art by Richard Gagnon
by Miah Sonnel
***Editor's Warning: Disturbing subject matter, and adult language. This story is not for sensitive or young readers***
Lyria sits naked on Aaron's workbench. Her knees are pulled close to her chest, back paneling peeled open at the spine. Lyria's insides are neatly packaged. The thin blue and red wiring wraps around the knobs of her vertebrae like twisted veins, pulsing blue and humming with the echo of her heartbeat. The skin around her waist is warm and soft under Aaron's steady hand. Lyria is his favorite--the most advanced among his girls, his greatest achievement by far.
She shifts restlessly.
"Hold still," Aaron warns, using his scalpel to gently push a knot of wiring to the side.
"Sorry, Dad," she whispers.
Dad. She's the only being--human or drone--who calls him Dad.
"You're going to have to stop calling me Da--that," Aaron murmurs, hating himself for choking on the word. "I'm not your Father. I don't own you, anymore." Aaron swallows his bitterness.
Lyria shakes her head vehemently and he hisses as the wires vibrate with the jerky movement. She slouches, stilling obediently but saying sullenly, "I'm still yours for another ten hours. He--Mr. Weston--doesn't own me yet."
Aaron doesn't answer. It's useless arguing semantics. He finds the small paneling at the knot of her spine, just beneath the base of her neck.
"Be very still." He reaches for his drill with his free hand.
The drill fits between his index and middle fingers like a pen. It hums. He presses it to the small panel and it screeches against the metal. He stops. "Are you okay?" he asks.
"Yup," she answers, popping the word with her lips. Of course she answers yes.
Aaron switches the drill back on. The screaming continues. The cold dread gathering in his chest has spread to settle into a blanket of nausea in his gut. Stupid. It's stupid to do this while she's still awake. It's reckless, dangerous. One nick to the wrong wire could send Lyria crashing.
This is why he puts the girls to sleep before he customizes them. When they're in standby they're nothing but hardware to play with--cracking them open is easy... fun even.
When they're awake, it's harder to remember that they're not real.
But tonight is Lyria's last night, and she doesn't want to be put into standby. She doesn't want to sleep, not even for a moment.