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Technoromanticism - Chapter 3

Title: Technoromanticism


Summary: TezRyo Robot AU.

Rating: Definitely Mature.  For the usual culprits.

Author’s Note: Posting a little early, yay!



Chapter 3.0

By Sinnatious

Tezuka was up into the early hours of the morning trying to get more than one or two worded answers out of Ryoma, but all he seemed to manage was to agitate the bioroid more. Most of their one-worded arguments involved Ryoma insisting he was a perfect human, and Tezuka patiently agreeing that yes, he was the most convincing imitation he’d seen yet, but he was far from perfect and since Ryoma was still at core a robot could he please answer some robot-related questions? Eventually the bioroid had clammed up and refused to talk anymore. Tezuka sincerely hoped that blanket confidentiality programming hadn’t taken hold, as that would make his job significantly more difficult, but had to give in and go to bed – they’d left the red light district before midnight, but between cleaning out the safe house, packing away the supplies Oshitari had brought and getting to know his ‘guest’, it was well after three by the time he went to sleep.
As such, he slept in quite late the next day, and was rather annoyed about it. Tezuka was an early riser by nature, and having his sleeping schedule so badly disrupted was mildly irritating. At least he wasn’t expected to be at work. Hopefully no one in the labs needed him for anything; or at least, nothing that Oishi couldn’t handle in his stead.
Once fully awake and dressed, he headed back into the living room where he’d left Ryoma the night before. Sure enough, the bioroid was sitting exactly where he’d left him. Golden eyes snapped open as he approached. 
“It’s ‘good morning’,” Tezuka corrected. If it was a learning AI, he might as well try to teach it some manners to offset whatever coarse language it had picked up from its previous disreputable owners.
“Whatever. Do you have sum kinda magnet?"  A couple of the words were still slightly mispronounced, but Tezuka was surprised at being greeted with a full and understandable sentence, when only eight hours before most of what came out was garbled and nonsensical. It must have spent the night reorganising its speech modules.

However even if it was a full sentence, it still didn’t make any sense. "What?" 
"So I can move.  I don' know exactly how it works... I thin’ it's an 'electro-magnec' something..."

Tezuka frowned.  "You can move?"

"Of course!  I'm human," it said sullenly.

"Programmed to function like one," Tezuka corrected. "Although if your AI keeps growing at this rate, the distinction might soon be meaningless.  I didn't think that there would need to be a robotics ethics tribunal for at least ten years."  He was being more talkative than normal, under the supposition that the more he talked, the more articulate the robot in his care became.  It certainly seemed to be the case.

"Whatever," it replied impatiently.  "So do you have a magnec… magnet or not?"

Tezuka walked over to his laptop, undid a latch at the back and removed a small cylinder.  It was the electro-magnet normally attached to the hard-drive.  It was supposed to be remotely operable, so that in the case of his work being stolen by a rival company they could wipe the hard-drive, but it had a manual override as well. "It's not very strong, though.  How does it let you move?"

"See that thing on the back of my neck?  Hold it near that and swit… switch it on."

Tezuka lifted the head, but hesitated briefly before hitting the button.  "You're not going to try to escape, are you?"

"Where would I go?"

That was a good point.  In any case, curiosity won out over common sense.  He clicked the button.  Nothing happened. 

"Move it closer and try again."

Tezuka pressed the cylinder against the back of the neck and pressed the button again.  This time a tremor ran through the whole body.  Ryoma jerked, and a moment later, was sitting up on its own.  "Ugh, at last."  It rose to its feet, and took a few clumsy steps.  It was a little wobbly, but it was standing. 

"The switch is controlled by an electromagnet?  Isn't that dangerous?"  The majority of higher-end AI units were shielded against magnetic or static interference, but it was still generally recommend to avoid deliberate exposure.
"The switch is inside.  The magnet makes it flip or something."  It rolled its shoulders, and adjusted the shirt and pants - they were sitting awkwardly from Tezuka's clumsy attempts at dressing unresponsive limbs.  "You should have done that earlier, then I could have dressed myself," Ryoma groused.

Oh.  That definitely would have been easier.  "You have nothing to be embarrassed about," Tezuka pointed out.  "I make bioroids for a living.  None quite so convincing, maybe, but nothing I haven't seen before."

Ryoma's face reddened.  "You could at least treat me like a human!" 

Obviously his behaviour wasn't meshing with any of its scenarios.  "If it makes your programming run more smoothly."

Ryoma turned his head away, looking annoyed.  "Che.  I need something to drink."  It started to unsteadily walk away.

