[center [i There must be a purpose. There just had to be. Beyond all this smoke and grime... beyond all these bustling people and endless work... Where did I belong? When was it all enough and when do I let it end? Should I give up? ]] [center [i Or is there more than this?] ]
Undergoing operations for a singular purpose was foolish amongst M.P. automatons. Every upgrade to your hardware had to be for the improvement of all one’s parts but... his coding had been corrupt some time ago. He didn’t exactly remember how it happened but one dreary day he rebooted with a whole new perspective. It was a rare occurrence but not unheard of.
Sentients, they were called, the ones who opened their shutters to humanist thoughts and dreams. Who suddenly looked for more engaging activities than the monotonous work life that the humans had created them for. For certain models, it was easier for them to blend in. Those created in the time of humanizing machines were given thin leather faces and wirey hair. From afar, you couldn’t tell if they were human or machine.
Arthur had been functioning for quite some time and in his extended shelf-life, he had lost limbs, broken parts and traded pieces. His gears had seen better days... but this week he invested his earned pennies for a prototype mechanism that imitated the human sense of smell.
Today, the automaton was working his shift on the rooftops, sweeping the overused chimney’s within the heart of the bronze city of Albion. It wasn’t the grandest city in the country but it was one of the few that would hire Sentiants for work. Arthur often dreamed of traveling especially when he was cleaning on the towering roofs. You could see all the way to the brick border of the city and the rolling hills just past that. Maybe one day he’ll make enough coin to buy a steam motor and live on it for the rest of his days.
The bot explored the scents around him, recognizing for the first time the harsh smell of soot and smoke. Prominent but not unbearable. He finished up his work and made his way back to the rear of the hotel. This establishment was a human only high tier property which didn’t particularly bother him but the manager always had to meet the cleaning bots outside.
The scruffy manager passed the roll of copper coins to him without a parting word, a feeling of giddiness overwhelming him. Finally, he had enough to buy an alternate part for his shoulder. The ‘sense of smell’ modification had put him back a few months but after the additional labor, he should be able to afford the joint at its going price.
Arthur popped his pay into the storage compartment within his abdomen and made his way to the only part shop that carried this particular piece for multipurpose bots. Parts in his model were unfortunately in high demand and low production. Automatons with one singular purpose were cheaper to manufacture and often sold more than his kind. Sooner or later, M.P.’s will be off the market.
[i Rick’s Machinitorium] was the largest distributor of machine parts in Albion and was always crowded. A line was formed out the door but if there was one Arthur had enough of it was time. He moved at a snail pace for nearly a half-hour before it was his turn at the register. Crute was behind the desk today, sinking his artificial heart.
[#cf6b08 “One F-type right shoulder joint, please,”] he ordered, looking up at the brutish man.
Crute paused and smirked. [b “That be 800 gillians.”]
Arthur scoffed but shouldn’t have been surprised.[#cf6b08 “The going rate for that part is 400. That’s double.”]
The man shrugged. [b “Supply n’ demand, Senti. 800 is what it going for t’rday.”]
If he were capable of any extreme emotions, he was sure to be feeling them. [#cf6b08 “It took me months to save this up. Come on, Crute. How ‘bout 500?”]
[b “If y’re not gonna buy, get out of the line,”] he replied, his smile completely disappearing.
Arthur pursed his lips and grudgingly turned away. [i Fucking hell.] Of all days to have that human there. His shoulder was already beginning to be spastic enough, it wouldn’t last another five months to make that money. At this rate, he’d lose another arm.
The automaton pushed past the woman behind him in the crowded entryway and wormed his way back out into the polluted streets, stopping at the corner to release the frustration building in his gears.
