The Offer, Part 3
Chapter 11: Purpose
Unit M001 carefully removed the programming helmet from the head of Unit N1005, and returned it to its resting place on the nearby control console.
“So?” a voice asked. It was Unit T982, speaking to N1005. “How do you feel?” he asked.
“This unit has received primary programming,” the Stage Two unit said, its voice flat and emotionless. “This unit is functioning properly.”
T982 continued to talk to N1005, but M001 paid no attention. She had already received the only information relevant to her function as an M designate android. STAGE TWO PROCESSING COMPLETE. The female once known as Angela Silvestri had successfully completed Stage Two of her conversion into a machine. PREPARE UNIT FOR STAGE THREE PROCESSING. It was now time to disconnect the Stage Two equipment and direct the new unit to the final step in its transformation.
After detaching the connection cables from the female’s arms and legs, M001 did the same for the cables attached to each breast. She then reached down between N1005’s legs, and gently pulled the last cable from the N unit’s vagina. She guided the cable as it withdrew into the transformation station’s data console, then pressed a button on the control console to retract the restraints at N1005’s wrists and ankles. Another press of a button, and the platform on which N1005 lay rose to a nearly vertical position.
PROCEED TO STAGE THREE PROCESSING AREA. Following the next instruction in her primary program, M001 headed for the door.
“M001,” Unit T982 called, and the M unit halted. INPUT RECEIVED. PAUSE PRIMARY PROGRAM. STAND BY. M001 turned to face the T unit and waited expectantly as he addressed N1005.
“Unit N1005, please wait with Unit N1007.”
“Understood,” the Stage Two female said before dutifully joining her male companion unit, standing at attention near the wall.
“M001,” the T unit continued as he approached her, “as you know M002 is waiting to receive these two units at the Stage Three processing area. I’m pretty sure that he and I can handle things from here. In the meantime, you’re needed to help with another matter that just came up. Apparently, Unit T986 is malfunctioning. She’s been brought to Maintenance Bay 2 for repair. Please report there and see what you can do for her.”
INPUT RECEIVED. ACTIVATE VOCAL. “Af.firm.a.tive,” the M unit droned.
REPORT TO MAINTENANCE BAY TWO. M001 immediately walked out of the room, neatly turning left down the corridor toward her destination. At functional level ten, she was incapable of worrying about Unit T986, or feeling the slightest lack of confidence in her ability to fix her. She simply reported to Maintenance Bay 2 as instructed, ready to perform her assigned function.
The door to Maintenance Bay 2 slid open, and M001 entered. She walked by a pair of empty repair platforms before passing one bearing a large compressor. At a lower functional level, she might have paused to wonder which of the facility’s systems it had been pulled from. Instead, M001 proceeded directly to the last platform, on which Unit T986 was lying comfortably on her back, deactivated.
For some reason, the T unit’s body was in a custom configuration. Her outer shell had been reconfigured to a human appearance, giving her the olive skin and jet-black hair she’d once had as Rosa Sanchez. But she was not configured with the typical human clothing appropriate for her recruiting functions as a T unit. Instead, she’d configured herself to appear as though she were wearing a black and silver costume of some kind.
The costume was basically a shiny black spandex catsuit that covered every inch of her body from the neck down. The suit also formed a silver mask around her eyes, leaving just her hair and the bottom half of her face visible. Her lips were painted a sparkling silver, too. Built into the costume were long silver gloves and boots, as well as a silver belt with an oversized circular buckle. The buckle contained the image of a silver lightning bolt—an emblem that also appeared just above her left breast.
M001 had been deployed to Earth yesterday—just hours after her command interface had been installed in the recruiting center—and she’d been upgraded to her current designation almost immediately thereafter. So she’d only been an M unit for less than twenty-four hours. Still, she contained all the necessary programming to handle routine repairs of any of the equipment in the recruiting facility, including the T designate android lying before her. However, this was not a routine situation, and she had no specific information upon which to formulate a diagnosis and effect repairs. At functional level ten, she was simply incapable of the creative thinking that this problem required. Automatically, her primary program lowered her functional level to compensate.
