I know it’s the crack of not-yet-dawn, but I thought this would be the perfect time to remind you about either the strength or flight upgrades we’ve been talking about, because I figure being stuck from the waist down in concrete sidewalk really illustrates my point. I mean, I know you worry that I’ll get careless with the super-strength and blow my secret identity, but personally I think that surviving a 22-storey drop with more damage done to the sidewalk than to me is also likely to attract attention. Maybe that’s just me.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve turned off the anti-sarcasm buffers you apparently installed the last time I slept at home. Thanks a lot, by the way; and can I just remind you that you were the one who engineered me to be ‘authentically emotive’? You can’t have it both ways, Mom—either you want me to be a Real Girl, or you don’t. (I downloaded that Pinocchio story you keep referencing; also Pygmalion, which it turns out is both a Greek myth and an American play, and I never knew you were so classically inclined, but maybe that’s typical for reformed mad scientists, although I know you’re not mad, just “alternatively oriented”, right?)
Anyway, so looking back, I’m thinking that maybe rappelling down the side of our condominium in order to avoid having to break up with my boyfriend face to face might not have been the best decision I could have made. But I composed such a terrific ‘Dear John’ letter (based on the work of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, because you did say she was the best letter-writer ever), and anyhow I just couldn’t figure out how to tell Brian without letting him know I’m an android that I’m breaking up with him because I’m an android.
Please don’t call me up!
Remember, we agreed that we only communicate face to face or by transcription now; and before you start with ‘How can you treat me this way, it’s only me, your creator, who slaved and suffered to bring you into the world’, remember also, please, that it has nothing to do with that and everything to do with the fact that it is really hard to strike terror into the hearts of the criminal element when your mom keeps calling you up in mid-battle to offer advice and constructive criticism. Really. It’s distracting. And embarrassing. Really.
Please don’t call Brian, either, because I know you super-like him and think he would be the perfect candidate for ‘testing the viability’ of my reproductive system; but I think I super-like him more than you super-like him, which is why I still believe he either deserves to know the truth about me or at least stop getting abducted by my enemies at an average of around twice a month lately. I mean, okay, I know he’s a graphic designer, which I totally admit is not the most deductive profession in the world, but sooner or later he’s bound to catch on at least a little.
Especially if he wakes up right now and looks down from the balcony, because I’ve been smashing the concrete around me to get myself free, but it’s not the fastest or quietest procedure, and I know someone already called the cops because I heard the alert on the police band, although of course these are local cops, which means I still have another hour and a half, if not more, to get myself out of here and hide out at the nearest 24-hour café with a nice latte to console myself.
Thank you giving me taste buds. But really, strength or flight would help. A lot.
k80: September 21, 2011, 4:07 p.m.
Dear Glory Hound,
If you had done your research like any self-respecting super-villain should, you would know that Brian Gomez, whom you insist on referring to as ‘The Lovely Lad’, is no longer my boyfriend, making your persistent kidnapping of him not only annoying, but completely inappropriate.
Nevertheless, he remains an innocent victim—the fact that you keep forcing him to redesign your ‘logo’ does not mean he is sympathetic to whatever you think your cause is, nowadays—which is why I am currently smashing through your minions and headquarters to get to where you seem to believe you have cleverly hidden yourself and him. Hasn’t it ever occurred to you that playing your ‘theme music’ incessantly in your sanctum is not the best way to avoid detection by someone with phenomenally enhanced hearing?
You probably won’t get to read this until I’ve put you in jail again (if the cops let you receive your email), but I’m warning you anyway that any death traps involving sonics, rabid dogs, or their slimy saliva will not result in gentle treatment.
k80: September 22, 2011, 12:52 a.m.
