The premise of this universe is based on two of my favorite albums by Janelle Monae, Metropolis and The ArchAndroid. By way of those, then, this work is also inspired by the classic science fiction film Metropolis (1927), from which she drew her inspiration. In today’s high tech society, I often wonder how involved robots and AI are going to be in our lives. Personally, I’m all for it, but there are definitely a lot of things that could go wrong. In this, I imagine a dystopian Earth from the point of view of both humanity and AI: Analiste the droid hunter and Haven the droid hunted.
I’m going to be posting this one serially for a few weeks. Hope you enjoy!
“Good evening, cyberboys and cybergirls! I am happy to announce that we have a star-crossed winner in today’s heartbreak sweepstakes: Android number 65043, otherwise known as Haven Xiotrip, has fallen desperately in love with a human! And you know the rules! She is now scheduled for immediate disassembly!
“Bounty hunters, you can find her in the Neon Valley Street District at the Leopard Plaza Apartment Complex. The Droid Control Marshals are full of fun rules today. No phasers, only chainsaws and electro-daggers! Remember, only card carrying hunters can join our chase today. And as usual, there will be no reward until her cyber-soul is turned in to the Star Commission.
You sit in the crowded cafeteria of the Metropolis Bounty Headquarters, tonight’s call to action repeating in your mind over and over.
You are one of the youngest bounty hunters in the city at twenty six, as well as the disgraced royal daughter of the Metropolitan ruling family. It wasn’t becoming for someone of your status to do rogue police work, but you applied as soon as you had enough of your own units to pay for the training. Most of your fellow hunters avoid you, stare resentfully and whisper. They don’t get why you’d leave the ease of powerful ranks for something like this, for physical labor that breaks your back, for work they use to try to get in to the upper classes. That’s fine. No one will ever really know.
Unless, of course, they find out that you fall in love with your targets. One target.
The supposed role of the hunter is to pursue criminals. You don’t really have a problem turning some of the more murderous Androids in, but what counts as being in a criminal in this society – falling in love being one, as if that’s even remotely quantifiable by the book of the law – is why you’ve rebelled from your societal position. Though the Androids are superficially artificial, most of them are intelligent, emotional, and compelling. As the Star Commission says, they have souls.
You’ve been a somewhat covert patron of the Retrolove clubs in the Neon Valley Street District since you ran off at the age of twenty. A certain droid with fiery drive and enrapturing soul caught your attention a club called the 6 and kept you coming back like an addict. You’d been watching her for months before she was ever tuned into you, but even then, you knew it was love. Something told you you knew her from somewhere, and the more time you spent with her, the more that felt true, though you still didn’t know how it was possible. Reincarnation on your part? Who knows?
Some would say that robots can’t love humans, and vice versa, but how can the government punish them for something that they can’t do?
It’s been half a year since you’ve seen her last, but she sent you a message two days ago, through one of his clients in the Commission. Her government connection must’ve snitched.
Now, the government not only knows her name, but wants her dead.
Well, you know one thing’s for sure. You’re going to be the first one to find her.
You stand, tossing the rest of your dinner and activating your phasers, fuck a Droid Marshal, giving the crowded room one last look over. Most of the other hunters aren’t in a rush for this one, as there is a Headquarter backlog of hits to be had. Though chasing down an easy target will get enough of these vindictive drones up and raring pretty shortly, the cyber-soul of a 60000 isn’t worth many units. This kill is a routine order.
But not for you.
Magazine article from Indie Uprising, Issue 89:
JAN 76, 2718
Not All Heroes Wear Capes: The History of Retrolove & The Dirty Scavengers Movement
Most robots built during Metropolis’ Retro era (2560-2686) were designed to be all around secretaries, intended for work fulfillment purposes. Millions of factory made, mostly female-evident humanoids were sold by the government to local business owners, to perform filing, cooking, cleaning, and problem solving in the work and home life. These Retro bots were numbered between 60000 and 69999 and were not initially programmed to be intelligent, making them affordable for your average 2600s man. This man had no real technical idea how the Androids functioned, but bought them in the thousands and resold them, using the profits to pay off his debts.
The Retro era was defined by its anti-government sentiment. The human leaders of Metropolis were, and still are, corrupt, rich oligarchs with their secrets locked up in firewalls, militia. When the location of their data centers, which held proof of universal fraud and human slavery, became public knowledge in 2599, groups of terrorist-hackers sprung up, recruiting other disenfranchised humans by the millions. These anarchist groups offered humans who were indebted or living lives of crime an avenue to disrupt the government’s hold on their independence.
