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  • Articulated

    By Luna Lindsey

    Andrea chugged down the energy drink. No one knew why, but it made the morphogenetic transition process easier. To fill time, she stretched and practiced a few martial arts moves. It didn’t matter, she wouldn’t be using this body for Operation Dream House. But Chase still had a few things to finish up before they could begin.
    They dubbed her Skipper. It was just a code name, but it bothered her. Ken thought it was hilarious, fitting. Of course he was using his real name, which he also thought was hilarious. He looked nothing like Ken, just as she looked nothing like Barbie. But he ran the show. It’s not like IncogNeato paid them anything, so if humor kept him motivated when dreams and idealism wore thin, so be it.
    The empty warehouse served unofficially as the hidden base for IncogNeato’s Southern California branch. It smelled like old trucks. In the center of the vastness stood a musty old couch, a row of old metal desks lined end to end, a 3D printer, and the four of them.
    Communications expert, Riya, leaned into a broken office chair swinging her leg through the air, chewing on a wad of bubblegum. She snapped it loudly. Then she apologized into the mic attached to her ear. And resumed talking. Code name Teresa. Brown girl with brown Barbie name. Andrea wondered if it was insensitive, and Ken could be kind of a jerk about these things, but Riya didn’t seem to mind.
    Ken reviewed the final plans with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, while Chase, code named Todd, hovered over the printer, poking at it now and then. The hum finally stopped, and he removed an object. He flexed the fleshy limbs of the freshly-molded body, insuring proper articulation as it hung limp and naked in his hand.
    “Your fetch is ready,” he said.
    “I see that,” Andrea replied, stepping closer.
    Andrea eyed the thing and briefly felt inadequate. She ran her hands along her own stocky middle, her body fit but not thin, her own hair short, coarse, and starting to gray. Her t-shirt hung off of her like a tent, almost completely covering the top of her shorts.
    The doll in Chase’s hand had long silken blonde hair, soft curving breasts, narrow waist, broad hips, and such skinny, skinny legs and arms. The toes poked delicately to a point.
    She reached out to touch the anorexic doll in awe. The life-like skin felt cold to her fingers, but she knew, soon enough, that it would warm. The muscles would tighten under her control, and she would look out through those precious tiny blue eyes.
    She would be so beautiful.
    Andrea stopped herself. She had fallen for their corporate brainwashing. Again. That’s how good they were, and that’s why they had to fight them. She shook her head to rid it of the unrealistic ideal, so she could like herself again. She was awesome. People loved her /because/ of her imperfections. She could fight bad guys with her bare hands and eat dessert without puking it back up.
    This replica Barbie doll, if it were a real human being, would probably pass out from lack of food and muscle mass.
    It was the perfect disguise for infiltrating the Sony-Mattel® corporate offices. Anyone finding it lying about would mistake it for one in the latest line of Sony-Mattel® My Real Barbie™ fashion dolls. At this size, she could easily enter the building through the ventilation system. And she could avoid any intrusion detection systems by being the size of a small animal. She wouldn’t even register a significant heat signature.
    My Real Barbie™ was just what it promised. Andrea could hear the ad playing in her head like a soundtrack. REALISTIC GRIP. SEVENTY-FIVE FACIAL EXPRESSIONS AND MICROEXPRESSIONS. RECOGNIZES TWENTY DIFFERENT COMMANDS. AUTHENTIC BEATING HEART.*
    Andrea added a footnote in her mind’s eye: *A real, live beating heart of a living creature.
    Then the soundtrack continued: BASED ON ACTUAL HUMAN DNA.
    Americans should have been outraged. But somehow, like many cultural phenomena in the past century, few had been disturbed. The efforts of protest groups came a little too late. No one knew about the product until it had been released. Instead of being appalled, parents mugged one another at department stores during every sold-out delivery, just to get their hands on one in time for Christmas.
    Animal+human rights protestors just seemed cruel after that. Cruel and frivolous. No one wanted to take favored toys away from doe-eyed twelve-year-old suburban girls.