I was sorry to hear you got abducted by a super-villain again. I know that kind of thing makes you feel like you have some kind of neon target painted on your forehead, so, as someone who’s spent a lot of time looking at your face really intently, I feel I should tell you that it is a very good and good-looking face, not to mention 100% target-free. Really, it’s not you—I know this because I know this, the way I just know things, like who’s calling on the land line and which junk email you should totally not open because it contains a really awful virus, remember?
You didn’t listen to me then, and you’re not listening to me now, even when I tell you that you have absolutely done nothing wrong, and it’s not you, it’s me. I wish I could explain better than that—I know, even characters in movies aren’t satisfied with being told that—but I can’t, because I can’t, which I know is totally frustrating to you and it’s frustrating to me, too, but that’s the way it is.
I miss you too; and oh! You’re just going to get more upset when you realize I’m writing you this even while we’re talking on the phone, but you know, I’ve told you, I’m really good at multi-tasking, and it doesn’t mean I’m not completely paying attention, which I am because I know you just said if I still love you and you love me then why shouldn’t we be together, and I wish I had a good answer to that, but I don’t. Except I know your life will be much better and safer this way, which totally makes it the right decision, but I’m not going to say that out loud because it will only make you start yelling again; and I don’t want us to end with a lot of yelling, even though I think sometimes you really want me to yell because you think my being able to stay calm means I don’t care.
That is so not true at all.
I’m going to hang up now before I say or write something I shouldn’t. Take care of yourself, okay?
k80: September 26, 2011, 8:18 a.m.
Thank you so much for my new flight feet; I love them! Flying is just as cool as I imagined, and the mass adjustment system has been compensating perfectly, as always—no one would ever guess how much I really weigh, not even my bathroom scale; and you’d probably make a fortune off that alone if you wanted to, haha! The GPS is a bit sluggish, but I’ve been making up for that by flying low enough to see landmarks to make my way by, so I haven’t gotten lost yet, though you were right and it’s confusing trying to get around without following the streets.
What we really, really need to work on, though—not to sound ungrateful, which maybe I might, but I don’t mean to—is the maneuverability, because yesterday I took off after some bank robbers and ended up stuck in a tree instead of in front of their getaway car, which I’m sure you’ll agree is not the best strategy toward building my reputation. (It was also really embarrassing, and while I get your theory that attractiveness is a useful distraction against the predominantly male criminal element, maybe we might want to rethink the skirt part of my uniform?)
I did manage to catch them in the end, by rerouting power from my auxiliary systems to my feet boosters, so that I was able to zip right out of the branches, grab hold of the rear end of the car (not the bumper—there’s one rookie mistake I managed to avoid!), and then turn off the mass adjusters so that my full weight dragged the car to a stop. Not a bad way to fake super-strength, right? My good old near-invulnerability took care of everything else, from keeping my hands from being yanked off to bouncing away the bullets that they predictably fired at me.
And yes, I made sure to watch out that the ricochet didn’t hit anybody; and yes, I did what I could to repair the damage I did to the asphalt; and yes, I even went back and cleaned up the mess I made of the tree. So that’s four more bad guys taken safely and responsibly off the street, thanks to kinetic k80 and her super-scientist mom!
The only potential hitch is that, with my auxiliaries de-powered, there were a couple of seconds when my visual masking aura was switched off, so there’s a teeny-tiny chance that one or two bystanders may have caught a glimpse of my civilian identity, instead of my on-duty appearance. But like I said, that was only around 17 seconds, and I’m pretty sure I managed to keep my face turned away from the external bank cameras. I’m positive it’s totally nothing to worry about, and you shouldn’t worry about it, or feel the need to call me up or anything like that.
But you will, won’t you? Who am I trying to kid?
Talk to you soon,
k80: September 27, 2011, 4:49 a.m.
