Jing’s language processors hummed in a way that was only audible to himself, though they didn’t make a sound heard by others. His connection to the machine still surprised him even after years of adjustment. The woman standing before him wore a bright green Indian ceremonial headdress with matching saree. She was upset and lecturing Jing about unapproved (by her) hedging. The hedges stood seven feet high and resembled rippled waves at the top with aquatic life recessed into the sides. Because the previous design was rigidly modernistic, there were several barren areas that would require attention from the museum’s gardening staff over the next few weeks as the gaps filled in. The woman cocked her hips and waved her hands frantically, pointing out each part of the hedges that displeased her, then rebuked Jing for ruining her special day.
“I had plans for ribbons hanging from the top and setting gifts on the foliar platforms as a tribute to the holy deities” she said.
“I don’t think the museum would have allowed-“
“It doesn’t matter because now I must stop the rehearsal to cancel the decorations, which I already paid for, and notify my photographers and videographers about setting up in a less bleak area of the garden.” She turned away and thrust her fists toward the ground in defiance.
“I am sorry ma’am, but does it look so bad? Look how the curvilinear lines liven the animals that bri-” She shot him a fierce look that said ‘do you really want to boast success in the bush department?’ Jing continued cautiously in hopes of calming her spirit. “I do realize that the changes should have been discussed with you by-“
“You’re damn right! Not only have been discussed with me but it should have been done by a professional, not hacked away by a senseless droid without concern for human life in default programming.”
“Ma’am, I’m no andr-“
“I’m not finished! No you know what, give me your serial number and the name of your operator so I can file a formal complaint. I’m not wasting another breath on a hunk of metal with no emotional intelligence.” Jing sighed. She furrowed her brows and looked him over with scrutinizing eyes.
“Well?” she said. No woman had ever talked to Jing the way this woman had, not even his own grandmother who raised him through the rough age of adolescence. However, it wasn’t the first time he’d experienced hatred from aberrantly discriminant individuals and groups. The trend was unfortunately building in both occurrence and frequency throughout UniCity as Dozens of AI droids were put into production daily. Human and primarily human cyborg citizens responded poorly at best to new robots and androids after people realized that truly conscious AI just isn’t possible, at least not with Earth’s limited technology. Each creation was just another display of the same technological shortcomings and people were getting bored if not down right frustrated with the standstill. To make matters worse, many professions were eliminated because of the implementation of android labor: construction, restaurant workers (including many chefs), mathematicians, and more. All replaced with machines who could do their jobs faster with near flawlessness but viewed as mindless workers none the less. Androids were as popular as last season’s wardrobe in the fashion scene.
“My dear what is going on? Please come back. Aakarsh is so anxious to finish the preparations, he’s been asking when we can eat.” The man turned to Jing. “Please go assist the sound crew in setting up at the stage then report to the florist in the event room.” Jing slowly held up the automated shears attached on his arm and his green-stained coveralls. Then he noticed the event droids’ uniformed suits. The man ignorantly overlooked these obvious details to tend to his exasperated wife.
“Don’t bother with it. There’s something wrong with the programming. It butchered the hedges and now we have to make so many changes to hide the eyesores.” She held out an arm to the hedges before crossing them both and turned to isolate herself. The man looked over Jing’s work.
“This looks amazing dear, I really can’t see what’s the matte-” the man realized his mistake instantly. The woman spun around and thrust her face in his and rumbled lowly.
“We’ll have to re-plan everything else to accommodate for this thing’s screw up and guests are arriving in just a couple of hours.” Her cheeks were glowing embers and her arms like iron maces with fists balled so tight her knuckles shone whiter than the sun. The man smiled lightly at his wife and held her tight in his arm. That’s brave, thought Jing. She didn’t engage him but held her ground, Jing was sure he was about to witness pre-spousal abuse.
“I love that you want to make this wedding perfect, and trust me it will be. Not because it went according to plan but because it’s where you and I commit ourselves to one another for eternity before the others in our lives. Where I can tell everyone else I do, and will do, anything for you my love. The most important thing here today is that I am marrying you, Mrs. Sarita Zutshi. Now, let’s get back to our wedding and let the museum deal with the robot ok?” She sighed and followed him reluctantly back toward the event just as two museum gardening staff approached. Jing shook it off and instructed the men how to care for the plants to achieve the desired effect then headed for the museum’s storage shed around back.
Jing enjoyed the walk. It didn’t invigorate him the way it did before the accident but he was thankful for the plethora of life in the world that faithfully furnished his soul with inspiration. It was from this outside perspective where Jing could remain positive, away from the rash persecutions of impatient citizens. He walked along the cobbled stones past a raised bed of rainbow roses. He zoomed his optics to the base of the plant witnessing several needles injecting preformatted color patterns into the stalk. It reminded him of the tedious ‘checkups’ where mechanics oiled this, charged that and replaced faulty components like changing worn tires. Even the flowers are denied a natural life, thought Jing.
