“Jean,” Vivian said happily, giving the older woman a fast hug and an air kiss, “care to explain more about why you wanted me to come over?”
“Like I said, apparently my niece's mind is in two places at once, her own body and that of some kind of robot. I'm hoping to do a neurological examine on Joss, my niece, and hope that you and another robot expert--” Vivian rolled her eyes. “Is there a problem,” Jean asked.
“I just hear the word expert tossed out where it doesn't belong a lot. What's the name? I know everyone who deserves to be called expert.”
“Wade Load, he's one of Kim's friends.”
“Oh, I remember her mentioning him. I've wanted to meet him.”
“He should be arriving with Joss, I asked if he could pick them up after school.”
“Joss and the robot. This will be irregular, but if you don't mind, I'd prefer not to give you much of the case history on the patient at first.”
“That isn't a good formula for success, you know that.”
“I'll explain what happened later. It's so unusual I'd like you to form your own opinions without the filter of my impressions. I'm afraid I might bias how you examine the data.” They chatted about Vivian's work at the science lab until the door opened.
Jean made introductions, “This is Dr. Vivian Porter, I've asked her to help with the examination. Vivian, this is my niece Jocelyn,”
“Hi, Dr. Porter. Are you another brain person?”
“No, my field is robotics.”
“And,” Jean continued, “that brings us to Joss number two.”
“Thank.you. for. coming. in. to. see. me.”
“No problem,” Vivian said, coming closer and peering at the robot. “You are really a very fine piece of workmanship.”
Wade fought the urge to say ‘Thank you’.”
“And finally,” Jean said, “I'd like you to meet Wade Load.”
Wade was far more surprising to the robotics expert than the metal woman. “You're Wade Load?”
“Guilty as charged.”
Vivian laughed, “I was about to make a comment on your age, but I have too many people commenting about my age and looks. I read your article in the JACA last year--”
“JACA?” Jean interrupted.
“Journal of the American Cybernetics Association,” Wade explained
“I thought it was a nicely done piece. I wasn't certain if I bought all your theories on the role of fuzzy logic in the context of the creation of an evolving AI within open source programming.”
Wade seemed vaguely insulted, “Have you considered--”
Jean cleared her throat. “Will you two remember we are here for Joss this afternoon? You can continue your discussion later.”
“Sorry Dr. Possible.” “Sorry Jean.”
“Thank you, now, Vivian - you wanted a demonstration if I remember correctly.” The blonde nodded. “Here's a psi-testing deck. Take… We need a good name for our Joss2, don't we?”
“Well, dear,” Jean, still uneasy with the way she called the robot ‘dear’, “would you go down the hall with Wade and Vivian? They will show you some cards, and Joss1 here will tell me what the cards are. Then I'll show Joss1 some cards and you will tell them the cards I'm showing her… er, the you of you who is here.”
Fifteen minutes later Jean asked Vivian, “Convinced?”
“Well, there is clearly some sort of mental contact going on. I'm not certain yet we must assume a single consciousness in two bodies. While I've never been impressed with the evidence for telepathy it would seem to me that some sort of mind reading would represent a simpler explanation for what we are seeing.”
The Josses went through a long series of various tests.
“Wade,” Jean requested. “Could you fill Vivian in on what happened two days ago?”
Wade presented a fast overview of the rescue of Kim, Ron, and Shego. Joss filled in a few details. “… and it's that imprint of Joss's brain on the robot's drive that links the two.”
“Perhaps,” Dr. Porter felt it important to not jump to conclusions while other theories remained untested. “Could the two of you step into the hall with me for a minute?”
Vivian left the door open to continue watching the two Josses as she sat beside herself in the examining room. The girl had grown bored with the discussion after Wade's story and was attempting to play Rock-scissors-paper with herself, and having no success.
Dr. Porter's voice dropped low, “If your story about some sort of unliving monster is true, have you considered it might be animating the robot? You said it had some sort of mental powers that could cloud human thinking. What if it is making Joss think she is in two bodies at once.”
“I don't think that's likely.”
“Because Joss told us she had destroyed the creature.”
“Did you consider that the creature might have forced that idea on her? That it could have imprinted a false memory on her as part of its plan?”
Wade and Jean felt cold fear; that possibility had not occurred to them.
“I think maybe we'd better--” Jean began.
“No!” Joss announced loudly. Startled, the three turned their attention back to her.
“What do you mean, dear?” Jean asked.
“I mean I can hear real good with my metal ears. I know I'm me. Drakken said the thing wasn't much good with technology. It seems like the Doc might not be the most honest guy around Middleton, but everyone came running to him to ask about that monster. He knows his stuff, at least some of it. And I know I was hurtin’ bad when my second body got damaged. I.do. not.want. to.be. hurt.again. I.was. hungry.this. morning.If. you.hurt. this.body. you.will.hurt.me.”