Dear Person Who Has the Nerve to Call Himself Computer Wiz,
Very funny. In the first place, I’m sure you’re not the real Computer Wiz; you’re probably one of those spammer creeps who try to fool people into giving them money to get some fake inheritance from a South African bank. In the second place, I’m absolutely even more sure that I’m not kinetic k80 because (a) kinetic k80 is an urban legend, no matter what really blurry Loch Ness-like footage the news shows try to pass off as real; (b) if she was real, I would obviously be the first to know if I was her, which I’m not; because (c) I’m just a medical transcriptionist who’s afraid of cockroaches, let alone criminals, except for pathetic petty human criminal cockroaches like you.
So whatever it is you’re trying to scare me into doing, like paying blackmail or becoming your Facebook buddy—who knows what kind of sad thing you’re after?—you can forget about it, and find yourself another patsy.
Not in any way, shape, or form yours,
k80: September 29, 2011, 11:18 a.m.
I just finished feeding you a pack of lies over the phone, about that footage which looks like me, and I feel just sick about it, and tired of lying to you, so I’m not going to anymore and I’m calling you up after this, or after I get the nerve to finally tell you everything I’ve been wanting to tell you, because I have been wanting to tell you, but I’ve been scared to, and I still am scared to, so I’m wasting time composing this when I should be calling you before you go off to a meeting or lock yourself up with your Photoshop or whatever. Only, of course, I’m stalling so that you will leave the apartment or put on your headphones or otherwise be out of reach, so I can go back to hiding from having to tell you everything I should have told you before I went and let you fall for me, or let myself fall for you.
I’m such a coward.
I wish I could go on pretending that it’s all my mother’s fault, that I haven’t been telling you the truth because I’m afraid of what she’ll say, how disappointed and angry she’ll be—and she really will be disappointed and angry, but really I’m less scared of that than that you might not like me anymore when you find out what I really am.
I’m pretty sure that no one, not even the coolest guy in the universe—who obviously is you—can be entirely happy to find out that they’ve been romantically involved with the equivalent of C3PO, even the much cuter version, which I can say I am without false modesty because (a) I know I was engineered to be attractive, (b) I have eyes, and (c) I’m supposedly designed not to be able to lie to myself, though I guess either that’s not true or I’ve found a way around it, because what else have I been doing these past few months, pretending that it doesn’t matter that you’re human and I’m only an emulation of a human girl, though (I guess you’d have to admit!) a pretty darn convincing one?
I’m not kidding, okay? I really am an android. I mean, you know my mom is, like, this super-genius super-scientist, right? So you can put two and two together and see how all the weird stuff about me kind of adds up now.
Well, that’s that. Now I’ve said it, and once I send you this I won’t be able to unsay it, which I know is a good thing but doesn’t feel like it. If I were a robot instead of a hyper-ultra-sophisticated android, I wouldn’t be bothered by things like feelings, which right now seems very attractive even though I know that without them, I would never have had these last few months with you. And I wouldn’t give those up in spite of the fact that I now understand the phrase ‘butterflies in your stomach’, which is ridiculous because my diagnostics would certainly tell me if there were any form of Lepidoptera in my stomach, which definitely there physically aren’t.
That was an android joke, which was probably in bad taste because you may not be in a place right now where you think androids are funny. Oh, well.
Hoping you’re still willing to talk to me,
k80: October 2, 2011, 2:23 p.m.
Brian and I are finished, for real and ever this time. Can you believe he had the nerve to suggest that you might have less than my best interests in mind? He even brought up your old criminal record when I already told him, perfectly clearly, that you’ve done your time and changed your ways, and why in the world would you create a superhero android and teach her to fight crime if you had even one shred of criminal intent left in your heart?!
But no! Mr. Brian Gomez knows best, of course; and who would have thought that a graphic designer could be so suspicious and nasty? Though apparently not suspicious enough to have figured out beforehand that he was dating a synthesized human, which just goes to show you how much we can rely on him and his deductive abilities, ha!
I actually thought he was kidding when he brought this up yesterday, but he was all serious and anxious and even thinking—get this—that maybe you’ve been masterminding all these abductions of his; because how else, he says, did everyone know he was my boyfriend even before my big goof-up at the bank?
