Edition 21: Bot Malfunction by Iulian Ionescu
My speed hover-bike was pulling left, so I hardened my grip, trying to keep it straight, dashing inches away from rows of manned ships and aero-trucks, under the public air-bus.
Jane would kill me if she’d find out. Girls.
Deep down she loved that I was a bad boy. Don’t they all?
That was my last thought as the right bike handle tapped the side of one of the ships. I spun in the air and then everything went black.
When I opened my eyes I had one of those ‘Phew!’ moments. The rhythmic beeps of the machines, a mattress under my back, and some kind of device immobilizing my head suggested I was still alive.
I smiled. The guys were going to talk about this one for years. I opened my eyes and the white of the hospital room dazzled me. I sneezed.
“Be careful there, Mr. Strauss.” A red face and a pair of glasses hovered over me. “Don’t get too excited, all right?”
I licked my lips a few times, and swallowed the bitter acid in my mouth. “What happened?”
“You’re in Saint Joseph’s Emergency Reconstruction Facility after an in-flight crash with a few vehicles.”
A few. Nice.
My face was numb so I couldn’t tell if I my grin was showing.
“I am a member of Bot’R Us,” I muttered and groaned as a sharp pain traveled through my torso.
“Yes, sir, you are. The bots on your craft and the nano-medics already in your system found all the life threatening damage points and moved quickly through your body to fix them. That all worked. Of course not on the bones, which is why you are in a full cast, but the bots saved your life.”
“Great,” I said, somehow proud as though it was me who had invented those little critters. I just paid the lease. “Is my family here?”
The doctor pursed his lips and went in and out my field of view a few times. “They…they’ve been kept away for a while due to a malfunction in your healing process.”
“The bots, some of them…You’re a Platinum Member…”
“Yes,” I said, feeling jitters in my fingers, “and I pay a lot for that.”
“Of course,” the doctor acknowledged, wiping a few drops of sweat off his forehead. “So your nano-medics are not only for medical recovery. They can also be programmed for various other medical functions. You know, medical procedures you might need from time to time, like an appendectomy, for example.”
Why was his voice trembling? I was alive, and yet…
“I still don’t get it.”
The doctor cleared his throat. “Because of the shock, the way your helmet broke, some of the bots were damaged and unable to contact the program for your exact system specifications.”
My brows must’ve met my hairline at that moment. “What are you saying, doc?”
“Mr. Strauss, they connected with the other profile on your plan. In short, the bots executed a transgender operation on you.”
“A sex change. Nothing to worry, though. It’s all fixable; we are actually—”
I pushed my head as hard as I could, forcing my chin to meet my chest. And there they were: my breasts.
“Doc, what the hell?”
The doctor put his hands on my shoulders, pushing me slowly back down on to the bed. “Please don’t make any more sudden moves. You have an extensive level of trauma.”
My body shivered all over. Jane was not going to like me as a bad girl.
“So what does this mean? I’m a woman now?”
“Temporarily. You have to understand; it was a programming accident. We need a few days for the wounds to heal and then we can start putting you back to exactly the way you were before.”
“I don’t understand how this happened.”
“Your speed was so high you broke through the highway pipe’s shield and dropped ten feet between the transport tubes. It took a special rescue team almost three hours to fish your body out. When the bots started, they couldn’t properly connect to the database and could only connect to the specifications for the female on your policy. By the time they got to you the bots had already completed the operation. The EMT collected all the expunged parts—”
The mattress turned into an ice block. “My—”
“It’s all there,” the doc said. “Everything was preserved. Nothing was lost. Your voice will be back too.”
“Yes; for now we have implanted a small device inside your brain to translate your female voice into your own old voice. The psychiatrist said it would help the healing process.”
“The healing…Doc, why can’t I move?”
The doctor straightened and took a deep breath. “We don’t think it’s good for you to see the outcomes of any of this. Mentally. Let’s wait until everything is back to normal.”
“And until then, what do I do?”
Boy was that a sad pleading, the words blocked by the knot in my throat.
The doctor seemed at a loss, a blank expression on his face. “Until then, Mr. Strauss, you get to see how the other half lives.” He spun and left.
I lay there, speechless. Slowly I unclenched my muscles, little by little letting all the tension from my body flow away. Eventually tears started to drip over my cheeks and I began to sob.
At least, I thought, Jane won’t be able to use the ‘you don’t know how it feels’ argument.
The boys, however, are going to have a field day.
Iulian was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, where he earned his Bachelor’s in Finance. He moved to the US during 2001, and became a CPA (oh, the excitement!). Despite his career choice, Iulian always cultivated his creative side and finally decided to turn his craft into something more serious. At this point he calls himself an aspiring sci/fi and fantasy writer. He has published several short stories and is currently working on two novels. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and son and he blogs at www.fantasyscroll.com and www.iulianionescu.com. He is also the editor of http://fantasyscrollmag.com.
Michael’s photographs have been exhibited by the American Labor Museum and he is currently working on a photo-fiction series of short stories inspired by images he captured in the late 20th century.