Donatello and the Peek-a-boo App

Submitted into Contest #82 in response to: Write about an android just trying to blend in with their human companions.... view prompt

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Fiction Science Fiction Romance

Despite her mediocre marks at university, Leslie managed to get hired as an app developer. Her first major assignement, was creating the Peek-a-boo App, by the end of her three-month probational period. It was Friday – the day she was determined to perform the final test of her software – one week before the deadline. Her work mates, heading off for their Friday visit at the pub failed to drag her away from her cubicle. Anyway, she’d feel embarrassed, wearing her nerdy plaid elastic-waist polyester slacks and greasy braids. The boss chuckled. “She’s occupied in her ‘Brain Bubble’ again.”   She regretted coining the phrase to describe the state of being so immersed in her work to forget time.  The boss nodded. “Well, don’t make me have to come back to the office and tug on those pig tails.”

“I promise I’ll join you all if my test run of Peeka-boo is a success. And I am confident that we’ll be celebrating with beer.” She smoothed back the bits of hair that had come loose from her braids. She thought, I promised myself I wouldn’t wash my hair until the boss approved Peek-a-boo. Monday night, I’m shampooing.  “Be sure to lock up,” her boss hollered. The IT department’s door shut with a final clang. Nobody left in the office to disrupt her. Sitting at her desk, with her desk lamp on, she felt her limp braids.  “Or I’ll cut it all off.”   Rapidly, she redid her braids.  Then she dove into her work, uploading the Peek-a-boo test app onto her office cell phone.  The software ready for its final test.   She downloaded a photo of her car keys into the app’s database. Giggling like a girl playing hide-and-seek, she dashed into the boss’s office and hid her car keys in the filing cabinet. She turned off the office lights and quickly bobbed her way to her cubicle. She picked up her cell phone, and which drew a long shadow, with only the desk lamp on. Eagerly, the programmer spoke into the phone.  “Find CAR KEYS”. The app churned silently in cyberspace and soon chirped, in a voice that imitated hers.  “Keys found.” It supplied the coordinates. Leslie wobbled her head and jested, “Now where would that be?” 

A steady, gentle baritone voice in the dark startled her. “The keys are in Mr. Henry’s office.” The prototype FE-3 Android emerged from the darkness. Leslie’s desk lamp softly highlighted the android’s opal-like epidermic polymer skin. He moved soundlessly closer to her. Leslie gasped.   “Donny! You should be sleeping.” The robotics engineer had designed the android to look like Donatello’s marble statue of David that was covered up with a toga during the day.  He’s … naked.   He was stunningly muscular and Leslie gasped as she quickly peeked at his generous groin.  Peek-a-boo.  She turned her head away and struggled to find her voice. “I know where the keys are. I just want to see if my Peek-a-boo app can find them.”

He followed her soundlessly, as a well-lubricated android does. Leslie deliberately walked in the opposite direction. Donny said, “You must turn around.” The app said, “You are getting colder.”

Donny said, “You are talking to yourself, young woman.”

“I programmed the app to with my voice.”

“I was humouring you.” Donny chuckled, sounding like a male opera singer’s deep ‘ha, ha.’

“Oh, very clever. Well in a way, I am ‘humouring’ the app, to see if it works, to see if it will lead me to my keys.” They moved around and eventually reached the filing cabinet. The app said, “You are very hot,” to which Donny repeated, “You are very hot.” Leslie cheeks flushed. Does he mean me, or my location? Why do I wish I washed my hair?  

Back at her desk, Leslie yipped in delight. “It works! It works!”

Donny said, “Now, Leslie, peek-a-boo you.”

Is he asking me to show him my privates, like he showed me his? Why would I think that?

“You want me to hide, and you’ll find me?” Obviously. He took a photo of her and uploaded it. “Count to twenty, then start the app.” Leslie headed for the washroom, hearing Donny’s count-down that sounded like a double bass E string being plucked.

Donny entered the washroom and turned on the lights. The app said, “Hot! Hot! Found you.” Donny handed the cell phone back to Leslie. She inadvertently glanced in the mirror and saw their reflections, two BEINGS standing so close together. One, glowing like an opal, at least six inches taller than the other, who looked like a schoolgirl in her plaid slacks. She straightened herself up, pulled her shoulders back. In the reflection, the android was studying her. Her heart fluttered as she felt the radiating heat of his electrically animated body.

She came to her senses, saying, “My braids have come loose.” Before she knew it, Donny’s nimble, long fingers rebraided her hair, tickling her neck. If she were an android, her wiring would be sizzling. She recovered because this was a walking computer not a sexy hairstylist. “How did you learn that?”

Obviously. He’d been standing in the dark, not where he should be – hibernating in his glass cubicle. He observed her and computed – no, learned.   He baritoned, “My daily tasks now include braiding your hair.”

“Not necessary.”  He’ll embarrass me. I’m forced to get a hair cut now. “Donny, you have enough tasks already.”

