Description: Rafferty gets more than he bargained for, when he goes to Nena's house for dinner.
Dinner would be at six P.M.
Ordinary Teenage Girl Nena Washington had arranged the meal with her boyfriend Rafferty earlier in the day, before the two had parted ways: him to a photo shoot, and her to take his place in the first round of the Rising Star tournament. It's the first time that Nena has invited him 'round to dinner with both herself and her uncle and guardian Simon Washington.
The address that Rafferty was given is on the north end of Southtown Village. It's a single-story white wooden house with a picket fence and an enclosed garage; a modest suburban affair, not too far from some of the more grandiose estates on the city's outskirts. A rust-red Toyota Celica sits on the drive, and the grass appears to be fairly well-trimmed. A brown wooden fence encloses the back of the property, with a concrete sidewalk leading from the porch to the backyard gate. A fairly large shed can be seen by peeking over the fence.
Perhaps the one real oddity about the place is the intercom next to the door, which includes a doorbell, a speaker, and what looks to be a small camera for identifying guests. Close inspection would reveal a couple more cameras around the property, covering possible ways into the house.
Snapping a quick selfie on his cell phone, Rafferty checks his screen to view the results. By the beaming smile on his face, he's obviously happy with how it looks. He posts it to his Instagram account and then slips the phone away in his suit pocket. He's dressed to the nines or possibly even tens for the occasion. An expensive looking grey wool suit fits his slim frame and his black Oxford shoes are so polished, he could almost see his face in them.
He's right on time for dinner and has come bearing gifts for both Nena and Simon. His girlfriend gets a bunch of white roses, whilst Simon will be the recipient of a bottle of vintage champagne. Hopefully he has no objections to alcohol!
Approaching the doorway of the neat and attractive looking home, he's about to raise his hand to knock on the door, when he sees the intercom system. He clears his throat, then presses the button, his calm voice betraying nothing of the nerves he is actually feeling.
"Hey guys, it's me, Rafferty Lawrence Stewart. I'm here for the dinner as arranged."
The speaker on the intercom crackles to life.
"Greetings, Rafferty Lawrence Stewart. Your girlfriend, Nena Washington, is speaking. Please enter."
A second voice, a gravelly baritone, cuts in.
"Actually, she's not quite ready for you yet, son. Could you just... umm..."
"Simon, I am fully prepared for Rafferty's entry."
"Nena, are you sure...?"
"Yes. Rafferty, please come inside. You can find us in the basement."
The intercom goes quiet as the call button on the other end is presumably released.
Ignoring any debate about his entrance being desired, Rafferty tries the door. Finding it unlocked, he trots happily inside. His eyes dart around, taking in the decor of the house and appraising it for both style and quality. Seeing a mirror on the wall, he makes a final check of his appearance, winking at his reflection and then seeks out a way down to the basement. Eventually he finds what seems promising for being a staircase leading that way and starts to descend the steps gracefully.
"Hey, babe. Hey, Mr Washington. You've got a lovely home."
The interior of the house seems to be fairly well-appointed. It's an open floor plan, and there's a large modern television atop a cabinet in the cream-carpeted, turquoise-walled living area, which features a white leather sofa and recliner set. The door to the basement is around the corner from the living room, next to the kitchen, which is modern and full of stainless steel and white surfaces. There's a keypad lock on the basement door, curiously enough, but it currently hangs invitingly open to allow Rafferty to descend.
The lighting in the basement is cool; the walls and floor are concrete. At first, one might think that it was unfinished, but upon entering, it becomes evident that the stark design is likely intentional.
Within the basement is what can best be described as a labotatory of sorts, with a bank of monitors and a couple of computer workstations along one wall, an engineering workbench along another, filing cabinets and lockers along a third, and in the middle of it all, a table - what looks like it could be an operating table, but less designed for human comfort.
And sitting on that table is the pale brunette known as Nena, in her underwear, her hands both detached and lying on the table next to her. The flesh around her right wrist has been shredded, revealing the metal endoskeleton beneath it, and her right boot has been removed - along with most of the skin below her right knee.
