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A.U.T.O.M.A.T.A

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The night hummed around him. The lights, the voices, the sound of vehicles running around the streets was almost comforting in some way. The lights moving through the buildings of Seoul were almost magical, despite not it being bright and fun since he didn't live in the central district.

The straps of his backpack strained against his shoulders as he readjusted the load. Taehyung huffed out a breath, listening to the metallic clank of something he hoped wasn’t being bent beyond repair before he could take it back to his shop or to Seokjin if he found it useful.

Having turned down the alley shortcut near his destination, Taehyung was somewhat preoccupied with these thoughts when his eye caught movement. His heart leapt into his chest, as he stared at the intrusion. He had never seen anyone else down this way, and the close-quarters made him antsy and anxious. His nerves were not immediately allayed as he saw that, whoever it was, they were sat on the ground, nearly blocking his path, with what looked like rags covering its body. He felt eyes on his back; the figure’s face had turned his way. Taehyung feet were poised for flight, ready to run if it was really necessary.

He couldn’t say what it was, exactly, that made him not just run away. Or even made him venture a step or so closer. He might have had a vague idea that perhaps this person needed help. Or perhaps it was just the drone that passed at the end of the alley just then that made the figure flinch visibly, the gleaming metal that was its arm catching Taehyung eye. Even in that brief moment of light, the pure craftsmanship of the form was made plain, every metal line in the perfect shape of a human muscle: beautiful. He could see where the skin ended on the upper bicep, beyond which it looked like normal human flesh. On closer inspection, did he meet the cold gray of its gaze and see the crackling slash torn through the skin across its throat, revealing circuitry and wire where veins and nerves should reside.

Android.

Impossible. His mind positively boggled at the idea. Of course he had heard about them and even saw adds on billboards about them but those things, which could so perfectly emulate a human, were really expensive — only the wealthiest people could afford them, often using them for their own daily necessities instead of paying actual humans to do certain jobs. In his own shop Taehyung himself had dabbled in robotics and made some simple robots to do menial tasks about the place and even got some expensive android limbs here and there but never saw one complete and in person. They were pathetic toys compared to the androids. From skin, to hair, to the tiniest detail, it looked human but for where the machine parts were revealed. There was a terrifying intelligence in its gaze, and the way it had jerked away from him—! Well, he decided pragmatically. It looked fairly roughed up as he got closer. The skin on that whole arm was gone, the limp way the limb hung telling him it was no longer functioning. He could see other evidence of what was likely an altercation. It was essentially dressed in torn clothes, streaked with oil from where it was likely leaking somewhere. Its leg looked like there had been something that had seared right through it. If this thing had even the intelligence of a dog—an amazing feat on its own—he could see why it would be skittish. It might not be able to feel pain like even the most basic animal could, but it could process that damage was being done to it. Its programing undoubtedly included a self-preservation aspect which means he was probably an advanced model.

That still left the question of where it had come from. Or how it had gotten like this. No one would create such a beautiful, expensive, machine just to manhandle it and discard it. “Who do you belong to?” Taehyung wondered, aloud.

Its throat sparked, words caught in its malfunctioning circuitry. And the sheer, savage anger in its eyes! He found himself recoiling from it before his reason could catch up with him. But of course: the first rule of robotics, the very first thing anyone programmed into an automaton, was to never hurt a human or allow harm to come to one. Every bot with independent movement and any sensory apparatus had this as one of their primary protocols. So his fright was only momentary, and soon he was shaking his head at it.

“All right, don’t be angry at me, man.” he scolded, standing up and brushing off his pants. “I don’t know if someone will collect you but I don’t think they want to see you like this. You are in a pretty bad shape so you should come with me. I’m a mechanic; I’ll try to patch you up the better I can.” And take this opportunity to take a closer look at the machine. His fingers were nearly itching with the need to see just how this masterpiece was put together. “I’ll help you. Can you stand?”

