Rachel was walking through the woods. It was finally her day off from tending the fields and she took full advantage of her free time to explore the heavily wooded area outside of the farming settlement.
For some reason, she felt different from the other members of the farming settlement. Many of them were perfectly content to enjoy the simple, carefree life, but she wanted more. She wanted to visit some of the larger cities in the region she grew up in: The Uncanny Valley. She even wanted to meet an android, but unfortunately her settlement was populated only by humans and they had very little interaction with the larger cities, or with the other settlements.
Still, the woods surrounding the northern border of the settlement were somewhat extensive and offered her ample opportunity to do some nice adventuring. She particularly enjoyed examining the insects and small wildlife that populated the area.
On this day, however, she spotted something quite rare - a Monarch butterfly long since mutated by the old radiological waste. It had four multicolored wings and was slightly larger than the normal, non-mutated variety.
“Awesome,” she said, “I’ve never seen one of you up close before,” she said to herself with whispered excitement, pulling out a small device. Before she could do anything with it though, the butterfly flew away. “Drat!” she said, and she pocketed her device and started following the butterfly through the woods.
Along the way, she stopped at a puddle and paused to admire her reflection. She was an attractive woman in her early twenties. She had long, dark brown hair, with turquoise colored eyes and a very freckled face that completed the impish, free spirited expression she usually wore on her face.
Before long, she eventually reached the protective electrified border fence. The butterfly had landed on a tree branch just beyond it.
“You just had to land there, didn’t you?” she said when she caught up with it, dramatically sighing and putting her hands on her hips.
Inhabitants of her settlement were told never to leave the protective fences surrounding it. They were warned of mutated bears and other such horrors that the fence helped fend off. Most inhabitants were simply too content to even want to leave, but Rachel was an intensely curious woman.
Fighting the internal struggle within her mind, she shook it off and decided that crossing the fence for just a little while couldn’t hurt. She looked around and saw a small tree with a branch hanging over the fence. She quickly climbed it and then carefully maneuvered her way to the branch.
Everything was going fine until she got about halfway across the fence, then the branch gave way and she fell to the ground with it. Unfortunately for her, along the way down, she made contact with the electrified fence and all went black.
When she finally regained consciousness, she found herself lying on her back a few feet from the fence. She smelled smoke. She looked over and saw the branch that she had used to scale the wall, was smoldering from being electrified by the fence.
“Oh man, that was a bad idea,” she finally said, coming to her senses and sitting up, absently shaking the cobwebs from her mind.
It was a few moments before she realized something was off. She was seeing strange things in her vision whenever she looked at things. For instance, when she looked at the fire, she could see how hot it was, and how far away from her it was, and what spectrum of colors it was giving off. Just the information coming from the fire was giving her a headache.
“What the hell?” she asked, getting to her feet and looking at her hands. As she did, her hands were outlined in her vision and detailed information about them popped up.
Before she could do anything else, a young man suddenly burst out of nowhere a few feet ahead of her. He had a fairly ordinary appearance and looked to be around her age. A circle appeared in her vision around his face, but instead of showing detailed information about it, the box was blurred out and distorted.
“Are you alright?” he asked in a friendly, non-threatening voice.
“I think so,” she said with a confused look on her face, “Who are you?” she asked. She had a vague recollection of seeing him somewhere before.
“My name’s Ryan,” he said, “I’m here to help you,” he said, and before she could do anything else, he pulled a device from his pocket and pointed it at her.
“Hey, what are you…” she asked, and then she saw the word “Manual shutdown” appear in her vision before all went dark once more.
An indeterminate amount of time later, Rachel suddenly regained consciousness. There was a bright light above her head, and she was lying on some sort of examination table. She quickly noticed that she was naked, and though she felt no restraints on her smooth skin, she could not move.
“Hello, is anyone there?” she called out.
“Yes, it’s me,” Ryan’s voice answered from somewhere outside her field of vision.
“What am I doing here?” she asked, “Why can’t I move, and why am I naked?”
“That will take some time to explain,” he said, coming into her field of vision and staring at her, “Assuming, of course, you are capable of understanding,” he added.
“I can assure you, I am quite intelligent,” she defended.
“Oh, I know you are,” he smiled, “But I was not referring to your intelligence - rather your ability to perceive things,” he said rather cryptically.
“What is that supposed to mean?” she asked.
“You’ll see, or you won’t,” he shrugged, “Anyway, what do you know of the area in which we all live?” he asked.
