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...there was no permanent solution in sight until Connectomics pioneer Edgar Voight proposed an alternative: Instead of relying on faulty, proprietary black-box control systems to regulate an android's psyche, he proposed a modified limbic system tightly coupled to a specialized directive firmware; the resulting android brain had a much greater degree of control...

... the inclusion of an emulated limbic system in the android brain sparked several discussions on android ethics, ranging from animal rights and the necessity of ethics committees, to thought-provoking questions regarding androids' legal status, to philosophical issues, whether androids could love, or if they had a soul now. Note that the discussion of these matters is beyond the scope of this book.

(From Introduction to Android Management, chapter 1: History and basic principles)

Santa Cruz district, New Angeles

Rick Pearson arrived to his favorite food joint. The top had a big painted banner whose neon lights were turned off.

The banner read: "The Happy Chicken — worm tacos and more". The Mexican word note (pronounced noh-tay) was how worm meat was called; an abbreviation of gusanote, Spanish for 'big worm'. The leftmost part of the sign had a cute chicken with an earthworm in its beak, and the little earthworm had a cartoony smile. Ridiculous, knowing that worm cattle were totally different from farming earthworms, and that a worm would never be happy about being eaten, but maybe that ridiculousness was precisely what gave the banner its charm.

The moment Pearson closed the car door, the fat mustached cook smiled.

"Don Pirson! How was your morning?"

"Buenos días, don Neto! Patrolling as usual."

"Where's don Lalo?"

"Went to the clinic for a check up. I hope he won't take long. What about you?"

"Same as always, don Pirson. The usual?"

"The usual. And the radio, please!"

After don Neto tuned Pearson's radio station, he took two semi-cylindrical eggs from a carton, removed their transparent wrapping, hit the cross-section, and emptied them on a mug. He then took a piece of ham from the fridge, diced it and threw it at the mug before stirring the mix with the knife.

A variation of Vivaldi's Spring started playing on the speaker when a fine Italian voice began to speak.

"I'm Francesco Ferrero, CEO of the arcology engineering company Sostenibile. Every day when I wake up, my faithful androids prepare my clothes, my breakfast, and remind me of my daily appointments. At work, our androids do their assigned tasks and present their reports without complaining. With thousands of androids building and maintaining each citadel, you need the best management team you can get. So far I haven't had a single incident, and my company's productivity has remained in top levels. And all thanks to Kahazaki Management Services."

Pearson rolled his eyes as the music faded out and a female voice with Japanese accent said:

"Kahazaki Management Services. We worry about your androids so you won't have to."

"Ah, Don Pirson, you said you worked there, didn't you?"

"I'd rather not talk about it."

Kahazaki Management. Sons of bitches. The only reason Pearson tolerated those hypocrites was because their ads were relaxing, and because in the end, they did provide the best service to the customer. Employees, on the other hand...

"So, don Pirson, have you ever had an android?"


"Have you ever had an android, don Pirson?"

"Androids?" Pearson remembered the face of an android gone berserk grinning, staring at him with a murderous gaze as it detonated a makeshift bomb in the construction site he supervised a few years ago. "No, thanks, I've had enough of them in my life. Besides, I don't have a mansion nor a business, why would I want one?"

"Oh, just curious. I... um, I mean, a friend has been asking me if I know someone with experience in this stuff."

Pearson noticed a Babylon Research leaflet near the salt and picked it up. He snorted. "Yeah, right. A friend."

Don Neto chuckled. "Oh well, you got me! But you know, I'm tired of dating, and who wants to marry a lowly food worker? Just look at all the girls. They go to the tall buildings to find a husband, and they don't even have to compete with each other! They all marry him! Not fair, mano!"

"Girls without dignity, don Neto. Willing to expose their most intimate moments to millions of people online. Trust me, those harems are nothing but porn businesses in disguise. I say you dodged a bullet. Or ten."

"Yeah, but... with those bullets who wouldn't like a flesh wound?"

Both men chuckled, and don Neto's younger assistant bumped fists with him.

