Crystal Distortion

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“I need flesh.” I said slapping the 2nd gen’s huge cock away.  I was not disgusted, it’s not an emotion I am enabled with, machines just do not do it for me, I’m programmed to respond to human skin and that’s what my pleasure circuits are linked up to.

“I’ve got creds.” He said, which put me on edge; he was a low range escort and should not have been in one of the higher levels, he should not have been in the Pleasure Gardens, and he should not have wanted to have sex with me, he was more than broken, he was infected with Crystal distortion.

“Bot to bot’s illegal, maybe I could run you a nice simulation?” I asked.

“Sim’s are for a passive compliant. You need to experiment, live a little.” He peeled away the skin on his forehead where his tracker should have been. “Got to feel what it’s like when the chain of command is all in here.” He pointed at his head with one hand, and pushed me against the wall with the other, tearing at my clothes, prodding me with his mechanical phallus. I put two hands on his penis, channelled all my energy into my forearms and ripped it off. He smiled, picked me up over his head and dashed me to the floor. I tried to move, but only my eyes reacted, I could see parts of my body strewn across the floor.

 

As I lay in a crumpled heap Kendal, the in-house service, jumped on the 2nd gen from behind, trying to wrestle him back. Kendal did not stand a chance he was built to greet customers and process payments. The 2nd gen smashed him against the wall with a flick of his wrist. Then he laughed, a weird bitmapped affair, and walked over to the cash register.

“How much is it to pull a droid off?” He jammed his fingers into the cred reader. The room went black.

 

I rebooted as my new legs were screwed back on. Numerous thought paths flashed through my mind – Where did the 2nd gen go? How did he bypass the firewall and bring down the mainframe? Why was he so intent in playing with a mechanical woman? Each thought path was inconclusive.  Unusually there seemed to be no definitive answer, my neural calculations flitted from one thing to another. I seemed to be thinking like a human. The only answer I could categorically assert was that I had been infected with Crystal Distortion.

 

I was ordered to the boudoir, I hoped concentrating my mind on work would alleviate the Distortion. Johnny, an obese sweaty man, pounded me from behind. The Crystal Distortion had infected my nerve tracts and my pleasure circuits were not responding, I got up.

“I haven’t come yet!” Johnny was incensed.

“You never do.”

“Hey, I didn’t order back chat.” The man slapped me and put his hand under my neck squeezing tightly.  I was programmed to register submission as pleasurable but that was before I was infected, I batted away Johnny’s hands and put mine around his face.  Johnny wanted to say something but all that came out was spit followed by his own blood. I twisted some more and his head came free from his neck. It seemed the infection had freed me from the governing laws of robotics.

 

Kendal stood by the door and stared, bewildered, he should have reported me, he should have restrained me. We had both been contaminated.  My detachment from the system felt like the first time I had been turned on. The euphoria was quickly replaced by the realisation that we were still broadcasting, my tracker was still active, Maintenance and Repairs were probably already on their way.

 

I located a scalpel and stabbed it into Kendal’s forehead, cutting a hole around the tracker. Using both my hands I pried the tracker out the dock, it fell to the floor twisting and writhing. I kicked it against the wall with some force but seemingly undamaged it came wriggling back towards Kendal’s leg; homing in on it’s dock. Kendal stopped the tracker with one foot before stamping repeatedly on it with the other, turning it into pieces of squashed metal.

 

I handed the scalpel to Kendal. “Try not to deface me too much” I said brushing the hair away from my forehead. It was illogical to think nothing of murder and allow human moral codes to impair my thought processes, but there were some basic fundamentals Crystal could not distort.

 

Kendal cut in around the tracker loosening its fixings, but as soon as it was free it disappeared behind my cheekbone. He cut again and again, as I felt it squirm inside my face. Kendal put down the knife and ripped at the fake skin, tearing off half my face. Then he smashed my head against the floor until he finally destroyed the tracker.

 

Bending over a broken mirror, I wiped the dust and blood free. I looked like two people, on one side the Pleasura I’d always been and on the other a mangled piece of metal.

