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The Hate I Feel
Glass from the broken window crunched under my feet as I paced the length of the room. The boy sitting in the corner was still and silent. I almost thought he was dead.
Which would have been very bad for business.
I always thought hostages made way for a dirty deal with the family at some seedy bar or grimy alleyway, but Baston was speaking to his parents at a glitzy restaurant in downtown Toledo. He was dressed in a scarlet tux with black trim and had slicked back his strawberry blonde hair like he was going on a date.
I despised him for leaving me alone with the little twit.
I was starting to wonder if it was even worth it. A couple million dollars sounded good, really good, but I didn't want to have to make good our promise if they refused.
“Twelve-fifty,” I muttered, sneaking a glance at the bag of bones and flesh in the corner, “If you’re dead I’m committing android suicide.”
He didn’t stir, and I sighed gently before inching towards him. I flexed my fingers as I knelt before him, wishing I was anywhere else but there.
His fingers twitched, but that was it.
I shuddered as my fingers grazed his neck, right where his pulse was, and was glad I couldn’t barf. His pulse drummed against my fingers and I stuck out my tongue, curling my nose in disgust, as I wrenched my hand away.
I shuddered again and backed away from him, having risen to my full height of six feet.
Humans had always seemed so expendable and fleshy to me, that’s why I reused to have synthetic skin grafted onto my body to hide the silver sheen of my metal skin. I thought it was ridiculous when other robot’s altered themselves to look more like the humans that plagued our planet. We were the first to live on Dafton but we felt the growing pressure to look more like them. It made no sense. I pressed my left fist against my stomach and smiled in appreciation when it didn’t indent like the human’s .
Baston urged me to at least mask my purple eyes and metallic skin, but I would only wear the wigs he bought me every few weeks. That day I was wearing black and purple dreadlocks shot through with gold and silver that hung to my hips.
I started to pace again, attempting to alter my personality for the second time that day. It varied every day as a part of my programming. Sarcastic and impatient was my least favorite personality.
I heard a door slam downstairs and used my X-Vision to see through the creaky floorboards. Baston’s confident gait and maroon suit greeted me, and I felt my knees sag in relief.
“T!” He called, and I hurried to meet him halfway down the stairs.
“Well?” I demanded, giving him a sarcastic look that I attempted to make earnest.
He shouldered past me and I growled impatiently before following him back into the room. He shrugged off his jacket and draped it over the lone chair opposite the hostage.
“What did they say?”
He turned to look at me, “Pack him up.”
I scowled and crossed my arms over my chest, “Tell me now or I’ll rip your head from your neck.” He gave me a disbelieving look and I bared my silver teeth, “I’m not bluffing.”
He softened his feminine features and nodded gently, “They want him delivered to the Caslon.”
I pursed my lips, “That rich man’s club near East? Why would we go there to exchange a hostage?”
He shoved his hands in his pockets, a lazy smile on his face, “I don’t pretend to understand. I just take the money and run with it.”
I scowled, “This hostage stuff gives me creaky joints,” I told him, flipping my hair over my shoulder in order to lean down and scoop up the light-as-a-feather boy. I shuddered again at the feel of his flesh against my metal, and turned down my touch receiving sensors so the disgust was dimmed as was his fleshy feel.
“Enough complaining, T. I take care of us, don’t I?”
I turned to look at him, “Barely, Baston. We live in an abandoned mansion with no food, no water, no heat. How are you taking care of us again?”
He scowled, “We don’t even need that stuff.”
“True, but Angel does,” I countered.
He shrugged, “I do my best, T.”
“Your best is hardly enough.”
He waved the jab away, “Speaking of Angel. Where is he?”
I rolled my eyes and shifted the boy’s weight, “He went for some food about twenty minutes ago. I was left with this bag of meat and hormones for twenty minutes!”
He shook his head at me, a curl of his slicked back hair escaping from its place and dangling in front of his left eye, “Let’s go.”
I followed him downstairs, being a little too rough with my handling of the hostage..
Baston led me out to the hover car that was rusted and peeling green paint, and I dropped the boy on the grimy ground so I could attach the back trailer to it for him to lie on.
