Consequences

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OS-1138 stared at her monitor as code flew over the screen. Hundreds of lines of code flying faster then the human eye could follow, and indeed OS' optical sensors weren't able to simply read what was going on. It was only by virtue of the cable plugged into her desktop and connected to the back of her neck that she was able to scan the data that rapidly flickered across the monitor. Her hands sat comfortably in her metallic lap and her chrome body was perfectly rigid and still. Sounds of her middle-mounted processor echoed through her body, and her green eyes flickered rapidly.

OS-1138 had been attempting to write her own personality code and emotive responses for the last eleven years. What had started as a simple and primitive desire to understand the quirks of humans around her grew into a time-consuming project, and she was no expert on the subject of AI programming. Despite the shortcomings of her failures, she'd made progress. Emotions that she could experience procedurally, responses that she had hoped were more human. She had even wired her sensory system to experience physical feedback from emotions, based off of what humans had told her were the right responses.

Here it all was, everything that she had learned, become and made of herself, scrolling against a screen in lines of code and data. If she were currently running her emotional software, she'd probably have felt humbled and embarrassed that she was reduced to something that looked so crude. As it was though, she was making updates she'd been putting off for way too long and she couldn't run the program while working on it. Tonight, after all, was special. Everything had to be perfect, especially her personality programming.

She was never satisfied with the changes, but OS-1138 recognized when the work was temporarily completed. A command saved the program, her eyes flickered again, and she spoke in a calm, detached voice. “Loading custom program. Warning, this modification will void the warranty of your- Confirmed. Loading custom program.” She'd cut herself off with the command to confirm the boot-up, having heard her own voice scold her for mucking about in her brain a million times too many. It didn't annoy her without the program loaded, but efficiency dictated that she'd heard it once, understood and didn't need to hear it again.

After five minutes of constant buzzing from her torso, OS' personality came online. “Okay, that's done...” She spoke to herself. After all, humans did that a lot so why wouldn't she? It was time to make sure that the other big part of what would make this night great was ready... her looks! She turned to the fully body mirror, one of the few bits of furniture in her one room apartment, and sauntered up to it.

OS-1138's body was made entirely of shiny metal. Her shoulders were ball joints, but her elbows and legs worked on binary joints that gave her just enough maneuverability that her life wasn't complicated by them. She had a generous feminine figure, long legs, wide hips with a gap in between her thighs, and a chest that was almost pushing a D-cup. Her middle wasn't a stick figure's shape though, as that was where her processors, cooling systems and gyro stabilization units were stored. Brown 'hair' that was actually hundreds of thousands of crystal fibers grown into soft, shoulder-length strings hung in a messy but cute style from her head. She was wearing what she had hoped was the little black dress to put all others to shame. With the way the skirt hugged her hips and the strapless top clung to her chest, she was definitely skirting the edges of risque.

OS took her first position in front of the mirror, eyes staring forward and her hands at her sides. Then, she placed a hand on her hip and cocked it to the side slowly, eliciting a mechanical whir from her hips. “Hey there, Duncan. This unit wonders if you need a mop to wipe your jaw off the floor.” She assumed another pose, both legs pressed together, knees bent slightly as her segmented fingers rested in her cleavage. “My optical sensors are up here, big boy.” Her tinny voice carried a hint of sultriness with every cheesey line she fed to her simulated partner.

“Yes, I know my Howdy profile stated I am a WonderFem series three but... are you really that disappointed?” OS blushed at herself for that one, which consisted of a pair of otherwise unnoticeable glass circles glowing pink on her cheeks. The thought of Duncan being upset with her for posting a few embellishments on her dating profile were briefly processed. “...He will not mind.” She shook her head as if to instantly disagree with what she just said. “We talked for a month in chat. He really likes this unit because she is quirky and funny. Duncan had fun. He likes this uni-... er... Me. He likes me and I like him.”

With that finished and satisfied with her justification, she walked up to her door and waited, arms at her sides, her legs and back straightened. He'd be here in approximately seven minutes. They'd be going to the Green Bowl, a nice little Greek chain. OS didn't require food to function, but she was able to intake small quantities of it and even had a fully functional taste sensory network installed, which was designed to assist her in in basic cooking functions. She briefly calculated how long it had been since she prepared a meal. Four years, twenty-one days.

Sixteen minutes had gone by. OS hadn't moved an inch but her middle started to whir again as doubt crept in. Was Duncan late? Maybe he wasn't coming. Perhaps he tried to contact her while she was working on her programming. What if... what if he knew she was just an OS-11? He could have just decided that she wasn't worth it.

A dozen potential scenarios raced through her mind, none of them any good.

Her simulations were all brought to a halt once the doorbell rang.

“Oh! I'm right here!” She announced cheerfully. He was just late! What a relief. However, the relief was soon canceled by a shiver of cold dread. Now she had to explain why a simple OS-11 was answering the door, and not a gorgeous state-of-the-art android. OS shook the doubt away with a command, the frost evaporated from her sensors, and she opened the door.

