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Become Human?

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John crouched and held the heavy red Nikon up to his eye, taking his time to adjust the zoom just right. His blue orbs squinted as he looked through the small sight. He snapped the shot. A birds' nest nestled in a disused aerial, with the disused warehouses sprawled below bathed in a red sunset. It was quite a breath-taking view. He got to his feet with a sigh and looked around. He’d taken quite a few shots from the old metal rooftops. It was a wonder the area hadn’t been flattened yet. He’d almost fallen through the rusted metal more than once already. He took a moment to return his camera to the protective backpack before taking off again.

His feet made loud clanks on the metal surface as he ran. He hopped onto the edge of the building before jumping across to a slightly lower rooftop. He looked around for a good route down, and maybe he could even get inside one of the dilapidated buildings. This place had been shut down almost ten years ago, and over the last decade even the security had disappeared. No one ever bothered to come here anyway. Just a few teens looking for somewhere to party. He’d photographed some amazing graffiti today, but all of it was quite old, cracked and faded. Even older teens were going off this place as a secret hideout.

The warped metal creaked beneath his feet as he walked across the rooftop, coming upon an old skylight. He leaned down and ran a hand over the filthy glass. This looked like a possible entry point. The glass itself was still firm, but as he tugged the jagged metal frame he could see the rusted seal giving way. He tugged on his protective gloves and pulled, feeling rust turn to powder against the thick material as he heaved. There was a resounding crack as the window came loose and he pushed it aside.

He was careful as he knelt on the edge, using a small flashlight to look down into the darkness below. There was a metal bar just a few feet down, probably from the old lighting system. There were some gangways still standing, though he wouldn’t know how stable they were until he reached them. I just hope the lighting rails will hold. He thought as he got to his feet and took a few breaths. His best bet was to swing from the rail onto one of the gangways as quickly as possible. He trusted the gangway more than the thin rail. With that in mind he stepped over the edge.

He let out a small grunt as he grabbed the rail, gasping as the whole thing twisted, spinning him in a different direction. He hadn’t factored in chain supports that moved. One hand slipped as he looked around, trying to find somewhere else to go. At least the rail hadn’t fallen yet. He used his legs to swing the rail, getting himself closer to the gangway. He released, his feet making a loud crash as he landed. The rail he’d been swinging from collapsed on one side and swung precariously with a high pitched whine. That was closer than I’d like. John thought, adrenaline buzzing as he edged his way along the cracked and broken surface.

“Ah!” He cried in surprised as the metal section he was edging along fell through. He grabbed the walkway's edge with one hand, his feet kicking as he tried to look around and get a better grip. He was still too high to simply drop to the floor below. Oh no…He thought worriedly, seeing only one way. There was a chain hanging close by, probably used to heft larger loads like some sort of crane or pully system. After all this time it may not work, but he had little choice. Lord protect me…

John took a breath and swung himself, holding one hand outstretched as he dove towards the chain. He grabbed it tightly with both hands, a whimper breaking free as the chain began to unravel above, sending him hurtling towards the stone floor. God please! He cried inwardly, tucking his legs up and gripping the chain tightly as he closed his eyes. The unravelling chain screeched in his ears, the wind ruffling his curled locks and ragged jeans as he fell. There was a loud clang above, and a painful jolt ran through John’s shoulders as he jerked to a stop. He was shaking as he opened his oceanic blue eyes and looked around. He was hanging barely a foot above the dirty cement floor, the chain swinging him lazing back and forth.

“Thank you.” John sighed as he released the chain and stumbled to his feet, crouching as he caught his breath. He was shaking from the adrenaline now. He looked around the large space, which had been emptied of almost everything. There were a few old metal containers dotted around, and a broken shelving unit or two, but most things had either been taken when the place closed or stolen over the years. John took out his camera and looked around, keeping the flash off for now. He wanted the dim murky atmosphere, and the old skylights let in a certain amount of dusky orange light.

He walked around slowly, taking pictures of the rusted old containers, the hanging chain, the old doors, the windows above, and even the lighting rigs. He paused as he heard something. A light shuffling. Rats? That sounded loud for a rat…He thought cautiously as he tiptoed quietly towards the sound. It was quiet now, but that didn’t faze him. He could feel his heart speeding up as he drew closer to the noise. It was right in the middle of the large space, near an old rusty container. He took a breath before finally stepping around the side, his eyes widening as he found a person. Not a person. He realised as he noticed the deep blue gashes on the Asian man’s cheek.