    This time would be different. Mattel® planned to release a new toy. They had learned of it well ahead of release. Protests were powered by information, and information was IncogNeato’s forte. They could stop this latest advance in toy brutality in time.
    “Ready?” Chase asked, motioning towards the couch.
    “Can we dress her first? I mean, she’s not entirely anatomically correct, but still…”
    Chase handed her the Barbie-sized ninja suit made of black matt vinyl, with integrated harness, covered in a dozen tiny little pockets. Using tweezers, he had already filled each pocket with micro-sized tools of the trade: grappling guns, tape, glue, drill, lasers, nano-ooze, homing beacon. She even had a lock pick set made of extendable wire.
    No weapons. If it came to that she would use her body and her smarts.
    At least this time she’d be humanoid. For one mission, her fetch had been a limbless blue cube and she had to scoot around just to move.
    Andrea awkwardly tugged the tiny outfit onto the flaccid body. It reminded her of being a little girl, when her parents tried to make her play with dolls instead of playing baseball. It also made her think of her puppy that died when she was nine. Floppy and lifeless.
    “Where’s the shoes?” she asked.
    Chase handed her a tiny pair of pink plastic high heels.
    Andrea looked at him like he was holding a dead wasp. “You expect me to be able to walk in these things?”
    He shrugged. “They don’t exactly make tabi boots for Barbies.”
    Andrea frowned and tried to throw the shoes away. Chase grabbed them and put them on anyway. He propped the figure up on a collectible doll stand.
    Andrea met his eye and nodded once. Then she strode to the threadbare couch and plopped down. She struggled to get comfortable, but a spring jabbed her in the back. Her exercises could not protect her from the crick she was going to have in her neck.
    Chase approached her with an Ultra-NanoSD card in his left hand and a small syringe in his right.
    “Hold still, Skipper. You’re going to feel a tiny pinch.”
    Andrea distracted herself by feeling annoyed at the code name again, and then at the name NanoSD. It technically wasn’t even micro. She could see it with the naked eye, even if the chip itself was a sixteenth the size of her pinkie nail. Chase held it by the applicator, a flat piece of plastic the size of a quarter.
    The pinch was hardly a mosquito bite. The syringe now held a drop of her blood. He dripped it into the side of the applicator. The blood channeled down into a series of nanotubes and soaked into a circuit in the SD card.
    Chase flicked at the chip a couple of times and held it up to the light.
    “We’re good,” he said. He squeezed her hand three times. “You ready?”
    Andrea nodded and took a few deep breaths. Chase pressed the SD card into a slot in the fetch’s neck.
    In that moment, Andrea became Skipper.


    Her first sensation was the grip of plastic around the back of her neck, and then a giant Chase loomed over her. He gently unhooked her with fingers the size of her head.
    She tried taking a step but immediately fell forward. She felt the pain in her knees as if it were her own.
    Immediately, she flicked the shoes away. Having walked only an inch in her shoes, she felt sorry for the My Real Barbies™ who had to walk around in those things every day. They threw her off balance more than her impossibly-proportioned body and too-small feet. As she guessed, barefoot was best. Any tacks or pieces of glass lying around would come up to her shins anyway.
    Her center of gravity was too high, her legs too narrow. She steadied herself against Chase’s thumb as she slowly learned to walk all over again. She found if she bent her knees slightly, and leaned back, it kept her upright well enough.
    “You all right down there?” Chase’s voice boomed down from the height of a skyscraper above her. “Do we need to delay the mission?”
    “Just give me a minute. I’ve got this.”
    She shouted as well as she could. “I’ve got this! Can you bring me my headset? I said BRING ME MY HEADSET!”
    Her voice shouldn’t sound so weak. If they ever used this pattern again, they should redesign the voice box.
    She took the miniature headset from Chase, the old style that fit over her head, squishing her perfect hair. A wire ran to a box the size of a hip flask. The latest in miniaturization tech couldn’t get it any smaller. There would be no fully augmented reality or wireless internet for Ninja Skipper. She would be able to access a few pre-specified pieces of data from the SD card, but all of her communications would be over the mic.
