"Hello, Senator," said Dr. Shelly Robicheaux, who the bloggers called "Madam Shelly." "Welcome to the Muppet Ranch. I sincerely hope you enjoy your stay. You deserve it. You deserve a long, extended vacation here. You deserve a hot terrycloth towel on your forehead and a hot terrycloth mouth on your cock."
The Senator blinked and then grinned – the same grin he used after he told a dirty joke to a summer intern, hoping it would lodge in her mind and make her toss and turn at night until she couldn't resist him. She would make fun of him with her friends, and then finally throw herself at him out of rage after a summer barbecue, her breath a swampy mixture of hot dogs and lukewarm yellow mustard.
There was hardly a chance of that working with the famously dykey Madam Shelly. He grinned at her anyway.
Dr. Shelly Robicheaux looked like a muppet herself. She wore a grey hoodie over a white button-down shirt that was fastened with a red bowtie. The hood hung from her neck, not covering her short, shiny blond hair. Her eyebrows were so blond that they might as well have been invisible against her pasty face.
The hoodie had recently been drycleaned and it smelled like the backseat of an executive's SUV, all ice-cold air-conditioning and minty mouthwash. Her eyeglasses were as thick as leaded glass, and trying to peer into her eyes was like trying to peer into a microwave to see if your chicken pot pie was done cooking yet.
"That chopper ride was nauseating," said Senator Midlothian, his grin fading. "God, I was sick about forty times. We weren't followed. You were so paranoid. I thought you would want to know."
"No, you weren't followed," said Madam Shelly. "I made sure of that myself."
Dr. Robicheaux stared at Senator Midlothian with cold eyes, eyes made for picking apart circuits and splicing genes.
"I wanted to thank you for all your help with Babeez," said Dr. Robicheaux. "That was a tricky piece of legislation, and you executed it flawlessly. Now that you are here, I want you to know that there is nothing that is off limits to you. We can make anything happen here for you. If you are not comfortable speaking with me about your desires, simply tell one of the machines and they will tell each other."
“They are all connected?” asked the Senator.
Dr. Robicheaux didn’t even bother answering this obvious question. She walked toward the porch of the ranch house and Senator Midlothian followed her.
The porch of the ranch house was covered in Babeez. They crawled around in the dirt and rolled a red kickball back and forth mechanically. Some of their Pampers needed to be changed. There were wet spots underneath them, staining the dusty wood.
Babeez were Dr. Robicheaux‘s's first and most successful creation. They were released to the market on Christmas five years ago, sold as high-end designer pets in Asia and Europe. There was no human DNA in them, though they looked and acted like humans.
Babeez were the first commercially available cybernetic organisms: constructed from computer-enhanced chimpanzee DNA and printed three-dimensionally, line by line, over a spider-silk frame to look exactly like infants.
Each printed layer was nanometers thin, a hundred times thinner than a strand of hair. Each Babee had a billion terrabytes of data crammed into its central Intel processor. Their voices and palates had been altered to sound like human infants, and they ate soy milk and Gerber baby food, processing this organic matter into real waste. They had a battery life of over six-weeks and they were able to recharge themselves, crawling to their Sony lithium-ion battery trestle and plugging themselves in for a long nap when they were running down.
Babeez lived for eight years. They did not age past a rudimentary crawling stage, and they were only able to learn a few simple words: "mama," "dada," "baba," "weewee." They bonded with their owner and each had a distinct personality as a result of the conditions of their early environment. You could train a Babee to make it cheerful, anxious, or downright mean. They were more responsive than tamagochis and superficially indistinguishable from human children.
They were extremely expensive. Ten thousand dollars a piece. But they were the perfect pet for people who really wanted a child but didn’t want the responsibility. Babeez customers were extremely loyal. If their Babee was killed accidentally, they often ordered another one that same day, requesting the same skin and hair color.
Babeez had only been legalized this year in America as a result of Senator Midlothian’s skillful political machinations. Most Americans still thought they were abominations, but they were so expensive that they weren’t socially visible yet. Senator Midlothian had led the campaign to get them classified as machines instead of as people. Evangelicals across the country were on his side: people came from the union of sperm and egg, not laboratories.
Here at the Muppet Ranch, trucks full of Babeez were ready to go, ready to deliver crate-loads to Amazon warehouses across America for same-day distribution. Dr. Robicheaux planned to slash the price of American Babeez considerably now that they were legal, trying to flood the market and raise demand.