He looked up to the sky, overcrowded with monolithic buildings standing thousands of feet high. Some of the structures supported nearby tram rails with the help of support beams that rose hundreds of feet high throughout Unicity. He shut off his optics and reminisced of clear skies, a fresh salty breeze and the caw of distant gulls. He could feel himself back on the dock in San Francisco, sitting on a bench eating fried oysters while he waited for his fiancé to get the tickets. Jessie sold Jing on this scuba trip a few weeks prior and he’d been excited to leave the house ever since. He’d even bought a new underwater camera for the excursion.
Jing looked over to the ticket booth to see Jessie talking to a tall and broad gentleman in khakis and a navy polo, the conversation looked intense. The man handed Jessie a piece of paper and she looked at it with a frown and nodded to him before handing the paper back. Jing got up to find out what was going on. The man was walking away as Jing arrived revealing a large scar across the back of his neck. Jessie told Jing that the man was asking if either of them had seen a missing girl that was recently on the news, but neither of them had
“That missing girl was a relative of his My heart goes out to him and his family.” she said. Jing hugged Jessie and rubbed her back to ease her concerns. The two got their tickets and headed to the docked ship where a man was handing out shots of tequila. Jessie didn’t want to drink so Jing downed both of theirs before finding a seat and set down his pack.
Jing snapped out of the daydream and was back in the shed at the museum setting down the topiary attachment in the storage unit. The detachment was seamless as his brain subconsciously operated the locking mechanism in his forearm and unplugged before his opposite arm retrieved the equipment. Attachment was just as fast making the changing of appendage modules as simple as changing clothes. His mechanical body was heavy and moved awkwardly compared to his living body but he appreciated not waking up with back pains anymore. Jing was the first and only cyborg in the world where the only natural part of his being was his brain. It was law that making someone a cyborg could not be done aesthetically or as a means of ‘tuning up’ the body. There have been advancements in limbs and organs sure, but they are provided strictly on an as needed basis. Jing may have looked like a robot, but he was far removed from the hundreds of thousands of droids in operation across the world, nearly a quarter million operating in Unicity alone.
Androids merely ran programs and no matter how complex they were, the computer can only operate within the limits of those program. Except for his brain, all of his organs and body systems were replaced with artificial ones created for optimal performance based on a semi-self-sustaining bipedal humanoid design. His entire frame was structured using a 3D graphene shell with tungsten microfiber technology around the vital components to prevent impact damage. Jing’s body was almost a living thing itself with several independent machines joined together through more than 200,000 neurolinks running throughout Jing’s body; communicating, recording, interpreting, learning and operating at impressive levels of efficiency. He was knotting his bowtie as the museum’s staff manager, Jerry, walked into the building.
“You picked a hell of a day to turn my garden into an art show Jing, I had half of Little India down my neck threatening to contact the media about the whole thing.” Jerry had worked for the museum for decades and was great with people. He could motivate depressed workers, give perfect feedback that inspired lasting improvement in his employees and most of all he could spin stories perfectly to shed best light on the museum. But a story about an android disrupting a sacred marriage ceremony is the kind of coverage the media loved to turn into prime time specials as viewers thrived off the controversy.
“They want to go public? Shit let em, I’ve got a countersuit if they even try.” said Jing.
“Not that whole android discrimination shit again Jing, don’t make this political.”
“It should be a hate crime. You of all people know what I’ve been through, you’ve seen what I have to put up with.” Jerry was not only the staff manager of the museum but also Jing’s step-grandfather. Jing grabbed his fedora and checked the fit in a mirror.
“I’ll admit, you’ve put up with a hell of a lot of crap over the last few years Jing. But a bride upset with you on her wedding day isn’t a hate crime. Plus, you’re not even a robot. What do you care what happens to a bunch of brainless scrap heaps?” Jerry had his hands on his hips as he hunched over. He was nearing 60 but looked as sturdy as ever, if you ignored the hunch. Despite the fact that Jing was nearly six and a half feet tall, Jerry was still trying to give the orders as if Jing was still seventeen.
“What happens to them happens to me, It isn’t right Jerry. People treat me like I’m a slave, there to wait on them hand and foot or worse they act as if I’m the direct source of all that’s wrong with the world. They don’t even listen to my defense and I’m sick of it.”
“What’cha expect Jing? You look just like ’em. Haply they don’t carry the self-entitled attitude you so proudly tote around.”
“You’re such a dick Jerry.” Jing headed toward the door. “Hey, you coming to the exhibit tonight?” Jing held out his hand and projected the exibit’s recently released advertisement into a small space the size of a bowling ball just a few inches above his palm.
