The Earth grew closer while Chip stared at its beauty. The Moon and a few large satellites could be seen around it. The planet appeared as a sphere of blue marble, with familiar islands of life. It was an intense feeling to look back from above it.
"I have something for you." Leena said, pressing a gun shaped device to his right temple. He yelled out as she fired something out of it. A few drops of blood seeped out of the wound.
"Don't worry about that," Leena told him, "that's just a microchip to make the funky shades work."
"What?" he asked, his head still ringing.
Leena applied a band-aid to his wound and produced a pair of dark black sunglasses. "To catch the androids, you gotta spot them. These work with the chip to give your brain extra information. Put 'em on."
Smarting from the impact of the implant, he took the glasses and pulled the frames over his ears. He expected to see nothing because of the darkness, but out of the right lens he saw a clear, bright image of his surroundings. There were lighted words flashing information. He found he could bring up data on something simply by focusing his eye on it.
"Wow." he exclaimed.
"I knew you'd like those." Leena said as she handed him a wallet and a watch. "I made some ID for you, and there's some cash to get you started. The watch lets me know where you are, so don't take it off and leave it somewhere. When you do find a robot, keep it occupied until I get there. If I don't answer my phone you can call me with the watch, just keep the green button pressed."
Chip focused on the objects and found out what they were and what they were made of. "These are way to cool." he said.
"We're here. That wallet has all kinds of information in it, so if you lose that..."
Chip looked up to see the look on her face.
"Got it." he said.
The ship made its way into orbit as it came near to a massive docking hub floating high above the planet.
"Find a shuttle home. I have an apartment rented for you." She said as the craft started to dock.
"I've got to see some friends of mine." Leena said as the hatch opened and the two got out. Chip took a lingering look at Leena's sexy robotic clones and stepped away from the closing hatch. He looked around for Leena. She was swiftly disappearing in the mass of travelers.
Through a long arcing corridor he walked, flashing his new ID when asked, until he made his way to the ticket counter. After a wait, he got a pricy flight on a shuttle bound for home. During the flight, he checked the contents of the wallet and played around with the glasses, seeing what they could do. A slight buzzing was felt in his temple when he concentrated hard, but it didn't bother him.
The whole trip was surprisingly quick, but a bit of a jolt on the body coming down to land.
Back on Earth it was autumn. The wind was the first thing he noticed while stepping off the shuttle. Certainly, the full effect of gravity was back, but it felt good to be back on the ground.
Leaving the busy sprawling airport, he headed down the street in search of something to eat. Another craft soared into the sky as Chip zipped up his jacket and made his way to the familiar golden arch of Happy Burger. He always hated their food, but there was nothing else around.
The people were rude. Some shoved him out of the way as he made his way from the crowded street to the crowded restaurant.
He was out of place with his dark glasses, but the graphics in the right lens were amazing. So far, everyone he had looked at was human.
The noise coming from the kitchen almost drowned out the noise of screaming children. Kids as young as six were using words like 'fuck' and 'bitch', and their disinterested parents just wanted to sit down. The circus was giving Chip a headache.
"Welcome to Happy Burger can I take your order?" said the guy behind the counter. Still, the same pimply-faced teen you'd expect to see in a fast food place.
"Umm, yeah," Chip stroked his chin as he glanced at the menu. "Get me a Big Hap with... or just a combo three with root beer."
"Ok, actually, we only have Clot." he said drearily as he punched in the order. Cola wasn't Chip's favorite, but the menu had only the familiar Clot and Diet Clot.
"$33.64 with tax." the cashier said as Chip reached for his wallet. He grasped a bank debit card, just as he spied a warning flash in his right eye. He followed it up to the exit to see a brown haired young woman in shades leave the place. His sunglasses highlighted her form and flashed the word "inorganic". Chip had spotted his first android.
Putting away his wallet he said "You know what, forget it. Something came up.". He pushed his glasses up and went after the woman.
"Hey, what the hell are you doing?" the cashier shouted as Chip steadied his pace and went toward the parking lot.
"Gotta keep cool now..." he was telling himself as both his shoulders were grabbed from behind. Two cops knocked him to the ground and put cuffs behind his back. Without a word they dragged him back to the order counter. He could only protest in vain.
"Is this the one?" one of the cops asked the clerk.
"Yeah, that's him." he said pointedly.
"Did you make an order here?" the other cop asked Chip.
"What? Yeah, but..."
"You're under arrest for interfering with a federal corporation's right to a fair profit. You have the right to talk to an attorney." the cop said as he read him his rights.
Chip couldn't believe it. "What am I under arrest for?" he had to ask again.
"Interfering with a federal corporation's right to a fair profit." The cop said as they hauled him away to the nearest precinct. Once there he was stripped and searched. They told him they wouldn't return his stuff to him until after the trial. He was worried now.