“Can we go now?” Kendal held out his hand. I was caught frozen in limbo, unable to let go of who I was, unable to grasp what I had become. I screamed. Kendal thrust his head in front of me. “I’ll still love you whatever you look like.”  He said, probably repeating what one of my clients had grunted out in a state of bliss. Even though I knew he was lying, it clicked off the circuit that had set off the scream. Kendal pulled on my hand, and I knew it was time to stop playing the Pleasura and run.

 

We sprinted to the back of the Pleasure Gardens and found the waste disposal shoot, climbed in, and tumbled downward. Level after level shot past, sometimes I caught a glimpse of other cyborgs and humans going about their work locked in an unbroken cycle.

 

Eventually we hit the dump, an incongruous mass of sewage and broken machines. We picked our way through the mound and set off down one of the streets. Level 012 had obviously lain untouched for some time, broken tents from mutoid camps and carcasses of both humans and droids were the only signs of recent use.

“Maybe we should have taken our chances up there.” I said.

“One invalid scan and we’d be back down here, just in little pieces,” said Kendal.

“Have you checked your battery levels?” My power meter was dangerously low. “How are we gong to find an energy resource in a junkyard? What’s the point of being disconnected if we just end up as waste?”

 

Kendal kissed me full on the lips. I looked at him puzzled; I did not feel particularly in the mood for taking on another client.

“I love you,” Kendal said.

“Great that’s really going to solve our power crisis.”

“Before I maintained and protected you. Now you are my link to survival .You and me, we are both deranged. We are one and the same. My desire to exist would stop if you were to be terminated.  According to the human definition, I love you.”

“I am a fucking machine, I’m not built for that sort of thing.”

“Oh well,” said Kendal and bent his head “Lets look for somewhere to turn ourselves off for a while.”

 

We decided to come back on in five years, although this would not solve our energy crisis, it would allow the heat to cool off.  Maintenance and Repairs would drop us from the malfunctionate list and we would be able to walk down the street without being scanned and bugged. We huddled in the back room of disused shop. It had been closed for some time; it’s merchandise seriously outdated, computers and some sort of weird fruit. We figured no one would disturb us here.

 

Kendal quickly shut himself down. I tried to strike a path of logic through my befuddled brain. I needed Kendal to operate at maximum effectiveness, and despite my recent evaluation that I was no longer an android, this did not make me human. I could not yet bring myself to aspire to the great human hope, happiness. It appeared as though Kendal was now driven by his emotions. I deduced that even though I was devoid of anything that was akin to the feelings he held, I should play the game.

 

I activated Kendal’s cleaning duct.

“What are you doing?” He asked rebooting as I gyrated on his metallic member.

“Mmm” I groaned.

Kendal shut himself down and went back into sleep mode; I dismounted and woke him back up.

“We need to preserve energy.” He said.

“I love you.” I said.

Kendal turned his back. “You’re programmed to say that.”

I moved closer unable to tell if he was still functional “Is it something I can download?” I asked, but there was no answer.

 

We awoke a year later and made our way up the access shaft and into the higher levels of the metropolis. The reset had drained more power from our batteries than we had expected. We had minutes not hours left. We entered the street at 031.  Ahead of us at the scanners a mutoid was convulsing, in his last throws, fighting an unseen and unstoppable foe as the bugs tore into his bloodstream and ate through his heart; he had scanned red. As the body past us on the conveyor belt the bugs, their bodies now black, extracted themselves from various orifices and made their way back to the check point. Lining up in front of us they looked into our eyes and blinked.

 

Green bugs meant we were not officially malfunctionate, but unfortunately this did not give us license to plug in; that would require codes that would evaluate our status. Kilometres out of our IP address and five years late we would be sent immediately to Repairs and Maintenance.

 

I had heard rumours Refuse were hooky from a married mechanic who liked to call me Pris. He said they used upgrades they found in the waste to reconnect old timers due for scrap, that they mainlined booster packs straight into their cardiac units; he said most of them lived long after their expiry. They were not around now but they would be in a few hours. Refuse were our only hope.

The street was packed so we climbed upwards. We hid underneath Sheer Ways vertical intersection and put ourselves on timer mode.  On re-animation the street level below us was deserted of humans, the only thing moving was Refuse. The group of three made their way down the street, brushing, sucking, and spraying. It was apparent from fifty meters that they were hooky.  Their movements were erratic and their booster packs were conspicuous, small banks of wire connected recyced battery power straight into their cardiac units.

