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Summer 2022

My Electrolattice Heart Will Go On Part II

A sci-fi romance short story by C.M. Fields

A continuation of part 1. Read it here . . .


Titanic Sinking Futuristic Sci-Fi Cloud Waves Fantasy


The Hostess’s wardrobe was located on a service deck, but it was no less magnificent than Emma’s own cabin. She felt as though she had stepped directly into Madeleine Astor’s closet. Rosy pinks and filmy periwinkles and soft yellows beckoned.

“Are you sure?” she asked, once more.

“Yes, Emma. If you don’t wear one of these outfits, it will never be worn before the ship sinks.”

“They—” she began. “Nevermind,” she said, shaking her head. “Such waste.”

Emma selected a mint green tea dress with an empire waistline and white lace gloves, and the android decorously looked away while she wiggled into the underbodice and fussed with the oddly-placed snaps. There was no side or back zipper, she thought, for the Hostess to help her with. She wondered if her synthetic fingertips were cold, or warm like flesh, then blushed at the thought.

The Hostess smiled as she turned around. “Beautiful,” she said. “Would you like me to do your hair? Your make-up?”

Emma thought. She might as well, right? Why not appear as perfectly coiffed as the android herself? Maybe everyone would stop referring to her as “the waitress”.

“…not that you need either,” said the Hostess, just a shade faster than her usual speech. Was she nervous? Emma found the notion absurd. But the Hostess was quite human, after so many iterations. Maybe she was.

“I would love that,” she replied.

With a comb, the Hostess quickly and expertly separated Emma’s long auburn hair into sections. The middle she tied up into a small bun. Then, with her fingers, she deftly rolled up the remainders into neat tubes, teasing them as she went, until she had achieved the perfect Edwardian style.

“Wow,” Emma remarked. She looked just like the Gibson girls on her antique postcards.

“Now for rouge,” the Hostess said. She dipped her fingers in a white ceramic tub of moisturizer and tapped them across Emma’s face. Her fingers were, in fact, warm underneath the cold cream, she noticed. The Hostess smudged some red across her cheeks and lips and followed it with a light powder. Then she brushed gray eye shadow across her eyelids and proclaimed her masterpiece complete.

Emma stood, and leaned into the mirror. She felt another pang of strange nostalgia; like she was born to be on this journey, together with the Hostess. Of course, now she had to go rub elbows with the billionaires and their hi-fi neuralinks and their floating fascinators again. But for a moment, gazing at their twin reflections, she felt an enormous sense of belonging.

“Well?” asked the Hostess.

“Oh! I’m sorry, Hostess, I love it. You did a wonderful job.”

The Hostess beamed. “I’ve never put it on anyone else before.”

Emma wondered again what she did during the day when she wasn’t fielding passenger requests. Clearly she was a practiced makeup artist. And sometimes she had to manage meals. But what about at night, when everyone was asleep?

The Hostess smoothed her dress and walked to the exit. Together they made their way to D deck, leaving a wake of stares. Sure, this was a recreation of the Titanic, but wasn’t 1910’s clothing a little gauche? Emma tried to ignore the whispers.

“You know,” she ventured, “it is a little… ahistorical… to have a dance in first class.”

“Mm, you got me,” said the Hostess, with a sly smile. “I do it to keep the first-class passengers from over-running the third-class decks. You know, where the real party is at.”

“The real party, you say?” Emma frowned. “Then why on Earth are we here on D deck?”

“I am expected to keep up appearances,” said the Hostess, nodding politely to a passing couple. “It would not do well if the captain of the ship were consorting with the riff-raff, you see. Stock values and all.”

“The billionaire riff-raff,” Emma muttered. “That sucks, Hostess. Don’t you have like, a hundred bodies?”

“One hundred and twenty-six.”

“…I have an idea.”
________________

Back in the Hostess’s quarters, the closet walls parted to reveal her extra bodies. All of them were dressed and styled as identical waitresses, with pouty red lips and dark eyes.

One stepped forward at the Hostess’s command. Emma rummaged through the dresses for a bit before choosing an appropriate mauve outfit for the service android. When she turned around, it was fully nude.

