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Cybernetic Conflict

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Broken.

Disposable.

Those were the two words they had used when describing the Unit. In fact, the only words on the crisp, neat sheet of work orders due by the end of the week that struck him at once. How infuriatingly non-descript. His eyes narrowed as he slipped his finger under the page, clicking his tongue twice.

Disposable? Then why the repair order?

But maybe--

Swiping his mobile from the table, he dialed without glancing as he flicked the page onto the counter top, watching it seesaw in the air.

“Why hello Sherlock. Work order went through alright?”

He scrubbed a hand through his hair, willing patience into his voice. “Yes, received. But there’s been a mistake—“

“No mistakes, Sherlock,” came the light voice.

“No, there’s a job for Disposal. That isn’t what I—“

“Just a moment.” Sherlock snapped his mouth shut and listened to the shuffling of paper and clothing before, “Ah yes, I see. Fifth down. Mm, yes but it’s on the repair order—“

“Mycroft, I don’t do—“

“Sherlock.” Came the astoundingly, infernally calm voice that ground Sherlock’s teeth. “You do not have a choice. Until your probation is complete you will put your talents to use is that understood? Now, I look the other way while you,” there came a disgusted sigh. “… rummage for parts, shall we say, for your own uses. Finish the work order in the deadline, and there won’t be a problem.”

Sherlock knew better than to respond as the line went dead in his hand.

He knew he didn’t have a choice.

------

A sexbot.

Had to be, given the location. Disgusting. Brothel? Brothel. His eyes swept the area, gripping his bag of extremely expensive, nearly irreplaceable equipment. He took the now well-worn work order out of his pocket, fifth one in as many days.

Last one of the week.

He would be lying if he said he wasn’t incredibly intrigued. The location made him nervous, just outside the safer, more secure London limits. But the nervousness mindlessly thrilled him.

Something new at the very least.

He approached the door and knocked.

------

The man almost didn’t let Sherlock in, scoffing at his attire. Not what one would deem a ‘repairman’s uniform’. Sherlock flapped the work order in the man’s face and snarled his government authorization code before the man stepped aside and Sherlock swept in.

The owner led him through the surprisingly sizeable parlor area, the building deceivingly large. It was also surprisingly clean and bare for what the establishment was. All the rooms were shut and not a peep was to be had, and Sherlock briefly wondered what was hidden behind each cedar door.

“Bin nothin’ but trouble, this one.” The man started as Sherlock analyzed every part of the house, barely hanging onto the fringes of attention to inane ramblings of the man. The man grabbed a set of keys off a peg near the stairs. “It used to be popular but now… Well. Migh’ lose a bit o’ money on it but I kin say I’m glad you’re takin’ it off my hands.”

Sherlock stopped dead and blinked rapidly. “Pardon?”

The man stopped and snuffled his hand around his nose and chin, keys jingling. “Takin’ it off my property. Trash it. I git a credit of some kind if I go through the government, righ'?”

Sherlock shifted his weight as he moved the back from his right to his left hand. “Mr. Greene, I have a work order, meaning a repair order. I am not part of Disposal.”

The man’s eyes widened. “Repair? You…You think you can fix it?”

Could he fix--? “Of course I can!” Sherlock nearly shouted, unreasonably defensive. Did this man know who he was? Oh, of course not! He wasn’t from the main city. The man ran a sexbot brothel for God’s sake.

“Righ’ well.” The man looked baffled as he scratched his chin. “If you think you kin fix it… I think that migh’ be even better!” The man turned, inserted a key and twisted a knob. “Put it to work again and make my money back.”

------

Sherlock shut the door and locked it as instructed, pocketing the keys in his coat. He turned and took in the sight of the machine before him.

It was … On.

Well that was irritating.

It was also fully intact, from the looks of it. Something internal? Circuitry? ‘Broken’ on the work order was hardly anything to go on, but Sherlock found himself starting to like the idea of a challenge.

It was sitting in a chair and looking out the small window, blinking into the sun. Next to it was a bed with a single gray blanket. The room was even barer than the parlor.

Sherlock pursed his lips together as he set his bag down. Proper protocol was machines were to be off prior to any work orders even be sent in. For reset and safety reasons. Could that perverted fool be any more--

“Hello.”