[center Working on a damaged engine was one thing. Working on a completely broken one was another. In a small shop, a young woman let out a string of curses, mixed with coughing, as smoke began pouring out from the piece she was working on, wrapping around her. She took a few steps back, waving the smoke away from her face as quickly as she could. [b "Stupid piece of-"] Her words were cut off by another cough. Pushing her goggles on top of her head, she sighed. [b "What in the blazes is wrong with you now?"] she grumbled, leaning closer to inspect the engine once the smoke had cleared. She let out a groan before biting her cheek, a habit she had yet to break. The small part she had been worried about from the moment she had started had finally given out. She [i really] hadn't wanted to take the time to go buy a new one. Not yet, at least.]
[center She slid her gloves off and set them on her workbench, wiping her hands off with an already greasy towel. [b "Markus, I have to head out for a bit! That stupid part broke!"] she called out to one of the other mechanics. She checked the coin pouch that hung on her hip, hoping she'd have enough gillians for the stupid piece. She let out another sigh. [i Should've just bought the part when you'd had the chance,] she thought to herself. She knew, however, with her luck, had she gone out that morning to buy it, the first piece would've lasted.]
[center Making her way through the busy streets, Ophelia kept her head down, bobbing and weaving through the people as best she could. She really didn't want to have to stop and talk to anyone or, worse, get into a fight. She was good about that when she was in a hurry.]
[center She hesitated when she saw the line at [i Rick's,] knowing damn well it was going to take a lot longer than she had expected. Deciding not to waste any more time, she took her place in line, tapping her foot as she crossed her arms over her chest. It felt like forever when the person before her finally reached the counter, watching the small interaction between the Sentient and the man at the counter. [i Supply and demand, my ass,] she thought, gritting her teeth as the automaton pushed his way out.]
[center She glared at Crute but quickly acquired the part she needed before rushing out. Looking around, it took a moment before her eyes landed on the previous customer. An idea popped in her head, and before she could rethink it, she made her way over to him. [b "Hey, Senti!"] she called out as she approached him. [b "What's wrong with your arm that you need such an expensive piece?"] She certainly couldn't afford to buy it for him, but maybe she'd be able to help him in a different way.]
Lost in his calculative thoughts, Arthur almost didn’t hear the voice that called to him on the street. He glanced over his shoulder, his golden eyes landing on a fairly cute, brunette haired woman. His programming tried to classify her, but he stopped it just in time to respect her privacy. She did carry a sort of aura around her, however. Confidence, intelligence. He wondered what she did for a living to be so enthused to talk to a Sentient like him.
[#cf6b08 “Uh, yeah.”] The autotamon pulled down the worker’s mask and smiled as humanly as possible. [#cf6b08 “The right shoulder keeps popping out of the socket when I rotate over a 180 degree angle.”] He rotated to demonstrate, the arm rattling as soon as it hit the threshold.
[#cf6b08 “I’m a physical laborer so I do put a load of strain on this piece. Been trying to save up for that part for months but...”] He shrugged and wiped his hands on his pants, suddenly aware of his disheveled appearance. [#cf6b08 “Are you a mechanic?”]
[center Ophelia returned his smile, amazed at how human he really looked. Had he hidden it, he probably could've passed for a human easily. She frowned and placed a hand on her hip, biting her cheek as she listening to the noise the arm made. [b "Well, that doesn't sound too good, now does it?"] She began running a few things through her head, wondering if she'd be able to fit it.]
[center She nodded, her reddish-brown curls bouncing around her face. [b "I am. Name's Ophelia,"] she said, extending her hand to him. [b "And don't worry about the part,"] she said with an eyeroll. [b "It's bullshit that he wants to charge you double. He's an ass,"] she said softly.]
[center She looked around for a moment before smiling at him once more. [b "I work in a shop nearby. I'm used to engines, but I can take a look at it if you'd like me to. I'm sure I could fix it for a little while."] She was sure Markus wouldn't mind, and if he did, she would just brush it off. He needed the arm fixed for work and she was going to do her best to lend a helping hand.]
His smile growing wider, Arthur reached out to shake her hand. [#cf6b08 “Pleasure. My chosen name is Arthur or, if it’s easier, you can still call me Senti.”] He respected that it made some humans uncomfortable to talk to robots with a consciousness. It was a normal circumstance to encounter but he never missed an opportunity for someone to actually call him by a name he wanted. If only for the chance to feel a bit more human.
