A Whole Different Look
“Roberta, phone call for you, its Mr. Frasier.” someone shouted out to me.
OK, brief introduction time. My name is Roberta Bayport, though everybody calls me Robbie, for 2 reasons. Firstly, its a natural abbreviation of my name, and secondly, because I’m a robot, and yeah, there’s some corny 50’s film, so... I haven’t always been a robot, mind. I used to be a plain girl, who minded her business, but ran into a mad scientist on the rampage. Was going to turn me into his mindless robot slave, but thankfully I got rescued before he could do the mindless stuff, but unfortunately, not until after he’d done the robot bit. Also, unfortunately, he was into the Chrome look, which did me no favors.
Fortunately, Mr. Frasier managed to develop a skin version of the neuroweave costumes for me, so I now look like a 30’s movie star that hardly anyone knows nowadays, but anyway, its cute, and allows me to hide the robot look, at least! I grab the phone,
“Yes, Mr. Frasier?” I ask.
“Lass, just call me ‘Gene’, OK?” he replied
“OK, Gene” I replied, and giggled.
“If I tell you that Nigel says you’re free to leave early, how soon can you get over to my lab?” he asked me, and I could hear Nigel (Grimalde, my office boss) confirming that in the background.
“About 20 minutes or so, I guess. Why?”
I heard them both laughing, “You’ll find out when you get here, lass.”
“So as you know, as you’re wearing one of them, we developed an artifical skin for you, as we couldn’t get the neuroweave suits to interact with your robot body? Still you in there, just a cuter look than silver metal?” Nigel asked me.
“Yes, I do, sir.” I replied.
“Well, this crazy old man has taken it one step further, and wants to try something different out, and you make the perfect candidate to do so.”
“Yes, you do. Some missions, wouldn’t it be handy if people could go undercover, without being recognized?”
“I guess it would? But?”
“He’s comes up with an artificial skin design, that not only changes your look, it changes your whole personality.” he told me. “Thing is, its easier to trial it on you, where if it fails, all we have to do is do a reset, than trying it on a person, and trying to reset a brain!”
“Look, easiest way is to show you. Take off your skin, ‘Miss Harlow’, go stand in the pod, and we’ll see...?”
I know when he calls me that name, not my own, I’m not going to win, as yes, that’s who I look like. So I go to the pod, and there’s a skin there, so I take my normal one off, and put it on. Feels tight, but anyway...
“Fine to activate.” I state, and squeak as the beam hits me.
“Ua pau nā mea i ka pau?” I ask, “he aha lā?” and walked out of the pod, glaring at them.
(‘Is everything finished? What the hell?’ for those of you not up on Hawaiian)
They produce a full length mirror. All I see is a cute Hawaiian Island girl, about 5 foot tall (I’m normally about 5 foot 6) looking back at me.
Nigel laughed, and then said, “Permit her to be bilingual, English, and Native”
“So you two mean?”
“Yes, natural Hawaiian girl, fluent in your own language, and now English as well. No one would ever know you weren’t a local. And this new skin adheres so perfectly, just like the real thing. And yes, when you go back in, you’ll find your old ‘Harlow’ suit has been altered and upgraded with one of these, to match. Just let us activate it to switch, and then...” He shrugged. “We’ll want to trial it for a few days, just make sure there are no issues long-term, but then we have a mission for you...”
All went fine, and I had no issues with the Adjustment Skins, as they were calling with them. Hey, Gene even arranged for me to spend a weekend as a Hawaiian girl, visiting River City, and no one guessed until the next group meeting, when they were told that it was really me, and...
So, they fixed me up with a passport in the name of Maleah Palakiko, and off to Honolulu I go! Born on the island, fluent in native language, attractive, single, the perfect plant. Seems all spring, young girls have been vanishing for a week or so, then coming back like ‘pod people’, ultimate sexy hula girls for the tourists. So brainwashing is suspected, but the ‘authorities’ need evidence, or at least to find out whats behind the whole scene. According to Nigel, they pay well for secretive missions like this, so...
