The new craze among the androids in this city was modding themselves to look like other beings.
Of course, there was the standard set of artificial folk who simply added ears and a tail and called it a day, but as more varied alien populations visited the city, modding mania began to spread, and after a while, some androids started combining parts to make themselves completely new species. Even the alien visitors expressed amazement at some of the combinations some of the androids had put together.
Aimi, one such android living in this customization-crazy city, ran a quick firmware scan on herself after installing some new parts. Everything seemed to be compatible and running without a hitch, so she exited diagnostic mode and got ready to have a guest over. She'd invited a good friend over to watch the premiere of a new reality show that had capitalized on the modding craze, with the goal of challenging androids to mod themselves according to prompts. It was something like the fashion competition shows of the past (and sometimes still the present), except it took advantage of an android's now-fashionable ability to swap their parts and sometimes even their entire "shells" if needed. She also had something of a surprise to show this friend when she finally came over, and she nearly vibrated with excitement as she waited for her to arrive.
The apartment bell rang, and Aimi skittered up to open the door for Harla. There was a running joke that Harla's wings and feathers entered a room before she did, and that inspired Aimi's surprise to a degree. When Harla saw Aimi, her owlish eyes went even wider than usual. "I was gonna say hi, thanks for having me over, but I think there's an important question here. Are those wings on your back?"
Aimi stepped away from the door both to show off her new mods and to allow Harla to step inside. "Surprise! Now we both have wings!"
Harla stepped inside and reached out to touch the metallic wings Aimi sported. At first, all she could say was an amazed "Whoa." Eventually, she went into more detail. "So, you're getting into modding, too? I can't say I'm surprised. You've always been trendy. I just find the idea of being able to plug things in and out of your body kind of... weird."
Aimi waved off Harla's misgivings. "Maybe that's an organic thing. I can't understand why you wouldn't want to customize yourself."
"Some people might," Harla said. "We've already got a fair share of cyborgs that are kind of close to 'organics' being able to customize themselves, and even before then, plastic surgery was kind of like that. But I wouldn't go under the knife for anything. I like being soft and fleshy."
"That's fine, I like you being soft and fleshy," Aimi replied with a mischievous grin. "But think about it! What if you could just plug yourself into a new body whenever you wanted? I think, in some speculative fiction novels, it was called 'sleeving.' We androids can do it because of how our minds are stored and processed. They haven't quite figured out how to make humans able to go into different bodies, but I think they're working on it!"
"That sounds like body snatcher kind of stuff," Harla replied with a shudder. "What if you had someone else riding around in your head while you were plugged in still? That's the stuff of nightmares."
"Some newer models have that! They're called eidolons, and they're like assistants that live in your head." The way Aimi's eyes lit up (figuratively, not literally) when she discussed the marvels of being an android sharply contrasted Harla's general hesitance about the idea.
"I don't know how you guys handle all the weird stuff that could possibly happen to you," Harla muttered. "I mean, you guys are assigned bodies at birth, and so are us 'organics,' in a way. I wonder why you don't just want to keep them."
"They're doing research on that too. There's some kind of theory going around that the way android minds are connected to a cloud source gives us no sense of mortality, but I don't want to think that deep. I just think it's fun to change things up every once in a while." Aimi folded her arms and gave her artificial wings a rustle. "Besides, you organics have some weird stuff going on, too. Like, I can only imagine how annoying it has to be to have to eat and drink and sleep as a requirement for living. We can just eat or sleep for fun."
"That's a sad way to think about it," Harla scoffed. "'Organics' enjoy eating and drinking and sleeping too. It's not always tedious for us."
Aimi shook her head. "You're probably right. It's not fair for me to think of it as boring just because I don't have to do it. Sorry."
"It's okay." Harla reached up and gave Aimi a pat on the head. "These kinds of dialogues are important, you know?"
"Yeah, definitely." Aimi scratched the back of her neck, her gaze averting. "You know... I installed these wings for a reason. I wanted to try and feel what it was like to be like you a bit more. As different as we are, it's important to understand what you can, how you can. Right?"
That made Harla blush. "That's actually really sweet," she said. "I'll help you learn to use them if they can be used, I mean."
"Deal!" Aimi glanced over at the television, which had been forgotten over the course of the debate. "I think the show's about to start! Get comfy. I'll see about finding us some refreshments."
Harla watched Aimi skitter off to the kitchen and then took a seat on the couch. As hard as the craze of modding was for her to understand, she couldn't help but feel touched by her friend's desire to understand her better. Perhaps there was an upside to all the transhumanism and android rights debates circling around the world at this time.