Ashley flopped onto a bar stool and ordered a drink from the bar tender. She chugged the drink as soon as she got it and ordered another. Looking around she saw a few robots casually trying to pass off as human. Most of her fellow humans seemed more or less unaware. Robots were becoming better and better designed these days to blend in. But it didn’t take much to uncover one. They lacked certain human qualities. Like how they reacted to a joke or for a time where unable to understand certain emotional reactions, like anger or tears. Then there was the way they moved and held themselves, the differences could be harder to tell here, how sometimes the hand that didn’t hold something would hang limp or make the same motions over and over to make it look busy.
Ashley turned around and hunched over her drink trying to forget the fake people behind her. It seemed like there was nowhere in this city for anyone to go without running into a machine. The city was on a dry, dusty and barren planet called Erka not known for its Hospitality. Erka was a mining planet, if it wasn’t for the precious ores and metals no one would come here.
A beautiful redheaded woman came and sat in the chair next to her and smiled and ordered a drink.
‘’How are you doing this evening?” she asked casually ignoring the drink at the counter that the bartender gave her.
Ashley smiled at her trying not to feel annoyed at being disturbed. “You are practically flawless,” she said. “You blend in exceptionally well with humans.”
The woman frowned and toyed with her glass. “And how could you know if I was or was not human or machine?” There was almost a sense of curiosity in her eyes.
“Easy. First no human can be that physically flawless, even a slight freckle or wrinkle in the corner of the eyes would help. Second no human who lives in this area of town would sit down next to a stranger when so many other seats are free …unless of course you were a prostitute but then you would have been much less subtle during your opening line. Last you still haven’t touched your drink and are obviously intentionally not drinking it suggesting you know it wouldn’t be good for you. ” Ashley stopped and watched as the woman pondered this. There were smaller tells as well but she didn’t want to give away all her secrets. Such as the fact that it was curiosity rather than anger that appeared at the accusation of not being human
“Very perceptive of you,” the robot answered. “I am supposed to be designed to be undetectable by humans. I will have to speak with my manufacturers.”
“No offense intended,” Ashley said. “But there are certain things that machine just cannot be.”
They both looked up as a giant machine crashed through the wall. It was a fearsome looking fighting machine, one of the more new additions that had a reinforced skeleton. It roared and the humans huddled and slipped further back in fear. Ashley now recognized it as a rebel machine. Somehow either a human at some point had programmed them to think for themselves and want to be autonomous beings or …as some thought… maybe they had evolved.
‘’You should probably get out of here,” the redheaded robot said. “By the way my name is Selene. I am going leave out the back door. My ship is parked a few streets over if you need shelter.”
Ashley shook her head. “Thanks. But I have to make sure everyone gets out of here safely first.” She started toward the fighting machine. “I am Ashley,” she offered back.
Ashley ducked calmly as something flew over her head. Selene slipped out the back and disappeared. Most of the patrons of the bar had gotten away safely but there was a couple huddled in a corner and the robot had just turned in their direction.
“Hey you big Meanie!” she yelled at the machine. It turned towards her. “Why don’t you look for a fair fight hey? You giant bully!” She threw her glass at it. It was a dumb move on her part to attract its attention
The machine turned and roared. “You cannot hope to beat me human!” It thudded closer her smashing a couple things in its way. She realized also that it was probably right, a human didn’t stand a chance against a robot let alone one with a titanium exoskeleton.
She glanced at the corner and saw the couple start to slink towards the back door. They were moving far too slowly she thought. She would have to distract this big guy for a little longer. He swung at her and she ducked. He was stronger and bigger but slightly slower than her. She kept ducking his blows until he turned when he saw the couple trying to get away. He roared and turned to strike them. Ashley flung herself in front of the blow. His fist connected with her arm and shoulder. The blow should have killed her or at least crippled her but she stood there more or less unharmed. She glanced down and saw a bruise forming but nothing permanently damaged.
The robot paused confused as to why its prey was not dead. Then it threw a punch at her face. She grabbed the fist with her hand before it touched it, took the arm in both hands and twisted and pulled. The robot screamed, even though she knew it was programmed theatrics and it didn’t actually feel. She gave another hard yank and was shocked when that arm ripped off its body.