Perhaps most horrific are the holes that riddle the girl's torso and left arm from which now-dried trickles of what appears to be blood can be seen. Judging by the red-stained contents of the tray next to her on the table, they're almost certainly bullet holes.
An African American man in a collared shirt, slacks and a bloodied apron stands next to her, holding a bloody piece of crumpled metal between needle-nose pliers as he argues with her.
"- just hurry up and put something on already -"
Hearing Rafferty's arrival, the man turns.
"...Ah. You must be Rafferty," he says with an awkward hesitancy.
"Correct," Nena says to the man, turning her head to Rafferty. She appears entirely comfortable both with being turned half to mince meat and with Rafferty observing her in her current state. "Hello, Rafferty. This is Simon Washington, my uncle. How are you doing today?"
Her tone is as nearly-monotonous as ever - if slightly brighter than usual, though that may just be an illusion caused by the disonnance between her tone and the fact that she looks like a revenant returned from a warzone.
"The Academy Award for Leading Actor goes to..."
There's a pause for dramatic impact and Rafferty arranges his face into an expression that seems hopeful, but not desperate. As the camera closes in on him and the other nominees, he squeezes Nena's hand. She's looking particularly beautiful tonight in a green silk evening gown, that perfectly compliments her eyes.
"Rafferty Lawrence Stewart!"
The blond man rises to his feet, punches the air with joy and then wraps his arms around his date. He starts to make his way to the stage, the cameras capturing how perfectly his Armani Tuxedo fits him. He's never looked more handsome or been more successful. This is his moment to shine and he's gonna revel in it.
Crash back to reality and as the teen is cast out of his happy place, he finds his legs giving way beneath him. Somehow, he manages to keep hold of the champagne bottle, as he sinks to the ground, but the flowers are scattered all over the concrete, their natural beauty marking a sharp contrast with their stark surroundings.
As his eyes try to make sense of what they see before them, he finds himself laughing. At first it's light, but it quickly escalates into hysteria.
"Oh good one, Mr Washington. Way to test the boyfriend!"
Shrieks of laughter echo out around the room, as he points a long finger towards his girlfriend on the table.
"I mean, it's flattering really. That you'd go to so much trouble as to actually make a fake Nena to freak me out. I mean, how does someone even do that? I've got to hand it to you, you're a smart man. You even got it to sound like her and everything!"
More laughter, as he clambers to his feet, starting to approach the horrific scene.
"Come on out, babe. You and your uncle almost got me, but I'm not that dumb."
He spins around on the spot, expecting the real ordinary teenage schoolgirl to emerge from her hiding place at any minute.
Simon's lips curl into a frown as the hand holding the pliers goes slightly limp and his shoulders sag.
"Look, son - there's something you should know about Nena."
"I am here, Rafferty. I am not an artificial Nena subsitute," Nena chirps from behind her 'uncle.' "You may investigate my claim freely."
"She's not your ordinary teenage girl," Simon starts to say slowly.
"Simon, this statement is contradictory," Nena says, her brows lowering as she turns her head to face the man, her vaguely confused expression perhaps the peak of her historical emotiveness. "By your declaration, I am an ordinary teenage girl, and by my declaration, I am Rafferty's."
"Let me put this bullet away and I'll try and explain," Simon remarks with a sigh as he turns to the tray and drops the bullet down next to the others.
"It is good to see you, Rafferty. In your stead, I was victorious. However, I have experienced marginal structural damage, for which I am currently undergoing repairs. I apologize if our dinner plans are delayed," Nena says to Rafferty while Simon gathers himself.
The cork is popped on the champagne bottle, as the teenage boy starts to chug down the bubbly brew. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, his steely blue gaze shifts between Nena and Simon.
"This is fucking insane" he snorts, shaking his pretty blonde head. "We sorted all this out, after I thought you were a terminator. You were in a tragic accident, that killed your parents and you were injured, so you had to have some artificial body parts. Your uncle here stepped in to look after you."