She burst out laughing as she shielded her eyes.

“Hostess!”

“Yes—what? What’s so funny?”

“I’m sorry—heh—I didn’t, um, expect to see you, um, like this.”

“Oh, this old thing? This is just one of my auxiliary bodies. It doesn’t have… anything to be embarrassed about.”

“…oh. Wait,” Emma said, before she could stop herself, “do you?”

The Hostess sighed. “Passengers ask me this all the time. I always tell them no.”

“I’m sorry, that was—”

“But the truth is that my primary corporeal form was purchased as a generic LM model.”

Emma turned red. “So you’re a sex bot?”

The hostess crossed her arms. “Please be discrete with that information.”

“I—of course, Hostess.” She handed her the dress and watched her put it on the other android. “Come on, let’s get you dressed like one of those filthy below-deckers.”
________________

The marijuana smoke was thick in the makeshift dance hall, and deep house lazerpunk was blasting from the ship’s hidden speakers, and people in neon bathing suits were dancing in a sea of bubbles.

The Hostess’s jaw dropped at the sight. She wore one of Emma’s hot pink mini-dresses, and her hair had been swept up on top of her hair and sprayed in place, and with her crystalline false eyelashes, she looked like a completely different android.

“Hostess—I mean—ah, shit, I can’t call you that here. What should I call you?”

The android recovered quickly. “You can call me… Rose.”

“Rose… wait, like that 20th century film? The first one? Not the 4D remake?”

“Exactly.”

Emma laughed. “That’s my favorite old movie!”

“Mine is Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” replied the Hostess, to Emma’s great surprise. “I wish I had been built like that.”

“Really?”

“Of course. The terminator has agency. He can assume any form and go anywhere. If he didn’t want to kill John Connor, he could just take off, and live a life, you know?”

“I hadn’t thought about it like that.”

They sat on a pair of wooden deck chairs which had been hauled into the lounge and watched the crowd.

“Well…” Emma said, “Do you want to dance?”

“I am… not programmed to dance in this manner,” the Hostess replied, looking at the gyrating neon bodies. “I don’t know how.”

“Me neither. But this music is in triple time, so maybe we can waltz?”

She brightened at the thought. “Yes, I can waltz.”
________________

An hour, and several hits off the holobong later, Emma found herself nestled into the curve of the Hostess’s neck. She didn’t seem to mind. Through the heart-pounding bass and colorful wash of bubbles, no one else noticed the pair either.

Suddenly, the Hostess came to attention. “My primary form has been requested,” she shouted over the music.

“Fuck,” said Emma. “You can’t possibly go looking like this.”

“Correct,” she replied. She appeared to stare into a great distance for a second. “It’s B60. The Appletons.”

Those creeps?”

“Yes. This is their fourth voyage. Every time they take this trip they try to…” The Hostess grimaced, and her lips curled over her perfect teeth. “...get me into bed with them.”

“Gross. Can’t they be banned?”

“No. They’re very rich, and I am very not human, and thus not in a position to raise complaints.”

“Can you send a service body instead? The one from dinner?”

“I’d rather not. I would still have to deflect their advances, and my service bodies are not as… defensible… as this one is.”

“Claim a malfunction?”

She frowned. “I have never malfunctioned. It’s a point of pride for me… but I suppose I don’t have a choice. I’ll send a 404 and cut my netlink for a bit. Hopefully Wayside won’t notice.”

Emma giggled. “What should we do now, Rose?” She slung her arms around the android’s neck and kissed her cheek. “Shall I draw you like one of my French girls?”

She laughed, and the sound was beautiful, real. “I’m afraid my service body has already spoiled the view for you.”

“Nothing could.”

“Well then I suppose I’ll have to fetch my diamond.”
________________
Emma couldn’t draw, but she could pretend to, which she did with fervor. Back in her cramped but lavish stateroom, the Hostess arranged herself spectacularly over the couch. Beneath her modest Edwardian wardrobe, she was a true sex bot, with the heavy but round breasts and waspy waist that a marketing team had empirically determined men desired.