“All set?” Baston asked, scooping the kid up and standing next to me.
I nodded, and he dropped the boy inside unceremoniously.
“What about Angel?” I asked, grabbing his shoulder.
He turned back to me slowly, “We’re doing this for him.” He told me, towering above me in his 6’1 form, purple eyes pulsing gently, “we need the money.”
“But we can’t leave him alone!” I snapped.
We had been tasked to protect Angel, which meant being around him 24/7 and getting money to provide for him no matter what. That last part was tough, though. Androids were considered “dangerous” and weren’t allowed to be employed. That’s why we were bargaining for the hostage’s life. To buy more food and water for Angel to survive.
“What if they come looking again?”
“We’ll be out of here by ten. I promise. We just need this money for my contacts and⎯”
“Wait,” I held up my hand to stop him, eyes blazing with my impatience since I couldn’t be angry, “this is about your contacts!? We need this money for Angel! We’ve been reprogrammed to⎯!”
“I know!” He hissed, “but I need this, T!”
I scowled, rolling my eyes to emphasize my disapproval, “You don’t need contacts to look more human. Our charge needs food and water and to be kept safe as our programming requires.”
He shook his head viciously, “Forget it. I’m getting them one way or another.”
And that’s when I snapped. I reached out with my metallic hand and grasped his shoulder once again to whirl him around. But that time I didn’t yell. I pulled my fist back and clocked him in the jaw.
He stumbled back in surprise then went rigid as his eyes flashed blue and he ran a quick diagnostics. I had hardly injured him, and I clicked sarcastically at the small voice that berated me for harming another android. I hated being linked to the PoNet, a recent mandatory program that connected all androids to the police’s Criminal Watch Net. I managed to hack and erase most of my citations daily, but it was still a pain in the metal butt.
Baston worked his jaw furiously and hopped into the front of the hover without addressing the incident, “Coming?” He huffed.
I scanned the streets and then sighed when I didn’t catch sight of Angel and one of the “groovy” shirts he always asked me to buy whenever we had some money leftover. I hated human’s, but that didn’t really include Angel. He was my charge as well as Baston’s, so I had to like him, but there was something different about Angel and I didn’t want to leave him alone.
“Yes,” I climbed in after him and Baston urged the hover forward. It whizzed gently and shot off like a bullet, joining the rest of the traffic.
I looked back briefly to make sure the boy was okay and my programming ran a long diagnostic to ensure me further that I hadn’t damaged him. It color-coded a purple bruise on his chin with red, and noted that he was sweaty, but every other part of his body was coated green.
I let out a breath, glad the hostage was unarmed. I would have felt bad if he had been. He was only thirteen, after all. Still fleshy and full of organs, but a kid nonetheless.
I looked over at Baston, who was stony faced, and sighed impatiently, “I’m sorry, Baston. But you know I’m right. You want to be human, and that’s… okay, but we need the money for something more⎯”
All of a sudden, a feminine voice in my head trilled, “Twelve o’clock, time for your personality change!” My eyes glowed pink and my “brain” rewired itself, “Personality change to calm and understanding complete! Enjoy!”
My eyes returned to their normal purple, and I shook my head to get rid of the white screen that popped up in front of my left eye.
I focused on Baston and lowered my voice in order to let him know I understood, “If we have money leftover, we’ll consider it, but right now we need to take care of Angel. I hope you understand, Baston.”
He glanced over at me, face somewhat grim, “It’s twelve?”
I nodded, face drawn in understanding.
He looked away in disappointment, “We’ll be there soon.”
I let the PoNet read me the latest crimes committed that day until we arrived at the Caslon, parking in the abandoned back where garbage cans and drug dealers hung out.
“Here we are,” Baston hopped out and held out a hand to me.
I took it calmly and scooped the boy up. He shifted in my arms and I adjusted him to make sure he was comfortable.
He opened his brown eyes a slit, and I grimaced a little before smiling thinly and calmly, “No. But your dad will be here soon.”
He fell asleep again, and I looked up at Baston who was watching me carefully, “You’re so… different all the time,” he muttered.