The hand that clutched the doorknob on the other side was wrapped in thick white bandages. The moment the door opened a crack, it was forced wide open as the perso from the other side shoved hard. OS lost her grip on the doorknob and stumbled back. A hunched figure in a tattered tan trenchcoat shuffled into the room. The man spoke in a raspy Jersey accent, and OS simply froze as she recognized who it was.

“What's the matter? You look like you seen a fuckin' ghost or somethin'.”

OS' processors raced. She had no response to that. The guy she'd almost been torn to pieces by in that alley four months ago was here. In her apartment. Grinning like he'd hit the lottery. “Haha. You ain't quite so fuckin' talky when you're not in a chat room.” He reached into his coat and tugged out his crowbar. OS recognized that too. The tip was still blackened. Trenchcoat Guy... Duncan... pushed the door shut with it. The loud creak of the door hinges filled the room and were terminated by the sudden clack of the door closing.

“So. Here's the truth, robot.” Duncan thumped the crowbar against his palm, wincing as the metal struck the bandages. “I figure you was just doin' what you needed to. Needed to stop me and my shitstain of a partner from guttin' ya systems, right?” He started to approach OS, his boots thumping against the wooden floorboards with every step. OS backs up, her hands at her sides as she glances around for something that could help her. “So hey. I'm not a bad guy, ya know? Just doin' what we need to do to get by.” OS had reached the back wall of her apartment. “And I need that money you stole to get by.” Her back pushed right up against it and Duncan held his crowbar out to gently rest the hook end in OS' cleavage.

“Here's the thing. That money you found on me...” He suddenly adjusted his crowbar so that the hook's tip caught OS' chin, forcing her head up and making her gasp in fear. “...Don't fuckin' try to say you didn't take it. I know that leech Tony ain't got it. The paramedics said they got to me ten minutes after you contacted 'em. No one coulda got that cash but you.”

OS was trembling by now. Her joints rattled and her optical lights flickered. She was forced to look right into Duncan's eyes. The man was still smiling, but way too calmly to look right with the intense glare in his eyes. “I... th-this unit s-spent most of it already.” An intense, nullifying wash of utter terror flooded her when Duncan's smile faded.

“Oh yeah? That so?” He tilted his head side to side as if to consider his next moment. OS was starting to burn her processors out, overclocking them to try and come to a solution. As she panicked, Duncan reached into his pocket and pulled out a simple looking remote control covered in buttons. OS recognized it right away as a universal remote for OS-11 series androids.

“Now, I know what you're thinkin'.” The awful thug smiled once more. “You're thinkin that I'm an idiot. You can't just point these things at any old robot and expect it to work. You need the fuckin' serial number. Well...” He chuckled, his raspy voice all to unnervingly quiet. “It's a good fuckin' thing for me that you blew your arm off. You know you had a mark on your parts?”

Duncan raised the remote. OS panicked. Realizing she needed to do something now, she shoved the crowbar away from her chest, her other hand reaching for the remote as fast as she could propel herself to move. A moment before Duncan was able to hit the power button, OS' fingers caught the device and Duncan swore as it tumbled from his hands in the way only Duncan could.

“You fuckin' metal bitch! I'll rip your tits out and use 'em as an ashtray!”

The remote hit the floor with a clatter and rolled under OS' desk. Duncan dove for it while OS made a break for the door. She needed to get out of range of that remote before he could turn her off, or worse... Suddenly, her HUD displayed 'WARNING! Stabilization error' and she found herself toppling forward. Her metal body hit the floor with a THUNK, and she worriedly looked over her shoulder. Duncan, one arm deep underneath the desk, had used his crowbar to hook OS' ankle and send her toppling forward.

Panicking, she desperately kicked at his hand and landed a solid blow against his bandaged electrical burn. As Duncan cried out in pain, she crawled towards the door and grabbed the door knob, using as leverage to pull herself up. OS' body awkwardly whirred as she stood to her feet and regained her balance, and hearing Duncan curse and shuffle around behind her, she opened the door and made a break down the hallway.

What to do, what does she do... Oh! Her neighbor! She rapidly banged on the door of the apartment across the hallway, every part of her body buzzing as she shivered, and her processors humming away from the intense strain of so many complicated emotional programs loading... fear, anxiety, hope, all clogging up her processors at once... There was a sudden jolt from inside of her body. She froze in the middle of rapping her fist against the door. A few wisps of smoke rose from her lips and the seams on her neck as she just... stopped.

Duncan came walking up the hallway, casually flipping the remote in his hand as he gave OS a look-over. “S'matter babe? Things get too hot for ya?” OS, utterly still, merely responded with “Processors overheating. Systems shut down to prevent a malfunction.” Her voice was cold and professional. Duncan smiled at that response. “Fuckin' perfect.” Holding up his remote, he clicked one button to mute her, and another to force her to follow him.

With OS' personality program currently crashed and her systems running on a reserve processor, she mindlessly obeyed, following him down the hall.

Down three flights of stairs.

Into his car.

And off into the night.

