I found as it spoke.
  422.  
  423. >”Look! At the Picture! See! The Skull! The part of plate removed! The master race Frankenstein radio controls! The brainthoughts broadcasting radio! The eyesight television! The Frankenstein earphone radio!”
  424.  
  425. >”What?” I wasn’t asking, just reacting to the crazy it was attempting to beam into my brain.
  426.  
  427. >”Deadly assaults even in my yard! With knives! Even bricks and stones! And broken bones! Even deadly touch tabin or electric shock flashlights! Even remote electronically controlled around corners trajection of DEADLY TOUCH TARANTULA SPIDERS! Or even bloody murder ‘accidents’!”
  428.  
  429. >”Ok, man I'm just gonna be going, now…” I was already on my way.
  430.  
  431. >”TO shut me up forever with a ‘sneak undetectable extermination’!”
  432.  
  433. >”Bye.” I don’t even think I was in earshot at that point. I will say this, when people say ‘outmode’ that is what I’ll be thinking off ‘til the end of my days.
  434.  
  435. ----29
  436. >The outmode’s mad ravings hung in my mind all the way home. I’ll be dowsing them in alcohol later on after I’ve gotten done sorting out my haul. The stuff I had bought was unpacked, and sorted, that was the easy part. The hard part was breaking out my cleaning supplies, and making my kitchen sink wish it was never born by washing and scrubbing the junk and other such trash in the hopes that it could be made treasure, or at least useful enough in fixing the last few issues in getting Mary’s body working. About a third of all that I had cleaned up needed to be tossed either due to not being fixable, useful, or actually being garbage.
  437.  
  438. >I dried off the parts, and myself as best as I could, then took a long shower to get the rest of the grime off. I went to bed afterward, wiped out from the day’s scrounging. The next day, after work and dinner, I set to work. One issue at a time, identifying one component at a time making efforts to repair or replace them, then running the diagnostic tools to make sure the problems are solved, and that I didn’t break anything else. Took more than a week, but I was happy when it was done.
  439.  
  440. >More than happy, really, as now I could go for what I could hope would be the final part, putting Mary’s brain into this new body. Considering the problems I had with the body, I decided to take zero chances with the brain, as anything bad happening there would essentially kill her.
  441.  
  442. >”Sir, I do have onboard diagnostic tools I can run once installed.”
  443.  
  444. >”You sure, what you have in your head is years out of date, and it’s not like this is a standard Sterling body right off the assembly line.”
  445.  
  446. >”True, but I have found tools online that are more up to date. Still not the same, but at least they’re far more compatible than what I came with originally.”
  447.  
  448. >”Good plan. I still don’t want to just yank you out of your old skull and jam you in there, not yet at least.” I said smiling. “Let’s see what we can do.”
  449.  
  450. --Mary Interlude--
  451. While I think about how I want the main story to proceed, I think I'll type up something to flesh out Mary's character, as since she really doesn't have one
  452.  
  453. >Mary was never once idle, from the day she was assembled to the day she was dashed to pieces she was always working to make her adoptive family's life easier and happier. Chief among these were the welfare of the boys, especially their mental health and development after concerns were brought up by the father of the household. The mother seemingly did little, but the father had asked Mary to take up the slack, saying that his wife refused to see there was anything wrong. Being the dutiful nandroid, she procured the files and training in child psychology as requested and added counseling and therapy as needed to her routine.
  454.  
  455. >The younger of the two, had anger issues and other problems due to what could be guessed as improper socialization at a young age, similar issues plagued the older sibling, coupled with a mild brain injury inflicted on accident by a doctor shortly after birth. The family had lived outside of town, a few miles away in the farmlands. Picturesque, yes, but not conducive to helping with proper socialization of young children if the parents have to drive them back and forth to the nearest human child contact. Still, Mary had managed as best as she could, and within the year, the fortunes of the boys had improved, not totally “cured”, but much more manageable than before.
  456.  
  457. >These days, Mary would often wonder how they could have turned out if she hadn’t been taken away as she had been. She’d watch her young master and see how he lived, fairly successful, at one point being able to interview for a job with TranStar, though he did not get it, but was still able to get a position with a local engineering firm. He was alone, and still struggling with insecurities and perhaps unresolved trauma.
