The mission is simple as always: infiltrate the human group, pretend to be a human, last android standing gets to remain in development. Fail, and you are terminated.
The storylines of the missions range, you could be in a dystopian simulation, where you have to work with survivors fighting against androids. You could be on a romantic date. It varies, but the objective, as Ms Themis reminds me, is to blend. I must perfectly mimic human interaction.
Today's simulation is interesting. I must hang out with a group of teenagers at the beach. The human companions are Elsie Majors, Nicole Zhang, Jacob Davis, and Amory Malik. After slipping into a beach-toned human skin, I enter the scene. The warm air breathes around me, and I hold back a shudder. I could imagine Themis snickering, knowing how much the heat bothered me. The teenagers are loud as I approach, and I quickly plaster on a lopsided, natural grin.
"Hey, guys!" I call out, running a little to catch up. Elsie waves excitedly, brushing curls out of her face. I feel like Nicole knows what I am, her eyes are imperceptible behind dark glasses, and for a moment I wonder if she is my judge. I high five Jacob enthusiastically and lean into a hug with Amory.
"What are you all doing just standing here?" I asked, throwing my arms out, "Let's go people, we're wasting daylight!"
"Who do you think we're waiting for numbskull?" Amory asked, casually running a hand through their curls. "Listen, we made a plan, beach first, then we all regroup for an awesome bonfire. Keenan is hosting, so it shouldn't be absolute shit."
Shit, Themis wasn't joking when she said this would be hard. Technically this was two tests rolled into one, and I was already struggling with the nuances of teen-speak. "Sounds like a plan," I shot finger guns at Amory, and for a moment my blood ran cold, and I made myself avoid Nicole's eye. Amory chuckled lightly and shot finger guns back.
Elsie was laughing at something Jacob was saying, her manicured hand resting suggestively on Jacob's forearm, eyes shining as he told his story. I checked her heart rate and measured it against the database. Either Elsie had run a half marathon twenty seconds ago, or she was experiencing teenage love. I winked at her when she caught my eye and she blushed, and I realized I had made a slight error. Now I had given her the impression I liked her. Well, whatever, Elsie was good looking, and my skin was aesthetically pleasing too. It wouldn't be a huge leap.
Following along after that was easy, I had biceps made for the beach and an indestructible hairdo that would still be around when the cockroaches ruled the earth. I chucked sand at Nicole playfully (she remained cold), choosing to sit away from us at the beach, almost glaring at all of us. Elsie shot her a disgusted look, but said nothing, giving me the opportunity to hit her leg with sand. She shrieked in protest, and leapt onto me, tackling me into the waves.
I hoisted Elsie into the air to joust with Jacob and Amory. It was fun while I didn't have to talk too much, just remain super excited about everything.
Amory spat out water after they fell, and suddenly pointed at someone. "Look who it is, it's that goddamn tweaker again," They scoffed, rolling their eyes. "Didn't he harass you last time for money or something, Jacob?"
I frowned lightly at Amory, that's was insulting, especially towards someone that was likely suffering from a combination of mental illness, peer pressure, addiction-related genes, and/or poverty.
Jacob's mouth twisted in mild annoyance. "Eh, whatever, I'll just report him to the lifeguard again," And he splashed me in the face, triggering a battle with water.
Energy dwindled after a few hours in the sun, and we packed ourselves into a cramped booth at the Self-Surf Shack. Everything was assaulting my visual sensors, the colourful Hawaiian shirts, brightly coloured surfboards, the waitresses and waiters wearing neon shirts. Nicole sat across from me, and I grinned, eager to win some approval or to finally figure out why she was so mad. No dice, she just silently sat there, observing me (I assumed).
"So, for the bonfire, anybody special you're going to be taking?" Elsie grinned next to me, looking up through her lashes.
I smiled, far too used to Themis' transparent tricks. Playfully, I bumped her shoulder with mine, making thoughtful noises. "Oh, if only I knew someone incredibly hot, who was close by, and wanted to go with me," I made eye contact, putting on my signature grin.
Elsie pouted, "You don't think I'm hot?"
Oh, this was a new one. "What?" I stared at her, completely nonplussed.
"Well, you didn't ask me-" Elsie's voice had an amused twang, and I understood then.
"Okay, okay, let's not jump to any conclusions," I stared deeply into her eyes, which was hard since her face was right next to mine. "Elsie Majors, will you go to frat boy Keenan-freaking-Delmore's super illegal bonfire with me to get wasted and have the worst time of our lives?"
Elsie leaned forward, also serious. "Oh my God, yes, a thousand times yes." She laughed then, finally taking a sip of the mango milkshake Jocab had ordered for her.
Amory snorted across from us, unable to conceal their giggles anymore. "Wow, that was truly depressing to watch,"
"Shut up," Elsie kicked Amory under the table, and I saw Nicole move as it came towards her corner. Amory and Elsie began a weird catfight using kicks, and Nicole got up, immediately struggling for a way out. She looked physically repulsed by them, and uncomfortably found her way out, pushing past Amory.
"Is everything okay with her?" I asked, at the same time that Jacob said, "That chick is acting so weird today."
"I have no fuckin' clue, but she is really getting on my nerves," Elsie muttered, twisting her straw into the bottom of her glass.
"I know right, I don't know what crawled up her ass and died," Amory chuckled, staring in the direction of the bathrooms Nicole had disappeared into. "We should get rid of her,"
They all looked at me for a moment, and when I didn't reply, they filled the gap.
Jacob laughed but Elsie nodded, looking annoyed. "Last week, Ryan made some joke-you know how he is, a disgusting pervert-but still, she went off on him like some psycho,"
They turned towards me, and I frowned at them. "Maybe she's going through a hard time. You don't know anything about her, let's leave it alone, maybe?" I couldn't understand why they were doing this, being mean.
"Don't defend her," Elsie snapped, "Like why are you hanging out with is, if you hate us so much? God, she's so.."
"Righteous, overbearing, holier-than-thou," Amory supplied helpfully, grinning mischievously.
"Yeah! Like I give a shit about women's rights too, but honest-to-God, that girl is getting on my nerves." Elsie declared, tapping her nails against the counter.
"She's not like that, maybe she's just tired," I argued, annoyed at how shallow these supposedly complex beings were. There was theoretically no gain towards being mean. It was preferable to remain on amicable terms with Nicole, it fulfilled more purposes than this anger.
"No, that's it, this bitch has annoyed me for the last time," Elsie said, her voice tightening to a growl.
Amory stretched slightly, yawning, "She's become such a killjoy ever since she started going out with that religious dude, what's his name?"
"We should respect her wishes, and talk to her to understand her unique situation," I said, quoting the android manual.
It happened too fast for me to realize. I felt it, the rush of the bullet through the wiring of the skin.
"Oh you stupid idiot," Amory drawled, standing up, the pistol hanging loosely from their hand. "How did you fall for that? You did such a perfect job all day, playing the role of the lovesick, perfect teen."
I watched the gaping hole in horror, unable to comprehend that I would be one of the androids who wouldn't advance. "I'm one of the best models!" I protested, leaking the blue fluid that made up my circulation. "What, what did I get wrong?" I asked desperately.
Everyone in the cafe was staring right at me, their mouths stretched in grotesque grins. I saw the dead looks in their dead eyes, and realized too late that they were all androids too.
"Don't underestimate humans' capacity for cruelty," Amory said, their voice tinged with something close to sympathy, but I could hear the gentle whirs of the jaw movement, and the click of their optical machinery. It was so silent.
Everyone in the cafe began laughing as I died and disappeared.