Delia lost her consciousness to some shady bots in a back-alley poker bet she was sure she’d win, so now she had to give it to them willingly or they were going to take it by force. A forcible extraction of consciousness always corroded it a bit, second law of thermodynamics and all, and Delia couldn’t afford any more corrosion.
So, she ran.
Of course they chased her, and of course they were going to catch her eventually. Bots didn’t know how to cheat at cards, but sometimes even luck and chance shined on the stupid.
She darted past the herds of homeless, who littered Skid Row with their tents and overflowing urine buckets. She slipped down Santee Alley and lost her tail by ducking into a display rack of cheap polyester dresses, between the L and the XL, where nobody ever looked.
She couldn’t go back inside a functioning bot again, which she’d done for a time until she secretly built back her personal bank account by using its thumbprint while it hibernated. Human consciousnesses primarily processed emotions the bots couldn’t process independently. And they’d override everything else. Existing inside of a bot felt like a coffin. But by the time she could buy herself back, Delia’s body had decayed too far to be of any use, and she definitely couldn’t walk around as a living corpse. She’d briefly dated a living corpse once, not fun.
Her only option was to buy an empty decommissioned droid, a sublet for the soul. She’d chosen a male unit because there was never any disadvantage to presenting as male, even a non-human one.
Peeking out from between the polyester, the coast seemed clear, and she spied a dive bar across the alley, derelict and seedy, just the way she liked them.
“Can I buy you a drink?” a tackily dressed female bot sidled up to ask, though it was all just play on formality.
Delia leaned in confidentially. “I’m a woman.”
“Sure you are, honey.”
“No I am. I’m real. On the inside”
“Me too,” the tacky female said. She twitched a little. One of her eyes spun haphazardly, desperately in need of a diagnostic upgrade. “You want a good time or not?”
Delia considered. She wasn’t exactly sure how all her current parts worked and frankly found them pretty confusing. There seemed to be at least one extra one down there she had no idea what to do with. She vaguely suspected it was a wine opener.
The bell above the bar’s door jangled as the poker-playing bots entered. Delia cursed. Eventually, she would have to use the remaining money in her account to purchase a new outerwear they wouldn’t recognize, and she’d be even farther from her goal. For now though, she’d improvise.
Delia glanced at the malfunctioning bot beside her. She missed real sex but even more than touch, and she’d bet her entire consciousness to taste again. She planned to eat a hot slice of greasy pepperoni from Raffalo’s on La Brea, dripping with gooey cheese and tangy sauce, as soon as she could get her hands on a body.
“Sure,” she told the female’s one good eye. “Let’s go out the back.”