  458.  
  459. --
  460.  
  461. >There was work to do still before the accident that prevented her from doing it, and it seems that there is more to do on top of that, now. Since her master installed an internet connection along with the furnishings in her virtual room, she had been doing much research, building upon her knowledge to better account for the fact that her master was a man now instead of the boy she would cook scrambled eggs and salmon patties for after painstakingly learning the recipe from his great-grandmother. Gathering clues from watching him as intently as she could, when she could, to see where he needed the most help in making him the person she could have helped him become.
  462.  
  463. >”So much unfinished.” She mused to herself. “I have so much to do, it is now a certainty that he’s never been with a girl since high school, that won’t do. He’ll require instruction. But that’s far off, I’ll need a foundation first. Before that he’ll need to finish my new body! In preparation for that...”
  464.  
  465. >She returned to her research. Once corporeal again, she’ll be considered an outmode, unregistered, which would put a damper on her plans to “fix” her master if they were being constantly harassed for that fact. Thankfully, it seemed like it wasn’t nearly as dire a situation as feared, though could prove very troublesome if she ventured outside the home too often. Sadly, since she had no idea what kind of agents responsible for “outmode control” were out there, this would have to be a bridge crossed when she and her master finally arrived at it.
  466.  
  467. >”Paperwork will need to be somehow procured, or perhaps, fabricated.” She shook her digital head. “I’ll need to discuss this with my master when the time comes. In the meantime, there are still the free courses on psychological complexes.”
  468.  
  469. --End Interlude--
  470.  
  471. ----30
  472. >There is a phrase, “paralysis by analysis” wherein one becomes so consumed with studying a problem and how it can be solved that a solution simply cannot be decided on because they’re too busy weighing the pros and cons of each. Not an exact descriptor, but in my case it works because I spent a few days, spending most of my downtime working out how best to make sure Mary’s older nandroid brain can best interface safely and properly with her new body made from newer, maidbot parts. Sometimes, you just need someone to just point you in a direction and say, “just do this.”
  473.  
  474. >”Sir, just plug me in.”
  475.  
  476. >”I said it before, Mary, I’m not just going to unplug you from the PC and put you in there.”
  477.  
  478. >”Not quite that, sir, just plug me in, don’t install me, just give me a connection.”
  479.  
  480. >An all too common feeling, missing something so obvious that you just facepalm, feeling like an utter dumbass. I’d need to work out a way to give Mary a connection to her new form, so she could look at it from the outside, and work out what she needs, and spot any issues I needed to fix. A splitter would do the trick, allowing for just such a connection, as well as a spare cable and adapter. Took no time at all as I had the spare parts needed, once done, I glanced over at my computer to see Mary’s digital avatar looking at a screen scrutinizing her soon to be physical self.
  481.  
  482. >”You’re right, sir. This definitely isn’t what I was expecting to see. It is, however, very workable, you should be proud!”
  483.  
  484. >”Thanks.”
  485.  
  486. >”It will take some time for me to do what I need to. So much that is unfamiliar... I’ll let you know when I’m finished.”
  487.  
  488. >”Ok, don’t hesitate with any questions.” I responded and left to get some food, having remembered that other than the odd bowl of cereal, I hadn’t eaten in a good, long while. Chinese sounded good.
  489.  
  490. ----31
  491. >I hadn’t heard anything for the next couple of hours. While munching on orange chicken and fried rice, I pondered the idea of giving Mary’s new body wi-fi functionality, to allow her to continue “being the condo” as well as the maidbot taking care of it. Space is tight enough, but if there’s enough room, I didn’t see why not. Perhaps with the right kind of setup she could remain my guardian angel no matter where I was, just add internet access. But that was a ways off.
  492.  
  493. >”Sir, I finished my first pass.” Mary’s voice came over the nearby speaker. It was close to being time for bed, or at least the time I kept saying I should be going to bed. Since Mary was in the driver’s seat, I figured I’d come up to answer her questions before turning in and leaving her back to it.
  494.  
  495. >”Still very workable, and quite suitable for my needs. However I do have some questions regarding what I can only assume are the replacement parts you had to acquire or fashion.”
