CHAPTER 1: DIRTY DEALINGS IN ROBOT CITYCornelia had a rep as something of a slut.More than her activities and promiscuities (which really weren't many, except for that one time with Aldo Graves in the YMCA parking lot), it had to do with the way she walked and the way she dressed: Those skin-tight potato-sack dresses, the stocking tops peeking out from under the hems, that boomba-boomba-boomba hip-sway when she walked down the street. That, and she was friendly to men -- but that was because she liked them, not because she wanted to...well, maybe just a little. No more than anyone else who was as healthy and young and vibrant and 23 years old as Cornelia was.Really she was just a social creature. She liked to see and be seen; she liked to speak and be spoken to. A little wink, a little laugh, a party here, a phone number there. Cornelia hit the town a lot; people who knew her could count on seeing her anywhere, from the video arcades of Rasterville to the glittering glass domes of Little Mars.As to why she was wandering around in Soroyamatown that night, well...that was kind of unusual."Hi!" she said brightly to a sleek, shapely and half-dressed femroid, "Can you help me? I'm kind of lost."The femroid scanned her quickly, shooting a horizontal laser line from her slitted optical panel and passing it over Cornelia top-to-bottom, as though the human girl were a UPC at the grocery store. "I'll say you are," the femroid replied in a husky vocoder. But the sexy robot girl didn't shoot her, or even walk away from her, and neither did her femroid companions hanging out in front of The Input/Output.
"Yeah." Cornelia said, and reached into her purse for a piece of paper, which she uncrinkled with overlong, overpainted fingernails. "Can you tell me how to get to, uh..." she squinted at the paper, turned it upside down, then sideways; she tilted it this way and that to better catch the neon light of the robobar's sign. Finally everything was just right, and Cornelia continued. "...to Five-and-a-quarter-Inch Floppy Joe's?"
"Why you lookin' for Floppy Joe's?" demanded one of the other femroids, leaning forward with her metal hands on her metal hips and nearly popping a metal nipple out of her flimsy yellow top. "That's not a place for meat!"
Cornelia shrank away but held her ground. "Look, I'm just doing someone a fav-"
"Well, we ain't do you no favors, skin-slut," the other spat back (well, buzzed, really), "so why don't you engage your steppin' off subroutine and--"
"Mute yourself, Troniqua," said the first femroid, and the other made a clicking sound but otherwise went silent. The first femroid leaned against a light post and crossed her high-heeled foot extensions at the ankle. "Why do you want to go to Five-and-a-quarter Floppy's?"
Cornelia looked at the paper as if the answer were written there, but it wasn't; so she shrugged and replied, "Um -- well -- see, this guy, he's my friend and he, um --"
"End," said the femroid, holding up a sleek, shiny hand. "I can calculate the rest." She pointed down the street and gave Cornelia directions.
"Okay," said Cornelia, "thanks." She smiled, and held up her hand close to her face and wiggled her fingertips. "Bye." Boomba-boomba-boomba, down the street she went, high heels clicking.
Troniqua made a rasping, grating sound, like a cup full of gravel being spilled on a shopping cart -- the robot equivalent of a derisive huff. "Floppy Joe's.""That girl's gonna be news," said the first femroid. "But it won't be good."* * *Maybe the femroid had lied to her, Cornelia thought; otherwise, why would she have been walking for ten minutes and still not gotten to where she was going?"Okay, wait," she muttered to herself, and stopped on the sidewalk and looked around. The trouble was, not only was she not familiar with Soroyamatown (she'd only been here once, months ago, and that was to buy some meatwhistles from Gordy the Fly) but also every street looked the same: A jumble of neon, of impossibly sexy chrome-covered robots, of excited tourists bussed in from Tanjookistan, of blinking signs that screamed LUBE LUBE LUBE and those weasel guys that sell stock on the weekends and--"Hey. Cornelia."She heard the voice; better, she recognized it...maybe. She looked around, over the sea of neon-splashed silver arms and heads. She didn't see anyone..."Over here."She took two steps to the left and peered around a mule in a sombrero.She saw someone, and sighed."Heyyyyyy...!" she laughed, and made her way along the sidewalk. "I am SO. HAPPY. To run into you," she smiled.* * *
"...recovered thirty thousand dollars in black-market tofu," a man was saying on TV, and his eyes moved back and forth because he sucked at reading teleprompters but the station manager couldn't fire him because he was the owner's nephew. He continued, "four semi-automatic flashlights and a late-model LeSabre. No one was hurt."The image on the screen cut suddenly from the man to a woman in a red jacket and a huge, cream-colored lace cravat at her throat. She took an imperceptible breath and said, "Police today are reporting the disappearance of Cornelia VonPablo, daughter of wealthy magnet magnate Pablo VonPablo." The screen changed to show file video of Cornelia dancing on a multi-tiered dance floor, then going boomba-boomba-boomba past Mother Theresa, and finally waving at the camera from inside a cherry-red Lamborghini. Text at the bottom of the screen read Cornelia VonPablo -- Probably a Slut. The anchorwoman's voice continued, "VonPablo was last seen last Saturday at La Dolce Pita in Ogilvie, around six thirty pee-emm. VonPablo was expected home by ten but never showed. Her family reported her missing on Monday morning; authorities say they have no leads."Coming up next," the anchorwoman said as music swelled behind her, "The results of the landmark Wayne Newton/T-Rex fight, and why chicken prices are projected to skyrocket this winter -- right after this."The TV picture changed to an ad for cleaning fluids, and the jingle filled Lance Manley's living room.He didn't hear it, though, nor did he see it -- not any of it. For at the moment, you see, he was being punched at by a Martian.
Okay, so -- that main flaw?
I NEVER WROTE ANY MORE OF IT, BECAUSE I NEVER FINISH THINGS I START.