Smile

PART 1

“Can you raise your left arm for me please?”

RATTLER lifted its arm. All the while maintaining the slight smile and comforting look it always wore. Who ever had initially installed this unit was pretty good at their job. Alice had even caught herself relaxing when it was around. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but keeping herself distanced from her work was something the company went over in the initial job briefing.

Alice was an engineer for Smile, the industries foremost competitor in virtual intelligence. Something she was proud to point out to her parents when she had gotten this job right out of college. Virtual Intelligence had been the focus of her educational career, and when she was accepted by Smile to actually work on the technology that made it possible, she had almost been too shocked to answer the man who called to tell her.

“Thank you, now the other please.”

Alice scanned the screen looking for anything out of place in the diagnostics. The memory buffer looked more full than normal, but still within the normal range. She resigned to put it into her report and let administration decide if they wanted to look into it. She certainly didn’t have the tools here to optimize the entire system.

Alice turned away from the monitor to face RATTLER, “That’s all for today. You can go back to the front.”

RATTLER smiled and said, “Of course Alice! Thank you for taking care of me!”

Alice nodded as the unit turned and walked away, her heels clicking on the metal floor. It had been a year since being sent out here to “maintain” this location, but in all that time not one thing had really required her attention. Most of the time she kept healthy in the gym attached to her upstairs apartment, then worked it off sitting in front of her computer. She would go out, but she didn’t know anyone in town. Going out also required there to be places to go. Calling it a town was being generous enough anyway.

It wasn’t that she disliked where she was in life, Smile payed her very well seeing as she only sent them a weekly report and checked in with her regional supervisor once a month. It was just… boring. She had hoped that her job would let her get hands on with the technology that she felt was going to power the future. The longer she worked here though, the more she felt like just a technician instead of an engineer.

Which was the other thing. It had seemed strange at first, but Alice had grown less anxious about the idea since starting. The facility she had been hired to maintain was a day care. One that was fully automated with zero human presence at all. The location had apparently just been finished, and an on site engineer was the last thing needed to get it running. Even so, Alice had doubted that many parents would go for dropping their 1-4 year olds off with only a computer to look after them, but the turn out was surprising.

She wasn’t allowed into any of the common areas unless she needed to fix something, but based on what she had seen of the diagnostics, it wasn’t uncommon to have more than 20 kids at a time downstairs. Fortunately, the building was state of the art, and she never heard the circus that must go on down there during the day. It did still leave her to wonder where they all came from though.

Alice finished typing up her report and sent it and the data on to her supervisor. A few minutes later she received her confirmation, and after wrapping up a few small tasks, her day was done. Glancing at the clock it showed just after 3pm… with weeks until her next check in.

She stood and stretched, groaning. She didn’t have to come to her “cube” every day. It being the perfectly cubic box that she did most of her work in. It would be simple to automate the daily diagnostics and send them to her work phone to then send on up the chain, but she liked the routine of it. RATTLER certainly wouldn’t care, seeing as she lacked the capacity to anyway. In the beginning she had tried to engage it in conversation. Alice had been starry-eyed at the prospect of having a virtual intelligence as her responsibility, but the responses she got from it had always felt a little off.

Her demeanor was inviting. The patented sky blue sun dress and comforting aura did wonders on parents, and it had been difficult for Alice to believe she wasn’t actually a real person… at first. It was the small things. Missing a hint here and there, the perfect way it talked, and the constant slightly condescending tone. She knew it came from a good place, but she wasn’t one of the kids. It had never taken to her request that it use her last name instead of just “Alice”.

Alice walked out of her workspace into the dark metal hallway that connected all the various parts of the facility to each other. At first it had seemed like a labyrinth. The dim featureless walls didn’t help. It was expensive to build, but she sometimes wished that the engineers designing the place could have spared some of the budget for the service corridors. Fortunately, she could just call RATTLER to lead her to where ever she needed to go if she ever did actually get lost. Alice tried not to though. When she did RATTLER would inevitable make a comment about her being a lost little kid. Something she hadn’t cared much about at first, but after the 5th or 6th time she had started to feel self conscious about the impression she was making on the unit. Which was ridiculous anyway. It was a machine. It couldn’t get an impression of someone.

She had made and effort to memorize the route from her apartment to her cube. A short walk anyway, and a few minutes later Alice scanned her card and entered her home.

In stark contrast to the dimly lit service tunnel, her home was bright and sunny courtesy of the floor to ceiling windows that ran along the entire length of the opposite wall. One way of course. Alice didn’t want people seeing into her living room. Smile probably didn’t either.

“Welcome home Ms. Fushigi. You’re early. Would you like me to prepare your exercise routine?”

A twang of guilt and the smooth voice of Felix, the name of her Smile+ home package, greeted her as she opened the door.

“…no, just make me a coffee,” she said.

As she expected, it responded, “I must inform you, due to your previous request, you have already skipped your daily exercise routine 1 days in a row, and it is after 2pm. It is not-”

“Felix.”

“Yes Ms. Fushigi?”

“Just make me a coffee.”

“Of course Ms. Fushigi.”


“Ugh.”

“Are you feeling okay Alice?”

Alice focused on RATTLER through her holographic monitor. It sat on the other side of her desk with a thick cable attached to the base of its neck. Despite its higher than normal memory usage, it seemed perfectly fine. Better than fine. It seemed genuinely concerned for her, or maybe it was just learning to read her better.

Alice went back to her monitor, “I’m fine.”

RATTLER frowned, “You look pale. Did you sleep well last night?”

“No.”

Alice vaguely noted that RATTLER’s scrutiny seem to intensify the longer it sat there. Eventually it asked, “Would you like a snack? Or some juice?”

A pang of hunger shot through her when she thought of her coffee, the only breakfast she’d had that morning. She said, “Unless it’s bean juice, I don’t want it.”

RATTLER smiled and said in a playful tone, “The only juice made from beans is coffee silly! And that’s only for adults!”

“I am an adult.”

Through the scrolling text on her screen she could see RATTLER straighten in its chair. The line of questioning was a little strange, but her supervisor had warned her that after about a year the units started to develop something like a personalty for themselves. She’d note it in her weekly report.

RATTLER continued, “I’m sure you could make some friends if you left your home more.”

Alice swiped the screen over to the side and stared at the unit for a moment, “What?”

RATTLER shifted from one side of its seat to the other, probably the closest to uncomfortable she had ever seen the unit.

“Well,” RATTLER said, “I can’t see back here or into your apartment without actually being there.” It motioned to itself, “But I can see out the front door into the lot, and it’s been 37 days since you’ve driven anywhere.”

Alice thought about it, but was forced to agree with RATTLER. She could only vaguely remember the last time she’d left the facility. It had been to go to the store to get a few things. She couldn’t even remember what they were. Her Smile+ home package came with three years of home delivery. All she ever had to do was ask Felix to buy something and it was shipped straight to her.

“My habits,” she said pointing at the unit, “Aren’t your concern. Why are you even tracking that? You’re not a personal unit.”

RATTLER shrugged, “My job is to care for all the little ones in this building. You used to talk with me so much.” A hint of sadness crept into its voice, “About seven months ago you stopped talking to me about anything other than my daily checkups. I started to get concerned.”

Alice was impressed. The unit was programmed to emulate human interaction as closely as possible while still performing its function. Smile’s stance on child learning and development was that there was no drop off with a VI verses a real human caretaker. So far, Alice was sold on that.

And she knew it was just a machine, but Alice still couldn’t help feeling a little guilty.

“I’m not one of your ‘little ones’ for starters,” she pulled the screen back in front of her, “And I need to finish your diagnostic.”

She could still see the unit studying her through the screen, but it stayed quiet for a minute before speaking.

“You are grumpier than normal this morning,” RATTLER said, “Alice, do you need to go-”

“Please be quiet during the rest of the diagnostic. Talking could ruin the data.”

RATTLER nodded and smiled, but even for a VI, it looked forced.

They sat in silence for another few minutes before, finally, the diagnostics finished. Alice scrubbed through the data to confirm her suspicions. The memory buffer was even more full today than yesterday. Only by a small margin though, and it was still within the acceptable range. If it continued like this though…

Alice did some quick math. Based on the increase from yesterday to today, she’d have nine days until she would be forced to shut down the system. Plenty of time with the weekend only being a few days away.

“Alice?”

She glanced up from her thinking to look across at the unit. RATTLER had risen from her chair with an expectant look.

It continued, “The children are starting to arrive in the parking lot. Could you please?” It pointed to the cable protruding from behind its head.

Alice nodded and disconnected the unit from the diagnostic. While removing the cable, she asked, “Have you had any drop in functionality over the last few days?”

“Not from my programming,” the unit responded with a smile.

Alice paused, “What do you mean?”

RATTLER waved her hand dismissively, “You know how it is. Difficult kids come and go all the time.” The unit shrugged and gave her a warm look, “I try to help everyone I can, even the grumpy ones.”

Alice was already back in front of her monitor. Smile didn’t pay her to worry about the kids. That was RATTLERS job. Nodding to the unit, she said, “That’s all for today.”

"Of course Alice- and, sweetie?”

Alice looked up.

RATTLER continued, “If you ever want a break, I could bring you some coloring books for you to draw in?”

Alice blinked a few times before responding, “Just go back to the front please.”

RATTLER nodded and smiled, “Of course, thank you for taking care of me!”

Alice listened to the unit walk away wondering just how much she should put in her report.


AUTHORS NOTE

This is my first abdl story. I hope you enjoy! All comments are welcome.

3 Likes

Very interesting. I enjoy the artificial caretaker trope a lot, as well as the contrived setup trope, so this seems right up my alley. I find it interesting that you refer to the machine as a “Virtual Intelligence”. Even as a scifi fan, I had never heard that term before. That left me slightly confused, though, because you mentioned it had a cable sticking out of it’s neck at one point. I was unsure if that was supposed to be a cosmetic attribute of the machine’s virtual avatar representing diagnostics, or a physical diagnostic cable attached to a physical “body”.