I shrugged, understanding his discomfort, “It’s in my programming.”
He nodded and rolled up his sleeves before checking the watch welded into his left wrist, “They’ll be here soon. He’s unharmed?”
“Good, we’ll be out of here faster than they can call the police. I just hope Angel is back by the time we return.”
“Me too,” I agreed.
Five minutes later a hover pulled up in front of us, the windows tinted a deep black so we couldn’t see in. The door on our side slid open, disappearing into a small opening inside the car. A short man, by android standards, stepped out and regarded us carefully, brown eyes resting on his son.
“I’ve got the money,” he told us, “just give him here.”
I tried to smile reassuringly, but it came out as a thin, calm line, “He’s unharmed.” I assured him, stepping closer and holding the boy out to him.
He shook his head, “Set him down.”
I did as I was told and he tossed a wad of money at me that he had pulled from the pocket inside his tweed jacket.
Baston tugged the money out of my hands and pointed at the hover, indicating I should get on it. I hopped in and watched him count the money carefully as the man stared at his son, eyes roving for injuries.
“As specified,” Baston said lazily, “you can’t tell anyone about this. If you do…” The man nodded and Baston joined me in the hover.
As we zoomed away, I saw the man fall to his knees and start weeping over his son, and all I could help thinking was, Humans are so messy.
Angel was waiting outside when we returned and he looked absolutely livid, “I thought you two were dead!” He snapped, moving aside when Baston hopped off and gave me a hand.
“We’re fine,” I said calmly, “things went just as planned, but we have to get moving.”
He nodded, still fuming in his black button up with squiggly neon lines through it, “I know how this works.”
I made sure the trailer was still hitched up tight as the boys packed up Angel’s meager belongings. All he really owned were clothes and the glass model of an old Toyota our assigner had given him.
I sighed calmly and leaned against the trailer as the boys made their way out.
“Need anything inside, T?” Angel asked, loading his stuff in the trailer.
I shook my head, “I’m good.”
He shifted awkwardly in front of me, “Great…”
I turned my head toward Baston, who looked grim.
“What?” I asked.
“Check the PoNet,” Angel told me.
My eyes fluttered as I ran through the most recent crimes… and there I was. My face was plastered on a Digipost, with the large words WANTED below it. Baston was there too, but his bounty was much less than mine. I pressed my lips into a thin line, “He told.” I said, unable to act any other way than calm and understanding.
“Yeah, and the police will be looking for a skinless android all over the place.”
“Then let’s go,” I jerked my head towards the front seats.
Baston shook his head, “They’ll be looking for you, T. Wherever we go. I can change the tint of my skin and the color of my hair with simple reprogramming. You can’t. Not without the skin grafting and wired-in hair.”
I felt my wiring short-circuit, “No.” I said gently, still as calm as physically possible.
“It’s time,” Baston insisted, “you need a disguise.”
“I’ll change my hair,” I suggested, glad I couldn’t be sick but simulating the experience, anyway. I felt fake bile fill my throat and my “stomach” turned.
“That won’t work. You’re one of the few androids that refuse skin, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.”
I looked at Angel and his extremely apologetic expression.
“We’ll talk about this on the way,” I said, climbing into the hover, “let’s just go before the police find us.”
Angel squeezed in next to me with Baston pressing against his left side in order to drive. The squish of Angel’s skin against my metal made me sick, and I switched off the simulation hurriedly and lowered my touch receptors even further.
“We’re in the hover, now let’s talk about this,” Baston insisted.
I adjusted my brown vest and gave him a look full of grave calm, “This isn’t a discussion, Baston. I don’t want to be fleshy. No offence, of course, Angel.”
He shrugged and flashed me a grin, his skin rubbing further against my bare arms, “None taken, T.”
I nodded and tried to put as much distance between us as possible, “Please, Baston.”
He shook his head, more curls escaping from their gel prison, “It’s not an option anymore.”
If I had a heart, I knew it would have plummeted deep into my feet. But I didn’t and the only thing I could do was look up and pretend I wasn’t going to be forced to become something that I practically loathed; a human.