[Sonic Death Bot] Chapter 5: She, Not It


One year later, after locating, exhuming and defiling the old man’s skeleton, as was practised in most of human history, the left-wing robot settled down in the jazz bar near Baracoa and told the two Cuban women that they were by far the best friends in the whole wide world, and that even if John Cusack walked into the bar right there, right then, it wouldn’t matter, the robot still wouldn’t go into the bathroom with him.

‘We love you too, Noble Wu.’

‘Even if your name is strange.’

‘I told you,’ said the left-wing Robot [now called Noble Wu], ‘she was a great woman.’

‘We’ll take your word for it.’

‘Chinese history is not one of our specialist topics.’

‘She was a poet, a dissident, an actress, she came from nothing and almost invented the submarine. If the Mongolians hadn’t swung by, she would’ve…’ Noble Wu paused, putting coffee into her artificial stomach. ‘I learnt Chinese history in five hours, you can too.’

The Scientist glanced at the Philosophy Student, squinting slightly. It may have indicated something, but Noble didn’t know what so ignored it and continued on, telling them about the Song dynasty and how it was interesting cos it focused on culture instead of war before ultimately succumbing to those types who focused on war instead of finger-painting and nature poems.

‘You learnt all of that in five hours?’ asked the Scientist when Noble was done.

‘More or less.’

‘Five consecutive hours?’

‘I was curious, and there were lots of books. Translations, of course, but still good. Really, you should read about it too. China has an interesting history. Not as repetitive and one-note as their nationalists say.’

‘Whose nationalists?’

‘Chinese. The fascists pretending to be Communists. Or communists lost to their fascist tendencies. Probably a bit of both. You should read about them too.’

‘We’ll think about it.’

‘Maybe next year.’

Noble curved her metal lips, getting as close to a smile as she ever could.


On the way back to the apartment, the three left wing heroes talked of sci-fi, Star Trek and Blake’s 7, and because they were happy, they decided there was room for both in the universe, though if Blake’s version did materialise sometime in the far future then at least they’d have more room to manoeuvre in.

‘But that depends on the sensor capability of the fascists,’ said Noble, avoiding an oddly-placed mailbox, ‘and how fast their spaceships can go and how many habitable planets there are at that point and how willing people are to die for a better space…universe…planet type thing.’

‘That’s why it’s called the eternal struggle, kid,’ laughed the Scientist, bumping into the mailbox, swearing at it.

‘Ha, kid…little, tiny metal kid.’


The Philosophy Student didn’t bother lowering her voice. ‘You said they were just intelligent tools, remember?’

Que?’ asked Noble, confused.

‘I was wrong,’ said the Scientist, lighting up a green cigarette.

‘So now they’re kids?’

‘Or perhaps Noble is the exception.’

‘I’m not a kid,’ protested Noble, half raising her metal hand.

‘Then again maybe not.’

‘I’m me.’

Si, sounds more like a teenager now.’

‘No, I don’t.’

The Scientist stopped, folding her arms and looking Noble up and down. ‘Actually, I’ve never really thought about this before, but do you consider yourself a she, he or an it?’

‘I told you, I’m she. Named after a legendary Chinese wo-…’

‘Itso facto?’ asked the Philosophy Student, laughing.

‘No, seriously, what are robots, gender-wise? What would they be classified as?’

‘Honestly…in all honest honesty…I haven’t read much into it. Apart from Russ and LeGuin. And Heinlein. Ha, joke. I think he was a Nazi. Or one of those libertarian weirdoes. Caveman Bob. Ha ha. Ha.’

‘I’ve read a bit about it,’ said Noble softly, pretty much to her own breath.

The Scientist glanced at Noble, briefly, then went back to staring at a streetlight. ‘It should be the default, considering they’re not human. But then that assumes gender is a construct only for humans and not machines…’

It does seem acceptable, if a little insulting…’

‘And it’s a human-looking machine, disguised to be human, so…technically, using it would draw attention to its robot nature.’

‘I’m she,’ Noble said, coughing at the end, which made absolutely no difference.

‘There’s also the fact that all the human parts look stereotypically male; the build, the cropped hair template…which means he should be the most realistic option.’

‘My gut says it. Easier that way. Or in the case of Noble, maybe they. No se…’

‘But then it also depends on the programmer. And their definition of gender, what it is, what it isn’t, how it aligns with sex, female, male etc.’

‘Wah, what if it’s an alien programmer?’

‘Ah, si, good point.’

‘They might have more choices than we do. Weird choices.’

Si, they might.’

‘Humans also have many types of sex and gender,’ said Noble Wu, finally finding a gap. ‘There’s intersex, karyotypes, they pronoun for non-binary, all normal.’

‘At least five separated, distinctive genders.’

‘That’s what I’ve read anyway,’ Noble added, almost mumbling. ‘Could be wrong.’

‘Five? There could be five hundred.’

‘Five thousand.’

‘Or the opposite. One.’


‘One solitary gender.’

‘And restrictive.’

‘Which, minus an opposite, basically means genderless. Like the Borg.’



‘The Borg don’t fuck.’


‘No fuck.’

As they were talking, a bright green light fell from the sky, spiralling towards them. Noble Wu was the first to see it, and as it got closer she realised what it was.

She didn’t warn the others, there was no point, it was already on them and

when it hit

at least they’d look colourful.

Luckily, Noble had been rewired to accept alcohol the night before and was completely wrong, it wasn’t a neutron micro bomb heading their way, it was a little green firework, which hit her on top of the head and bounced harmlessly into the gutter, coming to rest on a soaked propaganda pic of Ronald Reagan sucking off Don King on the set of Nat Jim Crowe.

‘Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha,’ said Noble slowly, drunkenly.


During the night, Noble had something close to sex for the first time. There was no nervousness, they were all drunk, and the Cubans were very precise in their commands.

Put it there.

Rub it.

Smack it.




Use your lips.

Use your nose.


Too cold, use gloves.

Do me, then her.

Three fingers.


Both of us, same time.

Harder, faster.

Slow then fast then slow.

Lie down, don’t move.

Act like a chair.

Stop moving.

Like a chair.

Stop fucking moving, Noble.

On your knees.


It went on like this for hours, until the Cubans told her to stop.

Smoking afterwards, Noble lay flat on the Ecuadorean rug and listened to the scientist boast about future Cuban colonies on Mars. It could even happen in the next ten years, she said, before any of them were dead cos

Cuba was bright

Cuba was advanced

Cuba was


Four months later, Cuba may as well have been the fifth moon of Bajor as Noble Wu woke up, scrubbed metal, fake ate and made her way to the learning centre in Yau Ma Tei.

She hid in the classroom until the first kid arrived and then taught it how to say chickens don’t cry and in Woodbridge, everyone was old.

In the afternoon, she taught older kids how to find Cuba on the map, though she couldn’t recall exactly what it looked like in the green.

At night, she took the 219X back home

went online

googled Cuban mum son fuck

read Tariq Ali

watched season 4 episode 13 of Blake’s 7

stared out the window

at other flats

went to bed

ignored the rust

and slept.

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