The day that Cordelia appeared through the doors of the Hyperion with a robot in tow, Angel was in no mood for games. He was up to his eyes in deciphering a particularly cryptic prophecy, trying to pinpoint exactly when and where a tribe of deadly Choonaska demons would be landing in the greater Los Angeles area and start in on their bicentennial headhunt. That'd be the literal kind of headhunt, and one that Angel was keen to stop. It was all supposed to happen sometime within the next twenty-four hours, give or take, and so far he was coming up empty. So generally speaking, robots were not something he had a whole lot of time for at that precise moment.
Although... robot. Actual robot. Not a man in a flaily-armed suit, Danger, Will Robinson kind of robot, but an actual robot. Not something you saw rolling into your lobby just any old day of the week. Angel had been waiting for this to happen for a long time. It was right up there with the flying cars he'd been promised throughout most of the 1950s.
"Cordelia," he said slowly, only his eyes moving, like any other action on his part would only lead to bad things. "What's that?"
"Angel, isn't he just the cutest thing? I found him wandering the streets. I think he's lost."
"Lost?" Angel set his glass of blood down on the reception desk too quickly, sending a spatter of blood over of the ancient scrolls he'd been working on. Great. Now Wesley could throw a conniption fit and Angel's day would be rounded off nicely. "Cordelia, things that expensive don't get lost. You can't just bring something like this home. Somebody owns this. Wait, you didn't buy this, did you?" Angel raised one finger in question. "You didn't use my credit card to buy this, did you?"
"Angel, nobody owns him. He just... said he was lost."
"He said he was lost." Angel looked at Cordelia like she'd lost her mind. "He said he was lost."
"Is there a really annoying echo in here?"
"Are you trying to tell me you had an actual conversation with it?"
"Sure. And "it" has a name. Angel, I'd like you to meet Number 5."
"Number... Cordelia, correct me if I'm wrong, but that-that-that thing is a robot."
"Yeah, but he's a super-smart robot. Aren't you, buddy?"
The robot had been immobile in the centre of the lobby. At the sound of Cordelia's voice, it looked up and took a second to focus and refocus its googly robot eyes on her. It tilted its head like it was considering the question, and finally nodded. That was enough for Angel to widen his eyes comically, glare, try to speak, come up empty, shift his weight onto his back foot, glare again, attempt another sentence, fail miserably at the whole English language thing, then settle for folding his arms over his chest and assembling his features into an expression of grave and unbending disapproval.
There was something about the way the metal flaps over the robot's eyes flipped up and down that in equal parts melted Angel's heart and infuriated him beyond words.
"Cordelia, you know that we're in the middle of a case. We don't need the extra hassle of... whatever this is."
The robot focused its attention on Angel and narrowed its eyes. On top of its head a small aerial appeared and wiggled in Angel's general direction, emitting a series of high-pitched beeping noises. It rolled across the lobby, backing Angel up until he hit the wall and could go no further. Angel stopped breathing as the robot tilted its head to one side, slowly raised its arm and rapped smartly on Angel's forehead with its rubber knuckles.
"Aww," Cordelia said, fingertips on her smile. "I think he likes you."
Angel swallowed and tried not to panic.
"Body temperature: eleven degrees centigrade," said the robot in a definitely male, although much chirpier voice than Angel had been expecting. Odd though, it almost sounded... concerned. "Oxygen intake: nil. Heart rate: zero beats per minute." He swung around to look at Cordelia. "Is within normal operating parameters?"
"Oh," Cordelia said, her eyes going wide. "Right. The dead thing. I forgot to tell you. Number 5, Angel is a vampire."
"Sure. You know. The undead? Drinks blood? Like Dracula."
"Vampire," the robot said, processing this. "Supernatural being. Demon. Bloodsucker. Leech. Children of the Night. Evil undead." There was a pause as the robot blinked twice, internal processors whirring. "Fictional character. Lestat de Lioncourt. Dracula. Bram Stoker. Mary Shelley. Frankenstein's Monster."
Cordelia grinned. "I can totally see where you're coming from."
"Hey!" was Angel's indignant response.
Cordelia waved her hand at him like she was dismissing an irksome servant, and looked like she was trying to figure out a way to break the news gently to Number 5 about how vampires and demons and magic were all real. "Number 5? Vampires and demons and magic? All real."
