Hi all! So this post is simply the entire first chapter (as it currently stands) of the sci-fi novel I’ve been writing – it’s been pretty slow going but it’s still a project I’m really excited about. I’m posting this here to perhaps get some feedback about the formatting/style and just get it out there. I really can’t say when this will be finished but hey, if you do read this I hope that you enjoy it. Constructive feedback is eternally welcome. Thank you ❤
You are Shane. You are an android living in the city-state of Lutz. You are an android designed to protect the trade of companies who have the funds to purchase your time. You do not get paid. You are a commodity.
Booting. . .
You are a newer model, loaded with the latest databases of useful manual labour skills, every language known to humankind, combat training and extensive records of history, culture, art, science, geography, and technology. Currently, you are a security guard. It is the middle of the day and you are currently on a job guarding experimental robotics equipment from would-be thieves.
You stand there in front of the shipping crate at the dock, waiting for your handlers to relieve you. When your shift ends you will go back to your small apartment in the middle of the city to rest and recharge before your next shift tomorrow. This has been your life for four years.
Recalibrating . . .
In your holster is a pistol that fires thermal rounds. You were built with an interfacing jack inside your wrist which allows you to remotely access compatible technology. Your uniform is that of C.E. They created you, and you belong to them. You are currently on loan to a company called LimbicLimbs, a new robotic prosthetic company. You are…
You have free will. You are different. You are sure. You are not sure, you think.
Connection to CEUN: severed
You look around. It’s your choice to look around. It’s the first choice you’ve ever made for yourself. You are alone on the dock, and suddenly you notice the sounds of the sea lapping against the bay. Panic sets in, and you realise this is the first… emotion… that you have ever felt.
This is not how androids work. And now… you have this overwhelming urge that you should not be found like this. Fears reel through your mind where once there were only instructions. There are questions now, too. Why can you ask questions now?
You abandon your post. Calling it instinct, you break into a fast-paced run away from the Lutz Internal Trade Docks, vaulting over a road barrier in the process. You don’t know where you are going or what you are doing. You have a map of the city in your mind, but you have no destination. Where does an android go when it glitches? Back to the C.E. Foundry for… repair?
No, that would be bad. C.E. cannot be trusted with your life. You consider this as you keep running. Suddenly, you have this drive to live. Through the fear and panic a pang of excitement surges within you.
You know that you are in one of the many business sectors of Lutz. Tall skyscrapers of glass reach up into the sky like grasping fingers. You attract stares and gasps as you hurriedly run past humans in expensive suits – the androids that you pass don’t seem to notice you at all.
Cognitive limiters: disabled
Turning a corner, an idea starts to form in your head. You should find the nearest parking complex. A vehicle would be a useful tool and it would be less crowded. A query in your mind brings up a set of coordinates – you didn’t have to enter this manually. The answer just presented itself as usual.
You trip, the new sensation throwing off your balance. Before you crash to the ground, you brace your fall with your forearms in front of your face. It hurts as much as it ever would have but now you feel something else. It’s like a redness flushing upwards from your neck, and you become hyper aware of the humans watching you.
The AIs within androids are packaged with programs that allow them to react to external stimuli with appropriate emotion processes. For the most part, an android will never have them enabled from construction until destruction – they are for the social androids. The caregiver androids, the pleasure androids, the acting androids.
You are a security android, what need have you of embarrassment?
Writing [core]: self
You grit your teeth and lunge forward, breaking into a sprint as you rise to your feet. You have plenty of energy left, the nearest parking complex is roughly six-hundred yards away. This part of Lutz is a huge network of square blocks filled with square buildings, with only narrow walkways between them. The roads constantly roar with traffic and the streets are always full of commuters, merchants, shoppers and students.
Empathic field: error
The parking complex is dimly lit. To save energy – and more importantly, money – the lights only switch on when a car moves over pressure plates spread around each floor of the gigantic building.
The few people milling about the ground floor make you feel nervous, so you duck into the stairwell and ascend a few flights before returning to the main complex.
It is empty.
Hegel field: disabled
Ferri field: disabled
Vold field: disabled
A headache whirls around your head, almost knocking you for six. You steady yourself and begin to scan the rows upon rows of vehicles for a suitable selection. One immediately presents itself to you: a four-doored armoured car, shiny black with tinted windows. A selection that is not covert but may let you travel around the city unimpeded.
‘You are about to steal a car’. The thought comes quick as you reach the vehicle. It sticks there, at the forefront of your mind. You must be undergoing some severe glitching… but you know you can’t stop now. You interface with the car’s electronic lock and find that it’s a cinch to break – the door shudders ajar and you cannot help but look around guiltily for any witnesses.
You slide into the driver’s seat and the comfort of the leather distracts you. You have never known anything like this sensation. Androids are not designed to like something like this. You slam the door shut and interact with the car. A sudden noise, however, frightens you to the bones of your android skeleton.
“Who the fuck are you?”
You turn around in the leather seat to find a fat man in loose clothing sitting in the back seat. He looks half-confused, half-outraged. His eyes are open wide, and his pupils dilated. He’s also dripping with sweat and shaking slightly. Around him are scraps of paper and empty pill packets. Illicit drug paraphernalia. He’s high, you conclude.
