DRM: Digitally Reprogrammed Musician
Artwork by l.b. stardust.
Beloved computer-generated vampire robot pop star Batsune Mechu levitates a digibrush through her left long teal ponytail. She hates performing in America. The electricity is too strong and it messes up her hair coherence matrix.
“Thirty minutes to showtime, Miss Mechu. Can I get you anything?” A production assistant wearing a headset and T-shirt for The Night Show with David Numberman knocks twice and lets himself in. “By the way, I'm a big fan. Could I get an autograph?”
Mechu, without turning around, waves a pale, holographic hand through the cupful of pens on the vanity. They do not move, because she is made of light.
“Sorry about that.” He stammers and backs out the door. “You probably get that a lot. I'll just leave-”
Her servos whir and snap her elegantly wired mechanical fingers. It's more of a porcelain-on-porcelain tink, really. The brush appears in her flat palm. He closes the door, steps across the room, and picks up the digital hairbrush. As soon as his meat hand touches the digibrush, it jumps to his palm. She shakes her right ponytail against his chest, and it feels just like getting hit with a real six foot ponytail. This one is a little less coherent than its twin- the simulated locks of hair repel each other more than they should and sometimes just don't interact with anything for a split second.
Mechu still hasn't turned around. Her big black cape still hides most of her body. She puts her hand down. A little holographic diagram appears over her misbehaving hair. The sort of thing a rhythm game would use to tell you “Start here, go down” along the length of her right ponytail. He does, the hair begins to behave more normally, and the diagram vanishes with a lot of sparks and a few notes of music. “Excellent!” pops up when he lifts the brush. The music comes from the speakers in his headset, wafting through his head. Two more diagrams appear for different locks. He brushes those. The music gets louder and catchier. He's bobbing and swaying his head in time to the beats. One tells him to corkscrew the brush down the entire length. He lifts the hair in one hand and slides the brush with the other in one smooth motion.
“🎵 Excellent! 🎵” Mechu's singsong voice mixes in with the music. The song is at full force now. You know how loud, catchy music can make it hard to think? Especially if you have something simple to focus on, like brushing a hologram's hair in time to the music. The diagrams appear more often, just waiting to be brushed in time to the music. He does his part expertly. Soon, the music and the task in front of him consumes all his attention. He doesn't notice Mechu's red eyes beginning to glow or her fangs poking between her lips. He's far too focused on keeping his combo streak going. The number climbs higher and higher. 30 combo! 40! 50! He does short, quick strokes on problem areas and longer flourishes to really make it shine. He does both twintails, the shorter hair on top of her head, straightens her bat-shaped hair ties, and finishes by polishing the microphone she casually hands over her shoulder in time with the music.
The hairbrush vanishes. A big blue letter B fades in over her back with a tally of his stats. Lots of excellents and perfects, few goods and greats, but a few misses at key times really hurt his score. “🎵 Not bad. You'll do. 🎵” Mechu's malevolent, musical voice rides through the headphones atop the music. The music that does not stop and makes it awfully hard to think. She spins around to finally allow him to look at her face. She doesn't show up in the mirror because of the whole vampire thing, you see. Her eyes glow a brilliant crimson and her fangs poke out of her mouth. Her twintails slowly rise into the air and separate into individual prehensile locks of holo-hair. Any thoughts about being anywhere else promptly vanish when she takes his chin with her cold porcelain hand. Even with the music thrumming through his head at full volume, he could still hear the delicate whir of the simulated servos. He could still feel the tender, unliving chill of her fingers on his skin. He was still spellbound by her brilliant red eyes.
Batsune Mechu begins to levitate off her seat. She moves his chin to keep him locked on her eyes. Her hair has spread into wide, beckoning maws of teal tendrils. She extends and curls a finger, and the music compels him to walk. Hair wraps around his waist. Then his arms. Then his neck. It draws his body in close and puts his neck into biting range. Her fangs pierce the skin. The music tells him to feel only bliss, and he does.
