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P. 1
The Exchange

The Exchange

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Published by: Devin Thunderbird Michelson on Jun 29, 2012
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12/24/2012

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In the last few months, the bunker had begun to smell. The inactivity was one thing, andthe isolation, and the atrophy of the muscles, but the smell was the last straw. But months of enclosure will do that, John supposed. The air filtration system could keep could keep the air breathable and clean, but there were things it couldn’t deal with; namely, the absence of ashower. The builders, in their infinite wisdom didn’t consider that essential to survival. Were theywere still alive, he would have a few things to say about that.Thanks to their oversight, he had been breathing in his own grime day after day, withnot so much as an air freshener in sight (or more likely, anywhere within miles of his currentlocale). He stood, and walked the twenty-two steps - he counted them many times - over to thepantry, and grabbed a can of rations. They tasted like shit, but when shit is all you have, youmake do. Twenty-two steps later, he was sitting once more on the musty armchair- the onlypiece of furniture in the central room. The “Big Room,” he had come to call it with something hesupposed resembled affection. The wall to his right was inlaid with shelves holding a great dealof books- all classics: Ulysses, War and Peace, and so on. The builders must have thought theyhad great taste, but John bitterly cursed them for not including movies. Not a one. Now thatwould have done something about the damned loneliness, because that was what was killinghim.More than a few times, he imagined that all the dead skin that had found his way into hislungs would collect cell by cell, and incubate until one day in a fit of coughing he would hack upa clone of himself. The company would have been welcome.-John, you appear to be sad.More welcome, that is than his current companion. TR-18, model 003; Tim, for short. Hestood about a head taller than John, but unlike his brethren, which is to say other androids, hehad apparently eschewed the whole skin-cover idea, in favor of letting his cold metal and gearscall out his true nature. Not that anyone but John could see that now. He wondered, for thatmatter if anyone ever had. After he’d been in the bunker a full three days, he awoke from hisusual troubled sleep to find Tim standing in the center on the Big Room. He had been activated,he said:-Having sensed the presence of a singular biological life-form within the boundaries of the structure. The readings awoke me from Sleep Mode so that I may resume my primaryfunction.-And that is? John asked, genuinely curious.-Providing information on a variety of topics. He replied.John laughed at this. The metal bastard could relate in precise detail the answers to theuniverse’s mysteries, and he would hear none of it. He draped his jacket over himself, andturned away from his new companion.-Fuck your information. He told the android.Those were last words he spoke to him for some time; at least a few weeks, as far as hecould tell. He tried carving marks into the Big Room wall for the first chunk of time, but after hegot to twelve days, he missed a few, and he gave that up. Still, he guessed a few weeks hadpassed before Tim spoke again.-Human, how did you come to find yourself down here?John gave nothing up.
 
-Human? Have I offended you?Still nothing. A few more days passed, and then:-You appear to a unique among your species. It was my understanding that humansquite enjoy speaking.-Have you ever considered that you might be the problem? John had to give it to thisone. He was persistent, if nothing else.-I am afraid I do not see how.-No idea, huh?-How am I to understand if you will not explain?-You’re a real dumbfuck aren’t you?-I am afraid I must disagree with you.-How ‘bout a son-of-a-bitch then?-Again I disagree. I am the son of no one.-Just forget it.-But human, I am simply attempting to--Goddam it, enough with the ‘human’ shit. John, alright? That’s my name. Now, for thelove of God, turn off.-I cannot simply ‘turn off’, John. Not without proper deactivation codes.But John could turn off his attention, he knew that much. The android tried a few moretimes, but like an annoying family member, all you had to do was tune out, and problem solved.That was the way things went, and content with the enmity, John went about ignoringhim. Then the smell set it, and the boredom, and the atrophy, and the feeling that the sharp partof an open can would just end it all, and fast. So when the android told him, after all that time,that he seemed sad, he answered:-Now what makes you say that?-Well…Yes, yes I see. You are being sardonic.-I guess you’re not a dumbfuck after all, huh?-Your tone is acknowledged. If you would prefer, I can remain silent.
 
-Oh, but you’ve been such a joy so far, Timmy.-Timmy?-Never had a nickname?-I am an android.-Point taken. So, you want to know what’s got me so down?-I feel I may be able to assist.-Alright then. Tell me why all this happened. Tell me why I ended up here. Can you tellme that?Tim, if it were possible, seemed taken aback by this. The metal of his headpiece shiftedfuriously, and his glowing yellow eyes turned a deep green- the empty, verdant gaze of athinking android.-You must have arrived here quite by accident.-By accident?-I surmise this due to your lack of security credentials.-Well you’re right about that one. The door was open. Whoever was supposed to be inhere obviously wasn’t as lucky as me.-Then I surmise a conflict has arisen on the surface.-You androids are amazing, truly.Tim ignored this sarcasm, and resumed the green thinking process.-Yes. I have managed to access the network of this structure. I am detecting a largeamount of fallout on the surface--Fallout? John, for the first time since entering the embrace of the Big Room, feltsomething other than melancholy. The hairs on his arms and neck stood straight up, and his allthe juices of his stomach began doing excruciating acrobatics. He was really and truly worried-and afraid.-Yes. Tim continued it its way. From the decay already in progress, I would say theactual blasts occurred approximately one month ago.-Is there a--Possibility of survival on the surface? It is slim to none.

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