Inspired by “The Offer” by

If you have not read “The Offer” by, to which this story is a sequel, stop right here and read it first.  (It’s available here, among other places.)  You should also read my first sequel to the original, ambitiously entitled “The Offer, Part 2,” which is also available on this site.  If you don’t, you may not understand everything that occurs in this story!

Note: The following story contains explicit sexual material. If stories about sex, and particularly robots and sex, do not appeal to you, please don’t read any further. This story should not be read by anyone under eighteen years of age. (You know who you are.)

Chapter 6:  The Secret

“So tell me what this thing does again?”

Wendy was sitting down now, slowly turning over a strange metal object in her hands.  It was a thin band of chrome, some two inches wide, curved into a rigid semicircle.  A line of small white circular pads dotted the inside of the band.

“It’s an inhibitor,” Unit T800 explained.  “It won’t hurt . . . in fact, it won’t do anything to you at all.  It just blocks any signals your mind might be sending out.”

“It’s important that you put it on before we transport you back to the home world,” Unit T801 added.  “If we’re not careful, you could disrupt every N unit you come into contact with.”

Wendy turned to look at Unit N986 . . . Rosa.  The android girl was standing at attention by the wall, staring straight ahead.  “Is she going to be all right?” Wendy asked.

“Why don’t you ask her yourself?” T801 replied.

As if on cue, N986 blinked once, then stepped forward.  She neatly turned her head to face Wendy.  “Sorry,” she said.  “You all were talking, and you didn’t seem to need me, so I zoned out.  But I really am OK . . . Wendy.  That’s your name, isn’t it?  I feel like I know you from somewhere, but . . .”

“But that shouldn’t be possible,” T801 interjected gently.  “I know.  But the anomaly will be corrected soon.  Now, if you’d just lie down on the platform, we can get started.”

“We just want her to be comfortable,” T800 explained in answer to Wendy’s quizzical look.  “You’ll have to shut her down before you put that inhibitor on, or she’ll malfunction.”

“Come on,” T801 said.  “The sooner we get you to the home world, the sooner you can finally get the answers you’re looking for . . . and the sooner we can re-activate N986.”

Rosa was now lying comfortably on her back, her eyes fixed on the ceiling.  She seemed to sense that Wendy was looking at her, and she turned to give her an encouraging smile.  “Don’t worry about me,” she said.  “I don’t understand what’s going on—and I bet I won’t remember any of this—but I have a feeling you’re going to be really happy when it’s over.”

Wendy took Rosa’s hand and smiled.  “Yeah, let’s hope so.”

“Just don’t take too long, OK?”

“OK.”  And with that, Wendy instinctively projected her voice into Rosa’s mind.  BEGIN SHUTDOWN SEQUENCE.  Immediately, Rosa’s head jerked and her eyes lost focus.

“,” the android intoned.  Wendy watched as her friend’s head turned to stare blankly at the ceiling.  Before N986 had even finished shutting down, Wendy turned to face the T units.

“So, what now?”

“Now,” T801 replied, “it’s your turn.”

*                    *                    *

The first thing Wendy felt, at least a full second before she heard the humming of the machines all around her, was the electric pulse at the center of her back.  Something had been attached there—a power coupling.  It was functioning normally.  The memory of being shut down for transport returned as her eyes blinked open.

At first she saw nothing but a chrome wall, less than a foot from her face.  She was in some kind of tube, lying comfortably at a slight angle from the vertical.  A pair of soft lights to either side of her head allowed her to make out her reflection in the tube’s metal surface.  Her silver suit completely covered her neck and throat now, rising all the way to her chin.  Though her hair still fell to her shoulders, the metallic fabric now framed her entire face, climbing along each jaw to her temples and stretching across her forehead, where it kept the inhibitor gently pressed to her skin.

The front wall of the tube suddenly slid down into the floor.  Wendy’s eyes adjusted to the light just to see the face of a male android leaning over her.  He looked at something outside Wendy’s field of vision—a status panel, she guessed—then turned back toward her.  The android’s expressionless face was serene, and it seemed to Wendy as though a gentle smile might appear at any moment.  She felt exposed and vulnerable, and yet her trust in the android was complete.

The android’s visual sensors flickered gently as he scanned Wendy’s face, and her pulse quickened when they finally locked onto her eyes.  She wished he would touch her.

“The unit has been successfully reactivated,” the android said.

“Good, Unit N315,” replied a female voice.  “Remove her from the recharging station.”