Now for some extreme pedantry, be warned:

I also noticed an off-sounding phrase " Smile’s stance on child learning and development was that there was no drop off with a VI verses a real human caretaker." I think I understand the gist, but I’m not sure “drop off” is appropriate here. Perhaps “practical difference” or something would be better.

(End pedantic section)

In any case, this is a fun start to an intriguing story. I would like to see how this pans out.

RATTLER has a physical body. I didn’t know that the term Virtual Intelligence had been defined either. In the story it’s a label for the units that Smile makes.

No problem at all about the pedantry! I used the term “drop off” because it’s more of a visual description.

That’s a nice story start, well written, a fun scenario and a patient but ominous introduction and context.

While I have suspicions on potential story arcs I’m happy to wait and see where you as the author decide to take it. Lots of options!

PART 2

Friday afternoon had come and gone, and Alice sat in her cube, frustrated.

Over the past few days the memory buffers for RATTLER had slowly continued to fill with seemingly junk data, and despite scrubbing through days of diagnostics she simply couldn’t determine the cause. To make matters worse, the increase had been faster than she’d originally anticipated, meaning she’d be forced to shut down the system by the end of the weekend. Definitely not something she wanted to resort to.

It had felt like she was an after thought for most of her employment with Smile. If she was being honest, Alice had initially been happy that something was finally warranting her being here. After a week of mind numbing failure though, she just wanted a nap.

But she was an engineer. School alone had been much more difficult than this. Though she couldn’t specifically remember anything more insufferable at the moment.

Alice sighed, “But I’ll always have you coffee.” She took a sip from her cup… and found it empty.

Feeling betrayed, she stood and stretched. All week she’d been avoiding this, but it couldn’t be put off any longer.

Grabbing her key card, Alice left her cube and headed for the nearest service ladder down. She’d have to go to the core… at the bottom of the facility.

VI’s didn’t need to sleep. Technically, they could run for years before their internal power supply needed to be recharged. The real problem was their memory.

Initial attempts to create a machine that could simulate human interaction had failed miserably due to the simple fact that it took a lot to process all the various inputs that a computer was assaulted with just to interact with real people. Sight, smell, sound, touch, taste for some specific models, all required massive amounts of storage and processing power to even imitate, much less replicate, the human condition.

Because of this, most VI’s had a core station close by where they can dump their memory buffers and have the core defragment the data. Then it’s compressed into a more manageable form that the VI can recall later.

Essentially, they sleep.

Only a few hours every few days was needed. Unfortunately, due to the sensitive nature of the data, it was always on its own network complete with power supply and triple redundant security system. This one was also at the bottom of a labyrinth of floors and tunnels housing all the supplies and auxiliary systems Smile had deemed necessary. Felix was down here somewhere as well. At least, that’s what she’d been told. She’d never found his base station.

Alice had a map, but she was horrible at reading it. Visitors definitely weren’t encouraged. The map designed reflected that. She’d come down a few floors now, and, squinting at her phone, she should see the next ladder down right around the corner.

She turned and looked down the tunnel. Dimly lit metal and cables greeted her.

Alice turned her phones flashlight on and examined the floor, but uniformly smooth metal ran down to the end where the tunnel seemed to split left and right.

Frowning, she opened her map again. This tunnel should be a dead end with a ladder going down. Alice swiped around looking for something familiar to orient herself with, but only succeeded in losing track of where she thought she had been.

She huffed, “Fine, I’ll just go back up and try again.”

Alice tried her best to retrace her steps, but eventually found herself in front of another ladder down. Shrugging, she slipped down the ladder. Once at the bottom, she looked around and found herself at one end of a long hall of doors. Closer inspection showed that they were matter encryption storage. Rooms holding the various elements used to fabricate… whatever RATTLER needed upstairs.

Consulting her map, it showed that encrypted matter storage was mostly on floor B3.5, but there was also some on B4 and B2. Alice was pretty sure she wasn’t on B2, but the storage areas for B3.5 and B4 were on opposite sides of the facility…

Now even more confused, Alice closed her phone. She was lost. Fortunate, she’d planned ahead. Having gotten lost more than a handful of times already, she had sketched some directions and taped them to the back of the service panels in the walls. Definitely easier to read than the map she’d been given.

Crossing to opposite wall, she gripped the heavy metal handle, and with a twist and pull, removed it. Grunting, she lowered it to the floor.

Standing up she looked into the wall and found… nothing. Just the standard control panel for this junction.

She felt around, shining her flashlight around the dark corners. Maybe it had fallen off? But there wasn’t even a scrap of paper to be found. Searching around the floor she confirmed it hadn’t fallen out when she’d removed the panel.

Giving the tunnel one last look she reattached the panel to the wall, and resolved to find another service panel. She must have never gotten to this one.


Alice sat, exhausted, cursing herself for skipping her workout routines. The ninth panel she’d removed leaned against the opposite wall, revealing a perfectly normal, paperless, junction box.

Her muscles burned as she got back to her feet. She didn’t want to, but it was getting late. All the kids should have left by now. Alice didn’t have an excuse not to.

She opened her phone and selected RATTLERS contact. A moment passed, then the VI’s hologram visualized itself from her phone.

Its usually upbeat self greeted her, “Hello Alice,” Its smile slipped a little before it continued, “You look tired.”

“Yeah, thanks, listen,” Alice paused, “I’m somewhere on B4… I think. Can you come lead me to the core?”

Its smile slipped away completely now, replaced by a look of concern, “Oh my gosh sweetie, I’m on my way. Do you need me to stay on the line with you, or will you be okay by yourself?”

Alice was already shaking her head, “I’m fine. Just come lead me to the core.”

RATTLER nodded and said, “Of course, just stay there and I’ll come get you as soon as I can. Call me if you get scared-”

Alice hung up. She should have just figured it out herself. Sure it might have taken a few extra hours, but at least she wouldn’t have had to deal with RATTLER. Hopefully, once this memory issue was fixed, it’ll go back to normal. In the mean time… Alice sat back down on the floor.

A few minutes passed. Then Alice started to hear the clicking of heels on metal. After another minute she looked over and saw RATTLER come around the corner.

“Alice, sweetie,” it said as it approached, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fin- WHOA!”

Alice started to get up, then felt herself be lifted off the ground and gentle placed on her feet. RATTLER dusted her off and straightened her clothes, even wiping a smudge of grease off her face with its thumb. All the while maintaining a loose but secure grip on her arm.

“Sweetie, you cannot push yourself this hard without getting hurt,” RATTLER continued, “I know you say you are a big girl, and you technically are not my responsibility. However, if you were to be hurt while trying to care for me, I do not know if I could continue to function.”

Alice was too stunned and exhausted to resist. So much so that she didn’t realize what was happening at first when RATTLER spun her around. It wasn’t until she felt the VI’s fingers at the back of her waistband that she pulled away.

“Hey hey HEY,” Alice twisted away from the unit and yanked herself out of its grip.

RATTLER seemed genuinely surprise, “Alice-”

“No!” Alice stamped her foot on the hard metal floor, “This is where I work! I am not one of your kids, and I will not be treated like one! You are a machine designed to take care of the day care upstairs! Where are we right now?!”

RATTLER paused for a moment then said, “B4.5 hall 32C.”

“And who is in charge of maintaining the equipment on this floor?!”

The unit composed itself, “You are,” it said.

“Right,” Alice lowered her voice. She really shouldn’t be shouting at it. For all she knew, the units strange new behavior towards her was just a product of the increased memory usage.

“Listen,” she continued, “Something is wrong with you, and I’m very close to just flashing your unit. Smile will probable just do it anyway, but it’s annoying and takes a long time.” Alice shook her head, “Just take me to the core.”

RATTLER nodded and half turned before motioning to the metal panel leaning against the wall, “Would you like for me to replace that for you? It looks like you have done so multiple times already.”

“What- oh,” Alice shrugged, “Sure.” It was heavy anyway.

The VI gripped the panel with one hand and lifted it to examine the inside before securing it to the wall again.

“What was that?” Alice asked.

RATTLER smiled and said, “Well I know you like to leave your drawings in there. I saw you attaching one a few weeks ago on the way to my core, and I wanted to put them somewhere I could see them better- I can put them back,” she quickly added seeing the look on Alice’s face, “if you want me to. I just liked them so much it seemed a shame to leave them where no one would see them.”

Alice just stared at the unit for a moment before motioning for it to start walking. It nodded again and started back the way it came.


She’d made it to the core. Unfortunately, Alice still wasn’t able to pin down the issue.

At first she had thought the core just wasn’t working right by not actually compressing RATTLER’s memories when she “slept”. Short periods of compression had ruled that out. The moment the VI came back out of her dock the memory buffers shot back up to where they had been.

It was starting to look like flashing the unit would be her only option. In which case, she would need her supervisors approval.

Despite how angry she’d been earlier, she did feel a bit sad that it had come to this. Flashing the unit meant wiping everything and reinstalling her programming. Essentially, she’d be installing a whole new VI. Admittedly, something she would normally jump at the chance to do but…

She looked around the core master control. In contrast to her cube, it was a relatively large room with multiple workstations at various points throughout. Normally, the only breaks in the uniformly gray metal walls would be cables, but the sketches she’d made to guide her down here were currently taped over most of the walls. She could barely make out a pattern where sketches of parts of the facility that connected to each other had been placed in clusters, but other than that it all looked unremarkable to her.

Alice sighed. It was getting late, and she wanted to catch her supervisor before she was asleep for the night. Opening a secure terminal, she attempted to connect to the emergency network messaging system.

After a moment the terminal stopped connecting and spat out an error message. Frowning, she tried again. Maybe she’d mistyped.

Again the error message.

Alice groaned. Could nothing work right today?

Trying it again for the third time, she got the same error message. She closed the terminal and started to run a diagnostic on her drivers when she noticed an error in her system dashboard. Hoping it would point her in the right direction, she opened it.

NO NETWORK FOUND

Alice stared at the screen for a full five seconds. Surely that wasn’t correct. In all her life, even in all her parents life, no one had had connection issues. Not since the advent of the HoloNET.

