Razker tugged at the chains again. This wasn’t the first time he was sent to get a night’s stay at the P-Zone, but today he didn’t have time to spare. Carl-V was late and he was getting desperate. Stupid robot. The cell he was locked in smelled of stale blood. Blood that was splattered all over the room. Razker wondered if this was supposed to intimidate him. He noticed that the splatters were all too thick and had no tails. Objects were held close to the wall and were beaten horizontally. Hardly an ideal manner of third-degree interrogation. He sat on his parka he’d laid down earlier to avoid sitting in scum. The cells I’ve been in were all clean. He pushed his hair out of his eyes, rubbed at his stubble, and grinned. Oh, so I’m to be interrogated soon, then.
Relief washed over him. This means Euro is safe. He needed to get out of there right now. Euro must have performed their part of the plan and would be waiting for him at the spaceport. If the officers of the Magistrate had found them he would have been called in, already. But Chief Kartus had no idea where his favorite sex-bot was.
Razker hated to think of Euro as a sex-bot, but they always took pride in their purpose.
“Razker, I am what I was designed to be,” Euro said, leaning on his kitchen counter as the morning suns filtered through his apartment’s viewing tablet and gently bounced off of Euro’s rich purple skin and auburn hair. He opened his mouth to retort, but the sight of them, along with the intense aroma of coffee and sugar, took his thoughts to the night before.
“But—” he managed before they put a finger on his lips.
“But I know I am more, as well. You have made sure I see that,” they smiled.
He smiled back, “I understand that it’s difficult for bots to think that they have a purpose beyond their program.”
“I don’t see loving you written in my code,” they said, crossing the distance of the counter to sit beside him. “But I do.”
He spoke before he could stop himself, “Let’s get out of here!”
Euro sat up, “What?”
No turning back now. “Let’s get out of here. Let’s leave this godforsaken planet, and go somewhere we can actually be free.”
“You’ve gone insane. Where will we go? How will we leave? The Chief will track us down! Razker—”
He put his hands on their shoulders. “Euro, calm down. I’ve been—I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now. I’ve got a plan. If we start today, we’ll get out of here in a week, tops.”
Euro sighed. Razker loved it when they sighed. Until a few months ago, when he’d only ever see them getting out of Kartus’ office while he was being charged with something new, their clothes disheveled and their expression inanimate, he’d never have thought they were capable of emotions as complex as resignment. They always found a way to surprise him.
“So, what’s this plan of yours?”
Razker beamed, and called upon his assistant, “Carl-V!”
Carl-V, a humanoid semi-intelligent robot, issued by the Magistrate to serve him as a token of gratitude for his discrete services, walked into his living room. “Yes, Razker?”
“Time to reveal Plan Kartus-To-Hell to Euro!” he announced.
Euro looked at him, chuckling, “That’s a bit childish.”
Razker laughed, “Well, the plan’s much better.”
Carl-V turned their head from Razker to Euro twice before he replied, “Surely, Razker. As per our deliberations, Plan KTH is estimated to get you and Euro out of the planet of Duozene within 168 hours of the moment of commencement.
“At Moment-0 you are to get an audience with Chief Kartus by turning yourself in for another one of your fake crimes. During this meeting, after his officers have checked you in a cell to bring down the probability of information leaks to a solid zero, you will reveal your information.”
“What information?” Euro asked.
“Telemation is being sold off next month.”
“It is?” Euro asked. Telemation was, after all, one of the major pioneers of molecular-relocation technology.
“Nope,” Razker replied, smiling. “But being the prime source of the Chief’s immoral truths has benefits other than just wealth. Its share value has been dropping lately, and once I spread the word through my chains that the ownership is switching, it might as well be broke.”
Euro was stunned. “And you’re going to tip Master Kartus off.”
Razker cringed slightly but recovered, “Yes, I’m going to sell him a huge one. Carl-V, continue.”
“By analyzing Magistrate’s logs, Razker identified that after receiving any kind of immensely profitable information Chief Kartus always calls upon his favored sex-bot.”
“Me,” said Euro.
“Yes,” said Razker, suddenly down-spirited. “Unfortunately, this plan involves you answering his call.”
Euro cupped his face in their hands, “It’s okay, Razker. It’s only my purpose.”
Razker nodded. It hurt him every time Kartus called upon Euro. Which was why he’d been giving him very little profitable information lately. But their escape plan needed him to call upon Euro. One last time.
“So, I suppose I am to subdue him somehow?” Euro asked.
“Yes,” Carl-V continued. “You are to administer a drug that will knock him out for about twelve hours. Now, you are to get out of his office after you’re done, and sneak out to the spaceport instead of going back to the Factory. That way, he won’t be able to monitor you. In the meantime, Razker will be imprisoned for eight hours, as per his deal with Chief Kartus. Razker will then be released, and will meet you at the spaceport.”
“How will we get aboard a ship? Won’t the guards ask for the Chief’s approval? He’d be passed out, so they won’t let us leave.” Euro asked.
