"Number 17, how are you?" the old man smirked underneath his bushy mustache. Bushy mustache.
He slowly turned his face around the dimly lit chamber, taking in his surroundings. His sensitive eyes had difficulty dealing with the darkness of the stuffy room. A beam of light hit his retina as he fixated upon a ceiling lamp dangling above himself.
A program booted over his vision, scanning for damage. He waited until the display gave him the OK to continue.
His pupils adjusted according to the quantity of light available. His surroundings became clearer.
He was in a room made of rock, it seemed. Limestone, to be exact, as his scanning concluded. Small stalactites hanged above him from place to place, meaning it was a fairly new cave. Probably dug into quite recently, his programming stated. He could hear a low trickling of water behind the stone walls, running down its own carved beds and helping create more cave formations.
He turned his head slightly to the left. So much equipment littered the area. Machines and medical equipment, surgical apparatus and even a heart monitor. Heart monitor…what was that for?
Many of these machines were rusty or bloodied up. From the state of the blood, it was fresh, having only dried up a couple of days ago at most.
AB+, according to his display analysis.
He heard a rustle around him and a breeze running over his bare chest as the old man walked around him to the other side. Another scanning told him that he was indeed naked on top of that metallic table. Not that it mattered much since he didn't feel cold at all. He didn't feel anything in fact, not even his limbs. Did he have any?
Another scan. Yes, he did. But they weren't operational.
Operational? What did that mean?
"Computer, run a check-up of Number 17's brain activity" the doctor told the large machine in the corner and it beeped to life.
He was hooked up to that thing through wires, it seemed. Was it checking him to see why he wasn't reacting?
"All systems are in order" the computer responded in its metallic voice then booted down again.
"Well, then, that's good to hear" the doctor nodded then lowered his face so that 17 could see him more easily. It was old and haggard, full of wrinkles and bags under his eyes so large they coiled upwards like trenches dug inside his skin.
The man had a self-destructive lifestyle, his system concluded. Lack of sleep at this age will surely lead to a premature heart attack. It was a common cause of death in old humans, but an avoidable one in his case.
Ah, so this was a human. Good to know. Was he also one?
"Number 17, you seem to be having trouble adjusting. Am I correct?" the old man intervened again, monitoring his eye movement.
Did he even have a voice to use?
"I…" he started wearily. His voice felt strained and raspy, as if it went unused for a long time.
"Let's start small. Can you see me before you?" the man asked calmly.
"Y…yes" he replied in a low tone.
"Good, very good. We can move on to the next step, then."
The doctor called him 'Number 17', though his systems displayed his full title as 'Artificial Human Number 17'. Jinzouningen Juunanagou if you will.
The old man confirmed that he was an 'android'. A humanoid robot by definition. Seemed appropriate enough, given his physique.
He had never seen himself before, but his scanner showed an average built male of around teen age with dark hair and blue colored irises. He had asked if all humans had the same exterior as his but it turned out to be a negative. The doctor that awakened him looked vastly different, with wrinkly olive skin, dull sunken eyes and long white hair. Other humans, through the ration of averages, were probably different from him as well.
Body diversity in humans was thus much higher than the average mammal.
He had been based on a mammal. That explained his internal make-up and structure. Upon awakening, his body was cadaveric but it slowly rose to room temperature over time. It seemed he had an internal regulator needed for his organs to function. It felt like a design flaw but one he did not question.
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He had no other operating requirements and he did not need recharging, which was a huge advantage over other machines.
He had spent time with the large computer that did his daily check-ups and he had learned that most of them needed to be plugged in to function and turned off afterwards. Since he had no such needs, he was only placed in his stasis pod whenever the doctor had to leave for extended periods of time. It seemed to be more of a failsafe than a necessity.
Being deactivated felt the same as before he was ever activated. He didn't see anything, think anything or feel anything. It was all a blank. His programming told him that this is what humans considered the 'state of nothingness'. It was the aftermath of life they were most afraid of. He found it odd. Why would humans fear something that didn't harm them? It was all quite illogical.
Humans were strange creatures.
The doctor brought him clothes and helped him dress. 'Humans require clothes', he told him. But he wasn't a human. So, then, why bother?
'To blend in', the doctor told him. He did as he was told and draped them on according to their shape and use. Was he going to leave the lab?
Over the course of the next few days, he had slowly adjusted to walking and talking and he started scanning his environments faster than before. His processing time had also shortened considerably. The doctor seemed pleased with his progress. He was ready for military testing.
The power on display was astounding. Even though the test blast was done at under 5% capacity, it was far above what doctor Gero had expected, wiping out an entire forest area in a straight line in front of himself. Truly his best creation to date.