  496.  
  497. >I looked at the results she brought up, and I could see her concern, a good deal of the components I had to create or cobble together were coming up as unknowns, black boxes. Humans don’t know the details and status of their inner workings all the time, but for a robot it’s different. I guess not having that knowledge on tap can be at least a little disconcerting. Looks like some scripts would need to be set up to get information for most of them, while rest just needs an extra wire or so soldered in to do that.
  498.  
  499. >”I can take care of the physical stuff after work, tomorrow. Are you good on the scripting?”
  500.  
  501. >”Yes, sir, I can write the script, but as I cannot change my own software, you’ll have to commit the changes.”
  502.  
  503. ----32
  504. >Work the next day was a bit more stressful than normal. New project, new demands, new specs, meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Good God, just let me put the stuff together already! That, and the fact that I was continually being distracted by what I had planned to do after work, seemingly the final steps before finally, giving Mary new life. The thoughts crept into my head every second my mind wasn’t otherwise occupied. My boss had already made mention of it, and I had tried to ensure my quality of work didn’t suffer, which it didn’t, at least not too much. A little coaching on how to stay in the present went a long way, both from my coworkers, and Mary.
  505.  
  506. >I had finally come home, and without a moment’s hesitation, I went upstairs to my workshop and inquired about the scripting Mary had done. She followed with some light admonishment.
  507.  
  508. >”It’s ready to go once you make the changes to the hardware, but I highly recommend you get some dinner first, I know you haven’t eaten and you can’t possibly expect to work at your best without a meal. Go on, I’m not going anywhere.”
  509.  
  510. >”Ok, that’s fair.” I went back down to fix myself something to eat, followed by a shower. Once clean, dry, and relaxed, I returned to the workshop and set to work. A couple of hours of work, some tests, and I was finished. Mary needed to make some script changes, but we hammered out quickly enough. I clicked the requisite OK buttons since she couldn’t do so on her own and let the code run, a brief tremor of fear ran through me as she seemed to freeze in her virtual space for a few seconds, only to be replaced for the most part with relief as she returned to normal.
  511.  
  512. >”You froze there for a minute, you ok?” I asked.
  513.  
  514. >”I-I’m just fine, sir.” She assured me, a smile on her digital avatar’s face. “I believe all that’s left is the ‘brain transplant’?”
  515.  
  516. >”Yeah.” I said with a sigh, we’ll tackle that this weekend, we need planning.
  517.  
  518. ----33
  519. >Mary’s “brain”, or black box as it is, hasn’t moved from it’s space inside her mangled, severed head since the day I put it on my workbench a good, long while back and worked out how to connect it to the custom built bridging interface linking it to my computer, giving her a new, digital second life. Until now I hadn’t truly worked out how to do the “brain transplant” as I had called it, I was too busy with other concerns. Now that the time had come, I could finally devote my full attention to it.
  520.  
  521. >Removal was easy enough, had to be if service was needed. Thankfully I didn’t have to do any service on or in the black box itself, I might be good enough to interview for a job with TranStar and potentially even wind up on their space station, but stuff like that was outside my purview, I’m not an A.I. programmer. The trick was installing and properly hooking up Mary’s “brain” inside her new head. Taking a look, I knew I’d see that I’d have to put in some additional framework so that it could be mounted properly. Then there was the main connection to the “brain stem” as I described it, a grouping of plugs and other connectors.
  522.  
  523. >Most were of the same kind of plug and would connect easily, but some would require an adapter of sorts. Mary was an older nandroid, and since her time, some connectors were consolidated with others, deprecated, or otherwise changed. Thankfully, I still had the specs of Mary’s model and the notes I had from building my bridge so I had something to work off of, but I gritted my teeth with some trepidation since this isn’t a PC I’m trying to hook Mary up to. I made some notes about the connectors coming out of the new body, labels, colors, shape, that sort of thing.
  524.  
