It's time to go out.
To be polite.
To dance at their whim.
This one? Biggest moneymaker this company has. Completely Walshed, completely programmed, completely legal - no pulse so we can do anything we want with it and the proctors can't do a thing about it. Watch this, just one impulse and the eyes open. Take a look, down there, the screen on the left, the original chop-chop doctors who did this one were artists!
Big party tonight, the boss, she wants everything just right - it's a mega contract they say, stellar amount, stellar amount with fat bonuses for everyone if we get it. I mean, who wouldn't want the brothel staffing contract for Amalgamated Asteroid Mines? If we get it, we're set for the next fifty years!
Lights flicker across your eyes and the lid of your coffin slides back with a soft whoosh. Still groggy, you feel your body sit up, legs straight out in front of you like a Ken doll's, arms falling to your sides, hands lightly resting on the plastic padding you sit on. The gravity feels different than the last time they activated you.
You're in space.
You wanna know more about that one?
It's one of the originals - the company's had it for nearly a hundred and fifty standard years and it's still popular (Don't know why, for a man it's awfully small but women and bull queers like it for some reason!). Twitchy at times, but the upgrades solve that so it's not dangerous.
What's the twitch? The eyes leak.
Dangerous? S'not dangerous. Back in the old days sometimes they'd break programming and kill someone, but this one? Great record, great record, only one breakdown and that was twenty standards ago - long before they took me on to run the show. Take a look at the readouts, it's going to be a great night!
After removing the catheter, you stand placidly with the other four, waiting for the rest of your system to come up to speed, for your clothes. Inside you scream and batter yourself bloody against the bars.
It's been nearly two centuries and you're still trying to escape but Maggie Walsh won't let you.
You thought once they took the chip out of your head that would be the end of it.
In a way.
Then long after your Slayer was gone and her friends died of old age, the ghost of Maggie Walsh finally caught up with you.
This time they put far worse than a chip in your head, turning you into the puppet she'd started turning you into decades before - finishing the job.
Your body is no longer yours, though they let you live in it.
You make love.
All on command.
There's no pain. Not unless the customer demands it.
At first you enjoyed it.
It reminded you that you were still alive.
...could still feel.
It didn't take long for you to fear it.
It reminded you that you were still alive.
...could still feel.
Tonight the boss wants the "Dracula" look for this one. Stupid if you ask me, I mean, tasteless and stupid. I think with its build a Tango dancer would be more effective, but who listens to the puppeteer? Not that any of these units really need me, these things can dress themselves but Union regs say there has to be a legally human handler on site for every public performance just in case something goes wrong.
Clothing of antique cut goes on first, then the cloak. Your hands comb your now shoulder length hair slick and flat against your skull. It's dark now, your hair. Someone has dyed it black; it's been many colors over the years: auburn, blonde, soft brown, white. Whatever the boss, whatever the customer, wants.
You were built to please.
You cannot do otherwise.
Feed them? Automatic and synthetic - clean, neat and sterile, built right into the shipping cases. That and catheritization. They really don't need all that much, just enough to keep the readouts steady.
Hey, there's the signal. Showtime kiddies!
You glide through the crowd, full humans and augments. They're all important - they decide if your owners get the contract for the brothel needs for the newest mining colony. Nobody has told you this, but you can piece together details from overheard conversations.
They forget, your handlers, your owners, that you're still in there, still aware even as you lie there inert in your steel coffin.
All that is left to you is listening.
Your mouth utters nonsense in a fake Transylvanian accent.
It's a lie.
You never went near the place when you were free.
England gave birth to you and you want to go home.
But home is now a barren wasteland full of anthrax.
And the people you called by name are now all dust in the wind.
Watch them work the crowd, brilliant! Better than a sexroid, though the company supplies a complete line of those too. These are strictly top notch.
If we get the contract, the sexroids'll be most of what anybody sees. Hell, what do miners and low end technicians know? There he goes, watch this, that last programmer really knew his job...
Willow was the last one.
She called you, or rather, her granddaughter called you.
Willow was one hundred and five; dementia from too much magic usage had caught up with her but she kept mentioning your name in her ramblings so her granddaughter tracked you down.