This one was definitely going to work, he heard the old man speak to himself. The most powerful machine in the universe.
Days turned to weeks. As tests became more complex, so did 17's reasoning with himself. He understood that he had been created for a purpose and that purpose was to kill a certain person. Once he achieved that goal, there was nothing in store for him. Was he going to be deactivated again?
He wasn't afraid. He didn't feel anything at all, in fact. But he still wanted to function. He wanted to have something to exist for. If his target was gone, he would have to find a new goal.
"Doctor, can I assist you with anything?" he asked the old man one day as he was welding a valve.
The old man turned off the flame and looked up at him.
"That's mighty kind of you, 17, but I'm afraid I have no use for you right now."
This wasn't what he wanted to hear.
"I feel like my purpose is too simple. Maybe I could do more" 17 tried again, looking down at the corroded piston the man was working on.
The old man placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled.
"Don't worry yourself, Number 17, there's a lot more in plan for you after you kill Son Goku"
He had taken to reading as a form of entertainment while he waited for more tests. The library was one of the few rooms he had access to. He flipped page after page, intrigued with the plot of the novel at hand.
His dexterity and thinking process had improved considerably over time. Today, the doctor had reactivated a couple of old prototypes for him to use as training partners. They had far simpler functions and were little more than dummy targets. He also noticed he was the only one with a number in the entire lab. It was quite strange.
He was Android Number 17. Meaning there were at least 16 other androids before him, though he hadn't seen them yet. Maybe they weren't at this lab. He had heard the doc mention other labs before in other corners of the world. There was a high chance they were stored there. That was probably where he went when he left for long periods of time.
His mind wandered. What were they like? Were they humanoid like him? Was he one in many identical android models?
Was he going to eventually be replaced with another android as well?
He wanted to avoid that at all costs. He wanted to prove he was loyal. So he did everything the doctor told him without questioning.
He had no actual combat training, yet he was pretty good at taking down an opponent. He was programmed with advanced knowledge of human fighting styles, but the one that came naturally was just a brash, street fighting type that adhered to no official school. Why was he like that?
He ended up spending the days trying to remember what happened to his mind before he was activated. Was that even possible?
The doctor ignored him when he asked about it. If anything, he seemed to be dodging the questions.
His scanner told him that was a sign that a human was either lying or keeping information from him.
He could eat. He discovered this by accident when he tried analyzing various forest fruits. Or maybe it was just curiosity. But he could taste the berries and they tasted differently from each other. He wanted to learn more. He tried water from a close by stream. It actually felt refreshing instead of damaging to his mechanisms. It was illogical, to say the least.
The doctor said he was programmed to perfectly imitate a human. He could even sleep and breathe as well if he wanted to.
But why? Why would he ever need to do that?
He was a combat droid, after all.
More days went by. Then, 17 stumbled upon something meaningful.
During one of his training exercises, a pair of humans unknowingly ran into him. Harmless mountain trackers, his scanners concurred, talking among themselves cheerfully as they made their way up the path close to the hideout. The doctor decided to add them to the test, marking them as live targets.
They never saw it coming. They went down easily, like bugs zapped by a lantern, their flesh burning to a crisp. It was so easy it felt downright insulting.
A human life took 9 months to create and over 10 years to become useful to society, but it took less than 5 seconds to end.
A long wheezing sound came from the charred body. The male hadn't died on the spot. The doctor ordered him to finish the job. As 17 stood above the man dragging his legless body towards the remains of the other one, he heard him incessantly repeat one word like a broken record.
"Sister please…please don't be dead…sister...I'm here with you so please don't die, sis...I beg of you!" the man cried as he tried to grab what remained of her hand.
The word sounded very familiar to him.
His chest tightened for no reason.
Sister. Why did this word trigger such a strange reaction in him?
He started processing it as he blasted the human to ashes.
His programming didn't help. He couldn't find the meaning behind that word other than a definition. The definition wasn't what made it important, he was sure of it. His reaction to it wasn't rational, but emotional. He felt a deep stinging inside his heart like a constant stabbing, one that came from no physical ailment he was aware of. He was sure he wasn't malfunctioning either. It was that word. His body was trying to tell him something his mind didn't know.
When he asked the doctor about it, he told him he'd look into it and shut him down. When he woke up again, several days had passed.
He stood out on the cliff side, watching a pair of sparrows fly by. He felt a sting in his heart but he didn't know why.
The word 'sister'. He realized the pain in his chest came from the word 'sister'. Why did such an innocuous word hurt him so much?
He wanted to ask the doctor about it, but for some reason he hesitated. doctor couldn't help him with this. He'd have to sort it out on his own.
He had a lot of time and a lot of books he could go through.