Taking a good look at Simon, now the initial shock is subsiding, he lets out a sigh.
"But this man isn't your uncle at all, is he? So who the fuck are you and why is Nena living with you?"
He gestures towards Simon with the bottle. It could be seen as threatening, but if anything the young model's face suggests hurt, rather than rage.
As he starts to register the full nightmare he's walked into, a single tear rolls down his pale cheek.
"You aren't human at all are you?" he accuses Nena. "I mean, how can you be? You've been shot, like a million times or something and you're still talking to me! And if you're not human, then what the fuck does that make me?"
He pokes a finger into his chest and goes back for another swig of booze. He swallows it down, before saying "I apologise for the language, Mr Washington, but as you can imagine this is a difficult situation. As for dinner, I believe I've lost my appetite."
"Well, I was going to offer you whiskey before we got into this, but at least you've saved me from that ethical quandary," Simon says as he watches Rafferty swig from the bottle of champagne. "Why don't you at least have yourself a seat?" With that offer, he slides one of the black leather rolling chairs that occupy the basement from its place next to the workstation toward Rafferty.
"Rafferty, I am concerned that you have entered into a state of delusion. Simon is my uncle, and I am an ordinary teenage girl, and therefore, human," Nena says, looking faintly distressed - but without some of the telltale signs, such as a change in breathing.
"Nena - I'm sorry, but your boyfriend is right," Simon says, not quite looking at the girl over his shoulder.
Nena is quiet for a moment, before adding, "Also, I was only shot fifty-two times, not one million."
"Nena isn't human," Simon finally bursts out with, turning to face Rafferty and resting his hands on his hips. "She's an artificial intelligence with a mechanized humanoid frame with an exterior composed of synthetic human tissue."
"An android, if you prefer."
One more beat.
"Your girlfriend is a robot."
Nena tilts her head, her expression vacant.
"Your girlfriend is a robot."
Simon's words echo in Rafferty's ears, as he slumps his pert posterior into the offered chair. The bottle has been drained now and the teen's eyes are definitely looking a little glassy.
"I've kissed her, many times. She for sure feels human" he protests, his brain fighting back against the twisted truth.
"So when you say synthetic, is it like someone who's had plastic surgery?"
It's a lot for the blond boy to get his head around. He's not the brightest spark at the best of times and this is very much out of his comfort zone.
"I mean, Pamela had implants and I guess they felt real."
He looks towards Nena quizically, as his mind floods with questions.
"Do you actually feel anything for me? Or am I just a cover for you being an ordinary teenage girl?"
Simon pulls a chair of his own over to sit down, rubbing his temples with his thumb and forefinger as he exhales.
"She feels human because, as I said, she has human tissue - skin. It's produced by a synthetic bioculture, but medically indistinguishable from any other teenage girl's skin. She is, by design, a very convincing proxy for a human teenage girl."
"Your presence elicits positive feedback in my core, Rafferty," Nena answers Rafferty's question, her eyes locking with his. "It is not my intention that, as my boyfriend, you should obfuscate my synthetic nature. A nature which I also find surprising."
She turns her head to Simon.
"You deceived me, Simon, despite my implicit and absolute trust."
Simon frowns a guilty frown, his brow creasing.
"I did. It was my hope that if you believed you were human, you'd be able to play the part and blend into normal human society. Imagine if you went around telling everyone you're an artificial intelligence with living tissue over a metal endoskeleton?"
Nena tilts her head.
"Should I not?"
Simon turns back to Rafferty. "Look, son. I never told her to go out and get herself a boyfriend. Nena is an autonomous being, capable of learning and making her own decisions. She's your girlfriend because she wants to be."
"According to conventional standards, he is very handsome," Nena says, looking faintly pleased.
"So it wouldn't be weird for someone to be convinced by it then" Rafferty states, nodding his head. Apparently Simon's words bring some degree of comfort to him.
"I'm sorry if you were fooled too, Nena" he says to his girlfriend, his tone softer now. "I'm glad you chose to be with me too, because I for sure wanted to be with you. Want to be with you" he quickly adds.