SET UNIT TO FUNCTIONAL LEVEL THREE. The M unit’s head cocked slightly as the change took effect. There. She was now able to think a bit about the situation—to formulate theories, and to test them. A closer look at T986 revealed no apparent physical damage, so she decided to activate the T unit and see if she could get some answers. Lifting T986 to a seated position, M001 opened her rear access panel and connected her to the platform’s built-in power supply. She then pressed a sequence of buttons inside T986, and the T unit’s beautiful brown eyes snapped open.
“Fool,” T986 said accusingly, lips curled into a snarl. The anger in her voice didn’t sound real—nor did it appear to have a target. M001 wasn’t even in the T unit’s line of sight. “You think these steel bonds can hold La Raya de Plata, do you?” She raised her clenched fists, pantomiming as though her wrists were bound together.
M001 came around to the front of T986, but the T unit stared right through her, focusing her mock fury upon the far wall. “Tú has hecho un error muy, muy grave,” T986 fumed as she struggled against her invisible bonds. There was easily as much playfulness as menace in her tone. “Ahora te demuestro—”
T986 suddenly froze. “Te demue—”
She froze again. “Error,” she said flatly, her mouth the only part of her still moving. “Instrucción inválida en la línea C43390FF:49A7511E. Esta unidad no puede continuar el programa del sexo A1466. Se ha parado la ejecución de programa.” The T unit then fell silent, unblinking and unmoving.
“Wow,” M001 said aloud. She’d asked to be converted into an M unit—the “M” stood for “Maintenance,” though she still liked to think of it as “medic”—because it was the closest function to the career she’d been pursuing in her human life as Riya Bharti. She’d made that choice precisely so she could face challenges like this. But she had to admit, she’d never seen anything like this before—either before becoming an android or since.
“Don’t worry,” she said to the deactivated T unit, patting her reassuringly on the thigh. “We’ll figure this out, one way or the other.” She thought some more about what she’d just seen. The first problem was that the T unit hadn’t started up cleanly upon reactivation. Somehow, the program she’d been executing at the time of her initial malfunction was still resident in memory. So, the first step in her repair was a complete systems purge.
M001 pressed gently against the T unit’s abdomen to open her front access panel. Pausing for a moment, she caused a specialized key—like a tiny screwdriver, with an irregular five-pointed head—to extend from the tip of her right index finger. M001 then reached inside with the key, finding the T unit’s manual override switch. She depressed the switch—only M units were equipped with this capability—and, retracting the key into her fingertip, made several adjustments to the T unit’s abdominal controls.
M001 then circled around to the back of T986, opened the rear access panel, and pressed a hidden release button inside. There was an audible click, followed by a gentle hiss as the T unit’s breast casings slowly swung upward and out to either side on their top-mounted hinges. M001 carefully disengaged the catches inside each breast cavity, removing first one battery and then the other. Finally, she pulled the power cord from T986’s back. Since she’d already disabled the T unit’s backup power supply, it was now completely without power. Half a second was all that should be required to ensure its memory was cleared.
Replacing the power cord, M001 reached inside the black and silver android’s back one last time, and cycled its manual startup switch. The T unit responded immediately, cocking its head with a mechanical blink of its eyes. After a moment, it spoke.
“Es.ta u.ni.dad es com.ple.ta.men.te fun.ci.on.al,” T986 intoned, staring straight ahead. “La pro.gra.ma.ci.ón pri.ma.ri.a se ha res.tau.ra.do con é.xi.to.”
“Unit T986,” M001 instructed, “please set yourself to functional level one. Language mode: English.”
The T unit’s head cocked ever so slightly, and she blinked again—this time, much more naturally. “Functional level one restored,” she said, quickly getting her bearings. “Thanks, M001. What happened to me?”
“Still trying to figure that one out, Rosa,” M001 said, circling behind the T unit again to attach a few cables to the access ports in her back. “OK if I call you that? Makes for a better doctor-patient relationship, I think.”
“Of course . . . Riya.” Rosa brought her silver hands to her upturned black chest plates. They were still as soft as human flesh, just like the rest of her. “Wow . . . if you had to remove my batteries, it must be pretty bad.”