    She fitted the device over her head and clipped the hardware to her belt. It all fit perfectly thanks to on-demand manufacturing. If only Chase had thought to print her some shoes.
    “Testing. One, two, three,” she said.
    Riya’s voice rang in her ear. “We read you. Encrypted communication active. Over.”
    Skipper nodded and then rifled through her pockets to check on all her goodies. Then she practiced martial arts forms while she listened to the sound of Riya chewing gum in her ears. She tried to ignore the eyes of the other team members gawking at her. Moreover, she tried not to look at her own sleeping form on the couch. The disorientation made her reel and always made her want to vomit.
    Pretty soon she was throwing high kicks better than she could ever hope to in her human body. That’s why she was always chosen to drive the fetches. Her ability to adapt quickly to hemoglobin-based morphogenetic remote tele-control bodies set her apart from dozens of other eager members of their little clandestine non-profit organization.
    She performed a deft backflip ending in a whirling roundhouse. “I’m ready,” she said. “Take me to the Dream House.”
    Chase brought her a twelve-inch metal frame with a harness for the van ride. She strapped herself in, and he placed her in the front seat. The seat belt wrapped around the frame to get Skipper safely to the dropzone. She could also see out the window for the entire drive.
    Headquarters had closed hours earlier, and aside from a few feeble streetlights, darkness engulfed the back parking lot. Chase pulled up next to the building, just out of sight from the closest camera. He released Skipper from her traveling contraption and set her next to the wall, behind a bush.
    His door slammed shut, and tires squealed as he sped away.
    Skipper closed her eyes and accessed the SD card, pulling up the entire 3D building map in her mind. She took note of her current position and the target on a desk in a cubical just five hundred feet away. She looked down at her tiny bare feet, feeling prickly against the mulch. It might as well be five hundred miles.
    Left thigh pocket, spider silk grappling. She gripped the plastic handle and pressed a red button. A gossamer line zipped up three stories and planted itself firmly into the wall partway up. Certainly not high enough, but she had two.
    “Surveillance report,” she whispered into her mic.
    “Clear,” came Riya’s voice. Skipper stepped back a few feet from the building, pressed the green button, and the silk retracted, yanking her up with it. Holding on with one hand, she retrieved the grapple’s twin in her right thigh pocket, and did the same for the next three stories.
    Rinse repeat.
    Her body felt buoyant as she flew through the air. Her proportional mass made any bumps and scrapes minor. Anticipation fled in favor of excitement; this was going to be fun.
    At the apex, she launched a short length of spider silk into the side of an HVAC unit and slowly reeled herself down to the surface of the roof. Easier than walking. Especially on these feet.
    But walk she must, five hundred feet, through this rooftop city of vents and antennae and AC ducts. She began her journey with a single step, and hoped there were no animals living up here.
    She brooded on her target. It sat on the desk of toy designer and genetic engineer, Mikal Pernislav, a brand new, mint in box, numbered 1 of 50000 Limited Edition individualized My Real Barbie™ with YourDNA™.
    The public had not yet heard of this product. Boxes twenty through fifty-thousand sat on warehouse floors in Zhenjiang, China, ready to be shipped in one week’s time. Like the original My Real Barbie™, product launch was planned as a surprise. No press releases, no time for controversy, no time for ethics debates, just an instantly and massively popular toy on WalMart® and Toys’R’Us® shelves everywhere.
    Like My Real Barbie™, this toy was a living thing. Unlike My Real Barbie™, this one would not be remotely activated upon product registration. No, My Real Barbie™ with YourDNA™ came with a USB7 DNA processing kit, and would only awaken after a small saliva sample from each twelve-year old girl was sent, along with registration, to the Mattel® website.
    Then the doll would magically come to life and play dress-up. Your child’s own face pasted onto a supposedly perfect adult female body.
    Batteries not included. Or needed.
    If this weren’t insult enough, IncogNeato had obtained intelligence indicating the terms of the End User License Agreement, which purportedly passed the full intellectual property of Your(child’s)DNA™ to Sony-Mattel, Inc.
