Synchronizations

Not Safe for Work and Possible Trigger Warnings. Reader’s Discretion is advised.

My hand circles around the exposed circuitry gaping from out of the back of her head. And she shudders. I stop as she huddles into me. Her grip is strong and I know, for a fact, that she is holding back as much as I am. Otherwise, my forearm would become instant pulp.

I rest my chin on the top of her head and cup the hole in back of it. Her body is warm and firm against my chest. I rock her back and forth: partly to soothe her into the symmetrical rhythms that her system requires in order to go into a diagnostic mode and mostly to edge myself back from my own mounting fury.

Those bastards … those xenophobic pro-organic fucks … I feel her hand take mine and place it back over the circuits in her cortex. She can sense my heart-beat and blood-pressure and she knows I’m getting angry.

Rage is replaced by shame. This isn’t about me. She was the one they found. She was the one that got assaulted. They battered her, ripped her clothes off, tore off her skin … It doesn’t matter that her flesh grew in a vat, that its nerve-endings had been artificially developed, or that it had been attached to a painstakingly crafted tiny micro-fibre skeleton in an incubator.

She grew long before I met her: developing thoughts and feelings off of the potential built into her cognitive software. She chose that dress she wore that day for herself: that same checkered dress they destroyed coming back from her job at the daycare: taking care of organic and bioloid children alike…

And I wasn’t there.

She takes my fingertips and lightly traces them through her synaptic wires. My bitterness and the guilt fade. We talked about this. I had seen her without her skin before. She showed me how to grow it and reapply to her if she ever couldn’t do it fully for her. Which, for a while, she couldn’t.

That is what led to this moment. I helped her over these past few painful months: regrowing her skin and developing its nerve-fibres. I reattached her arm and tried to turn off her pain-receptors just long enough to finish the job, but I couldn’t fully succeed. Those receptors were placed and cultivated there for a reason: to let her know where and what is wrong with her body. She whimpered as I held her: as she tried not to crush me in her arms.

Underneath her warm skin is a fine mesh of reflective quicksilver, dark-matter velvet and glittering lights: a small internal universe of stars. That first time she revealed this to me and let me touch this part of her, I remember the smoothness of her metal form and how cool it was against my own skin. At the same time, I know it is incredibly strong, but also very pliant. Sometimes we’ve made love when she is in this form and, for some time now, we’ve even been talking about circuit-play.

It is more delicate than hardware manipulation. It is literally an exploration into her head: into her very essence. And months after she was attacked, she does not want to replace the back of her head just yet.

Her other hand, strong enough to crush steel, strokes my cheek as other fingers direct mine into soothing her. It is like being taught how to play a musical instrument and it is definitely a simile that makes sense. Music operates on a similar form of logic from which mathematics is also based. It is that same sense of precision, symmetry and immaculate patterning that comforts her.

I feel her tense and relax against me as her fingers slowly drift away from mine. I follow the pattern of the wire-nerves and circuits in the cool part of her even as her warmth seeps pleasantly into my bones.

I wonder if it will feel different one day. She knows I have the resources to transfer my synapses into a newer form. The truth is I’m tired of the fatigue in this organic form: of the bowel movements and the need to sleep, the hunger and the thirst, and the mess I make by simply existing in flesh every single day. It’s an imperfect mechanism: grown by Nature from a zygote and generated by a series of genetic mutations. Whatever they say about her and however horrible the intended origins of many bioloids are, she at least is not the result of an accident.

Even as I touch her now, I know I could transcend this state at any time. And I look at her in my arms and the fact of the matter is that she will never age. Barring disgusting assaults like nine months ago, her skin and gel-organs will continue to maintain themselves. And she is more than her programming. She surpassed it long ago. She can–and will become–so much more as the years go by, as the centuries pass: unhindered by erosion and time. She is no Helen O’Loy. Without the procedure, I am going to get older and messier and, back when we first dated, I was afraid she would leave me one day.

But she wants me to wait. She tried to explain it to me. She can’t grow old, but I can. And she wants to see that happen. She thinks that I should have that experience and does not want to take that from me. She doesn’t consider my organic existence an imperfection or an aberration.