“As I said, being the Chief’s immoral truth dealer has a lot of benefits. Through the use of a little coercion, and with their inability to contact the Chief, the guard will have to let us through. And then,” Razker kissed them. “We’re off!”
Their plan went south when Kartus walked into Razker’s cell with his phone that they had confiscated. Razker was too stunned to speak. He was supposed to be knocked out. Why does he have my phone?
Then the truth dawned on him. Carl-V was supposed to inform him once Euro had safely reached Location B. I must have messed up the drug—diluted it too much, or something!
“So, Razker,” said Kartus. “Planned on making an ass out of me?”
Razker had nothing to say. Their scheme was up. Only one word kept reverberating itself in his mind: Euro.
“Planned on selling me false information, and stealing a sex-bot, huh?” Kartus was screaming into his face, now. “And for what? There are so many sex-bots here. You’re my special boy! I’d have gotten you a good one!”
That did it. Razker stood up tall over Kartus. “It’s not about sex, Kartus. I love them!”
“Love?” scoffed Kartus. “What do you mean, you love them? That’s a machine, Razker! You can’t love a machine—not like that. That’s unnatural.”
There was no changing people like him. “Well, then I must be unnatural, too.”
Kartus stepped back, considering him. “Razker, I hoped you knew better, son. You’ve done nothing illegal yet. I am pissed at you for selling me that fake information, but I cannot put you in for it. Tell me where exactly Euro is right now—where exactly is this Location B, and I’ll let you go with only a slap on the wrist. That bot needs some… software updates.”
How dare he think that he’d sell them out? “I’m sure if you let those eyelids of yours stay up for long enough, you’ll see that the rest of us aren’t half as filthy as you.”
That’s how he had ended up in this dirty cell. Kartus had him shifted here, awaiting his formal hearing next week. Kartus expects me to crack? Let him try. The moment Razker’s reverting period passed, Carl-V was programmed to assume some events have altered the plan. Carl-V was to immediately locate Razker via the tracker he had sewn into his skin the week before. The only thing that terrified Razker was that Carl-V hadn’t broken him out yet. Where the hell are they? It’s been over an hour! The Magistrate might be closing in on Euro!
He was about to dislocate his wrists to break free and make a blind run for it when he heard a loud thud. Like a body had dropped. Carl-V was here.
“Hello, Razker,” Carl-V said as they unlocked his cell.
“Where the hell were you?”
Carl-V started working on his chains. “Emergency at the spaceport. Was ensuring Euro’s safety.”
“Are they okay?”
Carl-V looked at him. “Yes, they’re okay. I’m okay, too. Thanks for asking.”
“Should’ve taken sarcasm out of you along with the Magistror.”
“You merely took away my ability to truly report your logs. I’m still hilarious!”
“Yeah, don’t push it, Override Self-explode is still in there. I won’t mind going down with you,” Razker said, rubbing at his wrists. “Now, let’s get out of here.”
“The quickest way out of here would be to blast this wall and climb down.”
Razker rubbed at his temples. “What about the other ways?”
“There is only one other way. The way I came. But the cameras will soon notice that the two guards I incapacitated are no longer running rounds. Soon, the backup will be here. An offensive one.”
“Probability of getting past them?”
Razker weighed their options. They definitely weren’t going to be able to penetrate the wall of guards that would surely intercept them. But, would he be able to live with having caused someone’s death? He didn’t want to make this decision. He had just wanted his original plan to work! Even while making this backup plan, he had known that it would be a last-ditch effort. He hated last-ditch efforts. Of all the things that could have gone wrong, why did I have to mess up the drug!
“Razker, the guards will start encircling the premises in a few minutes. The longer we wait, the higher the number of casualties will be.”
Razker sighed, “Blast it.”
They were on the run in a stolen floater. He had deliberated for a bit too long. From what Razker could gather, before setting off on a run, the debris that blast caused had injured over ten guards. He did not want to think about the severity of their injuries.
The Magistrate officers must have identified the cause of the blast by now. Security footage would confirm their direction of escape. There was no time to get on a ship using coercion now. Breaking in was their only option. Razker hated the way his options kept decreasing right before his eyes. Something just doesn’t add up. I’ve knocked out so many people before using that drug. How did I mess it up?
Razker felt like a victim of his own expectations. He had planned for many other things to go wrong, but he had never expected him to mess up his signature drug. There is no way I messed that up. But then, how did Kartus wake up?
Razker ditched the floater at the spaceport’s main entryway. They would no longer be using that route. He ran up to Euro with Carl-V at his tail.
“What happened? You’re late. Why’re you panting? What’s wrong?” Euro asked.
“I—We’ve got to go! Kartus… Magistrate’s after… us!”
They only had time enough to gasp before Razker pulled them by their wrist and set off in a run.
Euro, Razker, and Carl-V turned around a sparsely lit corridor. “This is dubbed as the smugglers’ route. This is how all the illegal stuff gets in,” Razker explained. “The official word is that it’s under construction.”