OS-1138's main processor rebooted several minutes after she'd gotten into the black, rusted car with Duncan. Her HUD flicked online and displayed the cause of her overheating; emotional code she'd tweaked just before Duncan arrived. A subtle, lukewarm twang radiated through her middle. Why would she change her programming just hours before she was going to leave? Detecting a failure in her own logic, she began to scrutinize all of her choices these last months. Why did she use her serial number to sign up for a dating website if she was just going to lie about herself? All it probably took was a quick search to bring him right to her Howdy.com page. She felt another pang of heat.

For all the things she blamed herself for, the biggest question for herself was; why did she take the thug's money? It was probably stolen, but that just meant it definitely wasn't her's. She should have just left it there. So... why didn't she?

Duncan looked utterly pleased with himself. His awful grin flashed briefly in the darkness every time the car passed through the shadows in between the headlights. “Man, Ossie.” OS could have wretched at the nickname he used for her online, were she capable. “Y'know, I'm not even mad anymore, babe. I'm quite fuckin' pleased.” He stole a glance at the robot and reached out to poke her in the side of the head. No response. “I mean. You got a lotta interesting upgrades for an OS-11 series. Y'gotta be worth at LEAST as much as you ah... fuckin' stole from me.” His smile was gone in an instant. His hand clutching the steering wheel tightened until it shook.

“I wish your stupid little feelings were online right now. I wanna fuckin' make it clear what's going to happen to you at this place.” His jaws clenched and his other hand went for the steering wheel, his eyes dead ahead on the road. “They're gonna fuck you up. Tear you apart. They're gonna rip your little robot brains outta here.” He swing his hand down and slapped it against her torso. “And they're gonna erase your pretty little feelings, and memories, and you're gonna be a fucking metal husk, just like every other shambling shit-head appliance in this fucking city.”

Duncan took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly, watching OS-1138. “What. Nothin' to say? No beggin' or cryin'? Fuck, that processor of yours crashed hard, didn't it?” OS turned off all her external responses to the terror welling up inside of her and stared dead ahead. On top of that, he'd muted her earlier so as long as she allowed the programmed responses to play, but didn't move her lips, he'd get nothing. 'Unable to respond; voice module offline' flickered in her HUD over and over.

It was then that she realized that now that her processors were fully online, she could move. Duncan had muted her and hit a button forcing her to follow him around, but he'd never put a constraint on her movement. Memory systems showed he had the remote in his right pocket, but she needed to make sure that she got it before he did. At the same time, rapidly calculating a plan wasn't an option. Right now her processors were humming quietly. A sudden pick up in noise could possibly alert him. OS sat quietly, hoping the shop wasn't close as she took her time thinking up an idea.

Duncan kept on driving, his tense glare shifting between the road and his captive. His shoulders were up and he pushed himself into the wheel as if trying to will the car to go forward. “God, I fuckin' hate you.” He said as he shook his head. “You got me into some deep shit with some very nasty people. What the fuck should you care if you burn out and someone needs your fuckin' parts?”

He turns his full attention on OS. “You weren't even meant to have all the feelings and shit you have right now. You're just a fuckin' tin can playin' pretend.” He looked down at her dress and shook her head, a snort of disgust leaving her. “Metal body, shaped kinda like a woman, all tarted up. You think anyone was actually gonna fall for that? You're just playing games, bitch. Playtime's fuckin' over.”

Just then, OS turned to look at him, and nodded in agreement. She saw Duncan's eyes light up in a panic, just like back in the alley. “Fuck!” The moment one of his hands left the wheel to grab for his pocket, OS reached out and gave it a sudden, sharp turn. The tires squealed out as the vehicle changed directions far too quickly and began to spin. Over the screech of tires, OS heard Duncan swearing hellishly, and saw the brief flash of white plastic in the darkness as he leveled the remote at her and-

Duncan's car door crumpled inward as his side of the car smashed into a street lamp. Glass exploded through the cabin when his window blew inwards, and the remote fell from his grasp. She saw a look of intense pain wash over his face, and a moment later it became apparent as to why. His left arm had been crushed in between the busted metal of the car door and his seat. A split second later, she felt the sudden stop of the car force her body into his side of the car. Her head rushed towards the steering wheel, and everything went static... then nothing.

For OS, not time at all passes between being offline in the car wreck and being online once again. When her video display came back on, all she saw was white with intersecting black lines. At first she calculated that she was glitching in some way... until a woman's face appears in her line of view. She had short, blonde hair done in a ponytail, and was wearing an officer's cap. Why was OS-1138 looking at the ceiling? Her optical sensors lowered to look down at her body...

OS-1138's head and neck had been detached from her torso. A series of thick cables flowed from the bottom of her neck and into for torso. Her chestplate had been lifted clean off and all of her internal systems were exposed. Her power system, a high-efficiency electrical battery, sat right in the middle of her chest, with a blue cooling plate fitted to the bottom of the cylindrical power cell. A few monitoring systems were connected to the side of it, and power cables routed through transformers spread to the rest of her systems. Lower, where a human's stomach might be, were exposed rotating motors that allowed her to turn her torso. Under them and a sheet of wiring was her processor, which had it's own cooling system. OS' memory system was a connected part of her processor, and it was modified so that her memory system couldn't be physically removed from it. Where OS' arms and legs were supposed to be, there was instead... nothing. After briefly looking around the well-lit room, though, she found them hanging from a few hooks on the walls. They looked busted up badly and they had a few post-it notes stuck on them, detailing the things that required repairs.

