This is actually a piece of something bigger. However everything after this point is up in the air on if I'm going to rewrite or not since there's lots of places I'm just not happy with. Still. It was written for a friend who liked the whole 'robot cop' thing and I refused to do a megaman fanfic.
Everything here is offered under a Creative Commons Share-Alike, Non-Commercial, Attribute license. In short so long as I'm credited and you aren't trying to make money off of it, Go Nuts.
Scorched and blackened riot armor wasn't meant to stand up to flames, and humans are combustible. So it would be forgivable if most people considered the man rushing into the burning apartment to be either crazy, or suffering a hero complex. He would describe himself as no hero, and his sanity was only partially debatable as his job mandated psychological evaluations yearly in addition to ones after traumatic events.
The building was empty.
The hidden bunker beneath it was not.
Few people knew of this hidden sanctuary outside of the group that had it (and the apartments above it) built. As a result the man chasing through burning hallways desperately searching for the hidden entryway believed it likely the people he was hunting for were down there.
Imagine if you will being in a hallway, fire and smoke everywhere in addition to smoke, instinctual fear of fire screaming at you to Leave Now and you might have some small idea of how this man must have felt.
Thankfully, for him if not for the people he was pursuing, he had found his way in the entryway to this hidden hideaway. Unfortunately for him though the outer door was unlocked the inner foot thick re-enforced steel door was.
There was a snap-hiss as he activated his sword. Physics as your average person understands them couldn't explain how what amounted to a shaft of light not only ending a set distance from the hilt it had sprouted from, but that it was both hot enough to cut through the door as if it were nonexistent, yet said heat didn't immediately flash fry the weapon's wielder as well as anything combustible in the immediate area.
No matter, the weapon was real and eventually it had cut a way through. A swift series of kicks later and this black clad avenger strode into what he knew was probably a trap hastily thrown up to deal with him. Cutting through blast doors isn't exactly subtle and they had time to prepare.
Fortunately though his armor was seared and scorched it did an amazing job at keeping the hostile fast moving little bits of metal from making little bitty holes in his body. Nobody facing him was armed with anything larger than a handgun so even as he walked amongst them, slicing through their cover just enough to leave them open and defenseless but not so close that any actually got hurt, he seemed to feel no real worry.
"Your guns are useless. Put them down, place your hands on top of your head and leniency might be shown for your cooperation." The man's voice was calm, almost lecturing even as he was being shot at. Strange that nobody aimed for his face, but then again hitting a head sized target is generally far harder than one at first thinks.
Several did as ordered once it became painfully obvious that nothing they had could touch the intruder.. Others continued firing until armored fist or thick soled boot brought them to the ground.
The intruder brought a radio up and listened for a moment before speaking. "Central, any word on that backup?"
"ETA fifteen minutes."
The man frowned. "What's the holdup here?" His professionalism cracked when he continued. "I'm hip deep in the biggest chop-ring this side of Tokyo and I'm having to try going in alone?"
"Hostage situation in the Heights. Rioting near Ceres Corporate and Manufacturing, and there's a mail order raid in progress." Smooth calm professional voice answered.
"Just peachy. Be advised I'm proceeding on foot alone."
The man grunted and cut his radio. He was actually somewhat surprised it had worked down here but procedure is procedure. Actually if he followed the strict letter of the book he should be arresting everyone on scene that moment, but he neither had enough ties to bind all of them nor was he going to let a few low level flunkies keep him from the main prize.
So onward he went. This was no factory, thankfully 'parts processing' wasn't anywhere near here. Synth bodies in different states of often times untidy dismemberment had made him about as close to ill as he could. This wasn't anything like this gang's fronts. It was their bolt hole to wait out trouble.
This being the case the rooms he searched through were primarily utilitarian, kitchen, pantry, Living area, and so on. Nobody else. It didn't make sense. Those people up front were guarding something. Then he saw the server room. Bingo Wasn't as good as an actual arrest, but his bust had been aboveboard and his suit was, if the equipment hadn't failed, recording everything. Use-able evidence.
Busy morning, cars skimming along, fliers cruising along their preordained paths, life Beth appears to move along swimmingly. Naturally this cannot be the case since that would mean no public servants, healthcare, or jobs were needed; and since all these things exist so must problems.
Slender woman, dark pants, matching jacket, watching Beth's morning rush from where she parked her bike. Nice place. She started for the building adjacent to the lot and hummed something from The Trooper while she walked.
