Artificial by Jadah McCoy
Published by: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication date: April 4th 2016
Genres: New Adult, Science Fiction
She struggles to feel human.
In 2256, the only remnants of civilization on Earth’s first colonized planet, Kepler, are the plant-covered buildings and the nocturnal, genetically spliced bug-people nesting within them: the Cull. During the day, Syl leaves her home in the sewers beneath Elite City to scavenge for food, but at night the Cull come looking for a meal of their own. Syl thought gene splicing died with the Android War a century ago. She thought the bugs could be exterminated, Elite city rebuilt, and the population replenished. She’s wrong.
Whoever engineered the Cull isn’t done playing God. Syl is abducted and tortured in horrific experiments which result in her own DNA being spliced, slowly turning her into one of the bugs. Now she must find a cure and stop the person responsible before every remaining man, woman, and child on Kepler is transformed into the abomination they fear.
He struggles not to.
For Bastion, being an android in the sex industry isn’t so bad. Clubbing beneath the streets of New Elite by day and seducing the rich by night isn’t an altogether undesirable occupation. But every day a new android cadaver appears in the slum gutters, and each caved in metal skull and heap of mangled wires whittles away at him.
Glitches—androids with empathy—are being murdered, their models discontinued and strung up as a warning. Show emotion, you die. Good thing Bastion can keep a secret, or he would be the next body lining the street.
He can almost live with hiding his emotions. That is, until a girl shows up in the slums—a human girl, who claims she was an experiment. And in New Elite, being a human is even worse than being a Glitch. Now Bastion must help the girl escape before he becomes victim to his too-human emotions, one way or another.
A sign hangs over the body, its mangled wires spilling out of the faux flesh, limbs at an unnatural angle. There’s a crater bashed in the lightweight steel skull that droops against its dented chest. The metal that creates our bodies is hardy stuff—it took some force to put those marks there, some real disgust behind those blows.
The sign above the mecha corpse reads “Death to Glitches.”
I keep my face carefully neutral as I pass the scene, dodging hovercrafts as they zip by. A few fellow androids gather around, as they always do when a new cadaver joins the others in the gutter.
Bitterness hardens my eyes, tenses my brow and jaw. No, no. That won’t do at all.
To show remorse, to show any emotion at all—that is a death sentence. But the smart ones, well… the smart ones are the ones such as me—the ones who keep walking, keep their eyes ahead, keep to themselves.
That’s how you survive here, in the underbelly of this rotting city.
I don’t have time to waste on the poor strung-up bastard gutted of his inner circuitry. My client is waiting. She’s a wealthy woman who doesn’t like to be kept watching the clock. Come to think of it, I could take some notes from the poor chap. She likes to be strung up, too, though she enjoys her ropes and knots to be a tad less fatal and a bit more coital.
“You can’t just traipse around New Elite with a knife on your belt and a gun in your hand. The PICs will pluck you from the crowd in a moment. The clothing is a nice touch, but it will throw them off for perhaps a millisecond,” I say.
She levels her gaze at me. “What do you suggest, then, pretty boy?”
I hold a hand to my chest in mock injury. “Oh, that really hurts.”
“If,” Michelo interrupts, “you two make me screw up this wiring, I’ll turn both of you in.”
The bag crinkles under Syl’s fingers. “You said it’s not safe for me, for humans. What happens to the other Organics when they’re found?”
“I don’t know.”
I’m lying. I do know, but it’s not something I ever want to speak of again. The cages, the filth, the screaming and pleading and crying.
“For a machine you’re terrible at lying. My friend was taken. He’s just a boy, and I have to find him. I’ll do it with your help or without, with weapons or without them.”
Michelo answers for me. “Organics are taken to the meat market, if you must know. By now he may have been sold, or worse.”
“Or worse,” he repeats mindlessly.
I answer her. “As slaves, pets, breeders… whichever is the most humiliating.”
Her face contorts in what I perceive to be, and rightly should be, horror. Her eyes flicker behind me, so quickly it would have been imperceptible to nonmechanical eyes. I turn and look to my left side.
A sculpting blade rests on the table behind me. I turn back to her, cocking an eyebrow in amusement.
“Be my guest. You can have it if you can reach it.”
I’m only infinitesimally surprised when she strikes. She’s faster than I expected and curls her hand around the blade, capturing it in what I find to be a death grip. My hands close around her lower arms, applying pressure to pry the blade from her grasp. Her organic flesh can’t match my mechanical strength, but still she pushes back against me. Still squeezing, I press her against the table until her spine bends at an unnatural angle.
Michelo hasn’t moved from his crouched position. “Children, please,” he says, distracted.
“You said I could keep it if I got it,” Syl says through gritted teeth.
“Maybe I’m not such a bad liar after all.”
Apparently unamused, she twists her wrist in my grasp and angles the blade up, slicing the inside of my hand and hitting steel frame. I gasp and release her. The pain isn’t unbearable, but self-preservation is preprogrammed into my wiring.
She flees, and the chime above the shop door tinkles in the next room, signaling her departure from the building. I inspect the wound. It’s a clean cut, the faux skin repaired with ease.
Michelo stands up and pushes his goggles onto the top of his forehead, his hair bunching beneath it. “Remember what I said about cleaning the litter box? Even cute little stray kittens shit.”
Jadah currently lives in Nashville, TN and works in law. When not babysitting attorneys, she can be found juicing her brain for creative ideas or fantasizing about her next trip out of the country (or about Tom Hiddleston as Loki - it’s always a toss up when she fantasizes).
She grew up in rural Arkansas, yet can still write good and sometimes even wears shoes! She did date her first cousin for a while but they decided against marriage for the sake of the gene pool.
Her true loves are elephants, cursing, and sangria - in that order. If you find an elephant that curses like a sailor whilst drinking sangria, you’re dangerously close to becoming her next romantic victim - er, partner.
She cut her writing teeth on badly written, hormone-driven fanfiction (be glad that’s out of her system), and her one true dream is to have wildly erotic fanfiction with dubious grammar written about her own novels. Please make her dreams come true.
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