He was dressed in a black and white uniform of some sort, one that John didn’t recognise, though it was a similar style to the androids he’d seen in the park taking care of the grounds. The uniform was torn and stained in places, with both thirium and dirt. John approached cautiously and crouched down right beside the unit. He snapped a few pictures, getting a close shot of the damage on the right side of his face, where his long bangs swept down to cover the area. It looked strangely peaceful despite the painful looking damage. How did it get down here? John wondered as he lowered his camera, remembering the noise he’d heard. But I don’t think this unit is active…

“H-hello? Can you hear me?” John murmured hesitantly, but the unit remained looking peaceful with its eyes closed. John’s heart tugged a little as he took in the damage. What happened to it? Did it fall? He wondered as he swept the long hair back and touched the deep, painful looking gauges in the skin. His fingers were stained blue as he touched the cracked white shell beneath. This wasn’t made by falling…Did someone do this to him? The teen wondered, biting his lip as pity swelled in his chest. He couldn’t tell how bad the damage was, and the unit seemed inactive.

Am I too late? Has it completely shut down? Does it have any power reserves? Maybe it’s in standby mode to save power…He thought as he stroked the silken locks. It wasn’t a model John recognised, which seemed almost impossible. John had seen almost every type on the market. So maybe he wasn’t on the market…In that case, how did he get here? And why? There was really only one way to answer his questions.

John laid his camera aside and reached up hesitantly for the jacket’s zip. He slid it down and opened it to reveal a simple white top beneath, though it had been badly stained with blue. That meant it was still leaking. Blue-blood usually disappeared after a few hours. John lifted the material, surprised to find the torso more or less undamaged, besides the lack of a skin covering. He could see the main power chamber. A fist sized circle right at the top of the unit’s diaphragm. If I pop out the core I should be able to see how much power it has left. He took a breath. He’d done this many times, but it never disturbed him any less. It was like literally holding someone’s heart in your hand. If he did something wrong he could irreparably damage the already fragile unit. He let his breath out slowly as he pressed his fingers to the small circle and prepared to twist. Here we go…

He’d barely pressed down when there was a flurry of movement. The body beneath his hand jerked, a wide chocolate eye looking into his blue orbs in pure terror. The LED on the android’s temple was a dull blinking ring of red as a white plastic hand grabbed John’s throat and squeezed with a shaking grip. John’s eyes widened in surprise, his yelp of shock stuck in his throat at the bone crushing squeeze. He choked out an objection, using his free hand to grab the hand on his neck.

“Don’t…Don’t deactivate me!” The unit’s deep voice pleaded, the tone interrupted by static and buzzing. Have to…get free! John thought urgently, twisting the power chamber and hearing it click out of place. The android looked horrified, the hand at his throat instantly releasing as he trembled against the rusted container. John gasped for breath, his hand still resting on the power core. “Please…” The unit murmured in a small voice as liquid blue stained John’s pale fingers. John touched his sore throat and twisted the core back into place. He fell back on his rump, wheezing a little.

He wasn’t sure what to say as he sat gasping, staring at the broken android. He was faking? Then there must be a problem with his software…He attacked a human, and he looks…scared…John thought as he crossed his legs. The unit seemed just as speechless as he was. He had one hand held up defensively, as if to ward John off. His other arm was hanging limp at his side, which suggested an issue in the shoulder, or maybe the whole limb was useless. He also didn’t move to get up, so his legs may have been damaged too.

“I…I don’t want to shut down…Please, don’t hurt me.” The unit pleaded, in that same static buzzing voice. John felt his heart melt a little as he reached out. The android’s hand immediately gripped his wrist in a painful hold. John bit his lip, wincing a little as he raised his free hand to rest it lightly on top of the android’s. The unit was unsure how to respond to the gentle touch, and with only one good hand there wasn’t much he could do in defence.

“It’s alright…I won’t hurt you…Can you run a self-diagnostic? Do you know what’s wrong? What parts are broken?” John asked quietly, watching the android’s head droop as if in defeat. The LED was still flashing red as John stroked the smooth white plastic casing of its hand. The grip on his wrist slowly lessened, though John made no move to break free. Now that the unit was active John could actually hear whirring, buzzing and crackling from various joints and parts.

“My diagnostic processor is broken…All I know is I’m badly damaged.” The unit replied, and John could certainly agree with that. If he’s a newer model then his diagnostic processor will be part of his auditory component…That means he should be able to remove it.