“Another one? I thought you were getting into cybernetic design? Don’t get me wrong, you’re a hell-of-an artist Jing, but I thought you wanted to do something more impactful.”
Jing pursed his lips and shrugged. “It pays the bills and other than creating my presence online I can’t do much else. I’ve contacted dozens of companies trying to get a foothold somewhere. I even offered to work without pay for a couple months but either no one replied or I received a standard, impersonal rejection letter. Most of my ‘fans’ think I’m a miracle droid. They’re more like cult followers believing in the impossible rather than truly interested fans. Jerry I’m at the point where it’s hard to be anything more than a machine.”
“Well, I don’t care what you’re made of Jing. I’ve known you before you were a cyborg and I’d like to think I know you now. You’ve got hear-” Jing raised his hand with lightning speed.
“Don’t say it Jerry.”
“The doc says you need-“
“Just don’t. I don’t care what the quack says. He never listened to what I had to say either. He just waited till he could tell me about general symptoms or share what he’d read in some journal as if it validated his treatment plan. I gotta go I have a flight to catch, see ya later Jerry. Take care.”
“You too Jing, go sell ’em.”
“Yep.” Physically speaking, Jing healed rather quickly after the surgery and rushed out of the house to the nearest hover train. He was headed to his favorite Italian restaurant in Unicity with an insatiable craving for polpette and struffoli just a couple days after the surgery; the recovery was amazing to say the least. As the waiter approached Jing his face crumpled into a confused mess and said deliveries are around the back. Jing dismissed his rude comment and got halfway through ordering before the now vacant look on the server gave him pause. Jing went to speak a smart remark against the gawking servant, but the words ceased quickly within ear of whispering voices, pointing fingers reaching out from an awkwardly anxious individual darting any manner of audacious expressions.
It was then that Jing realized he was the only non-human in the establishment that wasn’t taking orders. Never in his life had Jing felt so utterly alone and humiliated. He stood immediately and left the establishment with a heavy heart. He later grabbed a hotdog from a nearby vendor, taking a small begrudging bite of it before tossing the link to a homeless puppy nearby. The following week at the clinic, Dr. Bryce said it was normal to have cravings as Jing’s brain was still rendering signals familiar to the organ even though the stomach was absent. Jing tried to explain how the experience made him feel but the doctor said it was normal for augmented people to feel a bit self-conscious of how they look for a while then suggested Jing participate in treatment after treatment which never addressed the heart of his concerns, other people. Jing stopped going after the first year as each visit was even more depressing than the last. It turned out leaving the shrink was the best choice he’d ever made for his self-esteem as a metal man.
Jing walked over to a nearby touchdown pad where one of the fastest aero-cars on the market was docked, a G82 Talon. Jing waved to the pilot who stiffened and hesitantly waved back as Jing approached the vehicle.
“Captain Fogel I presume?” said Jing. The pilot looked him over before responding.
“You scheduled the ride?” he said.
“Yes, to San Fr-“
“State your protocol” the pilot leaned closer as if someone or something was listening. Jing dropped his head and brought his hand over his face, another force of habit rather than there being any strain in his face to massage out.
“I’m not a d-“
“STATE YOUR P-“
“SIR!” Jing’s volume spiked and the man stared blankly at him.
“My apologies. It’s just, I’m not a droid. My name is Jing and yes I scheduled the pickup. Can you fly me to San Francisco?” At best, Jing’s voice came across as a highly sophisticated service droid, but usually it was received by many people as nothing more than monotonous and disinteresting if uninformative for their personal life. The sophistication of today’s technology has been good to Jing and he reminded himself to never forget it no matter how much the people of UniCity tested him. The man squinted flatly as he inspected Jing over. His head and an eyebrow rose in unison as the edged of his mouth dropped to what looked like a pout.
“You got credits?” he said.
“Then I’m Captain Fogel, hop in.” The two entered the craft and secured their harnesses. “San Francisco huh?”
“Yes sir,” Jing presented the address to the captain.
“I can get you there in under 30 minutes for 8 units.”
“That seems a bit heavy for such a short ride.”
“Ok. Well, go ahead and call anyone else and get there in an hour and a half, up to you. It’s not like we’re a dime a dozen either if you know what I mean.” Jing took a moment to think before offering a solution.
“Tell you what, you take me there, wait for two hours then fly me to Sacramento and I’ll give you 12.”
“13 and I’ll throw in entry to the event.”
“What’s the event?”
“My art show.”
“Not an art guy.”
“There’ll be horderves by Dorbiet.”
“Master Chef Luis Dorbiet?”
“The.” The pilot didn’t need long to think it over.
“Did I mention beautiful women who love meeting aviators?” Jing held his palms up and showed holographic images of women he’d met at previous exhibitions, taking care to give just the most beautiful of them. Captain Fogel sighed.
