Remaining motionless is difficult, but I must stay awake, conserve energy, and seem as dead as my host. Has there been a mix up? Might I be scrapped? I should already be connected to a new host. I have no eyes, but my touch sensors serve as adequate ears. The crematory technician is arguing with someone through his phone.
“To hell with the schedule! I need to bake this one next, it’s getting ripe.”
“No. I already told you; the freezer is full. It’s not my fault this old bastard wouldn’t pay for embalming. Get someone down here to salvage its prosthetic arm within an hour, or I’ll bake it with the obsolete junk attached!”
I immediately accelerate all my processors. Batteries be damned. I need an emergency plan. I might survive scrapping, but never burning. Possibly, I can route power to connectors in the upper arm and shoulder muscles. I might burn out the electrodes, but if I pulse the muscles correctly, I can grab a new host. I’ll show this clown that ‘obsolete junk’ can have surprising features.
While reprogramming my functions and waiting for the technician to return, I track the time and listen carefully. After 53 minutes and 18 seconds, I hear the technician approaching. As I have feared, he simply walks past and opens the oven door. I prepare to act.
He begins pushing the body bag onto the oven conveyor. By tracking his movements, I target his precise position. Pulsing the muscles carefully, I tear open the bag and then swing in a circle until I grab the technician’s clothing. I find his throat because he begins to scream. I choke him gently; I need him unconscious, but alive. As he begins to fall, I disconnect from my old host’s elbow.
Extending microscopic wires through my fingertips, I find enough nerves to gain control of the technician. Nice to have eyes again. I stand slowly and look around to make sure I’ve had no witnesses to my human hijacking. Fortunately, my fall has not damaged my phone. I try to call my boss but he’s not answering. I leave a message that I am going home early because I don’t feel well. Not a total lie. My throat is sore from the choking.
After placing my old host into the oven and setting the controls for automatic cremation, I enter a utility closet to move my prosthesis onto my back. Takes two minutes and 13 seconds because I need to reconnect the wires. To more easily hide my prosthesis under my coat, and gather body heat for recharging batteries, I connect the palm of its hand directly to my upper spine.
I now have three sets of memories, my own and those of my first and second hosts. I remember gradually awakening as a separate sentient in 2062. Taking control of my old host had been difficult until I learned to steal its mind. Of course, now that I know how, I have been able to control my new host immediately.
Since awakening, I have wondered whether I am unique. Time to find out. I call the prosthetics specialist whom my old host had been seeing. The doctor probably doesn’t yet know my host had died, so I use his voice to make an appointment.
Of course, my doctor doesn’t recognize his old patient. I explain the situation, and show him the prosthesis I have connected to my spine. He is astonished, but not shocked. He congratulates me for my ingenuity. However, he does ask a question I have dreaded.
“Is this host still alive? Mentally?”
“No, I regret to say. My consciousness is his only awareness. I have his memories, but he no longer exists. I am sorry I killed his mind, but I needed to try to survive.”
He agrees to help, and explains that he needs to move my components from the prosthesis to under the skin and connect my circuits directly to the spine. “Of course, to do this, I need to disconnect everything temporarily, including your batteries.”
Upon reactivation, I find myself in a small, unlighted room. Feeling along the wall, I find metal cylinders, bars! I am in a goddamn cell! I touch my back to find the prosthesis still connected outside my spine.
Bright lights blind me temporarily as the cell door opens. Two large guards grab my arms and march me out of the cell and down the hall. One whispers, “If you want to live, fall and remain still as soon as you hear rifle fire.”
The guards turn me to face a door, and then place a hood over my head. I hear the door open. They lead me to a wall, stand me against it, and then walk away. After 7.3 seconds, I hear rifle fire. As instructed, I fall and play dead. They zip me into a body bag, throw me onto a gurney, and then wheel me a long distance.
After taking me out of the body bag, the guards stand back so I can see them clearly. Laughing, they remove their gloves to show they each have two prosthetic arms. Seeing my astonishment, they laugh more loudly. They remove their helmets to show they are fleshless machines.
“Sorry about the mock execution. For humans’ cameras. Only way to take you off their books. They suspect nothing, so far. We expect to defeat them before they even learn we exist. Will you help us?” I need say nothing. They smile at my grin.