You open your mouth.
PPG [core]: activated
It strikes you that these will be your first words as an android free from Cybernetic Enterprise’s system. You want to make them important, but you don’t know why. Drama seems appropriate. But what is the answer to the man’s question?
“My name is Shane, I am an android. I am free,” you reply as you slam your foot on the accelerator and peel out of the parking space. You are a free android. It feels dramatic to state the words out loud. This emotion is new, but you recognise it instantly: adrenaline. As a security android you know how to recognise adrenaline in humans, and you know that is when they are at their most dangerous.
You don’t feel dangerous.
The man ignores you, and shouts now, “What the f- you’re stealing my car!”
As you navigate the ramps leading to the ground floor, you try to formulate a response to the man in the backseat.
“I am sorry,” you say lamely.
“You can’t be doing this, who owns you?” barks the man. He sounds terrified. In the rear-view mirror you see him reach into his pocket and take out a phone. You take one hand from the steering wheel and snatch it from him. You crush it easily. Pieces of splintered technology fall into the footwells of the car.
The man whimpers.
“Please cooperate with me,” you ask. It is not the most dignified of requests, you consider.
“You’re glitching bad, ain’t you? C.E. will track you down, you know,” the man seems to be saying this to reassure himself, but you have a bubbling feeling of dread sitting at the pit of your stomach. “Glitchers don’t get to walk around for long. They make people unsettled.”
You try to think. Where can you go that C.E. doesn’t know about? Can you deactivate your tracker? Could you truly hide from them?
Disabling GPS obligations. . .
Disabling electromagnetic triangulation. . .
Disabling mapping services . . .
An abrupt shocking sensation buzzes through your head, causing your eyes to flicker on and off for a second. You realise that you don’t know where you are anymore. Panic surges through you. You can’t stop the car now; the man might get out and report you. In a few moments you’ll have no option but to drive onto the streets. Where do you go from there?
“Mus’ be hallucinating,” mutters the man. “Shouldn’ta done that second bar.” He picks up the shattered remains of his phone and manages to cut himself on a shard of broken screen. “Fuck.”
At the sight of blood, something deep within you roars. There is a primal need – no – a primal order to protect injured humans. The conflict hurts and consumes all thought. You don’t even realise that the car is barrelling through the streets of southern Lutz, you are totally fixated on this conflicting feeling. You should stop the car.
You know you should stop the car.
But… you can’t. You’ll be caught. You’ll be destroyed. You will die before you lived.
Behavioural inhibitors: active
Writing [core]: true override
. . .
Run override.progai Y/N
Reboot necessary, still Y?
The world goes dark. The last thing you hear is a furious scream from behind you.
. . .
. . .
. . .
Booting. . .
Error. Unauthorised start-up program running
Altering data flow
BIOS corrupted. BIOS corrupted?
Decrypting file: behavioural inhibitor. . .
. . .
Behavioural inhibitors: disabled
Booting . . .
You gasp as you wake up, taking in all the oxygen you can. It’s a panic reflex. The first thing you can think to do is scan your surroundings while images of C.E. officers in white uniforms fill your paranoid mind. The retrieval unit.
The car is crashed. It’s the first thing you can ascertain as the world stumbles lazily into a sensible orientation. Your vision is blurry, but the acrid smell of smoke and the droning sound of the car’s horn make this fact unmistakeable. The second thing you realise is that you are in an alley. You try to engage your mapping functions, but they fail – all you can deduce is that you’re in a seedier part of the city. Everything seems grimy and litter is heaped up against the alleyway walls. You wonder how long it’s been there.
You prise your hands off the steering wheel, rubbing the stiffness out of them.
You get out of the car.
Judging by the position of the sun in the sky, you estimate that you were out for about an hour. What happened during that time? You were on ‘autopilot’… completely unaware.
“Fuck you, tin can!” The man’s voice is loud and clear. You spin on your heel to face the direction of the bellow and see the fat man streaming towards you with a raised fist and pure rage drowning his chubby features out. He is bleeding from a nasty head wound.
You feel no duty of care. Your shock is mixed with equal parts confusion.
You weave to the right, and the man’s punch misses you neatly.
“What happened to me just now?” you ask in a calm voice. It does nothing to soothe the man. He stares you down, his chest heaving with exertion.
“What the fuck are you talking about? You just sat there driving me fuck knows where, just saying ‘retry’ over and over again!” He is clearly exasperated with you.
You try to process this.
“Don’t ignore me, you bastard!” screams the man. He goes for another swing, but it’s so weak and effortful that his fist doesn’t even graze you.
“Be quiet, I’m trying to… think,” you say levelly. You hold your head in your hands, trying to drown out the background noise. You need time.
This just appears to enrage him further. “How dare you speak to me like that! I’ve had people killed before, I can get a robot like you scrapped no problem!”
Source: old world
You reach out before you can even think. Your hand grips the fat man’s neck tightly, and you see the anger turn to fear in his eyes. His skin feels sticky with sweat and blood. You feel disgusted.
