I’m a little rusty
Today’s prompt comes courtesy of what I was thinking this morning while flipping through my book of writing prompts. I was looking through the advice of how it doesn’t matter how good or how crappy your daily writing is as long as you come to the page, etc etc. My thought was, “I’m a little rusty” and behold, the thought popped into my head of a decommissioned android reactivated in a landfill. Read on for the result.
I’m a little rusty. Make that a lot rusty. Rust-proof alloys my synthetic ass. Not after a while in the trash heap, I guess. All my synthetic flesh, just a slipcover for my metal one, has biodegraded as designed. Initially it was supposed to degrade over my “lifetime,” acquiring realistic wrinkles and other signs of aging. From the oldsters I used to see slogging around, it made them look like they got a cheap deal on Indian synth-flesh a size or two too large for their frames. I guess the slagheads in development were still working out the kinks. Well mine’s degraded full stop, and the alloys are degrading too.
“Hey,” says someone above me, the guy who dug me out, I’m guessing. Organic, if my scans can still be trusted. My eyes haven’t gone, anyway. The eyes never go. Even if they disconnect them from the brain, they’ll go on recording until they’ve run out of internal memory, which could be centuries. Mine went inert with the rest of me, though, once they pulled my power source. I guess this guy managed to slot me a new one. Much good it’ll do me without arms or legs. I wonder where they are. Gracing a pleasure model, maybe?
“Hey, are you awake?” the org asks again. Um, I’m looking up at you, my involuntary reflex protocols still surprisingly operational as they twitch my eyes minutely in the way orgs’ do to avoid burnout. The skin was meant to go but the rest was built to last, I guess.
The guy looks like slag, probably a homeless or insane. His graying beard looks like it’s been trimmed with a lasgun and he hasn’t bathed in anything but puddles in ages. He probably got his clothes from the same heap I’m lying in. Further up, though. I now notice I’m not even near the top of the pile here. More like at the bottom of a canyon of trash, like a dozer dug a furrow for a few months.
“I’m not FF,” I tell him. My realistic breasts have rotted away with the rest of my flesh (no metal ones beneath those, though a realistic feel wouldn’t have made much sense in a policing model. Not sure why they made me “female” to begin with, or with realistic features. Probably to make the orgs more comfortable. Make us seem more human, to alleviate the fear associated with an inorganic police force) and I’ve never had more than outward indications of my assigned gender.
Luckily, rolling my eyes is a voluntary reflex. “Fully functional.”
“I can see that. Missing some limbs. Don’t worry; I’ve scrounged a few. Not exactly fit to your model, but—“
“I mean you’re not going to have any luck sticking it in me unless you stick it in my mouth, and,” I open my mouth wide to show him how the synthetic soft tissues have disintegrated. Even the plastics are starting to crack. The soft tissues are supposed to help create natural sounding speech. Without them, I sound a little rough.
“If I wanted to rape you, why would I turn you on?” he asked.
“Some guys like them kicking,” I say, remembering. Being a female model, I worked with women’s cases. Not pleasant work but again, I wasn’t built for pleasure.
“That’s not my aim.”
“What is?” I ask. He’s too coherent to be insane, at least the typical kind, I remind myself. Some mentals can be very coherent.
“I need your help.”
“I’m retired,” I respond, moving my head to motion the garbage around me. As I do, I notice the sky is a peculiar shade of yellow. Not yellow clouds. Yellow sky. This is my first indication that something is wrong.
“How long have you been asleep?”
My internal chronometer went dead with the rest of me when they pulled my power source. “Don’t know. Who’s the president now?”
The guy’s eyebrows shoot up, then he looks to the side and huffs a laugh of disbelief. “Wow, that takes me back,” he said. “Presidents.”
“We haven’t had a president since Plotkey. It’s all Consortium-run now. I think Blaine from Neobot Tech is the head honcho now, but it’s all the same underneath the figurehead.”
I have no idea who Plotkey is, so he or she must be after my time. “How long since President Hatch?” I ask.
“About a hundred and fifty years.”
If I still had eyelids, my eyes would be bugging from them. “A hundred and fifty?” I echo.
“And about forty years under the Consortium. Major corporations were running scared from the new trend of presidents telling them to slag off with their lobbyists and contributions. That’s what happens after a couple of 18-year-old presidents with activist fire in their eyes.”
“So what happened?”
“They built bigger and better ‘bots—I mean androids, sorry.” I shook my head. I’d been called worse than a “bot” in the line of duty. He went on, “Then one of their eggheads managed to hack into military mainframes and turned the army against the government. Plotkey had to surrender. Online voting was hacked to support the forming of the Consortium – group of major corporation power players. There were nationwide protests, but they were crushed.”
“Those slagging…” I trailed off. I couldn’t feel outrage in the visceral sense that organics do, but I could intellectualize it. “So now what?”
“Now we’re building our own army,” he said, giving me a meaningful look.
I laughed. It sounded harsh in my denuded mouth. “Of slag heap artifacts?” I scoffed. “What’s the matter, did you run out of credits for the top models?”
“You’re not networked, at least not to the networks they have now. All the old ones are dead. They don’t know your access keys, and the standards have changed so much that all the new eggheads only heard about them in their History of Robotics classes. They have no practical knowledge of them.
“Besides, no one has credits anymore, not really. It’s all points now. We all got divvied up by the corporations. We live in their towns, eat their food, and whatever we earn working for them goes towards our upkeep. Earn a lot and you get perks. Refuse to work and you get tossed out into the Trashlands.” He looked around. “That’s what they call this place, and the other places like it. They always talk about reclaiming, putting together projects to sift through and recycle what they can, but for now they’re just piling up.
“A lot of us in the movement got into it after getting thrown out here, either because we couldn’t work or we refused to. Others of us got into it and got kicked on purpose to join up out here. Others are still on the inside, working for us.” He eyed me a moment. “You with us?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Of course you do. You’re sentient. We’re not looking to raise a mindless slave army. That’s what will give us an edge over the Consortium. I think so, anyway.”
“I won’t be much help half-rusted and limbless,” I say.
He cracks a smile. “Let me slot you some arms and legs,” he says. “What was your role when you were in the world?”
“Police,” I say.
“I happen to have police arms and legs right here,” he says, pointing at a pile of what look like mechanical spider legs with wicked razors, guns, and other nasty weaponry. “A bit more militarized than you’re used to, but it’ll fit our aims.”
“If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather have something more normal, at least when I’m not in combat,” I say.
“I thought you’d say that,” he says. He leans over and presses something on one of the legs. A swarm of nanos swirls around the limb, disassembling and reassembling. When they’re done a few minutes later, it looks like a chrome mannequin arm.
I would raise an eyebrow if I had them. “I hope they work faster than that on the battlefield,” I say.
“We’re tweaking,” the man says. “Those nanos are also one of your most important weapons.”
“I thought nano weapons were outlawed.”
He fixes his eyes on me. “We’re outlaw by default now,” he says. Good point. “What’s your name?”
“Cyno-Robotics Police Android Model 3475-B6, personal designation Lieutenant Paula Cyno,” I reply, as crisply as ever. It feels good to say.
The man gives me a salute. “I’m Leo Banner.” He holds out his hand for me to shake even though I still have no means to. “Welcome to the party.”