The Felini Wheel
The Felini Wheel is an adult-only ride, and one of Venus’ most popular. Originally titled “The Fellatio Wheel” until mothers complained, The Felini Wheel allows male guests to stand around the outside circumference of a giant wheel. A stunning automaton, male or female, depending on the rider’s preference, kneels before the rider. The automatons look up at the riders, and smile the same blank, brilliant smiles.
As The Felini slowly begins to rotate, the automatons pull the riders’ pants down to their ankles and begin to automatically fellate the guests. They service skillfully, mindlessly, for automatons have no minds of their own. During the course of the ride, the wheel begins to tilt up at an angle, spinning faster and faster. Eventually the wheel has tipped 180 degrees and spins 135 miles per hour.
After five minutes, the wheel slows and returns to its normal position. The automatons’ lifelessly offer the guests a moist towelette.
Riders disembark incredibly light-headed, on both ends.
The creator was several inches shorter than Captain Carl. He had wavy graying hair that was thinning in the back and eyes like cat-eye marbles, one obscured by a monocle. He had six arms and hands: two in the usual spots and then two more below those, running along his torso, like an insect. He wore a bowler hat, trimmed with glowing red el-wire, an armless pink ruffled dress shirt, a bright red bowtie, a red and green plaid kilt, and thigh-high black leather boots. His name was Zampanò.
The night he finished turning Captain Carl from a mere automaton into a Robo, his pupils were giant holes in his deep, starry eyes. “Are you there, Captain Carl?” he asked. He bent toward the Robo, as if he thought he wouldn’t be able to hear Captain Carl when the Robo finally woke.
Captain Carl leaned toward Zampanò, and reached out for Zampanò’s face.
“You are in there. I can see it in your eyes!” Zampanò said. Zampanò jumped, pumping his elbows, hands and knees towards the cotton candy pink sky.
“Am I… Captain Carl?” Captain Carl asked.
“You are! You are! You are Captain Carl the Robo-Pirate. You are my masterpiece, my finest creation.”
“Who are you?” Captain Carl asked.
“I am Zampanò,” the man said. He tilted his head back, as if both modest and proud. “I take care of maintaining the automatons and attractions on this part of Venus.” Zampanò’s shoulders fell forward. “Of all the wonderful parts of Venus, she rewarded me with this dilapidated corner.” Zampanò sighed. “But that’s neither here nor there, because of you. You are different than the other beings that populate Venus. Better. Most of them automatons and run only on programs. They can’t think. Can’t act for themselves. Can’t learn. Not like you. You’re special. You’re a Robo. You have an A.I.”
A cat with long black fur and an aubergine mane and eyes slinked from behind Zampanò. She studied Captain Carl for a minute and then said, “He looks just like the rest of them.” The cat flicked her tail and pranced away.
“Don’t mind Jiji,” Zampanò said. “She’s a Robo, too. A much earlier and less superior version.” Zampanò crossed his six arms across his torso and gazed at Captain Carl.
“Just look at you,” Zampanò said. He whistled through his teeth.
Captain Carl looked around him, at the pirate ship and the automaton pirates. “Yo ho ho!” one of the pirates yelled. Captain Carl turned back to Zampanò.
“I’m one of them?” he asked.
“Not anymore. Believe me. You are better,” Zampanò said.
“Why did you create me?” asked Captain Carl.
Zampanò shrugged. “I love creating life,” he said. “Making life is my purpose, my bliss.”
When Zampanò wasn’t fixing rides or automatons or flushing out clogged bathrooms or changing the lavender lights in Venus’ sky, and Captain Carl wasn’t working on the pirate ship, Zampanò taught Captain Carl how to tinker with the programming already inherent in the automatons in order to create Robos.
Zampanò also taught Captain Carl the philosophy behind being a creator. “As creators, we’re responsible for our creations, whatever it means.”
And then, one night, Zampanò never returned.
Captain Carl had spent a long day shouting pointless pirate dialog and pacing on his foot and peg leg. He waited and waited for Zampanò to come and continue the lessons on tinkering with preexisting bodies to make Robos, but Zampanò didn’t come back to the pirate ship. Nor the next night, nor the next.
And then, finally one night, just before dawn, Jiji came to Captain Carl.
On this night, Jiji wore a black leather halter, with a thin black leather leash trailing behind her. “The old man’s dead. I belong to you now,” she announced.
“Dead? I don’t understand dead,” Captain Carl said.
“It means his body and brain don’t work anymore. It means he’s permanently shut down,” Jiji said. She looked away from Captain Carl.
“Why don’t you turn him back on?” Captain Carl asked.
“Zampanò was human. His body is real. You can’t just turn him back on,” Jiji said.
“Well then. We’ll cobble together a new one. We’ll insert his back up, and…”
“Human bodies don’t work like that,” Jiji said. “He’s gone. For always.”
“Oh,” Captain Carl said. “He should have backed himself up.”
“An important lesson for us all,” Jiji said.
“Can I pet you?” Captain Carl asked. He knelt down next to Jiji.
“You’d better, Pirate,” Jiji said.
Tentatively, Captain Carl reached out to the Jiji, and ran his hand over her long, soft fur. The cat raised her tail in the air. “Spankies, please.”
“Spankies?” Captain Carl said.
“Spank my ass, Pirate!” Jiji commanded.
Captain Carl obliged, and spanked the cat just above the tail.
Jiji purred, and lifted her tail higher and higher in the air. “Faster, pirate,” she said. “Harder.”
Captain Carl spanked Jiji with his good hand, until she demanded he spank her with his hook.
Jiji hopped up on his shoulder and bit his ear.
Captain Carl screamed. “You’re a little terror!”