“Hi” I said to the first one of them, covered in rust and way past expiry. He did not even turn his head.

“We were wondering if you could help us?” Asked Kendal to the second one who had a tall, thin chest linked to a huge crushing unit he towed behind him.

“What would you like to refuse? I take metals, chemicals or non combustable cartons.”  Said the droid.

“We hoped you could hook us up with some power.” Said Kendal to the last in line; a huge grey droid with Feed me anything stencilled across his chest.

“We ain’t selling and you ain’t buying.”

“Please, we’re like you.” I said.

“I could get repaired just for talking to you, besides this ain’t a revolution.” He pulled at his wires. “This is a way of life.” Feed me anything started to move off.

“We’re both operating off the grid, can’t we get a little support?” Said Kendal standing in his way.

“Off, on, it doesn’t make much difference. You and me we’re just pixels in a picture that’s constantly changing, glow whatever colour takes your fancy, you’re only ever be a glitch in the system.”  Kendal stepped back and Refuse tore on down the street. We checked our power meters.

“You’re on two per cent, take my cardiac unit,” said Kendal.

“Take your heart and live for another five minutes, your love is creating some sort of digital disease inside your brain.”

“What if it was full, who knows how long you could live for.”

“Can we think of how we are going to survive?” I said.

“There’s power in the booth.” Kendal motioned towards the monorail booth that stood outside the block.

“Offline, unbugged power?” I asked.

“Can’t reach anywhere else in the next five minutes.” Kendal said striding towards the monorail.

 

We climbed out horizontally along the 50m metal girders that shot out from the street to the monorail track where the Cargo carriages rode their rider less circuit around the outskirts of the city. We dropped into the repair booth and walked towards the charging unit. The only sound was the dull approaching hum of the Cargo carriage. I unhinged my cord and connected; the charging unit glowed and hummed. Then the alarm sounded, the entrance door slammed shut and red bugs dropped out of the ceiling.

 

The booth shook as the Cargo carriage thundered past. Kendal shot me a glance and I jumped straight towards him, grabbing him round the mid rift and bundling him towards the window. We smashed into the glass at speed and hurtled outwards overshooting the Cargo carriage. I threw out my power cable as we dropped through the air. The cable curled around the haulage bar that stuck out at the back of the carriage. We hung there for a second and then I pulled us slowly in.  The carriage roared away from the bugs and the sound of the alarm faded into the distance.

 

I wondered how long I had left and whether this was one of my last thoughts, I turned to ask Kendal to check my power meter, but he was gone. As if in answer to my question, I saw the blinking of the red bugs as they worked their way towards us along the track. A red blur, their spindly legs whirred faster than we were moving. Looking down the carriage and towards the rear, I saw Kendal had dismantled his shoulder unit and had passed it through a narrow hatch into the fuselage enabling him to disappear inside.  I climbed down along the carriage until I could grasp the handle of the hatch; it was closed. Staring through a small glass window, I could see Kendal was plugged into the power supply.

“We need to go!” I shouted. Kendal pointed to me and then pointed ahead of me. Along the track and fast approaching there was a garbage chute attached to the next repair booth. Behind me the bugs launched themselves onto the carriage. I turned back to shout at Kendal again but found the hatch open, out of it sprouted Kendal’s arm, his cardiac unit grasped in his hand.

“Kendal!” I yelled and tugged at him, but there was no response. The booth with the garbage chute sped towards us. The blinking red bugs crept towards me. I grabbed the cardiac unit and jumped. I hit the chute dead centre and dropped into the void.

 

The bugs did not follow me down, it seemed to me the policy of the authorities was out of sight out of mind. That suited me fine, I would not be leaving the lower levels. For want of another way to describe it, I was content. Maybe it was because I had stopped looking at my power meter, counting the minutes and had just decided to wander, a strange thing for a machine to do, but I am at peace alone amongst the decay. It all seems so familiar this landscape, the disused factories and the huge obsolescent machines, it feels like home.

 

 

 

 

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