Sherlock blinked as the machine turned to him.

Now he had to suffer conversation? Tedious. Part of the desirability of this punishment he selected out of the many Mycroft had provided was he didn’t require much conversing with people. Or things.

He shifted his hands up to his coat and slipped it off with two quick motions, folding it over his forearm. “Yes, well. Hello.” It was only polite. Mummy didn’t raise a heathen.

The Unit's eyes focused in on the bag at his feet and Sherlock caught the slightest straightening of its back. Apprehension? Defensive? Who would program that?

"What's your name?"

His name?  Sherlock shifted uncomfortably, his coat feeling oddly heavy draped over his arm. “It’s Sherlock. Sherlock Holmes.”

“Sherlock.” The machine said his name slowly, as if tasting it. “Alright then.”

“Alright.” Sherlock confirmed, incongruously thrown by the entire conversation. “So I’ll just—“ He glanced around.

“I can take your coat.” It said quietly, rising from the chair. It looked… tired. If a machine could look tired.

And for a whore house the machine could hardly be deemed as dressing ‘sexy’. Soft denim jeans with a blue cotton button up. It was barefoot, Sherlock noted absently as it approached.

“For a sexbot, you are hardly dressed in a manner one would expect.” He sniffed casually; stepping back as the machine gently took the coat from his arm.

The machine paused and glanced up at him. “And how would you expect me to dress, Mr. Holmes?”

“I don’t frequent these … establishments. I suppose I … wouldn’t know.” He said honestly. But perhaps not so… normal, he nearly added.

“Would you like to …frequent?” It asked, looking up at him. It reached and placed a hand on Sherlock’s waist.

Sherlock recoiled instantly, pulling away and crossing the, albeit small, room.

“I don’t need a demonstration of your skill set. I am here to complete a task.” He nearly snarled as the bot looked slightly startled before recovering quickly.

“Yes, of course.” It said politely, returning to its task. “Under normal circumstances,” it said softly, changing the subject. “I’d tell you to put your coat on the bed but… In this place it’s probably not the most sanitary.”

Sherlock scowled at the pathetic, sad little blanket of a bedspread as the Unit plucked a hanger from the closet and hung up his coat neatly.

“I um,” Sherlock crossed his arms and gave a brief nod, glancing about the room. “Thank you.”

It shrugged. “Only polite. Nowhere else to put it. Something that nice shouldn’t be dirtied up in a place like this.”

“I have many,” Sherlock replied, rolling up his sleeves. “But thank you.” He motioned. “Sit down again. Please.”

“Right.” The machine seemed to steel itself, left hand clenching and unclenching in a rhythmic motion. Sherlock made a mental note to check its flexor tendons.

“I can sit on the bed. If you like. And you can take the chair.” Politeness again. Programmed deeply? Sherlock made another note.

Sherlock merely nodded as the machine sat, back rigid as Sherlock sat opposite in the wooden seat, reaching and grabbing his bag closer to him.

Sherlock stared at the zipper of the duffle before sitting up and looking at the machine.

Something …wasn’t…

“You wanted to know my name.” He found himself saying. “Why?”

The machine blinked but didn’t advert its gaze. “Just being polite.”

“No.” Sherlock responded immediately, watching the machines synthetic Adam’s apple bob slightly. “Why did you want to know my name?”

The machine clenched its jaw but said nothing

“You answer me when I ask you a question. Do you not understand the question?”

“I understand the question.” It stated briskly.

“Then answer it!”

“No.”

Sherlock jerked back, stunned. Broken. It just broke an unbreakable Law…. That wasn’t…Not at all…

The machine glared at him, completely resolute. Eyes impossibly dark and every muscle rigid. Any faux politeness was quickly fleeing the scene.

Sherlock stood and motioned. “Stand up.”

“No.”

Certainly broken. Completely, utterly…

"Why did you offer to take my coat?"

The Unit's eyes narrowed impossibly, head ducking down and low in a readied posture, as if it were going to bolt.

Its eyes flickered to the door.

Sherlock glanced between the Unit, the door, and his coat and back to the Unit.

"You took the keys." He breathed, awed.

Completely, utterly… amazing.