What a sullen machine. Or perhaps it was more damaged than he had reckoned. It made no movement, only looking at him, coldly. Well, of course coldly, he chided himself. It didn’t have feelings for what he knew. He wondered if its hearing was damaged, too, that it hadn’t made any move to obey him. Gesturing, encouraging, he said, “Come on, up. My shop’s not far, I promise.”

It almost seemed to be thinking it over, the way its eyes traced over his features. Another drone passed, high overhead, and that seemed to decide it. It lurched to its feet, and he realized that it was supposed to resemble a normal boy in its early 20’s to be exact. All crumpled up on the ground, it had made such a pathetic figure. And the way it moved—almost seeming to be trying to keep its weight off the hurt leg, clutching the useless arm closer to itself, just like any injured creature might do — if it wasn’t for the wires and metal showing he could almost pass as an injured human. He would have loved to have studied it a bit further, but by now he had his suspicions the drones were more than likely linked to his new friend. He didn’t want it to be found out before he had a chance to take a look at it in his shop. So he led the way, letting the iron boy follow after him.

As Taehyung opened up the shop, the fluorescent lighting flickered on overhead, taking a moment to warm to their function. The big open space reeked of metal, cement, and dust; a welcoming kind of scent. He dumped off his backpack with far less care than he’d shown it earlier in the evening, rushing forward to prepare a space for his new friend.

His robots were booting up at the introduction to light, immediately moving to complete their minor tasks: the little one that tooled around on the floor magnetically attracting any spare bits of metal; the bigger, humanoid one that swept up behind him; the noodle-armed sensor on the wall alert for the smell of fumes or fire; the tiny helper-bot that could fetch tools he called out for; and many others. He had been fairly proud of his work on them. Now, though he found himself glancing to the new addition, feeling a prickling sense of shame as its eyes followed his helpers’ movements about the shop. He felt like a little child who had just made her first drawing in kindergarten and showed to the teacher.

He let his stool scrape on the rough floor a bit to attract its attention, then patted the top of his big workbench. “Hop up here. Let me see what I can do to fix you.”

He definitely would need to run a diagnostic on its processing, see if something was misfiring there. Why else would it take so long for it to nod and do as he’d directed? And the way it watched him, afterward, checking his every movement, almost distrustfully. Its mannerisms were so human-like that it was almost scary. Up-close, under the bright lighting, the sculpting of it was beyond perfection; half a dozen times he began to question if he could really trust his eyes, or whether this might not just be a person in some kind of elaborate costume. How was it possible that anyone could actually create such a thing? Was this the reason why Namjoon was so proud to be working at NAMKO Robotics? He began to feel a bit wrong-footed, so Taehyung wasn’t sure he quite dared to actually touch it.

It touched two fingers of its uninjured hand to its throat, making another crackling sound at him. Galvanized, Taehyung sprang to attention, agreeing, “I should take care of your voice box first,yeah. This looks like a laser burn, though. What the…? Hang on, tilt your head back. All right, I think I see where the wires were severed, let me patch this,” he said, relaxing as he fell into his work.

Occasionally it made a kind of jerky motion, possibly where he’d accidentally nicked something that caused the reaction.Magical. He’d need to explore, if he had the opportunity. As he tried to repair the throat, he continued on, “I’m not sure what to do about your… skin, though. I’m sorry but I’ve never seen anything like it or been close to one of your kind.”

His brow was furrowed, considering the question as he paused his work to run an inquisitive finger over the surface of the material. It was surprisingly soft, warm, this tender place along the neck yielding to the pressure of his touch. Possibly some kind of soft silicon? Realizing he had lost himself in his thoughts, he returned to his task, fingers feeling strangely shaky, saying, “Oh, sorry”.

Eventually, he moved back, feeling excitement build that it might communicate with him, now. “I think that’s fixed. I’m Taehyung, Kim Taehyung. Can you speak now?”

It rubbed its hand over its neck, almost like it soothed an injury. There might have been something of disdain in its voice when it buzzed, crackled, and then finally spoke in a normal voice. “I can.” Somewhat unwillingly, he added, “Thank you for fixing that.”

