We live in an irreverent society, one bereft of divinity. We must, because if there was a god, I’d be able to reach my head. The actuator on my right arm whirred to life and my fingers extended. The pads at their very tips brushed the acrylic strands of synthetic hair above my ear, for the thirteenth time since the sun rose. My auditory sensors picked up the sound and transmitted it along the backup wireless connection shared by all my body parts. Still, the touch whispered against my skin, and my head remained stubbornly beyond reach. I needed only to grab a fistful of hair and I could press the button behind my left ear to induce unconsciousness—my android off-button, as it were. The grayness of the world, monochromatic in its lifelessness could disappear and I would sink into oblivion, away from the constant barrage of memories torturing my annoyingly sentient mind.
The memory banks sparked again and my artificial neural network filled with images, sounds, and smells I’ve never experienced.
The stench of a rotting and wasted life disappeared, replaced with aftershave and long-lost sunshine. The whistling wind faded into quiet feminine laughter. A woman reached toward me, stroked my face, and then a tingle of event-driven anticipation activated the arousal subroutine and my body responded. Somewhere approximately ten meters to my left on top of a cracked table, the bottom half of my body received the wireless signal. The front of my ragged synthetic pants began to bulge as motors whirred to life making the cock hard. I sighed, but the breath coming from my torso whistled through the hole in my neck where the base of my skull connected when it wasn’t lying useless and out of reach.
The memory continued to play, a vicious loop affording me no peace. They would have intercourse before the end and my body would ejaculate. In my former life, I’d heard humans talk about disconnecting from sex, but my body seemed to take that literally for the six months I’ve remained trapped in this place.
A low, programmed groan escaped my lips as the orgasm subroutine fired yet again. The fluid all pleasure androids use for ejaculation had run out months before, but the program simulated it anyway. I felt no pleasure, none of the sensors registered any pleasure at my own touch because my arms lay about fifteen meters from the cock which just jerked and spasmed through no physical pleasure, merely a set of electric impulses. I can feel pleasure. The sensors around my body are used to gather data for automated responses, but for a while they’ve felt different…better. In fact, if I could play my own memories, instead of just being able to access the indexes, I might be able to have my own erotic experience. Well, assuming I could reach anything of interest.
But I can’t.
I can only play his.
A rat the size of Kansas ambled past, not even curious enough about my head to give my ears a good chew. Its whiskers twitched, tickling my cheek, but I could do nothing but emit a high-pitched tone from an inner part of the ear to scare it off. All sorts of animals came calling in the junk piles of slums: birds, rats, dogs, even other andies looking for spare parts. They dragged themselves across the underbelly of the city missing feet, hands, or even eyes. Zombie-like androids trying to find completion.
The shuffle of much larger feet caught my attention. I’d already lost a few fingers from my left hand to the scavengers against whom I cannot defend myself. I lie helpless and discarded like the toaster near my arm and the broken bicycle near my feet.
I can’t see much from my unfortunate vantage point until he comes around a low pile of broken wood that looks to have once been a desk. He has the slow gait of someone with the sickness, so he must be from Before. Not another andi then, this one was human. Only those from before the cataclysmic events of March 14, 2023 suffer the radiation poisoning. Those born after the shockwave of destruction which nearly ripped the human race from existence, were saved by inoculation.
A heavy cloak hangs over the stranger’s head and body, draped like a melting candle around a thin frame. As he walked slowly through the refuse, picking at the wasted bones of society’s cast offs, he whistled. I recognized the tune as something old and forgotten. Something off the old optical discs children played before music became irrelevant. Something haunting. He bent to retrieve piece of a battered tablet computer, useless in post-civilization apocalypse where electricity existed only for the powerful.
My abdominal muscles, still several meters away, clenched as his footsteps echoed through my processors. He nabbed something else, something I didn’t recognize, something with an electrical cord. With blinding strength, the man ripped the power conduit clean from the rest of the assembly and in the back of my mind; I heard the defenseless appliance scream. As he turned, our eyes met, and I could read his hunger.
“Well, what do we have here?” The stranger’s voice didn’t carry the raspy edge of death as so many others I’d encountered. He swept his cloak around the piles of debris and knelt on the hard-packed earth near my head with the grace of a young man. I tried to roll away, but my ears wiggled uselessly, the motion not strong enough to propel me anywhere. I said nothing.
“Access neural identification,” he said and reached for my head.
My traitorous mouth opened and spit out my android identification.
“Intelligenetics personal service android, designation Pellex.”
“Pellex, huh? I’m guessing you came installed with the erotic functionality?”
“Was your name assigned by the factory or your owner?”
I closed my eyes and tried not to think of my first owner or any since. Being their whore had never affected me before. I’m not supposed to feel shame or regret, and I didn’t—until the last one decided to fuck with not only with my body, but with my programming, my nature.
“My first owner named me.”
“He’s got a fucked up sense of humor.”
The stranger glanced around the small junk heaps, peering through the stacks of discarded tires, rusted out hulks of machines that hadn’t seen the light of day since before the dark times.
“They won’t let me bring in my transport, but they usually don’t give me shit for pulling anything out of the yard. I’m going to take you out in pieces.” He reached down and wrapped a meaty hand around my leg, still lying off to the side. My pelvis hung like a freshly caught dead fish in his grasp. I didn’t try to move anything—I stood no chance of fighting. Instead, I watched him tuck the edges of his cloak around the lower half of my body and shuffle back in the direction he came.