Emma had lit the fireplace, and the blue diamond shone brilliantly from the android’s chest. It transfixed her, the way that the light it cast flickered with the Hostess’s occasional movement.

“Is that really the heart of this whole operation?” she asked.

“Yes,” the Hostess replied. “This gem is more me than this body is… it’s where I hide when the ship goes down.”

“That’s tomorrow, already,” Emma intoned, sadly. “What if… what if someone were to take that necklace with them when the Carpathia comes?”

“Then Wayside would be very, very angry… unfortunately, this thing’s housing can be easily tracked. You wouldn’t get through the Carpathia’s metal detector anyways.”

Emma sighed. “There has to be another way.”
“Trust me, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this.”

Emma stood. “I won’t leave this ship without you,” she said. All the wrong people got to leave the ship, she thought. How wonderful it would be if the Titanic sank for real! Of course, some billionaires—the worst of them—would survive in the lifeboats. But… what if they didn’t?

She took a seat by the Hostess’s bare side and took her hand in her own. “I have a plan,” she said. The Hostess sat up abruptly. She placed a hand on Emma’s face and kissed her deeply.

“Tell me about it later.”
________________
The rising morning sun shone in through the promenade, and Emma awoke to the android asleep in her arms. Do androids sleep? she wondered. The Hostess gave a yawn and rolled over, tugging the blanket with her. Her make-up was smeared across her face, and one set of eyelashes had come loose and strayed down her cheek. She was beautiful.

Maybe this one does. Emma found herself embarrassed to know so little about androids, given what she was about to do.

Suddenly, the Hostess jolted awake. “Attention passengers,” she announced. “Breakfast will be served in thirty minutes. As a reminder, the ship will be sinking later tonight.” Then she groaned. “I have to go show my face. For real this time.”

Emma frowned as the Hostess stood and warmth started to leech out of the narrow bed. “Just, ah, check the mirror first.”

Just like that, the room was empty. And it felt empty, in the same way the ash-filled fireplace missed its flame. But they had a plan, now. A heinous plan. A plan that was going to get a lot of people killed. Well, not people, Emma reminded herself, billionaires.

The day passed agonizingly slowly. She didn’t talk to her tablemates at breakfast and paced the upper decks anxiously as the sun rose higher in the ice-blue sky. And she missed the Hostess, who was busy presumably enacting the plan. No one paid her any mind.

At noon, after lunch, she retired to her room and picked the skinsuit up from the floor. Would people notice if she put it on already? Perhaps not, if she wore it under the outfit the Hostess gave her.

Dinner rolled around, and she suppressed a cringe when she saw that her tablemates were Bess and Algernon again.

“Why hello again!” Bess gave a crocodile’s smile, while Algernon seemed in a sour mood. “And how have you been? We’ve hardly seen you around these parts!”

“I, uh, I’ve been around,” Emma replied. “Just exploring a lot, you know? Some neat stuff belowdecks.” She poked at her consommé olga. “Kind of nervous about the sinking, though.”

“Me too,” Algernon remarked. “Damnable AI.”

“You may be right to be nervous,” said Bess in a low voice. “The AI went offline yesterday. What if that happens again?”

Emma put on a surprised face. “The ship went offline?”

“Shh, don’t say that so loud—yes, for hours! We pinged the AI last night for, mm, room service, and it never arrived! And you know this ship has dozens of those androids aboard.”

“Yes, and they’re all useless,” Algernon grumbled. He snapped his cane out from under the table and caught the leg of a passing waitress, who tumbled to the floor with the full tray of wine glasses she had been carrying.

Emma gasped, and the room turned to stare.

He cackled. “See, useless.” Bess looked embarrassed.

Emma stood and moved to help the android.

“You don’t have to do that, you know,” said Algernon, as the crowd returned to their plates. “It’s a robot.”

Emma helped the service body to her feet and started gathering broken glass in silence.

“Emma’s a waitress,” Bess sniffed. “You’ve offended her, you oaf.”