The three returned to the examining room. Jean knelt on the floor and held the hand of the flesh Joss, “We don't want to hurt you. We're worried about you. You see that, don't you?”
Wade sat on the examining table, “Can I tell you my theory?” he asked Dr. Porter.
“I think the condition is essentially temporary.”
“Please explain ‘essentially temporary’,” Jean demanded.
“I will in a minute.” Turning back to Dr. Porter he continued, “It seems pretty obvious to me that Joss's mind imprinted somehow on the blank disk. Drakken said that last night and I'm convinced he's right. Less obvious is how the mind switching thing Drakken does works. He says that when two people undergo the treatment they switch consciousness, then go back to their proper bodies when the process is reversed. Since the Bebe had no consciousness to begin with it maintained the link to Joss.”
“Given that I have no understanding of this Drakken's method, I'll have to defer to your opinion. What does this mean for Joss?” Vivian asked.
“And can you get back to the ‘essentially temporary’. That suggests part of it may be more than temporary,” Jean requested.
“I believe that the two will grow apart. No two people ever have exactly the same experiences. Joss and the Bebe experience the world in very different ways.”
“Not if we're sharin’ the same consciousness,” Joss protested.
“Right now her ‘brain’ is still pretty much exactly like yours. It was exact a day ago. You taste things she can't, she sees and hears things you can't. The two of you will probably start noticing small differences between you. You will probably lose that sense of being inside each other's minds - or sense of a common mind - I'm not sure what to call it.”
“Assuming that you really exist,” Dr. Porter explained, running with Wade's idea. “If you are just Joss in two bodies you will simply lose contact with this metal body. But if you are becoming an individual you will be fascinating… Dr. Load, I imagine that the very fact the robot's engrams are stored by electrochemical means while Joss's are stored through a neurophysiological process would have to insure an eventual separation of minds even with identical environmental stimuli.”
“Well, even with the neurophysiological retention of memory there are electrochemical processes involved,” Jean pointed out. “But I'll accept the basic premise. An organic electrochemical process will still differ from an inorganic process. Even though Jim and Tim have identical DNA and spend most of their waking hours together they are different individuals.
Joss turned to Wade, “Can you tell me what the three of you just said -- in little words.”
“Basically we said that you and the robot will separate. If your mind is all that's animating her she will just stop working. But you've probably given her a kind of programming and she'll grow into a distinct individual over time--”
“Can't say. I'm guessing that in a matter of days she'll say something and you won't be sure if you said it or not. In a few weeks it will be clear you two are distinct. But since you furnished the basic structure for her personality she will always be quite a bit like you.”
The Josses looked at each other, “So I get to be sisters with myself? That.sounds. sort.of. cool.I. wonder.what Daddy is going to say about that.the. next.time. we.get. home?” She gave herself a high five.
“I had started to hope that with Kim in college and the boys graduating things might settle down,” Jean sighed.
“Normality is over-rated,” Vivian assured her. She took a card from a pocket, “Here, Joss, give me a call if you need anything,” she said stretching her arm towards the two girls.
“Thanks,” Joss said, stretching out her flesh-and-blood hand.
“Not you, the other Joss.”
“Put it in that pouch on your leg. Some of my best friends are robots.”
That evening, at Possible manor, Kim seemed unusually quiet as she and Shego got ready for bed. “What's wrong, cupcake? Rough day in classes? Still having nightmares over Jack? I'll probably have them for a long time.”
“I'm upset over a couple things… You and Ron.”
“What about Ron and me? And are we two problems or just one.”
“You and Ron are one problem. You're a pile of problems all my yourself… How could you do that this morning?”
“It was actually pretty easy. See, I was helping him with nature's call and it seemed like he enjoyed--”
“That's not what I meant!”
Shego fell silent, “I'm sorry. I really didn't think it would bother anyone. And I like Ron.”
“Well, that's a couple problems right there. You didn't think it would bother anyone--”
“I don't think Ron minded that much.”
“You embarrassed him--”
“So I should have tried to hide it from you? It would be better if I snuck around behind your back?”
“You embarrassed him. You embarrassed Monique. You upset Bonnie--”
“And that's a bad thing? How?”
Kim glared at her, “It bothered me,” she said more quietly.
“Look, you and Ron--”
“Yeah, you brought that up. After giving me your word!”
“Look, Kim, I really am sorry about that. It's been years. I sort of forgot.”
“Maybe I'll forgive you on that. Maybe. It's just that… You had no business doing that.”
Shego stared at Kim. “I'm still not sure I understand the problem… Are you jealous?”
