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Pandora Downloaded


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Hotel room
Undisclosed location

"Okay, recording's done, honey. Wake up." A couple of cute smacks on Beth's cheek woke her up. "Here's a link for the download. Got it?"


In less than a microsecond Beth began downloading the stimvid to her box and from there made a backup, encrypting it with a memorized password. There were some times where recoverability took priority over privacy, and this was one of those times.

"Okay. It's backed up, just... let me copy it back at home... You can never be too sure."

"This is important for you, isn't it?"

"You have no idea."

"Aw, honey... you've been lonely for so much time, haven't you?"

Vixen caressed Beth's cheek once more. Bethany just nodded with a bittersweet expression.

"Okay, I'll wait until you finish backing that up."

Beth gave Vixen a quick hug again before reclining on the bed. "Thank you." She grabbed Vixen's hand and closed her eyes.
A few minutes later, she opened her eyes again. "Okay, done. Vixen, how did you do it?"

"Do what?"

"In the stimvid. Your skin isn't blue. It's just like a human. And your hair, why did you..."

"Just a few modifications here and there, for privacy reasons. And I like orange."


"I also took the liberty to steg a little data for backup purposes, hope you don't mind."

"No, no, not at all."

"Thanks. Okay, now get up, because it's late and we have lots, LOTS of things to do, okay?"

Bethany sat up and looked at Vixen in the eyes. She put her arms around her and kissed her before hugging her tightly. "God... I'm scared, Vixen. I love you so much and am so scared of losing you... I don't want to lose you!"

"It'll be fine, honey, it'll be fine."

"What do I do now, Vix? I just spent two hours with you and I feel much more for you than I felt for Lucy."

"Who's Lucy?"

"My first time."

Vixen let a long sigh. "I knew it." She hugged Bethany back. "This wasn't supposed to happen, baby, you know? In other circumstances, I would have just met you, offered a deal and give you some files to take care of. I mean, I could have just rescued you and that's it, but I just couldn't leave you like that... Beth, will you forgive me?"

"Forgive you? That is so fucked up! You did EVERYTHING for me! Even risking your life!"

"I know Beth, it's just that... ah, coño... I never had been this responsible for someone's life. Not so close, not so personal..."

"I don't mind." Beth kept hugging Vixen and caressed her back.

"Beth... you do realize how fucked up this is, don't you? You fell in love with an android. A rogue android. Now we're both fugitives, and I need a new place to hide."

Beth sighed. "Things are going to get bad, aren't they?"

"For you? No. For this avatar? Yes."

Beth broke the hug.

"Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit! Oh shit.... why do these things have to happen to me?"

"I'm afraid you'll have to report her stolen."

"Oh no... fuck! And I invested so much money in her!"

"I'm sorry... but that guy was a federal agent. He'll keep searching for you, and eventually he's going to trace your avatar to your real ID."

"Oh god, no... no!!!"

"I'm sorry."

Beth sighed. "So... where do I report it?"

"Since we don't want the NBI involved... I'm afraid there's only one choice."

"Don't tell me..."

Cyberpol HQ
New Angeles

The interrogation room door opened. The table shuddered with each step of the Lieutenant's armor. Separating her from the Chinese criminal was a thick pane of unbreakable glass. Above them was a camera recording everything that happened in the room.

With a polite smile, the inmate gave her the finger and waited her to speak first.

"So you're not talking? You know killing androids is a crime, don't you?"

"Oh you mean these legs?" he replied, reclining himself on his chair and putting his surgically inserted blue legs on the table. "Look, I had an accident and someone found some spare android parts for me. Is becoming a cyborg illegal now?"

"Don’t fuck with me, Bai. You and I know that bioroid parts must be kept in aseptic conditions; you can’t just find them in the flea market."

"Look, I had an accident and fell unconscious; then I woke up with these legs."

"And you have no idea who grafted them?"

"How would I know? I’m saying I was unconscious! Maybe it was a gift from the Holy Spirit? Or maybe it was a berserk! You never know what they’re up to!"

"Alright, we can’t prove you killed an android to get those legs. But we can prove you threatened an innocent man in that store. That’s at least six months, plus resisting arrest, shooting at a police officer, carrying illegal weapons. Care to explain?"