“Oh. Uh. You’re… welcome.” Taehyung swallowed, reevaluating. Why did the act of speech suddenly change things so drastically? By his tone, his manner, Taehyung felt he’d been wildly underestimating him. Probably insulting him. If someone had spoken to him like that, he’d probably have been a bit cold, too. To say the least. “What… should I call you?”

“Can you really fix me up?” he asked, ignoring the question. He sincerely doubted, at this stage, that he’d ever had any trouble with his hearing. He was just choosing not to listen.

“May I see your arm?” Taehyung asked, contritely.

At his nod, he finally let himself put his hands on the marvelous creation, trying to keep his awe in check to not offend the android again or something. He was no expert on anatomy as Namjoon was, but even to his untrained eye he was shocked at the realism. He was having a hard time coming up with a reason to build a machine to so perfectly, replicate muscle and bone in metal, wire, and plastics. Except for the matter it was composed of, it truly looked like an arm that had had its skin removed — but with no blood. After turning it over in his hands and finding he was practically drooling again, he forced himself to focus and see where the problem was, looking for the mechanical defects as he would on any other minimum job.

“I think so,” Taehyung replied eventually, mostly still musing to himself as he turned to the leg. He had knelt down to examine it so he was eye-level with his knee. Taehyung whistled to his helper-bot absently, directing it to fetch him some scissors. The tiny automaton came leaping back with them, letting him cut away a bit more of the torn pants to see the injury. “This part might be trickier. I think I’ll have to cut away the skin to find out what needs to be repaired.”

“It grows back, it’s nano-fiber” the android said, so there was that question answered. His leg tensed when Taehyung probed the wound, making him instantly withdraw his hand.

“Does it hurt?” he asked, shocked. What the…?

“Not similar as you experience it,” the android stated, stiffly. That’s an odd response; not a flat ‘no’ as he would expect.  It had probably been a silly question on his part though (does your broken fridge “hurt”?). But so many things he’d thought impossible just a few hours ago suddenly weren’t so certain.

“All right… Well, where else are you injured?”

“I took some damage to the abdomen. A few of my internal organs might need to be patched—“

“Organs?For real?” Taehyung exploded. “What do you need organs for? Who the fuck made you?”

The android mouth had snapped shut, and he was watching Taehyung warily again, but not straight-on. More looking at him from the corners of his eyes as he otherwise seemed to withdraw his attention, refusing to engage. But Taehyung mind was running ahead. Why create a synthetic being with facsimile organs and artificial intelligence of its own? An intelligent robot he could understand since they were pretty common and all of them didn’t had their own will, they were all with programed intelligence and no conscience. Something that could blend in with humans, even fine and had a mind of its own, maybe the military could use something like that. But with this amount of detail, including internal artificial organs?

He was starting to generate an idea, and he wasn’t sure how to feel t about it. Perhaps just as importantly, he had to ask, “Where did you get all of these injuries from?”

The android tilted his head tilted slightly as he still didn’t look right at him. He almost seemed to be testing him. Instead of answering, he asked, “How did you get those scars on your face and arm?”

Taehyung startled, putting a hand to the scar on his right cheek, almost feeling the sting of its match on his arms. “They didn’t install you with much tact, I see,” he said, trying to laugh it off. When the android stayed quiet, he let out a huff of a breath, making his hand drop. He might have to give a little to get a little. “I guess you could say it’s why I don’t tend to trust people easily, either. Robots are a lot easier; they don’t hurt you.”

“I might.”

Taehyung tsked, standing up again. “No, you won’t,” he dismissed it. “It’s against your programming to hurt a person.”

“It’s against yours, too, but that doesn’t seem to stop you.” While Taehyung was staring at him, dumbfounded, he seemed to reach some decision. He faced him more squarely, saying, “All the same. I’d be grateful for your help. If you’re still willing to give it.”

He stuck out his left hand to shake, the right still nonoperational, and Taehyung found himself accepting it almost without needing to think about it. The opportunity he offered was staggering; he could already see where years of work and study could be overcome with a few days just in observation. But more than that. Somehow, he found himself feeling just a little protective of this strange, battered android.

