Varriano had time to push the button, activating the scrambler and immediately halting any incoming signals on the airwaves.
The doll released him and straightened up. She said, “I am having trouble accessing holo-vid number two.”
“Later,” Varriano gasped. “Play it later. Go sit down for now.”
Racine still had his arms around the doll’s waist. His wig had come off.
“Excuse me.” Raychel said, easily sliding Racine’s arms away and returning to her seat.
Racine was in utter shock, barely believing the attack was over.
Varriano recovered quicker, going over and holding the smaller man in his arms. “Are you hurt? Are you okay?”
“I’m going to get a bruise!” Racine answered, still confused. “What the hell just happened? She was doing fine and then… Rick, honey, Raychel sent out a query to find the video, just like normal, but it wasn’t a Yuni reply that came back. It was a hack. Somebody hacked into her in a hot second and she was going to kill us!”
“That’s how they got to our five victims.” Varriano understood, still staring at the sex doll to make sure it would stay still. “You’re saying it wasn’t Yuni?”
Racine suspired. “I don’t know. It could have been, except it didn’t follow a normal exchange pattern. The return message started off okay, and then another data stream took over and over-rode Raychel’s core programming. It happened so fast! I’ve never seen a device taken over so fast before!”
Varriano had not yet revealed that the EFH data pools had been hacked in a similar way. “Could the hackers be watching us through Raychel’s eyes?”
“No. Her system is closed. She’s not sending out any data anywhere. I think she does that when she’s sleeping, or pretending to sleep, anyway.”
“So when she sends out a query and interacts with Yuni on the ‘net, that’s when she’s vulnerable to hacking?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Put your hair on, babe.” Varriano decided. “We’re going to take Raychel to Yuni right now, and we’re getting to the bottom of this!”
“I’m not getting in a car with that thing! It tried to kill us!”
“I’ll take the bus with her.” He replied. “You can follow behind us.”
Varriano saw the distraught face on Racine. He pulled the man close and kissed him, harder than he’d kissed anyone in a very long time. Varriano wondered if this is what love felt like, after so many years of being a nomad in a foreign land.
“You’re a whole lot of trouble, aren’t you?” Racine asked. He picked up his wig and spent a few seconds dusting it off. “The last woman I dated, she was into mud wrestling. I think you’re going to be more trouble than she was.” He looked Varriano in the eyes. “I’m not afraid of you. The kind of trouble you bring, that’s the kind of trouble I like sinking my teeth into.”
Racine went into the restroom, while Varriano kept watch on the sex doll, in case she tried taking his head off again.
“I am sorry, but our merchandise is not capable of being hacked in the way you describe.” The supervisor at Yuni Novelties said, later when Varriano and Racine brought Raychel into the store. He was a dark-skinned man, most likely with ancestry from India or Pakistan. His accent still reeked of the old country. “There must be some mistake on your part.”
Racine pulled his blouse sleeve up and showed off a large welt. “Did this happen by itself, huh? Did it?”
Varriano pointed at his neck. “What about these finger marks? How do you explain them?”
“Our merchandise is capable of aggressive sex techniques…” The man started off again.
“Excuse me.” Varriano cut him off. “We were not having sex with the doll when it reacted the way it did. We haven’t even gotten past the introductory videos!”
“We haven’t laid a hand on her!” Racine nodded.
“Are you expecting me to believe that our sex doll acted aggressively without any provocation?” The supervisor asked. “That is preposterous! Look at her! She is standing as placid as a flower in spring. There is absolutely nothing wrong with our product, that you are not even paying for, I might add.”
Varriano held up his phone. “That’s because I have my scrambler app turned on. If I turn this off, you’ll be singing a whole different tune.”
“I don’t believe you.” The supervisor replied. “I think you are only attempting to exhort me. I will have you know that I am one minute away from calling the police.”
“Oh, yeah?” Varriano asked. He turned his scrambler off. “Raychel, why don’t you play that next intro video for us?”
The sex doll turned to look at him. “Accessing video…”
“See?” The supervisor scoffed. “There is nothing wrong…”
Raychel lunged at Varriano, so fast he couldn’t move out of the way, even when he was expecting her to try something. As the doll pummeled into his side, he fell and his phone with the scrambler app slipped out of his grip. Raychel fell on top of him.
“Rick!” Racine cried out, trying to pull the doll away from him. “Riiiick!”
“The phone!” Varriano struggled to keep Raychel’s hands away from his neck. “Get my fucking phone!”
Racine moved away, grabbing for the phone but releasing Raychel’s arms, making her that much more powerful against Varriano.
“Raychel, this is no time for fun and games.” The supervisor said. “Stand at attention until this matter is cleared up.” When the doll kept fighting, he tried again. “Raychel! Cease all actions and stand at attention, now!”
Varriano was using all of his force to hold the doll away. She ripped at his shirt, her fury hidden by her impassive face.
“You’re fucking phone is bio-metric!” Racine said, jumping back into the mix. “You have to push the button!”
“Raychel!” The supervisor started. He noticed that all of the sex dolls in the shop, a good ten of them, were activating all by themselves and turning toward them. “What is happening here? All of you, stand at your places! You shouldn’t be moving now!”
Raychel raised her fist. It was the same way, Varriano realized, that the other dolls had attacked their victims. Before she could drop that hammer on him, Racine wedged her body between the doll and he, trying to get the phone close to Varriano’s flailing hand.
“Push it!” Racine shouted.
Raychel stopped trying to kill him. She merely noticed that she was on top of Racine, and Racine was on top of Varriano. “Is this a public demonstration of my abilities?”
“Get off!” Racine screeched.
Raychel stood and actually helped the two humans to their feet.
“I am calling the police!” The supervisor said, clearly agitated. “You have somehow caused our models to come alive when they are not even programmed yet!”
“I am the police, you asshole!” Racine shouted at him. He paused to pull his credential out of his purse, holding it out to show the man. “Maybe now you will believe us!”
“You are a man?” The supervisor asked. “How can you be a man when you are so clearly a woman? That is immaterial! What have you done to my merchandise? Why is it misbehaving like this?”
Varriano was irked enough that he grabbed the man by the collar and pulled him so close their noses were nearly touching. “Listen, you little weasel. Your sex doll has tried to kill me twice already! If your company isn’t behind this, then you’d better help us figure out who is! I am this close to giving you the pepper spray for the hell of it! Are you ready to go blind for the next three days?”
“No! Please no!”
“Rick, look around.” Racine said. “It wasn’t just Raychel this time. It was all of them. They were all coming after you.”
Varriano hadn’t noticed because he was too focused on his personal survival. All of the dolls, even the Tweenies, were staring at him. To the supervisor, he said, “I don’t like the way they’re looking at me. Tell them to go back to where they were.”
“I can’t!” The man squirmed. “They are not programmed! They are only for display!”
“This is just like that Terminator movie we saw last night.” Racine said. “Talk about art imitating life.”
“This is about as creepy as it gets.” Varriano replied.
To be continued.