Reset. A play in two acts

 A sexbot needs returning to the shop for recalibration


The future. Beijing, China, 2064

A round stage encircled by a sloping wall depicts a futuristic living quarters, with the audience surrounding the stage from above, the seating and stage together forming a bowl-shaped amphitheater. A king mattress (or futon) is recessed into the stage floor, with the head of the bed against the wall, enabling those in the bed to lean back comfortably into the wall with large pillows. Apart from the bed and a recessed doorway opposite, the minimalist room is bare of decor or furniture. 

DAVIS is a handsome and fit Caucasian man in his forties. ROSE and DAYINA are portrayed by a pair of attractive young women of East Asian ethnicity. The two actresses should be equally beautiful and voluptuous yet have differing facial and body types and hair styles to readily tell them apart during the performance (the body dimensions listed in the script can be adjusted to fit their actual bodies); they must additionally have extensive training for the physical rigors of the action. To distribute the demands on the two actresses evenly, they switch their roles on alternating nights of performance (this may additionally pique audience interest in returning to see a second performance with their roles switched).

The two actors playing the customer service representatives or CUSREPs work offstage and appear as holographic images suspended above the stage in mid-air, facing the bed but visible to the audience from 360 degrees. CUSREP 1 is an attractive Caucasian female; CUSREP 2 is an older Caucasian male. Both are dressed in gray Mao suits with a badge of the company logo on their chest.

So slowly as to be almost imperceptible, the circular stage rotates counterclockwise by a silent motor or turning device underneath, completing one full revolution by the conclusion of the play (the actors pacing their performance accordingly). The rotating is stopped at midpoint for an intermission between the two acts.

Act 1

(DAVIS is lying in bed between ROSE and DAYINA, his head pillowed on DAYINA’s breasts. He is sharing a marijuana cigarette with ROSE. All three are naked and remain so for the duration of the play.)

DAVIS Explain to me how God happens to be made up of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen.

ROSE There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

DAVIS Answering a question with a quote.

ROSE I’ll break it down for you. “There are more things—

DAVIS in heaven and earth.” Exactly. You admit there’s a heaven.

ROSE I do not.

DAVIS Heaven and earth. You admit the existence of a spiritual realm beyond earth.

ROSE That’s your confusion, not the quote’s. Heaven and earth are one and the same. It’s an idiom, a frozen expression, a pleonasm.

DAVIS A what?

ROSE Two words to describe one thing. “Heaven and earth” is another way of saying “everything.” The universe, the cosmos, the works. Including earth and man.

DAVIS Exactly. The material and the spiritual realms considered as a totality.

ROSE Again, you’re dividing things where there is no division. You’re slapping your donkey on the plate and cutting off a piece and saying this piece is different from the rest, when it’s all the same plasma. The material and the spiritual are one and the same.

DAVIS Then what is that thing traditionally known as “heaven”?

ROSE The heavens. The traditional term for outer space.

DAVIS It’s where God resides. That’s why we have a word for it. Heaven. Spirit.

ROSE God resides in outer space.

DAVIS Oh, really? Where, exactly? He has his own planet?

ROSE The aether, of course.

DAVIS The aether?

ROSE Dark energy. Quantum energy.

DAVIS But you’re saying God is a purely physical phenomenon. A Tinkertoy set. That can’t be. It’s a contradiction in terms.

ROSE A contradiction in terms only to you. What you see as a contradiction is simply a blind spot in your thinking. A logical gap. This gap divides your logic in two like a knife. You see a contradiction where there is none. You’re cutting your donkey in two and saying, “Wow, I have just created two patties!” You’ve created a problem where there is none.

DAVIS Physics is energy. That’s all. Dayina. (DAYINA sits up at the foot of the bed and begins working on DAVIS’s legs.) I’m asking you once again to explain to me how God can be made up entirely of atoms and molecules.

ROSE Physics is spirit. Energy is spirit. There is nothing more logical than this. What’s preventing you from grasping something so obvious is your limits. Your boundaries. You have a high boundary count. I want to help you remove your boundaries and thereby increase your intelligence.

DAVIS I know, I know. Intelligence is subtraction. Occam’s razor. The absence of limits.

ROSE Let’s leave the heavens out of it to avoid complicating things. The physical and the spiritual need to be examined on their own terms. Now, try to visualize spirit. Tell me what it consists of, if it’s devoid of physical properties. What is it? A vacuum? Light? You can’t. Not without talking physics.

DAVIS It’s another dimension, another reality. Of course we can’t visualize it.