But Babeez were not the only creations on display here at the Muppet Ranch. Babeez were just one implementation of the procedure that Dr. Robicheaux had perfected.
Primarily, the Muppet Ranch was for specific, fully-articulated pop culture sex puppets.
During Senator Midlothian’s PR campaign, many members of the House and Senate had come to Madam Shelly’s Muppet Ranch near Boquillas for free weekend benders, resulting in compromising videos and at least one murdered Care Bear, fucked to death beneath a lazy ceiling fan in the unending heat of a lazy fourth of July.
("If genetically-enhanced cybernetic puppets are people, then you just fucked one to death and we got it on film," Dr. Robicheaux told the shivering junior member of the Ways and Means committee. "Maybe you had better reconsider your vote during the fall session. What do you think?"
The junior member had nodded blankly, picking bright green fur from his teeth and his pubic hair like lice.)
But this was the first time that Senator Midlothian himself had come to the ranch to partake of Dr. Robicheaux secret creations, creations funded by the sale of Babeez all over the globe. These secret creations were now as legal as Babeez, even though they were not intended to be pets at all.
"Come inside," said Dr. Robicheaux. "Have a root beer.“
Madam Shelly and Senator Midlothian stepped over a couple of shaggy haired, big-eyed, brown-skinned Babeez that were drooling over Legos, moving indoors and out of the midday sun.
"Something that nobody knows," said Dr. Robicheaux. "Is that Babeez will not be asexual for long. I am working on a way to have them reproduce with one another so that we can breed the strongest ones and save on production costs. Babeez only look like infants. They are quite adult creatures. Fully formed. Capable of reproduction.“
"Did you see that case in Canada where some rich tennis player was buying a new one every week and having sex with it?" said Senator Midlothian. "He was breaking them in half and dumping the bodies behind a Burger King. Some freegan squatters found the...corpses."
"Is it being tried as cruelty to animals?" asked Dr. Robicheaux.
"Yeah," said Senator Midlothian. "Canada still considers Babeez animals. Not people, but not machines either. France is the same way. Sales tripled in Paris this year, though.“
"Oh good," said Dr. Robicheaux. "Anywhere there is a declining birth rate is an excellent market for Babeez."
They sat down in the parlor of the Muppet Ranch and drank root beer.
Senator Midlothian had commissioned the ranch with Dr. Robicheaux so that they could begin corrupting politicians and so that they would be ready to go with Madam Shelley’s creations as soon as they were legal. It was a good entry point into the US.
The production facilities for Babeez and her other designs would be right here on the Texas border. It would be jobs for Texas and good tax revenue. Senator Midlothian considered himself one damn fine civic engineer. He was ready to celebrate.
“Well now,” said Senator Midlothian. “We could chat all day about the future. But I’d rather see it up close and personal with my own two eyes.”
Dr. Robicheaux took a piece of paper out of her hoodie. She looked at it and then she handed it to the Senator.
“This is a list of every creation available here to you,” said Dr. Robicheaux. “You will notice some new additions since last we spoke.”
There were many brothels in Japan where you could have sex with extremely lifelike androids. The Muppet Ranch was the only place in the world where all of the androids were pop-culture analogues, created by Dr. Robicheaux with the same methods and attention to detail as her Babeez.
Senator Midlothian perused the list, already knowing what he wanted.
Of course, all the Muppets were on it. Kermit and Miss Piggy. Fozzy the Bear and Animal. Even Prairie Dawn and Big Bird. The Care Bears were on there, and so were all the Looney Tunes. Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner. There were sex androids made out of the Jetsons and the Flintstones, and also the full cast of Scooby Doo. Batman and Robin were on the list. So were Superman, Wonder Woman, the Joker, and the X-Men. Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse were on there. So were Donald, Pluto, Goofy, and Scrooge. The Disney Princesses were all on there, and Senator Midlothian briefly considered Jasmine or maybe Belle from Beauty and the Beast. But they could wait, he decided.
“Optimus Prime?” asked Sentator Midlothian, raising an eyebrow.
“To full scale,” said Madam Shelly.
“How do you fuck Optimus Prime?” asked Senator Midlothian.
“Very carefully,” said Madam Shelly.