Pearson got curious and opened the Babylon leaflet, which boasted all the new capabilities of their new Nymph™ android line: 3D diagrams of the skin technology, physiological responses to hormones (including aphrodisiacs), and a list of training in all house service tasks. The last page had the animated picture of a busty blue-skinned maid modeling, winking and sending a kiss at the reader. Below that, a condensed list of all the new android models' sexual capabilities: sex positions, authentic physiological orgasms, bondage techniques, and the Girlfriend Experience Plus™, simulated love and care which cost...

"Six hundred credits per month?!?! You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me!" Something told Pearson that the main market of these androids were rich people, who not only didn't have to pay rent at all, but already had androids at their disposal to earn money for them.

And here’s the thing about androids: In the citadels, the rich snobs who lived in the upper levels would go to the lower levels of the citadel to restaurants and all kinds of services just to complain about the bad service and ask why they weren’t hiring more androids (the smart ones would just hire common people to shill for them). Then they would pay humans to go to those same levels to distribute leaflets, videos, even sensevids promoting cheap android labor; and together, they paid special fees to Kahazaki so their own androids would serve in those citadels. They would’ve gotten their way if it hadn’t been for the Luddites, who started the labor riots in ‘53 and resulted in thousands of androids destroyed, a spike in the appearance of murderous berserks, the arrest of hundreds of Luddites, the formation of the Human Labor movement and the eventual enactment of the pro-human-labor laws: Citadel businesses needed at least 40% of humans in their payroll; ground businesses, 60%, with the penalty of increased taxes, etc., etc., unless of course, quality of labor or occupational risks made more sense for androids to do the work, e.g. construction, infrastructure maintenance (including sewers), garbage handling, food working, to name a few.

And then came the hidden costs of managing androids; Kahazaki was practically a monopoly and their fees were "higher than the Space Ring", as the saying goes.

"Trust me, don Neto," Pearson said as he put the leaflet on the shelf, "in the long term, an android costs more than a wife."

Don Neto sighed. "Well, you may be right, don Pirson, but I just want someone to take care of the house while I'm gone, and give me some love when I get home..."

"Well, who doesn't? Androids can't love, don Neto, they can only obey."

"But I read this month's Vinculum, and it talks about android-human love! Have a look!"

Vinculum - A CIPESA publication

Pearson took the magazine and chuckled. "Let me guess. A Catholic lady put this here." Don Neto just shrugged.

CIPESA, which stood for "Centro de Investigación y Promoción de la Ética Sobre Androides" (Center for Research and Promotion of Android Ethics) was a Midorian-Catholic organization dedicated to promoting androids' rights. They even had a freaking android cemetery. CIPESA gained traction during the Luddite riots, when an android snuff video caught Doña Diana’s attention and dedicated a lot of her time to promoting them around the world; they became even more popular after a notable Luddite became a Catholic priest and a fierce defender of android rights. Still, they remained a fringe group until the Wolvencroft incident a year ago; suddenly CIPESA’s popularity skyrocketed and their members were even allowed to speak during Catholic sermons all over the world.

Pearson gave a quick "scan" (not a real scan, just a glimpse) to the magazine cover; on it were listed several opinion and information articles, but the word "romance" at the bottom of the magazine called his attention:"Human / Android romance: Sin, or blessing? p. 12"

Pearson turned to page 12 and found a holographic full-page image of a man giving a flower to a beautiful android female sitting on the other side of the restaurant table. The android's mandatory blue skin made a nice combination with her white silk dress. "She" was inquisitive, but inexpressive otherwise. Pearson tilted the magazine, wondering what the hidden holographic image would be. The new image, obviously shopped, now had the android smiling at the man and blushing. Pearson closed the magazine right away.

"Jesus fucking Christ. You really believe this shit, don Neto?"

"I don't know, don Pirson! That's why I was asking!"

"You know the leader of this organization is a major Prometheus stockholder, don’t you?"

"Diana la Loca? Yeah, but she’s not with them, I know the story."

"Don Neto, they create their own market. This," he said, shaking the magazine, "is promoting android romance. And guess what’s the most expensive service for Prometheus?" He pulled the android leaflet. The romance! This is just like those toothpaste commercials which tell you to use five times the toothpaste. This shit should be illegal."