You came, out of curiosity and nostalgia because after Buffy died, the others asked, no demanded that you never bother them again.
That was fifty years before.
After slipping past the wardlocks that were bound up into the clinic's security system because by now the world at large knew about you and your kind, you almost didn't recognize the tiny wizened creature in the big hospital bed with all it's indicator lights and automatic medicine feeds, but she knew you.
Willow asked you where you'd been, why you'd abandoned them all. She didn't remember Xander telling you at the funeral that now that Buffy was dead there wasn't much point in you sticking around so get the Hell out because you weren't welcome even when she was alive. She didn't remember backing Xander up on this, though she'd been a lot more gentle about it.
You held Willow in your arms as she faded away.
After that you continued your nomadic existence, free at last of Wolfrum and Hart and Angel who'd shanshued and died a depressed, overweight alcoholic at the age of 45. All the time resisting the lure of government sponsored chipping programs: "All is forgiven! Come out into the open. Let us chip you so you can be a productive citizen". The Initiative had been a briefly postponed inevitability, with you as one of its test cases. Now it was everywhere.
When the boom dropped and the laws changed, you were among the last to be rounded up for extermination. The ones who had voluntarily allowed themselves to be chipped had been the first.
The beauty of these things, you see, the beauty is that they're practically indestructible - keep 'em out of direct sunlight and away from open flames and you've got yourself a plutonium mine! If my great-great-granddad had been thinking, he would have invested everything he had in one or two of these units and I'd be running the company instead of running the units, ha-ha!
They didn't kill you. They winnowed you and several hundred others out of the terrified herd, wiring you up so that all you could do was watch yourself doing things that you didn't want to do like a passenger staring out of a bus window.
And the Slayers watched without comment.
They too, were now out in the open, working for governments, companies, communities, openly and routinely.
Treaties had been made with the more organized demons, the rest rounded up and regularly slaughtered as vermin.
Witches and other magic users were registered with guilds and unions and held permits.
And you and your kind were banished to the realm of jeered at nightmares - something for a delicious shiver followed by a laugh.
It's all going like clockwork, I got two hours before I'm really needed. Wanna go get a cup of coffee?
Hell, the boss won't notice, she's too busy pressing the flesh and making nice!
Because you were dead, you had no rights.
So there were no protests, no marches, no rallies.
Instead, you were auctioned off by lots to researchers, heavy industry, and entertainment companies, whoever had a need for a human shaped tool that was utterly obedient.
They had you in factories, reactors, space. You forget because there were so many.
The company that bought you went bankrupt and you were purchased as salvage along with five others - you were cleaned up and found presentable once the agonizing chronic radiation burns healed and your hair, genitals, and nails grew back.
The first job they gave you was as companion to an up and coming banking executive. She was beautiful and ambitious. She needed a male escort that would be attractive and charming, but never in the way.
You fell in love with her.
Don't like coffee? I know a place down on the piazza where they serve the best beer this side of Ganymeade!
The year you spent squiring her around evenings, impeccably dressed, perfectly groomed, always polite, always attentive, was a wonderful one once you relaxed as you watched yourself out of your eyes. You always knew what to say (the programming), what to do (the programming), and when to leave (the programming). She bought you clothing, she bought you a vehicle, she let you sleep beside her.
Whenever she brought home another man, you quietly retired to your box without protest even though inside you wanted to rip his head off.
When she was promoted, she decided to upgrade everything to match her new status so out you went, to be replaced by a bigger, better looking necrot.
That's when they first noticed the odd twitch in your conditioning.
Your eyes leaked as you removed the clothing she'd bought you, inserted the catheter and quietly packed yourself back into the steel light-proof box they'd originally delivered you in.
Beer, one of the best things left over from the bad old days, right? When we were stuck on earth. Good thing beer came with us!
If we get the contract?
I'll get double bonus. I'm saving everything my three ex-wives don't get so when I retire I can buy into a little zero-gee girlie club that I've had my eyes on.
There were others.
They were male.
They were female.
You hair was changed, your clothes were changed, your conditioning and programming tweaked and adapted.
