Pitbull turned around from the driver seat, his face contorted in concern. “I’m hearing that Mac might be fully bionic. Am I wrong?”
“Guys… I think this is a little beyond cybernetics at this point. I think we are in Siri territory, what with the intentionally disguised tissue and organs.” Pacoy sounded honestly scared and turned to Siri with a near whisper, “Seranya, you wouldn’t happen to know your primary serial number off-hand, would you?” Seranya squeezed Mac’s hand, smiling a little bit as she looked up at Pacoy. “My chassis’s original serial number was P52-SF-84901-A-1, but it was reset to X1-G-14-SB-3 when I was refurbished after an accident. I have parts labeled with both.”
My eyes began to glaze over as their voices drifted in and out of focus like leaves spinning idly in the midst of a tornado – words, full of meaning, implication, emotion, meaning nothing. Bionic? In a world where limb replacement and augmentation is the norm, that word had a place. But not in my world. Twists, slugs, and roscoes – that’s what I lived my life dealing with. The first you could never get enough of, but all three of them were equally dangerous. But they were all things you could wrap your mind around. But Pacoy is great with ‘bots… he wouldn’t make a mistake on that scale. If it’s true…
I felt my thoughts drifting in and out of the conversation inside the transport, whole paragraphs and stories playing out in my head in vivid detail, in higher resolutions than the Old Ones my clave styled themselves after would have ever dreamed. Huh… Dreams. It was all starting to coalesce in my head, like water droplets slowly gathering after a spring rainstorm on a leaf, bending the stem until gravity released them all in a deluge. Everything seemed to fit – the inability to sleep, was that a lack of need? The enormous quantities of food? My reactions? I felt the memories rapidly playing back through my mind’s eye – was it a mind, or something lesser? – every time I got the drop on assailant, every improbable stroke of luck or shot I ever took. Even I had trouble believing a human could be that quick. But then again, if I wasn’t human, was it really so strange?
If I’m not human, though, what am I? Some computer subroutine, a series of preprogrammed actions? But how do you get a computer to deal with the fact that one of your best friends is a wrench who creeps on dames to get his jollies? That your other best friend just tried to patch your back up and read your serial number instead of stitching you up with catgut? Or that the other one just put down one of his darkest demons? Surely, nothing that was just a computer could process all of that and make sense of it. Although I am having trouble making sense of it. That’s not a good sign. Then again, my reflexes have saved my life more times than I can count – is it a bad thing? I remember hearing minute sounds of the shaped charge that was detonating beneath my foot, building up an image in my mind microseconds at a time – I’m convinced that was what allowed me to fling myself towards relative safety. I’ll never forget those sounds for as long as I live. Or until they get deleted, I guess…
I felt my brain winding down, like some clockwork automaton, as my friend’s banter began to filter back up to speed, no longer sounding like it was coming from millions of years away. Wormie began to smile again. “Chill, my friend. It’ll come. In the meantime, take some time to feel deep burning embarrassment at all the ‘androids are or are not people’ debates you and Pacoy have had.”
Hearing Worm say exactly what he was thinking, Pacoy’s defense mechanism finally kicks in, “Nope, Worm all of that stands.” He grins ear to ear “When we get home, start divvying up his stuff. Who calls dibs on Anita?”
I felt my pupils dilate wide open, defocussing from the world as Anita’s name echoed in the cavern of my mind. Anita Borokov. My own little mystery. How would she take the news? Would she leave? Feel lied to? I admit, I feel lied to, and I haven’t changed. Have I? Everything about me is a fabrication, isn’t it? My spine, my skin, my voice. But… her voice isn’t her own, either. Does that make every word she has ever said false? That’s absurd.
But what about our future? Am I going to have to ask Pacoy to design little children for us? Is she going to stand by my side if this ever goes public and I have to flee? How much would I be worth to the right buyer? How long could I run? It’s not like I need to sleep. Surely I couldn’t drag the ‘runners into it – Wormwood’s been through too much trauma, Pitbull’s just ready to put his life back together, and Pacoy is playing at being a legitimate businessman. I can’t ask them to endanger that if someone tries to throw me in a chop shop like a hot-wired streetcar.
Even worse, what’s coming up? Who was that man in the photograph – the man I was modeled after? How is this going to end? I forced myself to slow down – that much thinking, that quickly, couldn’t be good for my brain. Or hardware. Or CPU – I really need to sit down with Pacoy and have him teach me some of his mumbo jumbo if I’m to start tossing this terminology around.
Wormwood stifles giggles and says, as seriously as he can, “Mac, brother. It’s like Able and his forgotten past, yeah? We’re a team, we’ll help you if you want to find out. My personal promise on that.”