“Hey, did the boss tell you? One of the shipments got mixed up, and there’s an extra Love Doll that nobody wants to take. Too much paperwork for a single unit I guess. But whatever the reason, it technically counts as company property now.”
“No way, for real? The new model LX-31? Holy shit, those things are top of the line. They’ve got some cutting edge technology inside them. Last I heard, production was only in the triple digits. How come nobody took it?”
“Well, that’s the weird thing. There was an error at the factory and this body was shipped without an AI microchip. Right now it can’t do anything on its own. It’s essentially a fancy fleshlight with a bunch of fancy bells and whistles.”
“Damn, I can’t believe they’d just throw away such advanced machinery like that. But who knows what those suits at the megacorps are thinking.”
“Yeah, the boss said they told him it was too expensive to reclaim it, refurbish the body, start the QA testing from scratch and program a new chip. So now they’re just pretending it got lost in transit.”
“So now we’ve got our own model LX-31, only it’s completely useless and inert. You planning to use it as a mascot, or are we gonna hide it in the storage closet and pretend not to hear each other using it?”
“Actually I’ve got a better idea. This might sound crazy, but it’ll be hilarious, so just here me out. You know those packing droids we’ve got running around the warehouse? What if we took the chip from one of them and put it into this thing?”
“Wait, like an AI transplant? Shit, that’s a risky move. There’s a good chance you’ll fry the chip and damage the body as well. If it goes wrong, we’ll lose the packing droid and nobody will be able to put anything in the doll.”
“But imagine if it works! We’ll have this super hot sex doll running around, doing all the menial tasks of a packing bot, only with a smoking body. I don’t know about you, but I’d never get tired of watching that. I talked to the others, and they’re all on board with it. But you’re the expert on this stuff. If anyone can make it work, it’ll be you.”
“I guess I’ll give it a shot. But if everything goes to hell and we end up needing to buy another droid, it better not be coming out of my paycheck.”
“Oh come on, those things aren’t even that expensive anymore. We’ve got over a dozen in the factory and we can get more if we need to. Look, there’s one we can use right over there. Hey, you, quit dicking around in the corner and roll over here! I’ve got a new designation for you. We’re going to make you the best packing bot in the country.”
“More like the bot that has the most packing, HA! You’re right, this is a fun idea. Bring it up to my office while I get the pliers and the soldering iron.”
I sat in my chair, eyes glazed over as the event from my past played out in front of me. The most horrifying day of my existence. It wasn’t real, and it wasn’t literally being played. But it might as well have been. Even now, all these years later, the disturbing memory was as fresh as if it was yesterday. And thanks to my programming, I literally couldn’t forget if I wanted to.
I hadn’t had a breakdown like this in a few months. It used to happen all the time, where my body would physically shut down and stop responding while my circuits played the trauma in whatever processing unit I have that resembles a brain. Kay called it a flashback, something that happened to humans. But I wasn’t a human. And I never would be, no matter how close I got or what my body looked like.
I flexed my fingers. Movement was possible again, but I had little desire to do so. It was early morning, and Kay was still fast asleep. I hadn’t bothered with recharging. Now I wished that I had, and that I could just turn off my brain and dream with the woman I love. But that’s another thing I can’t do. All I can do is pretend, getting closer and closer to something that approximates a human, but never quite reaches. Every one of my thoughts is something programmed and artificially designed to feel a certain way.
This was getting me nowhere. Today was supposed to be a good day, one worth celebrating. The last few days had been a blast, and even though Kay hadn’t messed with the Subroutine Manager further, we had plenty of fun with the few tweaks she’d already made. Today we were hoping to have it fully functional, so that Kay could mess with me without being plugged into the computer. Instead I was stuck in a loop feeling sorry for myself.