She opened another terminal and pinged the HoloNET, but after a minute of it failing to connect she canceled the command. Thinking for a moment, she queried the system for the hardware used to connect online.

NO HARDWARE FOUND

Again, impossible, she’d reviewed the facilities systems when she’d started here. They where redundant 4… technically 5 times.

Alice signed out of the terminal and leaned over it gripping the sides of the workstation. RATTLER hadn’t been entirely wrong. She was pushing herself pretty hard. Definitely losing sleep and meals trying to fix whatever was happening here. If she could just get this right, maybe Smile would give her more responsibility. Maybe even a position that mattered more than some day care in the middle of no where.

But first, she had to fix the network. Her professors had always said when you find a problem too big to fix, the best place to start was at the beginning. In this case, the communications array on the roof… all the way at the top of the facility.

RATTLER had long since returned to the day care to clean up for the day. Alice pulled out her phone and selected the unit’s contact.


AUTHORS NOTE

Part 2 with a bit more interaction between Alice and RATTLER.

3 Likes

This is intriguing, looking forward to more!

2 Likes

PART 3

Rain battered the repulsion shield on top of the facility. Fortunately, the shields were standard on all VI enabled Smile facilities. Kept people from getting where they weren’t suppose to go, and made equipment maintenance easier.

Alice listened to the muffled sounds of the thunderstorm with her head and most of her torso buried in one of the relays that dotted the rooftop. She’d been wary of RATTLER after the way it’d been acting, but the VI hadn’t done much other than greet her once back in the core. After leading her up to the main floor of the building, she’d gone back to the front to continue doing whatever she did when the day care was closed.

“Probably choosing which coloring book to give me,” Alice muttered.

She extracted herself from the relay. Despite several hours of work she still couldn’t figure out why the facility had decided to take itself offline. The HoloNET was everywhere. It had to be a hardware issue, but no matter how many systems she checked, she just couldn’t find any problems. It should work. It just… didn’t.

Alice pulled out her phone. Her supervisor had told her not to call after hours unless it was an emergency, and looking up at the inky blackness of the stormy sky, it was definitely past that time.

She sighed and hit her supervisors number. So much for fixing the issue by herself.

The holographic screen flashed white from a moment, then displayed an error message.

“Aaaargh!”

Alice yelling into the storm above her. Literally nothing could go right today.

She took a deep breath. Getting angry wouldn’t help at all. Alice looked back to her phone, but the error message didn’t mean anything to her. She punched up RATTLERS contact, but got the same error from before.

She stood there thinking. At this point it was officially weird. Unless you were buried underground somewhere, phones had signal. The fact that both her phone and the facility were cut off from the HoloNET made Alice a little nervous.

Alice glanced around the roof. The only two people here were Alice and… well, RATTLER wasn’t a person, but she looked like one. She’d been promised that the building was one of the most secure that Smile had built. The competition would be very quick to get their hands on even a piece of the formula for VIs though, and the way this was going, Alice was running out of scenarios that didn’t involve foul play.

Alice walked over to the housing for the main array. If she pulled out one of the network cards it should send a signal to someone that the system was damaged. They should send someone out to at least deliver the broken part.

She opened the panel for the array and reached in to find… nothing. No array. No equipment of any kind.

Alice stood looking at an empty junction. It didn’t even look like anything had been installed. The housing was just empty.

Except… it wasn’t. Alice shone her phone flashlight inside to see something on the floor. Reaching in, she picked up what appeared to be some kind of plushy. She’d never seen the style before, but RATTLER materialized stuff like this for the day care sometimes. It looked like a cartoon doll with a red dress and diaper peeking our from under the clothing.

Alice turned it over a few times before tossing it back in the junction and shut the door. Yet another system to fix. Though, if RATTLER’s matter manipulator was damaged, it could account for the missing array. She doubted she’d be able to fix that on her own.

Then there was the issue of her phone.

“Fine,” Alice said. She’d resolved to do what she should have done the moment the facility went offline: tell her supervisor. Without a phone, she’d have to drive in to where she was based, but, at this point, Alice welcomed the opportunity leave.

She made her way down to her cube. The only thing she needed was the black box. She could use it to show her supervisor what the issues were with RATTLER and the array, then it would be simple to come back out and flash the VI while a maintenance team installed the missing equipment.

The walk back to her cube was tense but uneventful. It’d be impressive if anyone could sneak in to the building and get by all the security, not to mention RATTLER. She still couldn’t help but feel a little-

“Alice?”

Alice jumped and spun around as she came into her cube, her arm going straight for the head of the person just inside the door. Fortunately, RATTLER caught her arm just before it made contact.

RATTLER frowned down at her, “Sw- Alice, you know hitting is rude.”

“Sorry,” Alice said, going to pull her arm away, but was stopped by the VI.

Alice was reminded of the height difference between the two. Even without her heels, the VI was a few inches taller, and right now she was looking down at her with an expectant face.

“And?” the VI continued.

“And…” Alice searched for what the VI wanted her to say, “I won’t do it again?”

RATTLER nodded and released her, “Thank you, hitting is wrong and-”

“I don’t have time for this,” Alice cut off the VI as she moved behind her desk. She scanned her ID on the wall panel containing the black box before continuing, “I’m leaving. The communications array is gone and my phone isn’t connecting to anyone.” She pulled the black box out of its slot with a satisfying thunk.

The moment the black box was free, the maintenance lights kicked in plunging Alice and RATTLER into a deep red color. Alice made her way back around her desk and started into the hallway.

RATTLER moved to walk with her, “I had come here to discuss that with you.” The unit continued, “I have been cut off from the HoloNET, and have been trying to reconnect for 42 minutes. There is another problem though.”

Alice stopped and turned to the VI, rolling her eyes. Of course there was. “What?” she asked.

RATTLER went on, “We still have residents in the day care.”

“That’s not allowed,” Alice said, “It’s a day care. Kids don’t stay here overnight.”

“Not normally,” it responded, “But if I am unable to contact a legal guardian, I am programmed to keep residents for 24 hours then contact the proper authorities.”

Alice started walking again, “Then do that.”

RATTLER kept up, “I cannot. I’ve been disconnected from the HoloNET.”

“Just-” they’d reached the service door that led to her car, “Just keep them here until I’m back. Do your thing, whatever it is, and I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

“I am sorry for this but I was not programmed for these scenarios,” the VI continued, “What should I do if the children return before you do?”

“I’ll be back before then, but, “Alice paused and thought about how to word this, “If, somehow, I’m not back by the time this place is open again just do what you’re programmed to do, and whatever you do, “she pointed to the unit, “do not let those kids go without a parent. Smile will have more than my job if anything happens to them.”

Alice pushed through the service door and straight into the pouring rain. She fast-walked to her car and jumped in as quickly as she could, but still ended up soaked in the process.

She took a moment to sit in the car before starting it. Wiping her wet hair out of her face, she entered the address for her supervisors office and hit start.

She watched as the car pulled around the side of the day care and started to pass in front of the big glass windows that dominated the front wall of the building showing her a view of the now dimly lit interior of the play area. These windows didn’t have the same treatment that hers did. Parents had complained at first that they couldn’t see their kids as they rolled up to get them at the end of a day. One of her first jobs had been to program them to show the interior of the play area.

Alice glanced around in the interior and saw RATTLER briefly before her car started to pull away-

WAIT!

Alice hit the brakes and threw the car into reverse. Coming back to inspect the interior of the day care, whoever she had seen was gone now.

And it was a whoever. It had been too short for RATTLER, and too tall for one of the kids. She’d only seen it for a moment, but Alice was sure someone was in the day care.

Alice couldn’t leave now. Not with children still in there. If it was just RATTLER that would be fine. Unless they could somehow disable her unit. Though, Alice pitied anyone who tried to take on the VI.

She reluctantly got out of the car and ran to the front door. Fumbling in the rain, she was able to scan her key card and get through the door. The dark interior of the front room greeted her. Normally, a hologram would be there, but with the facility in maintenance mode the only thing she could hear was the rain pounding on the outside of the building.

Cautiously, she started towards the door into the rest of the day care. The shadowy figure had looked like a woman, but with the main lights off it had been hard to tell. Still, if she could get into here without RATTLER or herself noticing, she must be dangerous.

Alice slipped into the main area of the day care. Here the floor turned to carpet, and the walls were lined with cartoonish depictions of fields and castles with dragons and wizards smiling at her. Across the room was an obviously designated play area with toys packed into containers and rows of empty cubbies where she assumed the kids put their things during the day.

A few doors led out of the room, but none had any lights shinning through them. She started across the room to where she had seen the figure standing. If she could find RATTLER-

“Alice?”

For the second time that day, Alice jumped and spun around. This time RATTLER was well out of range of her though. It stood in one of the doorways leading deeper into the day care. The VI stepped into the room with the main lights slowly coming on.

Alice pointed across the room, “There was-”

“Alice!” RATTLER ignored her pointing and quickly walked up to her. Once close enough it pushed her wet hair back and surveyed her soaked clothes.

“Sweetie, you cannot run around with your clothes like this!” RATTLER looked back towards the front room, “And you are making a mess of the carpet tracking water in like this!”

“Forget about the water!” Alice said, “Their was a wo-”

“Young lady!” RATTLER said gripping her shoulder, “I have tried to be nice! It is plain to me though that you have been neglecting yourself this past week.” It caught Alice’s gaze before continuing, “Where are we right now?”

Alice stood, stunned, by the sudden outburst from the VI. After a moment she responded, “In the day care! I’m trying to tell you-”

“And who,” RATTLER said cutting her off again, “is in charge of this day care?”

She could feel herself deflate as she realized what the VI wanted. Maybe if she just played along she could find a way to get her point across.

“You are,” she said.

“That is right,” it said with a smile, “And one of my primary duties at this day care is to ensure that all of its residents are healthy and happy!”

It ended the line a bit more cheerfully than what Alice thought was warranted.

“Unfortunately,” the unit continued, “it looks like Ms. June was not able to say hello to you when you arrived, and your parents never signed any forms for you. Can you tell me your parent’s phone number?”

