It was even worse than I expected. The guardian at the door actually wore a multiple layered clothing assembly. It was what they used to call a business suit. He even had an accessory known as a tie.
I should have expected it. A place as wonderful as Tiffany's must have a guardian. They wouldn't really let just anyone in, would they? I didn't even have an appointment? I decided I had best run away. I didn't really belong here. I didn't belong anywhere. I was a phony.
Then the man in the suit smiled. "Excuse me, but do you wish to have a plastic cracker jack ring engraved?"
"No. Yes! Maybe? Yes! I don't have a ring!"
He smiled more. "We have rings. Turn right, and follow the windows. She has been waiting for you."
I thanked him, turned right, and started looking for someone waiting for me. Was I late? How did she know I was coming?
I should have become more and more anxious, but not here. Joy Seven, in response to the stress of the Starfleet Academy, had built a hologram program of Tiffany's soon after she reached Earth. All the Joys have used it since, when excessive negative reinforcement had made us inoperative. Our background personality was based on Holly Golightly. Holly always felt better after coming to Tiffany's.
We had never come to the real Tiffany's. We had never needed to. We had never dared. Then again, we had never before killed a planet of squid, or slaves, or failed to defend an innocent woman, or arrested our commanding officer, or loved a marine.
The holographic Tiffany's didn't seem enough. I was on shore leave. I was allowed to go anywhere on Earth. I had to go to Tiffany's. I had to.
If it was not a mistake.
Then I saw Holly. She was wearing the black dress, the sunglasses, the ear rings, the necklace, and even the shoes. I had not worn the black Holly party outfit since just after the Alpha was promoted to Vice Admiral, but I knew the outfit. It was in my permanent memories. It was part of me. This woman was me too, or almost so. She was a few centimeters too short. She didn't quite have the walk right. Her accent was not quite proper. "May I help you?"
I wasn't sure what to say. "No Yes The guardian at the door said you engrave cracker jack rings?" Was it too late to run?
"Oh, dear. You even have the accent right."
She seemed dismayed by this, somehow. "I'm sorry," I replied.
She blinked, startled. "Joy? You are real?"
I shook my head, no. "This unit is Joy Eleven. This unit is not real. This unit is a phony."
"The mean reds."
"They are worse. I know. Welcome to Tiffany's."
Tiffany's is not really a store now. It is more a museum. The public rooms still look as they did in the mid 20th century. Holly - her real name was Janet - told me they rebuilt it in part to the movie.
But instead of displaying objects for sale, they showed their best. Over the centuries, some of the finest jewelry of North America was made by or sold at Tiffany's. If they had not been able to recover some objects - many of which had been destroyed in the Romulan wars - they still had many of the molds and forms used to make the originals. In the back rooms, they even let me watch preparations to recreate another example of lost beauty.
It was impressive. More importantly, it just was. Janet walked me past the display cases, and told stories, none of which had anything to do with a slender Hollywood actress, or an wayward class of androids. I just listened, and walked, and smiled. I soon found myself surrounded by beauty's guardians, telling exotic stories about time warps, space battles, raiders, sentient sand, and having to arrest Admiral Alpha.
After one such tale, I paused for a question. "Janet? You are wearing The Party Dress. Are you copying Holly Golightly, or Audrey Hepburn?"
Instead of answering, she pulled forward another necklace, one that had been hidden beneath her neckline and a layer of pearls. It was a duplicate of a Mudd network busy indicator. It's number was 977.
I could not approve. "That is improper."
"Is it? I know there can be up to 500 androids in a class. We started numbering ours from 501."
"It is not that. You are an organic being. You are unique. You should have a name, not a number."
"We have names. We also wear necklaces."
"Who? There are more of you?" I had an image of 477 organic beings in various sizes and colors, all wearing The Dress, and all with wildly flashing network busy indicator lights.
"The Joy Nine Fan Club." I think she interpreted my blank stare and silence as shock. I suppose processor overload is similar enough to shock. She went on to explain. "You must know her tour with Fred Astaire makes her much admired. Most such stars have fans."
"Do most fans run around wearing network busy indicators?"
"Would you be surprised to learn that top hats are becoming fashionable again?"
"Nine and Fred are artificial beings. They were constructed to imitate reality. Real people should not be imitating us."
One of the jewelers spoke up, who before had just been listening. "Joy, the best are always imitated. Whether it's a ring, a necklace, a gem, or a person, leaders should expect to be followed. We're good here at Tiffany's. We may be the best, at least here on Earth. But we still do far more following than leading. As for yourself, well, anyone made in the image of Holly Golightly, and Eliza Doolittle, Jo Stockton and Princess Ann, well, you just have to be an original."
