Logan Drake activated his proxy robot, and the virtual reality equipment dropped him into its perspective, locking in the neural controls.
Freedom. Uninhibited freedom to walk among human beings, his perspective now fully integrated with the robot. He climbed into his Ferrari and took to the streets. It wasn’t quite the good old days. The proxy had no reason to go to a restaurant or a gym, but he loved any recreation that required motion, and one of his favorites was the amusement park.
It was small compared to Six Flags, but he’d grown up with it, walking distance from his childhood home. He hit the rollercoaster first. They had only one, but there were several of the rides you typically found at a state fair, the Rambler being a favorite even in his robot body.
It wasn’t the rides that drew him there the most, though. One thing was better than before. He’d become a bit of an attraction of his own. The kids and their parents trusted him, he wasn’t sure why, and he would spend time with them, taking them on rides, buying them ice cream, and showing off his strength with the High Striker. He made many friends, young and old, many more true friends than in his previous life, and that made up for the things he couldn’t do.
Logan brought Timmy and Doreen Hobson back from the Trabant and handed them off to their parents, who spoke to a woman in a wheelchair at the eatery. Slightly heavy, she had black hair and a killer smile, no movie star, but a face a man could love.
“Hi. I’m Logan.” He pulled up a chair.
“Oh, I know who you are. Timmy talks about you all the time, don’t you, Timmy?”
The boy nodded sheepishly.
Logan pushed through some awkward small talk until they were talking freely about family, fun, and even dreams. Before long Logan realized they were alone.
“Do you go on the rides?” he asked.
“Rarely.” She made a half squint. “It’s a bit of a production to get loaded.”
Logan talked around her condition, but finally screwed up enough nerve to ask the question that haunted him.
“How would you like to go on a different kind of ride?”
“Mr. Drake, I’m a virtuous woman.”
Logan’s thoughts froze up. “I didn’t mean…” He noticed the mischievous glint in her eye. “Hah. What I mean is… Would you like to try a proxy robot like this one?”
After some cajoling, Maurine had her brother, Luke, take her to Logan’s mansion.
Luke wheeled her in. “Have fun with it. I’ll be right by you the whole time.”
Logan showed her the robots, their near lifelike proportions very similar to his own.
“You don’t have any in pink?”
Logan laughed. “Not yet.”
He took an extensive neural recording, having her imagine walking, running, jumping, swimming, typing, sewing, and many other activities with motor function. He calibrated and synced it to one of his newer proxies.
“Are you ready?”
She nodded, excitement and fear in her eyes.
“It’ll be okay. You can abort at any time. I’ll show you how.”
In an isolation room, her brother helped Logan lift Maurine into a proxy chair, and Logan used his composite hands to attach the neural equipment to her head and cover her face with the audio-visual gear. He had a pleasant meadow scene running to help her relax.
He gently adjusted the fit. “How’s that feel?”
“I have to pee.”
Luke laughed. “She’s yanking your chain.”
Luke stayed as he went into the other room, activated her proxy, and locked in her neural controls.
A gasp came from the proxy.
“It’s okay.” Logan took her hand. “Try to take a step.”
The proxy stepped forward and Maurine’s excited breathing came through.
They took some time to get her accustomed to it and soon he was able to give her a tour of the estate, up and down stairs, through the hedges, even some climbing on the fountain.
“This has been wonderful, Logan, but I’d like to get home soon.”
“Can you come back?”
He took her by the hand and walked her back to the proxy bay, then lifted her back into her wheelchair. Luke wheeled her out and loaded her into her van.
“May I call you?” asked Logan.
“We’ll give it another try.”
She shrugged and gave a half nod.
Logan talked her into two more outings, one to a museum, and another to go sailing, but she wanted to see him in person and became very anxious towards the end of each date.
She said ‘no’ to the fourth one. He’d met her at a cafe with her sister, Sarah.
“But why, Maurine? You must know I’m smitten with you.”
She smiled. “I like you, too. But I prefer living my life as I am, and I have too much to live for in the real world.”
Logan considered several arguments, but he could see she had her mind made up. “Can I see you as you are, then?”
“Will you come as you are?”
Logan shuddered, though it didn’t translate to his proxy. “This is how I am.”
“I’ve enjoyed our time, Logan.” She unlocked her wheelchair. “Good-bye.”
Sarah held her hand up in an understated wave and mouthed the word ‘sorry.’
Logan went home and parked the robot in the proxy bay. He disengaged the neural controls, returning to the standard mode, where he took audio and video feeds from the house and commanded his household to take care of his physical needs.
“I’d like to see you as I am.” He let out a heavy sigh. “But I can’t.”
For the first time in months Logan disengaged the virtual reality gear entirely.
Mythology makes a feeble attempt to describe hideousness, giving it the slither of snakes and the brutishness of a boar’s tusk, but even today’s most inventive horror movies flaunting viscid bristles, snaggled dentition, and bared viscera miscount the the ghastliness of long forgotten beings now hidden from the modern world.
Logan dared a glance at the darkly smoked mirror at his side, pulling his eyes away quickly lest he turn to stone, but long enough for a vague impression of his countenance, the legacy of Typhon and Echidna. The face of a Gorgon.
Mythology sometimes said the Gorgons were beautiful in spite of their lethal stare, but that misconception grew out of their childhood, a cruel joke on the being who would one day be unsurpassed by any monster in repugnance.
No one could ever see him as he was and live.
He replaced and reactivated the virtual reality gear, and then reconnected to his proxy, the termination point between friendship and death.