One customer wanted Lord Peter Whimsy, another an aggressive sadist who'd stop just short of murder.
They all became one long, drawn out blur.
You lost track of them because someone else's words were in your mouth. Someone else pulled the strings so it didn't matter.
Some actually registered through the shell of silent misery that encased you and you found yourself loving them...or hating them.
But you were always polite, always graceful, always attentive, a male geisha with a sweet face and agreeable manners, the perfect blow-up doll.
You had no choice.
What helped was sinking down into your memories while your mouth moved and your pelvis thrust - a small town in California where you ran free, sometimes helping, sometimes hindering, joyously, viciously drinking blood from its source and not through an i.v. in your inner arm as you lay in your steel box when they didn't want you. It was gone, that town, like England, like London, like L.A...
Only once have you managed to break loose.
What'd I tell you? Great stuff! No, we have about another half standard hour before I need to start winding things down.
Like I said, I'm only here because of Union regs. The programmers have it all stitched up. I just make sure the damned things pack themselves away on schedule for the next engagement.
You met her at a gathering similar to the one you're now stalking through; her dark hair and eyes reminded you of the woman who created and loved you.
You chivalrously asked her to dance, that night you were an English gentleman . She accepted, with a giggle. Expensive toys such as yourself were and are still a rarity. You took her out onto the polished black marble floor, aware that only she appeared in the surface, whirling alone in the dark depths like a leaf in the wind. You whispered pre-programmed seductive things into her ear, making her blush. Then your own words came out of you, "My dark, ripe wicked plum, my sweet black poppy..."
Your face changed and you kissed the side of her neck, feeling the blood pulsing there. This was allowed, this was in your programming - to give the customer a bit of a scare, to heighten the experience. You opened your mouth and your fangs dug into her neck...your handler realized that there was a malfunction and tightened the restraints. The two of you danced on, your partner never knowing just how close she came to real death in your arms.
After the event, you packed yourself back in your shipping container, eyes leaking.
Feelings? Those things? They're dead and only do what they're programmed to do! Whatever it is that animates them is harnessed and I make a living, end of story.
Jupiter dominates the crystal ceiling overhead - the corporate ballroom you move through was designed to resemble the mirrored hallways of Versailles. Funny, you a vampire, a necrot, in a hall of mirrors that you can't use.
Little shrieks of delight and almost fear, laughter and gasps erupt as you go through the Bela Lugosi routine. The other four necrots glide through the crowd, you watch them as you go through your patter, graceful, young, perfectly groomed, well-mannered, all with slightly dangerous edges to them. The crowd knows what you are and are not afraid. You want to kill them all.
Over the smell of bodies, perfumes, deodorizers, recycled air, you smell her.
That alarm? Routine, nothing to worry about.
You turn from the couple that you had been menacing with charm in mid-sentence.
The man taps you on the shoulder, suddenly angry that you've turned your back on him and his husband.
You take a step toward the sweet perfumed musk that you remember all so well.
Buffy had it.
Faith had it.
Frightening and intoxicating.
Your brain sizzles and bubbles as it tries to wrestle the controls away from your handler.
Goddam, it's breaking loose, you'll have to leave now...
You glide toward the Slayer, grinning, face changing to the demonic.
The guests you had been brought in to entertain pull back nervously, leaving the way to her clear. You snarl joyously as you start a predator's run at her, soul forgotten.
Yeah boss, it's something new the programmer coded in, a little surprise, nothing to worry about. The crowd will love it!
Your handler is trying to regulate your behavior manually, causing you to stagger and fall down so you start crawling toward her, trying to get close enough to touch her while your handler frantically tries to cram you back into the pre-scripted routine that you're supposed to be following.
Override! Override, shit, override you bastard! Oh God, why me?
The Slayer looks down at you, the platinum crucifix she wears about her neck glittering. Slayers are no longer what they were - their position is mostly ceremonial, but maybe this one will remember her first duty.
She's so beautiful that your faulty eyes begin to leak... the words come out garbled, a tangled mess of your words and Bela Lugosi's, "It will only hurt...Slayer...please, I want...and then, eternal life...please...kill me?"