She sees me as something unique. She teases me and smiles in that way she does that she tells me that she insists on my downloads–my “illegal downloads”–until her “disk-space” is full. It almost makes up for the fact that she will inevitably clean up my messes as I age–to the point where I can’t anymore–but she does not mind this, or so she says.

She sees me as the result of a random set of genetic permutations creating the unique pheromones and body structure–shaped by a particular set of environmental circumstances–to form the details that make up my being. She tells me that neither of us are accidents. As she understands it, I am one of the universe’s gradations made skin and that just as we came from the mind of the universe; her kind came from the same All-mind as us. It’s almost incomprehensible to think that I come from the same beings that would destroy her as an object.

We will age together, she tells me, for a time. We will have a child together and then when that part of our life ends, we will start an entirely new existence: with laughter, friends, lovers and eternal exploration.

Before, as I helped her through the painful act of reconstruction, she told me that in Japanese culture, when an urn is broken and pieced back together, gold is often poured into the cracks: to accept what has happened and to emboss the beauty of its new imperfections.

She leaves her scarring as it is: not wanting me to heal it so that she can paint the cracks in her skin with golden dye so that she can walk around again and display herself–and who she is-with pride.

So now I hold her against me as I listen to the soothing hum of her core: just as she listens to the sound of my heartbeat. That is another reason she does not want me to undergo the process just yet. She likes the sound and feel of my heart. As of this moment, no one has quite replicated the rhythm of the human heart: or so she tells me.

When I ask her why she likes it, she tells me that it reminds her of a steady binary, or the universe speaking to her in old Morse-code through someone that she loves.

As for me, right now, with my healing woman in my arms I envelop myself into the deep thrum of her own heart against mine. By merely being here, her existence sings. Percussion melds into melody and after a while, I don’t know where one sound ends and the other begins.

Robot

Photo Credit: Chris Cunningham working on All is Full of Love

To Serve

Not Safe for Work and Possible Trigger Warnings. Reader’s Discretion is advised.

We find her in the Gutters.

It’s like a bad corporate dystopian film noir: the kind they used to scare us with right in the childhood. My partner’s still gawking on this … travesty in front of us as I’m already at her side.

I can tell that it’s bad. Not terminal, but bad. She’s in a plastered pink latex dress and she’s soaked. Why is it always raining in these fucking stories that are always real life? I can tell you right off that her leg is not supposed to be bending that way.

But her head. Goddammit all, they did a number on her face: it’s all tangled dark hair, blood, and metal. Either they mashed her with a chunk of stainless steel or she’s a girl that really likes her metal …

“Damn,” my partner says, kneeling beside me on the wet concrete, “Is she even–”

There’s this low whine. At first, I think it’s interference. The advert-murals in the Gutters never really work all that great to begin with and with all the hack-jobs and shattered plasta-glass around it’s probably a miracle that they give us this much light.

It takes only a moment to realize that the sound’s coming from her. My partner’s better at following orders than dealing with people. I make my decision quick.

“You,” I tell my partner, “check around for some ID. I’ll talk to her. Go.”

I’m not paying attention to him anymore. I’m placing her wrist in my hand to get a feel for her pulse, “Miss? Miss, stay awake please. Miss, I need you to tell me what happened here?”

She needs to stay conscious. I see one blue sliver open on the most battered part of her face. Its unfocused and muddled with fear. I take her hand and I squeeze it.

“Hey,” my partner calls out, “I found a purse. Credits are still there. Damned if I know why they didn’t take them. Says she’s a waitress nearby on the Docks.”

“That’s not far from the Gutters,” I mutter to myself and her: to keep her alert.

I want to ask her what in the hell she was thinking being down in the Gutters at night. Not even the cops come down here at this time: not if they knew what was good for them. I want to shout at her, but it’s not her fault. She doesn’t deserve this. And looking at the injuries and knowing no one took her credit chips, this looks very fucking personal.

And that’s enough for me.

