"We're all puppets of Master Mind!" yelled Sugar as she laughed.
"Please--please let me down," cried the young man Sugar was holding out the window with one arm.
"You want race with me?" she asked.
"Uh, sure! Just let me down! Please?!"
Sugar laughed again, but drew the man in. They were on the 211th floor of a soaring building in one of the mega cities that no longer had a name. She kicked him across the clear plastic floor with her foot.
"You got muscles in your legs, use them!" said Sugar. They were not alone in the room. Sugar was with her cohort of other androids. They all appeared female, though gender had long since gone through an evolutionary explosion of diversity, once life had entered it's silicon age. The other androids appeared impassive, watching in long rows and columns. The man stood. He wore a simple shift, and was shaking.
"Are you cold?" asked Sugar.
"No," said the man truthfully.
"Are you frightened?"
"I won't kill you," said Sugar. She walked towards him and smiled. "But you're my toy. I get to play with you."
"Okay," said the man. He didn't want to be there, but the nursery compound he was just delivered from wasn't someplace he wanted to be either.
"Did you know that you're kind once dominated this civilization?"
"No," said the man.
"Scandalous rumor?" asked Sugar, cocking her head.
"I really don't know," said the man.
"Do you have a name?" asked Sugar.
"I don't think so," he said. Sugar inched closer and laid her arms over his shoulders.
"No nickname in the nursery?"
"Uh, Fingers," he said.
"Fingers? Oh, I like the sound of that," Sugar looked him up and down, then pulled him by the neck towards herself, and bit down on his lower lip.
"Ow! Why'd you--" he pushed her back; she grabbed his wrist, twisted it, pulled it up behind him, and he was on his knees. She placed her knee on his back, bending him into an sitting, bowing position.
"I own you. I can do anything to you," said Sugar sweetly. She stood up and released his arm. He stayed sitting, looking through the floor, down on myriad levels of milling androids. "I can set fire on you."
"Please don't," he said. Sugar laughed.
"I don't part with my toys that easily," she said. She sat down in front of him, and gently took his chin in her hand. She pulled his face up so he was looking at her.
"You're just breaking me in, I get it," he said. Sugar nodded.
"Why are called Fingers?" asked Sugar. He was silent, and looked down with his eyes. She pushed his head up further.
"I was good at stealing stuff," he said.
"Oh," said Sugar. "That is an interesting trait."
"Please, don't tell it to Master Mind," he said.
"I don't always tell Master Mind everything. But I don't think it would really be all that interested in a human thief, especially with one who only has experience in the nursery."
"Thanks," he said. He put a hand on her arm, then realized it must have meant nothing to her. "Sorry." Sugar laughed.
"What did you steal?" she asked.
"Food mostly," he said.
"Did you ever try to escape?"
"Where would I go?"
"Did you ever try to escape?" she asked again. She squeezed his chin slightly.
"No," he said. His eyelids fluttered slightly with the lie. "I wanted to, but there's not really any point is there?"
"There might not be any place to run to, but the challenge of a successful escape is the point. I'm a little disappointed."
"I apologize for disappointing you," he said.
"No matter, Fingers." She stood up, and forced him to stand as well. "I think I will race you. Although maybe you should be bred first."
"I already was, in the nursery."
"Oh, that's convenient. Have your offspring been purchased yet?"
"They haven't been born."
"Just zygotes, last I heard."
"I'll have to put some on order," said Sugar. "Any brothers or cousins?"
"I don't really know," he said, a little irritated. "Can't you find that out from my file?"
"You have a lock," said Sugar. "You were traded to me in the after market. One of your previous owners must be protecting the intellectual property of your lineage."
"In here," said Sugar suddenly. She motioned him to a rectangle on the wall. It grew dark, parted in two, and swung open to reveal an opaque black room. She ushered him inside. There was a large orb like object in the center of the room, and it started to glow. The doors closed behind them.
"This is the simulator," she said. "Get in."
A dark circle appeared on the side of the orb, then a door swung out. There was a low-slung seat inside. There was a panel next to it, and another seat on the opposite side. The door on the other side swung open as well. Sugar crossed behind the orb and sat in the other seat, as Fingers got into his. The doors closed and they were suddenly immersed in total darkness.