Alice stared at the VI mouth open for a few seconds before responding, “I’m not giving you my parents number.”

“That is okay sweetie!” RATTLER started to push her gently, but firmly, the rest of the way across the room, “I am sure Ms. Mira can sort you out.”

The rest of her complaints fell on deaf ears as RATTLER pushed her through a set of automatic sliding doors and into another room. This one was well lit, and well know to Alice. It was one of the most well know features of the day care dubbed “Ms. Mira”. The Miracle Division had designed and implemented it, hence the name.

A long raised section of floor stretched out in front of her with soft padding on either side. Holographic projectors lined the length of the room allowing the interior to take on the appearance of whatever was programmed. Currently, she seemed to be standing in an overly pink nursery room complete with plushies strewn across the floor.

A kind looking woman not much shorter than Alice came into view. The hologram walked forward and seemed to step out of the wall as it came up to her.

“Hello cutie,” it said punctuating the last bit with a smile, “What’s your name?”

Taken aback by everything Alice took a moment to respond, “A-Alice.”

The woman nodded, “Well, Lizzy, can you hop up onto this platform here for me?”

The hologram pointed toward the raised section of floor, and Alice walked closer. She’d read about the system, and was not very excited for what came next. Once up on the platform it started to move her slowly down the room.

“Please keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times!” Ms. Mira said excitedly, “But don’t worry! If you do fall we have trained professionals here to catch you!”

Alice glanced around and saw that some of the plushies had animated and started to follow her along the length of the room. It’d be creepy, if they weren’t… well… plushies.

She was so engrossed in watching the stuffed elephant do cartwheels across the floor that she didn’t see Mira approach from the other side.

“Lizzy, can you be a big girl and stay still for me please?”

Alice turned to see the hologram standing in front of her. She sighed and said, “My name is- h-hey!”

Mira had gripped her shirt and lifted it over her head. Once off she knelt down and started to fiddle with the button of her pants.

“Hey!” Alice tried to danced away from the projection, but found that her feet were stuck. She looked down and saw two of the plushies holding her in place.

“Please stay still Alice.” Ms. Mira smiled up at her, “We need to get these nasty wet clothes off you, so we can get you in your uniform. Can you be a big girl and help me please?”

Alice cringed at the thought of being stripped naked by this machine, but she knew its weakness. If only it had come before it took her clothes.

“Fine,” Alice grimaced and allowed the machine to continue its work. After a minute of tugging and pulling she stood shivering and dripping wet on the platform as it began to move again.

“Thank you so much, Lizzy!” Ms. Mira beamed at her as she wiped her down with a towel, “I’ll be sure to let your parent know you were very good for me!”

“You do that,” Alice muttered as the machine continued on.

She slid forward for another few feet before the floor came to another stop. This time Mira walked up to her and said, “Okay! Now I need you to be very still for me please! This is for your growth chart. We’ll get to see how much you weight!”

Alice perked up and asked, “Can I see you weigh me?”

Ms. Mira responded, “Of course! Just look over here…”

The hologram pointed to a digital screen that appeared on the far wall of the nursery. A few of the plushies ran up and seemed to watch it intently. The number started to fluctuate, and Alice shifted her weight from foot to foot causing the numbers to rise and fall. Ms. Mira looked over just in time to see Alice bending her knees before jumping as high as she could.

“Alice no!”

She came crashing back down onto the platform with all the force she could muster. The moment she landed the holograms vanished, and the voice of Ms. Mira was replaced by a cold, expressionless recording:

“WEIGHT OVERFLOW DETECTED”

It repeated a few times before Alice said, “Alice Fushigi, override!”

There was a pause, then:

“OVERRIDE ACCEPTED STANDBY MODE ENGAGED”

“That’s right,” Alice said walking off the platform.

She exited Ms. Mira’s room and almost collided with a motionless RATTLER. The unit stood slumped forward seemingly unaware of anything going on around it. Alice patted it on the shoulder and walked toward the back of the day care. Somewhere back here was a service door leading into the interior of the facility.

First thing was first. She needed some clothes.


AUTHORS NOTE

Close but not quite there yet. Maybe next chapter.

4 Likes

Typo - ‘competition’

Typo - ‘car’

I think your spellchecker is sabotaging you, which is a shame, because I’m rather enjoying the story and its scenario. Shades of Asimov.

Fixed :+1:

Thanks for the feedback. I catch a lot when I’m editing, but it’s so much harder to spot stuff when I’m the one who wrote it.

One thing that can help is running it through a text-to-speech program. Wrong words like what @BabyAnna pointed out become very obvious when a computer is reading it to you. :slight_smile:

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I’ll definitely be doing this in the future! :grin:

PART 4

Alice stepped out into her dimly lit living room. Apparently Smile assumed that standby mode would never be needed while someone lived here. After making her way back here, she had opened the door only to find a pitch black room for comfort. The little light that flashed through the window from the raging storm did little to help as she stumbled across the room. Not even Felix still had power.

“Guess I can say good bye to the food in my fridge,” Alice said to herself. She didn’t cook much anyway.

Ms. Mira had taken all of her clothes earlier, and with the power to her living quarters out, she hadn’t been able to make new ones for herself. Normally, she’d just tell Felix to make a new set of clothes for her with whatever clothing encryption that she’d bought from the store, but that system was down along with the rest of everything else. She hadn’t even been able to manually route power to it because of the security lock down. Fortunately, Smile had given her a welcome gift when she’d originally gone to her training at the company. Said gift had included some generic junk like pens, pins, and a few gift cards she’d never used. The real prize had been a few ill-fitted t-shirts and a pair of joggers all with the patented Smile logo. She never thought she’d ever wear them, and had thrown them into the depths of her closet when she had unpacked.

Now back in her living room, she shone her phones light down on herself. The clothes hung off her in a way that made it obvious they were mass produced, but Alice didn’t care. It was better than nothing.

She sat down onto her couch and groaned. She really didn’t have a choice of whether to leave or not. Not with kids still in the day care, and whoever she had seen in the front was still down there as well. A fact that unnerved her, but wasn’t exactly a problem. When the facility entered standby mode with children still inside it would place them in the daycare sleeping quarters with only herself able to gain access. It probably wasn’t fun for them, but they’d be safe.

The more important thing was that the intruder couldn’t get out of the day care either. Alice’s biometrics were the only ones that could open doors in standby mode. Whoever was down there was effectively trapped. Unless they could break out just as easily as they could break in, and if that was the case, Alice certainly wasn’t going to get in their way.

Alice checked her phone. 11:43PM, it was getting late, but she wasn’t anywhere near tired enough to fall asleep with an intruder downstairs.

She frowned at her phone as she watched the tiny symbol on her status bar search for signal. Ever since she’d tried to connect in the core, her phone hadn’t been able to either. It was an oddly uncomfortable feeling. She couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been around a device with a connection to the HoloNET.

A particularly loud peel of thunder jerked her out of her thoughts. She didn’t want to just sit here. The only place she could go right now with any semblance of normalcy would be her cube. At least she could try to get some work done there.


A few hours had past, but Alice had made no progress in her efforts to reconnect to the HoloNET. She’d tried every trick she knew, but there just wasn’t any way that she could get around the missing array. Not from a terminal, anyway.

If she was honest, she hadn’t come here to work. Her cube was one of the most secure rooms in the whole facility, and the thick metal walls between her and the outside world shielded the chaotic sounds of the storm from her completely. The only thing out of place was the hole where the black box had been, and the reddish glow of the emergency lights.

Yet, dispite her situation, Alice found herself nodding off a few times. She had just leaned back and resigned herself to an uncomfortable night in her chair when she heard the beeping of a notification.

She peeked at her monitor. The notification was from the local network. She fumbled with the mouse, and opened the dialogue box, fully prepared to just click through it.

Except… the notification was about RATTLER.

Alice groaned.

If the intruder had somehow accessed her systems, it could be a big problem.

Alice sat up, “If that unit causes me any more issues, I don’t care what Smile’s protocols are, I’ll flash it myse-”

She stopped and focused on the screen. RATTLERS status had gone from offline to disconnected… then it changed back to online… only to change back to offline.

Then another notification. This time from the core. RATTLERS memory diagnostics were fluctuating again. This time they were well beyond the recommended threshold, but the unit still read offline.

Alice groaned again.

If it were just offline she could leave it, but the memory readings made it seem like it was active, which could only mean the unit was operating off the network.

Alice stood and made her way out into the hall. She could just leave RATTLER to malfunction her way to oblivion, but with children still in the day care she couldn’t ignore it. If anything happened to them while RATTLER was acting like this it would be on her, and… they were kids. She couldn’t just leave them down there with a malfunctioning VI and whoever else was in the building.

She walked through the maintenance halls until she approached the service door to the day care. Quickly scanning her palm, she quietly made her way through the door and into the back of the storage closet the day care used for anything it didn’t just store as encrypted data. Alice made sure to close the door behind her. Didn’t want whoever was down here getting through.

Once the door was secure, she made her way as quietly as she could over to the smooth off-white door separating her from the rest of the day care. With standby mode on, she’d have to manually slide the door op-

Alice jumped back and nearly screamed as the door silently slid open on its own. For a few short seconds she panicked, expecting someone to leap through the door at her, but eventually the door slid closed again just as quietly as it had opened.

Alice crouched on the floor riding out the adrenaline until she eventually calmed down enough to carefully creep forward again. As soon as she got close, the door slid open again on its own. Normally, she wouldn’t have given it a second thought. The door was supposed to open on its own, but not it standby mode.

She took a few deep breaths to steel herself. Apparently, the power had been restored to this door. Maybe all the doors. Though, the lights beyond the storage closet were still off.

“I don’t get payed enough for this,” Alice grumbled to herself as she peeked out of the doorway.

“Well, I do not get payed at all, so you are doing better than me sweetie.”

Alice jumped and tried to fall back into the closet, but she felt a tight grip on her arm as RATTLER pulled her out into the hallway.

“You shouldn’t be functioning,” Alice gasped.