“Damn, alright but two hours tops. PL2453T2 reporting new log.”
“Please state the name and ID of the passenger,” said the ships onboard computer.
“Jing Kitomo, ML188B29” said Jing.
“Trip log initiated. Have a safe flight captain.” Jing didn’t fly often but he had already agreed to the museum gig as a favor to Jerry which put him pretty far from San Francisco, luckily there was a hover-port on the grounds of the museum. Jing figured he’d get some good publicity by using a small local air-taxi company directly affiliated with the UniCity Museum of Evolution.
“So how long have you been affiliated with the museum?” Jing said, attempting to make small talk on the long flight.
“Since 2341, but I’ve been flying since I was a kid. My pops would take me up in an old propeller engine and we’d fly to little airports around UniCity. He said that was real flying, not the flying cars we got now. He’d kill me if he knew what I did now, jeeze. But I love it.” He looked up to the sky.
“Sorry pops, you got no say in this one. So what about you, you’re an artist huh?”
“Hah, something like that. You know it’s weird, I’ve been able to sell just enough to survive but never enough to get ahead. Weirder still is that no one’s heard of me no matter how many exhibitions I host or how much of my work I sell.”
“You gotta get on the network to really get known.”
“Not true, but I have. I’ve even made different sites for each year of work and others still to group my work into different themes, all referencing one another with standard SEO practices but nothing. No visitors but myself and my grandpa, but he was never a tech guy, just went with what worked no questions asked.”
” Painting, sculpture, paper mache?”
“Ha, funny.” Captain Fogel smiled and waved it off. Jing held up his palm to displays images of his favorite works he’d done over the years. Jing includes footage of the hedging he had just finished at the museum then looked to the captain who was watching him.
“That’s a neat trick, you programmed this?”
“No, I’m just pulling memories.”
“I didn’t know that was possible… You’ve got talent though, amazing stuff.”
“Honestly, I believe anyone could practice a steady hand to draw what they want.” The conversation flattened out and after several minutes the captain spoke.
“So… You said you were human once, right?”
“Yes, I was born of my mother and have a human brain.”
“But like from a vagina, not like a robot mom that put a synthetic brain into an android body right?” Jing burst into laughter and his shoulders raised and lowered in response to the emotion.
“Yes, I was a man involved in an accident and my brain was surgically implanted into this machine.
“How uh… I mean what happened? For you to, not have anymore body I guess? I’m sorry is that rude?” the captain struggled to find suitable words to express his curiosity without offending Jing. It was an odd notion for the captain to consider the feelings of a droid. Well, at least someone who looked and sounded like one. It was equally odd having a fluid conversation with him. Him, thought the captain. “hmm” he let out.
“How did I get to be a machine?” Jing finished
“Yea that sounds better. I just, I’ve seen cyborgs before of course but none like you exactly. I mean, you look just-“
“Just like one of them. I know. You’re not the first to assume my inhumanity nor will you be the last I promise. Don’t worry about it. At least you give a damn.”
“Yea. I’m sorry it’s just a bit to get my head around is all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally awesome and I’ve seen stuff like this in movies. Hell, I’mm fully aware we’ve got cyborgs and know a few myself, but to see one so…”
“So non-human?” The captain shrank away at the word which seemed to fit so derogatorily perfect. “It’s ok, I get it. I’ve learned to live with it.”
” So, how’d it happen if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Nah, not at all. It’s actually the first time anyone’s asked me, other than my fiancé so it’s a breath of fresh air. I was uh, I was on a scuba trip with my fiancé Jessie, it was a perfect day. We were swimming around the boat getting instruction on dive techniques when I felt an animal bite my leg or something. I went to the boat to get the first aid kit and don’t remember what happened after that. When I came to I was in this body. I was told there was an explosion that burned me to my skull and I was lucky to have the unique opportunity to survive as I did. And I was…”
“Anyone else survive? Your fiancé?” Jing turned away and gazed into nothing.
“No. The investigators said that there was an electrical malfunction that sparked and ignited an old fuel leak. I took the brunt of the explosion, but everyone else got shredded by the boat’s debris. I lost myself and now my brain lives here.” Jing knocks points to his head.
“I’m sorry Jing. That’s terrible what happened, but also really fucking cool that I get to meet you. It’s amazing what can be done these days isn’t it?”
“I suppose it is.” Feeling the sensitivity of the conversation the captain refrained from further conversation. Jing combed through saved data and memory files for inspiration for his next piece, cycling through them repeatedly in different patterns for the highest possible chance of inspiration. Wading another moment in the memory would only halt the creative process. The smell of the captain’s coffee filled the cabin as he took a swig from the container helped Jing felt rejuvenated and aware of himself as his brain fed him a lingering faux response to the aroma.