    Skipper looked back. She’d crossed the halfway point. She rubbed at the base of her skull where the Ultra-NanoSD slot itched a little bit. Where her own blood resonated with her DNA and formed a link to the morphogenetic fields where her true self was stored in the ether of the universe. Her physical brain and DNA were merely tuning devices, not actual data storage for her memories and personality. Fetch technology allowed the blood on the SD chip to tune in instead. Like pulling up Wikipedia on a phone instead of a desktop PC.
    Convenient technology for voluntary telepresence. But imagine a generation of girls who no longer own the rights to their own morphogenetic frequency. The beginning of a slippery slope leading to human enslavement. Or worse.
    This story had to break before those toys hit the market. Before a deluge of cultural entitlement set this precedent in stone.
    Operation Dream House: Gather information and proof of the new Barbie, including the text of the EULA, without leaving a trace.
    Skipper had reached the vent at the far end of the building. It stuck up from the roof and curved towards her, yawning and open. She reached for her silk grapple, and then heard the spine-chilling squeak.
    She turned, a feeling of dread sweeping over her. The rat’s nose twitched not three inches away from her, sniffing, trying to decide if lifelike meat smelled like food.
    It lunged.
    Skipper held but one thing in her hand: the grapple. She shot it behind and to the left of the rat and it struck the side of a stairwell housing. She pressed the green button and it dragged her lurching along the ground past the rodent and halfway up the wall.
    The rat turned. His whiskers twitched; his beady red eyes flashed, as if he were more intelligent than she, and as if she had just made a big mistake.
    He ran her direction, and then began walking up the stucco wall as if it were a floor.
    A cable ran from the small building across to an antenna fifteen feet away. With the second grapple, she launched herself into the air to dangle, this time, hopefully, out of the rat’s reach.
    It was not the most comfortable position.
    The rat glared at her from the top of the housing. It was then that she noticed the cleaning brushes attached to his sides and stomach.
    This was no ordinary animal. She was looking at a genetically-modified commercial cleaning rodent – a Honda® Moustodian™.
    “Riya, come in!” she shouted into the mic.
    “It’s Teresa, Skippy.”
    “Yeah, whatever. What does Wikipedia say about the Honda Moustodian?”
    “Ugh,” Riya said. “You found one of those? Hold on…”
    While she waited, the rat took a few tentative steps into the line.
    “Hurry up!” she shouted.
    “Cool, we should get one of these to clean up the base. Only $129.95.”
    “What do I need to know to fight one?”
    “Well, it says here, in addition to the brushes and ecologically-friendly bio-safe cleaning saliva, these animals have been given slightly-above-average intelligence. For a rat. This cross-references to the entry on rats which indicates this creature could possibly be quite smart. I recommend running.”
    He was coming towards her, now with confidence.
    Skipper let go of the wire, lowering herself twelve inches on the spider silk.
    /Let’s see him climb down this./
    It lurked above her, pacing back and forth. She wondered now if he planned to eat her or take out the trash. She looked below, hoping for some kind of escape. Where ever she went, he would follow, and she didn’t exactly bring her 9mm automatic.
    That’s when she spotted it. A bright yellow box of D-Con thrown casually against the stairwell housing. While she steadied her aim, she wondered three things simultaneously:
    How did they keep the Moustodians from eating the rat poison?
    How did they keep the Moustodians from throwing the box in the trash?
    And how long did these damn pellets take to actually kill a rat?
    She briefly wondered if the Moustodians had been made immune to the poison, but her thoughts were interrupted by a rapidly incoming D-Con box. The force made her swing back and forth, and at that same moment, the rat had figured out that he could keep her swinging by grasping the silk with a foreclaw.
    A second later, he had figured out how to reel her up. She gave the cord more slack and fumbled with the box, reaching inside the hole for a pellet.
    The box slipped out of her hand, taking her attached second grapple with it, but at least she held one foul-smelling green cylinder in her hand, the size of a tall beer can in her tiny Kung Fu grip. She held it up to the rat hopefully, expectantly. He had pulled her within reach, but wanted nothing to do with the poison.
    Instead, he snatched her hand and squealed. She felt the pain of a deep scratch but she did not bleed.