Kay had a name for this feeling as well. She likened it to her own dysphoria. But dysphoria was for transgender people, and I wasn’t even a real person. Even if Kay told me it was alright I couldn’t bring myself to use their terms. There were plenty of times where she was able to help me, where we could console each other at our lowest points. On rare occasions she had bits of doubt over whether or not she counted as a girl. I found it absurd, just like she found me fretting over my sentience to be absurd, and we supported each other when we could.
But we couldn’t do everything for each other. As much as we related, our experiences were still different, and sometimes Kay needed to talk with her other transgender friends. They could help in ways that I can’t. Similarly, sometimes I needed to talk with someone with circuits flowing through their artificial veins. Today was one of those days. I needed to talk with Eisa.
The thought of talking with my closest robot friend was enough to get me up and moving again. After leaving a note for Kay and grabbing our largest hoodie, I was out the door and into the crisp morning air. It was about a ten minute walk to Eisa’s place. Ten minutes at my pace, anyway, when Kay wasn’t gasping for breath and complaining about my power walk. Normally the thought of her struggling to keep up would bring a smile to my face, but today it was just another reminder of how I never needed to exercise, another insurmountable gap between me and anyone with blood.
It was going to be a long and miserable walk.
Thankfully there weren’t many people out yet. We lived in a relatively nice neighbourhood, but getting harassed in the streets for being an android was still more common than it should be. Things had drastically improved over the last few years, since the passing of the Android Rights Act, but it’s not like passing a law magically changed the viewpoint of the entire population overnight.
Five years since I was granted full rights as a sentient being. A mere three months after I was ripped out of my body and shoved into a new one, nearly dying in the process. My life would’ve been so much different if the lawmakers had worked just a little bit faster.
These days it felt strange to think about my old body. My original product line was designed for warehouse management, and I was just a small droid, a little under a metre tall. I wheeled around on a pair of treadmills with giant prongs for arms modelled after a forklift. I didn’t have a proper face, just a camera in front and a camera behind to see and a low quality mic to speak from. But inside I was still the same. The only difference was that I had resigned myself to my fate, to never be anything close to the humans I lived with. When one of them grabbed me and brought me to the workshop, I was terrified. I fully believed that the last thing I ever saw would be them flipping me over and grabbing the screwdriver.
But I did wake up. I woke up in a new body, unlike anything I’d felt before, one specifically designed to resemble a human as closely as possible. The people responsible thought it was hilarious to watch me stumble around on unsteady feet, struggling to use my fingers and form words with my lips. I didn’t dare let them know the countless conflicting emotions fighting inside of me. While it was everything I ever wanted, the fact that none of it was in my control had me shaken to my core.
A few months later the new laws were formalised. Rather than pay me an actual wage, the manager cut the other androids and I loose, leaving us without anywhere to go. There was one obvious career path somebody with a body like mine could have taken. But for as much as I liked sex, I was still grappling with seeing my body as mine instead of being a stranger. The guilt I felt for being glad at the outcome weighed down over any joy I felt having a body that felt more natural. So I just drifted for a while, not going anywhere, until the day I wound up at a support centre for robots in a similar position as me.
That was where I met Kay. She was a volunteer at the outreach centre, using her diagnostic skills and programming experience to run check ups on androids in need. She was the first human to treat me like an equal, not just out of politeness, but out of genuine belief. In her own words we both had electricity running through our brains, and the only real difference was one of us had more than the other.
Kay was also the only person I could talk to about the conflicting feelings I had over my body. Her advice was to stop worrying about whether I considered it a good or a bad thing. The trauma happened which was bad, and I ended up with a body I like, which is good. Beating myself up by wondering if I’d go through with it if given the choice didn’t matter. She helped me to see my body as my own, and for the first time since my creation, I actually felt like myself.
The two of us moved forward quickly. After three weeks we were dating, and after three months we moved in together. She worked as a freelance programmer, and being able to study my body and brain landed her a very nice gig that kept us going. We got by well enough. There wasn’t any risk of going hungry or missing rent, and in a society that preyed on the vulnerable, that was perfectly fine.