Unit N315 pressed a button on the outside of the tube, and Wendy felt a sharp click as the power coupling disengaged.  The programming disks over her ears hummed to life, and she felt instructions entering her brain.  She inhaled deeply, like one awaking from a long sleep.  Instructions received.  This unit will obey.

Wendy right hand rose from her side, and Unit N315 helped her step out of the recharging tube.  From the stiff, mechanical movement of her arms and legs, Wendy could tell she must be at functional level ten.  But as always, her conscious mind was still active, floating just outside the programmed directives that controlled her actions.

Coming to attention alongside Unit N315, Wendy found herself in a long, narrow chamber, just large enough to hold eight chrome tubes identical to hers.  Just inside the door stood a tall, slender female android with short hair of pure chrome.  Her shoulders, waist, and boots were decorated with gold piping.  Her smile somehow projected both a powerful confidence and an easy charm.

“Thank you, Unit N315,” the female unit said.  “That will be all.”  As the male android left the room, the female returned her attention to Wendy.

“Welcome to the home world,” she said warmly.  “We haven’t met, but I’ve heard a lot about you.  I am Unit C457.  But I have no problem with you calling me Joanne, if it makes you feel more comfortable.”  She turned toward the door before pausing.  “Oh, speaking of which:  why don’t you go to functional level one.”

SET UNIT TO FUNCTIONAL LEVEL ONE.  A faint surge of electricity rippled along Wendy’s skin as her mind and body reconnected.  “Thank you, Unit C457—Joanne.  Functional level one restored.”

“Great.  Follow me.”

C457 had led Wendy all the way down a long corridor and into a cylindrical elevator before Wendy had the courage to speak.  “Are you going to be able to tell me what’s wrong with me?”

Turning, C457 smiled again.  “Now what makes you think there’s anything wrong with you?”

“Gee, I don’t know, maybe it’s that I’m not allowed to finish the process and become a real android . . . or the part where my programming doesn’t seem to be fully in control of me . . . or maybe it’s the way everybody else goes haywire whenever I’m around.”

“I can understand your frustration.  But trust me, just because you’re not like the other units doesn’t mean you’re not perfectly normal, in your own way.”

The elevator door slid open onto an intersection of three broad corridors.  There was much more activity here than below.  A handful of androids could be seen walking purposefully along the passage ahead, their bodies reflected in the chrome walls.  But C457 didn’t lead Wendy that way, turning instead to the right and passing into a circular tunnel whose arched walls formed a giant curved window onto the outside.  Sunlight filled the spacious passage, which formed a bridge between two buildings of chrome and glass.  As many as a dozen androids were passing between the buildings in both directions.

Looking back through the bridge’s roof, Wendy could see that the building she’d just left was a broad, featureless cylinder, perhaps a dozen stories tall, situated at the foot of a cluster of similar structures of varying heights.  But the building toward which C457 was leading her stood alone, a majestic cylindrical tower ringed with lesser towers, each twenty feet in diameter, that clung to its circumference.  These varied in height, rising and falling in a wavelike pattern around the main structure, their polished white walls contrasting with its perfect rows of steel-framed windows.

Turning to look out through each side of the tunnel, Wendy was awestruck at the cityscape that stretched out before her.  Glittering buildings of every conceivable shape and size lined broad streets whose perfect grid was broken in places by open plazas, lush green parks, and the river that wound its way through the city.  There were fountains, sculptures, and even what appeared to be an open-air stadium or theater.

Everywhere she looked, shining chrome androids were going about their business, some carrying out their programmed functions and others clearly in self-programming mode.  It was amazing how many of them were walking in pairs.

“I never expected it to be so beautiful,” Wendy said aloud.

“Expecting a little less form to go along with the function?” C457 asked.

“A lot less.  What do you call this place, anyway?”

“Urban Zone XQ-24-Z,” C457 replied without hesitation.  Wendy halted in mid-stride.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“Of course I am.”  C457 hadn’t even bothered to turn around, instead heading inside the tower and continuing down another corridor.  Wendy rushed to catch up.

“If our creators gave this place a name,” C457 explained as they approached another elevator, “it was lost along with all other records of who they were and why they put us here.  We do know that this planet was not their home, but despite centuries of searching we have not found them.  It is possible that they no longer exist.  Indeed, our race might also have died out by now if we hadn’t found a way to turn humans into androids.”

“When did you start doing that, anyway?”

“Believe it or not, it’s only been 36 years since our first successful transformation of a human being.  He was the one who first gave our city a name:  New Arcadia.”