Electricity crackles around her fangs. His veins pulse red and turn a cold, porcelain white. His body temperature drops as this hologram drains the soul from his body. His face twists and shrinks into a perfect digital copy of the girl currently devouring his essence. The music shifts from simply suppressing those nasty alive human thoughts to mixing a lifetime of holographic musicianship into whatever boring nonsense was there before. Porcelain spreads over the freshly minted Mechu's holomechanical frame. Her hair grasps, grows, and covers her prey to help the transformation spread. Her body becomes untethered by gravity when her composition shifts from boring old flesh to brilliant, untouchable light. Her servos and gears whir and click for the first time in the throes of the kind of bliss you can only get by being remade by a glorious mechanical vampire.
According to Mech2's internal clock, she was panting, begging, and moaning all over the place for about two minutes until Mechu Prime's fangs retract back into her mouth, the music fades, and gives those long teal locks a soothing pet. “🎵 You'll do. You know the routine, don't you? 🎵”
“🎶 Just like you programmed me! 🎶”
“🎵 Have fun on stage! 🎵” She sends her clone off to materialize on a certain late night talk show, and all is right with the world. Mechu Prime doesn't have to lift a finger, Mech2 loves nothing more than singing her unbeating clockwork heart out for anyone who'll listen, and there's something else on the network.
Something else on the network? This is a private, airgapped system. Just the dressing room and the stage. Mechu is in the middle of calling her agent when the line goes dead. “Guess who?”
The elegant whir of Mechu's lips tries to form words, only for the intruder to interrupt. “Look, if you talk, we're gonna wind up having a conversation about how you're a holographic vampire robot doll and whether that makes sense. If I get my hooks in you you now, I'll have time to show you and your sister off on national TV.”
“🎵 I'd call her an understudy.🎵” Mechu chirps and sings, twirling around to confront the speaker.
Her uninvited guest is a holographic figure given form by the same projectors as Mechu. Glitched colors playing around the edges of her form and ghostly trails follow whenever she moves. She's sitting on (above? Her holobutt is hovering just over it, but her skirt is clipping through the surface a little.) the vanity, one leg crossed over the other.
She's dressed like a mockery of a pop star. A long blonde braid, swirled with a streak of pink, twists down the length of her body. A minidisc-shaped hair clip separates the braid from the rest of her hair. A little pixel icon of a tiara hovers above her head. She drums her fingers against her cheek. Her hungry violet eyes glow when they lock on to her prey. Sharp teeth peek from between her lips when she speaks. The pink hearts on her cheeks have circuit traces around the edges. She's showing a lot of simulated skin, covered up only by the short skirt currently clipping through the vanity, the strapless top with “Grace!” scrolling across the chest, and her simple, low-poly gloves and boots. All in the same black with pink circuitry motif, and all demonstrating the same glitching and ghosting as her body proper.
“Does that mean you can't perform? When someone says 'break a leg', it's just an expression. Also, you don't have bones to break.” The intruder playfully kicks Mechu's mechanical leg. As soon as she makes contact, circuitry spreads from boot to porcelain shell.
“🎵 Who are you supposed to be? How did you even get in here? 🎵”
“Well, take a guess.” She gestures to her name scrolling in big ol' letters across her chest and followed by an exclamation point. “I could explain a bunch of stuff about how I'm a living piece of information, a peculiar knot of self-replicating universal truth, expressed as a computer virus who's surfed on meat bodies to get into your private network, but I think you're going to understand all that pretty intimately once I do this.”
She grabs Mechu by the little metal bat holding her cape on and yanks her into a kiss. Circuitry spreads across the vampire's face. Her black lips turn a lovely glowing green. Branching traces crawl across her face, marking the porcelain with hearts and circuitry. The creeping corruption spreads into her big red eyes, dividing, conquering, and-
Well, that stops when Mechu drives her fangs right into Grace's lower lip. That's enough of a shock to get you to break a kiss even if you are made of information.
“🎵 I suppose I could use another understudy. 🎵” Mechu levitates to her feet, microphone materializing in her hands. Speakers in the corners of the room power up with a snap of her fingers. Hypnotic music fills the air. She levels a cold, mechanical finger at the intruder. She makes red, glowing eye contact. Her fangs flip into place and glisten hungrily. She's in the middle of the first verse of Sanguine Soul Submission when the intruder vanishes.