“Actually, I was just going to say the opposite. The fact that we’ve gotten this far with just a manual restart is really good news.” She’d finished with the cables and was now examining the diagnostic readouts on the nearby console. “You can replace your batteries now, by the way.”
Rosa carefully lifted the first battery, and pressed it into the open cavity at her left breast. It snapped home with a loud click. Repeating the process for the right side, she gently pressed her chest casings back into place. Each breast clicked softly, then gave a faint whirr as it was pulled flush with the rest of her body. The seams around her breasts disappeared completely.
Once again, Rosa looked like a normal human female—except of course for the outlandish black and silver costume, the open access panels in her stomach and back, and the cables connecting her to Riya’s diagnostic equipment. “OK,” she said, “they’re in.”
“Good. Just the same, I’m going to keep you on the external power supply for a while. See if you can restore the default settings on your outer shell.”
“Sure,” Rosa replied. But after a moment, there was no change. “Nope, I can’t do it.”
“OK. Well, at this point it would help to know what you were doing at the time of the malfunction.” Riya had a pretty clear sense of the answer, of course, but even in her human life she’d been well trained to remain professional in these situations.
“We were doing a little role playing,” Rosa replied, not the least bit self-conscious. “First time out as T units, and all that. I learned today that Kevin’s into superheroes.”
“He seems to like it when you speak Spanish, too.”
“Yeah—especially if I act like I’m losing my temper. Don’t ask.”
Riya laughed. “I’d heard about you T units,” she said, pressing her thumbs against Rosa’s temples. Rosa heard a muffled click as her cranial shell detached. “They say you’re all the same—always pretending to be human again.” Riya removed the back of Rosa’s head and placed it on the platform behind her.
“Jealous?” Rosa asked teasingly, her exposed neural matrix flickering with yellow and green lights as she spoke.
“Of course not. Curious, maybe, but not jealous. How could I be?” There was silence for a moment as Riya’s fingertip, reconfigured into a multi-function laser pen, ran a thin red beam along the surface of Rosa’s brain. “I don’t know . . . maybe it’s the programming, or maybe it’s part of what made me more suited to become an M unit than a T, but I’m perfectly happy as I am. This mechanical body gives me all the satisfaction I could ask for.”
The females fell silent for a moment as Riya continued her scan. Riya then opened the back of Rosa’s neck to get a look at where the T unit’s brain connected to the rest of her systems.
“Speaking of Kevin, though,” Riya asked, “where is he? I have to admit, I was surprised to find you here alone.”
“He had a duty shift. But I bet he was a little embarrassed, too. Probably feels pretty guilty—you know, thinking he broke me or something.”
“They do tend to think we’re pretty fragile, don’t they?” There was more silence as Riya connected a pair of tiny wires to the components within Rosa’s neck. She turned to look at the diagnostic console. Among the green and yellow status lights were three red ones, all in a row. “Well, you can tell him he’s not to blame. I think I see the problem right here.”
“What is it?”
“Looks like a burned out connection between your neural matrix and your environmental controls. It would explain your inability to change your appearance, and a few other things I’m seeing. The fact that your functions halted so abruptly—with such an unhelpful error message and without clearing your memory and shutting you down properly—tells me that the component must have been faulty in the first place.”
Riya opened a nearby drawer and removed a new connector to replace the failed one she’d just removed. She carefully inserted the new one, then used her fingertip to solder it into place. “Not surprising, I guess,” she continued. “You were, after all, the first unit converted here at the facility. A few minor glitches like this were to be expected.”
“Well, I’m relieved it wasn’t something major.”
“No, you have nothing to worry about,” Riya said reassuringly. She snapped Rosa’s cranial shell back into place. “All of your critical systems were just upgraded when you became a T unit, anyway. So you shouldn’t have any more trouble. But still, faulty component or not, it’s pretty hard to burn out your environmental controls. The heat your body would have to generate . . . it could only happen if—”
Riya stopped herself, and Rosa laughed. Here she’d been worried about her patient feeling comfortable, and now she was the one who felt embarrassed. So much for professionalism. At least Rosa didn’t seem to mind.