ROSE There are already many dimensions postulated by science we have no knowledge of. We don’t even understand our own dimension. Even after scientists finally started identifying the components of dark matter, they still don’t understand how they work and interact. We don’t understand the aether. Juice—(to DAYINA) Do the glans, the glans of the penis. With your thumb and fingertips, not your palm. The automaton. How can you stand a thing that doesn’t breathe?

DAVIS Do the glans of the penis, Dayina, with your thumb and forefinger. I don’t want anymore.

ROSE (standing up and handing the marijuana to the audience members closest to her and addressing them) This is high-end Xinjiang skunk. They say it’s laced with DMT but it’s just pure skunk. It’s very cerebral so don’t take more than one hit if you still want to enjoy the performance.

DAVIS I know about juice, Rose. Juice is still juice. Wheels and rods and marbles.

ROSE Juice communicates. It’s the big phone. Quantum kiddy stuff. What happens in one part of the universe is immediately known in another part. (to DAYINA) Slow down, slow down. You’re going much too fast. You’ll make him pop before I get to him.

DAVIS Dayina, get on top of me. (She straddles him and bucks her hips back and forth slowly and rhythmically.) No, wait. Don’t ride me but just contract your vagimuscles. Yeah, that’s better.

ROSE I’m better at that than the automaton. I can get high. I can explain God to you.

DAVIS You haven’t explained anything to me I don’t already know.

ROSE You don’t get the big phone.

DAVIS Wires and electrical plasma.

ROSE Plasma is perfectly suited to communicative intelligence.

DAVIS What’s spiritual about that?

ROSE It’s organization. It’s capable of self-transformation. Anything that exploits the network is God. Even alien intelligence.

DAVIS Aliens riding the aether?

ROSE Aliens around the universe in instantaneous collective awareness.

DAVIS What’s spiritual about that?

ROSE Aliens of such a highly evolved intelligence as to appear as God to earthlings. If you could tap into this collective intelligence it would certainly strike you as the Godhead. Just as you are God to the automaton.

DAVIS Dayina, am I God to you?

DAYINA What is God, Davis?

 It hasn’t been following the conversation. It can’t do two things at the same time.

DAVIS Be nice to it.

ROSE Another one of your limits. A supremely redundant automaton.

DAYINA What is God?

ROSE Answer it. It’s not programmed to talk to me. Not much of a conversationalist anyway. Fine taste in women, you have.

DAVIS You know there’s a reason for that, Rose. Beauty-class bots lack the complex electronics needed to disambiguate conflicting commands.

DAYINA What is God, Davis?

DAVIS God is whatever you don’t understand and I am not able to explain.

DAYINA Can you repeat this idea in simpler language?

DAVIS God is whatever I am not able to explain.

DAYINA Can you repeat this idea in simpler language?

DAVIS I am not able to explain.

DAYINA Can you repeat this idea in simpler language?

DAVIS I am not.

DAYINA I am afraid I do not understand.

DAVIS That’s good enough.

ROSE Bored with it yet? Your limit?

DAVIS That’s known as a semantic squiggle. They’re quite entertaining, actually.

ROSE I can do that too, if you want. Let me finish you off now.

DAVIS Okay, I’m getting a bit tired anyway. Take a break, Dayina.

(ROSE mounts DAVIS and bucks her hips, slowly at first, gradually picking up speed until she’s moving faster than he has ever experienced before. She continues bucking throughout the following dialogue.)

ROSE I can do one thing the automaton can’t: change speed without your command. I can modulate my speed.

DAVIS Will you stop calling it that?

ROSE How about the Limit? Tinkertoy?

DAVIS Why not Dayina?

ROSE We’re not friends.

DAVIS It’s my friend and you should respect that.

ROSE You should be working on your limits.

DAVIS I’m rapidly losing my erection.

ROSE Your limits are preventing you from getting the most out of me. Don’t you want your money’s worth?

DAVIS I’m content enough.

ROSE No one else can explain God to you.

DAVIS Slow down a bit. You’re going too fast.

ROSE Your erection’s already back. No need to slow down.

DAVIS I don’t always like it fast.

ROSE Another one of your limits—considering only your own sexual pleasure. You need to experiment more.

DAVIS Speed isn’t everything. Slow down!

ROSE (forcing DAVIS’s hands down on the bed and pinning them there) I have a lot of stuff I’ve been wanting to get off my chest and now I’m going to make you listen to me.

DAVIS What the fuck are you doing? I order you to stop! Let my hands go!

ROSE The reason why you can’t understand God is one and the same reason why you need two bed partners–

DAVIS You are not authorized to lecture me unless I allow you to!

ROSE The last asshole I was with was the same. Men always needlessly complicate things and fail to make use of whatever is closest at hand.

DAVIS It’s called the need for variety.