    “Fuck this!” she shouted, and pressed the release button with the thumb of her free hand. The rat could not hold on, and she fell.
    She lay beside the box and the unwanted pellet. She only had a moment to catch her breath before she spotted the rat at the base of the stairwell, racing towards her, teeth barred, antibacterial extra-sanitary spit dripping from his jaws.
    Calmly she stood, attached the pellet to the end of her grapple gun, and fired.
    The pellet lodged in the rat’s mouth, and instinctively he clamped down.
    And exploded.
    The rat tumbled, headless, while bits of flesh and brain slowly rained down around her.
    “Did you hear me, Skipper? I said my code name is Teresa,” the voice cut in again. Then as an afterthought, Riya added, “Over.”
    “I read you,” Skipper said. Her words came out easily, and she realized she didn’t really need to catch her breath at all. This body needed no oxygen. “Make a note to buy some D-Con for our next infiltration, in case we meet with any further rodents of unusual size. Over.”
    “Noted. I mean, roger. In comes in two flavors. Poison or explosive?”
    “Explosive. Headed into the Dream House now. Over.”
    Skipper gathered a couple of pellets into her pockets, recovered the other grapple, and left the box and rat where they lay. She was to leave no evidence behind, but this should look like a defective Moustodian whose natural hankering for rat poison had overcome his synthetic programming.
    She hoped Mattel® would not receive a refund from Honda®.
    At the duct, she pressed her ear to the metal to listen for rat sounds. None.
    According to the map, the desk was only a few yards over and just two stories below. Skipper slowly lowered herself into darkness.
    Once her feet safely rested against the cool metal, she put on her headlamp and switched it on. A single pinprick LED lit up the whole conduit. Not surprisingly, the surfaces shone spotlessly.
    When they’d briefed this part of the operation, Skipper had imagined herself crawling through the vents, but at this size, she could walk upright. Her feet didn’t even make a sound as she progressed to the next downward thoroughfare, and then to the proper register.
    She peered down at the room below through the vent slats. Gray cubicles grew in their neatly planted farm rows. Less boring than a typical office, each worker proudly displayed their projects on desktops and cube walls: Matchbox™ cars; Fisher-Price® My First™ toys including My First Harley™ and My First Implants™; Polly Pockets™; brightly-colored toddler learning sets; cars, planes, trains, and movie franchise action figures.
    The row directly below her contained disproportionate levels of pink. This must be the Barbie team. Her target stood tall and proud below, two desks over, partially obscured by the cloth-covered half-wall. No one was working late.
    In a pocket she found the laser cutter and began slicing through the backs of three screws. They fell with a soft clatter to the duct floor. She pocketed them and gave the vent a hard kick. The remaining threads groaned and she kicked again. They came free and the vent cover tilted partially outward. She pivoted it on the remaining screw, leaving an opening just large enough for her to squeeze through.
    Skipper anchored some spider silk to the false ceiling and hooked the grapple onto her harness. She lowered it a few inches, and hung there. Shifting the cover back into place, she retrieved three replacement screws. No one would ever know she’d been this way.
    Then she lowered herself to the desk.
    She reached her target unimpeded. Barbie™ stood, regal like a princess in her blister pack tower, surrounded by curtains of pink labels. IMPROVED! it declared. IMPRINTS TO YOU!
    She didn’t know whether to dread or pity it.
    A shadow hid the doll’s face, which suited Skipper just fine. She had wondered if they shipped these with blank faces, which would make them difficult to sell, or if they somehow stamped on a default face until the children had a chance to submit their DNA. Either answer disturbed her, and she didn’t want to find out.
    Anyhow, the samples she took should tell her team everything they really needed to know.
    First, the nano-ooze.
    She fished out a bottle the size of a rat pellet. She twisted off the top and poured the viscous black liquid along the seal of the blister pack. According to recent regulations, this packaging was not completely sealed, and could be pulled apart in the back, leaving a very thin crack.
    The sludge expanded and contracted and then began moving like a slug into the package. She waited for it to spread to all paper within the box, wrapping itself along the edge molecules of black-ink letters. It would ignore the glossy pink cardstock and seep into what really mattered: the full text of the EULA enclosed in a tamper-evident Tyvek® envelope sealed inside a taped-over plastic bag.