She paused and then threw the limb at its face and sprinted out the back. She saw the couple sprinting around a corner so she took a different route.
Where was she going? What was she doing? What was even happening? She thought.
Without even really thinking she started running towards Selene’s ship. It was the only one in the direction that the robot had indicated so Ashley launched herself up the ramp and plunged inwards until she collided with Selene.
She stepped back and took a quick breath. “We have to go,” she said. “It’s coming, it’s following me…”
“Well thanks for bringing it here,” Selene said shaking her head and then noticed the bruise. “Did you fall?”
“No. It punched me.” Ashley said peering out a window and seeing the fighting machine barreling at them across the dusty terrain. “Start flying this thing and I’ll go make sure it doesn’t come up the ramp.”
“That shouldn’t be possible….”
“Just fly the damn ship!” Ashley yelled feeling anger rise. Why did machines cause so many damn problems!
She raced out down the ramp to see the one armed fighting machine almost there. She threw herself at its weak side and slammed a punch at its face. She felt something crunch as her fist connected but when she pulled back her knuckles were bruised but not broken. She looked up to see the fighting machine clutching its face as sparks popped. She paused, shocked. She had broken its sensory camera and now it couldn’t see properly.
She heard the ships engines flare up and raced up the ramp. She pressed the button to lift the ramp and stared at the fighting machine still trying to find its bearing now that it was blind.
“Well that was interesting,” said Selene. “And no human should have been able to accomplish that either.”
Ashley shook her head. “I am not sure what just happened,” she said.
“Let me get us away from here and then I want to do a 3D scan on you to survey your injuries better.”
Once they were in the air Ashley meekly stepped into the 3D scanner too confused to argue.
“Well, Ashley,” Selene said when she stepped out, “You are more or less unscathed. There are a few bruises that I have some ointment for them in the back if you wish but otherwise you are healthy.” Selene pulled a chair over and placed it in front of her. “I believe however this is the part where humans use the phrase ‘maybe you should sit down.’”
“Why? What did you find?”
Selene looked at her as if trying to figure out a puzzle.
“Maybe you should look at the diagnostics yourself. I am not sure the best way to tell you this.”
She went over and Selene pulled up the hologram. What she was looking at didn’t make any sense. Her bones where registering as being made of titanium which was impossible of course and her brain was….. She sat down suddenly into the chair with a thump.
“It’s not possible,” she said.
“It’s incredible,” said Selene. “Look at the intricacy in this work. I was told I was one of the most advanced they had made and yet…” She paused and looked at Ashley. “Is something wrong?”
“I am not a machine!” Ashley breathed trying to swallow her panic. The shock was wearing off and now she clung to denial.
“But you are,” said Selene. “You are both machine and human. And not just an android like me. Look at this your brain is half organic and half computer circuitry. And the two are so well melded together that you can hardly tell where one begins and the other ends. You even have real organs, which means that you can eat and function like a human being. ”
Ashley shook her head. “No. I have memories of being a child. Robots don’t grow. I remember my father and robots don’t have parents so it can’t be true.”
Ashley’s stomach growled. “How can I be hungry?” she asked. “If I am a robot then I shouldn’t need to eat.”
“The cafeteria is this way,” said Selene. “We should get you something to eat.” She guided Ashley to a place to sit and brought her a tray of food and then left. Ashley sat eating the processed food. She craved an apple. She remembered sitting on a swing under an apple tree from her child. Swinging back and forth and then climbing the branches to get the best apple from the top of the tree. A picture of her father popped into her head.
Selene came back a while later holding something.
“Ashley, can you look at this and tell me if this is your father.”
She looked at the picture. “Yes.” She said. “That is him. How is this possible?”
“This is Lucas Alister,” Selene said. “He had a daughter named Ashley.” She pulled up another picture. “This is her as a child,” she said. “She died in an accident when she was ten years old.”
“No! That’s not possible! How can I be dead?”
Selene pulled up some documents. “He was an amazing engineer and inventor. He created the prototype for a lot of the more advanced robots that now exist and can pass themselves off as human. After you died he became obsessed with creating the perfect robot. One that was just like a human. Your body was put into a stasis pod. There was never a proper funeral.”
Ashley sat in shock unable to speak.
“I think he brought you back to life in the only way he knew how.”