“That’s awful,” Euro said.
“I know… the Magistrate’s awful.”
“What happened back there?”
“I—” Razker stopped. Clark-V bumped into him, but he ignored them and turned to face Euro. “Did you administer the drug into Kartus?”
“What? Yes, of course, I did!” they replied.
He couldn’t believe what he was thinking, but only that made sense. “Did you really administer it?”
“Yes, Razker!” they took a step back, hurt. “What are you implying?”
He ignored that. “And why did you call Carl-V to you? What was that emergency at the spaceport?”
Their face contorted in frustration, “What emergency?”
The lights momentarily blinded Razker. The sudden influx of light made Euro shut their visuals down. Razker heard him before he could see him.
“Lover’s spat, is it?” said Kartus.
“What the—” Razker started. Once his vision adjusted, he saw Kartus at the end of the corridor, along with five guards walking towards them.
“Don’t fret it, kid. Your little machine didn’t sell you out. Well, not the one you think, anyway.”
He whipped towards Carl-V. Carl-V kept looking away from him, at Kartus. A show of having chosen their loyalties.
“Carl-V? What is—” he was truly at a loss of words. He had removed their Magistror, hadn’t he? Why would Carl-V report him? How? This doesn’t make any sense.
Euro stepped back when Kartus stopped in front of them. The air hung still. Razker didn’t want to breathe, because breathing would make this real; breathing would mean he had lost.
“How did you—” his voice cracked before he could finish his question. The corridor threatened to give way beneath his feet.
Kartus smiled, “You understand frighteningly little, son. The Magistrate’s always watching.”
Razker felt the burn before he could register Kartus’ hand moving up to his face. The force behind that slap was more than just the force of a hit. It was the force of power; of an assurance that you’d never be defeated or tricked because you are the Chief; of arrogance. Razker stumbled into Euro’s arms. Tears brimmed his face. “I’m so sorry,” he said, looking up at their attractive face. “I’m so sorry.”
They lifted him back up. “It’s okay, Razker. It’s okay, my love.”
Kartus scoffed, “Love?”
Turning to his guards he repeated, “Love? You hear what this thing said?”
The guards snickered.
Kartus turned back. “You love whoever your contract says you do that day, understand?”
That did it. Never before had they felt this much anger before. They were angry that their plan failed. They were angry that they couldn’t be with the person they loved. They were angry at this gross excuse of a man. But what angered them the most was that someone else could have the audacity to think they had a say in what they could or could not feel.
“Do I? That’s strange because I never loved you! All these years, training me in your ways, asking me questions afterward, and yet I do not love you! What’s the worst you can do? Reset my settings? Dismantle me? Do it! You pathetic shell of a man, do it! But guess what, I still won’t love you. I will never love you!”
Kartus’ fist met Razker’s hand instead of Euro’s face. At that moment, Razker could see that Kartus knew Razker could kill him. Kartus backed away. For a bizarre moment, Razker thought he would apologize. But Chief Kartus only grinned. The Magistrate never apologizes.
“You, fool! You think just because you took away a stupid little magistror, you could run this humanoid however you'd want? Why do you think we even gave it to you?”
Razker stood silent, resigned.
Kartus continued, “You think you’re so smart! Think you’re special? You’re nothing but my little dog, kid. And now you’ve bit on more than you can chew. I am going to enjoy putting you down!”
Razker turned to face Carl-V. “Carl-V? Anything, buddy? Why did you do it?”
Carl-V finally looked at him, “You know why I did it, Razker. You said it yourself, ‘It’s difficult for bots to think that they have a purpose beyond their program.’ It’s my purpose to protect the Magistrate. And your actions would have caused a lot of damage to it. I had to report your plans to the Chief, Razker. I do not hope for forgiveness. I just hope you understand that I am what I was designed to be.”
“Yeah, yeah. All very touching,” Kartus said. “Carl-V came to me with your plans. But I wanted you to perish. Sure, I’d lose my best source of information, but you had hurt my honor, kid. So, Carl-V let you go along with your little plan. Only they switched your drug for something milder. And then I made them make you wait in that cell; make you desperate enough to be willing to kill people. Because, bot theft? That’s two years. Murder? That’s execution, son.”
This was it. There was nowhere to go from here. No backup plans. Razker felt his defeat settle in as their options for survival diminished to zero. He looked at Euro and found them looking back at him. They both knew this was goodbye.
“Take this useless machine to the scrapyard. I want their every trace gone,” he said to his guards. “And cuff him up. I’ll be attending his execution in person.”
“I love you, Razker,” Euro said as guards tried to shut them down. “That’s a truth forever.”
Razker knew what they meant, then. Courage flooded in him; dams of hesitation broken by stones of necessity. He loved them so much, and no one could tell him otherwise. “I love you, too, Euro. Now, and forever.”
There was a way out. The only way out. Kartus was walking away with Carl-V. It was now or never.
“Carl-V,” he said. Everyone looked at him. He only looked at Euro as he said, “Self-explode.”