The android fingers closing around his had him distracted again, though, now examining the uninjured arm. How was he able to regulate the pressure like he did, maintaining a firm grip without crushing his hand? Was it all controlled by a central CPU, or did he have some kind of gauges or mini-processors that kept his intelligence throughout? He resisted the urge just to grab the arm and start prodding away at it, like he’d been allowed to do with the broken one.

“Let’s get started, then,” Taehyung said, his mind already leaping ahead to the projects in front of him. “I want to see the organs, find out what the damage is.”

“They’re fine. I think they just need to be patched up. I’m more concerned for the arm.”

“Okay well I want to see anyway—“ he said, getting just a bit overeager and starting to undo the android’s shirt, only to have him grab his hand.

“TaeTae,” he chided, making Taehyung turn bright red in embarrassment. But he almost seemed to be teasing him, a hint of a smile curving one side of his mouth. He didn’t look nearly as severe like that, his doll-like features taking on a kinder look. “They’ll keep,” he repeated, releasing him.

Taehyung could only nod, head ducking a little. “I’ll, hmmm. Let me just… get that arm working again then,” he murmured, slipping away to get his tools himself.

Taehyung was still somewhat withdrawn by the time he was ready to really get started on repairs. He had the android to lie down on the workbench while he perched on his stool and examined the arm. He was starting to feel fairly awkward in general, not quite sure how to act around this very strange automaton. It seemed odd to just start poking at him with tools, especially given the fact that he’d apparently already been testing his boundaries a little.

Taehyung nail pinged on the arm as he tapped on one of the metal bits. “Does your arm come off? It might be a bit easier for me to fix it if it wasn’t attached to you.”

“Does yours come off?” the android asked, sounding amused.

“All right, I’ll take that as a ‘no,’” he muttered. And then cleared his throat, still not quite sure where to start with him. After another pause, though, he had to just shrug and bend to the work. It’s what had to be done, if he was going to fix him.

The silence stretched between them as Taehyung started dismantling the damaged section. The skin ended in a clean, surgical line, he noticed, further solidifying some of his earlier suspicions about his origins. He wasn’t sure they were at a point where he should seek confirmation from him yet, though; chances were he’d just clam up again. While he was working the android stared up at the ceiling, his other hand clenched in a white-knuckled fist. Occasionally an involuntary shudder passed over his skinny frame.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung said at one point when he saw that the android was reacting to the use of his tools.

“It’s necessary,” he excused it, his voice tight.

“I’m… also sorry about earlier,” Taehyung plunged in. “Um. I didn’t… mean to treat you like…” Like what? A thing? A curiosity? He wasn’t quite sure how to frame his apology, and his face was getting redder as he felt him glancing in his direction. Behind them, the robot with the broom swept past, placidly.

“Like a robot?” the android suggested. And then seemed to dismiss it, saying, “Well. I am one, so there’s probably not much to apologize for.”

“Technically, with the skin, I think you might be some kind of cyborg. But… I mean, anyway, you’re not like—“Taehyung gestured around somewhat helplessly at the rest of his shop. “You’re more sophisticated, I mean. You… reason. You obviously have a mind in there.”

“How do you know they don’t?” the android asked, tracking the little helper-bot as it scurried out of the way of the broom and up the side of a cabinet. “It’s not like they could tell you if they did. You didn’t build them with mouths or voices.”

“Did they give you a mouth just so you could talk back to people?” Taehyung demanded, setting down his tools with a clank. Here he was trying to apologize to a robot, and all he felt was worse about himself. In truth, he didn’t really want to examine what he’d just said, what it conjured in him. The idea that the things he’d built might be aware and suffering, somehow, made mute through his thoughtlessness—it left him rather horrified, when he thought about it. It was easier to just get annoyed with the android, saying, “Their CPUs are too limited for consciousness. And anyway, I didn’t… It’s not that I… Why would a cleaner-robot need to talk?”

“Why would anyone?” the android answered. He was back to staring at the ceiling.