The airport, and the flights went fine, they’d always planned me to be bilingual, they just wanted to see my reaction when I came out of the pod, seemingly, speaking the native language. Men, I guess?
I picked up my case off the carousel (I was told most outfits would be waiting for me at the rented apartment), and went into arrivals. As promised, there was someone waiting for me with a board, though it did take me a moment to realize Miss Palakiko was me! But after that... I got into the car, settled back, started to feel sleepy, really sleepy... and... and...
“Greetings, Miss Palakiko, or should I say, Miss Bayport.” I was greeted by, as I started to open my eyes.
What? How did they know? Then I realized, I was tightly restrained, and naked (well, to skin level at least). And not just with simple ropes. We’re talking reinforced titanium alloy too strong for me to break. Whoever these people were, they’d come prepared.
“ ʻAʻole maopopo iaʻu ka manaʻo o ia?” I innocently replied. (I dont know what you mean?)
“Cute, as promised, she speaks just like a native, credit due for their system. But please, Miss Bayport, English will be fine.” Laughter. “Though to be fair, we’ll be calling you Miss Palakiko now, until you leave Hawaii.”
I sighed, “But how did you know?”
I heard a female voice laugh, and then speak, “Because you’ve been set up, Maleah, honey, that’s how. A couple of guys you know well had worked out you hadn’t had a holiday in, err, a long while, so set this all up as a trick.”
A man then spoke, “Well not literally, Maleah, the adjustment skins are something they’ve been wanting to test out for real, and you, and your need for a holiday gave them a way to do it. I hate to break it to you, but you’ve been ‘kidnapped’ by the Tourist board of Hawaii!” and he burst into laughter.
“So there are no young native girls, acting as hosts to tourists then?” I asked, chagrined.
“Oh yes, absolutely, but they’re doing it willingly, for good pay. We suspect a few are offering extra services to tourists, but if they are, its all of their own choice. Same option for you, honey, as we all know you cant get pregnant!” the woman added, laughing.
“Sorry?” I asked, by now completely baffled.
“Well, we need extra staff to cover the peak holiday period, and our authorities had a word with some, err, ‘mutual friends’,” she said, grinning.
“But how do I learn the job, for real, that quickly?” I asked.
“I’m sure you’ve been mind controlled in your time?” the man asked.
“Yes, a few times, why?” I replied, slowly, getting an idea of what was coming next.
He pointed to a chair, a processing headband I recognized, and what I guessed counted as a training program.
“Then add one to the number, Maleah. Oh, and ‘Robbie’, Gene told me to tell you two things.“
I groaned, “What?”
“Firstly, until this is all over, in about 4 weeks from now, once we’ve done with your processing, Robbie won’t exist. You will be Maleah, and you will only ever remember being Maleah, living in Honolulu all your life. Your apartment, as promised, is furnished, provisioned, and suitable outfits supplied. Secondly,”
“He said to have a happy holiday!”
I laughed at that! Cheeky bastards... ah, well.
In the end, I gather by mutual agreement, ‘Maleah’ stayed about 6 weeks in her role, to help out over the peak ‘summer holiday’ period. She was closely watched, but this was mainly because Gene, and Nigel wanted someone looking out for any issues that might occur, not that there were any, in truth. I gather the only real concern they had in advance was completely overlaying my memories with those of Maleah, which were of course totally false, and how they would interact with my ‘self’, to provide personality.
Everything went fine. I did tons of promotion work, much of which involved wearing less clothing than I normally would, and not just because I was 6 inches shorter than normal! The most amusing bit, I got to do a presentation in Hawaiian, because I now spoke the language better than most of the locals, who pretty much only spoke American!
