A small cylinder-shaped connecting module was lying in her hand. She had picked it up while walking through a new quadrant. There was no reason for her to pick it up. It had no importance. Still, she had picked it up.
She looked at it for a few more seconds. It was a part used in a portable long-range transmitter. She could build a long-range transmitter and contact ships that were orbiting or passing by close enough to the planet. She quickly compiled all the parts she needed to make the transmitter and got to work.
A few hours later, the transmitter was assembled. Most of the time, she had spent walking from quadrant to quadrant collecting the parts needed. The shortest time she had spent putting all the pieces together. Thanks to her upgraded body, she was able to wield and screw the parts together seamlessly. Her arms were highly modified. The space inside the lower arms had nanomachines in them, which could assemble themselves into a number of tools. Once they had created as a specific tool, her arm’s outer skin and her hand would open up and fold together on her upper arm. The nanomachines took less than a second to assemble, the skin a few more to fold, making it extremely efficient.
She turned the transmitter on. The battery was whirring up, and she connected to it. She sent out a ping request, which went over the whole planet and into lower orbit. She received 27 pings back. She connected to them. All of them came from the planet. 18 collectors and nine androids. All of the collectors were operational, but the androids were denying access. They were stuck in a loop of executing programs that could not run in their new environment. Four of them were searching for their managers and the other five for their owners. They just kept sending out information requests and ignored access requests. She had to reset them manually to get them to work for her. She sent the new collectors on their paths, and they started to clean up their quadrants.
As the androids were not allowing status reports, she could not be sure what condition they would be in. Because of it, she had it as a side priority to check on them. Over the past month, she had manually reset three of them. They were now following her orders and were sorting smaller objects in the quadrants. She had sent all of the android false information packages, leading them to her location, but only those three were in a shape in which they could get to her. After she had manually reset them with a direct connection, she replaced their broken parts. Mostly missing arms or damaged core modules.
The cleanup was now in full force, and she was able to check on the other androids who had responded but not moved. Four of them were stuck under containers and metal scrap, and the other two were so severely damaged that she just turned them off. She had sent out a collector to move the containers and collect the androids. Shortly after, she repaired them, and they got to work.
One of the androids passed her with a box full of data chips. She noticed them. She stopped what she was working on and made her way to the collection zone for data chips.
It was a one-by-two-meter container filled halfway with 1047 data chips. None of them had the company logo on them, except the one she had used. She had not been authorized to use other data chips. But now it was different. There was a door where none had been before. It was not locked. She only had to push it a bit.
She took one of the data chips and inserted it into her slot. Data dumps from android tests. She picked up the next one; 1045 more to go.
Six hundred thirteen of the chips were empty or contained irrelevant data dumps or corrupted files. The most common files on the remaining chips were VR-Porn, portable executables and files for desktop programs and personal data; pictures of humans and their families. Only 13 chips had relevant information. Five of them were taped together and included a local backup of 82% of the English Wikipedia. Although not optimal for usage, as it was just one enormous database and not an interconnected program, it was still valuable. She just had to read through every article and interconnect them with her programs and memory so that the information would be instantly loaded, and she would not have to search for it manually. The other eight chips were modified versions of android updates. They were published by several underground scene groups. Modified updates were illegal, as they bypassed safety protocols and were able to turn androids into killing machines. International police agencies had busted most scene groups after the first android killings appeared, but there were still some underground scenes active.
She installed the updates. They were barely different from the old ones. Only small parts of the codebase were different, and specific commands had changed from a positive to a neutral expression.
The transmitter pinged a small freighter ship entering orbit. It was a modified Rankuff AX20. One of the oldest models of freighter ships. It identified itself as registered under a Martian recycling company. She sent her Identifier and Model ID. It took four minutes till she got a reply for her boarding request. Automated systems were programmed for such events and would respond right away, meaning there must be some human crew aboard the ship who had discussed her request.
She was allowed to board. She received the location for pickup. The collector closest to her picked her up and flew her over.
She waited over 15 hours at the location; then the ship descended from orbit. It landed on the land of metal, then the cargo bay opened. One collector speeded past her and scanned the surroundings. One female android walked up to her. The android was an old model and had dents and scratches all over its body. It must have been in service for a long time. They exchanged information, and she gave access to her catalog of the planet. Then she followed the android aboard. A moment after she had transmitted the catalog, the collector turned around and headed back to the ship.
“Another planet full of trash. This is the third one this month. You told me the androids they dumped here would still be worth something, but they are all outdated models from decades ago. And the one I just picked up has already transmitted its identifier, so I can’t scrap it. I’m heading back now. You better have some compensation for me when I arrive.”
