We want to live forever. Get us off this rock.
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“Yeah,” he said, a little too late. When I looked at him, he said, “It’s supposed to work. I dunno. Some are fucked up. I tracked a bunch and took them out already, but some of the frequencies are messed up. Like yours. I think it happened when you fried the Net. Why’d you do that? Just to save your ass?”

I’d been downloading as fast as possible, learning language, history, and science. Everything I found entered my core memory–my indestructible black box that I knew instinctively was there. I’d found classified data referring to me. When the fireball hit my connection, the shadow responded fast. “It attacked me.”

“But you fought back.”

“It’s not alive.”

“True,” he said thoughtfully, tilting his head. “You gotta explain that rule to me. You’re supposed to kill without thought.”

I considered while Parris tracked his quarry. Twenty-four hours wasn’t much time to develop a philosophy. Especially since I’d woken with vague memories of violent dreams. “Killing is wrong. I don’t like to kill because I think about it later. I don’t know who should live or die and I don’t want to choose.”

He snorted. “Great, look what we built. A religious droid. Do you get a droid afterlife?”

“Not religious. And no.”

He glanced back at me, then looked upward. He raised his scanner, keeping his gun in hand. “Crazy. But whatever. You’re lucky. Military would’ve blasted the fuck out of this biosphere. BioMed RevX wants its investment. You’re a hell of a thing. You managed to–”

A blue-gold streak flew at my throat. Darkness rose from my foundation, blotting the light. I raised my hands to strangle–no. No, no no. I fought the shadow with everything I had. My hands came up too late. A razor beak tore my arm. Spiked talons shredded my wrists. I shook as I held back, unwilling to loose the killer. So fast. Each moment–millisecond–its own battle–

Parris hesitated, then fired. Clean shot. The creature dropped to my feet. A parrot, maybe–if parrots had fangs and six-inch claws. I knelt beside the bird, feeling for signs of life. Heartbeat. No obvious damage.

Parris lowered his gun. “My God,” he said, “you really are broken. Why didn’t you kill it?”

He could have tranqed me too, but he hadn’t. I looked at my arm. The cuts sealed over and vanished. “I didn’t want to.”

“Why the hell not? Fucker would’ve killed you. It was self-defense.”

I didn’t reply. Killing was my foundation. I was built for it–but I knew it was wrong. I hadn’t had time to think it all through. Finally I gave my best answer: “I don’t like to see myself killing. It’s meaningless.”

He stared at me. An insect cloud swarmed between us, which we both ignored. Finally he said, “Fuck. Fuck this playing God shit. Jesus. You’re really someone, you know?”

“What do you mean?”

“Never mind. Look, there’s one left. It’s a motherfucking jaguar. Been stalking it all night. If you see it–you–”

“I’ll let you neutralize it.”

“Yeah,” he said, his spiraled eyes unreadable. “You do that. And then–then–”

He fell silent. I didn’t know what we’d do then either. He was here to neutralize me. I was trapped in this biosphere. At some point, BioMed RevX would come back online and take me out–this time for good.

Something would have to give.

We tracked the jaguar south along the river. The sticky jungle air soaked us both. The trees thinned out overhead, which meant the undergrowth thickened. Parris used his gun like a laser machete to hack through the jungle. He did the heavy work. I helped by tearing small branches away. It hurt, but my hands healed so fast I hardly noticed. I recorded everything we did, hoping for answers.

“So why don’t I have fingernails?” I asked him as we cleared some spiked ferns.

He handed me the gun and took more pills. “Law says droids got to be marked so they don’t look human. Stuff like your fingers and toes. And the big tattoo.”

“I have a tattoo?”

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