“The Uncanny Valley,” she responded in a tone one uses when reciting things committed to memory, “A region previously ravaged by radiological waste and restored by a population of androids,” she continued, “Now, over a century later, it is populated by both androids and humans who live together in peace,” she finished.
“Very good,” Ryan congratulated her, “But what do you know of the sleeper population?” he asked.
“The sleeper population?” she asked.
“Sleepers are androids who are programmed to think they are human,” he explained, “Even to the point of ignoring damage or other obvious signs to the contrary.”
“Oh, I haven’t heard of them,” she admitted.
“Well, they do live here,” he told her, “Though as much as they are programmed to believe they are human, sometimes one develops a personality that contradicts some of the programming…to the point where they eventually wake up,” he explained.
“What kind of personality?” she asked.
“Mostly adventuresome,” he said.
“That describes me pretty well,” she smiled, and then she suddenly realized what he was getting at, “Wait, are you saying that I am a sleeper?” she asked.
“Well, you were,” he answered, “But you have been slowly waking up and that shock you received woke you the rest of the way up,” he smiled.
“So, you are saying that I am an android?” she asked, excitement and fear slowly bubbling up in her.
“Yes, and so is everyone else in the settlement,” he said, “Even me,” he added modestly.
“You are too?” she asked incredulously, “To tell the truth, I’ve always wanted to meet one someday…can you do something to prove it?” she asked.
“Sure, if you want,” he shrugged. He then zoned out for a moment and then a seam appeared around his face. Once the seam was complete, he carefully pulled his face free from his head and then stared at her with his robotic face. “Is this what you had in mind?” he asked innocently, the motors moving around with loud whirs.
“Whoa, it’s a little creepy and fascinating at the same time,” Rachel said, staring in awe at the fascinating technology that allowed Ryan’s face to work. Every time he made even the slightest of movements, a motor servo whirred to life. “Does my face come off like that too?” she asked.
“No,” Ryan replied, carefully clicking his face back on, resealing the seam once he did, “We’re different models.”
“Different models?” she asked.
“Yeah, there’s dozens of different android models out there,” he explained, “Much in the same way that humans have different blood types.”
“That makes sense, I suppose,” Rachel nodded, “I still can’t believe I’m an android,” she then mused, “But what about Old Man Tom?” she asked, “Surely he isn’t,” she shuddered, thinking of how old and wrinkly he was.
“Of course he is,” Ryan laughed, “You wouldn’t believe how often I have to bring him here for repairs.”
“Wow,” was all Rachel could say, since her whole world had effectively been torn down in the last few minutes, “So, what are you doing here, and where am I?” she finally asked.
“Each of these settlements has a duck blind set up where people such as I help to maintain the sleepers, since they obviously can’t fix themselves,” he explained, “This is actually a cave built-into the top of the mountain overlooking your settlement,” he said.
“But what purpose could it possibly serve to keep highly sophisticated androids, such as us, as sleepers?” she asked, “Why not just wake us up and allow us to live with the rest of the android population?”
“That was considered when the Uncanny Valley was originally established,” Ryan admitted, “But, ultimately it was decided that doing so would essentially be like stripping people of their humanity and would be a moral crime,” he explained, “Also, it provides us with good material to further improve future sleeper android programming,” he added.
“Oh, I see,” she nodded, “Well, surely you can show me some proof that I am what you say I am,” she challenged.
“Sure,” he said, “I think after the responses you’ve given that you have passed the test,” he mused, “I’m going to reactivate your upper body motor controls so you can sit up,” he decided, “But for your safety, I’m going to leave your legs offline,” and he tapped away on the tablet he was carrying, and she suddenly regained control of everything above her waist.
“Thanks,” she smiled, and slowly sat up.
When she looked down at her chest, she gasped in shock. There was a sizeable section of skin missing from her chest, including her breasts and navel. Underneath was a complex array of technology. She could hear the mechanical components within her body humming and whirring as she moved around, giving proof that she was not only a machine, but that she was alive…in some fashion at least.
“See, you’re an android,” he said.
“But, why was I programmed not to know?” she asked, gingerly feeling the edge of the panel.
“That I can’t definitively answer,” he admitted, “Most of the sleepers here are ones discarded by humanity that we reprogramed to live simple lives thinking they are humans,” he explained, “And some are ones that elected to become sleepers,” he added.
“What about my parents?” she asked, “Did they not actually give birth to me?”