Inside the station house was the usual controlled chaos of places that seem to never sleep, have to make do with less people than they really need, and those that are there being under high stress. The woman looked around, nodding to a uniformed man at the front desk. "Alexis Murry." She passed a stack of papers across and waited.
The man, well not-quite man since the skin was a pale blue and had three fingers on each of its four hands, briefly glanced at her and muttered something almost musical and nodded at the screen he had been staring at. "You're a bit early. Second floor, hallway to the right, first door on the left. Orientation starts in a half hour."
Alexis nodded and went where she was directed. This brought her to an assembly room, rows of seats with one side of the room dedicated to a podium, several large monitors, and presumably equipment connecting these to the building's info net. Nobody else was there yet, but this is where she had been directed. So Alexis waited, pulling a phone from her jacket so she could run through her morning's online routine; mail check, bills, updating social contacts, and the like.
She was partway through explaining, on her blog, that she was waiting for orientation and how nervous she was about her recent transfer when close to a dozen people shuffled in. One of these, a dark skinned man with more white to his hair than not shot a look at her that made Alexis put her phone away.
When everyone was seated and the door closed the elderly fellow took the podium and practically leaned on it. "I'm sure all of you are aware at just how short-handed we've been, and I appreciate that all of you had voluntary transferred. However work here is different. Don't personally like we're compared to animal control, but it's close enough for beginners to get an idea." He looked tired, almost like he'd been up all night. Maybe it was just his age showing.
"Each of you has training with these," he made a gesture and one of the monitors behind him showed a metal cylinder studded with different buttons which then dissolved into the same, only with a four foot shaft of light coming from one end. "However I expect each of you to drill at least ten hours a week on proper use and care. This is your primary weapon if conventional measures fail. Your lives may depend on it and I expect everyone here to remember that."
Alexis's mind whirred and clicked as this processed. Her old department had a few energy blades and plasma rifles in storage but they were stuck with the tried and true baton/pistol/tazer loadout for patrol units. She'd been through training on what to do if a robot or synth went rouge, everyone had as part of their training, but having coherent energy as standard issue? It struck her as somewhat overkill.
"-Your partner and patrol assignments are each in your lockers." She panicked, briefly, wondering what she'd missed but tried not to let it show. Bad impression to look so lost in thought you couldn't keep up with everything. So she followed everyone out guessing, correctly as it would turn out, that they'd lead her where she was supposed to be.
Her uniform was another in what as going to prove to be many changes from what she was used to. Hard dully reflective and looking more like something a sci-fi prop designer would make than a traditional set of Kevlar and armor-jell padding. Once on it was far too lose... for all of two seconds.
"Auto fit Engaged." Chip-voice coming from the suit's helmet intoned. Even though the whole thing looked like it was made of metal and or smoothed composites it flexed, constricted until it hugged her like a body glove.
Alexis moved, slow and experimentally, and found it was very nonrestrictive. With a frown she started belting her gear on. Energy blade, flashlight, pistol, ecetra. "No wonder taxes've gone up," She mused, "Stuff has to cost a fortune."
Somebody else in the room snorted, "Sure, but stuff'll save your hide too often to want to skimp on." They filed out. Little banter between people, too much on too many different minds for any of them to feel comfortable.
Alexis found her partner waiting for her by the building's front desk a little apart from the small line of people and not-quite people waiting. Slightly taller than her, same hard shelled uniform she wore with only the nameplate and rank insignia being different. Perhaps it was the tension of being in a new job, or it could have just struck her funny but she snorted. "One size fits all."
Her partner smirked, "Newbie huh?" He held a hand out, which got shook politely. "So, Alex. I can call you Alex right?"
Flat stare at him as they both headed to the parking garage. "Alexis, please." She glanced at his name-tag, "Aleph...uh-huh." Continued dry tone. "I take it nobody working your side of things has a normal name?"
Aleph shrugged. "My side, your side. We're all on the same side ya?" He watched Alexis circle their car slowly, approaching it.
"'887 Spirit." She sounded thoughtful while making her inspection. "You boys seem to get first dibs on the good stuff." Door opened, she glanced around and waited for Aleph. "So," She glanced at the center console's display, touching it here and there until she found what she was looking for. "Domestic disturbance, dead owner, maid requested a unit swing by to collect her."
Aleph grumbled. "Report says she's locked herself in a closet, won't come out even under orders. Won't say why."
Light traffic with a ride filled with lots of no-talking. Aleph eyed his new partner carefully while their care drove. "Something eating at you?"
"No," She kept her eyes on the road. "Please keep your hands on the wheel. Don't trust these things on their own."