“My Core-DTelo CPU registers boredom by the menial tasks I am programmed to perform. Getting coffee and muffins, cleaning and dusting. Vacuuming. Learning new jokes.” He seemed to be slowing down. Leslie had to get him plugged in, before he froze in the washroom. He spoke slower. “But I like getting coffee and muffins for you, Less-leee.”

I’m falling for Marble Man. No, that’s crazy. “Beddy-time for you, Mr. Robot. I’m done for the night. Monday morning, I will demonstrate Peek-a-boo to the boss. I’m off to The Big Foam Pub, to join the others. Leslie escorted Donny to his closet where he sat down on his bench so that she could plug him in. “Nighty night. See you Monday.” She grabbed the glass door to shut him in. 

Donny protested. “Please leave the door open, Less-lee. I do not like to be in this Brain-Bubble.”  

Astounded by the android’s creative, cognitive abilities, to find new meaning to her phrase, Leslie smiled. “I’ll keep the door open. Next time you decide to surprise me, could you do it with some clothes on?” She locked up the cell phone in her desk drawer and left, chirping, “Good Night.”

It was already nine-thirty and Leslie was pleased to find the software developers still at the pub. They cheered when she approached their table and sat in the chair that had been waiting for her. Never mind that she wore plaid pants. She was feeling marvelous. She said, with aplomb, “Guess what. The Peek-a-boo app is ready for demonstration.” 

While everyone congratulated her, her thoughts strayed to the android. He was her first audience.  She said to Donny’s creator, “By the way, you forgot to plug Donatello in for the night.”

The programmer was baffled. “He’s been in hibernative state all day.  I gave him the day off.”

If that was true, was Donny pretending to be on low charge? 

The boss asked her, “What are you doing this weekend?”

Not realizing what she was sharing, she said, “Sewing a tunic for Donny. Something masculine, in polyester, or silk to compliment his opal complexion. Donatello sculptures don’t wear togas.”

The boss nudged her. “Earth to Leslie. She’s locked in Bubble Brain mode.” The group was sniggering. Had she really spoken out loud? Regaining her self-composure, she said, “I’ll have a beer.” 

****

Donatello was a learning machine, his mechatronic brain made up of millions of storage cells. Memory and information-rich data could be retrieved, and with exceptional speed, he could electronically teach himself.  He was able to swiftly unlock the drawer of Leslie’s desk and retrieve the cell phone. He opened the Peek-a-boo app.   He’d already spent weekends, studying Leslie’s computer, able to bypass the password. He knew her cat’s name, her favourite websites. He knew the importance of respecting her privacy and restrained himself from reading her emails. The software engineer, his creator was unaware of his android’s ability to develop knowledge. Not just to ‘learn’, but to use it to his own advantage – to ‘know’. He was blind to Donny’s independent nature. Now, the handsome android sat at Leslie’s desk and turned on her laptop. He searched for The Big Foam Pub, found it on the web map, then picked up the phone and took a picture of the image on the screen. Knowing that Leslie had also programmed into the app the option to find the location of a place, he opened Peek-a-boo and uploaded the name of the pub, its address and the photo. He searched for other locations he needed, addresses he found in the boss’s filing cabinet. The locations’ coordinates were instantly detected by the app. All of his work took only a few minutes. He put on his toga. Tonight would be Donatello’s first time leaving the building.  

In celebration, Leslie, normally the half-pint drinker was on her third pint of draft beer. She had truly proven to be a successful programmer. It was getting pretty late, and most of the patrons had already left. But not the work mates.  She pulled out her personal cell phone and checked the time. “Wow, it’s 11:30. Time flies.” Nobody seemed to listen. Their eyes were glued on something behind her. The boss mouth formed the word, “Donatello.” She turned around in her chair. Standing at the entrance was Donny. All decked up. He smiled a crooked smile for her eyes only, and touched the rim of a black fedora.

The boss blurted out, “Hey, that’s my hat.”

The software engineer gaped. “He’s wearing my best suit.  Those are my leather shoes.”

Donny swaggered to the table. “I have come to celebrate a successful test run of Leslie’s Peek-a-boo app. Very successful, as it enabled me to find your homes so that I could borrow something to wear. Leslie asked that I put clothes on the next time I saw her.” The stunned group and the blushing Leslie watched Donny take an empty chair from another table. The group had to make room for Donny, who sat down beside Leslie.   Her hair had come loose again. Tipsy, and feeling very flattered, she wondered if she was in love…    

February 26, 2021 00:08

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2 comments

A.Dot Ram
01:32 Mar 04, 2021

I'm glad I found this through critique circle. I enjoyed reading it. Everything flowed smoothly, you built some good tension (I wondered where everything was going), and incorporated some humor. Also sweetness. Are you planning on writing more of this story?

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Angie Steckley
22:06 Apr 23, 2021

Thank you. This comment encourages me to write more. And yes, I may develop it further.

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