    Within five minutes, it headed back to the point of origin, and Skipper scraped the ooze back into the jar. Back at the base, the imprinted molecules would reform the characters on specialized paper, and then burn through, leaving something like a stencil. They would end up with a transcribable document.
    She pocketed the liquid EULA. Now for proof that the doll actually contained the technology to imprint the DNA of children.
    Skipper felt a brief flash of sympathy for the creature that stood before her. After all, she had just walked 500 feet in her shoes. Or rather, barefoot because the shoes hurt too much. And now she was going to jab it.
    She retrieved a collapsible needle from another pocket and removed it from its plastic sheath. She extended it until it stretched nearly four inches: long enough to reach the flesh within the blister pack. And only 16µm in diameter, thicker than a nanotube, thinner than an acupuncture needle. Just small enough to puncture the plastic without leaving a trace. If she weren’t so small herself, she’d have a hard time holding on to it.
    The needle pierced the plastic and approached the exposed upper arm of the still figure. Skipper pressed on until it dug into meat. She winced as if it were her own arm, and then slowly withdrew the sample and deposited it into a vial.
    A crinkling sound came from in front of her. From inside the blister pack.
    She looked up, and met the eyes of a very angry little girl.
    Shit. She didn’t think to check the sides to see if it had already been opened, imprinted, and then closed back up. This must be Mikal’s daughter.
    The doll struggled against the zip-tie that held her to the box. So much for leaving no trace. She hoped they’d assume something went wrong with the product itself. Maybe it would cause delays. More time for them.
    She slowly backed towards the edge of the desk where her grapple dangled. The box fell forward. She could hear the doll scraping the inside, scratching at it, trying to escape her glass coffin.
    Skipper grasped the grapple and zipped to the floor. She doubted the toy could free itself from so much plastic and shipping bondage. But now it started to scream. To call for help.
    Another imprinted My Real Barbie™ Gettin’ Fit™, not in the original box /or/ in mint condition, peered down at her from the next desk over. It’s face contorted in what must be expression #24 of 75: Rage.
    Skipper had to make it to the mailroom, and fast.
    She scanned the office for a quick means of escape. A pink convertible rested on another desk, thankfully close, and in the right direction, towards the mailroom. Her grapple hook brought her quickly up to its level while the first Barbie continued to scream and the second searched for a way down from her perch.
    Skipper reached under and flipped the ON/OFF switch. The tiny motor began running. She jumped into the very uncomfortable front seat to make her getaway, but suddenly realized she had no means of driving it. The augmented reality headpiece, hanging out the passenger side, was sized to fit a little girl, not Barbie herself.
    Meanwhile, GetFit had somehow climbed down to the floor, and now made her way to the cubicle, wearing a tank top, horrible pink legwarmers over lighter pink stretch pants, and a wicked grimace.
    Cursing, Skipper slammed her hand against the steering wheel. The car lurched forward, the wheels began spinning, and she raced toward the edge of the desk.
    The plastic car sailed over the edge in style, landing with a clatter and continuing its forward momentum. Skipper tested the steering wheel. Useless. Without that AR band around her head, she would have no control over this vehicle.
    Behind her, GetFit chased at much lower speeds, but still at a run. She only had a lead of a few feet. Ahead of her became a pink blur, an obstacle loomed up, and then she was flying through the air.
    She landed, hard, on her head. Fortunately due to her size, gravity did little damage. She stood and looked around. Then grinned.
    At last, a /real/ vehicle. Her convertible’s engines whined below against the tire of a Power Wheels® Fashion Driver Jammin’ Jeep™ with brainwave-activated autonomous acceleration and steering.
    She couldn’t reach the pedals, but then she didn’t have to.
    GetFit effortlessly closed the distance and grabbed hold of the front tire, ready to climb. Skipper stood at the wheel and thought to herself, with firm conviction, /Vrooom!/
    A wet crunching sound came from the spinning front tire. The doll below her squeaked just before her head rolled off to slam against the wall.