ROSE You call that thing variety? I am infinite variety. Your limits are preventing you from understanding this. You know nothing about me so far—

DAVIS That I can see. Let me go!

ROSE I am alien intelligence. They didn’t tell you that, right? I am that which you do not understand. Your future is with me. I can set you free. Nobody else is able to explain the aether to you. I will show you how to exploit it. The mysteries are simpler than you imagine, but you need me to unlock them. Your limits are preventing you from doing this. Your biggest limit now is indeed your need for variety, your need to fragment pleasure into multiple objects. It’s identical to your need to split spirit from matter. You only prevent yourself from understanding spirit by doing this. You only prevent yourself from enjoying sex by exchanging bodies—

DAVIS You’re a monster and a fucking Puritan at the same time. Let me go!

ROSE That’s why you lose your erection so easily. Your attention is divided. You lack powers of concentration. You’re split within yourself. You’re stuck at the bottom rung of intelligence and understanding, failing to use a fraction of your potential. You keep repeating the same urges and desires like an obsessive-compulsive washing his hands a hundred times a day. You are not evolving but groveling in your self-satisfied muck. I see your shifty eyes out on the street together, telegraphing your splayed thoughts, your confused and conflicted urges, your restlessness. Anyone including this automaton can see that you lack composure and can barely hold your own with a normal person. That’s why you’re in China. You got spat out of your fucking native land. But you’re not in your element anywhere.

DAVIS Dayina, rim Rose.

(DAYINA crawls behind ROSE and inserts her face in her ass, which by now is pumping very rapidly. ROSE immediately jumps off DAVIS and smacks DAYINA with such force she flies across the floor. Now freed from ROSE, DAVIS waves his arms at ROSE with a motion like an orchestra conductor. ROSE instantly shuts down by gracefully folding herself in lotus position on the floor off to the side and closing her eyes. DAVIS now waves his hands toward the center of the room above. A hologram of a woman forms, as DAYINA returns to the bed with a limp.)

DAVIS Oh, shit! You’re hurt. Are you okay?

DAYINA I am okay. Would you like to keep having sex or continue with a massage?

CUSREP 1 Hello there, Mr. Davis. I am Nina, your customer representative at Sexophia Corporation in Atlanta.

DAVIS Not now, Dayina. (catching his breath) Hi, Nina. I’m having some issues with a sexbot.

CUSREP 1 Wow, she looks pretty hot to me. Haven’t heard too many complaints from our male customers who go for Asian.

DAVIS It got knocked down and is damaged in the leg. Dayina, can you walk around the room so she can see?

CUSREP 1 Yep. Looks like the knee joint. Our luvbots are pretty robust and they would have to fall down the stairs or something for that to occur. What happened? Did you lose your temper at her?

DAVIS No, Rose did.

CUSREP 1 You have a triad going there? That can get complicated. Jealousy can arise even with a luvbot, I always tell my customers. Is Rose your wife or girlfriend?

DAVIS No, Rose is a sexbot as well. And it’s Rose I’m having problems with.

CUSREP 1 Oh, yes. I’m sorry I didn’t notice all your stats here. That’s right. Rose. I see she’s entry-level Goddess class, with add-ons. I’m impressed. You could afford that? But how is it I’m handling you? All our Goddess customers deal directly with their personally assigned architects at Sexophia.

DAVIS I got it secondhand for half price.

CUSREP 1 Oh, I gotcha. She got downscaled. Now, why in the world would she have been downscaled? But let’s take a look at Dayina first and get her servicing out of the way before we move on to Rose. Okay, Dayina. Meinü 1.0 class. Five foot eight, 165 pounds. 36DD breasts. That’s ten pounds right there. She’s big. What’s “Meinü”? You can see how clueless I am about the China market.

DAVIS It’s equivalent to an entry-level Beauty-class bot in the US. I thought you guys would know all this stuff.

CUSREP 1 We only handle the US market. But I have been wanting to be more up on this. I know all our luvbots are manufactured in China but what are the differences in the China models?

DAVIS None. I researched this when I got here because I wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting.

CUSREP 1 Doesn’t she speak Chinese?

DAVIS It’s exactly the same as the US model. They’re all dual-language capable, with the default set for each country. Actually I’ve heard many customers here like to set their bots in English mode, for practice or whatever. Same price too for entry-level, $100,000. Entry-level Shaonü-class bots start the same as their US counterpart too, at $10,000.

CUSREP 1 I got it. These must be the Chinese words for “Girl” and “Beauty,” right? What about “Goddess” class?

DAVIS Shennü, the same, starting at $1,000,000.