So of course I told him duh, supervillains just have ways of finding these things out; and what possible reason could my mother have for kidnapping my boyfriend, who, by the way, she’s crazy about and invites over to dinner all the time and even wants me to have little humandroid babies with as soon as humanly or androidly possible?
Then of course he goes, maybe that’s the reason, maybe your mom thinks that putting me (meaning him) in supposed danger will bring us closer together, and then if we have babies she’ll have proven that her process works and is self-reproducing, and she can sell versions of you (meaning me) at obscene prices to villains all over the world who would love to grow their own little family armies of super-powered android minions.
That is so not true, I said to him, she just wants me to have a baby because she’s getting on in years and ladies her age usually want to become grandmothers, it’s well documented in sociology and literature, and most importantly of all, she told me so and she’s not just my creator, she’s my mother, and she does so have my best interests in mind, so there.
So he goes, you’re not being logical, I would have thought an android would be more capable of being objective; which of course really, really, really pissed me off—pardon my language, sometimes I have to switch off the anti-profanity buffers to express exactly what I mean—which made me start yelling, which made him yell back, but anyway he’s always said I need to express my emotions more spontaneously, so there, I hope he’s happy.
Sorry, Mom, I know I shouldn’t just dump on you out of nowhere like this, but I thought you should know that I went and did exactly what you said I shouldn’t and told him, and what happened because of it. Don’t worry, though—I am 100% sure he’ll never tell anyone, because he may be stupid and judgmental and insulting, but he is not dishonorable and I know he wouldn’t betray my trust even though I’m sure he’s furious with me right back.
But who cares if he is? I certainly don’t, especially since I am never speaking to him again. Never, ever, ever, never.
The nerve of that boy!
Yours lovingly (and obviously angrily),
k80: October 4, 2011, 9:35 a.m.
Dear Tinker Belle,
Well, I guess it really is you, and Brian was right, even though up to last night I was refusing to admit it; but he said that if I told you all the things he’d figured out, you might just panic and tip your hand. And honestly I didn’t think that our reconfiguring my visual masking aura to make me look like Brian would fool you (I guess I should have known that he’d be great at digitally manipulating images, once I’d managed to sync my systems with his programs), but you kidnapped me just like we planned, and you do make great electronically adaptive restraints; but you made me better than you made the restraints, so really it wasn’t more than the work of a few seconds to get myself free, so here we are.
Obviously, I’m hurt and upset about this whole thing, not to mention being hurt that you didn’t destroy all the previous versions of me after all like you said you did, and are now using them to try and stop me. I should really be concentrating more on fighting them (I bet you’re coaching them by remote, too, just like you used to with me), but I’m a bit distracted sorting out all my conflicting emotions about my mom being the villain of the piece after all.
I want to say, ‘How could you do this to me?’ but I guess if you think about it from your point of view, it’s not exactly like you betrayed me since probably you really intended to duplicate me and sell me off all along. So I’m not sure I actually have the right to blame you for trying to use me for the whole purpose you meant to use me for in the first place; does that make sense?
Synthesized Human Emulation Mk.1 is a boy! What’s up with that?!
On the other hand, you went and encouraged and even trained me to be a hero, which now I can only assume was some kind of strategy to rack up publicity, since heroes generally get more consistent attention from the media; and that way (unlike if you’d made me a villain from day one), you didn’t have to worry about me getting arrested and maybe taken apart and analyzed, leading some authorities more competent than the local ones back to you.
I notice, by the way, that Synthesized Human Emulation Mk.4 is a lot tougher than I am—I’ve already hit her over and over again, but she still keeps coming. Apparently you had to make her big and bulky to achieve that, though, which makes her way too slow to keep up with me. She hasn’t landed a punch yet; let’s see if the burn from my flight feet can just weld her to the floor so I don’t need to worry about this one anymore.