I did also get some relaxation time, in more senses than one, and lets just say a few of the local guys found out how demanding a ‘robot’ can be when she has sexual needs. Oh fine, a few girls too! What, me, provide extra services for wealthy tourists? Now that would be telling. wink
Anyway, (as I found out later), near the end of my time there, I was sent out on Airport greeting duty, to meet a couple of premium guests. I held up the name board provided, and two men moved towards me, and I greeted them in the traditional Hawaiian way, then escorted them to their vehicle. I got in the front, with the driver, having shown my guests the premium services available. It was a pretty boring drive back, however, with the men chatting to one another in the back, so I mostly just tuned them out.
“Its remarkable, she doesnae even recognize us,” one of the men said to the other.
“See Gene, you didn’t believe me. With all the tweaks in place, she is literally Maleah, so anyone she knew only as Robbie, she won’t recognize them.”
“Ach, fine, Nigel, I ken you said that, but I didnae expect that look of total non recognition when she greeted us, it’s just incredible.”
“So, as I say, with all this technology in place, we could send anyone on a mission, with a new identity, and there would be no link back to their true self. And she’s been using it for five weeks, with no known issues at all. Of course, we’d need to try it next on a real human, next, to be sure, but the basics of the system...”
“Fine, fine. So who? Which super can we spare in case of problems?”
“Well, I DID think about abducting those 2 English women that have been causing mayhem around town, and trying it on them, less than voluntarily,” Nigel replied with a slight scowl, “but their friend, Betsy, has made a special request not to.”
“Ah well, was a good idea, anyway. So? Any other ideas?”
“Betsy has a friend, always fancied living the flapper lifestyle for real. I’ve spoken to Lacie, and she reckons she could open a portal to the roaring twenties, send her back there with a whole new identity for a couple of months or so, with a neural tag implanted, in case of emergencies.”
“Really? Lacie Ann agreed to this?” Gene asked, dubiously.
“Yes, believe it or not. Personally, I think its probably just an excuse to have a reason to see your ‘mutual friend’ from that time era again, despite all the Nornir talk about not ‘contaminating the time stream’...”
“Hmm. Interesting. And then?”
“Well, of course, we bring her back, give her a thorough set of health checks, and then...”
“See what she wants to do.” Nigel shrugged. “Either return her to normal, send her back to England, and go back to her old life.”
“Reopen the Portal, send her back to the roaring twenties, on a permanent basis. Give her some skills to get her through the depression era, and then just get her removed from current history. Set up a false history for her to cover her new identity, then...”
“Hmph. Assuming my lovely wife is still okay with going that far. Visiting alternate timelines is one thing, particularly if its one not connected to OUR specific past. But making a permanent change by leaving her there?” Gene sighed. “Well, first things first. I’m assuming all sides are willing?“
“Then aye... let’s proceed from there...”
I’ve been called into head office today, so feeling a bit worried, as I didn’t know I’d done anything wrong, or naughty? When I get there, the 2 gentlemen I met at the airport are waiting there, what could it be?
“Maleah, we’re having a bit of a problem in that room over there. We’ve heard you’re handy with computers, so if you could take a look?”
I go where I’m directed, and then hear a door slide shut behind me instantly, so I let out a squeal.
“Don’t worry, lassie, all will be fine, very soon.", I hear a Scottish voice say.
I feel a beam tingling against me, and then nothing, then—
“How you feeling, Robbie?” I hear a cheery voice ask, that I now recognize.
“A bit funny, as my systems are still recalibrating, but other than that, fine, Nigel. Why?”
“Well, its been about 6 weeks since you were last yourself, thats why!” he replied, laughing.
What???? “How long?” I shouted in disbelief.
“Six weeks, lass,” Eugene answered, “we gave you an extended break, but you, and the skin passed the tests, with flying colours, lets say.”
“Oh gosh!” I exclaimed, listening intently as they brought me up to speed...
A few weeks later, they let me run the memories of Maleah through my system, and it was quite an experience. But yes, it was fun. And a couple of months after that, when they needed someone to go to Alaska, undercover, well, I might have gone. All in all, it was quite an adventure, one that I certainly wouldn’t ming having again... even if I only get to remember it all after the fact!