Episode 25: Ace

Usually waiting cast Crimson into a wasteland of dark thoughts and piqued uselessness—the vacuum of inactivity somehow exposed her empty, robotic soul. This time, it didn’t come. Maybe Keffler had ticked her off just right.

Maybe the universe didn’t owe her a soul back. But if a squishy, soft arm and a leg were all she had left, then she wasn’t going to let anyone take those from her without a fight. She called Micron to help her.

The miniature android was illegal in 17 systems simply by existing. Not all androids, or as Micron preferred, Synthoids, reached what most people would consider sentience. Some were clearly under-programmed. But some were more conscious than some humanoids Crimson knew. Conscious synthetic lifeforms didn’t fit many categories, and several star systems simply refused to integrate them. The ones that looked normal but could perform above normal expectations also made people wary, for obvious enough reasons. Of course, “normal” in a universe of thousands of alien races could mean anything. Fortunately Micron didn’t resemble most humanoids.

Micron was a retired police bot from Andromeda III. Andromedans, genetically, were short; and their heavy brows and face made them vaguely simian (though the lower jaw was thinner than a reptile’s).Crimson didn’t know exactly how old he was, or how long he’d freelanced on various worlds and odd jobs before his programming became fully self-aware. Mostly he was a designed for recon and pursuit. That’s why she’d taken him on. Upon integrating him with the Rival’s sub systems they learned that he came with a curio cabinet of little skills like hacking electronic locks and such. “It is standard Peace Keeper technology,” he explained: “for entering a suspect’s domain when necessary.”

The diminutive droid only stood to her ribcage at full height, and had a vaguely werewolf build (if her Mindframe could be believed); his knees were reversed like a dog on its hind legs. He didn’t have hair, or wear clothes usually, though a smooth, matte, skin covered most of his structure, which looked eerily muscular underneath. It was often a chalky gray color, or else he could darken it for more clandestine operations; Crimson had also seen him turn navy blue, and a dirty red. Heavy ankles and wrists however betrayed his non-organic make up. Clean black seams opened to reveal sets of extendable wheels. The ‘pursuit’ function of the android being made evident when he folded in half and became a miniature quad-mounted torso and head that could relay anything through the eye cameras to a slaved computer while on a rapid chase.

He didn’t wear clothes; he didn’t have genitalia. Clothes inhibited his transformation into pursuit mode. Still, out of the corner of the eye, it felt like having a little hairless, naked midget onboard. It had caught her off guard once or twice.

It was his eyes, though, that were disturbingly human. If they had been a beautiful blue, one could almost write them off as idealized glass, like a doll. But Micron’s eyes were a dark brown, and unreadably deep. Crimson made it a point to stare at the fat rubber antennas that stood behind his ears instead. No need to send her into an existential maelstrom of why a synthoid had more depth than her.

But Crimson was interested in none of these functions at the moment. She was hoping he was handy with electronics. With two days until Gator would arrive, hungry and cross, she needed someone else to help her load a concealed firearm into the spacious gap in her left thigh compartment.

The universe didn’t owe her anything, and she was about to make a phony drug deal on unfamiliar territory with a dangerous criminal. A clunky maser wouldn’t be hanging from her hip in plain sight for this one, and she wasn’t going in unarmed. She’d have to apply for the Galactic Precinct’s concealed weapon sub-license after…