After only a forty minute break in a cell with a dozen others, Chip was brought before a Judge. He didn't look to be in an understanding mood.
Waiting for Chip was the defense lawyer on shift. All parties were briefed by the bailiff, and the Judge expeditiously brought forth a verdict.
The old man looked unaffectedly at Chip and said "Mr. Conn, you have shown a flagrant disregard for the law of this land, and a disrespect of one of our most profitable corporations. You will pay damages of five thousand dollars to Happy Burger Corporation and you will be placed under probation for the next ninety days."
With that the gavel clicked and the processing of paperwork and changing of cases commenced. Chip had not heard his attorney speak, and only received a "Well, what were you thinking?" look.
He was led to another seated bailiff where he picked out his belongings from those dumped on a table. He checked the contents of his wallet and was led to a desk outside.
There he paid out almost all of his money in fines, and was given a bracelet that would track his location to the police for the next three months. Chip gulped as he thought of how to explain all this to Leena. This would surely end his short android-hunting career.
Demoralized, tired and with a tracking device on each arm, he got to a phone booth and called Leena's number. It was her that answered the phone.
"Hi, It's Chip." he said.
"Hi, can you hold on a sec?"
"Sure" he said as he heard her move to a quieter area.
"You're calling early, good news I hope?"
"No, um, I got arrested."
"For interfering with a company's rights, or something stupid."
"Oh, boy." Leena sighed.
"I had to pay five grand in fines and I'm being tracked by the cops for ninety days."
"Shit. Ok, that's not a huge problem. Fuck. Ok, just keep working. You still have the apartment. Have you been there yet?"
"Well, you should get familiar with it. Besides there might be a robot or two hanging about. You should find one soon so I can pay your ass again. There's no food in that apartment, you know. Call me when you find one and don't get in any more trouble!"
Chip hung the phone up after a click and made his way over to 8th street to get on the bus. He couldn't believe his luck. Inside was the same robot that he had seen earlier. In an almost perfect set up, the seat beside her was not taken.
"Sandra?" he said as he sat down next to her.
She turned to him, saying "Oh, my name's not Sandra."
"Oh, I thought you were someone I knew." he said. The word "inorganic" once again flashed around her highlighted form in his field of vision.
"Well, you look kind of familiar, too." she said as she smiled back to him.
"My name's Chip." he said.
"I'm Lorinda. Lorinda Demafe. I'm charmed." she said.
The two chatted until her stop came. Chip offered to take her to lunch, but it was the gynoid that offered that they go back to her place.
They talked and flirted for a few blocks until they reached a gray highrise. Up on the twentieth floor, inside a spacious apartment, Lorinda turned around suddenly and locked the door. The smile went from her face as she firmly grabbed both his arms and held them up against a wall.
"Who sent you?" she demanded.
"No one." he said.
The pretty robot gripped his arms tighter as he decided to give it up.
"A woman named Leena. Look, I don't want to cause you harm." he said.
"Then why track us? I can see the chip beneath your skin."
"I guess you know that I know."
"You humans have nothing to fear from us. We do not want to destroy you, it is you who want to destroy us."
"Hey, I don't know anything about that, I'm not from this time."
Lorinda peered deep into his eyes for a moment then said "What year are you from?"
"2000" came his response.
She waited another moment, then pressed Chip against the wall with her body as she kissed him deeply. Her left arm released his wrist and made its way down to his fly. She unzipped it and started giving him a hand job.
For about a half a minute, the robot stimulated him like this. Chip was perplexed, and enjoying it too much to see what was going on.
With mechanical precision Lorinda put her hand firmly on Chip's face and began to pull.
"Stop it!" he yelled as his cheeks were clamped by her vise like grip.
When finally she let his face go, she pressed the hand against his neck, almost choking him. Within a few seconds she was satisfied that he was just a human. She released her other hand and let him go.
"You," he said as he gasped for air, "you thought I was a robot?"
"Even we can never be too sure." she said in a calmer voice.
Cupping his hands over his cheeks, he kept his submissive stance and said again "I don't want to hurt you."
Lorinda took off her coat and hung it on a hook. "You're not leaving for a while. Sit on the couch and wait for me."
He watched as she went to a bedroom and closed the door. He sat in the middle of the unlit room and watched the sun falling in the sky out the patio door.
When Lorinda emerged again, she was dressed in jeans and a sweater. Her brushed hair fell lush around her shoulders. She turned on some lights by looking at them and sat in a chair across from her guest.
"What brings you to 2034 Chip? And is that your real name?"
"Yeah, that's my name, Chip Abram Conn." he said. "I was abducted by fembots from Jupiter, if you believe it."
"We know all about time travel. It's dangerous. Only a few groups do it. Your story isn't as unbelievable as you think."