“It’s different,” Taehyung insisted, quietly, picking up his tools again so he’d have something to focus on besides how he was screwing this up. He considered, at that point, challenging him with what his apparent function likely was, and decided to chance it. “Things exist for a reason. Humans evolved to be able to communicate with each other, it’s with a purpose. If we design something ourselves, similarly, we don’t put them together without a reason. You… you were some kind of medical model, right? That’s why you have the technically unnecessary organs, the regenerative skin, why they made your form to match a person’s? And to be a better model, you had to be able to communicate.”

He was silent for so long Taehyung thought he might have just decided never to communicate with him again. “Interesting theory,” the android finally stated, evenly. “So humans are also the product of something else’s design?”

“Um,” he said, frowning, shifting somewhat uncomfortably. “That I don’t know, honestly. But I think it’s more forces that act on any living matter. Not so much that we as a whole were designed, but more that certain aspects of us were the product of external influences—our own social structures, creating a chain of impact that resulted in us but is still ongoing and changing all the time. I mean, our purpose is in some ways just as simple as yours: to grow and transform. But as we became more complicated creatures, ‘to grow’ meant more than just living and passing on our genes; we develop the mind, our morals, our relationships, a society. In a lot of ways, we decide for ourselves what it means to grow.”

“Mm. Whereas I have a distinct set of creators, where my purpose was defined by them. I see.”

“Well… I mean, you could see it like that… But in a way, you’re also kind of part of that same chain. Because someone acted on you, to put you into motion, all those long millennia of environmental stressors still see a result in you: something complicated enough to be able to seek its own fulfillment. I mean, I guess it is this way but I don’t know,” Taehyung  said, ducking his head as he realized he’d been going on a bit. “I’m probably just rambling. Anyway,” he rubbed the back of his neck, and laughed, suddenly, self-consciously, and focused his attention a little firmer on his work. “I, um. Anyway. You know, I still don’t know what to call you,like…” he tried to change the subject.

The android seemed to have been somewhere lost in thought, because at this he startled somewhat. “Hmm? Oh. Why, do these little robots of yours have names?” he nodded at the robots.

“Well, yeah. That one with the broom’s is Broomie for example, the one with the tools is Mangchi…”

“Those aren’t names, those are… pet-names for their functions!” he said, and something in his somewhat scandalized tone made Taehyung laugh as he undid a final screw on a panel on the upper arm.

“Oh, hang on, I think I found—yes. I think if I tighten this nut, you’ll get some returned function of the arm. Let’s see it then,” he said, putting action to word as he gave a hard crank with his wrench.

The android muffled scream nearly startled him out of his wits, the tool slipping out of his fingers. The little helper-bot hopped up to snatch it out of the air before it could clang to the ground, scurrying off with its prize.

On the workbench, the created-person’s hand was still over his mouth. His eyes were closed, chest moving unevenly with breaths he didn’t need. Taehyung saw his throat work. Slowly, he lowered the left hand and, with a slight effort, managed to raise the right, opening his eyes to slits as he checked it over.

“I can feel it again,” he agreed, voice rough and shaking.

“No shit,” Taehyung breathed, a little teakettle starting to steam inside of him. “You—you fucking lied to me, you said it didn’t hurt! Has it been like this the whole time? Why didn’t you say anything?!”

He was going to ask why anyone would design a robot to feel pain like a human. But of course. It served a purpose. He was carefully designed this way for a reason. What kind of model would he be if he couldn’t feel pain? Couldn’t tell doctors-in-training where it hurt?

“It doesn’t matter,” the android said, dully, not looking at him. “I told you, it isn’t like what you experience. If you stick a fork in the gears of an clock, you’ll hear the metal scream, too.”

“You’re not a damn clock!” Taehyung shouted, standing up. His stool clattered as it fell over behind him. “And don’t give me that bullshit about it not being like what I feel. You want to know a secret? We don’t even fucking know how or whether or how much someone else is hurting. What matters is if it hurts you and you express it. And here, you’ve just been…?”