"Well, if you put it that way... but there’s something I don’t get, don Pirson," he said, wincing, "if CIPESA is in bed with Prometheus, why are they protesting at the Babylon Tower this week?"

"They're having a protest?"

"Yeah, in Hong Kong. Saw it on the news last night."

"Oh..." Pearson thought about it for a second and realized he didn’t have an answer for that. He quickly shook his head. "Anyway, androids are for the rich, don Neto. As for the rest of us, " he added, giving him back the magazine, "we’re humans, aren’t we? There must be someone out there that will accept us as we are."

Don Neto sighed. "You’re right, don Pirson. Well, what about you? Still dating that pretty Japanese lady?"

"Uh? Which one?"

Don Neto chuckled. "What, there's two now? I wouldn’t mind a spare!"

Pearson chuckled. "No, I didn’t mean it like that. I mean... if you’re talking about the lieutenant... well, didn’t work out. I'd rather not get into details."

"No bueno. And the other?"

"Well... it's... complicated."

"Ah, complicated," don Neto replied as he nodded.

"Moved out of the country, she..." Pearson thought it twice and told a half truth. "Found a job offshore."

"Hmm hmm. Your burritos, and the soda."

"Hmm, smells delicious!"

"Yeah, we got the ham just this morning! The best we've had in weeks!"

"Hmm-hmm!" Pearson nodded at don Neto, who proudly smiled at his work.

Pearson was about to give the first bite to his burrito when he received an ECP call from Central.

Incident: 211 Armed robbery
Location: 16th and Main [map]
Suspects 2 (one probably augmented) [pic] [pic]

"Shit. See? It never fails!"

"Again, don Pirson?" asked don Neto, quickly typing the quantity over the POS machine. Pearson moved his hand over the machine and the payment was processed.

Pearson ran to his car and noticed that his partner was in the passenger's seat.

"Paredes? Weren't you at the clinic?"

The young slim Latino shrugged. "The doctor had an emergency, so he'll be out all day."

"What about your headaches? Are you sure you'll be fine?"

"Well, if I feel bad I'll tell you."

"Okay, let's go. Did you get the alarm?"


The car started and Pearson turned on the siren, checking his implants for the fastest route to catch the criminals.

New Angeles Cyberpol HQ
A few minutes earlier

Two stories below the Intelligence offices, men and women were finishing their morning exercises at the gym. A dozen officers and cadets were climbing a short wall, followed by the mandatory tire-hopping run.

The officer in charge of training the squad kept shouting as as she fiercely clapped her hands. "Move it, move it, move it!" While her porcelain face denoted a young age, her military-short white hair revealed her true age: Lieutenant Inoue Minori was born a Japanese noblewoman, so she was obligated by tradition (and pride) to skip melanin modifications on her scalp.

"You're not common policemen", she kept shouting, "you're Cyberpol, remember that!"

"Yes, ma'am!" the cadets shouted in unison.

She looked around and noticed that one of the recent graduates was still getting her clothes ready.


The older cadets rolled their eyes.

"God, she's late again", muttered one.

"Did she bring her plushie again?" replied another.

"I still don't understand how a kid like that already graduated when we're still here, working our asses off and doing drills".

"Co-miiing!!!" a high pitched voice sang.

The short Mexican girl, with light brown skin and whose straight hair fell a bit above her shoulders, ran towards the bench and put her bag on top of it. She opened it, took out a palm-sized plush tortoise and put it on top of the bag.

"Squee!" The anthropomorphic plush tortoise closed the zipper. When it saw its owner, it began to move its squishy arms and cheer for her.

"Don't move, Doki!" she ordered in a childish tone. "This is very important, okay?"

"Squee, squee!"

The newer cadets stared at her. "What the hell's that kid doing in here?"

"Careful", said a nearby male sergeant. "You better not get her mad."

"What's she gonna do? Beat me with a pillow?"

The other cadets laughed.

"You really don't know who she is, do you, cadet?" replied the sergeant informally.

"No, sir, who is she?"

"She's the lion's protegee."

"The – the Lion himself?"