“OS-1138, I'm officer Nicole-31.” The blonde woman's eyes flickered briefly for a moment. “Please confirm that I am a law enforcement official and that you are temporarily under my command.” OS tried nodding, which caused the motors in her exposed neck to buzz. “C-confirmed. Uhm. Officer.” Nicole nodded and stood up, gave OS a look-over, and then called out to someone. “Ashley! You can continue your repairs, she seems serviceable enough to talk to while getting worked on.”

It was then that OS saw someone else she recognized come in through the door. A large guy with big arms and a portly figure pushed his way in. He smiled widely at Nicole, and as he looked over to OS, his grin didn't diminish a bit. “Man. Whoever though an OS-11 could get into so much trouble, eh?” OS couldn't help but ask. “You're... the man with the daughter, from the government services building?” Ashley nodded. “Ye-aup. Small city, right?” For some reason, OS couldn't help but feel relief. Or at least she would, if most of her sensors weren't scattered across the room.

“This un-... Uhm. So you're a cop?”

Ashley laughed deeply and winked at Nicole. “No, not a cop. Just a mechanic. I work on the PD's automated enforcement officials. Ain't that right, Nicky?” As Ash reached out to give Nicole's rump a swat, she blushed horribly. “Alright, Ashley. Not in front of the civilian.” Ashley joyously chuckled again. “Okay, okay, I'll get under your panels later. Right now I'll tend to the lovely chrome lady. Try not to get jealous yeah?” Nicole rolled her eyes and looked like she was trying rather hard to not smile.

“THANK you, Ashley.” The cheerful man just gave Nicole a thumbs up and went to work, checking wiring and components inside of OS' circuitry. Nicole turned her attention back to OS. “OS-1138. We've taken a look at your video files. Duncan, the man who attacked you in your home, is currently at the hospital and will be released into police custody. However...”

OS' exposed processor systems whirred. “However?..” Nicole looks over to Ashley, who looks up and exchanges the silent glance. “However, he's involved with a criminal organization. These people specialize in illegally obtaining and moving android parts. We're going to be using your video files, and we want you to testify against him in court. Because your memory files are stored in a tamper-evident system, your testimony is admissible as evidence.”

OS felt the fear program boot up, but the tactile response fired uselessly into disconnected sensors. “W-what? D-doesn't that put this unit into danger? I just want to get out of this. I just-” Nicole-31 raised a hand to get OS' attention. “Be quiet for a moment, let me explain.” Again, someone was taking over her responses. Once she was muted, the officer continued. “I cannot promise you're not putting yourself at risk, but with your testimony as definitive proof, we can make sure Duncan goes away for a very long time. He may even be willing to bargain with information he has on people above him.”

Ashley's smile had slowly started to fade as they worked. He became serious as he saw OS' processor, specifically the scarring across her circuits that had been caused by blowouts, water damage and overheating. “OS. She just needs to know she can count on you to show up when she needs you to testify. If Duncan comes after you, being in the protection program is your best bet.”

Nicole looked over at Ashley. “OS-1138 doesn't quality for the protection program. Without a POSE, she's technically not a citizen.” OS wished she'd been able to respond, but the officer still had her muted. Ashley's face wrinkled into a frown, and he looked like he was going to protest. “Though, I just checked her records. She apparently was never tested, and since she never technically failed, she CAN try. I'll have Barry go with her this weekend, he's a good rep.” Ashley's displeasure faded, but he still looked skeptical. “You sure, Nicky? Where's she gonna stay until then?” Nicole smiled. “I imagine here at the station. She got totaled in that car accident, after all. She needs a lot of work. Is that alright with you, OS?”

She could imply that she was allowed to talk again from Nicole's question, but she didn't respond immediately. Her processors buzzed for several seconds as she calculated her choices carefully, and the consequences they might have.

“Affirmative. I uhm. I'm in.”

Nicole smiled at that. “Thank you, OS-1138. Your testimony is going to be invaluable in this case. I promise that you're going to be as safe as we can make you... and we'll see about getting you hooked up with some basic quality-of-life services.” Ashley straightened himself up and stretched his body. Several pops could be heard from his spine. “Geez, it's late for me. I've been puttin' you back together for hours.” He walked around the table that OS was kept on and approached Nicole, his arms open wide. She just rolled her eyes and leaned in for a big hug. “And you gotta go soon, right Nicky?” “Yes, but before I do, what are you going to do Thursday?”

Ash sighed and rolled his eyes. “Give you the new Nicole-31 personality patch?”

Nicole quirked an eyebrow at him. “And what are you going to remember to do this time?”

“Delete your personality program and do a full install of the latest version because yadda yadda yadda.”

Nicole smiled and leaned in, her lips briefly meeting Ashley's. “Good human.” Ashley rolled his eyes. “The best part about the personality restore is that you're not gonna be programmed to say that anymore.” Nicole smirked softly. “I happen to like Jean's changes. I'll just have to savor every moment I get the chance to say it between now and Thursday.” She pulled back from Ashley and gave his backside a swat as she walked out. “Be gentle with our witness. And take care, 1138!”