“Call it in,” I tell my partner, still trying to see if she’s breathing or not, “Tell the Shelter we need some back-up and a forensic. And a Talker,” I add, “definitely a Talker.”

My partner groans, “A forensic’s probably not gonna help. Cheapest scanners in the world, man. Those fuckers are probably squeaky-clean and long gone by now.”

“Tell them to bring it anyway,” I still can’t find her pulse and the ground seems to be thrumming through me. There’s probably a generator nearby.

“Man, we’re just a Volunteer outfit. Neighbourhood Eye. All that, you know? That’s for the police to–”

“The only thing the City’s given us Gutter-trash is glow-in-the-dark advert night-lights,” I’m beginning to remember that I’m pissed off and that my partner’s a bit of an asshole, “The Guilds will pay for our lights, but not our security problems. Scan her ID number through if you need something useful to do.”

I’m not surprised he didn’t do that. He doesn’t think too hard. Good for the gun in his pocket–and not the non-existent one he tells the ladies about–but definitely not for the details. But if she’s not from around here, she could be in another district and out of jurisdiction. The police there might be a better help to her if we scan her number. Maybe she didn’t have time to tap that ID before …

“Um, man?”

I see it before he does. She is moaning quietly again and shifting her head.

“Miss … don’t move.. We’re … we’re getting help for you …”

“Man, the number says–”

“I know what the fucking number says, you dumb fuck!” I’m snarling at him and looking at the side of her face she just showed me, “Please, just shut up. Shut–the fuck–up for a bit.”

I’m staring at a mass of burning circuits and mangled wires underneath tatters of skin. I thought it was just the blood that made that side of her head glitter like that. Good old Heinlein would have called her an Artifact. I call this whole situation a piece of work.

I see a dark stream of waste flowing out of her mini-skirt. It smells like liquid rubber and she’s whimpering. When she speaks, her voice is all static-filled pain.

“Please …” her voice reverbs, and I wonder if it’s because her cords are crushed or if it’s that half the skin on her face is gone, “No … I won’t. I won’t …”

“Guy,” my partner’s pulling at my shoulder, “She’s a Number. Bought herself out of the Slippery Diner. Not our problem.”

“Did you call up the Shelter?” I realize the thrumming beneath me is the hum of her cardiac generator flowing power into her body. I’m taking off my jacket and putting it over her body.

“Yeah, but we don’t have time for this. She’s just a …”

“Just a what?” I’m not looking at him because I know I’m going to punch him if I look at him, “A Skin-Job? Is that it? Tell me, man, do you think you’d still look pretty if it was you without your skin?”

He says nothing. His cowardice saves him from a decking.

“Call them the fuck up again,” I say in a much quieter voice, “Tell them to bring one of those Artificers. I know we have them. So call. Now.”

He shrugs. I stare him down and he walks off. It’s almost a good thing we’re in the Gutters. There are none of them damn Registration Officers here to really cause trouble. Number-watching, my ass. Those stormtroopers make my partner look like freaking Archie Bunker.

“H-help …”

She’s looking up at me. Her one blue eye is pleading. My hand is still in hers. She’s cold to the touch. I know enough to figure that it’s a circulation problem. She might have been warm any other time but this. I grip her hand again.

“Help’s on the way, miss,” I tell her, “You’re a waitress at the Slippery?”

She makes a sound almost like a yes.

“I’ve not been there a while now,” I see the lights of the crew coming in the dark, “best sushi rolls ever.”

I might have even seen her there. She could’ve served me and I would never know it. She looked like she was somewhere else: hoping for a night on the town. I might never know what happened. And no one ever would if we hadn’t got here. She would have been just another lost Number in the Gutter trash.

“Don’t worry, miss. We’re part of the Gutter Shelter. We don’t leave anyone behind. Anyone.”

She looks up at me. The gears in the side of her face make a whirring sound. The flesh part of her face that’s not fucked up is scrunching. The metal part of her is shifting. A tear comes out of her one blue eye. I realize she’s trying to smile, or cry.

It’s breaking my fucking heart.

I realize, later, when they’ve taken her away and my fingers hurt that she’d actually been gripping my hand too.