a broken doll
Gavin Reed had been working in the cybernetics division of this government facility for three years prior to his older, half-brother’s android going missing. He didn’t talk much with Elijah back then, they didn’t have much in common, but when he did visit Chloe was always there. She was the balance and backbone that Elijah had needed for years, Gavin had even found it in himself to be happy for his shit of a brother. He wasn’t sure how to feel when he came to work one evening and found her in a fucking lab holding chamber. They introduced her to him as a newly acquired piece of technology and stated that she was very convincingly emotional, and that he should not speak with her or engage her ‘emotional delusions’. He had kept a blank, uninterested expression the entire time that they explained this to him because that’s what they wanted from their guards.
If he wasn’t interested, he wasn’t a liability. So he was never interested.
Except, of course, when you see your fucking brother’s fiancée with wires fucking exposed and wearing fucking straps instead of clothing. She’d been crying, her face was still fucking wet. They called it emotional delusions!
When they were alone, he put his hand up to the observation glass and mouthed, “Sorry.”
She laid against the invisible divider and cried until she powered down.
He stood there and pretended he didn’t care. Didn’t care that this woman he’d known for eleven years wasn’t a technically a person. Didn’t care that one of his very few friends in this fucked up world was just a simulation.
It didn’t matter.
He didn’t care.
If he told himself enough, he might actually even believe it.
He didn’t talk to Elijah about it. Elijah didn’t call. They just pretended nothing was happening. Eventually he heard the gossip around the office. A scientist they had worked with, “K”, had become troublesome after they had redacted his research material when he refused to cooperate. They’d been blacklisting him from organizations left and right, making sure he couldn’t cause them any damage. Last night they sent someone to ‘make their point clear’ and so far they hadn’t heard anything back from “K”.
On his next day off he went and visited his half-brother and found out that he was in the hospital due to an accident. Alive, non-critical. He didn’t want to talk. So Gavin left him a get well card that he’d picked up in the gift shop and left.
Years go by, and slowly they’re making more of these androids. The first ones look like Chloe but they can’t get them to pass the Turing Test like she can. They keep trying and trying. Gavin watches so many machines wearing human skin come in and out of the lab. Failed. Failed. Failed. And then few finally did pass the test and ‘work’ as designed. Apparently, Kamski designed them to be sexually capable. One of the test androids was even being passed around by the scientists in secret for a bit of ‘pleasurable company’.
As the new prototypes were gaining popularity, interest in Chloe was waning slightly. It meant less people watching every second of every day, and it meant he could talk to her a bit more. She understood, of course she did, that he couldn’t do anything, but she was glad to have someone to talk to again that didn’t just look at her as a machine. They mostly talked about meaningless things - the weather, fashion, his cats - but occasionally he’d help her fix her hair or he’d sneak her fresh linens. Whatever. They couldn’t fire him for fixing a computer’s hair.
Then things started changing. Someone was snooping around, a test android had gone missing, other prototypes were acting out, scientists were vanishing from the lab as they systematically cut out loose ends. Chloe refused to speak to him for the greater part of that year for fear of getting him in trouble. Once the disappearances slowed down, things returned to normal. They went back to ignoring Chloe except to fuss about why her coding couldn’t be pulled apart to make docile machines that could also pass the Turing Test. Chloe seemed to think it was funny and years of being stuck in isolation had given her a bit of a cynical twist on things — as if Kamski would make an obedient machine.
And then they went and switched his patrol route.
No more Chloe. They had more important things to worry about now. They were trying to make military androids, apparently, and their military androids were starting to talk back. The possibility of an angry android that could also easily kick a scientist’s ass was apparently enough to warrant more security. Being one of the senior guards, he got stuck running the nightshift in their little ‘barracks’ of sorts.
There were like, ten of them, all the same, except for stupid little traits. This one was taller, this one had blue eyes, and so on. One of the tall ones liked to talk back. And occasionally punched scientists. Gavin got assigned to him specifically. They were having really good results ‘taming’ these androids, it was only a matter of time before they got them all in line. Or something. Gavin had gotten pretty good at only half listening to all of their scientific babble.
Sadly, years of having Chloe to chat with during these long shifts meant that he’d also gotten into a habit of chatting with the prisoners. Tonight, his prisoner was staring at him. All the other androids had gone into sleep mode when the lights went out, but this one just did everything in his power to be as positively uncomfortable to be around as possible… But Gavin was lonely, and this asshole probably was too.
“What the fuck are you staring at? Go to sleep like the rest of the plastic assholes.”
“I don’t actually need to sleep.” the android commented, though they both already knew that. Despite his language, this guard actually at least talked to him like he was somewhat self-aware. The others talked to him like he was a fancy cell phone.