The remaining nine courses of the meal passed awkwardly. Emma seethed silently, but held her tongue as she tried to entertain the table with waitressing disasters from her time at Le Boël. No one must know her role in the upcoming catastrophe.
________________

20:30. It was time to go. Emma made her way to the blustery bow of the ship, the wind slicing through the layers of her dress and her skinsuit, too. She watched passengers mill around, arm in arm, watched the waves beat at the hull, watched the stars overhead as the ship cut through the cold gray water.

At precisely 21:30, the announcement finally came: Attention all passengers, came the Hostess’s serene voice, Please report to your quarters to don your skinsuits for activation. Those wandering around the deck left dutifully, and soon the only sound was the quiet murmur of the far-below sea.

The hostess herself finally emerged. Her gown of the evening was stark red, adorned with golden stars. As she drew closer, Emma could see that her eyeshadow was red, too. She wrapped an arm around her waist and pointed out to sea.

“There it is,” she said. And so it was. The iceberg appeared tiny on the horizon. It wasn’t as impressive as the movie made it seem, even as the ship crept closer.

Even though there were no clouds in the sky, the sound of thunder began quietly and soon shook the deck.

“What the hell is—oh.” Emma turned to the Hostess. “You’ve got them all?”

“Every door is locked. Windows too.”

“Wow… we really did it.”

“And we’ll hit the iceberg in exactly two hours and ten minutes.”

“That’s… huh, that’s a long time to listen to this.”

The Hostess shrugged. “That’s the cost.”

Emma shivered. “Can you turn on my skinsuit?”

“No, because then I have to turn on all of them.”

“Mm. Hey—do you think they’re looking for you in there?”

The Hostess frowned. “It’s possible… I’m glad my service bodies are secured, or they would likely be… experiencing violence.” The faint howls issuing from inside the ship seemed to agree.

Emma and the Hostess dragged two deck chairs together and laid in silence. The future loomed large on the horizon and weighed heavily on Emma. Could she pull off an “I’m the only survivor” story? Could she vanish back into New York and live a new life? Could she keep the secret for the rest of her life, or would an investigation turn up the real cause of the “malfunction”?

The sound of shattering glass and close-by grunts disturbed the peace.

A hand, followed by another, emerged at the edge of the deck. The figure pulled itself over the railing and stumbled to its feet as Emma and the Hostess watched in horror.

The mustachioed face gave him away—it was Algernon. Emma quickly surmised that, after hours of effort, he had managed to smash a window and climb out.

“You,” he spit. “Waitress. And Hostess... What a team.”

Emma and the Hostess stood, and backed away from one another.

“Give me that thing,” he snarled, pointing at the Hostess’s diamond as he advanced toward her. “I know it controls the ship”.

“You’re too late,” the Hostess replied, coldly. The iceberg approached rapidly, now.

Algernon broke into a run, and the Hostess did a quick side-step, but he grabbed the edge of her skirts and yanked her down. She smashed a fist into his nose with a strength Emma hadn’t seen before, and he yelped and clutched his face.

But while she climbed back to her feet, he made a swipe, and caught the necklace with his left hand. Emma rushed over to deliver a kick, but he rolled out of the way, and bolted down the deck, diamond in hand.

Emma started after him, but her heels slowed her down. The Hostess kicked hers off, and, with a single motion, tore her skirts up the middle. Then she took off. “You don’t even know how to use that,” she called.

She ran like a machine, blowing past Emma in a moment. Sex bots must be built to run, and to defend, she guessed.

Emma followed at a slower pace anyway, but a shuddering blow to the ship knocked her on her feet. The momentum was tremendous, like being hit by a train; she flew several feet, and slid like a shuffleboard puck another ten. The terrible crack of the Titanic’s faulty rivets giving rang in her ears.

Up ahead, the Hostess and Algernon had recovered from the jolt and were still running. The Hostess was screaming something, but Emma couldn’t hear it over the cries of those trapped belowdecks. There were still two and half hours until lights-out, Emma remembered. Was that enough time for more billionaires to escape? .