“Could you remove the part? If you can remove it I may be able to find a replacement.” John said in an almost soothing tone, watching as android looked troubled and confused, raising his hand hesitantly to his ear. His dark eye looked at John before dropping to the ground. He was nervous and hesitant, the circular LED still whirring in a circle of red. It wasn’t like he had anything to lose in this situation, but trust was difficult.

“Why would you do that? I’m just a broken android…I’m not even yours.” The android murmured, something bitter and harsh creeping into his tone. John bit his lip as he thought up a response. The android had clearly been abused by humans. It made sense that he’d be cautious about accepting help from one. This unit also seemed unique in some ways. He wasn’t as robotic as the others he’d worked on. He seemed to have genuine feelings, something John didn’t know how to explain.

“I don’t really have an answer for you…I just…want to help.” John replied quietly. It was why he’d opened the repair business he owned. He knew a lot of people treasured their units, and wouldn’t want to send them all the way to a Cyberlife repair facility. He also fixed up older models and sold them on, giving them a new chance at life rather than having them crushed and recycled. “Androids are more than just machines.” The blonde murmured quietly, looking strangely sad. John snapped his eyes up as he heard a small clicking sound.

He held his hand out in surprised as the android handed him the small device. It was barley the size of an eraser, and looked a little bit like a thick bolt. It was black and slightly warped. It had clearly been overloaded it some point. I guess the damage on the right side of his face cut off some of the energy flow and diverted it through the other side…John thought worriedly, unsure he would be able to fix everything if that were the case. It would also depend on what parts this model needed. He recognised the part in his hand  as a piece of the privately produced RK series, which were interchangeable with both the ST and RG series. I know we have this part in store…

“Wait here, I’ll be back.” John assured as he got to his feet and tucked the component away in his light jacket pocket. He looked around the large space, wondering how to get out. There was no way he was going back the way he’d come in, and the large front doors were bolted. He jogged to the main doors and followed the wall around, looking for either a window or some sort of worn section he could break through.

He found it, right in the corner of the building. There was a hole, just big enough to crawl through. Judging by the oily smudges on the sharp metal he guessed this was how the android had managed to get inside. John crawled through the hole, looking around in the dimness for some way to find his way back. Damn, I didn’t bring my camera…He thought, opting to grab his mobile and snap a few shots. The warehouse across the yard had a faded number 4 on the main doors. He set off at a light run, jumping barrels and crates that had been left littering the overgrown, disused yard. He climbed over the old metal railings and hurried towards the main road.

It took him about half an hour to run back into the city. Luckily, his repair shop was close to the outskirts of the main shopping district. His android clerk and his assistant, David, looked up as the door opened and the teen stumbled inside out of breath. The brunette behind the counter raised his eyebrow at his old classmate, watching as the blonde hurried over the shelves and started looking through the racks like a madman.

“What happened to you? You get in a fight?” David asked as he took in John’s dishevelled appearance. He knew his boss had been planning to take photos somewhere, and considering all the free running he did he wasn’t surprised about the dirt on his clothes, but the bruising on his neck was a little concerning. John barely spared a breath as he searched his current shelf.

“A what? No-no.” He replied distractedly, smiling as the blonde GT300 approached and looked at the piece in his hand. He could see the cogs turning in the unit’s mind as it processed the damaged part and put it together with John’s frantic searching. It took the green eyed unit less than a few seconds to reach out and pluck the required part from the shelf.

“Is this what you require Sir?” He asked in his clean electronic voice. John smiled softly as he accepted the part and rested a hand on the unit’s strong shoulder. The blonde tilted his head and smiled his usual pre-programmed smile in return.

“It is, thanks GT.” John replied before hurrying over to the counter, where David still stood watching. He tugged John’s jacket aside and took a closer look at the bruising around his boss’s neck. He could clearly see finger indents in the milky skin, and something had shaken the teen up.

“Not a fight my ass! Who did that to you?” David demanded, frowning as the blonde shrugged it off and put the piece on the counter. “Find yourself a new project?” The older teen asked curiously as he picked up the item. John looked hesitant and then a little sheepish as he nodded his agreement. “Did someone threaten you for this part? You should call the police!” David insisted worriedly as John handed over his business card to make the transaction.

“It’s nothing like that! Really!” John insisted as he took the part and hurried for the door. “I’ll be back later. Close up for me if I’m not back, ok?” The blonde called as he paused in the doorway. David sighed and waved his agreement before looking over at the GT300, which was also watching John leave. If he didn’t know better he’d say the old GT unit was curious as he watched the blonde run back up the street.