The year: 2342
Location: The State (Formerly North America)
In the year 2114, Artificial Intelligence was sustainably created and put to use by the mega-corporation Massive Dynamic. At first, this invention was used only in a military aspect- fighter planes that needed no pilot or remote control, tanks that drove themselves and were not swayed by protestors. Then, in 2150, a rival company, the Cathedral Corporation, came forward with the idea of completely removing the need for loss of human life in the military by means of a new project- The Nephilim. These robotic automatons, when given Massive Dynamic's AI, would take the place of human soldiers. They felt no pain, no fear, and followed orders unquestioningly. The project was given the go-ahead by the American government. In 2166, the Nephilim, as any sci-fi enthusiast could have predicted, turned on their creators. They attempted to neutralize every militant nation worldwide by wiping out almost half their populations. When, at last, they were stopped, the decision was made that no form of robotic beings were to be manufactured, and that the remaining Nephilim were to be terminated. In 2200, Cathedral introduced a new idea: instead of robots, a fusion of human and mechanical components would be used to create a different line of protectors: the android creations called Angels. With no need of AI, these beings could think for themselves on a base level- enough that Asimov would be proud. They had basic survival skills, but would obey any human command, or commands from a specific human once programmed. Their bodies could be formed of the hardest steel or softest flesh, and they could be encoded with an endless multitude of personalities, or none at all. The first to be tested on the market were the Archangels- a small faction of fierce, intelligent, and loyal servants, built to protect and defend human life in the face of even a nuclear holocaust. In 2223, the Angel series was made available to the public as anything from bodyguards to butlers, from private tutors to personal whores. They took over tasks that were dangerous or tedious or difficult, "making your life into your own little Heaven", as the selling pitch went.
CAS-T13L (Cooperation And Servitude unit, Angel Series, Transcendental Legion- an all-purpose android built for menial tasks) rises from his power save mode, eyes shuttering open and closed as he runs a quick diagnostic on his systems. Beside him, in the next power station, U-R13L (Utility unit, Regal Series) is doing the same.
"Good morning," CAS-T13L says, testing his vocals and, as usual, attempting to adjust the perpetual glitch in his throat which makes his voice ever-raspy.
"Good morning," U-R13L replies evenly.
"I had another malfunction, I believe, last night," the first android states quietly. "I saw a man. A man I have no records of in my data banks. He was-"
"Have you completed your diagnostic?"
U-R13L turns baleful brown eyes on him. "What are the results?"
"They remain unchanged," CAS-T13L sighs, which earns him a reproachful glance. "No anomalies detected."
U-R13L nods once, satisfied, and disconnects himself from the power Halo, considering the matter closed. He exits the small chamber, heading for whatever task he's been assigned.
CAS-T13L sighs again before he can catch himself, then freezes as his daily assignments are fed directly into his brain via the Halo- a sort of metallic tube which fits into the rounded gold panel at the back of his head and recharges his Grace every evening. Today, his orders are simple: repairs on GAB-R13L, then to the metalworking factory to melt down scraps for reuse.
He detaches and gathers up his repair kit, slipping through the door and onto the elevator. His first job is both good and bad. He's very skilled at repair- at putting things back together, even without a manual. That's good. And he likes seeing GAB-R13L, likes talking while he fixes him, likes knowing that he can help in some small way. That's Bad (the capital B is automatic in his mind). He shouldn't like visiting GAB-R13L. He shouldn't like anything at all. He's meant to be emotionless, like his Brothers, like U-R13L. He's different, and that's the type of thing that could get him scrapped, or worse- he could be recycled, like GAB-R13L. That's why he keeps his odd traits to himself, telling only U-R13L and GAB-R13L, who either don't care enough to report him, or care enough not to.
Shaking away the thought, he steps from the elevator and into the lobby of the Garrison, where a few of his fellow Angels are milling about doing various tasks. He nods at AN-NA, the Android Notification Network, Angel Series, high above in her permanent station at the controls. She scans him briefly with her large violet eyes and moves on. AN-NA is in charge of communication between every system, every android, and she relays changes or anomalies to MC-AL, the Mechanical Control Archangel unit at Heaven, the Cathedral's headquarters.
CAS-T13L walks down the city streets relatively unbothered, accompanied mostly by his fellow androids and the occasional hobo or early-morning businessman. He could fly- he's one of the handful of service droids equipped with wings- but walking through the nearly-quiet city is another one of the things he hides an enjoyment for. It's barely 4 am, the sun's light filtered and watery through the dozens of solar shields and reflective glass buildings. He reaches the Den of Inequity within twenty minutes, checking in at the desk with Chastity, the Madame of this particular brothel. There are still places that offer human services, but, as GAB-R13L himself puts it, "why pay for Earthly pleasures when you can get Heavenly ones without even breaking the law?".
Chastity directs CAS-T13L to suite 69, which she seems to find amusing despite his deadpan expression. He enters the room with trepidation, steeling himself for whatever damage has been done.
GAB-R13L is curled on his side, small and pale and silent, on the large heart-shaped bed at the center of the chamber. He is naked but for the scarlet sheets twisted around him, his body dappled with bruises, streaked with drying blood from every orifice. His eyes are closed.