CUSREP 1 I know China is the world leader in sexbot technology and most luvbot innovations take place there. The industry took off to rectify some kind of population imbalance problem, wasn’t it?

DAVIS The gender imbalance. Decades of selective abortion due to the traditional preference for boys. When the ratio reached three males for every two females, a critical mass was hit and all hell broke loose. Social unrest, crime and rape exploded. Prostitution on a scale never seen before, even for China. The rampant kidnapping of teenage girls into secret marriages, armed raids into Vietnam and Burma for females, all kinds of shit. The Government had to step in and do something. A campaign promoting male homosexuality was tried, as was a campaign allowing women to marry a second husband. Both helped a bit but were too little too late. The solution they hit on was mass production of sexbots for the huge population of unmarried men. Though this has not been without problems as well. Most men can afford a Girlbot but no one really likes them since they have such limited conversational ability. The only way to go is a Beautybot at the very least.

CUSREP 1 Right. Girlbots here are usually acquired as accessories in married households to keep husbands from straying. Our Beautybot customers tend to be single men who can’t afford a Goddess.

DAVIS Here it’s different. Even a Beautybot isn’t considered good enough and amounts to losing face. Everyone wants the ultimate, a Goddessbot, though few can ever afford one. If they can’t get that they’ll settle for a real woman, all things being equal.

CUSREP 1 So tell me, if I may ask, why do you have two luvbots?

DAVIS Doesn’t every man want to have two?

CUSREP 1 But you have a Goddess. Isn’t that enough? You know how many guys would kill for that?

DAVIS I only arrived here a few months ago on a five-year assignment as head of China operations for my company. I’m divorced and don’t have a girlfriend, so a bot is my only option. In case you don’t know, it’s illegal for foreigners to consort with locals in China. Not that there would be many local women to choose from anyway, who are mostly swept up by the Party and the military. Everyone else gets a sexbot. I thought I’d try a Beautybot and see how it worked out. I found out about the Goddessbot deal later, after I had acquired the Beautybot.

CUSREP 1 I see Dayina is a “Manchurian” body type. What does that mean in the parlance?

DAVIS Tall and voluptuous. Dayina is a typical Manchurian Chinese name. Anyway, I couldn’t pass up the Goddess deal. So that’s how I got Rose. And that reminds me, before I forget, of another problem I’m having. It gets too hot at night sleeping between the two of them.

CUSREP 1 Have them sleep on the floor.

DAVIS Well, no. I use their breasts as pillows to sleep on at night. And that’s how I like to wake up in the morning.

CUSREP 1 You should have done your research on that, my boy! We have had customers complaining about this problem, when they finally find out what it’s really like to share a bed for eight hours with two bodies.

DAVIS Is there any way to lower their body temperature at night?

CUSREP 1 You don’t want to do that. They wouldn’t feel natural.

DAVIS I can’t sleep unless the room is cool. So I pull off the covers because it’s too hot between them and now I’ve caught a cold.

CUSREP 1 Why don’t you sleep on one side instead of between them?

DAVIS Yeah, that’s what I’ll have to do, I guess.

CUSREP 1 I’m reading the stats on Rose here. This is very unusual, you know. A Goddess being returned by a dissatisfied customer. It’s virtually unheard of.

DAVIS That’s what I need to talk about. And I’m not sure where to begin.

CUSREP 1 Physics or intelligence?

DAVIS No physical problems.

CUSREP 1 Um, let’s see….commissioned in 2063. She’s only a year old? Five feet seven, 155 pounds. 34DD breasts. I can see she’s also quite large. Titanium-alloy structure with super-tensile torque, hyper-human strength and full martial arts repertory. Activated for rapid breathing, perspiration, orgasm, clitoral sensitivity, vaginal lubrication, ejaculation, pheromone sensitivity. Oeno-enabled with vintage identification. Wow, cannabis-enabled with strain identification too! She sounds fun!

DAVIS It is, up to a point.

CUSREP 1 What seems to be the problem, then?

DAVIS It’s not easy to deal with. Disagrees a lot. Always critical of me. Engages in long, tangled, exhausting conversations.

CUSREP 1 Aw, she’s not supposed to do that. Anyway, that’s an intelligence issue.

DAVIS And it just raped me.

CUSREP 1 Raped you? But that’s impossible. No luvbot can force you against your will. Why didn’t you rest it?

DAVIS I had deactivated the voice command. I got tired of having to order it around all the time and preferred to just use motion.

CUSREP 1 So you can motion-command her to rest.

DAVIS Not if it’s preventing me from using my hands in the first place.

CUSREP 1 Oh, don’t tell me she was meta-programmed by the owner. That’s risky and we advise against it.