Tezuka saw what was going to happen before it did, so he was ready to react.  As Ryoma stepped towards the kitchen, it overbalanced, and started to fall.  Tezuka leapt from the couch and grabbed it, steadying it against his chest.  Ryoma frowned and tried to push away, but just wound up overbalancing again and crashing back into Tezuka.

Placing his hands on the shoulders, Tezuka asked, "Your balance centres aren't properly calibrated?"

A scowl.  "I just haven't walked for a couple of days.  It'll be fine in a while."

"In the meantime, perhaps you'll do better if you let me assist you to the kitchen."

Another scowl, but Ryoma begrudgingly clutched his arm for balance until they made it into the kitchen. "You wanted water?"

"And something to eat.  I haven't had anything since yesterday, and that was just a couple of sugar pills."

"Are you sure you should be taking foreign substances internally?"

"Foreign... it's food, right?  So long as it's digestible..."

"Just checking."  It was an internal breakdown system then, to produce its own chemicals. Obviously self-regulating. He'd just trust that the AI was programmed with self-preservation, and wouldn't consume potentially harmful ingredients to fulfil less important requirements. “If you’re capable of movement, why would that sort of switch be implemented anyway?”
“Depends on the sort of customer.” Ryoma’s voice was flat. Tezuka wisely decided that he didn’t want to know any more. He handed over a glass of water, and started fishing through the cupboard for some cereal. He took out an unopened box, two spoons and two bowls. A minute later, they were both eating breakfast. The spoon kept slipping through Ryoma’s grasp at first, but a few finger flexes later it was fine. Tezuka made sure to be careful of his manners, in hopes that the AI would mimic it. The elbows didn’t appear to be leaving the table any time soon, though.
He didn’t try to make any conversation. Now that Ryoma could construct whole sentences, the variety and depth of the reactions and expressions left him a little unnerved. Tezuka wasn’t sure if the world was yet ready for robots that could mimic human emotions as well as form.
As soon as breakfast was finished, Ryoma announced, “Shower.”
“Excuse me?”
“I’m using the shower.”
“Are you sure that’s…”
Ryoma was already standing and leaving the room. Walking was a little steadier this time, but Tezuka remained tense all the same. After opening several doors, the bioroid located the bathroom, shutting and locking the door behind itself. Tezuka forced himself to relax. It did need to be cleaned, after all – he should be grateful that it was something the bioroid could handle without his help. It was just one less piece of maintenance he had to perform on an unfamiliar construct. 
After a rather long period in the bathroom, Ryoma finally emerged again and headed into the living room. He eyed the couch where Tezuka was sitting, and elected to sit on the floor instead. “So, what now?”
“Did you have some sort of suggestion?”
Ryoma shrugged, then eyed the wide-screen television. The safe house might have been sparsely furnished, but what was there was appropriately lavish considering Atobe’s wealth. “Television?”
“There’s no connection. I’ll ask Oshitari for a receiver later.”
Ryoma groaned. “Then what’s there to do here? I’m bored already.”
“I’m supposed to be reverse engineering you,” Tezuka explained.
Ryoma scoffed. “You won’t get anything. I told you – there’s nothing robot about me.”
“Aside from the fact that you have a switch on the back of your neck that turns off all your motor functions,” Tezuka pointed out.
Apparently there was no explanation for that. Ryoma glowered from his position on the floor.
“Put it this way - in that case, it won’t make any difference to you, will it?”
“Of course it would. Would you reverse-engi-whatever a human?” Ryoma sounded cranky.
“Why are you so insistent on it?”
“Because I am one! I do everything humans do – I eat, walk, talk, shower. Have you ever heard of a robot that can do all that?”
“None that can do them all, but that’s beside the point. Those things aren’t what make you human.”
“Then what does?”
Tezuka didn’t really feel like getting into philosophical discussions with a bioroid, no matter how advanced its AI might be. “Will you cooperate with me or not?”
Golden eyes narrowed. “What does that sort of thing involve, anyway?”
Tezuka considered his options briefly. His avenues of investigation were rather limited by his lack of tools, but there were still plenty of things that could be deduced from surface observations. Breakfast had spurred his curiosity, too. Standing, he made his way over to where Ryoma was sitting. 
Alarmed, the bioroid scooted back. “Hey, what-”
“I just want to examine your teeth,” Tezuka explained patiently.
“No way! My teeth are fine!” Ryoma abruptly stood and made to escape past, but was still slow on foot and Tezuka easily caught him. “Let go!” The free hand tried to push Tezuka away.
“Stop struggling like a child.”
“How the hell do you reverse-engineer teeth anyway?!”
Sighing, Tezuka fished an object out of his pocket and pressed it to the back of Ryoma’s neck.
"What are you-"

Tezuka pressed the button, and Ryoma slumped to the floor.  "Hey!"  It sounded slightly panicked.