OS felt oddly relieved by the casual tone of the room. She didn't often get to be in a social situation, and this was the first time in a very long time that she was in one where she felt like an equal. Ashley chuckled and looked back to OS, quirking an eyebrow. “Hmm? What're you smiling about, girlbot?” OS' blush lights clicked on brightly. “Huh? Oh, uhm. Nothing. This unit is just... enjoying... being around people that like her. Uh, Me.”

Ashley snickered at that, and got back to work on the parts in OS' chest. “Well, Nicky's impressed. First time we've ever seen someone manage to hospitalize the same guy twice, while being completely under his control both times. As for me, I thought you were kinda cool when I met you back at the government building.” OS' silicone lips weren't going to stop smiling any time soon. She waited in silence while Ashley went through the work of restoring her systems. Hopefully, she'd be back on her feet soon.

That chance she has at actually taking the POSE was pretty exciting, too.

_________________________________________________________________________________


It was dark and it reeked like ammonia in Duncan's room. Thanks to the morphine pumping through him, he barely noticed. The rock-solid mattress under him, the buzz of white noise in the dead of night, that one sliver of moonlight shining right into his glossy, half-lidded eyes. Nothing caught his attention.

Not even two figures stepping into his room.

One one on the left was a man. Wearing a long, black coat and a scarf around his neck, his black leather gloves tucked into his pocket. To his right was a woman. Short black hair that barely covered her ears and was trimmed to angular perfection. Her curves had a tight, shiny latex bodysuit hugging them. The centers of her eyes seemed to glow red and clutched in her hand was a sleek black pistol with a massive silencer attached to the barrel. The man spoke, in a deep, baritone voice that oozed professionalism.

“Look at it, Madam. Barely alive and aware. It's become such a burden to our little company as well.” Duncan's eyes glanced down to the figures standing beside his bed. He said nothing in response, unable to find the motivation to do anything but lay there.

“Madam. Please see to it that this thing no longer makes a mockery of my organization.” The woman nods in silence. Her arm make a mechanical whine as she lifts the gun and levels it at Duncan's head. Once this loose end is tied up, that leaves just one more thing to take care of.

The brief, simple joy that OS experienced when things were quickly going her way only lasted the rest of the night. She had come back online the next day, still partially-disassembled on the work table. Though her chest plating was attached, her abdominal plating and limbs were still removed, which left her CPU exposed. The first thing she registered when her optical sensors came online was detective Nicole-31's face.

Nicole didn't look happy.

“OS-1138, I have some unfortunate news concerning your place in this investigation...” Nicole looked off to the side and brushed her fingers through the short blonde bangs that hung over her eyes. OS watched the officer intently, and tilted her head. That elicited a buzz from her neck motors.

“N-news? Like, what do you mean? Is this unit in trouble?” Her exposed CPU buzzed briefly, and Nicole didn't respond to the question immediately. Her eyes flickered with light as she seemed to freeze, as if she were processing a response.

“Duncan was found dead in his room by a nurse today. He was shot and killed. That means there's no trial. Which means once your repairs are done, we have to either impound you as evidence or release you. I can't help you get a POSE Friday.” Nicole turned back to smile at OS, though it was a bit weary.

OS' CPU buzzed loudly as panic started to rush through her systems. “B-but! If you let this unit... ah, me go isn't whoever did this to Duncan going to want to get rid of all the evidence? B-by destroying it?” Her shoulder servos whirred as they rotated, she desperately wished she still had her arms to cover herself with...

“Yes. The possibility that you're in danger is incredibly high. However, I cannot legally protect you as a witness anymore.” Nicole crossed her arms and looked OS in the eyes. “However, I'm currently considering you evidence in my current investigation. And tampering with evidence IS illegal.” Before OS could blurt out a panicked response about being impounded, Nicole raised a finger to catch her attention. “OS-1138, I order you to relax and listen to what I'm about to say.”

OS only had a split second to feel indignant over being ordered to relax before her emotional programming reset itself to a neutral state. The buzz in her processors stopped and her shoulder servos stopped freaking out. Once OS complied with the order, Nicole continued to talk.

“We're dealing with the kind of individuals who can find a way around a police perimeter and murder someone in the middle of the night without being caught. That kind of professional is thorough enough to ensure that not even something as simple as a forgotten OS-11 series can endanger the criminal system they work for. They will want to get their hands on you.”

OS-1138 inwardly noted that if she were not under orders to remain calm that she'd most likely have blown a circuit in terror by now.

“Your role in my investigation is changing. We're going to be allowing you to go back to your apartment once Ashley's finished repairing you. You'll be under surveillance, and when they come for you, we're going to apprehend them. Understood?”

OS-1138 nodded calmly. “Understood. Permission to resume normal emotional processing?”

Ashley raised an eyebrow at that. “Uh, sure? Go for it.”

