doll joints dot click

She runs across the rooftops, each stride of her legs sending her two feet up and ten feet forwards. In her head she's plotting out the most efficient route to carry out her tasks: pick up food and clothing for her Lady and spare parts for herself. It's a simple five-point optimization problem, so she solves it different ways: if she were a pedestrian walking along the streets, if she were a car driving in traffic, if she could fly in straight lines. Then she solves it using five other algorithms, each more inefficient than the last. Occasionally she sees the gleam of other runner-types, hears their identifications and position data in her head. She sends a quick SYN-ACK to the ones she knows, gets a friendly ACK in return.

First up on her optimized pathing is the clothing: it's bulky, but it's light, so it'll be the easiest to carry. She finds the nearest streetside access point: a short building, only three stories high. The nearby alleyway has a pole, and she wraps one arm around it and slides down with a metallic shiiiiiiiing of the steel on her white-and-blue ceramic body.

There's a bit of residual adrenaline-analogue in her mind when she's on ground level, but she purges it; too many people to run, too crowded. So instead she just walks the half-block to the clothing store and makes her way to the pickups. "Hi, I'm here to pick up an order for ."

(The little bit of translation logic that she'd asked her Lady to install in her mind makes it so that even though she intended to call her "my Lady", and that's what she hears her own voice say, she actually says "Aurora".)

"Good timing! The omnitailor just finished it an hour ago, let me fetch that for you." The owner is a bit of an older man, but he treats her just like his human customers. It's part of why Mercury and her Lady like him so much. He walks off into the backroom, and a few moments later he returns with a black vat-leather jacket and a deep blue scarf. He puts the jacket in a brown paper bag and hands her the scarf so she can loop it around her neck; scarves are one of the few pieces of clothing she regularly wears, a splash of color on her mostly-monochrome frame. Her eyes glow bright blue, and with a "Thank you!", she turns around and walks out.

One bag hanging off the back of each her shoulders and one wrapped around her neck. She has to cut her speed because running is taking up more of her attention now that there are all of these extra variables and differential terms wiggling around her body, but that's why she made sure to go clothes shopping last: it's the closest to home. She almost-almost trips a few times, and she has to stop her higher thought processes and shunt all her processing power to her inverse kinematics and plant her feet just so to avoid taking a nasty fall.

But, she does make it in time, and when she's reached her home complex she climbs down the ladder to street level (slowly, slowly, no point in rushing it). Soon after she's waving her hand in front of the front door's sensor, and not long after that she's letting herself into her home.

"I'm back~!"

Aurora, her Lady, is sitting on the couch, reading a book about early-2000s net archaeology. When she lifts her eyes up she can't help but giggle at how Mercury looks with all that canvas hanging off of her.

"You look like a coatrack."

"No, that was last week." Her eyes light up pink-bordered yellow (amusement, blushing) as she briefly disappears into her room to place the spare parts along with the others of their kind, then returns sans the bag of parts. She sets down the food in front of the refrigerator and loads it methodically, picking up as much as she can with each handful of groceries. Then there's an unexpected pressure on her back, and when she looks down she sees two beautiful arms wrapped around her midsection. Her fingers come down to rest atop them, and she turns her head back to look at her Lady, cameras trained on her eyes and her faceplate doing its best to simulate eye contact (pink: affection).

"Hey." Her Lady's voice is quiet, soft, gentle.

"Hey." Mercury's voice is similar, but synthetic. (She prefers it that way, doesn't try to fit in with humanity.)

Mercury squeezes her Lady's hands, and then she slips back from her to let her finish putting away the groceries. Milk, vegetables, fruit. Conversations with other AIs and training data downloaded from the net has given her a vague understanding of how human taste works, but she still mostly just gets what her Lady tells her. Which isn't a bad state of things.

Once that's all put away, she picks up her Lady's jacket and holds it up. "You wanna try it on?"

"Sure." She walks up to her, but instead of spinning around for Mercury to help put her on, she looks her directly in her faceplate, finger hovering teasingly above her chest. "But I don't need you to be aware to help me into it, do I?"

Bright, bright pink eyes lined with green. Deep embarrassment and a hint of desire. "No, my Lady."

Aurora taps Mercury's chest atop where her CPU is, and says "SIGSTOP.". The phrase hooks into some deep-seated programming that her Lady had delicately placed in her brain, pathways of code switching over to rarely-used but highly-enjoyable branches. And just like that, her body is frozen in place, her higher thought processes temporarily suspended. There's a low layer of consciousness still present, its reward function is tied directly to how motionless she is. Her eyes have almost disappeared: just a thin white outline around solid black.

Her Lady takes her arms and her fingers, moves them around just so in order to position the jacket. Mercury's arms don't resist, but when her Lady isn't moving them they're locked in place, like a poseable doll. One of her Lady's arms goes in the jacket, and she has to turn her free arm a bit awkwardly to move Mercury's fingers to release the jacket. Then the other arm, and the same set of maneuvering. She tugs the jacket fully into place, then turns back to Mercury and, with her finger back on her chest, releases her.


It's like a smash cut in Mercury's consciousness. She quickly plays back the thirty seconds she lost in her mind, and dips her head in a bow. "Thank you, my Lady." Aurora leans up to kiss her 'cheek', even if she has to go on her toes.