"I'm copy number Eleven." This drew laughter, but they did not seem to get the point. A poor copy of a phony original - no matter how elegant - does not result in an original. "Janet? Are you at least taking dancing lessons? It is not the dress that helps Nine make people happy. It is how she is able to work with Fred."
"I'm not taking dancing lessons. I'm going to Starfleet Academy."
Somehow this was worse. How could I tell her not to go to Starfleet Academy? "Why?"
"Tonight, you gave me a new ambition. I want to arrest an admiral."
"What??!" Because I had arrested Alpha? Perhaps I could call the Academy? Perhaps she hadn't been accepted yet?
"Joy, I could stay here, and share echoes of Earth's past glories, or I could go out there, and do the right thing. More than a little, you and the other Joys have shown what the right thing is, to not interfere with other's life styles, to preserve life, to uphold the law, to work as part of a team. The Federation seems sometimes rudderless. It is proper to honor the Vulcan as much as the Deltan, no matter that they to a large degree opposites. To see that there are real principles underlying the Federation, and that they can be lived without compromise, that they should be lived without compromise... Well, I may never get a chance to arrest an admiral, but I will always do the right thing."
"Janet, there is a difference between an organic standing on principle, and an emotion chip android lacking fuzzy logic in her Asimov processor. The former is noble. The latter is inflexible and obsolete."
They responded in chorus. "That's not true!" There followed a detailed and highly technical debate on the merits of hedonistic-slave androids in general, and Mudd's Joy Class in particular. I was under two severe handicaps in this debate. First, they didn't really know what they were talking about, so their arguments were not bound by the details necessary for actual implementation. Second, in Tiffany's, it is very hard for me to continue to feel properly miserable and ashamed. I was required to be happy here. To achieve this design objective, it seemed improper to point out the flaws in their argument.
"Joy, the contradictions in your Asimov tasking compounded by the multiple role models provided in background personality emulation routines result in a chaotic behavior which richly simulates organic sentients. The difference is that you will fight for your principles harder than most sentients. This is a good thing. Honest."
"Joy, what he is trying to say is that you may be a phony, but you're a real phony."
Somehow, in Tiffany's, this seemed a high complement. It even sounded as if it might be true.
The ring was made of processed dinosaur. Plastic, I think they called it. In the twentieth century, the compressed remnants of once-was-life was common on Earth. Liquefied life was considered so cheap and common, they burned it for fuel. To understand Breakfast at Tiffany's, you have to know that a plastic ring from a box of candy is a toy, a children's play thing. Plastic was not considered as permanent or valuable as metals. For a man to offer a woman a plastic ring, rather than gold or silver, is a sign of both poverty and goofiness.
To me, it was the engraved words that made the ring special. "Joy. Our Huckleberry Friend. Tiffany's 9708.29"
I was malfunctioning. One is not supposed to cry when one is happy. Somewhere in my background personality matrix, or perhaps hard wired logic array in the emotion chip, my design is most improper. As the Tiffany's people were to closing down for the night, and we said our farewells, each attempted positive reinforcement through the 'hug' technique, but this seemed only to compound the malfunction.
"Joy. There is one more thing we'd like to give you."
"But I have nothing to give in return."
"But you have. What we have too is of no value, at least not as a Ferrengi would measure it."
Knowing not what to say, I said nothing.
"This is an employee's card. It's just to say, should you ever wish to return, the door will open."
The emotion chip instability continued to develop. "You will let me serve?"
He paused, mildly surprised, but then continued. "You may serve. Mind, higher service calls you elsewhere. Your place is among the stars. But I think those who wander need something, and that is a place to return to. If you are ever in need of a place, that place is here."
This made no sense. I was a drifter. I would go forever where there was someone who wanted my service. I was an artificial person, at home in artificial worlds, breathing canned air and between square walls. I was not one to live in the past, to think that where I once was is where I belonged.
But for some reason I was suddenly happier. And for some reason, I started to cry harder. My emotion chip was obviously messed up. I was broken, but at the time I didn't care. Tiffany's is like that. You can fall apart, but it is the sort of place you can fall apart happy. I was unable to speak. I found myself hugged one more time, found myself outside, and found myself getting wet.
The sky was leaking. Planets are sometimes like that? Water falling from nowhere? This is convenient. It hides water leakage from malfunctioning androids.
The nearest stars were painted on the roof of Grand Central Station. Beneath those were transporter booths, which would take me to the Hawking, where the constellations forever change, but the ceilings never leak... Well, seldom leak.
Hopefully, some timer would run down, and whatever strange state my emotion chip was in would stabilize. Hopefully, when Hawking reached where we would be, I would not have to let sentients die. Hopefully, I would not have to arrest any more admirals.
And hopefully, before too many tomorrows become past, I could come back to Tiffany's.
Hope is a strange thing.