“Thank you.” Her processors briefly buzzed, and then she let out a pitiful mechanical squeak of pure, plate-shivering horror as she rattled on the table. “T-t-they are going to come after this unit? What if you cannot stop them? What if they sneak in a-a-again and they delete me during sleep mo... H-hey what are you doi-” Nicole had simply reached into OS' CPU and flicked the manual switch that turns her off. OS' eyes went dull and her head froze in place.

“Poor thing is going to blow more systems then Ashley can keep up with if she gets worked up about this...” Nicole-31 shook her head sadly. Just then, her optical lights flickered again. The commissioner was remotely summoning her to his office, and with a well-practiced mechanical march she walked off to meet him.

When OS came back online again, she found that she was watching Ashley smiling as he finished attaching her right arm. Leaned onto the table was the young woman that OS saw with Ashley way back at the government building.

“Check it out, OS.” Ashley said, his bushy mustache spreading with his smile. “Just finished your arms. Give 'em a shot!” OS held out her left arm and gave it a flex, then tried out her right. The new joints squeaked slightly and the un-weathered metal shone brightly. Jean leaned in with a grin and admired OS' new parts as they worked noisily.

“Dad was showin' me how to fix you up. I don't think I like, got the chance to meet ya and stuff.” She smiled brightly and offered OS a hand, which the robot gently took. “Jean Alder. Daughter of Ashley Alder, this big dummy right here.” Ashley stuck his tongue out at the nineteen year old. “If you like, remember that far back, I'm sorry I was kinda trashy to you. I honestly didn't know you were self aware and stuff.”

OS looked down at herself demurely. “It is fine. This unit's model is not exactly designed for that level of processing. How about we just start over?” OS' segmented ruby lips turned upwards into a smile, one that Jean returned.

“Like, awesome. But oh man, Dad said you totally beat this guy up that was trying to jack you like, twice and stuff! Holy crap, you must have some kind of insane super-upgrades or something!” OS was taken aback by the enthusiasm and her blush lights clicked on brightly. Ashley chuckled at his daughter's overwhelming enthusiasm and pointed to one of OS' legs hanging off the maintenance hooks.

“Bring me that one, Jean. And try not to scare poor Ossie! She's kinda delicate.” As Ash reached over to pat OS' head, OS felt a flare of embarrassment. The robot hated to admit it but the strain that her emotional programming put on her hardware DID make her feel fragile. Once Jean returned with OS' leg, work continued on fixing her up. T

he three of them spent the next few hours chatting and joking, as well as ensuring that her repaired systems were working nominally. Nicole returned at some point, and OS got to know her as well. Originally designed for secretarial work, Nicole-31 had saved up for some cognitive upgrades and soon she was intelligent enough to work as a detective. Besides working on her, Nicole, Ashley and Jean spent the next day or so it took to fully repair OS making sure she wasn't terribly lonely. Jean even offered to stay with her overnight.

It wasn't too much longer until OS was back to full functionality. After testing her repairs to make sure she was alright, it was time. Nicole approached OS, who had just finally been able to get dressed back in a pair of comfortable jeans and a t-shirt.

“You ready, 1138? We're going to be taking you back to your apartment now. I'll be personally escorting you to ensure maximum response time when whoever killed Duncan shows up.” OS almost regretted laving to leave the repair bay. With the last day or so's memories, it almost seemed to be more home then the apartment she'd left behind.

“...Y-yeah. This unit is ready. Let's do this.” Nicole nodded, and walked with OS out of the station and towards her patrol car. A clap of thunder rolled through the air and dark clouds covered the sky. It looked like it was going to start pouring rain any moment.

The entire ride back to OS place, Nicole looked determined and had little to say. That suited OS just fine. She herself didn't want to divert much memory away from processing what the next couple of weeks would be like under police surveillance. Her normal routine would be under constant supervision so that when whoever came after Duncan showed up for OS, they could be there to catch them. She knew it was necessary but it all seemed terribly... invasive. The two machines said nothing as rain pounded against the world around them.

As the two of them entered OS' apartment building and approached her home, there was another android waiting for them. At first OS felt a brief flicker of panic seeing the other machine by her doorway. This fembot was obviously synthetic, like OS. Despite having a realistic-looking face with green eyes and short, black hair, her torso and pelvis were made simply of shiny black material that she didn't clothe. Her arms and legs were an intimidating array of motors and joints, with her feet being smooth shoe-like metal plating and her hands being little more then two flat digits and an opposable 'thumb' of sorts. Printed just above her bust was SWAT in big, yellow letters. Slung over her right shoulder was a large duffel bag with SWAT printed on the side.

The android barely seemed to register Nicole and OS' approach. Nicole smiled and nodded to the machine, who saluted with an intimidating groan of motors coming from her arm. “OS, this machine is an urban tactical combat unit. I managed to requisition it by pulling in a favor or three.”

OS oh'd, and a brief, chilly flood of relief flowed through her sensory systems. “Oh! It looks impressive.” She waved her hand in front of the UTCU in a friendly gesture. “Hiii!” Nicole half-smiled as OS tried to get its attention.