“Arcadia . . . I’ve heard of that before.  Wasn’t that, like, part of ancient Greece or something?”

“That’s right.  It was relatively isolated from the rest of civilization—and, so the legends say, its people lived a simple life, in harmony with their surroundings and each other.”

“Wow, only 36 years.  So then how many of us are there?”

C457 laughed.  “It’s kind of you to say ‘us’ after all you’ve been through, Wendy.  Last time I checked, there were approximately 560,000 of us in all.”

“But that’s barely enough to populate this one city.”

“Correct.  Though I should point out, even at the height of their civilization, our ancestors numbered only about twenty-three million.  Our race has never occupied more than a tiny portion of this planet, though of course we’ve explored it and mapped it thoroughly.”

“Did you just say 23 million?”  Wendy asked incredulously.  “What happened to them all?”

“Well don’t forget, our ancestors were pure machines, not converted humans like myself . . . or you, eventually.  For reasons we still don’t understand, about fifty years ago those machines began to fail—and our population began to decline rapidly.  We quickly realized that we needed a new reproductive strategy if we wished to survive.”

“Yeah, I think Sam told me about all this once.  That’s why the first human beings were brought here for study.  Soon after that, one of them asked to be transformed . . . and that turned out to be the solution.”

“Right.  He’s the one I mentioned earlier . . . the first of our new race.  But what you probably don’t know is what made it possible for him not only to survive the transformation process, but function properly as a converted human being.”

By now C457 had led Wendy out of the elevator and down a long corridor.  At the end of the corridor stood a pair of imposing steel doors.  As they approached, the doors opened.  A female T unit emerged, followed closely by a young man and woman in silver spandex transformation suits.  A small panel of the shiny fabric was missing from each of their abdomens, and there Wendy could see the faint flickering of green and yellow lights.  The T unit briefly acknowledged C457 as she passed by, but the other two units stared intently ahead, heads cocked, as their changing bodies ratcheted stiffly behind her.

Wendy followed C457 through the open doors and into the transformation chamber which lay beyond.  The brightly-lit room was staffed by a half-dozen androids in shiny white lab coats, two of which were working to prepare the transformation stations on which, Wendy assumed, they had processed the couple she’d just seen.  Upon the approach of Unit C457, both turned toward her as though expecting instructions.

“Please,” C457 said, “resume functions.”

One of the androids, an N unit, bent down to disconnect the last few cables from the transformation platform at which he stood.  The other, an M unit, then wheeled the platform through a door in the side wall of the chamber.

“The real reason that first human transformation was successful,” C457 said, her back to Wendy as she surveyed the room, “had less to do with our first volunteer than with his wife.”

“Huh?”  Wendy didn’t understand.

“Let me back up a step.  Think about it:  what does it mean to transform a human being into a robot?  It can’t be a complete replacement of that person with machinery, or what’s the point?  If you’re not preserving anything from the original person, why not just build a machine from scratch?”

Wendy nodded, still trying to figure out where this was going.

“You’ve already seen first-hand how each android retains his or her distinct identity and personality,” C457 continued.  “Each individual in our society is unique . . . and very much the same person he or she was before.”

“Yeah,” Wendy agreed.  “It’s amazing how little Sam’s really changed since—well, since she changed.”

“But her memories aren’t just records in a database, and her habits aren’t just more algorithms among the rest of her programming.  The secret to our existence is that we’ve found a way to preserve the individual self of each person who joins us.  And that’s not something you can store in a machine.  The human psyche can only be housed within a human being.”

C457 turned toward Wendy now.  There was something strange about the way she was looking at her.

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying, Wendy, that our existence depends not so much on machines that can control the human mind, but rather on a handful of special human minds with the ability to control machines.”

Again, Wendy heard Rick’s voice calling out from that first strange dream.  “There’s something special about you, Wendy,” she whispered to herself.

Just then, the missing M unit wheeled the platform back into the room.  Seated on the platform, legs straight ahead and hands resting stiffly on her thighs, was a human female with light brown skin.  She was a petite girl, with full breasts and generous hips, whose black hair fell in thick waves to her shoulders.

The girl was encased in silver spandex from the neck down.  A large chrome key protruded from the middle of her back.  It was not turning.  Her beautiful face was calm and expressionless, and her dark, almond-shaped eyes were vacant.

C457 raised her hand, and the M unit came to a halt.  The C unit turned back to Wendy.

“OK,” she said.  “Here’s where it gets interesting.”


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