Sitting still, Ken stared blankly at his ship’s dash. It had been hours since Ken had input any instructions into the ship. Drifting in dead space for a while, and on limited resources, made Ken’s current companion uneasy. Choosing to approach Ken while he was in this state was a gamble his companion was willing to take, at the moment. For one, it did not appear Ken was going to be able to break his own trance anytime soon. On the other hand, the passenger had experienced many unpleasant encounters when pulling Ken out of his dissociative states.
Once a hand was placed on his shoulder, Ken slowly came back to the present. His companion was relieved that Ken responded to him, yet concerned with the slow reaction he had to his presence, enough so to lead him away from the control board and into the small eating area of the ship. This was the passenger’s favorite spot in the ship; the colors were a little more vibrant, and the chairs were more comfortable. He made a warm drink for Ken, but nothing for himself, then sat down opposite of the sulking Ken.
“Thanks Chip, I’ve been at this so long I forget there is someone with me most times,” Ken spoke low and never looked up from the mug of hot liquid in front of him.
“No need to worry about me. I think it is time to worry about you though,” Chip confided, carefully.
“I’m not sure I know what you mean,” Ken muttered softly.
“I have some concerns I think I need to make known to you,” Chip approached methodically, making sure no pity came from his tone.
“If it’s about our fuel, we have plenty,” Ken waved off Chip, but still did not look up from the mug he had not taken a sip from.
“No, not that. In my time with you I’ve noticed a lot of extreme behavior…” Chip stopped after this, because of the surprise that came across Ken’s face.
“What could you have noticed? You look to be no older than thirty, how well could you possibly know me?” Ken spoke up louder than he wanted to.
“Well first off, I want to know what kind of being you are to not notice the passage of time as others do.” Chip knew Ken never acknowledged anything other than what was right in front of him, but this was more extreme than Chip had originally thought.
“No matter what I am, you won’t be around long enough to care.” Ken was more shocked at his own words than his companion was.
“Secondly, we have been traveling together for almost 200 years,” Chip presented calmly, and this made Ken stare blankly at him for a long time. Chip allowed for the awkward pregnated silence to resume while Ken did the math in his head.
“Huh,” was all Ken let out, after about twenty minutes of critical thinking.
“There it is,” Chip pounced, snapping his fingers and pointing at Ken, “This is the first time I have not been asked what I am. I think that’s why I did not want to notice how bad off you were. I have been happy with our setup, but now I see it is detrimental to your health. Something in me was compelled to confront you on this matter. So, here I am asking you ‘what are you?’ instead.”
“I guess you have been around long enough to care,” Ken realized, looking at Chip in a way he had never done before.
“It would appear so,” Chip agreed.
“I’m immortal.” Ken confirmed, flabbergasted that in all their travels the topic of Ken’s immortality had never come up.
“The ‘eventually you decay’ type of immortal, like a Gurinun, or a true immortal?” Chip requested clarification earnestly.
“Unfortunately, a true immortal,” Ken responded. “What about you, what kind are you?”
“I am the first kind, an android,” Chip sighed before he continued, “by your response, I guess I know what plagues you.”
“Before we jump there, tell me about this supposed extreme behavior,” Ken challenged, and leaned back in his seat. Chip was pleased to see some interaction from him.
“At first, I liked it; it is what brought me onto your ship. I was a tech-savvy dirty outsider, and you never wanted to fix your ship. Seemed like a dream to me, to travel as you do,” Chip started to expound.
“That is right, I picked you up on Wubagt, you bested me out of quite a bit of money—wait you’re an android? You counting-cards-bot, give me my 7,000 back!” Ken slammed a hand down in front of him like he was serious, but laughed.
“You remember that…good. Then you will remember why I am not giving it back. I have accrued no savings upon your vessel, and my funds were depleted long ago, mostly for fuel,” Chip justified mechanically.