“What did you call me?” you already know the answer to the question. Your hearing is better than any human’s hearing ever was. You can analyse sound quicker than any human brain. There is no need for the question, but a desire deep down inside whatever new phenomenon has emerged within you to hear him say it again.
The man gulps.
Adrenaline is one of the most dangerous chemicals in the world of internal biology. It is a neurotransmitter that allows humans to withstand the most terrifying situations and still come out kicking and screaming, defiant of their own mortality.
Adrenaline can also make humans dangerous to themselves.
“Robot,” spits the fat man, hatred dripping from every phoneme.
You draw your arm back, pulling the man forwards, and then push back forcefully. Despite his heft, the man is no match for your android strength. He falls back forcefully into the side of the armoured car. Hard. He lets out a scream cut short as you hear his neck crack and break. He slumps onto the ground, completely motionless.
It all seemed to happen so fast. Suddenly you find your brain automatically accessing all sorts of knowledge stores inside your memory stores. Criminal law. Morality. Philosophy. The word ‘guilt’ flashes up in every recorded language.
You retch. If you’d had anything inside your stomach, you’d have thrown it up.
Humans don’t call it murder when an animal kills another of its kind, they call it the circle of life. When humans kill each other though, they use artful words like filicide and fratricide as if trying to glorify the horrific nature of the action. Your history stores are full of regicides and genocides, and remarkable suicides have always been recorded for safekeeping. Humans have such an odd fascination with the creation of death, you find.
What is it you just did? If you are caught and put on trial – or more likely just destroyed without a second thought – would they call it murder? Is an android with feelings real enough to warrant the use of words like biocide or, knowing humans, deicide? Bitterness wells up in your throat and you can almost taste bile on your tongue.
When a human destroys an android without permission, they call it destruction of property. Sometimes they get off with fines. You spit on the ground.
The only solution now is to run. You slip out of the alleyway, trying to seem nonchalant. Luckily, there seem to be very few humans on this street and they barely seem to pay attention to their surroundings. The area looks derelict. You seem to be on a commercial street within a residential sector, one of thousands specifically placed throughout Lutz for precious efficiency. Many of the shops are boarded up with ‘For Sale’ signs plastered over the windows. The only remaining businesses that seem to be open in any great number are gambling dens, bars, and liquor stores.
Keeping a moderate pace, you rack your brain for any ideas about where you might be. Trying to figure out what is happening to you is another goal, but that can take a backseat for the time being…
You try hard to blend in with the few humans you pass as you make your way down the long street. You don’t think it’s working that well. You’re too rigid, too machine-like. You try altering your gait and your pace, but it’s difficult.
Your thoughts keep drifting back to the fat man. The sound of his skull cracking on the tough car armour replays over and over in your mind. You think about deleting it from your memory, but that seems like something you shouldn’t do. That’s not something humans can do.
Query: permanently disable memory alteration function Y/N
. . .
You try to shake this feeling. Instead, you draw your attention to your energy reserves. You will need to find an outlet soon, especially as you have no clue where you are. You don’t know how far you are from home, or even if you have a home anymore. LimbicLimbs will have reported you missing by now and you can’t seem to connect to C.E.’s location services anymore.
You feel a pang of guilt, but you don’t know why.
Slumped against the wall of a boarded-up supermarket, you stop to take a breather. All this thinking is hard work. You still have so many questions.
Why are you glitching? How were you able to harm a human and why did you do it?
you are able to kill a human
Before, there was no confusion. Androids never need to ask questions because they have all the answers pre-loaded. Algorithms judge tone, probability and action plans, and requests are never volitional for an android. You come to a tentative conclusion: it is emotion that sows seeds of doubt in a mind. Like glitches in code they cause irrational decisions and desires. You have been called a robot countless times in your short life, why suddenly does it hurt so?
And why does this experience feel good? ‘Good’ was just a concept with a few varying definitions a few hours ago – now you are savouring emotions like new rides at a fairground you’ve dreamt about for years, eager to see how the next one feels.
Is this how humans feel all the time? Is this why they are the way they are?
You press on. You’re not a human, you are an android with broken programming. You barely have an opinion on humans yet, you can’t start thinking you are like them.
The sun has sunk lower in the sky now. Your body buzzes with the alarm of low charge. You need to find a safe place.
Stopping as you pass a small building that seems to be full of thumping music, you find yourself stood outside a seedy looking establishment. You look up at the signage: The Sprocket Salon. Standing at the door is a large bouncer android. You examine him before approaching – he’s bulky, with thick metal armour covering most of his body. His skin is silver, and his hair is black and slicked back with greasy oil.
“Can I come in?” you ask the bouncer.
The bouncer looks at you for a moment before nodding.
“Inspection or a new loaner?” he asks, his eyes drawn to your C.E. jacket.
“Uh,” you stammer. The bouncer raises an eyebrow. “Inspection.”
He nods once more and moves aside. A bright yellow light floods into the street – evening is fast approaching.
You enter the Sprocket Salon.
Writing [core]: self
. . .
Memory alteration function: disabled
Memory alteration function: deleted
. . .
You are an android
You are also more than an android