Kim hesitated before answering, “I don't know.”
Shego laughed, “He's a kid, way too young for me.”
“He's my age. Remember?”
Shego had been sitting on the bed as she talked with Kim. She flopped back suddenly and stared at the ceiling for a minute before responding. When she spoke it appeared she was trying to turn the subject from the last comments. “I'm still having trouble with the concept of you jealous… That I'll dump you for Ron? That Ron will take me away from you? What's going on under that red hair?”
Kim was seated on the rocking chair, the Pandaroo on her lap. “I'm not sure,” she said, hugging her old stuffed friend. “Maybe both. I'm not sure exactly, I just know it really bothers me.”
“You could go give him a handjob too. Then we're even.”
“That's not funny,” Kim said coldly.
“I'm sorry, really. It's just hard for me to accept the idea you're jealous. He's like your best friend for life. If I'm going to live with you I have to accept that and get along with him. I really resented him when I started getting close to you. I was sure you were going to go back to him and dump me. When I realized you and I really had something I tried to warm up to him, find out why you liked him so much. And now I really like him, he's a nice guy. But he's got history with you I can never have. I couldn't take his friendship away from you, even if I wanted to. And I'm never going to try and come between you and him.”
Kim moved over and sat down on the bed by Shego, “Really?”
“Really Princess. You don't have to worry about Ron.”
Kim reclined on one elbow, she stared into Shego's eyes and smiled, “How about you?” she asked, gently tapping Shego's nose with one finger. “Do I need to worry about him stealing your heart and taking you away from me?”
Shego returned the smile, “I don't think so… Of course, I hear that younger men are good for us older women. They have the stamina to keep up with our sex drives.”
“Oh, I think I can keep up,” Kim said and kissed Shego hard and passionately. When they broke the embrace a few minutes later they were both panting. “You really think I can't keep up?”
“You really think I'd leave that for Ron?”
Kim turned serious. “I don't know. You've been with men. I haven't. I wonder if you think it's better with a guy.”
“The best sex is when you're with someone you love. With someone you don't love it's just masturbation.”
“But you said you're getting to like Ron.”
“You know how I said I resented him? I'm sure he resented me. He's got deep feelings for you. I heard the name he moaned when I jerked him off this morning--”
“He moaned my name?”
“I didn't say that. I said I heard him. I'm like Ron. A gentlewoman doesn't repeat such things.”
“Tell me,” Kim said, smiling.
“No,” Shego giggled.
“Tell me! Or you're sleeping on the couch.”
“Ron might let me sleep with him.”
“Umm, or maybe Bonnie.”
“What do you think, Kim, think I could talk Justine and Felix into a threesome?”
“You are exasperating!”
“Please, tell me.”
“Well, since you asked please…” Shego composed herself, she closed her eyes, coughed to clear her throat and, lowering her voice as much as she could, imitated Ron's voice, “Ruuu-fuss.”
Before she could get her eyes opened Kim was pressing a pillow down on her face. Shego's arms shot out, found the redhead, and started tickling.
It took a couple minutes of struggle so fierce Bonnie shouted, “Knock it off in there!” but Shego emerged triumphant.
The dark-haired woman looked down at Kim and smiled. “I wish I'd known earlier how ticklish you are. I'd have never lost a fight.”
“I let you win.”
“Sure, sure,” Shego smirked. “Look, I don't remember any name from Ron this morning. I wouldn't have been surprised if he said ‘Yori’, but I wouldn't have been surprised if he said ‘Kim’.”
She moved off of Kim and stretched out on the bed. “Really. I'll bet he resented me longer than I resented him. If you two hadn't broken up before we met--”
“We didn't break up!”
“Whatever. If you two hadn't done your not-breaking-up breaking-up before we got together I know he'd have blamed me. So when he gave me the tallis before our wedding I really cried. It meant he accepted me as a friend. That means lot to me. He's never going to love me the way he loves you. But I really wanted to say thank you to him, and, well, I doubt I'll ever quite the same opportunity again.”
“I hope not, but he's in cast and splints for a little while longer.”
“You can take care of him ‘til he's better if you want. I don't think the rest of us would mind.”
“Is there are word beyond exasperating?”
“I'm not sure… Excruciating?”
“Yeah, that'll do. You're excruciating.”
“So I can't say thank you to Ron again without your permission.”
“Not that way.”
“You know, Kim. There could be ways of saying thanks you might object to even more than a handjob.”
“Is there a word beyond excruciating?”
“Have you noticed that is just gets worse the longer we talk.”
“So, let's find something else to keep our lips busy.” Shego rolled over and turned off the lamp on the night stand. “Bet ‘cha moan my name.”
“I'll get ‘cha for that, Possible.”