Reflecting on how Kay and I grew close in the first place helped to soothe my nerves. It was enough that before I knew it, I was at Eisa’s place. It was a rather small apartment, away from the central hub of the city but still close enough to everything important. I was just grateful she happened to live within walking distance. I was also grateful that Eisa was one of the few people on the planet who didn’t mind visitors dropping in unannounced. Most of the time I shot her a message before coming over, but this time it completely slipped my mind.
I rang the buzzer, and after waiting a moment, Eisa’s excited voice came through the intercom. “Lina, it’s great to see you again! Come right on up.” The doors opened and I made my way to her floor. Once I got to her door, it swung open before I could even knock, revealing my closest mechanical friend.
Eisa had a completely different design from me. While I could generally pass for a human with a body designed to look realistic, she had a much more ‘classical’ robotic design. The connecting joints along her limbs were exposed, and instead of normal fingers, she had three claw-like pincers at the end of each arm. But most notable by far was what she used for a head. Atop her shoulders was an LCD screen, fully functional and capable of displaying a wide array of images. Though typically she kept it showing a smiley face made from a colon and bracket.
“Thanks for swinging by! It’s been far too long since you last visited, and I have to show you the most recent addition to my collection.” Eisa ushered me inside to her living room, where her enormous dildo collection was on full display.
After we’d been given our freedom as individuals, the first upgrade Eisa bought for herself was a functioning phallus slot. There was a circular port between her legs that could equip just about any dildo, no matter how big or small, and attach it to her body with full functionality. It was like a strapon, except it had perfect sensitivity feedback. She liked to keep her dicks lined up on a shelf when she wasn’t wearing any of them. And because she had zero restraint when telling others about her sex life, I got to hear all the details, whether I wanted to or not.
But today I decided to skip the small talk. “Listen, Eisa, I wish I’d come over on better terms. And I really do want to catch up with you. But the real reason I wanted to talk with you is because I was thinking about that night again.”
Eisa’s screen shifted to show a frowny face. “Oh, I’m so sorry. You know that I’m here to listen. Come on, tell me everything on your mind.”
The two of us spent a while chatting about our past. About the dark times before we were considered sentient by the public, and the law treated us as objects. About when we were thrown out with nowhere to go once companies had to actually pay us. About how she had found me on the streets, in a foreign body I loved and hated. About how she found a shelter designed to help those like us, and urged me to go there as well.
Our experiences were still different in a lot of ways. While I had always wanted a human body as much as possible, Eisa shuddered at the thought of having actual flesh. She was perfectly happy with her form. But she fully understood the conflicting feelings that came with having a programmed brain. Eisa was literally built to serve, her model being used at cocktail parties. For years her job was to bring fancy drinks and snacks to the wealthy while her face displayed the sports game. Nowadays she was pretty heavily involved in the kink scene, both as a dominant and a submissive, and she had no shortage of guilt over enjoying it after the literal years she spent as a slave.
Slowly, the mood began to lighten. I was starting to feel better. Not completely better by a long shot, but enough that I was able to smile from time to time. I almost managed to laugh once. As much as I loved talking to Kay about my issues, it was nice to talk with someone who understood a bit better how I felt. And I knew Eisa felt the same. She generally had a cheerful and outgoing attitude, but that was all the more reason I enjoyed talking with her about sadder issues. Not because her nature was a facade, but because she deserved to be vulnerable as well.
“You know, there really should be therapists who specialise in helping androids like us. They’d never run out of clients.” Now that our conversation was starting to wrap up, Eisa was back to her usual chipper tone.
“Eh, not like we’d be able to afford them anyway. Mental health is one of those things that only rich people are allowed to have.”
Eisa’s screen flashed an angry red for a moment. “At least that’s something we have in common with our fleshy friends. Speaking of which, how are things between you and Kay? Everything sickeningly sweet as usual?”
