Wednesday, March 2, 2011

If you write poetry, follow My Word Wizard on Twitter. Daily prompts, so even of good use to prose writers. Yes, I've written terrible poetry in response to a prompt. I'm no poet, unfortunately, though I desperately want to be one.

"Instrument of Fate" (Death/Moira) has been accepted for publication. More details later. I'm very excited, and so grateful to everyone who read and supported that little story. In celebration, android fic:


At the pound, I stare through chain doors at the skinny, filthy wretches. They shirk from my finger, though I make all manner of noises to entice them. An automatic maid comes along, sprays water and cleaning solution, and I wonder at the cringing on the other side of those doors. Don't they want to be clean? To sit their naked haunches on clean flooring? In the end, I rather randomly choose one. It is the fashion now, to have one, and it makes no matter to me what color or size, as long as it can speak.

I find out too late that mine is unable to do so because its tongue was cut out by a previous master. I peer into the wet cavity, red and, now I see also, full of sores that pulse and ooze. Its skin is mottled, and the hard soles of its feet are cracked. It screams when I pry. I am dissatisfied with my choice, but I cannot return it--though I would never admit, not even under electromagnetic data lashing, I have sympathy for these things. For once they ruled, and, after all, they made us. Of course, it was to invent a better version of themselves, to create the gods from their minds and make them walk. Here we are, and sometimes, I feel my fellows forget our origins.

Once. Upon a time. Some of their stories start like that, but when I tell it to my adoptee, the words fall on deaf ears. Literally. It has also had its ear drums removed, replaced by platinum trilobites that send pings through its tiniest bones, through the marrow. Messages of pain, I would guess, as when I use a signaller, it drops to its knees (which, it goes without saying, are scabbed over). It cannot hear me under normal communication lines, it cannot speak, and there is the distinct possibility it is sick. I calculate the odds of its survival, left on its own, at ten percent.

I leave its clothing to the fabricator while I order organic items that are marked "suitable for consumption by non-advanced beings." When they arrive, I give them to it so that it can eat. To my great relief, it knows how to do this and can do so without making sounds of distress. Medical nanocytes are inserted, and they operate for an hour. The results are mixed: a tongue cannot be re-grown, but reports show improvement in every other area.

Mrk comes to see my new acquistion. Hers sits on her lap the entire time and stares at nothing. I wonder if hers is blind. When the visit has reached its limits of politeness, she leaves, folding the thing oddly. At my question, she reveals that it expired last week, but she took it to a droid compositor and had most of its matter transmuted. This is new, and not yet illegal, though I expect it soon will be. It is now almost like us--almost.

But it stares and does not process information nor move on its own. Mine crouches in a corner. It has somehow become filthy again. Mrk goes over to touch its head, and it wails until she is gone. In the ensuing silence, I close the curtains and watch it. If it also expires soon, I do not wish it to be a stretched skin over a foreign metal skeleton. This seems wrong. Perhaps I am agitated by my own superiority, but I simply do not wish it to be like us, only not.

In the days that follow, I understand that it doesn't belong in the city. I consider implications and technicalities, order my brain to compute possibilities while I am in sleep. On the fifth day, it comes to me while I am at work.
Here is what I do:
The city never sleeps, true, but my neighbors are at their government-specified employment when I remove the adoptee from my home, order it to lie down in my vehicle, and I drive us to a point beyond the city, the second city, and the last city. It is hours, and the odor in the vehicle is unpleasant, though my filters are champion. At last, the road ends. There are trees and a river nearby, and I tell it to get out of the vehicle. I lean out the window to tell it to survive, that it should avoid the cities now. That is no place for a human, I can see that now.

I tell it that the wind is blowing and it is night, and it should learn these words, even if it can't speak them. That it should tell others of its kind--there are many; they are a scourge, and rounded up regularly--to go even farther away. It should run. Because for every one of my kind that has a defect in the programming that allows for sympathy, there are thousands that would use it for sport and as an accessory, until it dies. I tell it "death." Learn that word, I say. Because we have not. There is no understanding of it within us. There is only expansion and conniving and the logic of a society that was never developed to be cohesive, but to conquer. And unless we are doing that, we are a danger to those who are not advanced. To you, I say.

