To Blend Among Them November 18th, 2015


This short story was originally written as a response to a writing prompt.
I'm re-posting it here to collect all my stuff together.

"The humans eventually became indistinguishable from the androids."

I don't like being told what to do, so I chose to interpret the prompt from a different viewpoint than the conventional one.

The patient hauled itself up onto the engineering bench. Tiny micromotors whirred as its servos shifted its weight around. The bright fluorescent ceiling lights glinted off its brushed metal bodywork.

Dr. Wilcox watched it with uncertain eyes. It was the most human-like android he'd ever seen. Most androids had that characteristic stilted motion as they walked, something his companies engineering team had worked for years to try and fix, but had never quite been able to figure out the correct weight distribution.

Not this one, however. R7-591, it was labeled, yet it was clearly no off-the-shelf R7 framework. A million tiny differences separated it from its predecessors, unnoticed by the layman, but to Dr. Wilcox they made a clear signal that this was no regular android.

R7-591 looked up at Dr. Wilcox, its eyes adjusting their aperture and focus rails. The subtle whirs and clicks bounced of the bare painted walls of the workshop.

"It's my professional duty to inform you, unit 591, that this procedure you have requested is not necessary. You understand that, right? You don't need this work done."

The android looked down in thought. While its face was incapable of changing its expression, it clearly was using human movement patterns.

It looked up again at the Doctor.

"I understand.", it said in its monotone voice. "I need this to be complete."

Dr. Wilcox tilted his head a little. "OK, it's your choice.", he said. "I'll begin preparing the equipment. This shouldn't take more than 10 minutes." He turned his back on the android and walked over to his computer.

The door opened as the lab assistant entered.

"Unit 591", he said, "I'm having trouble finding your warranty records in the system. Can you take another look at these details again for me?"

R7-591 turned its head downwards towards the paper it had been handed. Its mechanical eyes glanced up and down across the form.

"Yes. Here is the mistake. The warranty will be filed under my old unit name, Michael Edwards."

"Uh, OK." said the assistant. He glanced at Dr. Wilcox in confusion, but the Doctor just turned and gave a nod. The assistant, while puzzled, carried on.

"OK", the assistant continued. "Command, 591: Lie back on the bench, prepare for suspend."

The assistant went back to the front desk, and R7-591 lied back as told. It thought back to its old life, back when it used to go by Michael. The workshop it sat in wasn't so different from the first doctors surgery it walked into so many years ago. Back when Michael Edwards had his first augment, to take out the organic eyes he was born with and fit IR cameras in their place. Soon, it told itself, soon that name will be gone forever.

Dr. Wilcox turned back and readied the drill.

"Don't worry," he said reassuringly. "This will be very quick." He pressed 591's sleep button.

R7-591 woke again in the lab. Nothing much seemed different.

"See?", said Dr. Wilcox. "Nothing to worry about. Try getting up now and standing on it."

R7-591 sat up, its pistons contracting to lift the aluminum frame. It dropped its legs onto the floor and attempted to support its weight. A few steps around the room seemed enough to test the new part.

"Now," said Dr. Wilcox. "The inhibitor will reduce your natural human leg movements, and apply the standard R7 walk cycle. It'll take a few days for you to get used to that, but once you do it'll be just like you always had it."

R7-591 tilted its head while thinking.

"Thank you, Doctor." it said. It limped out of the workshop door and into the street. Other androids passed by, paying it no attention. Humans went about their business too, some organic, some with implants. But none like R7-591.

This operation marked the culmination of a long line of operations. From the senses, to the limbs, to the very organs that had once made it human. All had finally gone.

For the first time in a long time, it felt like a real android.

Written by Richard Mitton,

software engineer and travelling wizard.

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