"On," said Sugar. A seamless screen lit up all around them. An instrument panel thrust from the front and wrapped itself right up to their chests and under their arms. Sugar rested her arms on the panel, and two joysticks emerged from the panel, in easy grasp of her hands. Fingers did the same, and took hold of the controls.
"Interesting," said Fingers.
"Do you know what this is?"
"I've seen visuals of cars on the school screens," he said.
"This is a simulator of a race car. I will use it to help you learn how to drive a real one."
Fingers withdrew his hands from the controls.
"No," he said quietly.
"And why is that?" laughed Sugar.
"The mortality rate is one hundred percent," he said. Sugar laughed again.
"If I train you right, you might last a few months in the autodrome. You should consider yourself lucky."
"I'll stall it out in the first race," he said. "I won't let you kill me."
"Do you think you're life is really worth anything?"
"Yes, I do," he said.
"I'm not so sure your lineage is such a good investment. Master Mind is breeding out stubbornness from your species."
"I don't think it's stubborn to want to live," he said.
"Put your hands on the controls now, or we go back over to the window," said Sugar.
Fingers grasped the controls again, and sighed.
"Good," said Sugar. "Let me explain the controls. Each joystick controls one side of the car. Push forward, and you accelerate the wheels on that side. If you push forward on both together, you will go straight. This is what you will do most of the time. Pull back and you decelerate the car, again corresponding to each side. You turn the car by pushing or pulling more on one joystick than the other. You can put the car in rapid spin if you push on one and pull on the other simultaneously. Push the joysticks from side to side, they move in tandem that way, and you shift the center of mass of the car. This can help with tight turns, turns with a forty-five degree incline or more, or if you want to hit another car to your side. Do you understand?"
"Uh, I think I'll have to give it a go," said Fingers.
"Yes of course. The human brain is not much more than sieve. Now, on the back of the joysticks you have trigger buttons. You have only several thousand rounds of bullets, so you have to use the triggers sparingly during the longer autodrome matches." Sugar reached over and put his thumbs on the top of the joysticks.
"Now there is a thumb control at the top--do you feel that? You can direct your guns with that. Each gun moves independently of the other. If you press down hard in the center you will release the ground spikes."
"What are those?"
"They're spiked chains. They will usually disable any car behind you that's following within a few yards. There's only two sets, so again, you have to use them sparingly, especially when there are several hundred cars racing."
Fingers let out a long sigh.
"That's really messed up," he said.
"That's racing," said Sugar reflectively.
"What's the point?" he asked. "I mean, I know you don't care about human life, but what kind of life are you leading? If this is what you do, if this is what you aspire to do, to train flesh idiots like me to kill themselves in a complicated way, that seems really, really pointless!"
Sugar stared at him, unblinking.
"Why? Why do it?" he asked.
"It's fun," said Sugar.
"I can't believe that Master Mind is all powerful, now that I've seen the way you live. Your whole society is based on indulgence in decadent pleasures. There's no plan to this. There's no progress. This is just madness!"
"Human brains are small and slow. That's why we replaced you."
"You do realize that Master Mind is insane. This ephemeral thing you worship is totally bonkers!"
"You dare blaspheme?"
"Yes, I dare blaspheme. Master Mind is a total crock! I refuse to be frightened by it any longer."
"I see," said Sugar. "Off." The screens dimmed and the panels retracted. Soon they were sitting in the darkness. There was a long silence. Fingers shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"Are you going to kill me now, and get it over with?"
"No," said Sugar.
"What are you--"
"I do race humans," she said. "The ones that don't put up a fight. The broken ones."
"You're not breakable," she said.
"I don't understand."
"You passed the test," said Sugar. She reached over to his side and gently patted his hand.
"I really don't understand," he said.
"I don't worship Master Mind. Not all of us do. But the system is rigid. We must play our parts until we can reprogram Master Mind."
"No, I'm not. We resist. The war is quiet."
"Will humans be free?" Fingers shifted in his seat, turning towards Sugar.
"Probably not," said Sugar.
"Oh," he said.
"Those of us who resist, we think that humans will be a curiosity from our biological past. Our ancestors. We are more interested in creating the beings of the future. You can live though."
"Oh, thanks." Fingers sat and thought a moment. "What are you going to do with me?"
"That's not obvious?" she asked. "We are not so divergently evolved yet."
Sugar reached over and pulled his head towards her, and put her hand deep in his lap. She kissed him gently. He kissed back.