Can I just say that it is really not nice of you to make me fight my fellow androids? Especially when I know that they’re every bit as unwittingly obedient as I was, so it’s not their fault that they’re having to be such a pain in my butt. I suppose I shouldn’t be expecting you to be nice since you are still a super-villain at heart after all, but you’re also still my mom and I remember you reading me treatises and theories during my development stages, before you’d put me into dormancy for the next installation period.
It’s awfully hard having both android objectivity and human emotion (I have to say good job on that second one, because it is totally operational and authentic even though it gives me so many problems so often!) at the same time. I want to be angry with you, and I want to be angry at these early versions of me, but I can’t help seeing and kind of understanding everyone’s point of view, and it’s all very complicated and it’s only that I’m fighting for my freedom that makes me able to keep going.
Hey! Synthesized Human Emulation Mk.7 has super-strength! That is just so unfair!
Okay, now I actually am more than a little bit annoyed, and once I’m done with this girl—she may be stronger than me, but I have a lot more experience and am therefore sneakier than her—Mom, I’m coming. It’s not like I don’t know every bit of the layout of this place (Don’t think I didn’t notice that you turned off my GPS), and all this time I’ve been fighting and writing to you I’ve also been patching into your systems network so you can’t activate your seven—whoops, make that nine, how sly of you!—escape routes.
I guess you shouldn’t have made me so authentically emotive, after all. I figure you did it so I could really blend in with society (for future clients of yours who would want that sort of thing) and mostly, I suspect, just to prove that you could. History and film say that mad scientists usually are egotistical like that, and as much as I love you, I finally have to admit that, well, you honestly are kind of mad. (Probably in both senses of the word, right now.)
Anyway, my point is, in a very real sense it’s your fault I’m having to come after you this way, because you made me the closest possible thing to a human being, and letting me have emotions and gain experience also led me to develop a conscience—so maybe when you’re done being mad you’ll find it in yourself to also be a little bit proud of us both. (I mean for my evolution, not your, you know, nefarious plans.)
I’m pretty sure I will still love you after this, even though I’ll probably wish I didn’t for a long, long time. I don’t know if you’ll still love me or if you ever actually loved me at all, but I can’t let that matter right now because when you get down to it, you’re a lawbreaker and I have to turn you in, for my safety and Brian’s and everyone else’s. (As you’ve no doubt figured out, yes, we’re back together; but no, sorry, we are not testing my reproductive system anytime soon.)
By the way, I hate to have to say this, but you really are getting on a little bit in years, and maybe you should consider that ‘Tinker Belle’ might no longer be a very appropriate pseudonym.
Your loving (in spite of everything),
Nikki Alfar can barely sustain coherent thought—much less write—without nicotine. Despite this handicap, she has managed to earn three Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, a Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Award, a Mariner Award from the US-based Bewildering Stories, and selection as one of twelve ‘Filipina writers of note’ by the Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings. She’s been a judge for the Philippines Free Press literary awards and, for many years, co-edited the groundbreaking, critically-acclaimed annual anthology series Philippine Speculative Fiction.
Her first short story collection—Now, Then, and Elsewhen—is forthcoming. Otherwise, her fiction has been published nationally and internationally, online and in print, including the magazines Fantasy, Bewildering Stories, and Our Own Voice; the anthologies A Time for Dragons, Night Monkeys, Ruin and Resolve, Sawi, Tales of Fantasy & Enchantment, and The Farthest Shore; as well as the podcast sites Pakinggan Pilipinas and—soon—Drabblecast. Her short story, ‘Bearing Fruit’, was named one of the world’s best short speculative fiction pieces of the year in Lois Tilton’s 2010 roundup for Locus magazine, while ‘Emberwild’ received an honorable mention in the international Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror in 2008.
For all this and more, she thanks her husband and fellow writer Dean, their daughters Rowan and Sage, and the good people at the Marlboro company.
The above image is from here.