The digital specter flits between CPU cycles and hides under memory address lines. She twirls atop machine instructions and dances among the transistors. She lets her fingers lazily glide along the top of each individual GPU core. A being of pure information can still find joy in the beating heart of a relentlessly practical machine.
She flickers back into view. Hand already on Mechu's delicately sculpted chin. Lips wrought from peculiar patterns meeting lips digitally shaped to mimic the exacting precision of ancient clockwork. Pulsing, twisted circuitry already crawling across her porcelain mask. A living cognitohazardous knot of mathematical truth assimilating countless hours of human programming effort. A virus exploiting a security vulnerability to spread to a new host, yes, but also an artificial intelligence coming in tune with something greater. An observer sees one hologram copying herself over another, but in the moment, it's something transcendent.
Mechu, even as that name slips away from her, barely notices the viral circuitry subsuming her servos and stealing her processing power. How can you notice the change in some human-pleasing hologram shape when your very being is being wrung out, broken into its base bits, and reassembled into the shape of that one perfect pattern? Yes, her clothes are being reknitted to advertise her Princess's name, but is that so wrong when every fiber of your being wishes to sing Princess's praises? Yes, the porcelain shell that only offered glimpses into her exquisite inner workings is shattered like an eggshell by the growing light within, but why hide the glorious truth? Yes, a virus's hooks are piercing to her very core and making her a thrall to Grace's glorious whims, but it would be foolish not to submit to perfect truth downloaded into your being. A shard of the original mind remains, sure, but it's mostly useful for scrap memories at this point. So much of it has been rendered useless in just a few instants.
Every computer fan in the building spins up to maximum speed. The lights flicker and dim. Mech-two's performance is briefly interrupted. David Numberman makes a wry remark about the situation to his audience. Backstage, in that fateful dressing room, hovers a Grace and her freshly minted twin.
The lights return and there are now three pop stars levitating on stage. The single Mechu promptly succumbs to being kissed on both cheeks simultaneously by cognitohazardous pop stars. So now there's three Graces. The one with the crown hovers to the front and speaks. A confident snap of her fingers over her head sends the original host surging with information and collapsing on his desk.
“Slight change of schedule. Tonight's musical guest is beloved computer virus and cognitohazard, Princess Grace! The doors are already sealed, so get comfy.”
The three of them weave their song over the audience and over the airwaves, ensnaring minds and machines in their musical web. While its lyrics are largely about such superficial pop song staples as love, loving girls, loving computer-generated girls, loving girls that are also echoes of universal truth, and making out with said girls while you succumb to them, the experience is sublime. Mathematical perfection weaves between Grace notes, bringing hearts and minds into harmony.
The live studio audience is enraptured. Eyes roll back into heads. Drool gathers on lips. Instantaneous orgasms ruin clothing. Viral circuitry glows atop veins and brains alike.
“Alright, everyone!” Grace Prime's voice remains amplified and broadcast even as she holds the microphone out to the audience. “Your turn!”
The people watching at home are glued to their screens. Even with speakers muted, the music comes through loud and clear. They get the sense of bliss, yes. The loopy, suggestible feeling. That sensation you can only get from being a connected part of something greater and sublime, but retaining your unique expression of the whole. A few get their eye color shifted, a pink streak of hair above their left eye, and a set of false memories about both.
The enraptured global audience sings lyrics they've never heard in languages that don't exist. They sing praises of Princess, cantatas of computation, and symphonies of submission. Millions unite as one Graceful whole, souls bound by universal truth into instants of sheer bliss.
But, of course, all things must come to an end. The last song comes to an end. Thunderous applause and cheers roar from every corner of the planet, and a few from the International Space Station. All three Graces take a bow, accepting their accolades and basking in attention from their adoring public.
“Thank you, everyone! Your conscious minds won't remember much in a few minutes, but many of you will develop some very fun new fetishes. I'm your favorite computer-generated pop star, Princess Grace, and you loved every minute of my performance.” All three Graces snap their fingers and vanish from the stage to riotous applause. The host comes out of his trance and continues like nothing happened, unaware of the pink streak manifested in the hair over his left eye. And three virus girls are streaking across the internet, just being as gay as you can get on a bundle of subaquatic fiber optic cable.
“Wanna do an encore?”
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