Books didn't hold his answers either. He kept scanning for themes and meanings, but his searches weren't resonating with the pain in his chest.
There was more to it. More than his scanners told him. Sister…it meant something else.
His head had started to hurt recently. He had started having visions while he was deactivated. Humans called them 'dreams', but he was sure he couldn't dream. Dreams come from unconscious rearranging of images by the human brain. It depended on imagination and past experiences. But his mind was pre-programmed entirely. He had no imagination or past to work off of. And yet…
He had preferences. That he became aware of quite quickly. He liked cars, he liked bright colors, he liked the exciting action scenes in the books he read every day. He had quite standard male tastes and it seemed highly irrational. Why did the doctor bother giving him a personality? Was this a design flaw as well?
'Sister' wasn't the only word his heart reacted to, but it was the only one that caused him pain. He also reacted to things he realized he liked. He saw them in blurry shapes in his dreams. But over time, the dreams changed. The more he tried to understand the source of his pain, the more his dreams mutated. They went from simple objects to strange occurrences he never took part in. Roads he never traveled, voices he never heard, strangers that approached him with an air of familiarity he didn't understand.
After a while, they started appearing to him even when he wasn't in his pod. He couldn't see them properly, but he could tell what they meant. They were more than dreams; they were events from before his activation. Before he came into existence.
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His system told him that was impossible. His system was wrong. He needed to find the truth somehow.
Today, the doctor was going to go downtown for a few hours.
He forgot to deactivate him this time.
He trudged along aimlessly through the lab. There had to be something else he was missing. He stopped in front of one of the many locked rooms down the corridor. The closed rooms could hold the answers he was seeking.
The doctor always kept a close eye on him while he explored the place and explained to him what each room was and why it was off limits. Whenever he couldn't be there with him, he would place him back in his pod. His internal map only charted a couple of rooms that he was allowed to visit. Therefore, 17 knew very little about the place that he had called home for the past 6 months. He wanted to surpass his limitations.
He reached for the doorknob. It was locked and the doctor was the only one that had the keycard for it. His head hurt even worse. The scanner warned him to avoid this place.
The door gave in as he rammed it with his shoulder enough times to break the lock. The room wasn't as stuffy as the one he spent the majority of his time in, but it was just as dark. It needed a working ventilation system for some reason. The doctor definitely visited this room often.
More machinery, more bloody utensils. A secret experiment?
He walked up to the table in the middle of the room. He could make out a figure on top of it, draped with a bloodied cloth. He removed it slowly, his system opposing him the entire time. He froze upon seeing the head of an unconscious young woman underneath. She looked so much like him it was uncanny. But her skin felt soft and warm. She was a human.
His headache got worse. He needed to process what he was seeing. His programs didn't hold any information on her. Images danced behind his eyes.
He removed the rest of the cloth. She was severely mangled and missing body parts. Her wounds were left open like a dissection experiment. No wonder the fabric was bloody. One of her arms had a piston attached to the bone and her vital organs were being kept alive by the machinery around her.
He dropped to his knees as his headache turned into an uncontrollable migraine. He screamed at the top of his lungs. Whatever he was seeing, his body was reacting violently to it. Why was did it mean? The scanner didn't know. It never did. He realized his system was working against him. It had lied to him so many times before.
He forced it to shut down. His mind dug deeper than that, looking for reason.
It was there that he found something. More blurry forms, this time of him and her. Smiling.
When the doctor came back, the lab was on fire. In his blind rage, 17 had destroyed years of research. Gero froze in shock for a moment and ran for the cabinet in his room. He desperately searched the third drawer as his creation grabbed him by the neck.
"Why did you do this to my sister?" 17 growled at him, visibly shaking. He tried to put as little force in it as possible but he was choking him out nonetheless. He lifted him in the air, keeping him still as he bore into his eyes with a vicious stare.
He finally accepted the undeniable truth.
"Make her well again!" he raised his voice as Gero started breathing heavily, his body growing weaker as airflow was cut to his head. The man's body grew weaker and his legs softened, dangling in the air.
He had been human before as well.
17 felt his feet give underneath him as he fell to the ground in a heap. The old man warily pulled himself back up, using the desk as balance.
The familiar feeling of being shut down. It was the first time that he feared the feeling of his mind slipping into nothingness. He feared forgetting about everything he had just learned about and most importantly forgetting about…her. He didn't want to lose her from his mind again. She wasn't just a sister, she was HIS sister. He wanted her by his side. He wanted them to be happy together like in that dream of his.
He didn't even know her name to call it out as his vision went blank.
"Don't worry, 17. That I will" Gero chuckled through hard breaths, putting the shutdown remote on top of the desk. "You need some adjustments as well, it seems"
He slowly lost consciousness, the man's words cutting off.