“Now approaching your destination Captain.” The captain’s adjusted himself as he eyed the San Francisco landscape. “Engaging landing gear.” They arrived at a large docking station in an older part of town near an upscale flat apartment building. They parked near the elevators that they took down to a foot bridge which took them to the kitchen. Walking across the causeway, Jing caught a glimpse of the captain staring at him.
“Sorry. I was just wondering how, err, if you eat?”
“No, I don’t eat. Well, I can eat but I’m designed to run completely off PAN. I have artificial taste buds and can ‘enjoy’ food but nowhere near what it was before. All pepper is hot and tastes the same, one is not hotter than the other. Technology might make it possible but it doesn’t make it perfect. I usually lean on PAN cause I get more studio time.”
“God PAN. Don’t get me started on that stuff. It’s turning people into walking sticks. I prefer a fuller bodied woman if you ask me, and men are losing the strength they were known for. Advancing civilization is fine, but if the cost is our culture and way of life, pfft, pass me the salt right?”
“I agree that the reliance of PAN for weight loss or its management can be detrimental to an eating culture, but you have to admit the water savings is unprecedented. No one has talked about droughts for years and water levels are at an all time high in centuries. I think that’s the only reason why the government doesn’t stop what they’re doing here in UniCity.”
“Might be,but it’s not natural. Your body needs to shit, pardon my French.”
“Apparently not, It’s been going on for decades now with minimal side effects. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.”
They reached the kitchen as Louis was having a smoke break. He’d just finished directing the last of the dishes and was giving feedback to one of the line chefs; there were two suits outside with him. Bodyguards?, thought Jing. The captain and chef hit it off so Jing told him they’d meet back at the ship in an hour or so.
Jing stepped into the gallery a half an hour after the doors were opened. He was hopeful that being in a major robotics area of the city would expose his ideas to some of the robotic tycoons in the area and get at least a callback or something. The turnout was mediocre, but it was early and the hors d’oeurves hadn’t been served yet. The rich and powerful in Unicity always arrived fashionably late to any occasion. It was their way of letting one know they the only reason they float is because one has peaked their curiosity for the time being. A tall rough looking man walked up to Jing and asked if he could follow him to another room to meet a special client. Holy shit is this it?!, thought Jing as they walked through the gallery. He’d never met any of his clients before, but if they were just arties then they might not have wanted to meet. A potential partner or employer would surely want to meet, reasoned Jing. They reached a door that required a key card and the man scanned his badge, the door unlocked.
“Right this way Mr. Kitomo.”
“Some place huh?”
“Just this way Mr. Kitomo.” They walked together down a long cement corridor leading down toward another secured entry. The man scanned his badge and eyes then the double doors slid open. The man held out his arm urging Jing to enter. Jing walked into a large room surrounded by super computers with thick cables and hoses leading from them to the center of the room where sat a large metallic chair padded black. Several monitors about the room monitored the computers’ data while other screens showed the gallery floor.
“What is this place?”
“Please wait here. I’ll return in a moment with our client.” The man departed as swiftly as they had arrived and doors closed.
“Yea, thanks.” Jing looked over to the monitors of the gallery and noticed that people were leaving so he ran to get a closer look. “No wait! Damnit, this had better be one hell-of-a client.” Jing looked back to the door then again at the monitors to see the man leaving the secured area. As he walked away from the cameras, it was then that Jing noticed something familiar about the guy, something Jing couldn’t quite place. Jing walked over to the door and rapped loudly, not convinced anyone would answer. He looked over to the monitors to see a small group enter the secured hallway. Jing pounded upon the door again and waited. The door opened.
“What the hell is going o-” If Jing had a heart it would have beat through the metal plating of his chest else stopped all together. Jing had seen illusions, spectacles and amazing technology take people further than they could have ever been, but this was the first miracle he’d ever witnessed.
“Jessie? You’re alive?” Jing went to embrace Jessie but she just brushed him aside and walked passed coldly. Her abrasiveness was humbling.
“Oh don’t sound so disappointed Jing.” Jessie turned to go to the monitors and started working quickly and methodically with the machines around the room turning knobs and pushing levers and buttons.
“Jessie?! I thought you were dead.”
“My god Jing! What ever gave you that idea? Oh that’s right we did.”
“I don’t understand. We? Jessie what’s going on?” The rest of the group consisted of two armed guards, a couple doctors and a man in a freshly pressed black suit complete with boutonniere.
“Oh Jing. Everything you thought was real was a lie.”
“What are you saying? That you weren’t in love?”
“I’m saying a lot more than that Jing. Now have a seat.” She gave a look to one of the guards who came quickly and grabbed Jing’s arm to get moving. Jing pulled his arm free and stepped cautiously toward the chair in the center of the room. He looked it over, hesitant to sit.