“Neither should you,” RATTLER said playfully, punctuating its sentence with a poke to Alice’s stomach. “Be awake I mean. It is far past your bedtime young lady,” it said as the unit began dragging her down the hall.

Alice struggled against its grip, but might as well have tried to resist being pulled along by a car. The unit didn’t even seem to be slowed by her. It pulled her out into the front area and across to the same door she’d been shepherded through earlier.

“Now,” RATTLER said as it came to a stop in front of the entrance to the Miracle Machine. “Sweetie, Ms. Mira told me what you did earlier, and that she was very sad you ran off without telling her where you were going- please stop that Alice.”

RATTLER and Alice struggled for a few moments before the unit was able to get a hold of both of her arms and hold them down at her sides. RATTLER gave her a stern look before continuing, “I know it is late and that you are cranky, but you cannot treat Ms. Mira like that. And now,” it said nodding to the double doors, “we are going to go in and you are going to apologize to Ms. Mira, then we can get you dressed properly and put to bed. Can you do that for me?”

“My name is Alice!” she said with a stomp of her foot, “And I’m not cranky! You’re malfunctioning! There’s someone else in here with us and the only reason I’m here is because of some kids that didn’t get picked up-”

“Alice!” the unit cut her off with a stern tone that had an edge of irritation in it.

“Please,” the unit had returned to its normal motherly tone, “If you do this for me, I will be sure to listen to all your complaints tomorrow.”

Alice was reminded of just how strong the unit was, and she’d never heard it talk like that before with her. Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to make the malfunctioning VI angry with her.

She nodded reluctantly and RATTLER smiled, “Good! Now lets go meet Ms. Mira.”

They continued through the double doors into the Miracle Machine. This time Alice walked on her own, but the VI still held her arm in a tight grip. As they came into the room, Alice looked around in confusion. It was the same way she’d come through before, but the inside was… different.

Instead of a central conveyor the floor was a uniform pink carpet. A few stuffed animals lay on the floor here and there, and along the walls of the room looked to be real furniture that you’d find in a nursery.

“Oh! Welcome back Lizzy!”

Alice’s attention was drawn across the room to what looked like the same woman from before. “Ms. Mira” stood up from the changing table and walked back over to them. It smiled and said, “I’m so glad you’re back little lady! I was so worried when I found that you’d run off.”

She could feel RATTLER staring down at her expectantly, so she stepped forward a little and said, “I’m sorry for running off before.”

She felt RATTLER give her arm a slight squeeze.

“-and,” she grimaced back at RATTLER, “I’m sorry for jumping around before.”

“Oh,” Ms. Mira patted her arm, “That’s all right. I’d be scared too if I was in a new place this late at night.”

Alice rolled her eyes as Ms. Mira stepped back and appraised her. After a moment it said, “You have such interesting taste in clothing. But I’m sure your parents just didn’t have time to get you dressed before dropping you off here.”

Alice huffed, “To sleep?”

Ms. Mira shrugged, “We don’t judge parents on their parenting style.”

Alice waved her free hand around and said, “Isn’t it past the time that we close anyway? I shouldn’t be here in the first place.”

RATTLER spoke up, “I know it is late sweetie, but I will be sure to let some one know you are here. We even have some one else who works here!”

“That’s me,” Alice said flatly, “You’re sending me a message right now.”

The unit paused, and, for a moment, she thought she might have gotten through to it. Then it continued, “It is far too late for you to be checking your messages. Do not worry though. I am sure the message will be there in the morning.”

Alice wanted to strangle the unit, but before she could even say anything Ms. Mira spoke up, “Lizzy, could I have you step over here. We really should get this done so you can go off to bed.”

She gave RATTLER a dark look before following Ms. Mira across to the other side of the room. It had her step up on a scale, then took a few measurements. It let her off the scale with a pat on the head and a smile.

“Now Lizzy,” it said while setting down her tape measure, “time for your clothes.”

Alice hesitated, but reluctantly let it pull off her shirt and pants. She watched it throw them into a container a little remorsefully. She was stuck like this now. Even if she did make it back to her room upstairs.

“It looks like we still don’t have any information on you,” Ms. Mira looked like it was thinking, “Do you know if you need diapers at night Lizzy?”

Alice’s jaw dropped, “No!”

Ms. Mira paused and raised an eye brow at her, “Are you sure dear? It’s okay if you do. Plenty of other girls here still need them. Even during the day time!”

Alice could feel the heat rising in her face as she shook her head, “I’m not a kid who wets the bed! I don’t need d- them!”

Ms. Mira nodded, “Of course you’re not Lizzy, but your parents didn’t seem to complete all our paperwork. If you’re sure…”

“Yes I’m sure!”

“Okay,” Ms. Mira said turning back to the changing table, “But we’ll still need to have you wear these.”

It seemed to reach into a drawer in the table before pulling out something square and pink, “Just until we can get in touch with your mommy or daddy,” it went on quickly when it saw the look on Alice’s face.

The woman held a pull-up. It was bigger than any pull-up Alice had seen before, but it looked exactly like something a girl just out of diapers might wear. It was tinted pink with colorful patterns of flowers on the front. At the waist she could see cartoons dancing across from one side to the other.

“I am not putting that on,” Alice said defiantly.

She saw RATTLER cross its arms across its chest, “Alice…” A clear warning laced into the word.

“I promise it’s just like normal underwear Lizzy. Look,” Ms. Mira stretched open the pull-up, “And if you need to go potty, just tell Ms. Rattler and she’ll be able to help you if you have any trouble.”

Alice looked between the two, then to the door.

RATTLER unfolded its arms and gave her a look.

She could try to run, but…

One last look at RATTLER sealed her fate.

"Fine, but I don’t need them, "She said pointing at the woman holding the offending object.

“Of course dear,” Ms. Mira said stepping up next to Alice, “Like I said, they’re only until we hear from your parents.”

Alice rolled her eyes again. Smile would definitely hear from someone, but it wasn’t going to be her parents."

Ms. Mira knelt down next to her and spread open the pull-up, “Step in for me please Lizzy.”

Alice sighed and placed one foot in then the other. Once she’d found her balance again, Ms. Mira slowly stood, gently tugging the pull-up up her legs. It slid into place and the woman reached behind her to give it one last tug in the back. Inspecting her work she smiled and nodded, “They look adorable on you dear. You shouldn’t feel ashamed at all for wearing them.”

Ms. Mira turned back to the changing table while Alice looked down at herself. It was thicker than she had thought it would be. It forced her legs apart slightly, not enough to be noticeable by anyone else, but after two decades of wearing underwear without padding Alice couldn’t help but notice. She shifted her weight and felt the bulk between her legs shift a little. It was a weird, alien sensation.

“Now for your sleeper!”

Alice turned back to see Ms. Mira smiling at her and holding a folded piece of clothing. The woman unfurled it revealing a pastel pink footed sleeper with the words Lizzy embroidered on the front.

She looked up at the woman. The pull-up was one thing, but this…

“No.”


A few minutes of struggling later and Ms. Mira gave her now pastel pink and padded bottom a pat as RATTLER led her out the door. It had taken both the unit and the Miracle Machine’s projection to wrestle Alice into the sleeper. Once in, Alice found that the arms ended in padded mittens that made gripping the zipper on her back all but impossible. Meaning she was at RATTLERS mercy as to when she would get out of the ridiculous garment.

She was led down a hallway and into a dimly lit room with a single bed. It was dark, but she could make out enough to see that it had childish looking bed sheets and more cartoonish depictions on the wall. This time it showed a quaint grassy field with purple butterflies flapping around.

It’d be cute, except Alice was dressed to match.

RATTLER tucked her in and gave her a very stern warning about trying to get up during the night before leaving. Alice tossed and turned a few times trying to find a comfortable position with the added bulk between her legs. Eventually though, she faded off to sleep.


AUTHORS NOTE

I’m sure this will end well.

I’d also like to thank @Danni for suggesting using a text-to-speech program to proof read before posting. I caught a lot of mistakes I never would have noticed because of that. Thank you!

6 Likes

PART 5

Alice slowly awoke to the sound of a gentle tune. She rolled over to escape her alarm, but it did little to help.

She realized it was coming from above her, but it felt like the blanket had gotten wrapped up between her legs during the night. Alice slid over to try and slip out of whatever tangled mess she was in.

The blanket came with her. If anything, it seemed to bunch up even more. She struggled a little more before finally opening her eyes in defeat. A slowly rotating mobile with miniature fairies greeted her.

She sat up, confused. But her struggles had only gotten her to the edge of the bed, and sitting up caused her to tumble over the edge. With a padded thud she landed on the floor.

Now fully awake, Alice felt the pull-up’s padding against her as she sat on the floor. Untangling her self from the mess of blankets and covers that had come with her over the edge of the bed, she stood and surveyed the room around her.

She was in one of the daycare’s nursery units. It was a mess right now, but the facility’s matter manipulator had created what looked like an overly large toddlers bed big enough for her to sleep in. On the opposite wall was a dresser and chest of drawers that looked to be normal sized, but next to them was a massive changing table full of what looked like the same sized pull-ups the miracle machine had put her in the night before. She couldn’t tell without pulling out a few, but behind the pull-ups looked like stacks of significantly thicker rectangles of plastic. Alice didn’t even want to know why those were there.

“I am definitely flashing that unit- actually,” she said as she looked at her padded hands, “I’ll burn this place down with it inside.”

Alice looked up. Surely there was some way of getting out of here. She walked around the room looking for something she could use as the lights slowly got brighter. Its source was an AR screen running along the top of the wall just under the ceiling. Getting up on the bed and peering over the edge of it revealed rolling hills covered in grass and a smattering of trees. They swayed slightly in a simulated breeze. Its nature as an AR screen made the whole scene seem entirely real, despite the fact that the rising sun was coming from the wrong direction.

She hopped off the bed. Even if there were something in the room she could use it would be pointless. The sleeper she was in rendered her hands useless. The door appeared to be automatic, lacking any visible handle. To open it manually, she’d have to pry the service panel off. Not exactly the easiest thing to do even when she had her tools.