Taehyung had run out of words, infuriated with him, yes, but also with himself. With humanity as a whole. What a fucking waste. What a terrible thing to do, to make something so beautiful, so lovingly-crafted, whose very purpose it was to be hurt. He didn’t want that, he felt like crying.

He forced himself to take a breath, to calm down, feeling it was finally time to have this out. “How did you get injured? I mean besides the stuff that was clearly intentionally done.”

The answer didn’t come straight away. The android sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the workbench. He still cradled his hurt arm to himself, moving somewhat delicately. After a moment’s consideration, he said, “I was a prototype, if you haven’t guessed. I’m not sure how long it’s been since my creation and probably never will. But I know that it was not a switch that activated, but more like an awakening. Very slowly, as whatever passes for my brain developed. And that awakening came as an awareness of… pain. Followed by a desire for it to end. That desire was not shared by my creators, though. It took some… time to get them to stop.” The android eyes were focused on the floor. “Maybe you think it’s selfish of me from this part but in the grand scheme of things, it probably is better to have a way to test their knowledge  or put dangerous situations on a thing that won’t die, unlike humans or animals. That will regenerate endlessly, no matter what you do with them.” His laugh was a humorless bark, his head shaking. “But if you think about it, it’s sad, really sad. All of that, the long chain of impact—wasted on me, because I was too cowardly to just endure it despite that being my only purpose.” Carefully, gaze firmly planted anywhere but on Taehyung, he went on. “I wouldn’t blame you, you know. If you told them you’d found me. It’d probably be in your best interest anyway. Maybe the better interest of humans as a whole. They might even give you money for it.”

The small sound Taehyung made finally made him look at him. The android was shocked to find tears streaming from the taller boy’s eyes, his shoulders shaking to contain himself. Taehyung gave a little hiccup, his hand moving to cover his mouth.

“Wh-why are you crying? Are you okay?”

“Why…?” Taehyung  asked, and could only shake his head. “I take it all back. You are a fucking idiot. I’m not turning you in, no way I’ll do that.” he stated when the android continued to look confused. And when it looked like it might speak, he held up his hands, saying, “No, no, I can’t take more of this right now. You… Fuck,I can’t believe… I need a minute, I… I n-need to go grab something, a… a tool,” he turned abruptly, heading off to the other end of the shop behind some shelving.

After a moment he heard the sound of Taehyung blowing his nose.

When his composure once more marginally assured, Taehyung eventually returned. His nose was a bit pink.

“All right. Well,” he said, clapping his hands together in preparation for action. “I need to eat something. And possibly sleep. Actually, definitely sleep. I have an early day tomorrow. Do you… have any necessity?”

The android shook his head. “I have a working digestive system. But I don’t gain anything from it.”

“Okay, got it.”

“I do sometimes power down for maintenance, or to collate. Eventually I’ll need to charge like any machine. Although I’m not certain what the actual battery life is, or if it will need to be replaced in the future.”

There was a scary thought.  He doubted he ran on AAs. But… “Hang on, this is really informative, but let me just throw something in the microwave. My stomach’s talking a little louder than you tonight.”

In a few minutes he was back perched on his stool, now armed with a bowl of ramen he’d found in the break room — definitely had to go to the market tomorrow. Nutritionally, it was total shit, but he couldn’t bring himself to care much at the moment and it was way too late for any market in this part of the town to be open. And no way would he leave the mangled android alone.

“So when you power down, that’s like sleeping?” he asked.

“How would I know the answer to that? I never sleep, remember?”

“Well, like, do you dream? Do you have any thoughts while you’re powered down, or any memories?”

The android considered it, saying, “Hmm, I’m still aware of my surroundings. I just can’t communicate.”

“Kind of like meditating?”

“I don’t know.” He shifted under Taehyung inquisitive gaze, suddenly asking, “Why all the questions?”

“What, are you kidding? Oh, do you have a sense of humor? Do you know any jokes? Or are you just kinda mean by nature? Like yeah, of course I’m going to ask questions. I’ve never seen anything like you. Nothing nearly this advanced, at least, with consciousness of its own.”

The android avoided eye-contact, muttering, “There have to be others. I’m just a prototype anyway.”