"Uh-huh." He did as asked about the car. "So you're being snippy and confrontational just because that's how you are?"
"It isn't important. We're on the clock so it can wait."
And so silence reigned until they got on scene. Nice apartment, good part of town, would've been better if there wasn't a broken window and the outline of a dead man on the sidewalk. While Alexis talked to officers on the scene Aleph entered the building, one hand hovering inches from the sword hilt at his side.
"Hello?" Hesitant questioning voice. He took a step further in and looked around. Interior was nice for the most part. Aleph glanced the place over, weary and alert. He'd had experience enough to see that there was a struggle. The human in residence had a mallet, possibly a small sledgehammer. There was a struggle in the living room that continued through the kitchen. Hammer dropped, knife picked up.
Aleph knelt to get a better look at the shards of synth-skin and stains on the floor and stove.
"Aleph!" Alexis's voice was tense. "Found our missing maid." Both of her hands were empty and she was by the hall bathroom door. "Miss," Professional voice, "Miss I'm going to have come in there. You're not going to give me any trouble are you?"
"I don't think so Officer." Voice from the other side of the door sounded feminine, but it also sounded obviously artificial, to her it sounded like something had taken a few shots at the owner's head and knocked something loose.
"I'm coming in now." Alexis slowly turned the knob and eased the door open just enough to look inside. Usual bathroom things where one would expect them. The mangled and cut up dark skinned woman curled in the tub was decidedly not part of the usual decor. "Jesus..." Alexis's voice was a bare whisper She knelt by the edge of the tub to get a closer look at the wounds, a look of puzzlement at the pale liquid leaking from several of the larger cuts.
"What happened to you?" Aleph's posture changed from wary caution to concern when he saw this.
The woman, easier to call the maid that since outside of her injuries showing obvious non-human bits she looked very female and very afraid, cringed away from both officers. "I don't know," She was obviously in pain and scared. Her eyes wide with terror. "I'm afraid I might've done this."
Aleph and Alexis exchanged confused looks.
"I-I think I might've killed him." She started sobbing. "I just didn't wanna die. He was gonna break me open just to see what I looked like on the inside."
Alexis reached out to comfort the woman, who hissed and shoved her away. "No! I'm unsafe! I can't remember what happened!" She shrieked before lunging for Aleph, apparently intent on taking his sword.
He was caught off guard, but training and his 'attacker' being badly injured allowed him to scoop both of her arms in his long enough for Alexis to place a restraining collar around her neck. She winced when the probes sunk in even though she knew the woman wouldn't be able to feel anything once it was active. That was the whole point, cut off electrical impulses from the processor to the rest of the body.
Aleph glowered at the entryway as two of the more usual sort of police officer entered. "Get a repair team in here. She's leaking fluid from," He glanced at the woman now that she hung limply against him, "About two dozen cuts. Blunt trauma to the face and neck."
Alexis looked at the woman for another long moment before leaning over and throwing up.
Outside Aleph loaded the maid in the back of their car while Alexis handled on site questioning. this consisted mostly of what they did, what they touched, took away, the sorts of things one would want to know while combing over a home. She did this though she was still visibly ill and her relief once inside the car was plain to see.
Alexis nodded and took a sip from her water bottle. "I'll be fine. Just... didn't think it would be that messy."
"Well, it is but you find ways of coping. Where'd they pull you from, Grab, Vehicular?" Turning the conversation away from the cut up and beaten (robot) lady in the back seat. Good Aleph, you have a clue after all.
Alexis tried to look anywhere that wouldn't give her a reflection of who was riding with them. "Patrol. Worst I'd seen was a hit and run that decided to try coming back around to finish the guy off."
This made Aleph wince. "You've been lucky then. Most of your work's been straightforward until now. See perp, bust perp. Tends to get sticky here."
Stop by the station to drop the maid off and file paperwork. Get sent out again.
While they drove Alexis noted the center console flashing directions to where their next call was. "Humanists?"
A moment to focus on traffic. "Not as often as news likes to make out. Mostly interdepartmental cruft. Plus a few hind-bound dinosaurs up the ladder that doesn't like Synths in uniform."
Eyeroll. "It's obvious that you're valuable. So what gives?"
"Meh. Maybe they think us getting all the shiny new stuff first means we're taking from them. Maybe they believe we grab too much of their credit." Aleph eased into an elementary school parking lot.
"Area's clear except for your people me and my partner?" Alexis eyed the man in charge.
He nodded, "They've got classes out on a collective field trip. They don't want a huge fuss. Just go in and bring the canner out."