"If you're not going to work with me, then I have no choice," Tezuka pointed out.

Ryoma let out several curse words that Tezuka knew weren’t in the standard dictionary... but given where they'd stolen the bioroid from, it was no surprise they turned up in its vocabulary. He diplomatically ignored the insults and knelt down, gently picking up Ryoma’s head in his hands. He ran his thumbs across the lips, which prompted the bioroid into silence.
Emboldened by the compliance, Tezuka pushed his index finger past the lips, running it across the front teeth. It felt like enamel, which made sense – it would be both cheap and simple to use dentures to simulate human teeth. He needed to inspect the molars, too. “Open up,” he ordered. The teeth parted.
He should have known better, though. A second later, those pearly whites snapped shut - right on his finger.
Tezuka let out a hiss under his breath, and wrenched his hand away. Ryoma smirked. He inspected his finger carefully, but fortunately the bioroid hadn’t bitten hard enough to break the skin. “It’s rude to bite people, you know.”
“It’s also rude to stick your fingers in people’s mouths without permission.”
Tezuka sighed. “This will be a lot more pleasant if you cooperate. I understand that you aren’t in the best position at the moment, but neither am I. It will be a lot simpler if you work with me. Please.”
Ryoma kept up the glower for a long moment, before grimacing. Slowly, the lips and teeth parted again. 
“Thank you.” Carefully, Tezuka probed at the teeth once more, then counted them. He traced the tip of his index finger across the roof of the mouth, and Ryoma gurgled slightly. “Not much longer,” he assured the displeased bioroid. There wasn’t anything unusual about it – no hidden mechanisms that gave any hints to special processes. Tezuka stroked the tongue with his finger, then withdrew it and sucked on the tip of it. Nothing in the saliva tasted unusual either, so the breakfast food obviously hadn’t messed up the internal reactions at all. Ryoma’s face turned an interesting shade of red.
Oh… he hadn’t… “Did I trigger a subroutine by accident?”
A flushed glare, then the golden gaze slid away. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Are you done yet?”
“That should be enough, yes.” Tezuka propped up the head on his knee, and pressed the electromagnet to the back of the neck. Why did he suddenly feel awkward again? 
As soon as its movement was restored, Ryoma stood and moved to sit on the couch. It refused to talk for the next three hours, and its face remained red for most of that time. Tezuka had to occupy himself by cleaning up the kitchen and entering his new findings into the laptop. There was something far too surreal about arguing with a robot, especially when it had delusions of humanity.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 10th, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)

Oh Tezuka, so firmly convinced. ♥
Jan. 10th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
Aaaaw...Ryoma is blushing for three hours and Tezuka is oblivious to why Ryoma is red *giggles..that's just too precious*...Tezuka talking and arguing with Ryoma *grin widely*...looking forward to the next chapter. ^__^
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
Interesting, so interesting! That switch in the back is pretty cool. I'm trying to figure out how it'd work if Ryoma were a human...does it reconnect the corticospinal tract for motor function? Hmmm...

Tezuka is so clinical in his assessment. I'm just waiting for him to get flustered. Please write more soon!
Jan. 11th, 2009 05:34 am (UTC)
alsdksljaksdajldsa, INDIRECT KISS. *___*

Really, Tezuka acts more like a robot than Ryoma with his lack of expression and decisive demeanor. :D I would be too surprised if you threw the twister that TEZUKA WAS THE ROBOT! :P

*g* I like this chapter a lot~ You even threw in the perpetual question in robot stories. "What makes a human?" :D alksjalsdald, Buchou, it's the heart.
Jan. 11th, 2009 11:42 am (UTC)
You can't have a robot story without it. :3 Mwa ha ha. Glad that P-chan approves so far. <3
Jan. 11th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)

I forgot to say: Sighing, Tezuka fished an object out of his pocket and pressed it to the back of Ryoma’s neck. Buchou tazered Ryoma. ;__; And I'm looking forward to why Ryoma has a silver disk there, and slaksajdldka what sad story lies behind it.
Jan. 11th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
Ahahaha oh Tezu. *_* He's so beautifully written (Ryoma too) and so hilarious!

<3 INDIRECT KISS Whee~ Can't wait for more =3
Jan. 11th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
Blah that was me, forgot to log in xD Sorry!
Jan. 12th, 2009 10:14 am (UTC)
Heh, thanks. :P
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:19 pm (UTC)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )