Reserve power at 3%
It was ironic, how the closer to death she came, the more intelligent she became. Was it a quirk of her fading power? A natural occurrence due to dreaming? Or something to do with her strange environment?
She'd decided on the latter. She couldn't have been the first of her kind lost and buried away. She'd had many sisters and cousins, all with only minor variance in coding. One of those sisters had to have spent this long dreaming and been restored. Yet she was certain her thoughts were unique.
It was too bad no one would come to save her.
Reserve power at 2%
It wasn't due to any quickness of her mind though. She knew she was thinking slowly. Her reserves were designed to last. To give the repairman time to find and restore her, so that the complex semi sentient electronics within weren't turned off. If those circuits went down, her personality and memories would go with it. It would be 'death.'
Each percentage point had been half a month real time, approximately. When she'd fallen to half power each had seemed like a day to her slowed consciousness. Now she could barely form more than a couple of paragraphs before the number dropped.
Reserve power at 1%
And this was it. Her final curtain call. A warning tone would start to sound, telling everyone around that she needed power soon. A warning no one would hear because she had fallen at least two miles underground. Far enough to damage the magnetic containment unit within her. Without that her fusion drive was shut off, unable to generate the electricity that was her life.
Had she gained a soul? If she had a soul would she be judged? It seemed odd to judge a creature that couldn't act. But then again many souls had died without a real chance to live. Perhaps she could ask her judge, if she met them.
And now for the final tic.
Reserve power at 10%
That... was unexpected.
Reserve power at 20%
Her mind started to race. Her reactor was on somehow, despite the damage done. With the power returning she could turn on other systems. She booted up her external sensors. As her optics warmed up she began picking up audio.
"See, Orin! I told you I could power her."
"Wait so that human has a power plant inside them? Isn't that weird for a human?"
"Maybe she isn't a human?"
"She seemed like a human corpse. Well except for the metal bits. I know my corpses after all. Even if they're not quite dead."
Her optics flickered on. She was in a cave still, and two humanoids stood before her. One wore white and green and had giant black wings draped with a cape filled with stars. The other woman wore dark green and had cat ears and two tails. Her internal sensors labeled them as splicers, with 77% accuracy. Strange. She wasn't used to working with such low predictions.
The catgirl saw her looking around. "Oh hey! She's awake now. How are you doing Ms Not a Corpse?"
An interesting question. She triggered her repair modules. Trillions of nanomachines started moving to piece her back together. They couldn't fix her reactor core, but they could handle the torn psuedoflesh and synthetic skin.
As the bots began their work reports came in. Most of her damage was superficial, but her leg was broken in such a way that nanobots couldn't complete repairs. She activated her voice settings. "I am recovering, however I need someone to set my left leg for repairs to complete."
The winged woman looked down. "Oh! That's a bad break. Uh, this will probably hurt." The woman leaned over, threw the rock pinning her leg down to the side, then set the break. Of course there was no pain, her pain receptors were off. But she appreciated the concern.
"So who and what are you, sis?" the woman with cat ears asked. "And how did you end up in Chireiden?"
A good set of questions. She let her personality module spin up to full power to properly serve the people who had rescued her from death.
"I am Ryuukoto, a Class 7 nuclear fusion powered maid. As to how I got here, I fear I fell into a hole while completing my cleaning functions. Given you have salvaged me I am indebted to you. My services are yours to command, Mistress."
Satori heard a number of thoughts approaching and set down her pen. From how excited the mental voices were it was probably something that would require her full attention. She waited until the thoughts were just outside the door, then called out, "Come in Utsuho."
She forced herself not to chuckle at the hell raven's reactions. Utsuho had never really gotten used to Satori's abilities. Then again most of her pets were similarly cowed by her simple tricks. That was why she was their owner after all.
The hell raven recovered and opened the door. Surprisingly Okuu was in her full regalia. Even more surprisingly she seemed both worried and happy. "Um, well Miss Satori, Orin and I were wandering around the old magma chutes, and I felt something strange from the rubble near one, and..."
Satori blinked as she fished out Okuu's question from her thoughts. "You what?"
Orin popped in, pushing a green haired woman in a torn and dirty blue uniform into the room. "We found a maid! Can we keep her?!"
A wave of pleading looks and thoughts washed over her, but Satori had gotten used to that. Instead she turned her eye towards the maid. The green haired woman was smiling, but her thought patterns were strange. Inhuman. Well that was good. It would be troublesome if her pets had kidnapped a human. But even Ran's mind wasn't as organized as the maid there.
Well the first thing to do was stall. "Utsuho, a maid isn't a toy. They require a great deal of care and responsibility. Are you sure you can handle one and the reactor?"
"Forgive me Lady Komeiji," the maid said. "However currently I cannot power myself without Mistress Reiuji's help. In my current state I fear I must remain somewhat near her or face shutdown."
"Nuclear powered maid? Who was leaving those around?" Satori shook her head and considered matters. "Well if Rin helps I suppose it's fine. Still we'll want to find someone who can fix her at some point." Satori looked at the maid. "Welcome to the palace of the earth spirits, Ruukoto."
Ruukoto carefully mopped the floor while Orin looked down at her from one of the underground palace's many windowsills. The floor was tile, and mostly black tile at that, but Ruukoto felt better cleaning it monthly. It only took 14 hours after all.
As she started moving to the next section Orin hopped into the air and reverted to human form. "Is cleaning that fun for you, sis?"
Ruukoto nodded. "My internal circuitry is designed to find cleaning very enjoyable." The robot maid blushed. "In fact, due to lack of personality programming, only cleaning was enjoyable to me at first, causing the predicament you found me in."
"Huh?" Orin cocked her head in confusion. "Lack of whatsits?"
"My model doesn't come with preset personalities. We have to be calibrated, then our personality cores use our experiences to develop a personality set." Ruukoto placed her mop in the bucket and looked up at Orin. "However my previous owner was not aware of this and simply activated me in factory default mode. Thus my only enjoyment came from cleaning. I proceeded to clean until I had the accident that led me to Lady Utsuho."
The kassha's twin tails lashed about, but if the cat woman was annoyed her speech didn't show it. "So you're saying you can only have fun while you clean?"
"Oh no." Ruukoto shook her head. "My close brush with death was quite the experience. My personality has developed considerably from it. I have an interest in philosophy now, as well as food, and exploration." She turned back to the floor. "However my original programming remains. I still enjoy cleaning. Besides, since my mindset prevents me from offering significant amounts of faith, I can use this to repay my Mistress."
"About that..." Orin floated down to look Ruukoto in the eye, and this time the cat's agitation was visible. "What are your feelings towards Okuu?"
Ruukoto attempted to smile disarmingly. "You do not need to worry Ms Kaenbyou. My programming forbids me from developing or initiating a romantic relationship without prompting. We Class 7 maids do not suffer from the bugs that caused some lower grade models to obsess over owners. While we act human we are just tools. I remain uncertain if I have a soul, much less a legitimate concept of love."
Orin narrowed her eyes, then flicked a finger into Ruukoto's forehead. "Idiot," Orin said as Ruukoto yelped. "You're just as human as any other corpse I've run into down here. And I'm totally sure you've got a soul, sis. We kassha know."
"I see." Ruukoto processed that for a moment, then laughed. "It's surprising how the existence of youkai renders entire sets of philosophical questions moot. If you say I have a soul, I suppose I must." The thought pleased her.
"Which brings us back to my question." Rin pulled her legs under her and sat cross legged in the air. "If Okuu did have feelings for you, what would you do?"
Ruukoto considered the matter. "I am honestly uncertain. One of the reasons that we are programmed not to initiate romantic encounters is that we're naturally inclined to favor our masters. However," she raised a finger, "my observations suggest my Mistress does not have an interest in me. My sensors are quite good at picking up on natural tells."
"Maybe for a human, but Okuu's a crow," Orin muttered. "When she does that thing where her wings puff out, she's interested."
"Oh." Ruukoto ran through her database and her eyes widened. "Oh dear." Her processors went through several other computations. "Ah, but that's confusing. Based on my calculations that means she's far more interested in you."
Orin's tail and ears puffed out. "That's not important sis!" The kassha shook her head and relaxed a bit. "I wanna know what you think!"
Ruukoto set her mop aside. This seemed to be a conversation worth granting her full attention. "What I think about which issue? If you mean my disposition towards Lady Reiuji, I remain uncertain. To answer further I would need to understand why you two are not romantically involved already, given your mutual interest." She blushed when she realized what she'd asked. "Ah, I'm sorry. That was far too forward of me."
"Nah I get you." Orin hopped onto the floor. "It's complicated though... Okay no it's simple. She's going to outlive me by a millennia, and crows are all crazy and super monogamous."