Number 5 shook his head resolutely. "Fictional. Books. Movies. Video games."
"Nope. That's a total smokescreen. They're all real."
"No more than a robot who thinks he's alive."
"Vampire is alive? Like Number 5?"
"Well, not alive so much as undead. Existing but not ageing, y'know?"
"Vampire," Number 5 said, tapping thoughtfully on his non-existent robot chin with one metal finger. "Undead. Demon. Evil." He looked up suddenly, clearly agitated. "Evil undead?! Bloodsucker?! No disassemble Cordelia!"
Rotors whirring, rubber burning, Number 5 shot across the lobby to herd Cordelia behind him, his eyes glowing red in a surprisingly menacing fashion as he stared Angel down.
Angel bravely backed away, trying not to trip over the furniture. "Ah, Cordelia? Is that, ha, a laser he has pointed at me? Because that could, y'know, set me on fire and burn me into a little pile of ash. Then I'd be, y'know, dead."
Cordelia was trying to get out from behind Number 5, but was having difficulty getting around those long robot arms. "All right, stop! Number 5, Angel is my friend. He has a soul. He's a good vampire. He helps the helpless."
Number 5 hesitated, his laser humming ominously. "Not bloodsucker?"
"Not bloodsucker." Cordelia led him forward. "See? He drinks blood from a glass. He gets it from the butcher shop."
The laser powered down and tucked away out of sight as Number 5 examined Angel's abandoned glass. "Hmm. Pig's blood. Plasma. Platelets." His eyes focused and refocused, tracking the line of blood splattered across the scrolls. "Also look like, resemble, constellation of Orion. Ancient Greek, Pamphylian dialect, prophecies of the prophet Hellesean.'
"Wait," Angel said, his curiosity getting the better of him. "Wait just a minute. You can read this?"
"Affirmative. Number 5 knows many languages. Number 5 was locked in the Los Angeles Central Library overnight." He shook his head, like adventures had been had that Angel could only dream of. "Long story. So to kill time, Number 5 read all the books in their ancient language section."
"And yet you still talk like Mr Miyagi."
"Mr Miyagi. Karate Kid. Daniel-san. Sand the floor. Paint the fence. Wax on, wax off," Number 5 said solemnly, complete with little circular hand movements.
"Okaaay," Angel said, edging around the side of the desk. "So you could maybe translate this for me?"
Number 5 looked sidelong at Cordelia. "Angel vampire not bloodsucker? No disassemble Cordelia?"
"No, Number 5," Cordelia said. "No disassemble. I promise."
"Okay." Setting the mug precisely to one side, Number 5 picked up the scroll and cleared his throat. He then proceeded to read through the scroll in six seconds flat, tossing it over his shoulder when he was finished.
Angel watched as his precious scroll flew through the air, just glad that Wesley wasn't there to see it. He looked at Number 5. Then back at the scroll. Then back at Number 5. "Well?"
"A tribe of eighteen Choonaska demons will appear on the corner of 5th and Vine at 9.47pm tonight."
"You couldn't be a little more specific?" Angel said, impressed, but hating that his six solid hours of researching and translating hadn't come up with anything even approaching an answer.
"Bring the Blade of Balthar to defeat them. Stab them in both hearts." Number 5 mimed a stabbing gesture at Angel's right shoulder, then low down on the left side of his ribcage. "One. Two. Demon shish kebab. Then set fire to the bodies to prevent reanimation."
Angel could only stare, his mouth hanging open. Slowly he became aware of Cordelia elbowing him incessantly in the ribs.
"Say thank you to the nice robot."
"Thank you to the nice robot."
Number 5 tilted his head, and it looked for all the world like a beaming smile, although Angel was at a loss as to why he'd think so, seeing as Number 5 was distinctly lacking a mouth. "You are welcome, Angel vampire."
"You are welcome, just Angel." Number 5 held out his three-fingered hand, and in a John Wayne accent said, "Put it there, pardner."
Totally bemused, Angel held out his hand for Number 5 to pump it in an enthusiastic handshake. "Hey," Angel said, as a thought struck him, "maybe you could take a look at another scroll for me. Something about a shanshu..."