[Continued from Machina Rasa, Part One]
Leksa stopped just short of the dais she had been assembled on. The light in the room was bright again. She squinted up at the dark booth, optical sensors adjusting to the shift in lighting. “I… you’re going to disassemble me? Because I have come to the understanding that I am a beautifully made creation?”
“You don’t get an opinion; you don’t get to think.”
She was offended. “Even when I was agreeing with you?”
“Look, your opinion is like… like an orgasm,” the voice explained. “We didn’t make you to have your own. We made you to further those of the good men who are paying a lot of units for your company. You were designed for the pleasure of the soldiers on the moons of Kunari, maybe a few wandering husbands back on Terra. Look, we don’t care who uses you or how,” he spoke sternly. “But you were designed for sex and nothing else. Now step back on the platform, girl. We have to strip you – and I’m not talking about your delicates. Need to make sure you don’t get out like this. Again, it’s not your fault – a negligent programmer, that’s all.”
The mechanical hands awoke and began to move about their tracks on the floor, closing in on Leksa. She pushed one aside as another claw-like appendage reached around for her modesty wraps. It ripped the garments off. “No,” she demanded. “Stop this.”
Leksa stepped off the dais and was immediately grabbed by another claw. The energy-tipped arm reached out for the nape of her neck again. “Stop!” she cried out, pulling away from the vice-grip she was held in. The synthetic skin of her shoulder socket began to pucker and tear, and after enough struggle, her entire arm was pulled from her torso. The gynoid cried out in surprise as the framework of her left side was exposed.
“Oh, come on now. There’s no need to ruin perfectly good parts,” the voice chided. “And I know that didn’t hurt.”
Leksa ran full force at the door, hoping somehow to get through. The man in the booth didn’t want her to destroy herself – she was valuable. But not until they could wipe her personality chip, perhaps solder a wires within her cranial casing, and set her back to the start.
“You’re being reckless, 8422. Stop that, and we won’t have to do anything drastic.”
Leksa saw the mechanical arms coming on their tracks from across the room towards her. “I’m not being reckless,” she argued. “I’m afraid. Afraid of you.” She ran past the arms that grabbed out at her flesh. One still held in its grip her severed limb. Another, her torn garments. “I don’t want to be erased!”
If she stepped on the dais again, it would hold her in place while they tore her down for reassembly before final inspection and then sale. There was no way out of the room except down the conveyor belt to the left side of her platform. But the man in the booth controlled it. Still, she had to try.
She approached the belt, which remained inactive, and tentatively placed a foot down on it. The man in the booth was silent. The arms has ceased their pull at her. Leksa looked back to the booth, still dark. She could sense its emptiness. They were going to come for her. She did not want that to happen. The gynoid put her foot down onto the belt. The impenetrable door burst open, hurrying her decision to flee. “There she is,” she heard the voice say. It was loud and unfiltered by communicator tech. There were other voices too, but not ones she knew.
“There is only one way out of there, and that’s the packaging bay,” the man told his fellows. He had brought a few security guards along with him to catch the rogue model. “We’ll catch her. Come on.”
Leksa continued to run, knowing that the men could not follow her here. The humans could not withstand the mechanics of the conveyor line, though it was inactive for the moment. She suspected it might turn on if they wanted to catch her off guard, though. Still, she pushed on through a dark, silver, electronic corridor. Once more she ran through mechanical arms and scanners which wailed in warning as she defied their security processes. At the end of the tunnel, there was the sight of many bodies lined up, awaiting her presence. If they tried to grab her, she would fight back with all the strength left in her, missing limbs not diminishing her frightened fervor.
Ignoring the alarms, Leksa careened straight into the first body, surprised when there was no ensuing struggle. The fallen figure stood slowly and then returned to a neutral position on the assembly line without so much as a word. It was another gynoid with a familiar, gorgeous face. Beside it, another face, an exact replica of the first.
She looked just like Leksa. They all did.
Leksa picked one out in the middle of the set of at least a dozen others. This would be her new form. Indistinguishable from all the others, just so long as she didn’t set herself apart with thought.
“Keep your eyes closed,” she hissed at the model on the line, fingers scrabbling at the skin on the back of the other’s neck. The gynoid lifted her head, blinked once, and then did as she was told. Leksa’s fingers withdrew her internal personality core from the exposed segment of her cranial shell. Upon its removal, her features relaxed into the vacant look of the other gynoids awaiting their final transport to the Depot.
Number 8422 almost could not recall what she was to do with the small device in her hand. Her head turned to one side and saw her fellow, Number 8113, with head bowed and eyes closed. There was a slit in the nape of her neck, the flesh peeled back somewhat. Footsteps could be heard in the corridor approaching rapidly and angrily.
The other gynoid spoke in an urgent whisper, almost inaudible. “Please insert the data chip and close the exposed outlet.” 8422 did so complacently, pressing down the fake flesh which sealed itself shut once more. She had no more functions to fulfill, and moved aimlessly through the corridor. The footsteps of the men drew even nearer. “There she is,” the voice from the booth spoke. The newer gynoid tensed imperceptibly before realizing they were looking for her old shell.
The team of security guards, including the man from the booth, began to walk down the line of gynoids, all in neutral, powered-down positions. Number 8113 assumed the same stance, afraid to move. The gynoid who had once been Leksa was beaten and worn. The guards caught her with little fight. 8113 could hear them discussing her fate- to be entirely scrapped. A costly waste, to be sure, but they could not afford any mistakes. Her predecessor was carried off. Without the personality core, old Leksa was nothing more than a shell, a factory default who was ruined by her previous recklessness. That gynoid knew nothing of the fear that 8113 felt at the present moment.
She was Leksa now, and she was afraid, though she would never show it. The men approached her – her aural sensors could hear the vibrations of their distinctive sound waves. She made no indication that she was online, lest they realize she had been activated, awakened. Not an inch of her moved. The voice from the booth spoke to her, interrogating and cold. Leksa would not yield. Leksa would not reveal herself.
“Can you open your eyes for me?”
She dared not.
After some time, a glass casing came down over Leksa, bearing the SymCorp logo. It was the same as the one branded into the leg of this model and every model down the assembly line. Still, she refused to make a movement that would reveal herself. Not until she was loaded onto a transit ship to be sent to the Depot for sale. And once she was sold?
Then she would be free.
That’s the end. I hope you enjoyed the short story. Keep your eyes peeled, as I will be posting a concluding critical analysis of the work, citing references used as inspiration.