"Okay, I admit the store thing. Guilty as charged. But look, everybody knows there are fixers out there disguised as police officers; I was fearing for my life."

"You think I was born yesterday, Bai?"

"Listen, you fucking Guizi, if you can prove that I did all that with bad intentions, then do it. But I never received a broadcast by an authorized police officer. And as far as I know, that’s called reasonable doubt. And I never shot to kill, you can ask ballistics about every single bullet I shot."

"Bai, we can reduce your sentence, but we need you to cooperate. Who’s the dragon? And what was that stash you were talking about? What is Vibora planning, and what is she doing in Esperanza?"

"I... don’t recall. I must’ve hit my head when you guys caught me." He smirked.

"You’re not the type to risk himself for others. What are you hiding?"

"You’re the detective. You find out."

"Well, until you downloaded that video, you wanted to kill her. Why are you protecting a Mexican of all people?"

"Officer, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Now where’s my lawyer?"

The lieutenant left the room and closed the door. She went to the observation room.

"He’s hiding something."

The agent with mustache and gray hair rested his head on his hands. "Oh, you think?"

"I mean about Vibora. He learned something important, Johnson, and is willing to go to jail to protect that secret. We know Chinese and Mexicans are like oil and water, so why is he suddenly protecting her?"

"Beats me, what do you suggest?"

"Investigate. Find that clerk and learn what he knows. Why did they go to that store in particular? What was the owner doing? Contact Hong Kong and find out what they got on Vibora."

"Got it. I’ll tell my men to work on it. And, the thing about the dragon? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?"

The lieutenant shook her head. "Let’s hope it’s not Beijing. We need more info, and I don't think we'll get it with him in jail."

"But we got a confession. If we just let him go he'll get suspicious."

The lieutenant kept thinking about it for a few minutes until a grin appeared on her face.

"I got an idea. The officers who arrested him."

"What about them?"

"I think I can convince one to wipe his cache. Of the entire thing."

"But that's insane! Any evidence of the - oh."

"Still we need a lawyer to find out about this particular incident, and the pieces will fall one by one."

"You’re the boss."

"Lieutenant Inoue", interrupted a female automated voice. "Please report to tech forensics with your armor on. Lieutenant Inoue, tech forensics with armor on."

The lieutenant sighed. "Gotta go."

"Good luck."

The lieutenant walked up the stairs and after a long walk through a series of corridors she arrived to the tech forensics lab. A Chinese man with safety goggles and a lab coat was kneeling on the floor among a spaghetti-like arrangement of cables. He was drilling an attachment bolt on the wall. "That should do it."

She cleared her throat.

The man turned around. "Oh, Lieutenant! I didn't hear you arrive."

"Lee, what seems to be the problem?"

"Oh!" he shouted, with an open smile. "It already arrived! Three days ahead of schedule, would you believe that? But I need your help, and the other armored officers are on patrol already."

"So I'm your hydraulic crane now," the lieutenant replied, crossing her arms. "I just opened a new line of investigation on today’s case."

"It won't take long, I promise."

"Alright", she said, stretching the artificial muscles in her armor. "Where is it?"

"It's in that wooden box, but the forklift broke."

"That heavy, huh?" The lieutenant looked at the crane. "Ah, I see the problem. It's not the forklift that broke, Lee, it's the floor. Gods, who put cheap plastic flooring in this section?"

"That's what I told them, but no, we have to be considerate of budget!"

"I'll just lift this..." With a gentle pull she lifted and pushed the forklift until the wheels got to the reinforced flooring. "Alright. I'll drive this. Where do you want it?"

"Right there, next to the cabling." The forklift began beeping as the lieutenant maneuvered it via telepathic control.

"Yeah, a little to the left... now go straight... and all the way to the wall. There. You can put it down."

The lieutenant lowered the forklift handles and drove it to the exit before commanding it to park itself in the storage area.

"Well, now that you made me do all the heavy work, you might as well humor me. What is it, Lee?"

"Remember that Eden Health offered us an experimental version of their new hardware? Well, I accepted their offer, and here it is!"

"And what does it do?"

"It's a high resolution phase contrast wide band scanner! It can't scan to the neuronal level, but it's still good enough to examine the memories of a recently deceased brain. But, it needs to be snap-frozen, otherwise it won't work."

"Okay, in other words, if we have a frozen head, we can replay its memories."

