Oh, god damn it.
Underestimating jumps like this can cost her life, yet she still takes the risk of doing so. A bit too much of the greasy, oily orange, and a bit too little of the elastic, thick blue. Her grip on the paint gun slips, leaving it ricocheting off a panel and landing just out of reach. Her chest slams hard into a platform hanging over a certain and highly corrosive death, leaving her out of breath with a wheezy “oof” sound.
No. Oh, oh no, no no no no.
She can’t get a hold on the panel, frantically clawing at the surface, smearing it with paint as she continues slipping down towards the edge until her hands, slick from gel, are the only things keeping her away from her fate.
Perhaps returning to that dreaded testing track to humor a certain core was a mistake, after all. She’s stuck in this facility, though, might as well make the most of it. The rush of dancing dangerously close to the line between life and death can be addictive for some. The thrill of the rush, it got her blood pumping, her heart racing. Besides– something about the orange-colored asshole in charge of the entire testing appeals to her.. to a degree. A very small one.
Wait. Oh. Right. Her name. What’s her name? You tell her, honestly you would be more likely to know it than her. All she knows is the number the system used to identify her by, plastered on the shirt she wears and outside the relaxation stasis chamber she had awoken in long ago; 18.
Back to reality.
“Hhh, ughh.. Nigel– NIGEL. H-help me out, I uh… I’m slipping. And I might, you know, FALL. To my death.” Subject 18 wheezes, frantically swinging her legs in an attempt to gain momentum to get back up onto the panel, lean an arm on it, SOMETHING– but to no avail.
The orange-accented android wielding a clipboard and dress shirt shrugs, visible on a screen on a nearby wall, depicting his somewhat organized workspace. “That’s unfortunate.”
“You piece of–!”
“Eh. I’ll come, can’t lose my only subject.” Nigel goes off-screen, hooking himself up to the management rail to swiftly reach where the subject is struggling. He pops back off, standing a few feet away with an apathetic frown, leaning down a little with his lips pressed into a flat line.
“Enjoying the view?” She asks him, her voice anxiously raising in pitch as she fails to remain calm. Nigel is (as nicely and tenderly as one can describe) a dick. A decent to look at dick with major empathy problems.
The core gives a huff of breath and a nonchalant “eh”, kneeling down and resting his cheek in an open palm, supported by an elbow propped on his knee. His eyes narrow ever so slightly, his free hand moving to press a button on the side of his earpiece. A translucent visor made of hard light, colored like his orange accents, moves out to cover the upper half of his face. “You’re really having a hard time down there, eh?”
“Psshh, n-no. I enjoy hanging-” Her snark gets abruptly cut off as she loses some of her hold on the edge. She has to look down, even if she’d told herself how bad it is. Luckily, she isn’t afraid of heights (unlike SOME idiots out there, am I right?) however, she’s afraid of dying. The corrosive goo hisses and gurgles dangerously near, heating up the bottom of her boots, practically begging her to release her grip on the panel.
“Yesyesyesyes– okay, yes, I AM having a bit of.. hhggh– trouble.”
Nigel’s thick eyebrows furrow, an indescribable look full of conflict and (guilt?) other muddled emotions forming on his face. One hand twitches, clenching into a fist, as if he’s been irritated. What the hell is this he’s feeling? He’s not supposed to feel. His programming doesn’t dictate any wiggle room for emotion. “…alright. I’ll help. Only because I need the statistics on that paint gun; I’d just grab it and leave you for dead, honestly, but you’re my only subject.”
“I love you too, sunshine.” With an annoyingly singsong voice, 18 gives him a forced and obviously fake smile. Her breathing is heavy, sweat beading on her forehead and dripping down her temples. The fingers on her remaining hand start to lose grip fast, slipping one by one. After what feels like hours of the worst kind of anticipation, there’s nothing keeping her from dropping.
“NIGEL.” Wow. Her last words and they’re his name.
The sight of the other’s hands slipping and leading to a potentially deadly fall makes time almost stop for Nigel. What the hell is he doing? She’s just some human. He quickly lunges forward, practically throwing himself after her as he grabs for one of her hands with both of his. With the subject’s paint-covered hand firmly in his own glove-covered hands, he takes a deep breath, tapping wirelessly into controls for the current chamber and manipulating the panel to tilt upwards; just enough to get a stable footing and pull 18 upwards.
Afterwards, he unceremoniously throws her backwards towards a more stable area and the paint gun. “You’re welcome,” the core grumbles almost inaudibly.
18 wheezes, the sudden rush of the last few seconds all catching up to her. Now, yes, he clearly isn’t a knight in shining armor, but even for him throwing her is a bit too rough. She skids on her side a few feet, scraping her elbows as she practically slides to her trusty tool. She rolls onto her back, gasping and out of breath. For a second, there, she really believed he was going to let her fall. But then.. THAT happened.
“Never, ever, EVER wait till the last second again, okay? Dick move. Even for you.” She wheezes, hugging her paint gun and petting like someone making sure their child’s okay after a scare.
“It didn’t occur to me that the unkillable test subject would end up getting done in by a bunch of.. Whatever makes up the goo down there. Be thankful you’re not dead, will you?” Nigel walks forward and past 18, looking ahead. “You were almost at the end. Imagine– dying seconds before you reach the end. Humiliating, I bet.”
18 lifts her head, watching him walk past as he gives a rather “uplifting” speech about dying.