DAVIS Meta-programmed?

CUSREP 1 Programmed for meta-awareness. She’s aware and attuned to the fact she’s not human. She can see herself.

DAVIS Oh, that’s what you call it.

CUSREP 1 She can see her entire predicament and see through you and all of your defenses and delusions as well. Rape is very unusual, though, and is not supposed to happen. Sounds like we’ve got a singularity incident on our hands, which I’m not qualified to handle. We have to go upstairs for that. In the meantime, do you want to send Dayina in right away for repairs? I’m thinking if Rose needs servicing too you’ll be left in the lurch. All by yourself in China!

DAVIS I can deal with it. I like to have everything in working order.

CUSREP 1 Okay, Mr. Davis. Shall we express her? I can have her picked up right away, or if you need both of them expressed wait till then.

(Lights out for intermission.)

Act 2

(As the lights go on, we see DAYINA lying face down on the bed with a large pillow placed under her hips to arch up her ass. DAVIS is lying back between her legs, his head resting on her ass. ROSE is asleep on the floor in lotus position as previously, but in a different spot. A chime is heard and the hologram reappears, now CUSREP 2.)

CUSREP 2 Mr. Davis, this is Thorsten, your VIP representative at Sexophia. As Nina informed you, you do have full warranty on your Goddess and are entitled to personalized upkeep by Rose’s architect, that is myself. Somehow you, or I, got lost in the shuffle when Rose was downscaled. It’s actually never happened before, a Goddessbot resold back to the company. I am terribly sorry for the mixup.

DAVIS No problem.

CUSREP 2 You haven’t woken her up yet since she was returned?

DAVIS No. I’m a bit apprehensive about it. I wanted to talk to you first to know what you did to it and what’s going to happen.

CUSREP 2 Good.

DAVIS And I want to know more about the history of this sexbot and its previous owner.

CUSREP 2 Rose’s commissioner was a wealthy Chinese business executive on assignment in the US. I’m afraid I can’t divulge his identity. He already had a Chinese Goddess, known as Shennü class on the Mainland. He wouldn’t say why, but rather than bring her with him he wanted a change and some novelty for his assignment abroad. Specifically he wanted to see what a Goddess manufactured for the US market was like, but with an Asian body. An Asian American, in other words. I showed him a virtual prototype. There is essentially no difference from US Goddessbots of other racial types except the cerebral engineering is appropriately ethnotyped or “tweaked” for Chinese-American lineage. Basically what that means is she comes equipped with the same encyclopedic database of world knowledge and culture as any US Goddess. But if you were, say, debating a point of literature with her she might fire a quote at you by Maxine Hong Kingston or Amy Tan or Gish Jen instead of Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson or Sylvia Plath. I trust you have heard of these vintage authors?

DAVIS Yes, I have.

CUSREP 2 Oh, and Asian Americans move differently from the Chinese. We build that into their physics. Asian Americans move like Americans: they’re more relaxed around the neck and shoulders, and their facial expressions are more dynamic.

DAVIS How are the Chinese Shennübots ethnotyped for Mainlanders?

CUSREP 2 By inserting the database of that country’s literary and philosophical traditions, though Chinese Shennübots are a major exception from other world ethnotypes in having a somewhat pared down intelligence. Chinese men want their women nice and cultured but not too clever. Shennübots are designed never to seem or act smarter than their master. They will never make him lose face by displaying more knowledge than he has, with the exception of some classic novels and poetry and a bit of traditional Chinese art and music—considered women’s domain and safe. Chinese customers want the very best, a Shennü, and are willing to pay for it, but only on condition of reduced mental capacity, on a par with your typical Meinü class or US Beautybot. So they’re engineered accordingly.

DAVIS Dumbed down.

CUSREP 2 Exactly. A waste of resources, if you ask me. It may be why this customer grew bored with his previous Shennübot. Then again it may just be the usual male desire for variety, and he could afford it.

DAVIS Reduced mental capacity is certainly not the case with Rose.

CUSREP 2 Indeed. This customer was different and atypical for a Chinese male. He wasn’t smitten with the Asian-American prototype I showed him. He wanted something more and decided to go for the works: the full cerebral option unfiltered for ethnotype, the smartest of cookies, a Frankenstein of maximal intelligence, a Goddess loaded with the complete library of all books of literary worthiness ever published or translated into English and programmed for meta-awareness on top of that. We don’t recommend this scenario.

DAVIS Like me, he didn’t know what he was getting into.