“Probably, yes, but also probably hidden away in development labs or some military base in Russia or somewhere else. I mean, there was a lot of research for the rich people have their domestic droids so who know what scientists could be doing while projecting them.  Hell, maybe you were modeled off someone. Hey, I’m not being rude, am I?” Taehyung asked, abruptly, gesturing to the noodles. “You said you don’t have to eat, but do you like to? Can you taste?”

“I’m sorry, your connection is low at the moment. If you’d like to reinitiate and try again—“

“Oh, so you do think you’re funny, you little shit.” Taehyung grumbled, wriggling on the stool in mock-frustration.

The corners of his mouth were turning up, again, eyes narrowing on Taehyung’s reaction. The mechanic was, himself, such a funny little creature of contradictions: in turns blunt, explosive, clever, naive, and sweet. It was hard to even mind his questioning too much.

Taehyung was currently pointing his fork at him, a line between his brows as he said, “Although that does beg the question, how would you even know what a joke is? I mean, how they programed? Because that’s an old joke. That’s like… I think the last time I heard that was from my uncle Seunghyun when I was a kid and I must add that he was drunk. Where would you have come across it? How much do you actually know of the world besides what they taught you?”

“Well, they downloaded a lot onto my database at various points. So I know a fair bit of medical jargon and some other usual stuff. But almost nothing about mechanics, or even how I really function and all these things.” The android added, looking to his right hand and flexing the fingers on it, watching the smooth slide of pistons and gears.

“Well. If you can just download information, you could just look it up. The world is your clickbait. I wish I could do that: just pick a concept and start downloading. I would have never went to university. Have you ever been on the internet?”

“No.”

“Oh.” A grin began to spread across Taehyung face. His legs swung a bit faster, like he was preparing for liftoff. “Oh my God, this is going to be fun. Come here.” he tossed the bowl down, hopping off the stool and flapping his hands at him excitedly before he just seized his good hand and dragged him upstairst to his office. Taehyung plopped him down in the swivel chair and, with a few swift taps, the desk surface lit up, the monitor awakening to a welcome screen. “Down here is your keyboard, those glowy letters. This is the internet icon—taps the screen over it. Over here are all the ports and plugs, if you need them. And this is the web.” He made a little ta-dah gesture. “Go nuts. Search whatever you like. But wait. No porn. If you start downloading that, you’ll probably get the robot equivalent of an STD to my computer.”

“What?”

“Nevermind. But you could use a little more social conditioning. Okay, scoot over for just a… All right. There’s a bunch of documentaries and stuff, I think you should watch that but not the animal ones, they won’t be that useful for you in society. How fast can you download, anyway?”

He was squinting at the screen. “Animal documentaries?”

“Yeah, keep those away for now and watch those about human behavior and society first. You will like them.” He looked somewhat less than convinced, but Taehyung said, “There are plenty of other nights to binge-watch any stuff you want. Just start there; I’m going to go power down the shop.”

By the time Taehyung had returned from putting away his tools, turning off all the lights, and making sure his robots were all back in their docks, the android entire focus seemed to be on the download icons on the screen. He didn’t even glance up at him as he entered the room. His hand was at one of the ports, and he  supposed it probably had some kind of adapter or something to connect to the computer.

Taehyung  glanced over at the old bed he’d set up in there, finally buckling after one too many late nights. It wasn’t exactly unusual for him to spend the night at his office anyway. And he wasn’t particularly keen to leave him all alone just now. But…

The white glow from the computer reflected off his metal arm and caught in the circuitry at his throat. His face was immobile, eyes moving over the screen so quickly it was as if they vibrated. He looked so impossibly alien but so beautiful, almost a piece of art that should be ar a museum. And yet at the same time… in many ways, Taehyung begun to think of him more as a person. Falling asleep near a machine was one thing. Robots couldn’t hurt you. But a strange man he’d found on the street?

Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning the android looked up to find the lights in the office had been long extinguished. On the bed in the corner, curled under a thin blanket, Taehyung was sound asleep.

“Cute.”