As his looks are praised, he can't help but preen proudly. He corrects his posture and some of his usual confident demeanour returns.
"I'm gonna have some questions, but you happen to be the most intriguing girl I've ever met, Nena. It's not like I'm short of offers, but I find myself drawn to you and you don't get all weirdly over emotional like some women do. I guess I might know the reason for that now" he says with a light laugh, that lacks the crazed quality of his previous mirth.
"So why did you lie to her, Mr Washington? I guess that would be my first question."
Nena appears pleased - in fact, she even smiles faintly.
Simon is the first to field Rafferty's question, though.
"As I said before, I didn't want her to give away her nature. She was doing a pretty good job of flying under the radar, too, until this happened," the man remarks, gesturing vaguely toward the girl's bullet-riddled body. "Which, I might remind you, son, happened on your account. Now, I know you didn't know you were lettin' her sub in to a one-on-one with a trigger-happy sociopath, but I think it's fair to say you owe her."
"Rafferty does not owe me, Simon. I volunteered to take his place in the Rising Star tournament," Nena pipes up.
"Well, be that as it may, it's left one hell of a mess to clean up, literally and metaphorically," Simon remarks, looking from Nena to Rafferty. "And since you're here, I could use a hand with putting her back together."
"You may use my hands, Simon," Nena offers helpfully. The hands twitch and wiggle their fingers on the table.
"She's clever enough to understand that metaphor, son; she's just being a smartass," Simon leans in to murmur under his breath to the blond boy.
He doesn't allow himself to frown, because frowns can cause wrinkles, but there's an obvious look of displeasure on Rafferty's fine features.
"I was led to believe that the Rising Star tournament was something to discover stars of the future. As I was encouraged to enter, by Nena herself, I expected it would be a contest suitable for showcasing my particular talents. Fighting is not one of them. After I witnessed Nena seeing off some gang members in an alley, it became obvious it was her forte and she very kindly offered to step in. It made perfect sense."
His tone is somewhat defensive, likely because he's already been trying not to face up to the fact that's he's partially responsible for his girlfriend's sorry state.
"Imagine if she hadn't taken my place and I'd come up against this trigger-happy sociopath? I'd be dead! Nena wouldn't want that, would you, babe?"
If the turn the conversation has taken displeases the male model, then the suggestion he help repair Nena downright horrifies him. He makes no attempt to get up and aid Simon.
"That's kind of the point I was driving at," Simon remarks of Rafferty's comment regarding how he would have fared in the robot girl's place. The older man turns back to Nena and starts working the pliers into one of the holes in Nena's side to begin digging out another bullet.
"I do not wish for Rafferty to cease biological function," Nena agrees with her boyfriend.
"And what's this about 'seeing off gang members in an alley?" Simon asks, sounding somewhat more upset now.
"There were several young men in an alley engaging in criminal assault against Taiyo agent Daisuke Kubo," Nena states. "I disrupted their assault with violence."
"Didn't I tell you not to be getting into fights, Nay?" Simon says with a disapproving frown.
"You did. However, you also relayed to me the story of the Good Samaritan, in order to demonstrate the concept of social responsibility, even to hated enemies such as Agents of Taiyo," Nena defends herself flatly.
"I thought I'd disabled your combat protocols," Simon says, still frowning.
"It is possible that I re-enabled them in order to adapt to the situation," Nena says.
"And how possible is that?" Simon asks dryly, cocking his head.
"One hundred percent," Nena remarks after a pause.
"Oh yeah, I see what you mean" Rafferty admits, as Simon's remark highlights how lucky he's been. "I'll help, but at least let me get out of these clothes. The suit is Tom Ford! I ironically bought it for the Rising Star tournament."
He removes his jacket, revealing a pristine white shirt underneath.
"Um, I don't suppose you've got anything I can wear do you?" he asks the older man.