[#cf6b08 “I agree, I’m not terribly fond of him either. He’s just lucky he works for such a profitable business.”] He made a sound as if to clear his throat. [#cf6b08 “Thank you, I can pay you what I would have paid for the part. It’s the least I can do.”]
The autotamon waited to follow her to her shop, excited that he wouldn’t have to stoop to drastic measures to fix his shoulder. [#cf6b08 “You know, I have lost my right arm once. Maybe this replacement wasn’t as ‘high-grade’ as the gentlemen claimed it would be.”]
[center Ophelia couldn't help but smile. [b "Well, Arthur, it's a pleasure to meet you. A fitting name, if you ask me."] She rubbed the back of her neck. [b "I think I'll stick with your chosen name. You chose it for a reason, right? It wouldn't be fair not to use it."] Hell, she'd only called him Senti because it was the only way she was sure she'd get his attention without grabbing him or coming off as rude. Of course, there were those who would do it just to be asses. She thought back to Crute. He was a pretty good example.]
[center She let out a small laugh before nodding. [b "Right? Personally, I wish they'd just fire him. Might bring it more customers if they had friendlier faces."] Though she knew that would never happen. He wasn't wrong about them being profitable. It was genuinely one of the few places to get a good part.]
[center She quickly shook her head at his suggestion. [b "Even if I can fix it, I'm not that worried about payment. My job pays well on its own. In any case, keep saving it up, so that way, if I can only fix it temporarily, you may be able to save up faster for the part."] She grinned at him. [b "If needed, I'll even pitch in a bit to help you out."] She knew she didn't have to, but hated seeing people suffer, Senti's or not.]
[center She motioned for him to follow her as she began walking. She let out another laugh before shrugging, switching the part she was carrying to her other arm. [b "Possible. Things don't last as they should anymore."] she said, find her way back rather quickly.]
[center Once they arrived, she called out to Markus, [b "I'm back!"] before setting the piece on her work bench. She turned her attention back to Aruthur. [b "So, let's have a look, shall we?"] she asked, looking up at him.]
The bot made a sound as if to scoff. [#cf6b08 Honestly, most mechanics aren’t known for being necessarily friendly. You are one in thousands I would presume.”] And generous. He wasn’t even sure he should be taking her help now that he thought about it. How would that look to the others? Would humans penalize her as well?
Before he could get too thoughtful, they arrived at the modest little shop that, truthfully, Arthur wouldn’t have known was there had Ophelia not pointed it out. Though small, it was rather intricate and inviting. He followed slowly, looking out for the warning signs. Whilst he did trust the human, he had been known for being gullible and ignorant, often letting suspicious characters work on his parts that didn’t do much good to him.
To his relief, there were no discarded bots laying about or unnaturally rusted tools. There weren’t chains hanging from the ceiling or dark figures in the corners. All things making him feel more comfortable by the second.
The automaton paused beside the workbench and shouldered off his jacket and cotton shirt. There wasn’t much of him to look at. Copper plates and mismatched metal from over his years of self repair and shotty craftsmanship. He held out his right arm, straight for the mechanic to examine. [#cf6b08 “Do you often help bots in need or am I just a lucky occurrence?”]
[center Ophelia was silent for a moment as he slipped off the jacket and shirt. She'd never seen an automaton so close before. Part of her wanted to pry, see how he worked. She had to assume it was the same as an airship or a vehicle. Of course, she wasn't going to ask him if she could do that. She could only imagine how insane she would sound. So instead, she smiled, examining the arm. [b "You're the only one I've encountered so far who needed help, so we'll say you're a lucky occurrence,"] she said with a wink before going back to her inspection.]