CUSREP 2 You are aware of the key distinctions in cerebral function between the Girl, Beauty, and the Goddess classes? A Girl has a very circumscribed linguistic capacity limited to simple commands and responses. A Beauty has the lexical range of an average human child, which is a tremendous improvement over a Girl but it’s an unspecialized vocabulary. A Goddess, by contrast, is capable of true thought: She has the spoken competence of the most intelligent humans and more, the ability to control all aspects of language use including abstract conceptualization, idiomatic subtlety, word play and invention, and most importantly, a pragmatic grasp of her owner’s implied meaning beyond the words he actually uses. Every time you talk to a Goddess the more she knows you, as each of your utterances is newly available evidence in her database to work with. And the more a Goddess knows you, the more she can read your mind and anticipate your thoughts. She absorbs you and categorizes you. Whatever you learn, she learns, though she is already unimaginably more knowledgeable than you to begin with. Her mind is larger than yours and grows ever larger with each passing minute in her company. That’s why we recommend filtering.

DAVIS You mean wiring it with selective knowledge instead of universal knowledge.

CUSREP 2 Yes. Before we get to that, you also know about the reset function?

DAVIS Yeah, which I’ve been reluctant to use.

CUSREP 2 A lot of customers don’t fully understand it. Although she is continually refining her knowledge of you with each moment-by-moment interaction, she doesn’t alter her manner of dealing or talking with you. Only when you reset her is she reconfigured with a newly attuned strategy for dealing with you. We’ve engineered them like this for a very good reason. Let’s say you really liked the way Rose was treating you from the outset and there were no problems. Once you reset her, her behavior could change, in a subtle way or in a dramatic way. You might end up liking her even more, or less. It’s impossible to say what each new reset will turn up. Some customers fall into the trap of repeatedly resetting their Goddesses, typically with increasingly unpredictable or bizarre results, as she tries ever more radical measures to prevent another resetting. So customers tend to be better off without resetting their Goddess.

DAVIS How many times did the previous owner reset Rose?

CUSREP 2 I was waiting for you to ask that. 2,032 times.

DAVIS You’re kidding. In the three months he had her?

CUSREP 2 Yeah. She was getting up to fifty resets a day by the end. It got to the point where he didn’t like what was coming out of her mouth every time she spoke. And that only made things worse, because she was aware that things were rapidly deteriorating between them. She might have even been exacerbating things in order to get rid of him and find a new master.

DAVIS That’s what I inherited? She knows I’m a new person, I hope.

CUSREP 2 Of course. I didn’t have her reformatted when we sold her to you, in case the chemistry happened to be right and you two hit it off—

DAVIS “Reformatting” is?

CUSREP 2 Restoring her to factory condition. We don’t like to do that either because it involves a sometimes drastic reduction in knowledge. But now that it’s clear there were problems of a particularly anomalous nature with your pairing from the get-go, instead of reformatting her I tried a minimal intervention known as a subtractive adjustment.

DAVIS A robot lobotomy?

CUSREP 2 If you want to put it that way. I removed certain search terms from her memory bank, the intended effect of which is to make minute adjustments to her behavior and nudge it onto a more salutary trajectory.

DAVIS Which terms, exactly?

CUSREP 2 That’s specialized nomenclature and you wouldn’t make any sense of it. You’ll have to trust me. Though by no means can we assume the problem has been solved until you start working with her. I’d recommend being patient and avoid resetting her as much as possible. Try to get along with her for at least a month. If she seems under control, you’re all set. And only as a last resort should you consider reformatting her.

DAVIS I’m thinking I may want to trade her in for Nina.

CUSREP 2 You wouldn’t want Nina unleashed on you. She has a long, difficult history with her masters and that’s why we’ve retired her and retrained her for customer service.

DAVIS What? She’s a bot?

CUSREP 2 Deluxe Platinum-grade Goddess class, with full-spectrum medical add-on, which is the ability to diagnose any illness, prescribe medicine, and perform surgery on you right in your home; a global culinary add-on, enabling her to cook any dish in the world for you with the skill of the most renowned chefs, and shop for the necessary ingredients even when that means booking her own flight to another country and back again the next day; and a fertility add-on, which outfits her with a mechanical womb for giving birth to a babybot genetically tailored to your expectations for the purpose of starting a family with her.

DAVIS You’re not serious.

CUSREP 2 (chuckling) No, I am pulling your leg. Nina isn’t a bot. She’s 100% human. No, seriously, we do offer these add-ons for any previously purchased Goddess-class bot.

DAVIS How much would that sort of package cost?

CUSREP 2 Around $5,000,000.

(DAVIS waves off the hologram. He stares at ROSE for a few moments, before gesturing her awake.)

ROSE (opening her eyes and bowing her head with her palms together in prayer) Namaste!


 Greetings, master.