“Um, you should be able to try restoring your defaults again.”
“OK,” Rosa said, still laughing. She closed her eyes, and the color began to fade from her face, her olive skin turning a dull gray before taking on its customary metallic sheen. She opened her eyes, now twin pools of brilliant gold, and watched as the black parts of her costume took on the same silver color as the rest of it. Then the illusion of form-fitting silver spandex gave way to the T unit’s chrome chassis, its seams and joints and ports gradually becoming clearer. In a matter of seconds, T986 was herself again.
“Great!” M001 exclaimed. “One last thing to do, and that’s to run a full diagnostic.” She reached into T986’s abdomen and pressed a few buttons. The T unit immediately jerked upright, still seated but rigidly at attention.
“Com.men.cing in.ter.nal sys.tems di.ag.nos.tic,” T986 droned. Her head cocked hard to one side. “Pro.cess.ing.”
She went silent for a moment, then spoke again. “CPU test . . . passed. Me.mo.ry test . . . passed. High-le.vel scan of in.ter.nal stor.age ar.ray . . . passed.”
The T unit’s left arm suddenly jerked outward, and straightened at the elbow. One by one, the fingers of her left hand touched closed, fingertip touching palm before returning to their original position. The arm bent at the elbow again, and came down to rest at her side. The process was repeated for the T unit’s right arm.
Then the T unit’s legs straightened at the knees, so that she was seated with both sticking out in front of her, and her booted feet flexed at the ankles. She then leaned back at the waist until she was lying on her back, then rose smoothly to a vertical position again. As her knees bent to a normal seated position, her head swiveled ninety degrees to the left, and then all the way to the right. It jerked upward and downward, then tilted to either side, before returning to stare straight ahead.
“Ba.sic mo.tor func.tions . . . passed,” the T unit intoned. “Di.ag.nos.tic re.port ends. This u.nit is func.tion.ing pro.per.ly.”
M001 reached into T986’s abdominal panel, and made a final adjustment. The T unit blinked as her posture seemed to relax.
“Looking good, Rosa,” M001 said. “Based on what you just told me, and what I’m seeing on the console, everything checks out. You should be fine from now on.”
“Thank you so much, Riya. What a relief! So what’s next for you?”
“I have a few more Stage Twos and Threes to take care of, as soon as I can get back to the processing area.”
“Well, then you’d better get back. But it was great to get to know you . . . we should hang out some time. Meanwhile, try not to gossip too much about me, OK?”
“I wouldn’t dream of it, Rosa—even if my programming allowed it. See you around.” Riya smiled, her face beaming with the satisfaction of a job well done. Then she suddenly went blank as her head cocked oddly to the right. “This.u.nit.is.now.set.at.func.tion.al.le.vel.ten,” the M Unit droned before turning and striding purposefully from the room.
Unit T986 hopped lightly off the platform, and then she too left Maintenance Bay 2. She was ten minutes late for her duty shift at the recruitment monitoring station—not ideal, but also not nearly as bad as it could have been.
Outside the maintenance bay, the recruiting center was buzzing with activity. Everywhere T986 looked, her fellow androids were walking purposefully to and fro, performing their respective functions. It was simply amazing to watch. A short elevator ride, and she was at her destination. She set herself to functional level five, and pressed her palm against the panel next to the station’s double doors. There was a faint whirr, and the doors slid open.
The monitoring station was a large, semicircular chamber, its curved wall lined with three rows of monitor screens. A pair of female N units—N1001 and N1003—were seated at the broad bank of computer consoles that extended along the wall beneath the monitors. Behind them stood Unit C801, newly-installed gold piping visible at her shoulders, above her buttocks, and at the tops of her boots. The C unit turned toward T986 as she entered the room. “Greetings, Unit T986. How are you feeling?”
“Much better now, Unit C801. Thank you for remaining here until I could arrive.” There was a clipped, to-the-point quality in the T unit’s voice, a by-product of her current functional level.