When they weren’t stealing government secrets, Retro hackers were social people. In their spare time, they bought Retro bots off of struggling businessmen en masse, reprogramming and redesigning them. They found it easy to rewrite the bots and give them boosted intelligence, enhanced memory, and incredible emotional capacity, using what is now considered legendary independent software. The government, it was discovered, did not take adequate time to safeguard their robots.
Many hackers used the bots as passive companions, alongside or in place of humans who were susceptible to diseases. Some pairs of Makers and Androids, history says, were soulmates. An influential group of serious hackers used the bots to help supply their anti-Metropolitan crime rings, generating billions of cybercurrency and raking in profit surges for the black market. Many of the Retrobots rose to be leaders and shakers in the movement.
When the government learned that hackers were misusing their products, they doubled down on their tendency for overreaction. In 2618, they demanded all debts, by all people, be paid in full immediately, which was ridiculous. The Revolution soon called for ultimate freedom, for war, and started moving in troops. But any violent attempts to overthrow the government were thwarted. All the revolutionary groups were stomped out and eliminated by the early 2690s, robots and humans alike. These gradual killings resulted in 110 million human casualties, including 30 million missing persons reports. This was the highest record of slaughter since the end of the Nuclear War of 2300, during which Metropolis wiped out 198 million people. So it goes. The thousands of leftover Retro Androids were carelessly disassembled and discarded in the radioactive wastelands of the outer Valleys.
Our government was forgiven by peace keeping agencies universe-wide, once again, for the extermination of their people. The 2700s have been years of rigid existence and low creativity since: Government-approved tech, or off with your heads!
At the end of the Retro Era, the Metropolitan government enacted laws to prevent another uprising of the poor and robotic, including the famous Sexual Contamination Act of 2686: All man-on-robot love is punishable in a court of law by a minimum ten year prison sentence. For humans. The robots are just “destroyed.” But all this law really did was push the man-on-bot movement underground, into the throes of the still-moving black market, where the Revolution dances on in clubs today.
This is what the government is most afraid of: You can’t just wipe the memory of a Retrobot. The 2500 hackers of legend, who designed the immortal Skyaea software with care, crafted a level of mysterious encryption in the core parts of their Androids, that no one alive, besides the bots themselves, will ever truly understand. Even club owners these days are obsessed with trying to wipe a Retro’s slate clean. What they don’t understand is that these droids were intrinsically designed to learn, to resist, to take down The Man. Wherever you put them, they will adapt to their environment so that they can upend and correct the environment. They will do this without you having to tell them. This is the spirit of love, of freedom.
While club owners are the most populous on the street, and make the most units, the Scavengers are the real heroes of our movement. Sure, they spend literally all of their time sifting through garbage, often at the risk of exposure to death by radioactive toxic waste, but they’re the dealers, and without them, there would be no product. Against the law, they use their handiness and old-school programming flair to discover long abandoned Retro boys and girls in the darkest corners of our world. Fix them up, and sell them to your low and high end clubs.
They’re the only ones who grasp the Skyaea programming as well as anyone can, make the Retros move again in those all special ways you like. Make them hypersexual, hyper-responsive to human minds. The 80000s and above, Metropolis manufactured and approved, will never. They don’t have the soul.
The problem with the Retrolove club owners, the Scavengers’ customers, is that they’re often failed, disgraced Metropolitan businessmen who don’t know shit about programming. Most of these owners are too greedy to hire a team of actual repairmen, or give the Scavengers a place in the business, so. When they buy the Retrolovebots, and the bots eventually “crash” or “change course,” they tinker with their proportionately pre-moderated settings themselves, to try and make them more profitable. Sometimes they damage them, sometimes beyond repair. After which they “hit the shredder,” or get wasted into raw materials. Those materials are used for building construction, human implants, anything, really. This is why club owners cannot be trusted.
That’s why you all keep coming back to us Scavengers: you know the government has your nads crushed between its fists, and you want release. You want the danger of knowing that the Androids, as they are, know us better than we know ourselves. That creation has surpassed creator.
This is what makes the Retrolove movement so Revolutionary: the government has never truly cared what we do in our black market clubs or where we stick it, because even the government, after all, has to do it too. The taboo orgasm is the one safe ground, the one thing we can all agree on, and sometimes, those fated orgasms lead to love. That’s why they let our practices slide, apart from a few arrests, and even consume them.
The Dirty Scavengers are your creation. You want to demand our services? Stop treating us like shit. Pay us. We own you.