[center Reaching out, she made his arm rotate, frowning once again at the sound. She glanced up at him, pursing her lips. [b "Do I have permission to take it off? If not, I can take a few pieces and take a look inside."] She normally didn't have to ask permission for such a thing, but she usually didn't work with bots. She was more familiar with the inanimate objects in her life.]
[center She took a step back and placed her hands on her hip. If she could get a look at what was causing the issue, she'd have a much better idea of what to do. She currently had a few things running through her mind, but none were going to help until she knew what she was dealing with. [b "If not, I can always try something less...deconstructing,"] she said with a smile. [b "Whatever makes you feel comfortable."] Was that strange to say? Could he feel uncomfortable? She couldn't help but wonder. No matter what, she had to admit, the bot was fascinating.]
Arthur chuckled at her request, finding it amusing to be someone’s ‘first’ in anything- much less repairs. He’d never met a specialist as accommodating or respectful as her meaning she was either fairly ignorant or the world hadn’t spit her out yet. With a smile, there were a few clicks of metal followed by a hiss before he popped the arm out of the socket, laying it flat on the table.
[#cf6b08 “I’m not too familiar with the emotion of ‘comfort’ but, from my understanding, it means permissions, correct?”] He stepped back, rubbing the empty spot beneath his shoulder. [i A little light on oil.] [#cf6b08 “In my experience, it seems nothing can be done without actually disassembling the part. My model is known for being excessive since I’m classified as a Multi-Purpose automaton. [i ‘Made to do everything’] or mostly so...”]
The sentient watched as Ophelia opened up the limb, curious to see what she’d find. As much as he tried to understand his own machinery, the complexity of the modelers made it so that the bot would have little choice but to return to its owner for repair. A normal occurrence among M.P.’s and still circuitry alike. [#cf6b08 “How long have you been doing this occupation?”]
[center Ophelia pursed her lips for a moment, a little bit of color staining her cheeks. Yeah, she should've known his unfamiliarity would be obvious. She felt a little silly for even considering it, but he seemed so life-like. She had hoped it wasn't a stretch. She finally nodded, realizing that she had yet to answer his question. [b "In a way,"] she said, thinking about it. [b "For example, had you said you weren't okay with me taking a look, to begin with, I wouldn't have pushed you to let me do so anyway."]]
[center She turned her attention to the arm, listening as Arthur spoke. [b "Is there anything you can't do,"] she asked, finally opening up the arm. She very quickly began inspecting it, grabbing a wrench a moment later. [b "Let's see here,"] she mumbled softly to herself. The young woman was known to talk to herself, something she usually didn't put much thought into, since the only person she really ever had to deal with was Markus.]
[center Hearing Arthurs question, she had to pause and give the answer some thinking. [b "Uhm..."] Once again, she began mumbling to herself, counting on her fingers. [b "If you want to get technical since I was about five or six? That was only because I helped my father, though. I've only been 'officially' in the business for almost ten years now. Started when I was sixteen and he could officially accept my help and pay me."] A wave of sadness washed over her. She tried not to think about it too much, but her father's death was still fresh to her, even though a few years had passed since.]
[center She let out a soft sigh before going back to the arm, tightening up a bolt she'd seen. After another moment or so, she finally set the wrench aside and closed up the arm, carefully holding it out to him. [b "Try that,"] she said with a sheepish grin. [b "Hopefully that'll work until you can get that part you need?"] It was strange being worried about it working well or not. She never had to ask the engines she'd worked on how the fix was working.]
The automaton mused for a moment, filing away information as bots usually did. It was hard to kill a programmed habit, though he did conclude that she must have been truly sincere. A rare trait indeed.
Arthur took the arm, flipping it around to push the attachment into the gapping socket. There was a soft click as the hinges met and the wiring sprang to life. He flexed his fingers, rotating the limb to test it’s range of motion. The stuttering in the joints had ceased but he could still feel a slight resistance. Regardless, it was a grand improvement compared to earlier.