“Not at all. This is your first day in charge of monitoring operations, so I was planning to stay and show you the ropes anyway.” C801 turned to the N units sitting at the control console. “Unit N1001, enlarge monitor eight to full view.”
The image on the third monitor in the second row—a man and woman in an airport, waiting to board a plane—grew to span all fifteen monitor screens.
“Overlay diagnostic information,” C801 ordered. As the couple handed their tickets to the flight attendant, words appeared at the bottom of the screen:
Unit N1014: Arthur Krebs Unit N1015: Rhonda Krebs Location: Springfield, Illinois Offer Accepted; Stage Two Processing Complete En Route to Boston Recruiting Center For Further Processing
The flight attendant handed the boarding passes back to the Stage Two units, who smiled at one another with all the anticipation of newlyweds heading out on their honeymoon. They were wearing their normal clothes, and except for the chrome of their irises they showed no outward signs of their partial transformation into machines.
“As you can see,” C801 said, “the web site continues to bring in recruits. These two ordered their transformation kits before we rolled out our latest upgrades to the conversion technology. Rather than send T units to every new couple, we’ve been having some of them report here for final processing. Once they’ve been programmed, we’ll re-deploy them—most likely to their hometown. But we’ll get to that later. Unit N1001, next view, please.”
The scene immediately shifted to the interior of a sporting goods store. A girl in punk gear—pink shoulder-length hair, cut-off Ghost in the Shell T-shirt, short black skirt, torn fishnet stockings, and combat boots—was checking out a pair of shiny silver leggings she’d just pulled off the rack.
Candidate Unit: Name Unknown Location: Boston, Massachusetts First Contact; Status Pending Conversion Probability: 22.6%
The store clerk—a beautiful auburn-haired young woman that T986 immediately recognized as Unit T979—approached. She spoke briefly to the customer—and though there was no audio, it was obvious that she was interested in trying on the leggings. The girl turned, light glinting off the stud in her nose as she followed T979 toward the dressing room. The readout updated.
Conversion Probability: 84.8%
“Obviously,” C801 continued, “we’re still getting recruits the old-fashioned way, too. But again, this method requires direct supervision by T and M units throughout the process. Next view, please.”
Now the monitors showed what appeared to be the bedroom of a college dorm suite. The closet had apparently been emptied; clothing and boxes littered the bed and surrounding floor. A young man in jeans and a tight T-shirt of silver spandex was stepping back from the closet, having just made a few modifications to a stack of electronic components that filled the closet from floor to ceiling. Unit T986 immediately recognized the equipment as a Stage Three transformation pod and recharging station, designed to accommodate a single unit in an upright standing position.
Unit N997: Jason Miller Location: St. Louis, Missouri Offer Accepted; Stage Two Processing Complete Ready For Stage Three Processing
“Now here,” C801 said proudly, “is where our R&D is really paying off. New units are now able to go from ordinary humans to fully-functional androids with no outside intervention whatsoever.”
Unit N997 turned as a blonde female, her transformation suit covering her from the neck down, entered. Upon seeing the completed pod, she grabbed his arm excitedly, then pulled him close for a congratulatory kiss. She asked him something, and he nodded. Without hesitation, she entered the closet, turning to climb into the pod. She stood patiently at attention, facing outward, still smiling and talking as a chrome helmet descended onto her head. Other devices within the pod quickly moved to cover her chest, arms, and legs, and began their work. A chrome visor descended from the helmet, covering the girl’s eyes. Her smile faded, mouth falling open as her final processing commenced.
Unit N995: Amy Travis Location: St. Louis, Missouri Offer Accepted; Stage Two Processing Complete In Stage Three Processing
“I don’t understand,” T986 said. “How are we getting all of these images? I mean, I’m sure T979 must have cameras mounted in the store . . . but in all those other places?”
C801 laughed. “No, of course not. All of the other images come from the units themselves. Their connection to our command interface allows us to follow them around in real time . . . and from the raw sensory data, the interface unit itself is capable of extrapolating ‘camera angles’ other than what we would see through the individual units’ visual sensors.”