Aleph snorted but said nothing when he shouldered past the cluster of armed and armored cops guarding the entryway.
"Don't worry," Alexis checked her gear before following her partner in.
Inside was what one would think of from a school full of kids. Posters and art along the hallway walls. Notices and motivational posters here and there. Everyone was gone and they had a few hours. The report said it was a janitor malfunctioning. Ran into the school when it was caught beating a coworker with a broken broom handle. Answered to the name of Scruffy.
It's unfortunate that there was so much ground to cover, but Alexis was confidant enough to split up. They didn't need the hours given to them. As it turned out Scruffy was hiding in the boy's room. Alexis found this out by the shouting Aleph was making. She'd come running in expecting anything from a mangled Synth held by the scruff of it's neck to Aleph having just cut it to pieces. Instead she saw it attacking Aleph with a pair of chair legs.
Alexis heard the snap-hiss of activation and saw the green-white light of her partner's weapon cut the chair legs to pieces. When the Janitor pulled a gun from somewhere in his coveralls she whistled, which caught the Synth's attention for a fraction of a moment. That was all the time Aleph needed to reach out with one hand, grab Scruffy by the throat, and twist. This caused the body to fall in a pile where it stood. After he toed it with his foot Aleph motioned for Alexis to come closer.
"Thanks." Alexis nodded and gave Scruffy a closer examination. Standard build, modeled after an elderly fellow. Broken neck and wild facial expression were non-standard. "I'll go see if anyone else is around. You take laughing boy to the car."
"You sure that's safe?"
"Sure," Aleph helped her get a better hold on the deactivated janitor. "Severed connection. no signals going from brain to body."
"Yea, but what about you?"
He snorted. "Keep in touch." As it turned out Scruffy was alone and the drive back uneventful. still, another deactivated Synth meant more paperwork in addition to the stuff from the prior call they hadn't yet finished with.
Last call of the day involved a large construction machine. It sat hunkered down looking as sad as a twelve foot tall armored lifting unit possibly could. "I'm sorry to trouble you officers." Polite voice and docile mannerisms.
"It's no trouble Mister Sapphire. Your call said your off-hours shell went missing." The giant nodded slowly, almost on the verge of tears if the crude face it wore was anything to go by. "Can you walk us through the specifics?"
"Well I'd first noticed it was missing during mid-day break when I wanted to go home, check on my cat. Thought a couple friends of mine took it as a joke. Nobody's owned up to it, which is weird since usually they'll fess up. I put it out of mind after break was over, thought maybe I'd just misplaced it or the cleaners took it, forgot to leave a note this time."
"But that's not the case?" Alexis was curious now. She'd have assumed if someone were going to steal an unattended shell it would be the obviously heavy armored and heavily muscled worker-shell instead of the relatively human-comparable shell that had gone missing.
Sapphire shook his head, "No ma'am. Everyone pitched in to look around, make calls. Frank offered to let me borrow a loaner until this gets sorted out."
"That's good to hear. We'll do some looking for ourselves if you don't mind."
"Oh not at all. Please. Just... lemme get changed first alright? Probably would make you feel a little easier if there wasn't some twelve foot tall walking wall following you around." Sapphire laughed a little. "Probably why Frank called you guys, afraid somebody'd take things wrong if they saw me on the way to his place wearing this. I mean c'mon... subtle it ain't."
"Amen to that." Alexis decided she liked the man. "My partner's calling Theft in right now to go over everything here, interviews, and such. When he's dun we'll walk you home and make sure this shell gets back here."
"Sounds good to me." Sapphire sounded genuinely pleased.
"Well that was a refreshing change of pace." Aleph was relieved to find that as their last call of the day. One might think it strange that they only have a handful of runs to make, but there's more paperwork plus interviews and investigations on their already established workload.
Alexis nodded, "Poor guy. why not just go with a dedicated non-sentient construction unit?"
"Because," Aleph's tone had a slight lecturing edge to it, "even though construction is generally predictable it takes the sort of intelligence and mental flexibility a self aware mind has to deal with the inevitable snarls and hiccups."
"But what about all those sites that are completely built by machines. Y'know, that big island off the Australian coast. the new Tesla campus. They don't have thinking minds involved except as overseers."
"Well while you're at it why not ask why a house-cleaner would include self-awareness. Especially if it gives her the ability to be bored, or unproductive if working conditions aren't what she likes." Aleph shrugged. "You want me to swing by somewhere so you can grab some food?"