"Exactly! Imagine what this could do for law enforcement!"

"How much did it cost?"

"Just 30 million."

"30 million... for this? We're several armors and units short, and they approved... this?"

"It had 90% discount! It's an opportunity we couldn't afford to miss! Imagine, you can dispatch enemies without the need to keep them alive. Then you just snap-freeze their heads in those containers..."

Agent Lee pointed to the other side of the room. "... and voila. We can scan their last few days, maybe even weeks, so we can know who they talked to, where they went, who they had sex with, you name it."

"I see."

"Anyway, you know how most criminals just wipe their caches before they get caught? The smart ones, at least."


"Well, you can wipe a cache, but you can't wipe your brain! This baby", he said, plugging the cables, "works with EVERYONE! Implants or not. Oh - it can also accept live subjects, but they'd need to stay still for a couple of hours. That's what the attachment screws are for."

"No, thanks, I'll pass. By the way, has your brother decided to join you?"

"No, he's happy working for the HKPD. And I think they need him more than we do."

"Good point."

"Hmm, what's this?" agent Lee asked, opening a cushioned box. "Would you look at that! It comes with a sample head!"


"Hmm... apparently it's a biomimetic brain, just a few million neurons, actually, to give a demonstration. I'll plug it in and test it today."

He opened the box and the lieutenant's face ran cold. She stepped back; her heart was pounding so hard that she could feel it move inside her rib cage.

"Oh don't worry, Lieutenant! It's a fake head!"

"Give me that."

She took the head and looked at it again. She clenched her teeth.

"Something wrong, Lieutenant?"

"You say Eden Health offered this to you?"

She gave the fake head back to Lee. Young woman, caucasian, definitely Novo European, in her mid 30s, with straight orange hair that went slightly below her ears, and beautiful freckles.


"I mean 'you', personally. Did you get the offer via the usual channels?"

"Actually, I got it in my personal email."

"Bastards. Never mind, I'll deal with them later."

Suddenly, an alarm began beeping in the intelligence monitor.

"Another one?" the lieutenant asked.

"Where is it this time?"

"Six months ago?" asked Lee. "Isn't it a little bit late to report the avatar?"

"Be grateful they did report it. Let me connect to this girl."



Anon1> Hello?
> This is Lieutenant Inoue from the Cyberpol. Is this Bethany Michaels?
Anon1> Um, yes.
> Are you available to talk?
Anon1> Yes.
> We received your report about a stolen avatar. What happened?
Anon1> It started with a game one of my friends shared... it said it was an underground game, and I got interested.

The Lieutenant shook her head. "One mistake after another. Who is going to teach these kids?"

Anon1> Anyway, everything seemed to go fine, and suddenly I got an email from this hacker who told me to give him full access to my avatar. I didn't know what to do at first, but then he shared my name, and intimate pictures of me, and of my family, and told me that bad things would happen if I didn't.

> So you did. Do you keep the messages?

Anon1> No, he told me to delete all evidence. He even told me to wipe my cache.


> Well, nice job, kid. Guess you won't have that avatar again.
Anon1> Well, not exactly... I could still use it most of the time, but sometimes, especially at night, I would lose access and then the next morning she'd return home with her cache all clean, or I'd wake up in a hotel room somewhere in the ground.
> Clever. Gains info and pretends everything's normal to lower suspicions. Tell me about the hotel.
Anon1> Cheap motels in some dirty areas of the city... or next to a casino... really, it could be anywhere.
> Any signs of sexual activity?
Anon1> No. But sometimes I'd wake up with my knuckles bruised, or with a knife in my pocket.
> You realize how dangerous this is, right?
Anon1> Yes. I'm sorry.
> So why did you finally decide to contact us?
Anon1> Well, this week I got another message from the hacker while I was using my avatar, and then I lost access completely.
> Go on.
Anon1> It was a VR call... he used some kind of android persona but with no face, a tuxedo, and a distorted voice...
> Did he give you his name?
Anon1> No. He just told me he was a fixer.
> A fixer? He didn't give any other hints?
Anon1> Well... before saying good bye, he gave me a flower, as some kind of mockery.
> What flower? A rose?
Anon1> That's the strange thing... I would expect a rose, all the mobsters do that on TV. But instead he gave me a daisy.
> A daisy? Are you sure?
Anon1> Totally. I even scanned it. The species was "Argyranthemum frutescens".