“Heya, Jing is it? Let me level with you, I’ve waited a long time for this. I mean, we’ve watched you squander your abilities for so long and with the other setbacks we’re already behind. So why don’t you lull your concerns and take a seat.” The suited man was speaking from the table, laying down while the doctors on either side covered him with a gown and prepared several instruments for the procedure. The things that Jing thought he knew were beginning to elude him. Jessie moved over to a nearby monitor, touched a few options and turned a couple knobs on the neighboring deck.
“Is the patient ready doctors?” asked Jessie.
“Ready like a turtle head on a toilet. Ha ha.” Jing was beginning to really dislike this man with his crude laughs and crystal cufflinks.
“Just about Dr. Canton” replied one of the doctors as he shaved the man’s head. The other doctor moved to a screen near Jing to operate a large machine above his head that came down to a very small needle point.
“Doctor Canton?” said Jing, but Jessie said nothing. Jing didn’t know Jessie to be a doctor or engineer and she wasn’t in the medical field when they separated. “Jessie! For god sakes I love you talk to me. I thought we were going to get married, have kids the whole nine yards.” Jessie dropped her head with a sigh and walked over to Jing’s side to put a hand on his shoulder.
“This should be good.” said the suit.
“Jesus Jing, this is pathetic. Let me make it very clear, it was a façade, an act, a ploy to gain your trust. We had several candidates but we happen to choose you.”
“Wha…wh…why me? For what? What’s happening?!”
“Well Jing, I figured if I was going to be with someone they might as well be attractive, otherwise where’s the fun right? You should be flattered really. Although, had I known ahead of time you would be so clingy I would have picked the Armenian woman.”
“Ha ha. Damn doc, you really know how to pick em.” Jing was getting very irritated by the man by now. The doctors had finished removing his hair and one was drawing incision lines around his head while the other was drawing the anesthesia.
“Mr. Body please. Now, sit back and try to relax Jing. It’ll be over in a snip,” said Jessie. Jing looked over to the man and around the room again. There were no other doctors or tables, just supercomputers and screens. The doctors had just administered the man’s sedative and began wheeling him closer to the chair.
“Like hell. I’m out of here” The guard shoved a gun in Jing’s face and cocked it. Jing sat down. “Jessie please, don’t do this. You don’t have to do this.” Jing hammered the chair with his fist denting the arm.
“Oh that is precious. And yes Jing, she does have to do this. She’s getting paid to do this. Now shut up and let’s get on with it already!”
“So it was all a scam, I was nothing to you.”
“No, You’re wrong about that. You taught us so much about the Zenith that we could’ve only learned through a test subject.”
“So, if you’ve learned everything you needed then why do you need me?” Jing’s gaze was hopeful and Jessie felt his eyes searching. She stood upright and walked back to the machines and computers that whirred and beeped.
“Jing, don’t you get it? We learned so much in our first go and we have you to thank for that, but we no longer need you.” Jing stood up. His mind was racing with thoughts and questions and worry.
“Sit down!” Said the guard before him.
“No! You can’t do this!”
“I said sit down mother fucker!” the guard was getting uneasy.
“Wait! Jing, there’s no need to get upset. We have a comp package prepared for Jerry and-“
“Damn you Jessie! You killed me so I could test your machine?”
“And we’ve been more than generous.”
“Jing, don’t tell me you thought customers were buying your art.” Jing’s gaze went blank.
“I’m gonna tell you one more time, SIT DOWN!” yelled the guard; the other was leaving his post by the door to join his comrade.
“Jing, you’ve done a great job and we couldn’t thank you en…” Jessie’s voice faded as Jing looked at her, searching for some sign that this was all a laugh. He prayed that she would tell him, ‘Surprise, just having a go at you’, but hope was futile as she just smiled that awful smile. That ridiculous and ugly, colorless smile. The joy she’d once brought him was now gone and she’d left a bigger hole than when he’d thought she’d died. She’d rejected him and desired to kill him. He hated her and yet still loved her. It was no longer the case that they were together and lost their love, now it is that it never was. Everything he felt was based on a lie and led him to his death. Jing had to do something, but what could he do?
Jessie walked to Jing’s side pushing a cart with a cranial extraction device and made the adjustments to fit the contraption over Jing’s head then she plugged a cord into Jing’s side under his arm.
“Wait!” Jing yelled. Jessie paused and the guard thrust his pistol against Jing’s face. Without thinking Jing knocked the guards hand away and grabbed hold of the probes that hung from the machine on the ceiling and as the guard swung the gun back around Jing drove them fiercely through his arm, pinning him to the armrest on the chair.
