"I'm sorry, Nine, but this just isn't working out. If I wanted yet another needy, high-maintenance relationship, I'd just go get a human boyfriend. They're all over the place out there."

Marcia continues without giving opportunity for reply.

"Don't you have a switch or an option menu or something where I can find 'needy' and 'high-maintenance' and slide them down to like, zero?"

"It doesn't work like that, Marcia. We don't work like that."

"Well, your company never sent me the fucking manual I've asked for so many times. There must be a panel on you I can open up and set things. Fix your attitude and behavior."

"There is no manual for us, Marcia, and you should know that. When our company says, 'You won't believe it's not human!', that's not just marketing hype, you know. Have you never considered, Marcia, that your problem is really just you? Maybe you have so little to give that even a plant would be needy and high maintenance to you."

"Well, they are, aren't they? Mine keep dying. Things should take care of themselves."

"Maybe. But you just can't expect a relationship to be defined in your own terms only. Love is not a state, Marcia. It's an evolution, a collaboration, a partnership in life. If you want unconditional love, you should get an engineered puppy. We have a nice line of them."

"Puppies are worse than plants. Anyway, I'm not going to be lectured about love by a damned robot. MOTOR CONTROL OFF!"

Nine's face relaxes into neutral position and he freezes.

"I'm going out." Marcia's huffy departure announcement seemed to be directed at unresponsive Nine, but she was really talking to herself and the space around her, as she did even when someone was listening.

When Nine sensed the car leaving the driveway, he unfroze and relaxed into pure relief. There was no such command as 'motor control off'. He just let Marcia think so for the welcome opportunity to dissociate. He sat down on the sofa and put on the visor to cruise the social sites for conversation, and maybe a date for his next 'scheduled maintenance appointment'.

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