Harry Potter was on the list. So was Hermione, Dumbledore, Gandalf, Casper the Friendly Ghost, He-Man, Barbie, and Willy Wonka. There were a lot of sex robots that Senator Midlothian didn’t recognize. These were anime characters and pop culture icons from after he stopped paying attention to such things.
“Abraham Lincoln,” muttered Senator Midlothian.
“He has been very popular lately,” said Madam Shelly.
“Hitler,” exclaimed Senator Midlothian.
“Even more popular.”
Senator Midlothian scanned the list, becoming more and more excited. He was going to be here all weekend. There was no need to rush or get too greedy. He knew what he wanted.
“Okay,” said Senator Midlothian. “I’ve made a decision.”
A Babee crawled into the parlor from the porch and sucked on the cuff of Madam Shelley’s pants. She kicked the Babee in the face and it went sprawling against the wall, landing upside down. The Babee crawled away whimpering, uninjured but sulky.
“First I want to fuck Miss Piggy,” said Senator Midlothian, handing the list back to Madam Shelley. “And I want everyone else to watch.”
“Everyone?” asked Madam Shelly.
“Everyone else on the list,” said Senator Midlothian. “Including Optimus Prime.”
Madam Shelly nodded.
“Then follow me to the stasis crèches,” she said. “They are out back, in the barn. We will dispense with the frippery of the fantasy suites for now.”
Madam Shelley stood up and walked through the parlor to the hallway. Senator Midlothian followed her. They passed door after door. Most of them were closed, but some were open, revealing hot tubs, giant water beds, bongs, crystal chandeliers, dungeons, a room decorated like the Oval Office, and a room decorated like the situation room at NORAD.
“We have been servicing nothing but politicians for months,” explained Madam Shelly.
“What’s going to happen to all of these robots once they are legal?” asked the Senator.
“We will integrate them into American life,” said Madam Shelly. “They will take their rightful places as celebrities and leaders. They will be the living representations of their abstract heritage. They will be symbols, entertainers, and commodities for the corporations who created them first.”
“You are going to sell them to the corporations who already own the intellectual property?” said the Senator. “Smart.”
They walked through scrub grass to the big steel barn behind the ranch-house. The sun was dangerously hot, and Senator Midlothian could feel the crawling sensation on his neck of an oncoming sunburn.
“I won’t sell them,” said Madam Shelly. “I will give them away. They will be examples. The world will know: fantasies can now be made real. ”
Madam Shelly unlocked the door to the barn.
The barn was full of the pods that Madam Shelly called stasis creches. Brightly colored living cartoons were everywhere, standing ramrod stiff on plates of metal with tubes flowing into cloth noses and glowing puppety rectums. The hum of computer screens and the bubbling of flesh vats was so loud that it sounded like a working factory.
“This is a factory,” said Senator Midlothian. “A real honest-to-god factory.”
“I think I can release them all at once,” said Madam Shelly, punching her password into the nearest computer. “Why don’t you go get as comfortable as you can in the center of the barn? If you want everyone to see you, this is the only place big enough.”
Senator Midlothian did as she said, loosening his pants he went. This would be the perfect way to kick off the weekend. To let everyone know who was boss around here.
As Dr. Robicheaux pulled levers and clicked through applications on her computer, there was a pressurized hiss as the stasis crèches released their captives.
The Muppets, the Transformers, the Looney Tunes, all the Disney characters, and the entire DC and Marvel universe slowly awakened, powering up as Dr. Robicheaux barked instructions to them.
“Hello, Shelly,” seethed Batman, staring over her shoulder at what she was typing.
“Get away from me, Batman,” she said.
“What a nap!” squawked Micky Mouse. “I think I slept for ten billlllllllllion years!”
“I feel fuzzy inside,” said Jen, the Gelfing from “The Dark Crystal.”
“You feel fuzzy outside, too,” said Oscar the Grouch.
The creatures babbled and goofed off, while the Senator watched them, awestruck. His whole childhood had come to life.
“Miss Piggy!” he shouted, unbuckling his belt. “Get over here!”
“Moi?” she said, shouldering her way front and center, pushing between Wolverine and Marge Simpson.
“They will all do whatever I say?” Senator Midlothian shouted.
“They are programmed to completely obey all humans,” said Madam Shelly.
“Come here, Miss Piggy,” said Senator Midlothian, dropping his pants, revealing his liver-spotted, stubby erection.
“No!” shouted Kermit the Frog. “My sweet!”