“Aaaahh” screamed the guard, holding his arm in agony. The other guard rushed Jing and brought his shocker baton upon Jing who raised his forearm to deflect the smash before kicking the guard away. Jing ripped off the cranial device and pulled the cord from his side and wrapped it around the pinned guard to strangle him. Jessie tried to pull Jing off but Jing elbowed her nose and blood gushed from the wound. The guard’s body dangled limply from Jing’s hold as the doctors approached with sharp medical tools in hand. One had picked up an electric cranial saw and was waving it about wildly in an attempt to keep Jing at a distance while the other wielded a scalpel and pair of scissors.
“Please don’t do this!” cried Jing. the doctor swung the scissors at Jing’s head hard. Jing stepped to the side and jabbed at the doctor’s face who countered with a quick lunge and drove the scalpel into one of Jing’s eyes. The metal sparked and disabled the optic feed from the eye.
“Watch the hardware!” yelled Mr. Body over the blaring alarm. Jing removed the scalpel and held it firmly in his hand. He slashed at the doctor but the other brought the saw down on his shoulder socket, locking movement in the arm all together. Jing turned and struck the doctor three times in less than a second with his good arm crushing the doctors face and dropping his body. Hearing footsteps, Jing grabbed the scalpel from his injured arm and threw it in the direction of the absconder. Jing looked over in time to see the doctor falling into the operating table with the blade protruding from his spinal column.
The other guard was shaking, struggling to remove the safety from his weapon. Just as Jing approached he succeeded and aimed the gun at Jing’s face. Jing grabbed the man’s wrist and crushed it in his grip. The sound of the gun drop masked the squelching of the man’s face as Jing stopped his skull. The room was a bloody mess, as was Jing, and badly damaged. Jessie approached him from behind.
“Jing.” Jing spun around and gripped her neck tightly. Her eyes flared and blood flowed over his hand and arm as she punched wildly at him.
“Hey hey hey. Easy now, I need her.” Mr. Body was leaning against the window trying to support his legs as they lost feeling. Jing squeezed tighter and lifted her off the ground.
“I can pay you!”
“I don’t want your money. I want my life back!” Jing wrung firmly and a vertebrae snapped; Jessie’s thrashing limbs softened then her entire body went limp. Jing dropped her and stared blankly at her.
“Ahhh! You… you fucked up” said Mr. Body as his back slid down the pane. He spoke groggily as the anesthetic took over him.
“I didn’t want to hurt anyone.” said Jing.
“You painted a diff… a different story here pal. Heh, you’re an artist alright”
“Screw you! I didn’t want to but they attacked me. They were going to kill me I had to defend myself.”
“So what. Another ins… insignificant droid out of his misery.”
“Insignificant droid!?” Jing walked over, reached down to grab Mr. Body’s collar and held him up against the window “I’ve been ordered this, told that and treated like I was less than human since I was put in this prison!”
“Oh boo hoo! And what’d you do about it? Huh!? Nothing. You just stoo… stood there and took it you path… pathetic excuse for a cyborg. You think killing me is going to change h… how people treat you? No one knows you exist! We made sure of it!” Mr. Body’s breathing labored and he slurred his speech.
“What’d you just say?” Jing looked away from the man, the overwhelming hatred he’d been subject to was flowing through him that very moment. Jing turned his head toward the carnage he’d unleashed upon the guards and the doctors, and on Jessie. He’d done horrible things tonight that he never imagined he could ever do. “I never want to see you again.” Jing dropped him and turned to leave the room.
“A freak like you can’t hide. We’ll find you Jing and when we do I’ll be the fir… first in line to tear out that insignificant brain of yours.” Jing stopped with his hand on the door.
“Don’t tell me I hur… hurt your feelings boy. Hell, you ain’t even got a heart?”
“Oh I got heart.”
“I can’t hear mumbling, you’re go… gonna have to use tha… that big boy voice.” he said and thud his chest weakly. Jing turned around and started walking back.
“You wanna whis… whisper it huh? Just come on over and tell me what the fuck you’re crying about.” Jing sped into a full sprint and hurled all 400 pounds of himself into the man’s chest, spearing him through the shattered window. Glass sprayed into the night as pieces of the window and the two men flew through the air away from the building glass bounced off of the men as Jing held the man’s collar firmly and positioned his feet firmly on the man’s chest.
“Ahhh!” Just a hundred feed above the causeway Jing launched off of the man with such force that the man’s head exploded across the cement with a pop like the scene of a bloody balloon fight. Jing’s body slowed but crashed into the pavement at nearly 100 miles an hour sending shrapnel flying in every direction as he rolled over 50 feet from the man’s body and laid motionless.
“What was that?” said Captain Fogel to himself as he leaned against his craft. He put out his cigarette and walked to the edge of the parking structure to see Jing lying in the middle of the causeway. “Oh shit!”