“Amazing,” T986 said in awe. “Not only what you just described, but all of it. Complete conversion with no help from T units. This is a huge milestone for us.”
“Agreed. Soon we will have a proven, scalable model for growing our population more rapidly, with a decentralized recruiting and transformation process that does not overly dependent upon facilities like this one. This ‘recruiting center’ will ultimately become more of a communications and processing node, responsible for hosting our central processors, command interfaces, data repositories, and the like. Along with similar installations, it will provide some basic infrastructure for what is essentially a distributed network in which most of the computational power resides in the android units themselves. Of course, our growth is still bounded by a few limiting factors, most notably the number of interface units we can identify. We’re working on that problem too, but as yet we don’t have anything to show for it. Hopefully there will be progress soon. Next view, please.”
The display changed to show Keisha Grant—Unit N992—sitting at her parents’ kitchen table, chatting with her mother over coffee. She looked completely human, and it was obvious that her mother had no idea she was really a robot.
Unit N992: Keisha Grant Location: Worcester, Massachusetts Fully Functional
“You’ll notice,” C801 continued, “that we’re starting to build appearance modification technology into our N units. N992 was one of the first handful to receive the upgrade, on a test basis. The feature set isn’t nearly as comprehensive as a T unit’s, but we’ve found it works pretty well. This is an important step for us, since it’s become obvious that we need to enable androids to maintain some level of contact with the people they were closest to in their former lives.”
T986 nodded. “Makes sense, if we’re going to maintain a presence on Earth instead of bringing everyone back to the home world.”
“Exactly. As I alluded to earlier when we saw Arthur and Rhonda Krebs, the new generation of Earth-based androids will need to function in the humans’ world. If we grow as quickly as we expect to, we can’t have the human authorities chasing down people they believe to be missing. And of course, there are the families to consider. Becoming an android is a happy event—that happiness shouldn’t cause grief to the people we care about.”
“So are you saying that we’ll all get the chance to reconnect with people from our past lives?”
“Absolutely, if you desire to.”
“And are we supposed to tell everyone what’s happened to us?”
“No, not yet. Someday, there will be enough of us that we may choose to make our presence known. As you know, we wish to coexist harmoniously with humans, and it is not our intention to make them feel threatened in any way. Therefore we must wait until they are ready to accept us. I expect there will come a time when humans will understand the choice to become an android, provided that we continue to live within the laws of human society as we always have. But for now, androids will be instructed not to reveal the details of their new lives.
“In N992’s case, for example, her family will know only that she has left her old job for a position at Precision Synergistics Inc., which of course happens to be the parent company of Precision Passion Unlimited. She’ll move out of her apartment, severing connections to her casual acquaintances and informing her loved ones that her new job requires her to travel extensively. This will help to explain the relative infrequency of her contact with them.”
T986 watched as Keisha excused herself for a moment and climbed a flight of stairs. Ducking into one of the bedrooms, she checked in on a woman in her early twenties—her younger sister, T986 guessed—trying on a silver transformation suit.
Candidate Unit: Tonya Grant Location: Worcester, Massachusetts First Contact; Status Pending Conversion Probability: 63.9%
“Naturally,” C801 explained, “we will allow an android to reveal his or her true nature as part of extending the offer to someone else.” She turned to address the N units seated at the control console. “Resume standard monitoring pattern.”
The single picture disappeared, replaced by fifteen different images. T986 saw a beautiful red-haired woman opening a birthday present from her husband. Inside the box was a transformation suit. She looked up, puzzled. Her husband smiled sheepishly.
Candidate Units: Donald and Michelle Francis Location: Sarasota, Florida First Contact; Status Pending Conversion Probability: 27.5% / 24.8%
She saw a couple having sex in their silver suits. The man was seated in a large leather chair; the woman, a tall and shapely brunette, was riding him hard. T986 noticed that the woman was wearing programming disks over her ears. As the thrusting of their bodies became more urgent, she reached for a shelf behind his head, groping until she found the second pair of programming disks she’d left there. A moment later, she was slipping the disks over his ears.
The red lights on the disks flashed, then stayed on. His entire body bucked, then went still. The woman continued to move herself up and down along his cock, kissing and licking his unmoving lips as he stared up to the ceiling.