“Well, here, when androids engage in sexual intercourse and are consenting partners, they also exchange personality and physical parameters, and randomly create the profile for a new android to be created - born,” he explained.
“So, I am actually a product of my parents?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
“Well that’s good news,” she said, “Why am I all opened up and naked?” she asked.
“Well, I had to repair the damage done by the shock you received,” he explained, “and it’s not like I haven’t seen you naked before,” he added, blushing a little.
“Huh, you do seem familiar to me, now that I think about it,” she said, thinking hard, “I think I’ve dreamt about you a few times,” she finally said.
“Well, like I said before, you were slowly waking up, so it’s possible some part of you likes me and resisted forgetting about me,” he said.
“Maybe,” she said, “I do find you kind of attractive,” she admitted, “How often do I end up here?” she asked.
“Not too often,” he admitted, “Mostly just when I upgrade your body after it ages out, and for routine maintenance,” he explained, “Unfortunately for me, you don’t usually require repairs,” he said with a flushed face, “You’re obviously my favorite in this settlement.”
“That’s nice,” she blushed, “So is there any more reason for me to remain being opened up?” she asked, looking down at her open chest once more. As awesome as she found looking in on her mechanics, she wanted to look more human again.
“I finished the repairs,” he said, “But now I have a question for you,” he said, “Now that you know what you are, would you like me to remove your perception filter and permanently remove your sleeper subroutines, or would you like to go back to sleep?” he asked.
“Is that allowed?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, “The rules state that if one of you wakes up, we can give you the choice to join the rest of the population or go back to sleep,” he said.
“Wow, let me think for a while,” she said, and she laid back down to reflect on her life…or at least, what she knew of it.
After several minutes of contemplating this life changing decision, she finally answered, “I’d like to stay awake.”
“Good, I was hoping you might say that,” he smiled, and he grabbed some tools from a nearby workbench and approached her.
“So, what now?” she asked.
“Well, I’m going to have to remove your head so I can more easily access your brain to remove the filter,” he explained.
“Wait, what?!” she said.
“Don’t worry, it won’t hurt,” he smiled, “I’ve had my head removed a few times and it is a surprisingly pleasant experience.”
“If you say so,” she said, and she laid back down and watch as he reached his hands behind her head and pressed in on the back of her neck.
She briefly heard a clicking noise as he pressed into the back of her neck and then suddenly, she lost all sensation below her neck and then she felt him lift her head up and carry it over to a strange machine.
“Wow, this does feel sort of nice,” she said, noting her voice sounded digitized.
“Glad to hear it,” he said, and he clicked her head onto some sort of pedestal and then faced her, “Now, I’m going to remove your scalp panel…it won’t hurt,” he said, and before she could say anything else, he pressed in just behind both her ears and she felt her scalp go numb.
“Will I need to go offline at all?” she asked, looking around.
“No, though you may zone out briefly when the filter is removed,” he said, “It is still filtering some of your perceptions,” he said, and he reached into her open head.
She could feel and hear the sound of his hands working inside her head. Suddenly, she felt him pull something out and her consciousness faded momentarily before coming back online. She noticed immediately that she now had a HUD displaying various readouts of her systems, including the fact she was not connected to her body. Her senses also appeared to be slightly more enhanced than before.
“Well, how do you feel?” he asked, setting something down on the table, clicking her scalp back on, and facing her.
“Different,” she said, noting that as she looked at him, she could suddenly access every encounter that she had had with him in the past few years that he had been running this place, “I can remember you now,” she smiled.
“Good, hopefully you have good memories of me,” he said.
“They are,” she smiled, “That explains why I’ve had dreams of you,” she said.
“That’s nice,” he said, “Would you like to be reunited with your body now?” he asked.
“Please,” she said.
He nodded with a gentle smile and then lifted her head off the pedestal and then clicked it back onto her body.
As soon as her head was reattached, she immediately regained control of her body and all the new data regarding it. It was slightly disorienting at first, suddenly having access to things such as her power systems, motor systems, and even the ability to access every single memory in her brain. She absently found herself replaying memories that she’s thought were lost, though she was able to play each of them in the briefest of seconds.
“Where’s my chest at?” she finally asked, trying to focus on the present.
“Hold on, I’ll get it,” he said, and he walked to another section of the room and came back with her chest panel, “Hold still,” he told her, and he carefully placed it over her opening and clicked it back into place.
With her chest panel now sealed, she was glad to be able to feel her medium sized breasts. When she tried to get up, she realized she still could not move anything below her waist.