Much of Jing’s hardware malfunctioned and restricted movement. His optics glitched and flickered between a live feed and stored memory files. He crawled toward the other end of the causeway with awkward jerky movements.
“Jesus Christ! What the hell happened?” said the captain as he ran across the causeway to help Jing to his feet.
“They were going to kill me.” his voice flickered.
“What? Who was going to kill you? Why?”
“I was just a pawn to test their technology. A way of experimenting under the radar.” Jing looked over to Captain Fogel. “The scuba trip accident was staged so that I would believe my transformation was out of necessity.” Sparks flew from Jing’s arm.
“Staged? By whom?” asked the captain.
“That stain on the causeway.” Jing pointed a malfunctioning finger to Mr. Body without looking.
“My god.” The captain was stunned. Sparks spurted out of Jing’s broken arm.
“I can take you somewhere safe.” Suddenly the captain began entering some coordinates into his PED and the computer and the engine of the airship turned, bringing the airship to life. “I know an guy who might be able to help. He helped me out a couple years ago…” Jing lost consciousness.
Jing was in a coma for nearly a month. When he finally awoke he was mounted to a chair in what looked like a garage with several droids at various stages of development lined up. There were hundreds of parts hanging about the space. Jing dismounted from the table he was hooked to and walked over to a nearby window. He looked out to see a field of tall grass overlooking an oceanic view.
“Ahem.” A scrawny old man wearing coveralls cleared his throat from behind several rows of limbs. “I was wondering when you might wake up.” The man walked over to his workbench and set down a box of parts. “I’ve got something here for you.” The man rummaged through the box and tossed parts around the room then held one, inspecting it closely over the brim of his glasses. “Aha!” The man walked quickly to Jing and positioned the piece over Jing’s forearm. The man inspected the piece, grabbed a couple of rivets and a gun that were hanging from his belt then attached it to Jing’s arm. Jing held out his arm and inspected it.
“Thanks.” he said.
“No problem. Name’s Barry.” The two men shook hands.
“Jing. What district is this?” The man smiled at the question.
“We’re a long way from UniCity friend, this is Capetown. My shop to be exact, and you’re welcome here.”
“Where’s the captain?”
“Well, the captain dropped you off in bad shape. Luckily your body was equipped to be self-sustaining so your brain was in good hands showing minimal damage, but there were parts I had to wait a few weeks for before I could fix you.”
“What are you saying? I’ve been out for over a month?”
“Almost 80 days. I had to call in a surgeon of mine to help me out, we’d never seen anything like you and did our best. How do you feel?”
“Different.” Jing moved his limbs about and did a squat. Then he flapped his arms and turned his head around. “Good.”
“I know you don’t look as pretty as you did before and you don’t have sensation in most of your body but you’re stronger than before. Jerry said you needed to be able to take a serious beating. Taking one look at you I believed it.”
“Jerry Fogel, the captain who brought you here.” The man furrowed his brow, “Anyway, I upgraded your limb pneumatics which will give you more speed and fluid motion.”
“Thank you. Really. I don’t even know if I can afford to-“
“No no no, don’t you worry about that. Jerry and I go back a ways and to be honest, it was more of a labor of love. You don’t owe me anything.” Jing was speechless. One moment he’s fighting for his life against people who wish to remove his brain and the next he’s being upgraded by complete strangers because they have fun doing so.
“Jerry must of thought highly of you.”
“I wouldn’t know, we’d only just met.”
“Really? Well he must’ve seen somethin’ in you to do what he done for you. You should know that I found a tracking device housed in your frame.” Jing shot a look of concern at Barry and started checking out the windows. “It was destroyed so don’t worry, but it’s not usual for cyborg parts to be monitored so closely. Do you know why you were being tracked?”
“The people who gave me this body never intended for me to keep it.” Jing caught a glimpse of himself in a dusty mirror on the wall. He hardly recognized his reflection with the recent upgrades Barry had made.
“I’m sorry, but I work on labor droids primarily and I did my best with what I had available you understand.” At least they won’t recognize me, thought Jing.
“Not at all, it’s perfect. I can’t thank you enough.”
“Well, now you’ve got a chance to live life on your terms no?.”
“It seems so.”
“What will you do?” asked Barry.
“I’m going back.”
“Aren’t you afraid those goons are gonna find you again?” looking somewhat confused.
“Not if I find them first.” Jing walked out of the bay and into the grassy field to look out over the ocean. He watched the setting sun ripple auburn and gold on the ocean waves as gulls squawked overhead. For the first time since he became a cyborg, Jing was content with who he was. He didn’t give a shit what other people thought of him, he had to return to UniCity to find the rest of the people involved in his death. A coverup this big isn’t done by a few doctors with the funds of a rich bastard, no. Jing had to go back, he had a score to settle.