Colonel Leopold, also known as the Lion due to his biomod, was the head of Cyberpol Hong Kong and the top man of Cyberpol worldwide.

"That's right, cadet. She worked in Hong Kong for two years, was one of our most promising rookies until..." he made a fingergun gesture and fired at the cadet's forehead.

The cadet swallowed.

"Nobody thought she'd make it, but miraculously, she did. Or at least, whatever remains of her now. So if you know what's good for you, cadet, you don't make fun of her. NOW GET STARTED! Twenty push ups! GO!"

"Yes, sir!!!"

Rodriguez arrived at her spot. "Gomen, gomen! I'm ready now!"

Lieutenant Inoue sighed. After sighing, she grabbed the whistle. "Okay, ready?"

As soon as she heard the whistle, agent Rodriguez began climbing and showing off the bumps and lines worthy of a pro wrestler. She arrived before all the other cadets and officers. "I got it!"


The girl climbed down and smiled at the Lieutenant and smiled at her with the innocence of a baby. "Did I do it right, Inoue-san?"

Some muffled laughs were heard.

"Yes, now get to the shower, we're patrolling today."

"Hai, hai!"

Lieutenant Inoue rested her head on her palm. "She had to become an otaku..."

"Lieutenant!" A young, mustached man approached her.

"Agent Pérez, didn’t expect you so early. Any news on the mising avatars?" The lieutenant knew there were no new reports — she scanned the new files periodically —, but she had to ask anyway.

Agent Pérez shook his head. "None. It’s like running into a wall. It’s five incidents this month and all end up with the thing destroyed or missing."

"Any ideas?"

"I say it’s one of Jakande’s groups and that we’ll find the remains in garbage bins. That, or they’re just harvesting parts. Even Holmes says the victims got nothing in common. At all."

"I thought you didn’t trust Holmes’ reports."

"And I still don’t. Remember the hacker’s proverbs? Never trust an A.I. you can’t kill."

"Two points: A, it’s a tool and we have to use it; and B, we can shut off Holmes at any time."

"We can, but we won’t. To me it’s the same thing."

The lieutenant winced. "Are you mad at AIs because you can’t beat Conquest on medium?"

"Oh come on, Lieutenant, that’s not fair! We both know you got a super brain installed in your skull, for you that’s piece of cake!"

"But you got a guerrilla warfare plugin."

"It’s not the same! Anyway, speaking of strategy..." he rubbed his hands and grinned. "It’s precisely one of the reasons I got here early. I got a new idea to beat you in our pending match."

"I’m not anyone to tell you what to do in your free time, Pérez, but remember there’s a limit to the allotted entertainment time in our facilities, even off duty."

"Not if I provide a backup power source." He raised his eyebrows.

The Lieutenant couldn’t help smiling. "Alright, Pérez, have fun, but you won’t win this match, trust me."

Pérez pointed at her. "Just you wait."

The speakers on the gym rang, even after the Lieutenant had received the message in her neural implants. As mandated by protocol, the speakers also announced the message.

"NAPD alert. Augmented crime in progress in the San Fernando district."

"What? This early in the morning?"

In less than a second she downloaded the live report; An NAPD officer was in pursuit of the augmented criminal. The officer’s name was...

"Pearson, YOU IDIOT!!!"

Instinctively, Pérez stepped back. There were at most two or three people, criminals counted, who managed to make the lieutenant lose her cool; that Pearson guy was one of them.

Rodriguez ran after her. "Inoue-san, —"


The two women ran to the first floor; Rodriguez stopped in the changing room while Inoue ran to the armory. Without stopping, she removed her clothes, letting the nearby officers see both the scar circling her neck and the Beta-Titanium-Gold alloy sockets located in strategic points of her reinforced skeleton. She jumped into a designated chamber, which closed as soon as she got into position. In less than 5 seconds the chamber opened and a fully-armored lieutenant walked out of it. Her metal-armored exoskeleton was painted in the Cyberpol's official navy blue. After commanding her helmet to raise she activated her comms and sent an ECP message to Rodriguez.

> Rodriguez, you ready?
>> Almost done!
> Hurry, get in the car!

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