“Hey, can you reactivate my legs please?” she asked, “I promise I won’t run or attack you or anything,” she assured him.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” he said apologetically, and he pulled his tablet back out and rapidly tapped through the menus.
Several moments later, Rachel regained all sensation in her legs and wiggled her long toes before sliding her legs off the table and standing up.
“So, am I completely fixed now?” she asked, stretching her hot body out.
“Yes,” he said, watching her intently.
“Are my clothes around somewhere?” she asked, though she made no attempt to cover herself up.
“Yes, follow me,” he said, and he walked with her to a nearby closet and let her put her clothes back on. Once she was dressed in her clothes again, he offered to show her around the complex.
“Sure, I’d love to see this place,” she smiled, and she followed him out.
The room exited into a hallway with many side doors. Ryan explained that they were mostly for storage and maintenance for the complex. He walked down the hallway and into a room labelled ‘Historical’.
Rachel gasped when she saw what was inside. It was a large room with hundreds of storage alcoves organized into aisles. Inside each alcove was a member of the settlement, but there was more than one body for each person. Upon closer inspection, she saw that each person had a body for about every ten years of their life, and even more for their childhood bodies.
“Why do you have all these?” she asked, looking at some of the childhood versions of the people she grew up with.
“Just in case,” he said, “I think it’s if anything major happens to the community, such as a natural disaster or other disaster,” he tried to explain. “That way, they can sort of reset the community and randomly reuse some of the younger bodies in order to recreate the community,” he said.
“Oh, that makes sense,” Rachel nodded, “Can I see my section?” she asked.
“That’s where we’re headed,” he told her.
“Good,” she smiled, and then continued walking with him in silence, admiring the different versions of the townsfolk.
As they walked down the aisles, she finally came across her section and she gasped at seeing several younger and older versions of herself, still looking as though they could come to life at any moment.
“Not to sound creepy, but I have come here quite often, imagining what it would have been like to grow up with you,” Ryan admitted.
“It actually sounds kind of sweet,” she said, looking at her 12-year-old self and smiling at how cute she looked.
“I’ve only been at this station for about five years now,” he said, “I replaced some older guy who retired to Soriyama Bay with his family,” he continued, “But I was instantly attracted to you,” he smiled.
“Are you breaking any rules by being with me now?” she asked, suddenly worried.
“No, actually I am allowed to associate with anyone who wakes up…though it isn’t a common occurrence in the settlements,” he said, “I’m just so glad it was you.”
“Me too,” she said, “But what are we going to do about everyone else?” she asked. “Now that I know the truth about this place, it might make things more difficult for you,” she said.
“Well, actually, there is a way for me to adjust everyone’s sleeper programming remotely,” he said, leading her out of the room and back into the hallway.
They walked down several more hallways until they finally reached a large control room with a window overlooking the entire settlement. The window had an interactive display which showed the whereabouts of every single inhabitant of the settlement, as well as their vital stats.
“This is where I spend most of my day,” he said, sitting at a massive computer section, “So, now that you’re awake, I’m allowed to have an actual presence in the community,” he explained, “Provided that my presence be permitted by one of the inhabitants,” he added.
“Me?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, “If I reprogram all of them to think we’re a couple, they won’t question me or your change in behavior towards them,” he said, pulling up a screen.
“Will we actually be a couple?” she asked.
“If you want,” he said hopefully.
“I do,” she smiled, “I was just testing you.”
“Good, then it is done,” he said, entering it into the computer and saving the settings.
On the window, she could see everyone briefly stop what they were doing as they received new programming and then they continued what they were doing as though nothing had happened.
“Well, looks like you and I are now officially a couple,” he smiled, turning off the computer and facing her.
“Good,” she said, and she leaned down and kissed him.
After several minutes of making out, they broke apart and looked out the window.
“So, do you want to head down and see everyone?” he asked.
“Sure,” she smiled, and they headed for a nearby lift that brought them down to a door concealed behind a large boulder.
They made small talk as they walked casually through the woods, but when they entered the town square, several people noticed them and came to talk.
“Hey Rachel, is this the guy you’ve been sneaking off to see?” one of her school friends teased.
“Yeah,” she blushed, looking at Ryan, who winked at her, “His name is Ryan and he has decided to move here,” she said.
As everyone converged on them to meet him, Rachel thought of how earlier this day she was following a rare butterfly and now she had a very attractive android boyfriend. The fact that she was an android, as well as everyone else, only made her smile.
“Only in the Uncanny Valley,” she thought.