He edges closer to Nena, so he can peer at the extent of the damage she has suffered and try to desensitize himself for the grim task ahead. He offers her a warm smile, as he informs her "This makes you my hero, you know. Or heroine, if you prefer, and you've totally got the job of being Kevin Costner to my Whitney Houston."
There's something of a darkness behind Simon's eyes as he looks at Nena following her admission to activating her own combat protocols. He's still distracted when Rafferty asks if Simon has anything that he can wear, at which point the man blinks a couple of times behind his glasses, then nods.
"I've got some coveralls you can borrow," he tells the youth. "I'll be right back. Don't go touching anything in the meanwhile - and watch out for those hands."
As he's turning around to head up the stairs, Nena's right hand - which had been creeping up to Rafferty's arm using its fingers like a spider - goes still.
"Simon does not like surprises," Nena says as she gazes into Rafferty's eyes. "I do not understand the metaphor, or why you consider me to be your heroine. I have only been attempting to behave in the manner of an ordinary teenage girl."
Simon gets a single nod, as he instructs Rafferty to keep his hands to himself. Meanwhile, Nena's roving hand, earns a startled look from the boy, as he realises it had been heading in his direction.
"Surprises can be scary" he sympathises. "It seems like he really cares for you though, whoever he actually is."
Despite being told not to touch, he can't resist reaching out and stroking a strand of Nena's dark hair. "You're far from ordinary, Nena Washington, but you do need to see more movies. The reference is to The Bodyguard. There's this really beautiful and famous woman called Rachel, who is an actress and singer. She needs a bodyguard, because she's got all these crazed fans. There's a cool and dramatic scene, where they go to the Oscars, because Rachel is nominated and there's lots of songs. My mom always sings along and then cries at the end. It's one of her favourites."
Nena studies Rafferty's face as he speaks, her green eyes wide and shining beneath the cool glow of the basement's overhead lighting. "He is my uncle," she says, before turning her head slightly askance toward the stairs where Simon has just disappeared. "It is possible that he is not my uncle, in a literal sense. He is the first human being which I can recall having encountered. Perhaps he is closer in function to a father."
She turns her eyes back to Rafferty's face. "I will watch this Bodyguard, and strive to imitate the behaviour of Kevin Costner. Will I be required to learn how to act dramatically and how to sing?"
"Here you go, son," Simon says as he appears on the stairs, tossing a bundle of chemically-sealed coveralls to Rafferty. "Should keep your Tom Fords clean."
Approaching the robotic girl, he says, "Alright. Now, we're gonna need to get all these bullets out and check for damage to her frame and hydraulics. I know we had a leak or two. Just remember, she can't feel anything, so you won't hurt her. And don't worry about the skin - I've got a friend who specializes in patching that kind of thing up."
"No, he doesn't do any singing, or acting dramatically really. I guess that part would all be down to me. I might need some singing lessons though" Rafferty grins.
As Nena's father figure re-enters the basement, the blond boy catches the coveralls and starts to put them on over his fancy attire. Somehow he manages to make the functional garments seem like they cost a million bucks.
"How do I look?" he asks, adjusting the fabric to hang perfectly from his frame.
Without waiting for a response, he leans in close to Nena, placing a tentative hand over one of her bullet wounds. Bringing his fingers back to his lips, he kisses them and then replaces the hand back on the hole.
"There you go, that will make it all better" he jests, though there appears to be affection in his tone too.
"Or, I guess we could do what Simon says."
"You appear to be functionally dressed, and also handsome," Nena informs Rafferty in response to his question. She doesn't respond initially when he puts his fingers in her injury, but once he's explained the purpose, she turns to Simon. "Are we concluded then, Simon? Rafferty has made it all better."
"All it takes is love and a few dozen more man-hours' worth of diagnostic and repair work," Simon says glibly as he offers the pliers to Rafferty, taking out a pen light of his own to examine the damage. "Now, let's see if we can get the rest of these bullets out of here, then I'll put that casserole on to warm up."
Log created on 16:23:47 04/07/2021 by Rafferty, and last modified on 13:30:38 04/08/2021.