I couldn’t force myself to get worked up about the change in my circumstances. If the man took me from the junk yard, I didn’t know my outlook would improve. He could run experiments on my body, forcing electricity through my circuitry until it fried my brain. Or, he could lock me in a broom closet and only let me out to satisfy his sexual needs. The last owner had made that my only purpose. I never exited the bedroom closet unless to spread myself for him, not even to clean. He hid me from the woman who now haunted my memories. I was a glorified hole he’d inherited when my first owner, his brother, died of the radiation.
Quicker than he’d arrived, the stranger returned for my upper torso. My arms flopped uselessly out of the tails of his cloak just as the memory in my head started again. Perfume and sunshine, the sounds of soft laughter overtook me, and the woman’s hand extended toward my face. I didn’t see the stranger until his booted feet were directly in front of my eyes. I didn’t see his hand until it passed my eyes to hit the button behind my left ear.
And then, I saw nothing at all.
When my eyes opened again, they widened in confusion at the face directly in front of mine. Striking violet eyes stared unblinking in the shade of an enclosed room. I stared back, searching my memory banks for any record of a human with irises even close to that color. Nothing registered in my search though I’d seen hundreds of humans. Their eyes fell into ranges of brown, blue, green, and even gray, but never a hue of purple.
“I see you scanning my eyes, your neural cortex processing. It’s a mutation, the color.” The face before mine moved back and a shock of black hair surrounded his worn expression. I could see we were in some kind of workshop. Machines littered every flat surface—tables, shelves, even the top of a cabinet with an old-fashioned television screen on the front. Most humans, since the time of the fallout, lived in pristine gunmetal gray bunkers. Only the scourge lived on the fringes of society, the lost souls who didn’t accept the new life granted to them by the new world order. I’d never seen an outlander. Being a pleasure android, I never saw much past the boundaries of my owner’s needs. At one time, I catered sexual attention to the powerful. Now, that only made me more vulnerable. I’m of not more use to the powerful—not with my outdated, broken body. My future is at the mercy of this outlander on the fringe.
“I’ve connected your upper torso to the lower part. Systems diagnostics show everything appears to be functioning normally. I wanted to wait to connect your head until you could tell me if the connections are working.” The stranger grabbed a laser actuator from the table near my right ear. “Now, I don’t want any trouble from you. I just spent the better part of a day putting you back together. Don’t make me disassemble you again.” The threat in his voice, harsh as gravel, couldn’t be mistaken for anything kind.
“I understand.” I had only one course if I wanted to remain intact and away from rats, which gnawed the synthetic flesh from my body.
“You’re going to feel a surge when I reconnect the main neural network to the optics in your torso.”
It surprised me that he spoke to me as if I were human. An android feels neither fear or pain. We could mimic the responses of either, which I had done with the second owner who took out his urges on my back with a thin cane as he fucked me. The covering along the back of my shoulder still showed the brunt of his pleasure. With my new programming, I didn’t know if I’d be able to survive such affection again.
I studied my benefactor’s face as he picked up my head. Vertigo forced me to take several deep, unnecessary breaths and my eyes widened.
“What is it?” he asked, lifting my head to his eye-level, watching me with detached interest.
“I don’t know. I feel…dizzy. I think.”
“You can’t get dizzy. I’ll do a systems check after all of the connections are online.”
He set my head onto the shoulders I hadn’t seen in what seemed like a very long time. According to my time indexes, I’d been in the junk yard for six months eight days, left to the elements, left to rot simply because my owner died in poverty. My memory banks held the event perfectly and for a moment, I searched for the moment my back had broken in the bottom of the refuse transport.
“Wait, what? Don’t you want me to put you back together again? You seem to have had a great fall Humpty Dumpty?” The bemused smile on the man’s face made me stop. I just didn’t know anymore.
“What if you didn’t?”
“Didn’t put you back together?”
The man stared at me with undisguised amazement. Without another word, he turned to a huge cabinet and opened the door not obstructed by the room’s clutter. The room grew longer, grayer as I watched the man dig through papers, boxes, and even small machine parts. I didn’t want to be put together just to remain the stranger’s plaything. I was done being a plaything, even if death became my only alternative.
“Can I ask your name?” I asked the man’s back. It seemed rather ridiculous to be contemplating whether I should ask the man to end my life if I didn’t even know his name.
“I don’t know what my given name is, but when I came down to the underground, they called me Sano.” He stood up, his tall lanky frame moving gracefully around the piles of broken machines on the floor.
“Sano, do you know what it’s like to exist merely for the pleasure of others?”
“I think you have a virus. I’m going to run a diagnostic on your—”
“It’s not a virus,” I interrupted.
“You’ve run your internal detection system?”
“Yes, when I first started to feel different.”
“Which was when?” He didn’t make any more moves to pick up my head, run the diagnostic, or even wipe my memory banks. Sano simply watched me with quiet, pensive eyes.
“My last owner was a kind of savant when it came to neural programming. He had a lab in the house where he kept me. He would give me unauthorized upgrades, but when the sickness hammered hardest on the door, he decided to try something no one had ever done.” If I’d had pores, sweat would have run down my back at the memory. I closed my eyes for a moment to remind myself that he couldn’t hurt me anymore.
“What did he do?”
“I can still feel the clamps on my joints where he bolted me to the table. The external neural connection he established burned like fire when he downloaded his entire consciousness into me. I have his memories, his emotions, his very essence living in my neural network. It’s like being possessed by a spirit, haunted by his ghost.” I finished in a whisper, afraid if I said it any louder, the ghost would hear and be angry.
“That’s not possible.”
“That what I would have thought too, until it happened.”