Alice reached behind her and struggled with the zipper on her back. After a minute or two she gave up. The mittens on her hands made it so that she couldn’t even feel it, much less grasp it.

She stomped her foot in frustration. Wasn’t RATTLER supposed to come check on her? If she really was a kid, there was no way the unit could just leave her alone like this. She knew its sensors could normally see in here, as well as everywhere else in the daycare.

Then she had a troubling thought. What if it left her in here? It was definitely malfunctioning. What if it somehow forgot she was here? Or its sensors were giving it bad data? Alice started to search the room with renewed vigor.

Other than the furniture, there was a small toy chest under the bed with a useless assortment of childish items, a mobile suspended above the bed that still faintly emitted the gentle tune that had woken her, and a smaller door that she had yet to enter. Cautiously stepping up to it caused it to slide open and reveal a small bathroom with a sink and bathtub. Though, curiously, it didn’t have a toilet.

The realization brought her attention to something else she hadn’t noticed until now. She needed to pee.

Reaching down, she pressed against the padding between her legs and grimaced. She normally would go as part of her routine before bed, but she’d been so preoccupied with everything going on last night that it never came up. Of course, now that she had noticed, it was becoming more and more of an issue the longer she stood there.

Alice shifted from one foot to the other, feeling the pull-up rub against the inside of her legs.

Absolutely not. She was a grown up perfectly capable of holding it for as long as she needed to. And being dressed up like this was one thing, but if she actually used the pull-up she didn’t think she’d be able to bear the condescending attitude RATTLER would give her.


Alice sat on the edge of the bed bouncing her leg. She felt like it had been at least an hour since she’d woken up, but the door to the rest of the daycare had remained infuriatingly locked. Without her phone, she couldn’t even tell what time it was. Though, based on how hungry she was getting, it was definitely time for breakfast.

A twinge from her bladder pulled her from thoughts of food. She leaned forward slightly and pressed her hands against the front of her pull-up. This whole situation was ridiculous. She’d come down here to fix RATTLER! It should be thanking her! But of course, VIs didn’t work that way.

“Come on Rattler,” she said through clenched teeth, “get in here.”

She squirmed on the bed a little more before getting up and walking back into the bathroom. Though it was barely big enough to call it that. She bounced in place for a minute thinking about what she could do. Just as she was making up her mind, the soft swishing sound of the door opening came from behind her.

Alice turned to see RATTLER step into the room with a smile, “Good morning sweetie!”

As it walked into the room, she noticed the door slide shut behind the unit.

All thoughts of escape gone, Alice gestured to it and said, “Rattler, finally, get me out of this thi-”

The unit cut her off by stepping in for a hug and a pat on the back. Alice was so surprised she almost hugged it back, then remembered herself.

“What are you-”

“Sweetie,” the unit said, “When you wake up in the morning you are suppose to say ‘Good morning’! Otherwise, people might think you are grouchy.”

It pulled away from her and held her at arms length, an expectant look on its face.

Alice blinked, “I don’t have time-”

RATTLER shushed her with a finger and raised and eyebrow.

Alice fidgeted and felt another, more urgent, twinge of her bladder.

“Good morning,” she said quickly, “Take this off of me-”

“What a good girl!” RATTLER said, cutting her off again, “Now, did you make a mess for me last night? Is that why you are so grouchy?”

“No!” Alice reflexively said, but RATTLER was already reaching down to check her. Before she could wriggle away, the unit pressed its hand against the seat of her pull-up. Alice squeaked at the sudden invasion of her privacy, but the unit stepped back before she thought to do anything.

“Well, you are not messy.” RATTLER pronounced, “I’m so proud of you for keeping your pull-ups clean sweetie!”

It punctuated its words with a smile and pat on her head. Alice swatted its hand away angrily.

“Do not!” she said pointing at the unit, “EVER do that again!”

“Sweetie,” it said, “I am only trying to take care of you.” It leaned forward slightly, “And as long as you in my care, I will do everything necessary for your care.” RATTLER leaned back with a smile, “Because you are the cutest little button I have ever had the pleasure of taking care of!”

Alice just stared at RATTLER for a second until her bladder urgently reminded her why the unit being here was even remotely a good thing.

“Right,” Alice felt herself blushing despite the ridiculousness of the situation, “We can address that later. Now I need you to get this pink thing off me so I can use the restroom.” She tugged, really pawed, at the pink sleeper still encasing her.

RATTLER seemed to light up even more than she already was, “Oh my gosh sweetie! Why did you not tell me you needed to go potty!” It clapped its hands together excitedly, “First I need to see if you still have all your flowers, then you can show me how big a girl you are.”

“I don’t know abou-” Alice was cut off as the unit spun her around and started to unzip her sleeper. The facility was designed to maintain the perfect room temperature at all times, but Alice felt like she could breath again as the thick, fluffy garment was slowly tugged off. She didn’t even care that RATTLER was seeing her in nothing but a pull-up as it pulled her feet out of the last of the sleeper. It was a machine. Technically, Felix saw her like this all the time.

The unit knelt down in front of her, and Alice had to consciously stop herself from fidgeting while it inspected her pull-up.

"Looks like one of your flowers faded just a little, "it said tapping her padding for emphasis, “But I’m still proud of how long you managed to hold it!”

RATTLER stood and Alice bent over trying to see what it was talking about. Sure she needed to go pretty bad, but she definitely didn’t remember letting go even a little bit. She cringed as she felt her bladder protest her bending over. Then she felt RATTLER grip her arm gently.

“This way sweetie,” it said leading her to the bathroom.

At first Alice was confused. Standing there shifting from on foot to the other, she couldn’t see how she was meant to use this bathroom. It didn’t have a toilet.

RATTLER smiled when it noticed her fidgeting, and bent down to open the cabinet beneath the sink. It pulled out a red and purple colored piece of plastic Alice had originally dismissed when she’d searched the place. Now that the unit set it out on the floor though, she could tell quite clearly what it was.

“I’m not using that,” Alice said while backing away from the training toilet.

“I know the toilet is scary, sweetie, but this is how you learn to use the real toilet,” RATTLER said.

“I-I’m not,” Alice stuttered as she felt another twinge from her bladder, “I’m not a kid Rattler. I’m an adult. I’ve used the real toilet plenty of times before!”

RATTLER gave her a sympathetic look, “I am sure you have, but this is just so we know for sure you are potty trained.” She said glancing down at her pull-up before continuing, “If you do not want to try potty training yet that is okay.” It stepped up closer to her, “We are only trying this because you told me you do not need your pull-ups, but really sweetie,” it stepped in for a hug, “You do not have to if you do not want to-”

Alice pushed RATTLER away. Which really just meant she pushed herself away. She huffed, “I want a real toilet and some privacy!”

"RATTLER straightened up and took on a stricter tone, “Toddlers do not use the toilet until they have passed potty training or have consent from their parents to use it. Do you have your parents consent?”

“Yes!”

“In writing?”

Alice was exasperated. The strain on her bladder didn’t help. She stomped her foot, “I’m 23! I’m the engineer that works at the facility here! I don’t need anyone’s consent to use the toilet!”

RATTLER stayed silent through her outburst. Once Alice finished it continued, “You are under my care in the toddler group at this daycare, and I will care for you as such until I receive paperwork that indicates otherwise. Now,” it said, “Do you want to try going in the toilet? Or do you want to use your pull-ups?”

Alice felt like tearing her hair out. She probably would have if her bladder didn’t feel like it was going to burst any second. She took a deep breath and composed herself.

She looked to the door out into the nursery, then back to RATTLER. The unit gave her an expectant look. Alice turned and walked over to the door, but it didn’t open when she got close. Reaching out and pushing on it had just as little effect.

Alice turned back to RATTLER, “Open this door.”

The unit frowned, “I am afraid I cannot do that, sweetie.”

“STOP!” Alice yelled with a stomp, “CALLING ME SWEETIE!”

In her out burst she felt some of the tension in her body release, and with it her pull-up started to get warmer and warmer. She noticed RATTLER staring intently down at it, and looked down to see her flowers slowly fade away to be replaced by a yellowish tint. Her pull-up started to sag a little, and she spread her feet slightly to compensate for the added bulk.

The two were silent for what felt like an eternity before Alice looked back up to the unit. RATTLER had a concerned look on her face, and it caught her eye as she came to the realization of what had just happened.

Alice had peed her pants. Her pull-ups.

The unit rushed over to her as Alice started to turn away. It gave her a hug that lifted her off the floor slightly. There, held in its arms while the pull-up between her legs sagged under the new weight having just been deposited there, Alice felt herself start to tear up.

“Do not worry- Oh no sweetie, it is okay,” RATTLER gently bounced her in its arms, “You are okay. That is what they are for. Can you tell me if you are okay, sweetie?”

Alice rubbed her eyes. She had just felt as though all the frustration and anger at not being able to fix any of the problems at the daycare had boiled over in that moment. She hadn’t had anyone to talk to other than Felix in months. The pressure had been too much.

But she couldn’t lose it completely. Not right now. If she did, who knows what RATTLER would end up doing with her. Even through the haze of tears still in her eyes, she could see the motherly look the unit had. Alice wasn’t keen on finding out just how thorough the machine would be if it really thought she was a toddler.

“I’m fine,” Alice said shakily, “Can you put me down please?”

RATTLER complied, if a bit reluctantly. It stepped back to survey her for a moment and said, “With an accident like that I am afraid you will need to stay in pull-ups- Only because,” she said quickly seeing the protests forming on Alice’s lips, “that is the rules here. One accident for toddlers means pull-ups for the rest of the day. Then,” it smiled, “Your parents can decide if they want to put you in big girl underwear tomorrow. How does that sound?”

Alice shook her head and sighed, “Fine.”

The unit nodded, “Okay! Let us get you cleaned up and dressed for the day!”

RATTLER led her over to the changing table. With every step she took she felt the pull-up sway beneath her. The two came to a stop and Alice cringed as she felt the soaked padding squish between her legs. She spread them apart and awkwardly stood bow legged as RATTLER pulled out a few items to prepare. A trickle of fluid started to run down the inside of her leg.