“It’s a sign of endearment. Are you sure you’re a pirate?” Jiji said.
Jiji brought Captain Carl a ten-inch long, silicon orange finger. The finger had vertical lines running along it, and a large knob at the end.
“Screw it onto the end of your hook,” Jiji ordered.
Captain Carl obeyed. He found that when he attached it to his hook the giant finger glowed, radiating a bright orange light. And it had three vibration settings: low, medium, and shake-your-entire-body. When he wasn’t spanking her, Jiji liked Captain Carl to run the glowing orange vibrating finger along her body.
Venus replaced Zampanò with Howard.
Howard constantly yelled at the Robos; therefore, he constantly yelled at no one. His entire body, his entire presence, seemed covered by a greasy film. His face was hatched with red veins, his eyes were two shades of yellow, and he had thin strands of glowing white hair sprouting from his head.
Zampanò had usually kept park hours, taking care of business while Venus’ guests enjoyed the attractions. But during the late night and early morning hours, when the attractions were closed for the night, Zampanò repaired automatons and worked on his Robos.
Howard kept park hours and disappeared during the late night and early morning hours.
One night, late, after the pirates had shut down for the night, Howard stormed onto the pirate ship, carrying a plumber wrench. “Goddamned autos!” Howard yelled as he stomped among the automaton pirates and swung the wrench.
Captain Carl stood still like the other pirates, trying to appear as much like an automaton as possible.
“Everybody wants to see the autos,” Howard slurred. “No one wants a real performer anymore. Goddamned autos.”
Howard swung the plumber wrench at one of the automaton pirates. The pirate’s left arm went flying across the deck. Wires hung from the pirate’s shoulder.
“I’m a better performer than all of you!” Howard roared. He swung his plumber wrench again, knocking the automaton pirate’s head from its body. Sparks rose from the pirate’s neck; the air smelled faintly like firecrackers.
Captain Carl’s hand found his Styrofoam sword.
“Did you know I trained in New York and London?” Howard asked the headless pirate. “I’m better than this fucking park. I’m better than this broken-down ship!” He thrust the plumber wrench against the pirate’s chest. The automaton fell to the ground.
Captain Carl took a step toward Howard’s turned back. Howard swung around and looked at the other automaton pirates and Captain Carl. “You know what it is?” he asked. “You’re cheap. Cheap slave labor. That’s all you are.”
Howard swung the plumber wrench again, knocking another pirate down. Captain Carl pulled his Styrofoam sword from its sheath and pointed it at Howard. “Put your weapon down,” Captain Carl said.
Howard laughed. “You’re a fucking Robo,” Howard said. “I knew you were different than the others.” Howard raised the plumber wrench diagonally across his chest. Captain Carl mirrored Howard’s motions with his sword. Howard swung the plumber wrench down, striking Captain Carl’s shoulder. Captain Carl’s arm went limp and he fell against the ship’s deck. Howard raised the plumber wrench in the air, and smashed it against Captain Carl’s back. He raised the plumber wrench again, and brought it down on Captain Carl’s peg leg. The peg leg spun across the deck.
And then there was a hissing and a yowl. Howard screamed. Captain Carl looked up. Jiji was on Howard’s back, crawling up to his head. She bit his ear; blood fell against Howard’s stained tan shirt. Jiji dragged her nails across the back of Howard’s head and neck. Howard continued to scream. He grabbed at Jiji, but she squirmed on top of his head and dug her nails into his forehead.
“Get out,” Jiji said. She reached down and bit Howard’s nose. More blood fell on his shirt. Jiji then jumped off of him and scampered across the ship’s deck.
Howard staggered from the deck and away from the pirate ship.
Captain Carl struggled to stand, to watch Howard go, but his arm wouldn’t push him up, and he was missing half a leg.
Captain Carl sat with Jiji, hiding from Howard in the ship’s bilge, attempting to reattach his peg leg.
“I have no idea what I did,” Captain Carl said.
“Stay out of his way,” Jiji said. “He hates automatons, he hates Robos and now he’ll especially hate you. Just do your job. Make sure your pirates are in working order and say nothing. When he’s around, pretend you’re one of them.”
“Has he hurt you?” Captain Carl asked.
“No,” said Jiji. “And he won’t.” Jiji flicked her tail.
Captain Carl finished reattaching his leg, and shifted in his seat.
“Spankies?” Jiji said. She raised her tail in the air.
Captain Carl brought his hand down, just above Jiji’s tail.
“I think I’ll be taking off for a bit,” Jiji said. “I think I’ll go see other parts of Venus.”
“Do you have to?” Captain Carl asked. “We will miss you here.”
Jiji cocked her head. “We? No one will miss me,” Jiji said. “I’m not sure anyone ever noticed this ship had a cat in the first place.”
“Could I maybe come with you?” Captain Carl asked.
“Absolutely not,” Jiji said. “You’d draw attention to me. Besides, Howard would notice. He would destroy you, when he found you. I’ll come back, someday, and tell you about all the wonderful things on Venus.”
“I see,” Captain Carl said.
“Zampanò never had a problem with me coming and going,” Jiji said.
Captain Carl said nothing.
“You could always dig up that old stuffed parrot below deck. You could insert an A.I.; it would be great company,” Jiji said.
Captain Carl pushed Jiji away, and stood up.
“You’re not done yet, Pirate,” Jiji said, raising her tail higher in the air.
“Go on,” Captain Carl said.
“What are you,” Jiji said, “depressed?”
“I’m busy. We both have things do,” Captain Carl said.
Captain Carl went below deck and sat at the pirate ship’s mainframe. He attached his orange finger to his hook, and he began to work.