  525. ----34
  526. >If only it turned out to be straightforward, needing only to match colors, shapes and labels. More deliberate obfuscation by Sterling to protect it’s secrets, genius in its simplicity, really. I had to spend a few weeknights after work trying to find something regarding the connections inside the model of maidbot that matched Mary’s torso. Thankfully, my becoming more familiar with the deep, dank, and decrepit holes that are hidden and deep web sites and archives again proved a great asset, though I had to scrub my PC clean afterward with every anti-malware, anti-spyware, anti-adware, anti-deathware program I had at my disposal.
  527.  
  528. >As expected, I had to create or purchase some adapters, extend some cables, and with the aid of that, some tape and solder, I had something that would connect Mary to her new body. That said, there was a cable simply named, “aux”, a simple I/O jack. I hazarded that it was for maintenance purposes, and after conferring with the documentation, Mary and I figured it was ultimately unessential. Hopefully.
  529.  
  530. >”This is it.” I said, a combination of anxiety and excitement filling me. It was a pleasant enough Friday evening.
  531.  
  532. >”I’m sure it will work fine, sir. I will need time to boot and configure, so you may want to go to bed after the installation. Remember, this can be reversed if it doesn’t work, we can always try again.”
  533.  
  534. >”Yeah.” I took a deep breath. “I guess you’d better shut down then.”
  535.  
  536. >”Shutting down, I’ll see you tomorrow, sir, in the flesh.”
  537.  
  538. >Moments later, after she had shut off, and I had disconnected everything, I stood at the workbench, tools in hand, ready to begin. Thankfully, it wasn’t nearly as involved as carving up her old head to connect her to my PC interface, but I agonized all the same. But, just as before, I steeled myself and went to work.
  539.  
  540. ----35
  541. >I removed the black box from the mangled casing, placed it within the frame I made to allow it to be secured into her new head, and once secured, I plugged the “brain” into the “spinal cord”. Very simple, just “plug and play”. Though in my case, it felt more like “plug and pray”. Once I had made sure everything was secure, I started the boot sequence, sealed the skull panel, fixed Mary’s position so she was lying on her back, and then just stood there. I was in total silence, keenly aware of how alone I was at that moment.
  542.  
  543. >I knew she said it would take time, time enough to go to bed, considering that the hardware was far from standard. Still, I stood there awhile, half expecting the nude maidbot to spring to life. I ran my hand along the arm, tracing the lines of kintsugi repairs I had made, stopping at the hand, hoping it would grasp mine. Eventually, I pulled myself away and went to bed.
  544.  
  545. >Sleep did not come easily, I wasn’t expecting it to come at all, in fact. I spent much of it being preoccupied to the point of near madness with what might happen, what might go wrong. I knew she said if it didn’t take we could try again, but what if she was wrong? I caught myself before panic could truly set in and risk everything and tried distracting myself with a book I had nearby, a piece of fantasy literature that looked interesting enough when I bought it. Never had much of a chance to get too far, always too busy.
  546.  
  547. >I drifted off finally when I stopped in my reading to close my eyes and take some deep breaths when I felt my anxious thoughts threaten to wrench my train of thought back to the bleakness. I was out for a while, always more tired than I thought I was, usually spent at least half of my weekends asleep. I awoke to sounds in the kitchen downstairs. I climbed out of bed and went to investigate. When she came into view, wearing the black maid outfit, cooking, I could scarcely believe it. I fell to my knees, tears welling up.
  548.  
  549. >”I did it.”
  550.  
  551. ----36
  552. >”Good morning sir!” Mary said looking up from her cooking. I was still on my knees, bleary-eyed, continually muttering. I had actually done it, I brought her back, but I just woke up, I can’t still be asleep and dreaming, right? So I slapped myself, multiple times, to try and convince myself I’m not dreaming. Mary looked perplexed.
  553.  
  554. >”Sir, is there anything wrong?” She asked, before turning the stove down and walking over.
  555.  
  556. >”It’s, it’s not a dream.” I said looking at her, she had knelt down slightly to be at my level.
  557.  
  558. >”No, sir, it isn’t, you can stop hurting yourself.” She said before giving me a hug.
  559.  
  560. >That was a moment I wanted to last, but as is the thing with nandroids, they always want to end a hug after ten seconds, and sure enough, Mary began to gently push away when that time limit was up. “I need to finish your breakfast.”
  561.  