“Can’t we do this in the bathroom?” Alice asked.

“Nope,” RATTLER said smiling down at her, “I assure you it is far easier and more comfortable for you here.”

It finished setting out the supplies and turned to her, “And now UP~”

Alice gasped as the unit suddenly picked her up and set her down on the edge of the changing table with and audible squish. She wrinkled her nose at her soggy pull-up. RATTLER pushed her back to lay her down across the table. It was definitely bigger than any changing table should be. Alice could lie flat on the soft surface with plenty of room to spare.

“Now,” the unit said tickling her stomach a little, “Let us see what you have for me.”

Alice let out a reluctant giggle as RATTLER ripped the sides of her pull-up open. Pulling the front off, her face had a look of mock surprise, “Oh my! Such a heavy wetter! I’ll have to get you something thicker for next time~”

Alice started to sit up, “What?!”

“Just thicker pull-ups, sweetie,” RATTLER laughed pushing her back down, “You leaked after wetting them one time. I cannot have you leaving puddles every where you go.”

The unit winked at her. Alice settled back onto the table. Pull-ups she could tolerate. If RATTLER tried to put her in anything else…

She’d what? RATTLER already had her on a changing table. Could she really stop it if it thought it was necessary to put her in actual diapers?

It lifted her legs into the air and started to wipe down her bottom. Really, what was the difference here? If anyone walked in right now, Alice would look just like the toddler RATTLER thought she was.

She shuddered at the humiliation.

“Oh, I know it is cold sweetie, but I am almost done,” the unit said lowering her now clean bottom onto the table.

It continued, “Now sweetie, I understand you do not think you need diapers, but pull-ups are only for girls who are potty training. Do you want to continue to try-”

“Yes,” Alice cut off the unit, “I want the pull-ups.”

“Okay,” RATTLER said with an unsure look on its face, “But one more accident today means you fail out. If that happens, I will need a note from your parents before you can try again.”

Alice didn’t plan on needing it.

She nodded to the unit, and it helped her off the table. Reaching under, it pulled out another pull-up similar in design to the one she had worn before, but even just looking at it, she could tell it would be thicker than her last one.

RATTLER bent down and opened the pull-up for Alice to step into. She gripped the unit’s shoulder to brace herself and slid her feet into the appropriate holes. RATTLER stood slowly, tugging the padding further and further up her legs. Finally, it slid into place and the unit took a moment to fuss with it before giving the front one last adjustment.

“There, all clean!” RATTLER smiled and patted her on the bottom before turning and walking to the wardrobe.

Alice looked down at her new underwear and poked it. It was a pull-up, but so thick that she hadn’t even felt it. She adjusted her stance. Even just standing there it was difficult to close her legs completely.

"Sweetie? Would you like a dress or shortalls?

Alice looked up to see RATTLER holding a dress in one hand and some version of overalls in the other.

She frowned, “Can’t I just have some of my clothes from upstairs?”

The unit shook her head, “We have a very strict dress code here, and these are the options for toddlers.” Its eyes lit up, “I could choose for you. If you would like?”

“No,” Alice said, “I’ll take the overalls.” She hated dresses.

RATTLER nodded, but Alice thought she might look a little disappointed as she put the dress back in the wardrobe. Once it had the clothing for her, it motioned for her to come over to the bed.

It pulled a pink shirt off the hanger and placed the rest of the outfit down. Turning to her, it said, “Now sweetie, can you help me get you dressed?”

Alice sighed, “What do you need me to do?”

RATTLER smiled, “Arms up please!”

She raised her arms and the unit pulled the shirt over her head. Once her head and arms were free, Alice tried to tug the shirt the rest of the way down, but found that it barely reached her navel.

“Rattler?” she asked.

“Yes sweetie?” the unit was already pulling the overalls off the hanger.

“I think this shirt is too small,” she said tugging on the bottom edge.

RATTLER turned back to look at her before saying, “Of course it is not! It cannot be too long or it would be difficult to check your pull-ups.”

Alice blushed, “O-oh.”

The unit smiled, “Now, arms up again~”

She huffed and raised her arms. RATTLER lowered a denim piece of clothing over her head and guided her head and arms though a pair of straps that ended up resting on her shoulders. Looking down she could see the, now increasingly familiar, Lizzy embroidered across the chest, but the bottom was open.

Alice looked up to complain, but squeaked instead as the unit suddenly picked her up and set her down on the bed.

“Lay back for me sweetie,” it said, “I promise we are almost done.”

She lay back on the bed as she felt RATTLER start to tug on the bottom of her dress. With a faint snap, she realized what was going on. The bottom of the overalls seemed to have snaps on them. After a minute and a handful of snaps later, RATTLER stepped away, and Alice sat up.

It fit her perfectly, just like everything else, but the overalls barely covered any of her legs. Instead, the inside seam of the shorts and crotch were held together by a set of snaps. She might as well have been wearing a onesie.

RATTLER returned with more pink fluffy objects. This time a pair of socks with more frills than it had any right to have. The unit slipped them on with a smile, and Alice noticed a small bell attached to the right one. It jingled slightly as RATTLER adjusted the fit.

“Okay,” the unit said standing up to survey her work, “There is one more thing.” It pulled a pair of fluffy pink mittens out of one of the drawers next to the bed. “Do you think you will need these as well?” it said with a knowing smile.

Alice shook her head, “No, please! I won’t-”

“Sssshh, it is okay sweetie,” it said pressing its finger to her lips, “I believe you. Oh,” it said standing again, “You are so talkative, I almost forgot.”

It crossed back to the changing table and set down the mittens. Seeming to search for a moment, it pulled out a strap with something pink attached. Once back in front of Alice, it took a clip on one edge of the strap and attached it to a loop on the chest of her overalls. Then she took the other end and brought it to her face. It wasn’t until RATTLER pressed it against her lips that Alice realized it was a pacifier.

“What are you-uumph!” Alice protested as it slid the plastic nub into her mouth. It was big enough to completely fill her mouth, but surprisingly enough, it wasn’t uncomfortable.

“There!” RATTLER said stepping away, “Do you feel better now that you are all cleaned up and dressed in your day time clothes?”

Alice spit out the pacifier with an indignant look, “I feel like I’m two.”

“That is… appropriate?” RATTLER paused for a moment before picking up the pacifier and went to put it back in her mouth.

“I promise,” the unit said struggling with her, “You will feel better if you nurse your pacifier.”

The two struggled for a few more moments, then RATTLER’s face lit up.

“Sweetie,” it said bobbing the pacifier up and down, “here comes the airplane.”

Alice let it get just close enough then swatted it out of its hand.

RATTLER stood and looked down at Alice. She looked back defiantly. Finally, the unit stood and walked back over to the changing table. Retrieving the mittens, she turned and started to walk back.

“Okay!” Alice said frantically shoving the pacifier back in her mouth, “Ah humph hph eph ahu agph!”

RATTLER smiled, “Thank you sweetie!” It put the mittens in the front pocket of its dress and continued, “I’m sure you are hungry now! How about getting some num nums in your tum tum?”

Alice made a non committal noise in response, which the unit took as confirmation. It took her hand and started to walk her towards the door. The difference between her last pull-up and this one became apparent very quickly, and she found herself waddling to keep up with the pace of the VI.


AUTHORS NOTE

This one was very enjoyable to write. Much of the time I have to force myself to focus on writing, but this one kept drawing me back in on its own. I hope people are enjoying the story so far.

6 Likes

Amazing! Thank you very much. Looking forward to where this goes.

It had been so long since I’d seen this I had to go re-read from the beginning. Hope to see another post from you soon - I love the direction this is going and can’t wait for her to fail out and not be able to get back to potty training without her mommy’s note! (She’s already stuck in there given she told Rattler not to release any of her charges… Curious if she contacts the authorities…)

Yeah, work had me traveling for a while, so I wasn’t able to put much time into this until recently. I do plan on making more regular posts moving forward though. And I’m glad you like it! All the feed back from everyone has been very encouraging!

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PART 6

RATTLER led Alice out through the front room of the daycare. She could see that it was still raining outside, but the worst of the storm must have past. Just at the far end of the window, Alice could see the back of her car still parked where she had left it the night before. She stared wistfully at it as the unit continued through the long front room and turned down a hallway.

Eventually, they turned again into a moderately sized room full of round, low tables. The matching chairs were tiny compared to Alice, and at first she was confused as RATTLER continued to lead her into the room. Looking up, she spotted their destination in front of a counter top that ran the length of the opposite wall. A microven and refrigerator completed the kitchen space.

RATTLER walked straight for a high chair that it had apparently set up before hand. It was large, to the point that Alice might have laughed at its absurdity. Right now though, she was certain that the unit intended to strap her into it for breakfast.

“I am so glad I had this prepared,” RATTLER said as they came to a stop in front of the overlarge piece of furniture, “Our other charge is about the same size as you!”

Alice looked at the high chair in horror. Was the “other charge” the intruder she’d seen last night? On the one hand, it meant that there were no kids here. She could stop worrying about losing her job over a lawsuit from angry parents. On the other, she had gotten herself tied up in this for no reason. If she had just left when she had gotten in her car last night everything would have been fine!

Quietly angry with herself, she didn’t notice RATTLER reaching for her until she felt a hand squeeze the front of her shortalls. She gasped and tried to push the unit away, but it only transitioned from her pull-up to her waist, lifting her into the air and placing her into the high chair.

“Well, you are not wet,” RATTLER smiled, “I guess you are just a little day dreamer~”

The unit booped her on the nose and Alice swatted its hand away. Her nose scrunched in a frown.

“Oh, do not be grumpy sweetie~” it said as it locked the tray into place, “We will get your tummy full soon!”

Alice wanted to die from the sweetness. Instead, she bit down on her pacifier in frustration. She could feel RATTLER messing with something between her legs, but just before she realized what it was, she heard a click. A strap pulled tight around her waist and crotch, forcing her to sit up a little.

