lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
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This is an old prompt from Journeython, inspired by Dara's prompt about head, heart, and hands being unable to communicate.  It won the free word poll!  It is a follow-up to Limited Warranty and Social Networking and you should read those first.  Happy writeathon, everyone!

Planned Obsolescence

Mike05’s tubing goes out a month after the UCCT 22nd Brikt Regiment find their patron.

It was steadily going downhill for ages (bumper-Borgs rarely lived a decade, so why build them to last?) but now it’s painfully noticeable.  Mike05 leaks fluids everywhere, develops a lurching, staggering gait, and the numbness in his limbs gets worse.  He can’t tell where they are in space either; he drops things whenever startled, doesn’t notice people touching him.

That part is the worst.  Brikts have few comforts but each other, and now he has more difficulty feeling his family’s touch.

Gwyneth is good, but there’s only so much she can do with a system that was never built to last.  She can’t replace his tubing, anymore than she can replace a human’s circulatory system, and even if she could, the new tubing would only last another decade.  Brikts can lose limbs and be opened up like sardine tins, but the tubing is what keeps the meat parts running too.  By all legitimate sources, it’s a lost cause.

But Gwyneth has spent a lot of time with the Brikts, and has learned a few tricks.   She puts Mike05 on a special diet, with careful monitoring and control of his sugar intake, to keep his condition from getting any worse.  She changes the medium of his fuel so that it leaks less, and with less erosion and damage than water.  She gets in touch with a few other pet borgs—they are popular in the patron’s circles—trades notes with their patchers, and gets her hands on some nutrient gel.  It’s intended for Rovos, not Brikts, and it smells weirdly like root beer, but she diligently rubs it into Mike05’s limbs a few times a day, and luckily, it takes.  She even gets him to recover some of his sense of touch, which is more than they dared hope for.

Still, it’s management, not a cure, and the patron notices something is wrong.  She took on the Brikts to be decorative objects of grace in her home, and Mike05 can no longer pull it off.

When he misjudges the size of the doorway, banging his shoulder and dropping the tea tray, the patron is displeased enough to actually show it. “What’s the matter with you?” she demands. “Have you been drinking?”

Which is absurd.  Brikts can’t metabolize alcohol.  Luckily, the patron’s guest arrives, distracting her before Mike05 has to come up with an answer, and the regiment hastily shuffles him to the back, sending out Mem08, who could juggle tea trays without dropping any.

“But we can’t keep counting on that,” Marsha9, the leader, signs at the meeting. “Eventually, she’s going to find out.  Gwyneth, she speaks to you most.  Your thoughts?”

Gwyneth chews on one of her braids. “She pays us to be artful and decorative, and Mike05 can’t recover.  She’s likely to just discard him.”

A shudder ripples through the regiment.  Only fourteen of them survived the Corporate War; they don’t want to lose Mike05 in peacetime.

“If I have to,” Mike05 signs, carefully to overcome his limitations, “I’ll leave.  I won’t endanger my unit.”

The regiment breaks out in agitated signing, and Gwyneth clutches his arm, face agonized.  Marsha9 raises a fist, and everyone goes still.

“Nobody’s leaving anyone.” Marsha9’s hands brook no argument. “We are a unit.  Nobody breaks us up.”

“Then what do we do?” Gwyneth signs, fast and jagged in her agitation. “If she dismisses him, what do we do?  Disobey?”

Marsha9’s brow furrows, and a hand goes up among the assembled regiment.  It’s Mem08, their sole surviving scout.  Mem08 is light and quick, by Brikt standards, and the patron’s favorite.  It still looks lovely; its damage is all on the inside.

“Yes, Mem08, what is it?”

Mem08 stilts its way to the center, where everyone can see its long, delicate hands. “There are not many Brikts remaining after the war,” it signs, “and we’re all one regiment.  Having us all together is a status symbol, and losing us would cause gossip.  Perhaps we can leverage this?”

Marsha9 ponders this, then smiles.  She raises her hands high. “We are family!” she declares. “We are soldiers!  When we are threatened what do we do?”

And as one pair of hands, the unit responds, “We strike!”

“Exactly!”

And then they hatch a plan.

“I still don’t see why I have to do this,” Gwyneth signs.  She’s sweating and fidgeting.

“You’re the human.  You’re the patcher.  She’ll listen to you, now go.”

The patron is sitting in the sunroom, looking out the windows at the glass cities sparkling in the sun.  She is sipping green tea from a delicate pale teacup, so colorless it makes even her fingertips look rosy.  Gwyneth looks out and dances with indecision.  Marsha9 plants a hand between Gwyneth’s shoulder blades and pushes her out.

The patron looks up. “Yes, what is it?”

Scrubbing her hands against her clothes, Gwyneth goes to the patron and announces Mike05’s problem, and that it is irreparable.

“Well, I would hate to cause him strain,” the patron says.  She is tall and graceful, with the beauty of a glacier, and Gwyneth feels stumpy and grotesque near her. “Perhaps he’d be happier in less demanding employment.”

It’s taken a while, but Gwyneth has learned to read between the lines with her patron, and with her unit depending on her, she can’t let them down. “If you dismiss him, you dismiss all of us,” she blurts out. “We are a regiment.”

“Darling, the war is over.”

The war is never over. “All of us or none of us,” Gwyneth says with finality she doesn’t feel, pretending sweat isn’t sticking her clothes to her. “Good luck finding a full Brikt regiment with patcher.  We all know each other.” She doesn’t mention that plenty of patchers would sell their entire unit to work for a wealthy patron.

The patron’s fan flutters in front of her face, and her eyes are blue like ice caves.  She looks as though someone has just fed her straight vinegar.

But she says, “I would hate to break up your little group.”

Mike05 stays.  They all stay.  And nobody ever discusses what would’ve happened otherwise.

Date: 2014-09-15 05:04 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (smiley)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Yay!

• plenty of patcher
→ patchers

• “I would hate to break up you little group.”
→ your

Date: 2014-09-15 08:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
Pfffft. *goes to fix* I think fatigue was starting to get to me at that point; thanks for catching those!

--Rogan
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