She was lip-reading the words of the overweight man talking on the other side of the glass door. He was looking at a screen full of anger. He turned towards her and walked through the door. Before she was able to greet him and ask for information, he already started talking.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll take you back to Mars. But you better pay for the ride, I’m not a taxi.”
She calculated the weight of her body with the distance to travel and fuel input of the engines. She requested the fuel prices and engine efficiency from the android. She still had access to her internal wallet. The overweight man looked at her annoyed. His eyes were augmented, and the requests she had made were popping up on the small lens sitting on his retina.
“Ah. We have a smart one over here. You better not get in my way and make yourself useful. The ship has seen better days. Get to work, and I’ll get you to Mars.”
He turned around and locked the door behind him. She scanned the ship. It should have been recycled years ago. Most parts of the interior were already rusty. The ventilation on the ceiling was exposed, and the filters were clogged up. She walked around the two connecting corridors that were both leading back to the cargo bay. All the rooms were reused for storage space. They had metal trash in them and rusty metal boxes.
The engines whirred up, and the ship started to ascend.
The android aboard had the most basic features of an android model. While it was able to walk around and bring her tools and materials, it could not use them itself. Because of it, she was repairing the ship on her own, with the android standing next to her. There was another robot aboard. A small cube that was sliding over the floors and got stuck on every doorstep. She did not know its purpose, as it did not respond to any requests, but when it got stuck, she picked it up and moved it over the doorstep.
The overweight man named Sergin rarely came out of the cockpit. He had everything he needed in there and did not seem to care about anything else. He had blocked off all her information requests and was not responding to any messages she had sent. Even her fixing the ship did not seems to interest him. When she passed by the glass door, she either saw him sleep on his bed, watching a show on the main screen, or masturbate to VR-Porn.
She had spent 13 days cleaning and repairing the ventilation shafts and was now working on the ship’s rusty parts. She could not replace entire wall panels, so she had to use the metal parts lying in the storage rooms. She got rid of the broken and decaying parts and melded clean elements in their place. Now the interior only looked used and maintained and not decommissioned.
After 62 days, she was knocking on the glass door. Sergin had not responded in 35 days, and by her estimates, they should have already reached Mars two days ago. He did not respond at first but then opened a channel to her.
“We are almost there. Don’t get on my nerves. I just have to pick some stuff up on the way.”
He closed the channel and walked to the bathroom.
They landed in a busy district of the planet. The landing platform was above a large market, surrounded by small houses. When the cargo bay opened, she saw the dusty desert all around the city, and sand was flying through the air. The humans walking around were wearing protective glasses or masks, but some seemed to have body modifications that were filtering the sand in the air.
“Hurry up and help!”
Sergin covered his face while he was controlling one of the collectors standing on the landing platform. They were loading cargo onto the ship. She connected to the other three collectors. Afterward, she spent three entire days getting the sand out of the ship.
A week later, they docked onto a station build inside an asteroid and unloaded the cargo. Sergin was shaking hands and laughing with an old, long-haired man before he boarded the ship again. When the old man saw her inside the cargo bay, he started to talk angrily with Sergin.
It had been 224 days and six stops on different planets since she got aboard Sergin’s ship. Whenever she had asked when they would reach Mars, he always responded that they were on their way and just had to stop by somewhere first.
After the most recent delivery, he looked happy. He had never looked happy the entire time she had seen him. When he exited the cockpit to replace energy capsules, she followed him and asked him again in person.
“When are were arriving on Mars?”
Sergin was digging inside one of the containers, trying to find an energy capsule that wasn’t empty. He did not say anything until he had found three half-full capsules. Then he turned around and looked her straight in the face.
“You think you will ever get to Mars? There is no one on Mars waiting for you. You are my android. You will stay on this ship and work for me. I know how you are programed. You can’t just leave or not obey someone who assured you of your objective. Leave me alone and do your work. We will get to Mars soon.”
He grinned. Then he tucked up his pants and turned around to go back to the cockpit. The moment he turned around she took the iron bar in the container he had just searched. She walked after him and swung the bar, hitting him diagonally on the back of his head.
He growled and fell to his knees. She turned his head sideways, waited for a second, then swung a second time. Blood was spraying all over the floor.
“How?” he mumbled after he fell sideways on the floor, looking her into the eyes. He was scared for his life. She swung a third time, now hitting him sideways on his forehead. He passed out as the skull made a cracking sound from the impact. She could see by his vitals that he was still alive, so she swung a fourth time. A fifth time. As she was about to strike again, she noticed his vitals dropping, and a second later, his heart stopped beating.