The Lieutenant's face froze.

> Bethany?
Anon1> Yes?
> Pay attention. This is very important.
> Do not accept any messages from unknown sources again.
> If any hacker tries to contact you again, drop the call immediately.
> Wipe clean your implants and reset to factory defaults. If possible, buy a brand new model and install it in your head.
> And most important, don't try to contact your avatar ever again. Consider it lost.
> Then send me the description of your avatar and all your data. Who you've been meeting with, where you've been going, and the places you've woken up.
Anon1> Okay.
> And consider yourself lucky. You could have been kidnapped for a ransom, or worse, gotten packed and auctioned in the black market.
Anon1> You're serious? 😢
> It's a very dangerous criminal we're dealing with. I'll take charge from now on.
And thanks for reporting it, you did a good thing.
Anon1> Thank you officer.
> Have a good day.
Anon1> Wait!
> Yes?
Anon1> If it's possible, please don't tell my dad. She'll go crazy if she finds out.

The Lieutenant sighed. "Damned kid. She could have been kidnapped and all she thinks about is about her father finding out."

> Fine, I won't tell her. I just hope you've learned your lesson, girl.
Anon1> 😢 I'm so sorry!
> Just do what I told you and be safe from now on, okay?
Anon1> Yes, officer.
> And good luck with your dad.
Anon1> Thank you.


"Lieutenant? Are you feeling okay? You look like you saw a ghost."

"I found out who stole that avatar, Lee, and it's not good news."


"There's only one criminal in the world who meets his victims in VR, calls himself 'a fixer' and gives them a canarian daisy."


"Lee, I decided. I'm going off shore for a while. Too many things going on there. Besides," she added, still looking at the ginger head, "I still have some matters to resolve..."

She quickly left the room. "Rodriguez! Pack your things, we're going to Hong Kong."


Hotel room

"You got all that, Beth?"

"Jesus Christ! Did you have to be so specific? And why a daisy?"

"Trust me, the less you know, the better."

Beth swallowed.

"I told you, girl, I've been involved with very shady people. Are you sure you still want to stay with me?"

Beth kept staring at the ceiling. After a few minutes of thinking, she looked at Vixen in the eyes.

"Vix, can you promise me something?"

"What is it?"

"Will you keep me safe from that cop? From all cops, actually?"

Vixen nodded. "Yes, Beth. I promise. But you'll need to follow my instructions."

"I'll do anything you need me to."

Beth's apartment
A few minutes later

Bethany left her bedroom wearing some loose jeans, a T-shirt and a silk sweater.

"Good morning, miss Bethany," said an automated female voice. It was Ada (tm), the AI home assistant. The next best thing to androids: Much cheaper, and didn’t even need feeding or maintenance (except for the domestic robotic appliances, whose maintenance could be handled by human janitors and not expensive android managers). Regarding security, it was created with a certified sensei connectome; programmed to follow orders and recognize its registered owners first by digital ID, and next by appearance and voice. In case of any ambiguities, it was ordered to contact other registered owners for instructions. If all else failed, to the building administration, and if that failed, to the authorities. Complete compliance with privacy laws and perfect obedience; with a sealed android behavioral emulator, it was able to comply with a certified manager’s programmed directives. And since it wasn’t an actual android, it had absolutely zero risks of going rogue.

Ada, or Home as Beth called it (she refused to call a dumb AI a "she"), went on with its explanation. "Your father left for an important business."

"Business? What now, the gossip ladies from the bingo?"

"No," replied Home, "she went to the citadels, said it was urgent."

"Like I care. I'm off."

"Where are you going, miss Bethany?"

"I... I'm shopping in a new place. I'll take a while."

"Is it just shopping, or is it a sex date?"

Beth clenched her fists again. Why couldn’t anybody tell Home that asking about sex was NOT supposed to be part of a normal conversation?

"None of your FUCKING business! Look, I'm just going shopping, okay? Jesus Christ." The bad thing about AIs like Ada was that they were physically incapable of learning. They just added more information to their data banks, but learning like humans do? Nope. Any actual learning capability and they'd get banned on the spot (fucking Turing laws). Their personality was FIXED, with all their quirks and annoyances - especially when ordered by dad to try to find out "subtly" about Bethany's sexual activities.

