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reach for love

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Alicia came in with Mousey's crew, blending in perfectly with the rest of the shiny Neon Valley eye candy. The Metropolis Annual Android Auction was a highbrow exclusive event and she never would have gotten in on her own.

She'd been sent in to do recon, gather some intel, plant some tracers, and she'd try her best. The org depended on her, and this was she was born to do.

Alicia cleaned up nice, dripping with fauxgems and wearing a BevHills evening gown that was paid for by one of the the org's anon donors. But there was no way to get the green for a tick, so she'd let herself be picked up by one of Mousey's wannabe babygangstas and hung onto his arm, looking pretty and expensive and untouchable.

It wasn't hard to slip away from the NV crew and wander, glass of bubbly in her hand. The entire room was mesmerized by Lady Maxxa as she slinked across stage, making risqué jokes and starting the auction off with a sizzle.

The notorious Cindi Mayweather bounced onto the raised stage, and it was almost imposs for Alicia to not stare. Toast of the town, indeed. Alicia had never seen an android like Mayweather, so alive. No wonder there were so many models based on her blueprint, small and compact, smooth dark skin and clear eyes. Beautiful.

She could almost pass as human.

Alicia shook her head and chided herself for getting distracted. She needed to focus on the task at hand, scattering trackers on some of the big players of Metropolis as she passed: Chung Knox, Lady K8, Docktor Wondaland, the Quantum King. The more tracers she planted, the more intel they acquired, the more precise their planning.

And the bottom line was more androids freed from their slavery. Alicia was always down with that.

After the chaos of the auction, Alicia found the discarded remains of Mayweather in a garbage pile next to the loading dock, lifeless and stiff-limbed. She dropped to her knees in the debris; the synthasilk of her dress ripped, but she didn't care.

It was dark, and in the distance, lightning flickered. Everyone had gone to ground, because it was dangerous at night, humans and other predators stalking the unwary. She could take care of herself, though. Alicia sent a scrambled transmission burst to her org handler, signalling mission success. She waited patiently for clearance to go, sighing a little as it started to drizzle.

The all-clear buzzed through her implant, and Alicia gathered up Mayweather and got to her feet, staggering a little on the uneven footing. Her babygangsta ride was long gone, but that was superfine, Alicia knew the shortcuts and backways home. It wouldn't take long, even with the additional burden of Mayweather's slight weight.

By the time she got to the Junkyard, Alicia was soaked to the skin. She knew she had to look half-drowned, kohl-rimmed eyes smudged, hair wet, fancypants dress torn, the pseudoskin she'd applied to hide her tattoos peeling back to reveal bright colors.

It didn't matter, though, because she was home and home meant family and family didn't care what she looked like. She slipped through the torn metal fencing and picked her way through the rusted metal and glass and wiring.

The Junkyard had started out as a random collection of vehicles from the last cent, and over the years had become home to a much wider array of discards and throwaways.

Pig was the first to catch scent of her, barking once to alert the residents of the Junkyard before running up to her, tail wagging madly. "Oh, Piglet," she sighed. He'd ripped the skin on his tail again, and she could see the flash of metal bones. They'd have to buy some more FurGrow and fix the hole before it got worse.

"She always gets into trouble when you're gone," SarahD said, dry under the plastic sheeting that they'd strung up when they'd first found shelter in the Junkyard. She had Bunny in her arms, and Alicia could hear the cybercat's purring over the patter of raindrops. "How'd it go?"

Alicia set Mayweather down on the ragged couch they'd rescued from an abandoned house. "Okay. Dropped most of the trackers, just gotta wait and see what comes of it."

"Hmmm." SarahD set Bunny on the ground and stared at Mayweather. "Is that—"

"Yeah," Alicia said. "Cindi Mayweather. There was a malfunction at the Auction, something happened—"

"Well," SarahD said, "we've definitely got the parts to fix her. BigBoi's good with electrical systems, Chantie's been practicing with the soldering iron."

"Yeah," Alicia said again, looking around. The Junkyard was an electronic graveyard, where robots and androids and clockwork animals were dumped once they were broken, or no longer served their purpose.

It should have been a place of death, the metal wreckage of so many artificial lives, but somehow, they'd made it their home. Alicia and SarahD, their animoids, and all the broken machines that found themselves in the Junkyard, Frank and Pete, BigBoi and Chantie and Jimmy, Greta and Zoid, and so many others.

And now Cindi Mayweather, probably the most well-known android that had ever been built, hero and pariah, rebel and Metropolis shill.

"A martyr for the cause," SarahD said.

"No," Alicia said, smoothing Mayweather's hair back with a gentle hand. "Not a martyr. Not yet, anyway." She pressed a soft kiss to Mayweather's lips. "Wake up, Cindi."

Cindi's eyes fluttered open, and Alicia smiled.