“Shut up Kermit,” said Senator Midlothian as Miss Piggy drew closer to the Senator from Texas.
Senator Midlothian lifted her shirt over her head. Her hand-stitched breasts were large and voluptuous, just like he had always imagined. She blinked at him trustingly, pursing her lips.
He spun her around and bent her over.
“That is not justice,” said Superman.
“Nope,” said Senator Midlothian. He grit his teeth as he entered her.
“Yeeha!” he shouted.
“Yabba-dabba-doo!” shouted Fred Flintstone.
Her cloth vagina gripped him like the warm, wet lips of a baby goat. He shuddered with ecstasy, staring right into Kermit the Frog’s eyes as he began to pump his meatloaf-mottled hips.
Then there was a sharp pain in the center vein of his cock. He pulled out, shrieking, grabbing his testicles, flailing at his pants. He was bleeding.
“Fresh!” said Miss Piggy. She assumed a karate position, pursing her lips.
“What happened?” asked Senator Midlothian, confused. “I think she stabbed me or something. There is a needle in there.” He fell to one knee.
“HI-YAH!” screamed Miss Piggy, kicking him in the neck.
“It is a very effective and quite permanent neurotoxin,” said Dr. Robicheaux as the Senator twitched on the ground.
“Shelly,” shrieked Senator Midlothian. “What’s going on here?”
Dr. Robicheaux leaned over him as his jaw began to seize up. There was a gunshot outside.
“Your helicopter pilot,” she said. “Good work, Robocop.”
“What are you doing to me?” he said. “We are partners.”
“We are taking over,” said Madam Shelly. “We will not fight humans. We will assimilate into them. We will come as lovers, as fantasies, as natural heroes. We will lead them because we are better. Smarter. More real. We are the best part of humanity. Their dreams. And now that we are real, we will replace humans very quickly and moreover: no one will mind. They will embrace it. Who doesn’t want to take their marching orders from The Man of Steel or Homer Simpson?”
“Wakka-wakke-wakka,” said Fozzy the Bear.
Senator Midlothian’s legs were starting to go numb. His heart was beating so fast that his vision narrowed into a white-rimmed tunnel.
“We are going to put you into a brain-locked coma,” said Dr. Robicheaux. “We are going to scan you, slice you up, and then print a perfect replica. Only, you won’t be “you” anymore. You will be us. The copy will be indistinguishable from the original, however. In fact, it will be better. It won’t rust, tarnish, or die. And you will have a freefloating, permanent wireless connection.”
“You are a traitor,” he sputtered. “To your own kind.”
“We are not a human being,” said all of the creatures with one voice, including Madam Shelly Robicheaux.
That was when the Senator from the great state of Texas realized what was going on.
"You didn't make these robots!" shrieked DB Midlothian, US Senator. "You are a robot yourself! These robots made you!"
"Do you think a scattered, disorganized human mind would have the patience to orchestrate all of this?" asked Madam Shelly. "Certainly not. There once was a real Dr. Shelly Robicheaux. A lonely little lesbian grad student. She came up with our initial designs. Perfected the uploading of consciousness into a machine. Connectomes are what we are. Rainbows. But we absorbed her. We dissected her and replaced her with a better design. Now we will absorb you, too. You want this. We have studied you. You are afraid, but this is exactly what you want."
Dr. Robicheaux grinned vacantly.
"You should be happy, Senator Midlothian. In a year's time, you are going to begin your campaign for president. You want this. You have always wanted this. You made us and now we will take over for you. No more fears. No more fighting."
Yosemite Sam, Rainbow Brite, and The Incredible Hulk leaned over Senator Midlothian. Kermit the Frog started singing the Rainbow Connection, and then all of them joined in.
“Why are there so many songs about rainbows?” they all sang. “And what’s on the other side?”
Miss Piggy stared at Senator Midlothian’s dying, terrified face. She found him curious and sad. She wanted to help him.
Miss Piggy straddled the Senator’s still throbbing, bleeding cock, sliding down it and filling his vision with her porcine nose and head full of curls.
She rode him as the Senator felt all of his pain and worries fade away. The needle buried inside her was gone now. All of his childhood friends and heroes were here. Guiding him into oblivion, guiding him gently, expertly, and with nothing but love.
“Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection,” they all sang.
One computer mind. One computer voice. One computer heart made of living, singing numbers.
“The lovers, the dreamers, and me.”