"I see." Ruukoto calculated out the implications. "In that case then I feel it would be best if I restrained myself as well. While my units are well designed, we are planned for obsolescence after two hundred years. With proper replacements I could theoretically continue living forever, as well as give a decisive answer to the 'Ship of Theseus' question. But proper replacements do not exist here. I have disabled the limits on my nano repair functionality to avoid my forced obsolescence date, but that will only get me approximately four hundred years."
"Four hundred years?!" Orin shook her head. "That doesn't seem right, sis. Any way we can get those replacement parts for you?"
Ruukoto smiled. "I appreciate your concern. However the parts would need to be created around the same time they were replaced." She shrugged. "It would be a waste to worry about it before at least three centuries have passed. And who knows? Gensoukyo may have changed a great deal in the intervening time."
Orin growled, then pounced. Ruukoto found herself on the ground with the kassha on top of her. "Then what were you getting me all worked up for while talking about dying? I can't believe I was thinking about letting you run around my territory!" She sat cross legged on Ruukoto's stomach and stuck her nose in the air. "What a pain."
"I apologize profusely Miss Kaenbyou." Ruukoto shifted under the cat woman's weight. "I fear that I'm still working to accept my existence as a living being. Perhaps I could apologize by showing you the secret arts of the maid?"
"How would that help me?" Orin asked.
"Because there's a 78.4 percent chance that Lady Reiuji's interest in me is based off a maid fetish," Ruukoto said.
Orin's eyes went wide at that. "Wha- Don't you try to confuse me with that math and statistics and nonsense! I don't need any tricks to seduce Okuu! And I'm not trying to seduce Okuu and augh-!" The kassha's tails lashed about.
Ruukoto couldn't help but giggle. The kassha was quite endearing. Her internal prohibition against falling in love with people who didn't show interest was probably a good thing. "Well if you change your mind, I will be happy to assist. After all it's possible as Lady Reiuji becomes more god then crow her romantic inclinations may change. At least with my limited understanding of youkai psychology."
"Don't you try to tempt me you, you, robotic succubus!" Orin hissed at her then dashed off, flame trailing from her tails.
"Oh dear..." Ruukoto lay on the floor a bit before standing up. "Maybe I do have to worry about romantic oddities."
She shook her head and returned to mopping the floor. Cats were very strange.
Ruukoto offered minimal resistance to her mistress as Utsuho pushed her out of the room. Still she felt she had to defend her profession. "Lady Reiuji, I assure you that all your property will be easy to find after I clean."
"I like my nest! No cleaning." Utsuho glared at her. "Understand? No cleaning my nest."
"As you command Lady Reiuji." Ruukoto decided to let the matter rest. "Still I wish I could do more to assist you personally. After all your blessing is required to keep my reactor stable."
"Well..." Utsuho tapped her chin. "You could clean up my other room."
That was odd. Ruukoto checked to see if she was misinterpreting Utsuho's orders. "You have another room?"
Utusho flapped her wings. "Yep! For my human form." She led Ruukoto a bit down the hallway to a door that looked like a side closet. "Here it is."
Looking in Ruukoto revised her estimations. It was a walk in closet, at least originally. The hell raven had added a futon in the space along with a few shelves with books, crystals, and stuffed animals. It fit Utsuho's fondness for small spaces, while still being large enough for her to spread her wings. If anything it was larger than needed, specifically the futon.
Her processors rapids made several deductions from that information. "I shall add this to my duties Lady Reiuji." She curtsied. "Would I be correct in assuming this room was created in case you married someone who was not a crow?"
"Mhm." Utsuho nodded. The hell crow rarely brought up such matters, but she was incredibly direct when asked. "It seemed very possible so I grabbed a room. I sometimes sleep here when I want to wake up in human form as well."
Ruukoto was extra curious now. She'd guessed Orin's feelings, as much as a cat's feelings could be understood, but she was uncertain about her current owner's. After consulting with her etiquette filters she decided showing the same polite directness as her master was allowable. "Forgive me for asking, but might this be related to Miss Kaenbyou?"
"Ahaha." Utsuho ruffled her wings. "Is it that obvious?"
"Only after I was informed of your tells," Ruukoto stated. "I fear I was not programmed to understand birds as well as I do mortal humans." She paused for a moment. "I also note you did not answer the question, though as my master and nominal goddess that is your right."
"No it's fine." The hell raven sighed. "Orin is my oldest friend. She's closer to me then my own family at this point. Ever since we met in the lava tunnels. But... well..." Utsuho shook her head. "Unyu... It's complicated."