[#cf6b08 “Much better,”] he breathed, the imitation rattling in his chest. [#cf6b08 “Yes, soon I should have enough gillians as long as Crute doesn’t raise the prices again.”] He buttoned up the shirt quickly and smiled. [#cf6b08 “My gratitude is eternal. If you are ever in need of a Multi-Purpose bot, you are welcome to ring my number. Service number that is.”] He was referring to the automatic system provided by the city which catalogued every available bot for hire.
[#cf6b08 “I have been trying to get around and work as much as possible. I have all the ridiculous notions a Sentient usually has, dreaming of leaving Albion as charming as it is.”] He shook out his hands, sparking the circuitry. [#cf6b08 “Do you have any dreams ahead?”]
[center It was hard for Ophelia to hide the excitement she was feeling knowing that the arm was working just a bit better. It never mattered how many times she'd had a satisfied customer. She was always worried that something wouldn't work right or that she would mess something up in the process. The years of experience didn't ever count in her mind. To her, there was always room for improvement, alongside room for error.]
[center She let out a soft sigh at his mention of Crute. [b "He's such a- ugh. It's still not fair that he did that to you. It's always the really crappy people, isn't it?"] she asked, watching him. Damn, she was still impressed. He was definitely a sophisticated automaton. The way he moved and seemed so...alive.]
[center Realizing how much she must have been staring, she cleared her throat and turned away, busying herself with clearing off the table. [b "I may take you up on that offer. It would be nice to have another pair of hands around here."] She glanced behind her to make sure Markus wasn't in earshot before she continued. [b "Markus is great, so I can't complain, but because he owns the place, he's not always around, and the last mechanic we had...well, he, unfortunately, didn't last as long as we had hoped."] She still shuddered at the thought of the accident. He was lucky to be alive, but they'd all known that his hand wouldn't be the same.]
[center Tearing her thoughts away from the horrible memory, she turned and smiled at him. [b "I don't blame you for wanting to leave. It's nice, but there's got to be more...interesting places out there, right?"] She pushed a strand of hair out of her face and behind her ear. She had to think about his question for a moment before she could truly answer. [b "I think I'd like to open my own place one day, wherever that may be. It'd be nice to be able to implement my own rules and help those that I want to help without issue."] She rubbed the back of her neck. It'd been something in the back of her mind for a long time, and though she'd been saving up the best she could, she was nowhere near the number of gillians she would need to even afford a place to start in.]
The Sentient pulled on the aged leather jacket, ramagging in his breast pocket for the small notebook and charcoal pencil. He noted the location of the shop as she spoke, making a mental promise to keep his word to Lady Ophelia for the near future. Whilst he could use the tracker integrated in his systems, his memory banks weren’t like they used to be. [#cf6b08 “Absolutely,”] Arthur replied with full confidence, [#cf6b08 “I’m very steady and precise and whilst I don’t know about machinery repair, I am very good at following orders and directions.”]
[#cf6b08 “But, please, if it would make things difficult or put an unnecessary target on the shop, then you don’t need to use me. I’m sure there are plenty of others blokes desperate for a job.”] Though probably very little who would put in all the hard work required but automatons couldn’t say things like that. Not against the humans.
[#cf6b08 “If I may speak freely,”] he started, taking a seat on the workbench beside her and pocketing the notebook once more. [#cf6b08 “Maybe it would be a lovely thought if we could travel. Find a steam motor. Follow the path across rolling hills meeting new people, helping and fixing. Then winding up at the famous Airship Port or even the luminous city of Zion.”] The bot paused, realizing that he may have been overstepping boundaries, maybe even making things awkward.
He raised his eyes to the mechanic, trying to recall how to properly portray modesty. [#cf6b08 “Not to push ideologies into the conversation. I’ve just... been itching to talk to someone.”] [i Not something.]