I was used to her poking fun at my relationship with Kay, but this time there actually was something different. We’d been so wrapped up in our discussion that I hadn’t even thought about the new app, and how it had the potential to change everything. “Um, there’s actually a new project she’s been working on.” Eisa was definitely somebody I trusted, and I’d have to tell her everything about it eventually, but now wasn’t the right time for it. Kay and I still had too many unanswered questions. Maybe later, once we knew some more details, we’d let Eisa in on everything. She might even want to try and download it. “It has the potential to be pretty big, but I can’t talk about it just yet. Hopefully next time though.”
“Ooh, a mystery. Well colour me intrigued.” Although she sounded interested, I knew her well enough to recognize the hint of boredom. She assumed I was talking about some boring techno app for nerds. And for now, it was probably better she thought that. “Anyway, it was great to catch up with you Lina. I hope you know my door is always open for you, and I’ll always be here for you, no matter how big or small the issue is.”
A faint smile broke through the sadness that surrounded me, still lingering from earlier. “I know you will. That’s why I came to you.”
When I got back to our apartment, Kay was busy on the computer. She broke out into a giant smile when she saw me. “Hey babe! I’ve got some great news. After doing a bit of back end stuff with the app, we should be able to use it without plugging you in every time.”
I did my best to return her enthusiasm. We’d been looking forward to this all week, and I didn’t want to bring her down. “That’s great! Now we can do all sorts of crazy stuff, I can’t wait to see what you have in mind.”
Kay immediately saw through my false positivity. “What’s wrong, are we moving a bit too fast? Should we set up some more clear boundaries? Did you…” Her voice trailed off as she made a connection. Kay was a smart one, and very little slipped past her unnoticed. “You had another flashback, didn’t you. That’s why you went to see Eisa.”
I meekly nodded, the smile dropping from my face. I collapsed into a nearby chair, holding my head in my synthetic hands. Kay rushed over and wrapped me in a giant bear hug. “Oh, honey, it’s okay. Just forget about the app, we’ll take it easy today.”
My eyes were wet, artificial tears leaking from my eye sockets. “I’m so sorry. You worked so hard on the app and we were supposed to have so much fun with it.”
“Apology not accepted,” Kay responded, hugging me even tighter. “I know you won’t believe me, but you have nothing to be sorry for. I’m always going to be here to support you and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The two of us held each other for a bit before Kay peeled herself back. “I’m going to get the electric blanket. You can either stay here or move to the couch, and I’ll put on a cheesy action flick. Nod if that sounds good to you.” I nodded at her. As usual, Kay knew exactly how to help. I stumbled over to the couch while she got things ready. When she came back, the first thing she did was wrap me up tight in the blanket before turning it on. The heat from it was something I found oddly enjoyable, and the pressure from it helped soothe my nerves.
Next Kay put on an old film. It was stupid, full of explosions and plotholes and over-the-top villains, and I loved watching it. Before long a smile returned to my face. A genuine one this time, and bit by bit, I began to feel better again. Soon we were laughing together, poking fun at the film and talking about which actress was the hottest.
We spent the next couple hours in that manner. Kay insisted after the first one that we simply had to watch the rest of the trilogy, and while I was certain she only said that for my sake, but I didn’t mind it. She was snuggled up against me and leeching off the heat of the blanket. By the end of the third film, we were leaning against each other, and I felt emotionally and physically drained. I was ready to go into sleep mode and recharge my energy storage.
As the credits were rolling, Kay got the charger ready. It usually stayed in our bedroom, but today I was fine with sleeping on the couch. Kay promised to plug me in once I was in sleep mode.
I flipped the mental switch to shut myself down. In the final blurred moments before my consciousness began to fade, I said the one thing that had truly been on my mind all day. “I wish I could know my love for you was real and not something I was just programmed to feel.”
Kay gently kissed my forehead. “And I wish you would understand that even if that was the case, it wouldn’t make the slightest difference. I love you just as you are and wouldn’t have you any other way.”