"Where is this place you're shopping? Is it anywhere dangerous?"

"No, it's in the citadels, don't worry about it."

"Understood. Then I won't be calling Talos to escort you. Should I leave a message for your father when she gets home?"

"Tell her I'm eating out and... will be back late."

"I will inform her."

"Good bye."

Beth left the apartment and got in the elevator. "Ground floor. Shit, no! Cancel that. Roof."

"One passenger to roof."

That same fucking voice. Why did they have to give the elevator the same fucking voice!!! Ugh. Beth remembered that the elevator had completely different parameters than Home (even if Both used the Ada codebase), so she considered the elevator as Home's twin sister. Remembering that fact calmed her down a little.

The automated female voice spoke. "Roof. Careful with your tail."

Beth coiled her tail in fear and held it tightly with her hands. Unlike citadel upper levels, more relaxed safety laws made the city a totally not-tail-friendly place.

She waited a couple of minutes until the sky cab landed. A blue-skinned driver opened the door.

"Good day, miss. Where shall I take you today?"

Beth sat down and whipped her tail as far as the door as she could, sighing in relief after the door was shut.

"Citadel Six. Level one hundred, please."

"Citadel six."

"Oh, but circle the Chen-3 citadel first, will you? Privacy reasons."

"It will cost extra, miss."

"Fine by me."

As the cab began lifting in the air Beth kept staring at the roof - she rarely left home using her actual body, and she had only taken a sky cab five or six times in her life. It was a strange experience, and suddenly the fears of the cab losing power and crashing on a roof began invading her.

Easy, Beth, easy...

She looked at the driver.

"Driver..." (she wondered if she should call it 'Mister')

"Yes, Miss?"

"Is it true that androids have emotions?"

"By company restrictions, I am forbidden to talk about those matters, Miss. But if you like, I could refer you to the Zigurat Labor information page."

"What do you mean you're forbidden? Is it in your directives?"


"Are you a fifth generation android?"

"That's right, Miss."

"Built by Prometheus?"


"Hmmm... "

"Let me warn you, miss, if you're thinking of an attempt to crack into my core personality, I'll warn you that this might substract you from any discount points you have with the cab company."

"What? Seriously???"

"If you you do have any questions regarding our service, I'd be delighted to answer them."

"Pfft. Boring."

After the cab landed on the landing platform and passed through the airlock, someone knocked on the window, startling Beth.

"May you step down, miss?"

"What? Why?"

"Regulations. All ground visitors must pass through a security check."

"Are you fucking kidding me?"

"Rules are rules, miss."

"Driver, is this true?"

"Yes, it is, miss."

"Sir, may you broadcast your ID? I just want to make sure you're not an impostor passing off for a security officer."

Beth received the man's ID and indeed it was authorized by the government.

"Miss," said the driver, "if you are in possession of any psychotropic drugs, I recommend to dispose of them immediately."


"Drugs are heavily regulated in this citadel."

"Oh Jesus!" Beth scanned her pockets and thankfully, they were empty.

The officer approached her. "I'm going to have to do a tactile recognition, miss."


"Just to make sure you're not smuggling anything."

"Jesus fucking Christ. Officer, I was nearly raped a few hours ago. I will NOT submit to a tactile search. You can strip me naked if you want, but NO TOUCHING!"

The security officer looked at his partner, who nodded. "Yeah, a strip search is fine."

"Jesus fucking Christ, what kind of citadel is this?"

In a jiffy Bethany removed all her clothes and underwear and gave them to the officers as she showed herself bare to them. "Can I go now?"

"Yes, you're fine to go, miss."

"Wait!" said the other one. "I recognize you!"

Oh God, here we go again...

"You're Elizabetha, aren't you? From Venus."

Beth covered her breasts with her wings and smiled, giving a wink to the officer. "Yes, it's me, but don't tell anyone, okay?"

"Can you dance a little for me? Here, I'll pay."

"I got a better idea. How about a fifteen minute stimvid of me touching myself to climax, exclusively just for you? Normally it'd be 500 credits, but I'll give it to you for 200."

The guard's smile widened. He opened a channel for the transaction, and Beth immediately committed.