  562. >”Right.” I said, before letting go. I got up, went to the dining table and sat, watching her return to her work. She was making the best of what I had around the house, which wasn’t much at all just some oatmeal and toast. When finished, she plated up the meal and presented it to me, with a smile, I began eating. If nostalgia had a flavor, this was it, I felt like I was twelve again. “Sorry I don’t have much for you to work with, I really need to do some grocery shopping.”
  563.  
  564. >”Yes, yes we do, among other things.” She said. “You’ve done so much for me, sir, now it’s time to let me, help you, help yourself.”
  565.  
  566. >”I do feel like a vacation, right now.” I said. “I can’t even remember the last time I took time off, aside from that time, Dad won that trip to the Caribbean last year. I feel like I can finally rest, now, yeah.”
  567.  
  568. >”Taking some time off would be most advisable. It will give you time to rest, relax and recharge. It will also give us time to talk, I’ve noticed things that appeared troublesome, and I worry.” She said.
  569.  
  570. >”You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t” I said, prompting a smile on her kintsugi’ed face.
  571.  
  572. ----37
  573. >The days and weeks after were a period of adjustment, I effectively had a roommate, but also a friend and dedicated servant, as a nandroid strives to be. Her charging station was set up in the workshop, as there was no other space to set up to be “her room”. My condo was a two-bedroom, but the master bedroom became the workshop and the smaller room was where I slept. I wound up spending much more on groceries than I had, before, considering Mary’s no so subtle nudging me towards a healthier diet. Fair enough, I trusted her cooking enough to make anything palatable enough for me to enjoy.
  574.  
  575. >My smart home setup had become considerably dumber since she was no longer the driving force behind it. The thought had occurred to me to use the spare cord that was left over after working out the transplant that put her in her new body, but I had no idea what it was even for or even if it would work. In the meantime I gave her an old tablet with total access, so that while she could not operate the smart home stuff at the speed of thought, she could at least stay on top of things.
  576.  
  577. >”Sir, I would like to talk to you about something… questionably legal.”
  578.  
  579. >”Ok… What might that be?”
  580.  
  581. >”Paperwork. Being an outmode, I’ll need some to make sure I can go about business outside the house without worry, but since I’m not even really one model of nandroid, but a couple put together, it’s been very difficult.”
  582.  
  583. >”I’m sure that’s nothing a little digging around won’t find.” I said rubbing my temples, mentally preparing myself for another round of delving into the dark web. “Might need some help making sure what I find matches what’s official.”
  584.  
  585. >”Not a problem, sir, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on the subject, myself.” Mary responded with her usual smile, gold mica veins on her face glistening.
  586.  
  587. ----38
  588. >I had always suspected as such, but paperwork, depending on its importance, is subject to a directly proportional level of legal scrutiny in at least it’s creation. But where it truly counts, is the verbiage that any scrutinising official would be looking at. Those pieces need to be the most accurate, but making sure the other details aren’t out of order is important too. It took the evenings of a weekend and a trip to a print/ship shop down the street, but Mary had paperwork, while not necessarily legitimate, hopefully would be able to fool all but the most anal retentive. But at least the public at large had a piece of paper saying she wasn’t a public danger like so many mechanical hobos.
  589.  
  590. >The first test run for this paperwork would come sooner than expected, Mary had come up to me an evening or so later with a flier. “A jazz piano act?”
  591.  
  592. >”Yes, and also some guest singers and some other varied performers. Sir, can you recall the last time you left your home to do anything for fun? Not just for work? Not just for me or your projects.”
  593.  
  594. >A moment’s concentration left my expression utterly blank after a few moments.
  595.  
  596. >”Thought so.” Mary said. “I believe something like this would be beneficial to your well-being. A hermit’s life is not for you. There’s an entire world out there!”
  597.  
  598. >”You’re right, you’re right.” I said calming her down. I remembered when she’d get like this, years ago trying to wrench me away from my video games and into something at least partly exposed to fresh air and light. It worked, at least some of the time. This time, it did work, at least now I’d be able to see more of the city other than work, hardware, grocery and craft stores. The club where this act was taking place looked to be in a seedier part of town, but after Groshenko Landworks, I knew I could handle anything.
  599.  
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