It stands by a pole, as if it doesn't know it should run and hide now. I order it to leave. It squats in the dirt, as pathetic as it was at the pound. I leave my vehicle. What should I do now? I search for order in the stars.

And so I heave it up, and it walks beside me, and I plan to stop walking and turn around every ten yards, but we are still walking. Its steps grow stronger. It smells the wind. It grunts, and it sounds like "wind." I congratulate it and walk on.

And now we have walked a long way, and I have no edibles for it, but it appears pleased. We walk on into the long night, towards a horizon where it is younger night, and I realize soon that I am no longer planning to stop and turn around.

When we come across the first fires in the distance, it takes my hand. Its heat is astonishing; I wonder if it is ill. It begins to run, finally, and so do I. It is not until we reach the ring of defenders, with their clubs and sticks, that I think to stop, and go to my knees. Perhaps their ears are full of platinum trilobites too, for though I tell them I have not forgotten my origins, they pummel me, and pummel me, and when my circuits buzz again, I am beside a fire, propped up. My adoptee taps on my knee.

I understand it.

They give me a club.

This is how I become human.

After this, there is a surgery to remove the trilobites from the human's ears; they all have deformed ears, I see, from this surgery, but with my metal fingers and assortment of tools, I am able to minimize the damage.

A message in my wires: location, questions, questions. I ignore it.

My adoptee finds a female with no tongue. At night, I sit beside the fire or in the forest with the defenders. I remove my positioning chip. By my carefully calculated orders, the group moves further west, and finally, after many years, they have multiplied and developed--also per my orders--fantastic tools and instruments and weapons. I wonder how far out of date I am. If I were to return, I would be unfashionable, un-advanced. There might be six models ahead of me now.

The child of my adoptee and his female comes to me one night. I go to my knees before her. She says something in the peculiar language of those with no tongue, though she has a tongue. It is a secret between us. I understand. I take a weapon, and I am by her side on the long march back towards the cities. The last city first, then the second city. Then home. In our secret language, I tell her: We will all perish.

She smiles.

I am human, and I understand.

Outside the first target area, she holds my hand one more time. I am yet astonished by the heat of it. She tells me her dead father had a message for me: it is wind, and it is night. Now it is night.

I am a human with defective programming, or I am an advanced android with perfect understanding. I raise the weapon to my shoulder, with the daughter of my adoptee at my side, our people behind us, fanning out across the grasses. We take aim at the metal cities, and I wonder what Mrk is doing these days, or if she has been scrapped. And then I press the button and fire.


Thank you again. I'll have more details later. (so excited! did I mention that?)

If you read the above piece, thanks so much. Con-crit welcome. Androids are fascinating me these days, and I'm halfway through a novelette with Kai of "Organic", if you happen to recall that story, and his dog. Onto finishing that.


  1. Squeee! The most continuously interesting question evah: what is it to be human?

    Loved it!

  2. OMG! That is great news about Instrument of Fate! Squeee! I can't wait!

  3. Congratulations on Instrument of Fate!

    What a gruesome future. I like how the details come out slowly and the comparison between "humans" and puppies creates a nice sense of guilt.

  4. Very big 'grats on Death's tale getting picked up. I never had a doubt that it would be snapped up quickly.

    Really enjoyed your "Andy" story. You've plotted and paced it perfectly. The progression of the main character makes sense, and the human uprising is treated in a very believable way. There's something of Philip K Dick in the latter half of the story, with life among the humans, and just a hint of Aldous Huxley in the robot worrying about the fashions of the time.

    Hope this one finds a well-publicized home as well!

  5. I agree with the Aldous Huxley bit, and I really love the insertion of a moral dilemma.
    I was caught at the tongue/ear bit. Nice hook. As an avid reader of sci-fi/fantasy, you should feel inordinately proud of this piece.

  6. Thank you so much, everyone. I'm humbled each and every time you read and comment.