Article: 288539 of talk.bizarre From: "Nikolai Kingsley" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Newsgroups: talk.bizarre Subject: dispenser Date: Sun, 1 Dec 1996 00:52:58 +1100 Organization: anarchartists Lines: 93 Message-ID: <email@example.com> His line, the one he delivered after clients were finished with him, was: "Of course, I was not always as you see me now." It was a quote from a film called "The Wrong Box", by a dissipated old doctor played by Peter Sellers. Few of them heard him say it; they tended to lose interest after climax, and none of them appreciated the subtle joke in the juxtaposition of the name of that film and his current residence. Maybe they hadn't seen the film. It was true, though; once, he had been much more. Of course, he'd been born a human; grown up in a creche, learned how to read and write, passed through adolescence, had any number of partners of either sex as was normal for an adolescent of his time. His creche had suggested he find work in the security business, so he'd become an escort; gone through the escort training program which had sharpened his responses, built up muscle, given him the ability to think quickly in dangerous situations. It was a shame that most of that behaviour had been encoded into the part of his nervous system below his neck; two weeks after starting work for a Corporation (he couldn't remember which one, now; they were all the same, anyway) he was involved in a pitched battle, attacked by a cyborg from another Corporation and decapitated. He'd been wearing power armour at the time, and it was smart enough to recognise that he'd been seriously injured; it returned to headquarters under its own control. He remembered this period vaguely, the shock on their faces when they told his suit to open and his head had fallen to the floor and rolled under a trolley. They'd been able to save eighty percent of his brain, and his head was intact from the neck up, so they attached him to a support system, and later, to a cyborg body. He was still working in security, and the new body was much more powerful than his human one had been, but something had been lost – his sense of timing, his reflexes, his escort training. He kept making poorly-coordinated moves, running into things, on one occasion accidentally releasing a clip of high-impact bullets into the back of a fellow cyborg. They thought it might have been a problem with that particular model, so they tried him with a few different types, but the problem wasn't with the bodies, or with the brain that ran them; it was in the fact that most of his skill had died with his old body. He was relieved of duty and given an old, spare cyborg body. Its makers hadn't taken any trouble to anthropomorphise it; it was a simple, boxy bipedal model finished in boring, undetailed brushed steel. It bore an unfortunate resemblance to the tin toy robots of the previous century; square body with the same proportions as a milk-carton; tubular arms and legs, boot-shaped feet and hands that resembled mail-gloves from an eighteenth-century Spanish suit of armour. His head was attached to the top, a startling translation from gleaming metal to pale flesh. On some days – when he didn't get the awful feelings of having a phantom body – he realised that he was lucky he even had a form that could walk around, pick things up and use stairs; he'd seen some cyborgs that were no more than boxes on wheels with a video camera attached to the front. On other days, he felt too depressed to do more than stand around with his head flopping lifelessly to one side, eyes dilated as his antique body pumped antidepressants into his neck-stump. His retirement money had all gone towards paying for that body, so he couldn't afford the expensive retraining programs (the standard, cheaper ones were dependent on his having at least a spinal column and an endocrine system), and after a thankfully brief and disastrous period as a stand-up comedian (he'd stand up and people would laugh at him), he had to give up that body and take work in the only position left to him: a fellatio dispensing machine. His new body resembled one of those old soft-drink dispensing machines; half of it was devoted to keeping him alive, and the other half was devoted towards the refrigeration of the semen he extracted from his male clients. The machine sat in one of the less-frequented railway tube stations; his head sat on a rack inside the machine, in darkness (he couldn't afford a media feed); he averaged four clients per week. It would read their financial details from the buttons mounted on their wrists, a hatch would open in the front of the machine and extrude a vinyl seat, they'd sit in it, the seat would slide forward, pushing their genitalia in his face and he'd blow them. The only reason he had this job was because it was, apparently, too expensive to program a machine to do it; one day, someone would find a cheap way to do even that and he'd be forced to move again, god alone knew where. Once a month a machine from the dispensing machine company would come and collect the frozen semen (he'd once heard that it was used as an ingredient in some popular snack food). He tried striking up conversations with the delivery machine, but it was just a dumb robot with no more smarts than a toilet. He wasn't allowed to strike up conversations with his clients, and no-one ever responded to his shouts from within the machine. Perhaps it was sound-proofed. Whenever things got really bad, he had to tell himself that things could be worse; he'd long lost the ability to imagine how, although he sometimes fantasised about perhaps getting into sports, being an intelligent soccer ball. In the meantime, he put on a brave face, sucked as well as he could and then reminded them: "Of course, I was not always as you see me now."