“I’ll replace that for you, I have a lot more, somewhere,” Ken waved a hand around like he was drunk, to indicate his celestial bank.
“If you are to go your separate way, I’d appreciate that,” Chip put simply, “but I only did that to win against the house. I was unaware anything you bet came from your pocket.”
“Ahh yes, the Casino Urena! Those were a fun number of years,” Ken snorted a little as he laughed.
“One of the times you over-drank and got loopy, you divulged to me that you lost over 60,000,000 credits in that casino,” Chip shared the alcohol-induced confidence.
“Yeah, very fun, but very expensive,” Ken shrugged off the massive amount of money, as if it did not bother him at all. Chip was unable to compute this behavior as that of a healthy individual.
“You remember our time on Liaktan at all?” Chip followed up, a bit louder to get Ken’s full attention.
“Uhh, Liaktaaaaaan…” Despite Ken dragging out the word, he showed no signs of recognizing the planet.
“While you still had that egregiously large amount of stolen ale, you decided we needed to vacation some place to enjoy it,” Chip reminded Ken.
“Ahh, I wondered what happened to that drink, glad to hear I enjoyed it all!” Ken waved his mug around as if he were cheering with a bunch of bar patrons.
“You drank it for sure. You also carelessly slept with a lot of questionable people during that trip. If you could have understood me well enough to get me my money, I would have left there, but I was sort of invested in our adventures. The ones we’ve had, other than that year, have been far more entertaining than watching you get horribly sick,” Chip rambled on, still a bit angry with Ken for his selfish actions during that time.
“That was when I was sick for months; my body was fighting off something bad.” Ken raised his hand to his chest as he remembered the pain from coughing nonstop for weeks on end.
“You were fighting off these,” Chip brought out a few pieces of paper from nowhere and showed them to Ken. It only took a handful of minutes for Ken to gather a full picture of what he was really going through during that time.
“Well, it looks like I had a lot of fun, and only get to remember the consequences. Sounds about right.”
“I am not surprised to learn you are a true immortal, as that concoction should have killed you a few times over by now. You processed it though, after a while. My latest medical reports say you are healthy as a human could be,” Chip provided Ken a few more papers that made Ken feel a lot better.
“So, no more keeping the ale…” Ken reflected intently about what he had just learned about himself.
“That sounds like a good idea. Moderation does not seem to be your strong suit,” Chip gave Ken an apprehensive look as he spoke, but Ken just shrugged and leaned into the table.
“Wait… you look good, like really good. Most androids I have come across are obviously cybernetic,” Ken observed, and reached out for Chip’s hand, which Chip offered him in response.
“I thought you wanted to hear about your behavior first,” Chip said quizzically.
“I changed my mind, for now,” Ken used his hands a lot when he talked, like he was physically throwing away ideas.
“Most Androids that want to show off being one, have light or pale colored skin, or even more obviously colored skin that is not natural to the race their body mimics. My dark skin conceals the soft glow of my wiring, and is actually the most popular option among androids wanting to assimilate,” Chip detailed, as he studied Ken’s hand against his.
“Can you feel my touch?” Ken asked.
“Yes, in my own way. My skin is built to fully replicate the nervous system of a human. When pressure is applied that information is sent to my brain, just as it is for you.” Chip answered while he looked at their hands.
“That means you register pain?” Ken asked, sounding surprised.
“Again, in my own way. The tiny intricate machinery that holds me together can take roughly the same amount of force that your, well, a normal human’s body could before it breaks.
“How do you heal from injury?”
“I have learned how to work on myself in totality. I repair myself as I go, I do not fear much. My life has been a long one already at this point,” Chip explained calmly.
“Do you have a heartbeat?” Ken had wanted to ask about every organ and how it operated.
“I do, it pumps a mixture of oil and water through my veins.”
“Do you charge at night? I know I haven’t noticed much about you, but I have noticed you retire to your quarters after a long day just as anyone does.”