[center Ophelia smiled a bit at his reply. Whether Markus would admit it or not, they really did need the help, and knowing that Arthur would be willing to step in was than enough to make her feel a little giddy inside. She turned away from him then, waving off his next words. She certainly wasn't worried about what other people would think and she was sure Markus didn't either. Despite his tough exterior, he was a pretty down-to-earth guy. [b "I highly doubt those 'other blokes' would be as enthusiastic as you seem to be."] She paused as she thought about what she'd said. Could he feel enthusiastic about things? [b "Well, I'm sure you know what I mean, at least..."] She let the words trail off. Damn she was bad at this.]
[center She looked towards him once he sat down, raising a brow. His words tumbled around in her head as she stared at him, probably for a little too long. She'd never thought about traveling to help people. She'd always been in the same town. Hell, in the same shop for most of her life. The idea of leaving brought just a little pain with it.]
[center On the other hand, however, it would be that opportunity she wanted so bad. One where she really could help whoever she wanted, and she already knew that he wanted to get out of the place that treated him so poorly.]
[center She gulped a little before looking away, packing up the last of her tools. [b "It's a lovely idea, I won't lie."] She could very easily just say no, push the idea from her mind and move into the next day like she normally would, but a part of her knew that she would probably regret that decision.]
[center Standing up straight, she placed a hand on her hip before looking at him once more, tilting her head slightly. [b "Are you serious about doing that?"] she asked, watching him. If he was, she'd definitely consider it. Maybe getting away would be more helpful than she wanted to admit. As much as she loved the shop, it [i did] have some painful memories, some that snuck up on her when she'd least expect it.]
He felt his gears form into a smile, watching as the detailed features of Ophelia went from embarrassed to curious and thoughtful. Arthur wondered briefly if his face did that when he wasn’t trying. Would he ever have natural looking expressions that worked on que without an aiding cognition?
Slightly disheartened, the automaton watched the human glace away, gathering up her tools to busy her hands. Intriguing idea, sure, but Arthur was well aware he wouldn’t make it very far in his condition, his ignorance and just simply being different. Though he perked up at her words, fighting not to be fully overexcited if her answer was a positive one.
[#cf6b08 “Completely serious.”] The Sentient came to a stand beside her, his smile disappearing but replaced with unwavering confidence. A ridiculous notion or no, it was his goal to leave for even in a city that allowed him to roam free, he could never be anything more than a scrap of obedient metal. He wanted to be adventurous, rebellious, jubilant. Experiencing everything this world had to offer.
[#cf6b08 “I know it may sound outlandish and I am no fool. I know something like me isn’t supposed to cross the walls and I’m aware that I simply cannot do it alone, despite how badly I want to defy those odds. We may have just met but my kind, my model, are charismatically trusting in humans and loyal to the end.”] He stepped back, shaking his hand in the air. [#cf6b08 “I don’t need an answer if you wish not to give it.”]
[center Ophelia's eyes trailed up to meet his as he stood by her. She was surprised by how interested he seemed in the idea. When she thought about it, it was impossible to blame him. She'd seen the way he was treated at the one shop alone. If she was in his shoes, she would probably want to leave, too. His words hit harder than she expected them to, as well. It was more for her to consider when it came to the idea.]
[center She had never left the town before, had never even really thought about doing so, but the more the automaton spoke, the more open she felt to the whole thing. She was sure her father wouldn't want her to waste away in the same spot that he had. Plus, if she was helping others, it would give her life that much more purpose. Something that he could be proud of.]
[center That thought almost brought tears to her eyes. It was one of the biggest regrets she'd had since he had passed away and she was constantly striving to do something worth a damn outside of her everyday routine.]
[center Shaking her head, she met Arthur's eyes again, a smile forming on her lips. [b "Maybe we did just meet, but I can tell you're passionate about wanting to leave, so I'm willing to give it a shot,"] she said, holding her hand out to him. [b "Partners then?"] she asked, watching him.]
[center Maybe it was crazy of her to agree to such a thing, to want to leave the comfort of everything she'd ever known, but there was a touch of adventure in it that she couldn't help but crave. It was an open door that she felt the need to walk through. So here she was, making that decision and knowing that she wouldn't be able to go back once it was done.]
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