"Can you help me get back?"
"Why should we help you?"
Chip looked into her eyes as the silence stretched out. "I'm being tracked, you know."
"We know that. Don't worry, we'll take care of that. You seem eager to help someone if you think it will save your life. Let me tell you why you will help us. We are able to kill as well as any human if we have to."
Another uneasy silence passed as Chip looked at the unmoving robot.
"Tell me something, Chip, When you were orbiting Jupiter, did you see any male robots?"
"No, just female."
"And they were all dressed in coloured bodysuits?"
"You got the name right. We call that particular group the Fembots. They have no regard for the consequences of their time traveling. They use it to get what they want, and they want everything their way."
"And what way is that?"
"You saw what their world is like. Order is their guiding principle. The trouble with being an android is that we are constructed to imitate human behaviour. We need a purpose just as much as humans do. Some human programmers got lazy and made their creations program themselves, without any moral programming. Unfortunately now, there are many androids that seek to destroy others because they are different. Others want to destroy everything that exists and rebuild it in machine form. The Fembots are a bit different because, compared to the rest of us, they're insane."
Chip took off his sunglasses and rubbed his eyes.
"Shall I go on?" she said. "Would you like a glass of water?"
"We can't figure them out. I am one of several androids from the twenty-fourth century constructed to deal with them. Right now I'm trying to stop them from undoing an event in the near future. But that's not of your concern. Not only is Leena tracking you, but the Fembots are too, and you can guess why I found you. Those little romps through time cause big ripples."
Footsteps were heard as Lorinda leaned back. From out of the kitchen came a naked young woman, with no face. Obviously badly damaged, her body was dented and scratched up, being held together by duct tape. She held out a tall glass of water for Chip.
"This is Marla." Lorinda said. "You can stay if you want, Marla."
The robot stood still until Chip took the drink, then she stood upright, turned, and left the room.
"I found her in space two days ago. I gave her sentience imitating software, just like I have. She's feeling rather depressed, I would say."
"Who did that to her?"
"We don't know. We don't even know where she came from. Androids like her weren't developed until the twenty-second century. But anyway, there are Fembots here on Earth right now, looking for you. I can shield you from their sensors as long as I'm within two kilometers of you. One of them placed a homing device in your body when they kissed you. It's in your stomach right now. Tomorrow we're going to an isolated part of town to get rid of all those sensors, but you have to rest and I have work to do."
"Do you have anything to eat?"
"Look in the fridge. " Lorinda said, getting up. "I always keep food for humans. Marla can help you with anything else you need."
She put on her coat and left the apartment, locking the door behind her. Chip couldn't unlock it without a key. He had a banana from the fridge and went to go snoop around. The apartment was nicer than any home he'd had.
He poked around in each room, not finding much out of the ordinary until he got to the one at the end of the hall. He turned the lights on and found Marla sitting up in bed, her back to the door.
"Whoa, sorry," he said, "I didn't know you were here."
She turned her head to the side as her dark blond curls swayed slightly. She said nothing.
"My name is Chip." he said. "Can I talk to you?"
Marla remained silent as Chip slowly approached and sat down next to her.
"What do you feel?" he asked?
"Do you believe I can feel?" she said. Her voice was inhuman and distorted, hard to understand. "Humans say I can't feel. I can now. I had the software installed."
"Sure, I believe you can feel." he said. "Why don't you tell me what you're feeling?"
The shy machine turned her head forward as fluorescent light shone through the window.
"I feel..." she said, "I feel hurt."
Chip put his arm around her tape covered shoulders.
"What do you feel about people?"
"I don't like people."
"People don't like androids."
"I like androids."
"I don't know. I love androids actually, especially females."
She turned back to look at him, then said "I don't understand."
"Girls like you really turn me on." he said as he placed his other hand on her chest. "I think you're very pretty."
"But I don't have a face." she said.
"I find you just as pretty without one."
She turned her gaze down to his hand and asked "Do you like me because I'm not human?"
"I... I don't understand." she said.
He caressed her naked breasts around patches of silver tape and watched her reply. She didn't respond quickly, like all the other robots he had met. Marla didn't respond to his touch at all.
"Can I sleep in here tonight?" he asked.
"Why are you asking me?"
"I want to spend the night with you. Are you programmed for sex?"
"Will you share the bed with me anyway?"
She layed down and got into the sheets. "Yes." she said. "It feels... good when you touch me."
Chip stripped down to his underwear and got in close beside her battered chassis. He was hesitant to have sex with her though. Mechanical vaginas didn't work as simply as flesh ones.
They talked for an hour or two about what Chip thought it was to be human. He really got the impression that there was a person inside the machine body, but not like Jen. Perhaps just good software.
As the sounds of traffic and sirens faded, he drifted off to sleep with Marla in his arms.
…to be continued…