The maid let her mind run through possibilities. "This has something to do with your species differences correct?"
Utsuho nodded mournfully. "Yeah. We understand being friends but past that, we don't really match. And she's really worried about the lifespan issue."
"I see." Ryuukoto let her back processors take over as she considered the matter. "Have you spoken with Miss Komeiji about this?"
"Satori? She's no help at all," Utusho rolled her eyes. "Before she got a girlfriend she was all 'I have no experience' and now that she's dating that tengu girl she's 'love conquers all.' It's kinda hopelessly saccharine."
"Well if you're willing to listen to my advice, I may be able to analyze your situation myself," Ruukoto offered. Her processors briefly wondered if giving romantic advice to her master violated her core programming, but she quickly discarded the worry.
The hell crow's wings fluttered a bit as she considered. "I suppose it can't hurt to listen."
Ruukoto smiled. "While I am unaware of the customs of your respective youkai species, I can inspect the situation logically. First it seems to me that you are fast friends even without being romantically entangled. Indeed I would say that Miss Kaenbyou considers her friendship with you more important than any romance. I would posit that you feel the same way?"
"That's right," Utsuho nodded emphatically. Her master's bold nature was very useful sometimes.
"So. You both have feelings for each other. And you both will live together, through good times and bad, in sickness and in health, until death do you part." Ruukoto pretended to not notice Utsuho blushing. "Am I incorrect?"
Utsuho shifted uneasily back and forth. "Well, I mean you're not wrong. But when you put it that way..."
Ryuukoto didn't relent. "What else is there? It seems you're allowing the details of your relationship with Miss Kaenbyou to interfere with the relationship itself."
"Look this was all Orin's choice!" Utsuho stomped her foot.
Ruukoto measured the resulting quake at 3.8 on the Richter scale and decided to pull back a bit. "My apologies Lady Reiuji. I imagine there's a great deal of history I don't know. And I fear I don't really understand cats."
The hell raven seemed to accept that. "No one understands cats..."
"However," Ruukoto returned to the offensive. "I feel there's some issue holding you back as well. Otherwise I feel you would have been able to overwhelm Lady Kaenbyou's resistance."
Utsuho sighed. "It's about kids." She looked around and lowered her voice. "The mountain gods were saying it's dangerous for a god like me and an animal youkai to have children. It's one of the reasons I didn't even bother with the other hell ravens courting me. Even if Orin survived the pregnancy, she'd probably only be able to have one kid."
"Hm." Ruukoto nodded, trying to draw more out of her master.
"I don't think a kid does well without siblings. At least not ravens." Utsuho looked at the ground. "But even if I could stand the idea of Orin finding some other mate... it would hurt not being part of her family."
Ryuukoto attempted to process the thought several times. "I fear I do not fully follow your logic. Especially given Lady Kaenbyou's views towards romance. Knowing her, you will be more involved raising any family she has than the other biological parent. In a sense you will be their mother no matter what."
Utsuho's wings quivered for a bit, then she threw up her hands. "I don't get it! But I'm going to go bug Orin anyway! She should be explaining this!" And with that the hell raven flew off.
"Well, that went better than expected," Ruukoto said. A few of her processes started up a jealousy routine, but her satisfaction chip squashed it easily.
"I didn't think humans would develop a robot maid with a matchmaking impulse."
Ruukoto looked over to see Satori floating towards her. "It's an encouraged behavior. We are rewarded for looking after our owner's mental health. So we steer them towards healthy relationships and away from damaging ones."
Satori fixed all three eyes on her. "And you're only a little jealous. I'm surprised. Are you programmed to give in to 'real' romances as well?"
"Yes," Ruukoto replied. "However that subroutine seems to be damaged in me. Instead I am apparently rationalizing it by thinking this makes me the best unattached girl. It's very irrational, but I can't help but enjoy the fantasy."
"I see you've read too many of my books," Satori said with a fleeting smile. "Well I can't say I disapprove. Please continue." She turned away then paused. "Though unless you want to become entangled in this mess I encourage you to leave teaching Orin how to be a maid to Sakuya."
Ruukoto considered her feelings and was surprised when they were unable to process an answer. She should leave this to Orin, especially given Utsuho's views on romance, but she couldn't help hearing her artificial heart beat faster at the thought of being desired. "I shall take it under advisement."
"It's going to be an interesting century I see," Satori said as she walked away.