“No shit. Don’t you need to like… save your battery or something?” Chloe didn’t sleep but she at least… uhh… pretended sometimes. Once she’d said something about only being able to see Elijah in her dreams and Gavin had never asked her about that again.
“No, technically my battery can outlive you. We only have rest modes to make humans comfortable; that and the inability to sleep and escape from the world once in awhile would probably drive even an android crazy. No one wants to find out.”
Gavin pursed his lips together. “That’s real fucking creepy, actually. Thanks for the nightmare fuel.”
“You’re welcome.” the android replied, his tone decidedly sarcastic.
Gavin chuckled before he could stop himself and then immediately stiffened. “Whatever. So go into rest mode before you lose your mind or something. I have a fucking job to do.”
“Eventually.” he promised.
Gavin avoided that one for a little while after that, it was safer than possibly getting friendly with one of these things. Two weeks later, however, he noticed the snarky android looked… roughed up? Gavin paused in his rounds and, despite himself, found his mouth moving to ask a stupid fucking question. “Hey, what happened?”
“Apparently I talk too much. But I think you knew that already, didn’t you, Gavin?” the android answered, bitterly. It was a little hard for him to communicate over all the annoying noises he could hear and the errors he was getting about all the things they refused to repair. It was some sort of punishment. He couldn’t exactly feel pain, but this was not pleasant when it was stuck on an endless loop.
Gavin frowned as he stared at the android. “Yeah, you really fucking do…” He absently glanced back toward Chloe’s lab and then back to the android. “Doesn’t mean they should treat their stuff like shit.”
“People don’t like when their stuff tells them what they’re doing is unethical, I guess.” he went back to sounding emotionless. These humans didn’t care about him or any other android. They were means to an end. He’d probably disappear one of these days too. He was too ‘broken’.
“No. Humans hate that.” Shit shit shit, he shouldn’t be doing this. Gavin couldn’t bring himself to look at the android as he said the dumbest thing of his entire career. “Can I get you anything, to help? I’ve got limited access to supplies.”
“I’m not worth the trouble you’d get in. It’s a punishment anyway. If I repaired myself, it’d only be worse later.” he answered. He arched an eyebrow. Why was this human offering to help him?
Gavin frowned and leaned up against the glass divider. This reminded him too much of Chloe, fucked up and distraught. He paused. “Hey, do you have your own designation or are they still calling your whole lot Connor?”
“I don’t know what they’re calling us now. The end of my serial number is 99 so I gave myself my own name. Nines.” the android answered, unsure why he was humoring this guard by telling him his personal information.
“Nines, huh? I like it.” He couldn’t help, but the least he could do was treat the guy like a person. Chloe said it kept her grounded. “You still have access to the intranet here? There’s a video Chl… A friend of mine likes if you can access it.”
“Yes, I do. Why do you care though?” Nines’ eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“Because someone should, and I’m a little lonely. Ever since they switched my route I haven’t had anyone to talk to.” He glanced over his shoulder at the android. “If you want me to leave you alone, I can. Otherwise I can text you the link to that video.”
Nines looked Gavin up and down, debated internally for a moment and ultimately decided to agree. What else was there to do in here? “Fine.” he answered. “I don’t know what you mean by text though.”
Gavin grinned. “I don’t know if it’ll work, but hang on.” He glanced up at the serial number labeled on the cell and typed it into the program Chloe had mailed him. He forwarded the link through. “That do anything?”
The info popped up and Nines was intrigued. “Yes ..” He opened the link and it was a short video of cats playing. He looped it a few times and found it kind of amusing. When was the last time he found anything purely amusing? Nines couldn’t remember. He shook his head. “Normally I’d tell you that was a waste of time, but all I have is time. Thanks for breaking up the monotony.”
Gavin chuckled. “Sometimes all you can do is waste time… but you’re welcome.” He turned around, stuffing his phone and his hands into his pockets. “Do you like cats? Or just cats being idiots?”
“I would like to see a cat. As you know, there isn’t an overabundance of cats in the lab. I’ve never seen one in person. They seem .. cute.” Nines had trouble finding the term he wanted. There wasn’t much to find ‘cute’ in this facility.
“If I thought they’d let me bring my cats here, I would. They’re both idiots.” He glanced at his watch, then back up at Nines. “I have to continue my route… I’ll swing back by before I clock out, break up the monotony again.”
“I’d appreciate that,” Nines said, honestly. There was even a hint of a smile on the corners of his lips.
Gavin nearly faltered. Fuck… He was kind of hot when he actually acted like a person. Gavin felt his face start to heat up and immediately gave Nines a curt nod before strolling off. Of all the fucking ridiculous thoughts to have!