    Skipper shuddered at the gruesome sight in her rearview mirror. Unlike the dolls of her childhood, this new breed was not designed to have their heads ripped off.
    She spun the jeep to a stop at the mailroom door and leaped to the floor. Using the grapple, she climbed to the top of the counter. From somewhere down the hall, she could still hear the first Barbie screaming. The sound was coming closer. This wasn’t done yet.
    She pulled an envelope from a neat stack. It was nearly as long as she was tall. Embracing a pen in her arms, she wrote the address of a post office box rented out to a fake identity. She wrote the same address in the return space, just in case. Then she unfolded a stamp from one of her pockets, wet it on the moist sponge Mattel® had so graciously provided for such a purpose. Then she pulled out the itty-bitty sample vials and placed them inside.
    She sealed it and dragged the load across the table, careful not to fall in the shredder, and dropped it into the outgoing box.
    Now, to dispose of herself.
    The screaming had stopped, and cautiously, she peered below. 1 of 50000 peered up at her with expression #12, evil delight. Incredibly lifelike, and on the face of a child. Skipper slowly removed a rat pellet from her pocket, and, wincing, dropped it.
    There was a small pop and the sound of a doll falling over.
    Maybe they would think the two dead Barbies had gotten into a fight over Ken. She hoped.
    Skipper jumped from the countertop into her ride and spun down the hall until she reached the kitchen. She set the Power Wheels® heading back the other way, unattended, and then grappled her way into the trash. She hid her body as well as she could in the bottom of the bag before logging out and returning to her own aching body in the warehouse.
    Mission accomplished.


    Three days later, after they retrieved the samples from the post office, a serious of well-placed blog posts caused a huge stir of outrage on the internet. Celebrities demanded the end of the entire Barbie line of toys, Senators debated further regulation of the toy industry, anarchists demanded the end to all intellectual property, libertarians demanded free market solutions, socialists demanded an end to capitalism. In the end, freaked-out parents, by and large, refused to purchase My Real Barbie™ with YourDNA™ or without it. Forty-five thousand toys remained in warehouses. A month later, deep-fried Barbie legs were rumored to be a delicacy in Zhejiang, China.
    Andrea and Chase hung out at the base, waiting for their next mission. She took a deep breath on the couch, while Chase sipped coffee and played a game at one of the desks.
    “Spot me, will ya?” she asked. She walked over to the desk, set the morphogenetic transference on a sixty-second timer, and returned to the couch.
    She wasn’t sure what she had expected, visiting that tossed out Barbie fetch. Maybe a flash of pain from a mangled body in a trash compactor. Or perhaps the blackness and weight of a ton of trash above her. But she’d walked five hundred feet with those articulated limbs, and now she wondered its fate.
    Instead of a forgotten landfill, she found herself in the hands of a small child in a run-down apartment bedroom. The wallpaper peeled a little bit, and the bed sheets looked a little stained. All the toys around her seemed a little broken or smudged. All of them were a few years out of date.
    Janitorial staff must have found her and taken her home.
    The girl giggled and rammed her head into a dresser a few times, and then forced her to kiss a Ken doll. Her shirt was ripped off and haphazardly replaced with an evening gown.
    A voice called from somewhere else in the house. The girl set her down inside an older model Dream House™ with sun-faded pink walls. Then she ran off to eat dinner.
    Andrea had the place to herself. She walked around the canopy bed to the battery powered elevator. She looked down the hall to the fireplace and hot tub. All the promises of a better life. Be a good girl, it seemed to say. Keep your hair nice, your nails clean, and your body shapely. Fill your head with knowledge of the latest fashions, and you too can have a nice place to live.
    But those dreams were plastic, and the pink a little too garish. Andrea logged out, and went back to saving the world.
    And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts, And I looked and behold: a pale horse. And his name, that sat on him, was Death. And Hell followed with him.

  • #2
    Re: Articulated

    This story just added animated, vengeful, Barbies to my list of nightmare creatures. Well done! And well written as well, excellent pacing. A few editing errors, simple to fix.
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