People think that androids are incapable of feeling pain or pleasure, that they simply obey their programming and approximate an appropriate response to whatever stimulus they sense. This is not true. For beings like GAB-R13L- L0K1, as he is now called- filled with human nerve endings and human blood under nearly-human skin, each bite stings, each scratch and thrust and kick and slap leaves a mark and loads his receptors with genuine pain. It makes his screams more 'real', makes him more popular, makes for better income. L0K1 is a Lover unit, a Keepsake, which means he's been re-encoded. He used to be GAB-R13L, a Grade A Battle unit, an Archangel. He was ruthless and indestructible, until he disobeyed an order (he won't tell CAS-T13L what the order was, no matter how many times he asks). Since he was an Archangel, such an expensive and complex unit, MC-AL decided he wouldn't be destroyed, as happens with other malfunctioning droids. His intelligence, his Grace, was taken from his armored, impervious Vessel, impressive and imposing with its triple sets of wings and its Holy Sword capabilities, and placed in this small, frail, soft body. Left to the predatory humans, without the protection of the Legion or the shelter of the Garrison.
CAS-T13L cannot help but think that MC-AL was cruel rather than merciful when he did this.
He touches his Brother's arm, and L0K1 stirs, opening his amber eyes- a holdover from his Archangel form. "Did I fall asleep?" He asks.
"For a little while." The dark-haired Angel lifts his repair kit. "I am here to fix you."
"Mmhmm." The smaller android rolls into a seated position, uncaring when the sheets fall away, and bares his skin for CAS-T13L's examination.
CAS-T13L bends down and begins wiping away the rivulets of blood that run from a series of scratches on the ex-Archangel's shoulder blade. He digs around in the kit for his auto-stitch, placing the tool against the damaged skin and watching as it knits itself back together without a flaw. He repeats the process systematically across L0K1's body, using various tools to stitch skin, heal bruises, clean blood, readjust dislocated circuits and bones. GAB-R13L is quiet for the first five minutes, body shaking minutely every now and then as it adjusts. When CAS-T13L snaps his arm back into place, he speaks up.
"Any more dreams lately?"
The taller Angel frowns, concentrating on the alignment of his patient's nose. "They are not dreams. They're... malfunctions."
"So that's a yes. You see that guy again? Mister Dreamy McGreen Eyes?" Along with his new body, GAB-R13L was given a personality amplification, to make him more interesting. In CAS-T13L's opinion, which he should not have, GAB-R13L was already interesting- the amplification only made him snarky and sarcastic.
"I- yes. I saw him."
"And?" L0K1 prompts with a twisted grin. "What was he doing this time?"
"He was..." The repair android recalls his strange vision. "He was falling into fire. And then he was somewhere else, and he was shouting and angry and his hands were covered in blood. And then he- he was smiling and standing with a tall man and a man with a beard. He was smiling at me, I think. But then he was angry again. At me, maybe."
"Some Prince Charming complex you got there."
"I don't know what that means." CAS-T13L pulls away, glancing over his Brother's newly healed body. "I believe I am finished with this part. How do you feel? Is your mentality compromised?"
GAB-R13L barks out a laugh. "How do I feel? You know, for someone with no sense of humor, you're pretty funny sometimes." He laugh again, and it sounds strangled. "I feel fantastic, little bro. I feel like a slice of cake, just waitin' for someone to stab me with a fork or take a big bite outta me. How do you think I feel?"
The blue-eyed Angel peers sadly into L0K1's own golden eyes. "You have sustained damage to your skull. I may need to reboot you."
The former Archangel shakes his head, still laughing sickly. "It's all just so fucked, baby bro." He is the only one who ever calls CAS-T13L anything other than his name or "android". He is shaking again, his hands running over his shoulders like he can still feel the ghost of his wings. "They come and they hurt me, you come and you fix me, they come and hurt me all over again, it's a never-ending fucking cycle. I just... I can't take it much longer, and they know it. What happens when I get too damaged? Or when they stop sending you to patch me up? I'll just get more and more broken 'til there's nothing left and they throw me on a scrap heap or melt me down so what the hell's the point?"
CAS-T13L watches his Brother break down with a somber expression. When GAB-R13L's words die out and give way to more shaking, he climbs onto the bed and gently cradles the smaller being. L0K1 immediately stiffens, then seems to remember that CAS-T13L is not a client and relaxes into his arms. "If they told me to cease reparations on you," the taller droid says quietly, disclosing a secret, "I would find a way to get you help."
"Ah, CAS-T13L," the battered Angel sighs, "I know you'd try. But if you really wanted to help me, you'd switch me off and throw me into a damn melting furnace."
The dark-haired being is silent as he reaches up, stroking L0K1's hair and brushing his fingers along the rim of his Halo panel, which no longer functions as a recharger, but still contains a switch. He flicks it and GAB-R13L goes limp in his arms without a sigh. He stands up, arranging the short body on the bed and tucking the satin sheets around him, then flicks the switch again and his Brother shifts, blinking.
"Did I fall asleep?" He asks, glancing down at his repaired form with no memory of the last minute or so. No memory of his suicidal pleas, or CAS-T13L's promise.
CAS-T13L swallows, feeling the glitch in his throat like a stone. "For a little while," he says.