Synopsis: When Oktavia manages to escape her holding ship, she discovers a series of glitches in her programming designed to conflict with her memories. She is found offshore by an old face of her past, and Okta must confront what the scientists have been erasing from her.
Oktavia balled her hands into fists—she was covered in blood; the red gown she wore could only compliment it.
She felt betrayed—she was betrayed and she had nowhere else to turn to. When Lord Ayothis summoned her after a cryptic message was delivered to him, she fell into his arms once shedding of her armor. “You are a father, could you console me?”
“Why is blood all over you? What happened?”
“I killed someone. I was jumped at practically—”
“Well, you have nothing to feel over. It was deserved then.”
“Was it? I am only a vessel for you. I work under your orders—I kill people you think are deserving of death. I’ve killed children for your family to send messages to rivals. Why would this feel deserving? If I were nailed at the cross, I would not burn.”
He brushed her off. “This is not true. Look, I’ve invited you to many dinner parties—you’ve met my wife and children before. I could always count on you to advise them when they needed help. You’re important to me, Oktavia, you are simply more than a vessel. Why don’t you go wash up and have dinner with me?”
“I don’t like you that way.”
“Heavens, no! Just join me, it might clear your head.”
“Just don’t serve the soup. That’s too easy to poison.”
She awoke imparting tears from her eyes as she looked at the wintered trees from the balcony window. She grappled her face, crippling to another wave of exhaustion. It felt good not to worry about her assignments, about others, about how they were going to be executed.
She could almost feel real, if only she’d let herself believe that. Mischa made her feel real, while everyone else had their own motivations and intentions. Something stirred in her gut as she traced along her scars; she longed to remember more, but unsure if it were a dream, nightmare, or glitch, she would have to reassess the value of what she remembered and if it were true.
Okta didn’t notice how late it was until seeing a sunset kissed sky; the bloodletting pink of the clouds made her feel fettered to agony as an assortment of images commingled within her mind. What was her purpose, if any? Why did Dr. Eaton disregard her after she proved her worth? Was she worthless?
Some of it was coming back, but it still couldn’t be pieced together thoroughly. The scientists were obstructing her memories, and her underlying glitch—the hiccups that caused her to dissolve from online, she still didn’t know what her sickness was.
She wasn’t sure if she wanted to know. It seemed recent enough, but as she was still dumping water out of her rooted wires, she wondered what else she could not recall.
She could barely remember the former king, but she knew enough modern history that the colonies dispersed before killing each other in a series of small wars. It was knowledge that felt natural to her. She was in enough battles, recalling in distant psychological experience, to warrant the existential solipsistic dread that when she held the sword, she was the only one that mattered in anyone’s eyes.
Including her father’s.
Mischa was chopping carrots—smaller and smaller until it was almost baby food. She trained her heartbeat steady at the approaching footsteps, but they never came into the kitchen.
She hoped Okta wasn’t trying to probe more from her encryption. Truth be told, she didn’t think the bionic could crack this one; it was too messy, almost as if someone entangled each wire, synapse, and code in her mind to process technicolor memories as they were.
She couldn’t remember vulnerability nor her “Birthday.”
Mischa remembered it to the point she wished she hadn’t.
“Kochanski,” Dr. Eaton said, aghast.
Mischa looked up from writing notes on her tablet; she was assisting in monitoring the bionic’s vitals, ensuring that they were stable. What read on the monitor and what was before her was terribly deceiving.
“Oh my god,” she rushed to soak up the blood from the blooming incision near Oktavia’s gut. “What were you thinking? Do you even realize what you’re doing?”
“An error… was in my judgement…”
She let the rags glean the red rose, discerning through his dull exegesis (growing more horrified) what he was doing. “Breast augmentation!?”
“They sent her back. I needed to get their attention—she is special. She is so capable—”
“Remember, she’s not your pet project, she has the potential of being a killer.”
“Wrong. She has the potential of being human.”
Oktavia’s arms twitched, eyes fluttering to both observer’s astonishment. She tilted her head.
“She’s awake. She’s finally awake,” Dr. Eaton smiled through the wan blood as if the bionic was his daughter, now mumbling her first words. Mischa looked Eaton in the eye.
“You have a sentient robot bleeding to death!”
Oktavia continued to witness the exchange between the doctor and his nurse. Her heterochromatic eyes glittered as they squinted over at Mischa, her smile as if the cat with the cream in his mouth. “Wrong, Mischa. I have two hearts Dr. Eaton planted. If blood supply is dangerously low, the excess blood works to bind to the skin like a web, coating it.” She disregarded her surgical gown as blood drops crowded her feet.
“Dr. Eaton, put her back under!”
“No, no, she is right. Oktavia is right—-but I did not install the additional heart,” he scratched the back of his head. “I must get my colleagues.”
In spite of Mischa’s protests of being left alone with Oktavia, they were ignored.
Oktavia smiled sweetly—quite coy, as she stood beside Mischa. She made a playful gasp. “You have notes about me?”
“I always did want to be recognized… Tell me, which science journal have I appeared in? I hope it wasn’t Oncotarget. Have I hosted a TED talk yet? I could easily displace that talentless hack, Ai-Da.”
Mischa’s voice cut through. “Sorry to burst your vanity bubble, honey. In 2019, around seventy years ago, Ai-Da was the first humanoid artist. You only turned on today. You shouldn’t have exceeding ambition like that.”
The bionic whipped her hand out over the nurse’s shoulder. “If you believe this is the first time I awoke, I question your capabilities.”
This did stun her, though she couldn’t let that on. “I question your large ego. Shouldn’t be surprising considering the man who made you.”
“Your honesty is delightful, if not well received.” But Mischa could only watch in slight amusement as Oktavia continued the thought. “Everyone else treats me childishly—this is a nice transition… Dr. Eaton pets my head when he thinks I’m shut down and coos, and it disturbs me. He brought over his miniature and all she kept doing was hiding behind his shoulder because ‘my eyes looked creepy.’ What a stupid child.”
But the observer was no longer paying attention, until Oktavia let out a mad laugh. “Mischa, Mischa! You’re not listening.”
“Oh god, I’m turning you off.” Then hissed under her breath, “Where the hell is he?”
“You’re too excitable for me. Besides, we need to run more tests on you and fix this mess.”
“Oh, my Mischa. I am sentient. I cannot be powered down. I’ve been activated for two months, and since then, I’ve been watching, observing, experimenting on myself too. It’s so much fun.”
The nurse took a hesitant step away. “You—you gave yourself two hearts. Didn’t you.”
“When you have what I have at my disposal, you can be invincible.”
“Mischa, have I done something to upset you?”
Oktavia’s terrifying presence made her flit for the knife, before dropping it back down on the cutting board. “What?”
“There is some… type of vomit on the vegetable cutting board.”
“What are you—No, no, I just chopped up the carrots—over and over again.”
Mischa finally turned around. “I got lost in thought. I was trying to make you soup.”
“Ah, carrot soup, yes? My favorite.”
“I’m going to need to get new carrots now,” she sighed, rubbing her dirtied hands on her apron.
Oktavia laid her hand over Mischa’s, grabbing the knife. “It’s okay.” Mischa’s heartbeat thumbed, expecting it to go through her—but the bionic went to the fridge to retrieve potatoes. As she started peeling them, her eyes frothed over, a smile flickering, “Potato soup is my second favorite.”
Mischa’s eyes glittered with tears when she turned away.