“Well, I’m flattered you noticed anything about me at all. Yes, my body needs to enter stasis to recover energy, I am independent of electricity so long as I enter stasis daily.”
“Do you have blood pressure?”
“Oh yes, and it fluctuates as a human’s would.”
“So, you put on a blood pressure cuff and it works?”
“Just as it does for you, yes. I find it much easier to just do this though.” Chip outstretched his left arm and removed his right hand from Ken’s hand. Chip placed two fingers on his left wrist as if he were about to start counting his pulse. On Chip’s upturned forearm numbers appeared brightly, and a little blurry, through his dark skin.
“Wow, that has to be useful.”
“A broken vessel for me is a much bigger deal in the long run, so I need to be able to closely monitor my stats.”
“Your stats are running high there, mate,” Ken pointed out Chip’s elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
“It’s just an android thing,” Chip quickly removed his fingers and placed his hand back in Ken’s.
“Well, it’s beautiful- you’re beautiful. I mean really, I knew androids could be human if they wanted it bad enough, but you bring my understanding to an entirely new level.” Ken paused for a moment, but Chip knew he was not done speaking. “Thank you for sharing something so compelling with me.”
“You are welcome, though I do not understand why you are grateful to know this fact,” Chip expressed, obviously confused.
“No, not that!” Ken laughed before continuing, “it seemed like a personal fact you like to avoid addressing. I simply appreciate you sharing your experiences with me as an attempt to relate to me.”
“Did it work?” Chip returned earnestly.
“Absolutely, I think I am more than willing to hear your opinion of some of my actions now,” Ken assured Chip of this by relaxing a bit, Chip followed suit.
“There was the time you gave Yareat way too much money for the information to get those kids back,” Chip started this knowing Ken was going to respond frequently, so he had prepared all of his points as simple statements.
“It takes too much time to haggle with people, those kids needed us to find them.” Ken brushed the notion off, again over-acting with his hands.
“The kids went the wrong way in a museum we happened to be in, and had been missing for less than thirty minutes. You paid a security guard 1,600 credits to tell you that she was headed to a disturbance later revealed to be the missing children.” Chip described thoroughly.
“Did I really? Thirty minutes?” Ken snorted, stifling a laugh.
“Less than thirty minutes, and not an isolated event: think back to Tragn and the shopkeeper, Bakyi, with the singer, Uyanic. Remember the planet with the bees?” Chip urged Ken to recall these specific events, to elaborate his point of Ken’s over-spending to get worthless information.
“Okay, okay, wow, what memory you have there, these are ones already fading from mine. Except the bees, that was awesome, and I recorded that. You’re right though, completely useless information there, we just had to wait fifteen more minutes to see it for ourselves,” Ken nodded and gave this win to his android companion, as faultless evidence had been presented.
“Then, there were the Vables,” Chip asserted.
“Oh, those blasted things were such a nuisance! It is starting to seem like I’ll have to enchant those memories away,” Ken gruffed, while shaking his head like he could shake the memory out of his brain.
“Well, you blatantly chose to ignore my statistics on the matter,” Chip accused slowly, and then paused to let the realization sink in.
“The 76.812% chance…” Ken trailed off, so Chip finished for him.
“… that they develop into a sentient species.”
“That—completely unfair, you should have divulged you were an android!” Ken chided rather passionately.
“You have to see me as a droid to respect my mathematical prowess?”
“AGHH, again—not fair!” Ken was not handling this well, and Chip backed off, both from the conversation and physically, by finally removing his hand from Ken’s. Neither moved to indicate their talk was over though, and Chip let the surge of emotion completely pass before he spoke up again.
“They had killed countless Balanite’s by the time the problem landed in my lap,” Ken rejoined calmly.
“I am aware of how deadly they were, but most would have tried to find them a planet they could develop on.” Chip offered.
“They would have wiped out any indigenous species as its food source.”
