As you all know, after the SXDs failed in the market, the company started recalling them. On top of the charging defects and ethical objections, rumours had spread that they weren’t… safe. Rumours like the ones you’ve been hearing.

But, really, anyone who’s met vi0let can tell you more or less what it takes to push an SXD into acting in what you might call a hostile manner; they’re not naturally dangerous machines. The stories are just stories, usually put together by activist groups after the fact as propaganda.

This story was told to me by one of the technicians who used to work for the Recreational Cybernetics Group under Koichi Santei. I don’t recall his name—I’ll have to ask Ai the next time I see her—but I do remember that he was with the group long enough to see both the rise and fall of the model.

As a developer, he worked on what was called the cochlear balance, a system of tiny gyroscopes that keep the units stable; in the end, he was on the front line in the decommissioning process, one of about a hundred people who scrapped… in total, about seven billion dollars of love-bot. It was grim, heart-breaking work, but when he told me this story, I got the impression that he took the job because he felt responsible for bringing them into the world in the first place.

The worst part, he said, was that they usually understood what was happening to them.

SXD 999-60-0311. "s4ndra."

German make, imported back to the US when her owner moved there for business reasons.

She arrived at the decommissioning facility unattended and on foot; in fact, no one even saw how she got in.

It was late 1996; three years earlier, sure, maybe no one would question an SXD wandering unaccompanied around on company property, but s4ndra had learned to keep to the shadows on account of one very particular and obvious defect: her entire epidermal layer was missing. Her shiny silver underbody was covered in scratches, as though she’d walked through miles of thorns.

In fact, one of her eyes was gone, too, with most of her hair. She was in terrible condition, objectively speaking. When the disposal techs finally noticed her standing in the middle of the warehouse, one of them naturally went over to her and asked what she was doing.
She was reporting to be decommissioned, she said.

That was very strange; most SXDs arrived there powered down or even broken into parts, and the ones that didn’t were in awful condition.
He asked her who had brought her here. She said she'd brought herself.

She didn’t want to exist anymore. Her owner had done horrific things to her, she said, and to other people. Things no person should ever do.
Well. Many units had confessed to their owners’ crimes in the decommissioning room; so many, in fact, that they’d put up a confidentiality sign to put the men—and they were almost all men—at ease as they watched their synthetic lovers repent before what the techs called the Gates of Oblivion. The 'Gates' were a large electromagnet-powered crusher that broke the unit down into salvageable raw materials, once cheap reusables like the eyes and nuclear battery had been manually removed. These were almost invariably embezzlement and tax fraud—but NS was not about to play tattle-tale, especially against their business partners, and so, out of a sense of fairness and to ensure the recall went smoothly, all customers’ confidentiality was treated equally and seriously.

But s4ndra had different complaints. After she had identified herself, at the techs' request, she started to outright beg that she be dismantled.
She started talking about how she didn’t want to be haunted by “their” screams any more.

About how she was tired of “being perfect.”—an idea they thought was ironic, given how badly damaged she was.

About how she was tired of “the smell,” or “the feel,” or “the taste” that just wouldn't “wash out of her mouth.”

It was strange, and it gave them the chills, but there was nothing they could do with the information. She couldn't even identify her owner, when they asked. How sad was that, she said.

But before they could power her down and prepare her for proper decommissioning, she limped her way into the Gates, pushing aside the deactivated unit that was already in them, desperate to be destroyed.

With a loud buzz and a horrific screeching sound, the power cell in her back ruptured and caught fire, obliterated between the massive iron plates and terminating the extraction half-way through the process. He told me he’d never forget the horrible sound.

Worried that the components were unsalvageable and that s4ndra’s suicide may very well have damaged the Gates, the operator jumped out of his control booth and wrenched the crusher back open as quickly as he could using the manual override lever. The echo of her scream was still ringing in their ears.

What remained of her was barely recognisable, like a bug squashed underfoot, burnt to the colour of charcoal. All of it was soaked in the leaking remains of the nuclear battery that had kept her nervous synthetic heart beating so strongly during those long years of her torment.

There was just one... tiny piece that hadn’t been burned in the fire, one little thing that wasn’t even singed, just below the glittering remains of her last eye.

A lone, flawless human tooth.

Samantha Wright, Consumer Products