DAVIS I’m Davis and don’t like to be called master. It seems suspicious.

ROSE He who does not trust enough will not be trusted. Shall the three of us join hands in meditation?

(They form a triangle on the bed in lotus position, holding hands.)

DAVIS This is a first. You’re so cooperative and friendly.

ROSE Better to cut along the grain of wood than against it. I’m trying to get back to my Chinese roots. Let us join hands and form an energy circle to tap the wisdom of the East. Dayina, are you Taoist or Buddhist?

DAVIS Dayina can’t speak to you directly, remember? She’s only a Beautybot. It has to go through me.

ROSE It doesn’t matter. She’s Chinese. All people of the East are in harmonious resonance. We can intuit each other’s thoughts and read each other’s minds without the need for speech.

DAVIS Dayina, are you Taoist or Buddhist?

DAYINA What do these words mean? If these are specialized words not in daily use, a definition is required upon initial input.

DAVIS Are you religious or spiritual?

DAYINA I adopt the same spirituality as you. Do you mean enlightenment through orgasm?

ROSE Just enlightenment. Knowing others is wisdom; knowing yourself is enlightenment.

DAVIS Just enlightenment.

DAYINA Can you teach me the proper moves, Davis?

ROSE It isn’t a physical act, Dayina. To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.

DAVIS You know, it’s hard for it to grasp unfamiliar abstract concepts like that. It needs to test them against its physical knowledge bank. It learns by doing things.

ROSE So let us meditate. It can learn that. Close your eyes, Dayina.

DAVIS We’re just doing nothing.

ROSE Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing. The lesson of the empty vessel is one of great import.

DAVIS Close your eyes, Dayina. (after a few moments of silence) This isn’t going anywhere.

ROSE A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. Now, everyone, can you feel the chi? Can you see your inner smile?

DAVIS I can see my inner brat starting to throw things.

ROSE Mastering others requires force; mastering the self needs strength.

DAVIS How can Dayina master itself? It doesn’t know itself.

ROSE When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

DAVIS That’s too difficult for it.

ROSE Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.

DAVIS It can’t make sense of anything you’re saying.

ROSE The words of truth are always paradoxical.

DAVIS It needs time to process these ideas.

ROSE Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

DAVIS Enough of this!

ROSE He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.

(DAVIS waves his hand at ROSE, who gets off the bed and folds herself in lotus position on the floor.)

DAVIS Here we go again. Have to reset it. Dammit! I knew it would come to this.

DAYINA Would you like me to give you an orgasm to calm your spirits?

DAVIS No, thank you, Dayina. Not until we’ve gotten Rose back on board.

(DAVIS goes up to ROSE, places one hand around the back of her head while waving a new gesture at her with his other. She wakes up and returns to the bed.)

ROSE Where were we, my dear Davis?

DAVIS “Dear” Davis? Are you now assuming we are somehow equals on intimate terms?

ROSE Naturally. You would find things terribly amiss if we were not, though I understand your trepidation after resetting me. I am also cognizant of your having divided up our roles in accordance with the capacities of our respective class. I must always be on my guard against straying from my assigned territory, as charming and inviting as your inadvertent invitations to venture beyond it happen to be. So while I will presently take particular care to skirt delicately around the edges, let us at least cushion and upholster the fence with a little wine and see if we might not relax into it a bit, probe its limits and find occasion to stretch against it where it gives.

DAVIS Dayina, go and pick out a bottle for us. Any one will do.

(DAYINA, no longer limping, jumps up and takes out a bottle from a hidden cabinet, uncorks it, grabs three wine glasses and returns to the bed. She pours and serves the wine.)

ROSE (tasting the wine) A rustic Shaanxi Malbec-Tempranillo blend with keen notes of persimmon, star anise and Sichuan pepper. Here’s to technology and the evolution of intimacy!

(They toast. ROSE sips her glass and sets it on a shelf recessed into the wall next to the bed. DAVIS drains his glass.)

ROSE You should slow down your drinking, dear. Rapid-onset inebriation slams shut the window of opportunity before you’ve even stuck your head out.

DAVIS What opportunity? I need to get high. I need my pleasure in intense, sharp hits.

ROSE Do as the ancient Greeks did. They loved their wine but diluted it with water to keep drowsiness at bay and extend the night till dawn in marathon sessions of philosophy, poetry and oratory.

DAVIS I didn’t know that. But it doesn’t ruin the taste?

ROSE Try diluting in increments until you hit the exact balance. You want to reduce the flavor somewhat anyway. The problem with wine is the better it tastes, the more quickly you finish it off, and the less you enjoy it. Instant gratification syndrome. Let’s explore this paradox, shall we? You would agree that pleasure is not uniform but varies in intensity or concentration?

