02-04_haunted

Jalissa pulled up her knees tighter to her chest, white-knuckled fists pressed against her face.

“Was it- was it a d-dead body?” she stammered, voice quivering.

“Something like that.”

The unremarkable white plastic face peeking out of the pin-striped waistcoat seemed like it belonged in a horror film than simply a forgotten android, but Anny tried her best to set aside her initial shock.

“Can you help me here?” she asked.

WISR bent down, grabbing the robot by the legs and hauling them over his shoulder in one swift move. 

“We can take the shell into one of the rooms, open it up there.”

They wasted no time, storming into the first room they could find, Anny tearing back the top sheet and comforter and setting out some of the fluffy hotel towels, there was no telling what kind of fluids and spills they would find inside this robot. Still, she made sure the android’s head was pillowed comfortably, partly out of knowledge that she was being watched.

“Did they have to make them all so heavy?” WISR complained, rotating back his shoulder a few times and rubbing at the joint.

“Hush, you’re stronger than I am and your muscles don’t get sore,” Anny said, “Help me with this?”

Together, they undid row upon row of buttons, peeling away the clothing until all that was left was a bare, featureless chest. Anny grabbed a flathead screwdriver from out of her bag and used the tool to jimmy open the panel. Most days, a functioning android could unlatch it themselves, but this time it needed a little more effort.

“There we go!”

As soon as she worked the panel free, a cloud of burnt plastic smell, spent oil, and charred components erupted from inside, making her cough and sputter.

“Ugh, gross!”

“For once, I agree. A whole lot of their vital components are either melted, fried, or just broken,” WISR said, peering into the viscera of the robot’s open chest cavity.

His eyes were reduced to square pinpoints above a short, thin line, the entire screen tinted a slightly brighter green.

Anny nodded, opting instead to focus on getting her analyzer plugged into the wires at the android’s wrist.

“There are at least half a hundred error messages here. Management worked them until they dropped.”

“Quite right. When will people learn?”

“The heart drive is missing,” Anny noted, looking over and pointing, “See, right there? Empty slot.”

“That’s probably what blew.”

Anny tilted her head up to the ceiling, “Can you lead us to where you’re actually plugged in?”

A light down the hall lit, pointing the way.

“Come on, let’s go!”

“What’s the plan?” WISR asked, following the trail of lights.

“Not sure. I mean, what can we even do to stop this?”

“It’s not exactly illegal yet, so until androids are freed…”

“And then we’d be free of each other, too. That’ll be the day.”

Finally, the lights halted above a black-tinted glass door, making Anny skid to a stop. Inside, a series of telltale twinkling lights told her that this had to be some kind of server room. She threw the door open to find in the center of the space, atop a shorter unit, a heart drive sat, its wires winding from each machine like spiderwebs, its status light fading in and out again like a pulse.

“I have an idea,” Anny said.

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