“We could have tried,” Chip stood his ground, “the problem does not lay with ‘did we make the best choice’ it lies with ‘did we even ask questions’.”
“It would have taken forever to find a planet with a large enough food supply,” Ken did not want to admit that he was acting extreme,“ it would take them millions of years to develop into a civilization-ready species.”
“Millions of years you would apparently be around for,” Chip filled in the blanks Ken was unable to fill himself.
“We have to go back to Balan now, see if we can’t find a few that are still alive,” Ken pledged, and began scrambling from his seat. Chip reached out, placed a firm grip on Ken’s arm, and waited until he looked back at him before he spoke.
“You know there are not any left. I have done the calculations since then, though. In the time it took me to find a planet, 90,349 more Balanite’s would have died. With your help, I calculated the death total to be closer to 86,672. So, that is 86,672 lives you saved making the choice you did, when you did.” Chip explained.
“So, I ended up making a good choice?” Ken asked his companion.
“If you can see it as such, then yes,” Chip stated plainly.
“What is the problem here then?”
“You did not approach it in a human-like way,” Chip let out a short laugh himself, unable to ignore the irony of him being the one to give the humanity lecture to someone else.
“How is that extreme for me?” Ken probed suspiciously.
“Well, I have spoken with your mother over this issue—”
“You’ve done what now?” Ken demanded in a low tone.
“Your mother says you have been much different in the past, and that the spontaneous-genocidetype of behavior is not in your typical repertoire; that you have actually fought tooth and nail against that very thing before.” Chip realized he had mentioned something that triggered Ken to leave the conversation. Ken remained seated in front of Chip, but he looked at nothing, his eyes pointing near a corner in the room.
That’s when Ken got up and left the room, only to return a few moments later with his communicator. He opened it, and started pounding away at the keys. He sighed more than once, and at one point almost threw the piece of equipment across the room, but he stopped himself and continued to do whatever it was he was doing. Chip remained at the table, just watching the emotions flow in and out of Ken in short succession. Chip did not understand how this was happening to someone who had been dissociating just moments before.
“Can you just… can you please enter your account information here. Sorry, just, it’s my money, why do I have to jump through hoops?” Ken defended angrily, while his hand shook as it held out the phone to Chip. Chip took it hesitantly, which seemed to aggravate Ken further.
Chip filled out the most detailed form he had ever encountered. He only did it because Ken asked him to. Chip was scared that Ken might flip the table on them suddenly, but he trusted Ken with his information, and trusted Ken’s underlying intentions. The longer it took Chip to finish, the longer Ken had to stew in his pitiful angry mood. Chip was diligent with completing the form, and announced when he was done, but did not hand the form back to Ken until Ken offered to take it from him.
Again, Ken punched the keys with his fingers for a while before finally slamming the communicator closed, and slapping it down on the table.
“You have access to the money now, you yourself, by no extension of me. Thanks for helping keep everything going, and I hope you keep doing me this favor. I need to retire to my bed; I’ll take all of this into consideration. Please, don’t talk about this to my mom. Just, just tell her we talked, and I’ll work on it.” With that, Ken left the room again, this time not returning for days.
It took only a few weeks for Chip to regret having had that talk with Ken at all, and the resulting access to Ken’s funds. Now, Ken never left his quarters. Chip found meaningful missions to take on, and would end up performing them by himself, despite a weak glimmer of promise in Ken’s attitude with the mention of it. Chip eventually stopped, and spent most of his time fighting Ken to get him out of bed. It was rare that Ken left the ship, and when he did the only thing he did was find somewhere to drink.
Eventually, Chip was consulting daily with Ken’s mother about his mood, and they had decided Chip was to meet up with his family, and deliver Ken to them. Chip had stopped to fuel up and grab supplies, only to return to the departing ship. Chip watched Ken leave, knowing he had dissociated and turned on autopilot within himself. Chip now remained deserted on a random moon, far, far away from anything he knew.