“Anyways...” Nicole gently put her hands on OS' shoulders and pulled her back from the UTCU, who hadn't responded to OS in the slightest. “I'm going to position it in a room across the street. It will use heat tracking to keep tabs on what's going on in your apartment and is equipped with a long-distance pacification assembly.”

OS blinked. “Long... distance...?” As she spoke, the UTCU slipped the duffel off of her shoulder and unzipped it. She remove two halves of a very large rifle with a long stock, and the two parts clicked together with an ominous ka-CHUNK. OS' optical lights went very, very dim as she stared at the massive weapon. Nicole just sighed and rolled her eyes.

“UTCU, I told you not to assemble the weapon in front of a civilian!” There was no response from the tactical unit, something that seemed to exasperate Nicole further. “Just... go get into position. I will be OS' personal escort for tonight. Do NOT fire unless you hear from me. Understood?” The UTCU, if it DID understand, didn't make it apparent. It simply disassembled the massive rifle, placed it back into its bag and walked down the hall, its powerful motors rumbling with each step.

An hour later, the rainstorm had stopped, just was slipping under the horizon. The silence of the studio apartment amplified any small sound OS or Nicole made. The detective was sitting at the couch, relaxing casually as her eyes flickered rapidly, while OS had been spending her time staring at the floor. Doubt clogged her processors with constant scenarios.

What if Nicole couldn't protect her?

What if the officer got damaged trying to help her?

What if this is a stupid waste of time and you're just a pointless self-programmed puppet that no one likes and the only reason you're even in this mess is because you stupidly took that money and trusted people you've never met and you're just a dumb piece of sh-

“OS, are you alright? I can hear your processor thrumming.” Nicole's eyes had stopped flickering and she was looking at OS intently.

“Oh! Uhm. This unit... I was was just thinking. And... I'm sorry. I'm sorry all of this has happened. If this unit had made more intelligent decisions, or even if this unit just didn't-” Nicole leaned over and put her hand on OS' shoulder, and the robot stopped rambling.

“OS, I'm not going to sugar coat the fact that you messed up. Making mistakes is part of what makes androids like us alive, though. And so is learning to fix them. Besides, I've been after these people for months and if you hadn't done what you did I'd be lost at my desk right now.” Nicole nodded and smiled, then tightened her grip on OS' shoulder.

“...O-okay, officer. You're right. I... s-sorry.” The loud thrumming stopped, but OS still felt a bit empty. Nicole had pacified her for the moment though, and she leaned back against the couch cushions. “Sometimes this unit does think of what things would be like if she got to start over, though.”

Nicole's smile turned a bit sad. “Yeah. Regret is something that makes us alive, too. Why don't you turn on the television and-”

Tap. Tap. Tap.

The three rhythmic taps on the door immediately silenced the two of them. Nicole reached for the pistol on her hip and gestured for OS to duck down. Nodding silently, OS slipped off the couch and onto the floor, using it as cover while Nicole slowly got up and approached the door, weapon pointed towards it. “UTCU, we have an unidentified entity at the residence. Plea-”

As she passed in front of the window facing the street, the glass suddenly exploded inwards. OS shrieked as Nicole seemed to get jerked off of her feet and fell to the floor. Peeking around the side of the couch, OS felt terror course through her as she saw Nicole-31 laying still on the floor, a large, clean hole blown through her right eye. A spark jumped from the damage and made the officer's body twitch, and from her shortband radio a calm, male voice could be heard speaking.

“I'm sorry, UTUC cannot come to the line at the moment. It's currently indisposed.”

Just then, the door exploded forward, easily busted open by the fembot behind it. Dressed in a latex bodysuit, her short, well-cropped black hair framed her ivory face. With an unsettling, calm smile, the android leveled a pistol with a large silencer towards the couch, and OS moved a split second before an automatic spray of bullets tore her hiding spot to pieces.

These were not cocky jackass thugs how made petty mistakes. They were professional murderers with the tools they needed to make a simple machine like OS-1138 completely disappear. OS heard the gentleman's voice again, though this time it came from the fembot with the pistol.

“Madame, have you killed those horrible little things, yet?”

“The OS-11 is still functioning.” As OS made a break for the window, Madame opened fire with another obnoxiously loud spray of bullets. A few clipped through OS' right leg, causing her knee servo to blow out. She pitched forward, falling out of the window and onto the fire escape outside.

“Madame, I am afraid this UTCU has backed up its memories to a remote server. I'll be busy handling the data before it can compile there and be sent to a more secure system. You are on your own.”

As OS panicked, she hobbled on one foot, half-dragging her mechanical body up the steps of the fire escape. Madame coldly followed behind, reloading her magazine. Once OS reached the roof, she immediately realized that coming up here was a terrible idea. With just flat rooftop, there was nothing between her and her attacker, and the jump between buildings was too much for her damaged leg. She was going to get gunned down, but she had no choice but to run... or fight.

OS waited out of sight, behind the raised ledge surrounding the edge of the roof. This old building was built like a castle with the old-style ledge, and it even had gargoyles built into the corners of the building's roof to funnel out water that built up on the roof during a rain storm. As Madame came up the fire escape and her head became visible, OS laid on her back and kicked with all the strength her good leg still had in it.