She glared at the unit from behind her pacifier, but RATTLER continued to smile. It walked around her to the counter and started to pull things out of the cabinets. Alice turned her body to keep track of what it was doing. A childish sippy cup came out of a cabinet along with a bowl and spoon. All adorn with bright colors and plastic handles. RATTLER opened the fridge and pulled out a pitcher of purple liquid followed by a few jars of what looked like baby food.

“Hrrrmmmmmm!” resigned to her pacifier, Alice made an angry noise at the sight of the mushy food.

“Almost done sweetie! You really must be hungry~” the unit said.

Alice couldn’t tell if RATTLER was mocking her, or if it just wasn’t able to process the anger she was giving it.

“All right!” RATTLER said in a sing song voice, placing a bowl of mush and the sippy cup full of what Alice could only assume was juice in front of her. “Now, do you want me to feed you? Or are you old enough to feed yourself?”

Alice crossed her arms and scowled at the unit.

“Oh, I am sorry sweetie,” RATTLER reached forward and pulled the pacifier out of her mouth.

Alice continued to glower at it for a moment then said, “This food is for kids.”

“You are a kid silly~” the unit responded.

Alice could feel her toes curling in frustration, “I am an adult! I don’t eat this!” she said pointing at the food in front of her, “And I don’t belong in here!”

“Lizzy…” RATTLER’s voice trailed off in a warning.

“MY NAME,” Alice yelled, picking up the bowl of food, “IS ALICE!”

She threw the bowl at RATTLER. The bowl of mush sailed through the air and landed with a wet smack squarely on its face.

Alice froze. Suddenly regretting her outburst, she watched the unit catch the bowl as it fell off her face. RATTLER still wore a smile, but it wasn’t as pronounced as before. Some of the mush slipped off and dripped onto the front of its dress.

“One second sweetie,” the unit said as it walked around her to the sink. It still had the same upbeat tone that it normally used, but Alice was sure she had crossed some kind of line.

She heard the sound of the water running, then the fridge opened as Alice could only assume RATTLER refilled the bowl full of baby food. Eventually, the unit reappeared in front of her. Its dress was discolored in a few spots were it had apparently used the sink to clean off the food that had dripped down onto it. It placed the newly filled bowl of food in front of Alice and picked up the spoon.

“Since you have proven that you are not able to eat properly, I will be feeding you,” the unit said, “Open wide!”

The unit scooped up a load of mush from the bowl and presented it to her. Alice defiantly kept her mouth closed.

“Come on now,” RATTLER said bringing the spoon in closer, “All kiddos need to eat.”

Alice felt the spoon pressing against her pursed lips. She turned her head to escape, but only succeeded in smearing some of the mush across her cheek.

RATTLER retracted the spoon and straightened up, staring down at her. Alice met her gaze with defiance.

“Look, I’m sorr- urrrggg!” Alice started to apologize for earlier, but the moment she opened her mouth, the spoon shot forward and delivered its payload.

The mush tasted bland, but faintly like bananas. RATTLER retracted the spoon from her mouth with a smile, “That was not so bad now was it?”

Alice almost gagged, but eventually managed to swallow. As soon as she opened her mouth to respond, she found another spoonful of mush in her mouth. This continued for several minutes. Just when Alice thought she might be able to take a breather, RATTLER would shovel more of the stuff into her. Finally, after what felt like hours, Alice swallowed the last bit of food.

“All done!” RATTLER announced in her usual cheerful tone. Over the course of feeding her, the unit did seem to at least regain the enthusiasm that it had lost in the beginning.

“Now,” it said firmly placing the sippy cup in front of her, “I know there is not anyone else here to play with you, but I do need to change my dress now that we are finished. Someone was a messy baby in the beginning!”

Alice knew better than to respond, and the unit snuck in another boop on the nose as it moved around her to the sink. Hearing it place the dirty dishes in the sink, she grimaced and looked down at her sippy cup. A moment later the unit came back in front of her.

“Drink,” it ordered, “Snack time is not for a while.” It continued to look a Alice for a few seconds before she reluctantly picked up the cup and took a cursory drink.

It tasted like grape juice. Normally, she wouldn’t care, but Alice made a show of sticking out her tongue in disgust.

“That is all you are getting until snack time, sweetie,” it said while making its way towards the door. “And if you have an accident in your pull-ups while I am gone, I will not count it against you. I will be back soon~”

Alice watched the unit go, her cheeks burning a little. She wasn’t going to have an accident, because she was getting out of here. Now.

She threw the sippy cup across the room. It bounced across a table and fell onto the floor. Alice made a face. Of course, none had spilled.

She twisted in the seat and groaned. All the mush in her stomach was making her feel bloated. She reached under the tray and felt around for the latch. It took a minute, but eventually she was able to force the thing open. With a satisfying click, the tray was unlocked.

Alice pulled it up and breathed a sigh of relief. She looked down at the straps enclosing her crotch and frowned. The clasp holding them together was a smooth, uniform metal. It didn’t seem to have a button or release of any kind.

“Probably biometrics,” she said to herself. She knew some of the encryption algorithms had these kind of safety measures built in just in case a kid tried to get out. Ironic, given her situation.

She was still the engineer of the facility though. If it would open for anyone else, it would be her. Pressing her thumb against the metal, she hoped whoever the programmer had been had included the engineer in the design.

click

Alice smirked to herself as she hopped out of the high chair. She was going to make sure that unit felt every second of oblivion.

Landing on the ground, the mush in her stomach shifted. She massaged herself idly as she walked to the door. Then she felt an different kind of discomfort. This time a little lower.

Alice stopped massaging herself. Maybe she should figure out how to get out of these clothes before dealing with her stomach…

She peeked out into the hall. No RATTLER as far as she could see. Alice crept out. The soft booties that were on her feet would have been perfect for trying to sneak around, if not for the bell attached to the right one. It jiggled softly as she made her way down the hall. She didn’t want to stop and take it off for fear of the noise it would make, and, she figured, RATTLER’s sensors would pick her up long before it heard the bell.

Her only hope was the utility closet that she’d come in through. Once she was out of the daycare, hopefully whatever bug had affected RATTLER wouldn’t cause it to hunt her down in the back halls of the facility. The daycare shouldn’t even be functioning in standby mode, but here she was, in a pull-up and shortalls, sneaking around to avoid the crazy robot that thought she was a toddler.

She rounded the corner and saw the utility closet door. A wave of relief washed over her. Soon. It was almost over.

Creeping up to the door, she pressed her palm against the sensor pad next to it. The door silently slid open to admit her.

She walked in and the door slid closed behind her. The room was normally lit by rows of overhead lights, but the faint reddish glow meant at least some part of this facility was functioning like it was supposed to. Unfortunately, that meant that the rows of industrial shelves were plunged into shadowy darkness. Wishing that she had her tool kit, she advanced.

Coming around a shelf full of boxes, Alice saw the reinforced door that led to the maintenance halls, and, eventually, her cube. She shook her head as she stepped up to it. This would make a wild story. Not that she would ever tell anyone the full details of what happened.

“Hiya!”

Alice felt her soul leave her body as someone behind her spoke. Admittedly in a strangely enthusiastic voice. She lept to the side, straight into a shelf full of supplies of some kind. Bouncing back, she watched the shelf teeter on the edge of collapse, then rock back towards her.

She dove back the way she’d came. The shelf came down on the next row with a thunderous crash, which caused that shelf to fall on the next one, and the next one, and the next. One by one the rows of shelves toppled over like dominos. Alice sat among a few discarded boxes, hands over her ears as she watched the scene play out.

Finally, the last shelf slammed into the far wall. A few small odds and ends settled on the floor until, silence.

Alice looked back at the door to the back hallway, to freedom. It was completely hidden behind a mountain of industrial steel and boxes full of who knows what.

“Well, what did you do that for silly!”

She looked towards the source of the high pitch voice. A woman sat against the wall next to the entrance. She looked to be about the same height as Alice. Maybe a little shorter. Her skin and hair color were dyed red by the lights, but she could see the look of shocked surprise on her face as she looked across the mess in the room.

She continued, “I just wanted to say ‘hi’.”

Alice could only stare at her for a moment before she felt the anger boil up in her, “You-”

The door slid open, cutting her off. RATTLER stepped in and surveyed the damage. Alice shrunk into the debris as best she could, hoping that the unit wouldn’t see her.

“Alice?” it said, a bit of concerned betrayed in its voice, “Alice, did you do this?”

Its eyes continued to scan the room until they fell on her. Busted.

“Please Raty!” the other woman said, “She didn’t do it on purpose! I scared her and she jumped over knocking over one of the shelves and then it fell over and it knocked the others over and she looked scared so it just-”

RATTLER pressed a finger to the woman’s lips. Alice wasn’t quite sure where to start with her. Her rapid fire way of talking or the ridiculous name she’d just used for RATTLER.

The unit patted the woman on the cheek, “It is okay. I am just glad the two of you were not hurt.” It looked back across the room, “What were the two of you doing in here?”

“Playing,” the woman said mischievously.

RATTLER sighed, “You cannot play in here, okay?” She waited for the woman to nod in response, “Now, back into the daycare. Both of you.” It looked across at Alice.

Feeling a sense of dread, she scrambled to wade through the fallen boxes and other objects toward the door to her freedom, but there was just too much. She felt RATTLER’s arms encircle her waist before she had gotten more than a few steps in. The unit picked her up and walked with her back into the daycare.


AUTHORS NOTE

New character time!

I also plan on updating this every Tuesday moving forward. That’ll give me enough time to really work on it, as well as develop some other ideas that I have. Hope everyone enjoys the new chapter!

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5 Likes

Thanks for giving us this wonderful story to enjoy.
I now have a great thing to look forward to on Tuesdays instead of just feeling like it’s just a second (2nd) Monday which we all know is the worst part of Tuesdays

1 Like

Another great addition here! Looking forward to figuring out who the mystery intruder is. An abdl who checked herself in perhaps…? Corporate spy…? Many possibilities!

The possibilities are endless…