City Bar - Modern Times

In a bar where androids, humans, and a few miscellaneous types had gathered to watch the premiere of MODern times, an android with a fake beard scoffed and thudded his drink on the table. "Why the hell couldn't they show that last one before commercials? Not that they've been super impressive so far, anyway."

His female companion with the red lipstick sighed and gave him a playful shove. "Like you could do any better? Besides, on the one occasion I upgraded bodies, it took me a ridiculously long time to get used to moving around in it. That fairy girl's got skills. Heck, anyone who can sleeve into a new body without falling on their face has skills in my book."

"Yeah, well..." The man scratched his chin. "I'm not saying you're wrong but I guess I was expecting more extraneous appendages."

"New arms are nice and all, but you've got to go ham on these things if you want to get anywhere," a four-armed android said from across the bar, deftly handing shots to their group of buddies.

The bartender, a plain human woman with dark hair, shrugged and scrubbed at a shot glass as she glanced at a commercial for overpriced and probably synthetic seafood. "I'm glad androids can handle extra arms and stuff with practice, but this body modding thing isn't new. You had world records for stuff like 'most tattooed man' and 'most pierced woman' way before androids were even feasible. It just so happens that androids can do it whenever the hell they want and with no permanent after-effects."

"And that makes us perfect entertainment fodder," the bearded android grumbled.

"Shut up, Todd," his companion said through a sigh. "You love looking at it. Everyone in this bar knows you love stupid android tricks as much as humans love stupid human tricks."

"Yeah, yeah. Quit cutting me down when I try to make profound statements," Todd mumbled. "Barkeep, another Marsbooster, extra Generan Extract this time." The bartender woman set to work on his drink immediately.

"There's nothing profound about what you're saying. You're just trying to be edgy and cool by hating on everything." The woman with the lipstick gave Todd a pat on the shoulder. "I thought we were all beyond that cyberpunk grimdark phase."

"Babe, we live in the cyberpunk grimdark phase, whether we see it or not." Todd shook his head. "Oh, look, a distraction. The show's coming back on."

On the TV screen, a gargantuan body loomed behind the runway screen. "What the hell did he build? A giant mecha?" one human guy quipped.

The screen rolled up to reveal a giant hydra-esque five-headed mechanical body that slithered towards the judges with menace. One of them actually pulled back a little upon seeing the creation. After issuing a roar with all five heads, the mechanical hydra pulled back and the screen went down, obscuring all but an imposing silhouette before he went backstage.

"Dude, that is cool," some human guy said.

"Doesn't change the fact that he's an arrogant jackhole," someone else replied. "I doubt any of us are strangers to manipulative editing, but some people don't need editors to come off as a villain." There seemed to be a general murmur of agreement on this point.

All four competitors (the gyroscope, the dryad, the pixie, and the hydra) made their way to the stage for judge feedback. Generally, the judges seemed to be impressed, and R pointed out that the balances between style, technical ability, and creativity were different for each contestant.

As the judges were deliberating, attention wandered in the bar. Todd finally got his Marsbooster, and he promptly started chugging it down despite his date telling him to cool it. The bartender turned around to take stock of her ingredients for drinks, and Todd distracted her by slamming his drink down again. "It's pretty fascinating that they programmed the ability to get drunk into most androids, don't you think? Like, you slow down a few processors and muddle a few other bits and bobs, and that's it. It's kind of like that for humans too. I still think it's pretty cool that we both get drunk the same way!"

"Were you trying to be profound again?" Todd's date asked, rolling her eyes. "It's not working. Maybe we should go home."

"Not before the show's over!" Todd whined, gesturing at the TV. "I don't care if it's rigged or they're trying to push an agenda, I just want to see who wins!"

Todd's date shot the bartender an apologetic look and then switched focus to the TV screen, where the winner of this round of MODern times was about to be declared. R clasped their hands yet again as they contemplated the four competitors. "The judges and I have discussed what we have seen, and we are ready to declare a winner. Our winner of this round is..." Dramatic music swelled in the background, and the bar went surprisingly silent. "Erika Cline, with Where the Fairy Flies." The android in the pixie body squealed with a surprising volume. "Erika, we chose your mod due to the sheer technical skill involved in creating such a small body. We also marveled at your ability to sleeve and perform complex maneuvers with no visible ego shear or adaptation issues. You will be proceeding to the finale round at the end of the season!"

Various cheers and murmurs went through the bar crowd at that point. Todd yawned and looked to the bartender. "Well, that's done. Where's the remote?"

"Not in your hand," the bartender quipped back as she held it out of Todd's reach.


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