"Nah. I'll eat later. What's first on our list of Wonderful Things," She eyerolled, "when we get in?"
"Reviewing preliminary evidence on the Robertson case." Alexis winced at these words. "The maid's being patched up and they've got a robopsychologist in talking to her."
"What do you think?"
Aleph glanced at his partner and shrugged.
"No, really. your file says you've been active with the department for a couple years. you've had to have seen stuff like this before. How do you think it's going to turn out for her?"
Silence for the rest of the ride. At first Alexis seemed to want to speak, but then realization of what her partner's quiet meant made her settle, thoughts turning to how unfair the whole situation seemed.
We'll skip the boring paperwork and debriefings and whatnot. Exciting for the characters perhaps, but to us it's just the part of business that is an unavoidable bit that would drag things out if focused on too long. In summary though the Janitor was 'retired', after all he'd beaten somebody nearly to death for no apparent reason and he was transferred over to forensics to see if anything odd turned up. The maid, sadly, had to deal with Human-Rights for Humans types while being transferred, and unless someone took custody and responsibility her status reverted to ward of her parent company... who would likely reuse what parts they could for after-market repairs and recycle the rest instead of dealing with the lengthy and costly process of rehabilitating a physically and psychologically damaged synth.
After their shift ended Alexis went to see her. While she had gotten strange looks she was allowed through with little trouble. Once safely suited up and through the airlock into the clean room she saw the woman lain out on a table being worked on by a pair of white suited technicians.
"Oh..." She looked down at the apparently unconscious woman. "I'm sorry, when do you think she'll be awake?"
One of the techs glanced over at her before returning to the work of rebuilding the woman's face. "Likely tomorrow before we try realspace contact. We've got her mind hooked in for electronica if it's important. Doctor Calvin left orders for her to not be disturbed till she's had more time to heal.
Click. Wirrr. Alexis's eyes narrowed. "Doctor Calvin. As in the Calvin?"
Headshake from the other tech, who never bothered looking up from the remote manipulators he was using, "Nah. Same family. Grand-Niece or something I think. Knows her stuff though so no offense but if it can wait, please go."
Crestfallen, Alexis started to go. "If she's active before I get back mind letting her know I asked after her?"
When she stripped the clean suit off Aleph was waiting on her. "Don't worry. These guys're good. They'll take care of her." Concern clearly visible on his face.
"I know. It's just," Alexis shook her head and gestured, "It hurts we're stuck picking up the pieces and if someone doesn't take her in she's still going to get Retired. how can they throw someone's life away like that?"
Aleph shrugged, "I try not to think about it too much. Afraid of what I'd do if I did. Go home, get some rest. My line's open whenever if you need a shoulder."
"What about you?"
"What about me?" He paused at this.
"Don't you have a home, or do they keep you in a little cubby here at the station?"
This got a chuckle out of Aleph. "Nah, home, neighbor's mutt comes by every now and then. Cards on Thursdays. Few department scheduled things on off hours. Not much but eh."
"Regular social butterfly." Alexis smiled briefly before heading to her bike. Nevermind she worried what something like Aleph might do if Bored, and all intelligent creatures; whales, dolphins, dogs, people, etc. All of them needed something to do beyond the basics for survival or their basic mental processes started to break down.
Later that night, after she'd gotten home and cleaned up, Alexis looked in her bathroom mirror and stared at herself as the day's pressures and perils tumbled 'round in her head. "Why did I ever agree to this?"
"Miss." Old-style mechanical looking synth knocked against the bathroom door softly. "If I may?"
"Yes," Alexis fought to recompose herself, not wanting to appear too emotional. "What is it Sam?
The Synth's eyes dimmed for a moment, it's approximation of blinking. "You told me when you first enlisted that you knew there were dark and cruel people out there, and you wanted to put them away so they wouldn't hurt the rest of the world. Do you remember this?"
Small nod. "I do."
"You remember when you were told how traumatic it could be for you?"
Another nod. "Yea, s'why mom didn't want me joining."
"you're doing a good thing, and while I'm outmoded and my emotions a crude approximation of yours I'm grateful you transferred."
"Thanks Sam." Alexis turned from the mirror and lightly touched the smooth top of Sam's head and patted it. "I needed that."Scorched and blackened riot armor wasn't meant to stand up to flames, and humans are combustible. So it would be forgivable if most people considered the man rushing into the burning apartment to be either crazy, or suffering a hero complex. He would describe himself as no hero, and his sanity was only partially debatable as his job mandated psychological evaluations yearly in addition to ones after traumatic events.