“Wow. And here I thought you didn’t care. You really know how to charm a gal.” She’d rather just keep laying down– her elbows are burning from the scraping, her heart is pounding too fast and too loud from adrenaline. With a groan, she slowly eases back to her feet, knowing full well that Mr. Walking-Citranium-Advertisement is focused on testing. He had forced her to test before, and she would rather not get hit by a weighted storage cube as “persuasion”… again.
“C’mon,” Nigel gestures for the subject to follow, tucking his hands into his pants pockets and walking close enough to the door at the end of the corridor to make it open.
Nobody told him about the second core in the track at the moment. “..there you are. I was looking for you.” With amber accents aglow and scandinavian accent prominent, the Maintenance Core pushes off of the wall he had just been leaning on to approach the duo.
18, about to give Nigel a certain hand gesture (involving a certain finger), that, in her opinion was rightfully deserved, is stopped in her tracks by the foreign voice. Both literally and concerning that accent. One would think these androids are human enough, but they definitely aren’t. Unless humans started coming out in bright, oversaturated colors like freaking crayons while the subject was in stasis.
18 hates them. Nigel’s the proof she has that they’re all soulless, empty testing machines. And her only interaction with core androids until now. Just because this one has a different accent and a relatively welcoming disposition doesn’t mean squat. She immediately becomes guarded, distrust filling her face as she warily brandishes her paint gun. She wishes she has an actual gun, at the very least it’d be easier to disable larger mechanical things with it.
This android is in for it if he DARES to “test” her– more like, “let’s see if this person can live through a highly dangerous, deadly obstacle course with nothing but a paint ball gun”.
“Nigel,” the stranger, Virgil, begins, an irritated frown on his face, “I need you to come with me to the repair wing.”
“You need your old programming back.” The shorter core, the Maintenance Core, steps forward, an assertive tone in his voice. “You’re not yourself anymore, trust me on that.”
The other tenses up, his shoulders raising as his accents shift to a warmer, slightly darker shade of orange to reflect his shift in mood. “I… I don’t need to be reprogrammed. I’ve-I’ve been doing well enough with testing, right? Besides, you’re– you’re not my boss. You don’t dictate that or not.” An almost uncharacteristic attitude for him. Defensive. Afraid, in a way.
“Nigel– you’ve.. you’ve been doing well enough. We just need to get your old self back, okay?” Man, 18 must be confused.
“Hi, hello, smelly human here.” 18 moves forward, taking an almost protective stride towards Nigel. “Yeah, hi, look, tin man, you are NOT taking him. I kinda need him to watch me risk my life for stupid tests.” Nigel’s reaction, among other things, deepens the confusion rooting in her mind. Reprogramming Nigel, it could either change him for worse or for the better, and she’s only just warming up to him. More or less.
She points the paint gun at Virgil’s face, a serious expression melding together on her own.
Virgil raises his hands in front of himself, eyes locking on the barrel of the gun. Looks a lot like a portal gun– isn’t looking into the operational end of these things dangerous? “You can accompany me, if you want. I just need Nigel to cooperate.”
“And you’re not going to get the satisfaction of that. No way in android hell am I going to get reprogrammed again.” His lip curls, showing some teeth as his fists ball up at his sides, his stance shifting to be a tad wider. “As far as I know, I’ve done nothing deserving of that kind of punishment.”
“It’s not a punishment! It’s going to help, I swear it.”
“No! You can’t make m–”
Virgil activates his visor, the glow masking his features beneath as he focuses on it. Being “fully Wi-Fi capable” allows him to wirelessly hack things. Such as remotely deactivating another android, like the robotic version of anaesthesia for a surgery.
After a few tense moments, Nigel’s eyes and accents fade to black as he slumps over. Grumbling Norwegian profanities under his breath, Virgil proceeds to walk over and pull at one of the limp core’s arms.
That’s when 18 decides to take a swing at Virgil with the paint gun– the only weapon she has on hand.
“What the HELL are you doing?! You killed him!” She swings at his head, trying to keep him away from Nigel.
“I didn’t kill him– I deactivated him so it’s easier to get him to the repair wing!” Virgil narrowly ducks, eyes wide. “If– if you help me carry him there, I’ll leave him alone as soon as I’m done, okay?!”
“And why should I expect you to keep your word? Give me ONE reason, a good reason, to trust you tin man.” She readies her gun for another swing. Androids are “truth enhancers”, judging from what she’s experienced with Nigel. They either want you dead or testing.
“I won’t hurt him, I’ll let you be in there while I’m fixing him up!” His voice cracks, sounding more like a faint glitch due to his voice being artificial. He takes a step back, looking from Nigel to the subject. “He– he’ll be better. I promise.”
Yeah you better be scared, 18 thinks to herself. The subject would have beaten him, but this android is… not Nigel. That’s a solid fact from the three minutes she’s interacted with him. She lowers her gun with a cold threat, “You mess with me, I will make sure they find bits and pieces of you all throughout this hellhole.”
“Help me carry him. Please. I… it’s to help an old friend. You might have known him.” Who’s he talking about? He sighs, cautiously pacing back over to the deactivated android.
“Probably not,“ her voice wavers warily as she moves over to Nigel, “I’ll get his arms.”
“..thank you.” Virgil awkwardly hoists the core’s legs in his arms. “Let me call an elevator to the repair wing.” Like before, he focuses on his visor, a bit of a shift causing the surroundings to rumble for a second. Straightening out the piping so an elevator can come. “Alright,” he murmurs, an elevator arriving in the center of the room, “let’s go.”