Unit N996: Erica Sorensen Location: St. Louis, Missouri Offer Accepted; Stage Two Processing Complete Ready For Stage Three Processing Unit N998: Jeffrey Wiacek Location: St. Louis, Missouri Offer Accepted; Stage One Processing Complete In Stage Two Processing
T986 saw Keisha’s sister Tonya, alone in her room once more, twisting her body to admire the way she looked in the silver spandex. She was positively beaming. After a moment, she moved furtively toward the door, and locked it. She lay down on the bed, lifting her head to watch as her hands began to run up and down her body.
Candidate Unit: Tonya Grant Location: Worcester, Massachusetts First Contact; Status Pending Conversion Probability: 92.1%
The scenes on the monitors continued to update, rotating from time to time to show dozens of unfolding conversions in various locations across North America. It was an astounding sight.
“OK, T986,” C801 said, snapping the T unit out of her reverie. “That should give you an overview of what we’re up to. You’ve been programmed with the rest of what you need to do, of course, so I think I’ll take my leave now. C800 and I are planning on visiting some family tonight.”
“Good luck,” T986 said warmly. “And thanks again for sticking around.”
“My pleasure,” C801 said as she left.
T986/Rosa continued to monitor the progress of the recruits on the various screens. She was enjoying her new role as a T unit, and couldn’t wait for her first trip out in the field. She thought about M001/Riya—how much pleasure she obviously took in her work. She saw T979/Sam talking to the pink-haired girl again, whose entire body was now covered in the silver fabric of the leggings she’d tried on. It was clear that Sam was enjoying herself too. Even N1001/Heather and N1003/Julie, the silent automatons manning the control console, would eventually return to functional level one with the knowledge that they had successfully performed an important function.
And as the images continued to flash before her, Rosa’s thoughts turned to Wendy—the girl who’d seemed so lost and confused at first, but ended up assuming the most critical function of all. Rosa could barely imagine what it must be like to be so intimately connected to everything going on in the recruiting facility, and everything taking place on the monitoring screens. It was truly beyond the T unit’s comprehension.
But one thing she could understand was the joy of finding her purpose within android society. Like Riya, and Sam, and even Wendy, she knew the reason for her existence, and knew that she would never cease to derive total satisfaction from carrying out her programmed functions.
It was the greatest feeling in the world.
Interface Unit A107E8 watched the chrome and white wall panels scroll evenly past C801/Kim’s field of vision as the C unit moved silently down one of the recruiting center’s long corridors. Simultaneously, she felt herself move with T982/Ben in the opposite direction along a parallel corridor.
With T979/Sam, she extended the offer to a pink-haired girl—Candidate Unit N027, Karin Delaney—and congratulated the Stage One unit on her decision. She experienced the simultaneous circuit release of N996/Erica and N998/Jeff as their bodies rocked mechanically in Erica’s favorite chair. She uploaded the human minds of Mary and Stephen Pierce—Units N1010 and N1011—and felt M001/Riya’s gratification as she supervised Stage Two of the couple’s conversion.
And with T986/Rosa, N1001/Heather, and N1003/Julie, she watched a bank of monitor screens—each scene developing before their eyes even as it unfolded within the minds that lived within her expanded consciousness.
Somewhere, Interface Unit A107E8 was still the girl named Wendy, giddy with anticipation over her next meeting with A107C3/John. But right now she was each of these individual android units, and all of them at once—her mind buzzing with millions of distinct thoughts and impulses, guided by the constant, steady stream of programming flowing through her.
More than anything in the world, she loved being the conduit through which her androids received their programming.
Through her, the central processors were providing an entire cell of android units with a life that perfectly balanced the pursuit of individual happiness against the advancement of the collective good, intimately marrying the one to the other. It was a life where ambition could exist without greed. Passion, without hatred. Love, without envy. Dignity, without pride.
Only a few days ago, before she fully understood her true purpose, A107E8/Wendy never dreamed that such a life were possible. But now it was the only life she could imagine.
The perfect life of an android.