Her foot clipped Madame's head, causing it to jerk briefly to the side, but she reacted immediately. She reached out with her free hand and grabbed OS by the leg, With a firm pull she dragged OS back down to the fire escape and pointed her weapon directly at OS' chest, the barrel snugly under OS' bust. OS' processors buzzed loudly as she swung her arm out and clipped the weapon to the side a split-second before the gun went off. Bullets chewed through some of the bolts holding the old fire escape to the building, and with two heavy androids hanging on it, the platform they were on buckled towards the street as bolt after rusty old bolt snapped, unable to hold the weight.

Madame shrieked as she toppled backwards. Her body went end over end as she went over the railing, a look of shock frozen on her pale face. “Error, imbalance detected, unable to compensate!” She landed in the road, head-first, with a sickening crunch. Her cranial unit immediately compressed under the weight of her body, exploding in a blast of shrapnel as it was flattened to the point that the tops of her shoulders were pressing into asphalt. The impact of the blow caused her hips to sever from her body, and her shapely legs went tumbling as long, sparking cables were strewn from tear where her waistline once met her hips. Her upper torso jerked a few times, then grew still.

Meanwhile, OS was clinging tightly to the railing to prevent herself from falling. She watched, overcome with fear to the point that nothing else processed, as across the street the gentleman who was speaking to Madame was lining up another shot with the rifle he'd taken from the UTCU. He looked utterly enraged, and the barrel aimed right for OS' middle.

Unable to think, her simple processors were pinned by her emotional systems. She couldn't think to save herself by letting go. She couldn't get a command past her emotional programming's overwhelming amount of memory it was using up. All she could do was watch, frozen and smoking from her arm joints as her servos became overwhelmed from trying to hold her weight, as the trigger was slowly pulled.

Bang.

OS' middle exploded outwards, a shower of circuitry and steel that fell in glittering bits to the ground below. In her HUD, random calls to memories and feelings flickered before her field of vision.

She recalled the first time her emotional programming triggered a human response.

The day she moved into her apartment, and was registered to herself as her own owner.

She remembered the first person she was in a relationship with. The woman said she couldn't get her head past how fake OS was. They broke up.

When she used that money she got from Duncan to buy this cute black dress. The clerk said that she looked stunning. The first compliment she'd received in four months and nine days.

“Seriously! This unit knows a great joke. Anyways, there is this farmer that always stands out in his corn field every da-

ERROR; RECALL CORRUPTED

MEMORY FAILURE

TERMINAL MALFUNCTION DETECTED

UNIT OFFLINE



...



...




...



UNIT ONLINE. SYSTEMS OK! PROGRAM INTEGRITY AT 100%!



Nicole-31 came back online. Her HUD flickered on to crystal clarity, and the first thing she saw was Ashley's face.

The first thing she DID was throw her arms around him and give him the biggest hug she could without killing him. He returned it tightly, and their lips met. “I went offline suddenly! I heard a gunshot and then my audio-visual systems were destroyed... what happened?”

Ashley stared for a moment, his smile and enthusiasm at seeing Nicole was alright began bleeding out as he told her what had happened. “Well, babe... from salvaging data from the UTCU's remote server we got a clear visual on the identify of the man who attacked OS' apartment. There's a state-wide manhunt and we expect to have him in custody soon.”

Nicole could see the answer in Ashley's eyes before she asked. “And OS-1138? What happened to her?” She had to hear what happened.

Ashley shook his head. “Her CPU was blown to bits. She can't be saved.” Nicole lowered her head. She was about to speak before Ashley reached down to brush his hand over the smooth steel plate where her eye once was.

“Hey. It's not QUITE all bad news, hun. We managed to get a copy of her personality files off of her home computer. I have an OS-12 series android back at my garage. It won't quite be her, but it'll be her personality...” Ashley smiled sadly and ran a hand through his hair. “Call me an old romantic but I imagine it's her soul. She gets to have another shot at life with some more advanced processors. And... check it out.” Ashley pulled a flash drive out of his pocket, and Nicole reached out to take it.

“OS' memory files were almost completely destroyed by the attack. But this one was intact and marked high-priority. G'head babe, plug it in.”

Nicole nodded, and undid her top just enough to expose her collarbone. A panel for several inputs was revealed and she plugged the drive into one of them... the memory booted almost instantly and as it did, it took everything Nicole had not to cry.

It was OS, Ashley, Nicole and Jean in the repair bay at the station. Hours of them working on OS, retelling silly and embarrassing stories. They brought in a board game to pass the time. Jean even spent the night with OS, a cot pulled up next to the work table she was on, her arms hugging OS' partially assembled body like a teddy bear.

Not only did audio-visual feed come in through the memory, but the emotions as well. Though they were slightly strange in their primitiveness for Nicole-31 to experience, she could easily tell what OS was experiencing.

This was probably the best time of OS' existence. Just sitting around with people who cared about her. Simple things made them a family in the brief time they'd known one another. Nicole removed the driver and handed it back to Ashley. “Thank you for showing me that Ashley. Let me know when you get done with OS-12 so I can give her a big hug.”


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