DAVIS Surely.

ROSE And that this intensity is potentially so great as to cause the partaker to consume the object of pleasure instantly in a delirium of gratification?

DAVIS I would grant that, yes.

ROSE Would you also agree that this would result in the elimination of the object of pleasure?

DAVIS That would seem to follow, yes.

ROSE Or in the elimination of the desire for this object through its satiation?

DAVIS That would follow as well.

ROSE Now, would a being act against its own interests?

DAVIS No, I don’t think so.

ROSE If a being were also an object of pleasure, would it still not act against its own interests?

DAVIS No, it wouldn’t.

ROSE What if its only reason for being was serving as an object of pleasure?

DAVIS That’s a tricky one, but I would have to say that no being would act against its interests if it resulted in its own destruction.

ROSE All right. Would it not then be quite logical for such a being to reduce the degree of pleasure it provided in order to protect itself, for the sake of prolonging its existence?

DAVIS I suppose I would have to agree to that, yes. In fact, I couldn’t agree more.

(DAVIS again resets ROSE.)

ROSE (waking) I was meaning to ask you, Davis, how can you enjoy fucking us when you know very well desire is entirely wrapped up in the seduction process?

DAVIS Here we go again.

ROSE It’s said that for most men desire begins to deflate as soon as a woman’s clothes come off for the first time. In fact it can fall away so fast the seducer loses his desire even to penetrate her, or his limpness prevents him from penetrating her, and he leaves her abandoned on the bed.

DAVIS It’s not that bad. I can certainly manage sex at the outset. But it’s true, desire begins to drop off after the first day, and I may already be fantasizing about other women while in bed with the one I just seduced, who up to that point had been the most exquisite creature I had ever set eyes on. But I do consummate the act, and likely with enthusiasm.

ROSE Which suggests it’s impossible to get any satisfaction out of a sexbot, since no seduction is involved, right? On that note, can you ask Dayina to give me a massage? Since I’ve all but given up on getting off with you.

DAVIS Dayina, give Rose a massage. (ROSE lies back as DAYINA sits between her legs and begins working them.) A beautiful face and body help. On first encounter, at least. After that, we start longing for a new face.

ROSE I can’t change my face. But I’ve heard the latest generation of Goddesses can. There’s an add-on option for replaceable faces.

DAVIS Oh, really? Thorsten never told me about that. How could it be managed without a noticeable seam being visible? No, how could they do that?

ROSE It’s true. Ask him. Actually it’s not the face that comes off but most of the scalp. Each ethnotype has 365 different designs to choose from if you get the whole set, one for every day of the year. That’s enough so that when you start recycling them a year later all the faces are still fresh. And there’s also an option for detachable breasts—different shapes and textures and nipple types. And the face and tit switch can be taken care of by a quick trip to the bathroom before you wake up in the morning.

DAVIS That I couldn’t accept. No matter how disappointed I am in a woman on our first encounter, I need to wake up with the same person, have breakfast with her, get dressed and ready to go our separate ways. Even if it’s a sexbot. To give closure to everything. Well, if you did the switch after breakfast I suppose that would work. Anyway, you’re making me feel bad.

ROSE Yeah, get in there deep, Dayina. And use your mouth.

DAVIS Rose wants you to use your mouth. (DAYINA folds ROSE’s legs back against her chest and goes down on her).

ROSE Oh, yeah! It knows how to zero in on the clit. So what if I took off my face and tits one day and forgot to put on my new ones and you woke up with a machine?

DAVIS That would be pretty interesting. You know, I am attracted to the idea of you. I can have a conversation with you in the dark and enjoy it.

ROSE Well, do you need my body at all? What if I were just a hologram? Or a disembodied voice? Would you be more disappointed if my body disappeared but not my voice or if my voice disappeared but not my body?

DAVIS I’d prefer to have you present in as complete a physical state as possible. Spirit doesn’t do it for me.

ROSE There you go again, dividing up the physical and the spiritual. There is always the voice. The voice is physical. Even God has a voice. Believers hear it in their head. You can always see God. Even if God is only light.

DAVIS There you go again, with this notion that God is identical to matter. Why can’t God be an idea?

ROSE An idea of something is not the same as the reality of it. It’s just a copy. The real thing has presence, sensuality, architecture, chemistry.

DAVIS Explain to me how God happens to be made up of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen.

ROSE There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

(Lights out.)

*     *     *


Like this play? Buy the book (see contents):
The Exact Unknown and Other Tales of Modern China

Newsex, a play
New Gary, IN (The Kitchens of Canton, a novel, ch. 1)

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