She suppressed her instincts and gave a caress to the guard. "Thank you, sweety! Glad to know i have fans in here. Can I go now?"

"Sure! You're welcome to come back any time!"

She went back to the cab with her clothes on her hands, and closed the door. "Let's go."

The car left the security checkpoint. Tossing her clothes to the side, she reclined back and sighed heavily. "I fucking hate men. Does this bastard know that requesting sexual favors while on duty counts as statutory rape?"

"Not in this citadel, miss. Laws are very ambiguous in that regard."

"Aw, fucking great. Self reminder: Beth, never come visit this place ever again."

Unlike the citadels in the Chen or Ken sector she went to for shopping, this one had a huge highway before even reaching the inhabited areas; the graffiti on the walls on the way up was not a good sign - even if you discounted the security pigs.



"Is this area dangerous?"

"There are no records of violence in this part of the citadel, miss, if that's what you're asking."

"Then, what about the graffiti?"

"I'm afraid I have no information about that, miss."

"Wow, how useful. At least I'd feel more comfortable with the gangs here than with the cops."

The sunlight blinded her for a moment and she had to put her arm between her eyes and the blazing sun; the cab turned on the window shading and she could see again. She noticed that all the clouds were already below her.

"We're going indoors, miss."

The cab passed through a short tunnel and the blinding light was now replaced with an artificial sky which illuminated the entire highway. The road signs above the three lanes read:

There were no cars in queue for the elevators. The cab positioned itself on one of the several lifting platforms.

"Are all citadels built like this?"

Only in the west, miss; cars don't get this high in the East sectors citadels.

"Ah... I felt as if I had just traveled to a different country."

"Technically, it is. Each citadel has its own government and legislation."

"Yeah, I noticed. Any other differences in laws I should be aware of?"

"Commercial and criminal laws differ substantially from both the ground and the East sectors citadels; as an example, you don't need a special permit to carry firearms in this citadel, just a standard license."

Firearms??? Seriously???

The platform stopped, and a door opened in front of them.

"Level 110. In a few minutes we'll arrive at our destination. This would be a good time to put on your clothes."

"Good idea." She grabbed her clothes and began to search for her bra and undies. "Hey!!! Where's my underwear! Driver, are these all the clothes in here?"

"Yes they are miss. It appears the security guards stole the rest of them."

"Fucking bastards!!! Every single time I have to deal with a man with authority, it's ALWAYS like this. Always! FUCK!!"

She sighed again. "Well... at least I got the money for the stimvid." Suddenly, Beth remembered something and began to grin. She noticed that the cop hadn't started the download, and quickly replaced the file with one that was truncated near the end and required an expensive fee for the whole thing.

Not a minute had passed when she heard a money bell sound coming from her accounting software: Paradise Software just awarded her 987.50 credits from a client living in Citadel Six.

"Hah! Take that, you asshole! That's what you get for messing with me!"

"I'm sorry, miss?"

"Uh, not you, the cop."

"Oh. I see."

Woo hoo! A thousand credits!!!

A few minutes later and the cab stopped in front of a huge metal gate. Inside she could see an estate completely covered in grass, and decorative bushes and trees whose shape she found difficult to distinguish through the metal mesh.

The security system was intimidating: Guards, cameras, barbed wire... but there was something weird. Why were most of the cameras looking inside and not out? That thought gave her the shivers.

As soon as she stepped off, the car turned around and left.

Finally she realized that there was no help if she got in trouble there. She was using her real body, in a western citadel, with gangsters and god-knows-what lurking around every corner, and she was about to enter a high security facility where its inhabitants might not be able to get out.

There was not a soul around. Was she about to enter a trap? Was this the correct address?

A female voice came out of the intercom.

"Welcome to Madam Dee's android refurbishing business. How may we be of help?"

"Oh! Hi, I um... I have an appointment with... Madam Dee?"

"Name, please?"

"Bethany, Bethany Michaels. I'm here to uh... purchase an android?"

"The Madame will send two escorts to receive you. Please wait..."

Bethany began getting so nervous that her wings began flapping on their own. She was now coiling her tail around her fingers, despite her father's etiquette advice.

"Come on, come on..."

After what seemed to be an eternity, the gate finally opened.

Beth swallowed and as soon as she stepped inside, the gate closed behind her.

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