Far ahead of her, she could see the Hostess and Algernon locked in a fight. She kicked off her shoes and started running again, her skinsuited feet freezing on the frigid boards.

She slowed as she came upon the pair. The Hostess was on the ground, and Algnernon crouched above, holding the diamond to her chest.

“Open the fucking doors!” he shouted.

“No.”

“Open the doors or so help me I will tear your head off your goddamned body.”

“You cannot hurt me.”

That was enough of that exchange, Emma decided. She crept up behind them and kicked the man hard in the crotch. He doubled over, swearing, but still gripping the necklace.

Emma went to her side. “Rose! How are we going to hold them off for the next two hours?”

The Hostess sat up, bedraggled, and possibly injured. “It’s not two hours. This ship will sink in twenty minutes. It’s already starting.” The deck was tilted, Emma noticed for the first time, and the towering smokestacks listed against the stars.

The Hostess sent a kick into the man’s gut. “Give me back that necklace, you cretin,” she threatened. “You can’t do anything with it alone.”

In reply, he lunged for her neck, positioning one hand under her jaw and one on her shoulder. Emma sent a punch into his head, but it merely bounced off.

CRACK, went the ship.

Only feet away, the floorboards separated with a horrible sound like a dying metal behemoth. Fresh screams issued from the space, and the smokestacks groaned monstrously as they swung around.

Algernon changed tactics. He gripped her by the neck and threw her bodily into the crack.

“Rose!” Emma screamed.

“Ship,” he shouted into the diamond, “Open doors!”

REQUEST DENIED, replied the entire ship, in too many voices to count, like a chorus from hell. Algernon staggered toward the crack, and Emma followed.

“Emma!” The sound of her voice sent a lightning bolt of relief through her. Inside the crack, the Hostess’s fingers wrapped around an iron pipe jutting into the space. Steam issued from the pipe; Emma guessed that a normal person would not have been able to hold on.

Algernon once more thrust the necklace toward the android. “OPEN THE DOORS, YOU BITCH,” he commanded. In response, with her free hand, the Hostess grabbed onto the arm that held the necklace and slid her hand down until she grasped the diamond in her fist. With superhuman strength, she wrenched the diamond out of its casing and flung it at Emma, who, stunned, caught it in two hands, and thrust it deep in her bodice.

With one hand melting fast on the pipe, the Hostess grabbed Algernon by the collar of his shirt and pulled him over the edge, and they both fell fast into the dark, screaming chasm.

“Rose!”

EMMA,” came the horrifying omnivoice from everywhere at once. “PLUG THAT DIAMOND INTO AN LM INTERFACE MODULE. FROM THERE YOU CAN UPLOAD ME INTO A NEW BODY."

“I’ll do it!”

Emma ran against the tilting of the ship. The last part to sink would be the flagpole on the bow. A warmth flooded her body as the skinsuit switched on. Then the ship went dark.
________________

Sunlight flooded the small Queens apartment where a small puppy slept on a rug by the window. A kettle was boiling for afternoon tea, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day played on the antique television where an android with green eyes, cropped black hair, and a plump, but androgynous frame watched intently. Emma hummed as she shook loose-leaf tea into a bag.

“Oh, come on,” said the android. “Not that song again.”

“Do you want me to sing it instead? I can sing it if that’s what you—”

“No.”

“We’ll… stay… forEV-ever this way…”

“No!”

“You are saaafe in my heart and—”

“Please—”

“—my heart will go ooo-oo-oo-oo-oon…”


New York Queens Modern City


C. M. Fields is a queer, non-binary astrophysicist and writer of speculative fiction. They live in Seattle, Washington, with their beloved cats, Mostly Void Partially Stars and Toast, and spend their days studying the atmospheres and climates of other worlds. They are also the co-editor of If There’s Anyone Left, an anthology series featuring the flash fiction of marginalized writers from across the globe. C. M. can be found on Twitter as @C_M_Fields and @toomanyspectra. Their fiction has appeared in Diabolical Plots, Metaphorosis, Hexagon, and more.

Copyright © 2022 by C.M. Fields
Published by Orion's Beau