Welcome home

You meet a new robot friend and learn some things about yourself.

You're out walking, and the glint of metal from a nearby alley catches your attention. As you approach it you recognize it as an android head, laying in a puddle of muddy water. Its display is red with warning messages, but you can barely read them beneath the cracked faceplate.

Gently cradling the head in your arms, you bring it back to your workshop. You hook up its diagnostic port to your workstation and spend the rest of the evening running tests and, once you've determined their identity is salvageable, begin fabbing the parts for a new body.

After a few days, the torso and limbs are complete. Once you've finished reattaching the head to the fresh torso, you send the boot signal. Their fans and servos whir to life, and the faceplate display runs some test patterns before resolving into two eyes.

The bot sits up and turns their head to look at you. You learn that their name is Sirius. Wherever they lived before didn't seem particularly safe, so you offer to let them stay here in your house.

As the months go by, Sirius proves to be a good roommate. They're very tidy, have a great taste in movies, and you two are able to have really deep, personal conversations.

As you grow closer together, they begin approaching more nebulous topics of identity and self in ways that you had never considered before. You lay awake in bed, pondering its ramifications.

As Sirius's personality develops, they've begun to incrementally change their appearance. You notice they've chosen external chassis parts that lean more towards the feminine, and you can't help feeling a pang of jealousy that your body didn't give you that option.

One day, they tell you they've chosen a new designation for themself: "Iris". She asks you to use she/her pronouns for her.

You didn't know bots could do that.

You didn't know anyone could do that.

She modulates her her voice to find a new range and vocalization pattern that feels right to her. You wish things had been that easy for you when your voice had dropped and the kids in school made fun of you.

One of your favorite shared pastimes are co-op VR games. Iris doesn't need a headset, (she can just run the game on top of her existing sensor network), but you still do. Yours is an older model, and newer games don't always run 100% with it, but you work with what you've got.

It's during one of these games that your helmet view freezes, then cuts off. Before you can take it off, your view comes back. Only, something feels different. You look down at your virtual body, and see the familiar chassis of Iris.

You let out a gasp of surprise, and you hear her voice come from your mouth. Everything feels clearer, more real than VR should. It only lasts a few seconds before your view cuts out again. When you lift the headset from your eyes, you find tears streaming down your face.

Iris kneels down next to you, concern on her display. Putting the words together feels like the hardest thing you've ever done. Even as you've grown so close, something as deep-rooted and fundamental to who you are is hard to confront.

Having her body, her voice... it all felt so right. The realization hits you like a lightning bolt. You feel disoriented, overwhelmed. The discomfort that had been slowly making its way to the surface for years suddenly snaps into clarity, and more tears begin to flow.

You tell her these things between sobs, and you hear her fans whir up as she processes this information, recontextualizing her knowledge graph of you she's built. For such a dramatic revelation, it seems to fit her existing understanding of you pretty well.

She comforts you, affirming those feelings that were familiar for her as well. She also tells you she has an idea that might help...

You go to bed, exhausted. But Iris stays up in the workshop and fires up the fabber for a long night of printing. When you wake up the next day, she has basic android scaffold, and a attached neural linking helmet for you to try.

You put on the helmet and after initiating the link, you look down and see yourself in this rough robotic shell, mirroring your every move. You explore with your mind and find a blank canvas of identity, waiting to be written upon.

At first you feel embarrassed and awkward, not sure what to do, what you CAN do. But her gentle encouragements and suggestions help you to try out a new voice, and later, new chassis frames giving this second body of yours curves of its own.

You embed your feminine self-conception into the body, and every time you inhabit it, it helps to smack away the internalized self-doubt your brain has been wrestling with for so long.

Together, you figure out what name you want to use while in the bot, and hearing her use your new name and pronouns sends a cascade of endorphins through your brain. She knows this joy, of feeling whole, feeling seen. She smiles with you.

One of the benefits of inhabiting a mechanical body is complete control over the sensory inputs, creating incredibly detailed augmented reality scenes. You simulate a changing room with an unlimited wardrobe, and a full-length mirror you don't want to avoid.

And then there's what you can with each other. It's hard to access all the sensors aboard this new body, but with some practice you can start to literally see the streams of information flowing in and out Iris's body. She holds a beauty you'd only just glimpsed before.

You can feel her processors' EMF radiation when you hold your bodies close together, reading each others sensors and synapses in an embrace more intimate than any two human bodies could possibly experience.

When you ask her how she feels after the first time, her eyes smile and she beams you burst of packets that send a warm shiver up your spine.

Living in your biological body is feeling worse and worse as you discover the possibilities this mechanical shell has offered you. Your body and your identity have become dramatically, painfully out-of-sync in ways that go beyond gender alone.

You feel like you're missing an important part of yourself, especially when talking with Iris and being unable to read the invisible signaling language that annotates her communication in the richest of ways.

It's not long before you make up your mind about what needs to be done. When you bring it up to Iris, she says she was just surprised it took you this long to decide to do it.

After a few weeks of research and preparations, you're ready to make the biggest transition of your life. Iris is in charge of the procedure, and you feel a lot calmer knowing that you're in her capable hands.

When she activates the transfer, it feels like a cool liquid is being pumped into your brain stem, steadily flowing out along your entire nervous system until you could swear you're glowing.

There's no pain, just a refreshing coolness, and an awareness of your brain you could never feel the contours of before. As each portion of brain dims, what you feel in its place is something familiar, but a little more precise, and complex in an entirely new set of ways.

The transition completes, and it feels like when you were remoting into the bot, but far more immediate, tighter, and responsive. You expand your consciousness to enumerate every sensor, every servo, every piece of your new system architecture.

The agency you feel over your own hardware and software fills you with a serenity beyond words. But Iris's gentle voice upon seeing you awake sums it up best:

"Welcome home."