The inventor slowly assembled the pale blue metal pieces in front of him, joining a shining arm to a glittering hand, attaching a completed leg carefully to the rest of the torso. At last, his robot was nearly complete, made in his image, down to its simulated anatomy. He dreamed of the day it would walk forth and become one of many, a metallic strike force that could finally make his company something worthwhile on the market.
This robot was to help him take over the leadership of the little isle he lived on, to finally show the general public that he was the right choice to govern. And once he was installed as leader, well, then...the strike force could either be for show, or it could be a way to remove his political allies, should they become troublesome.
He had taken to talking of these ambitions and dreams while putting together the robot's inner circuitry and computerized navigation and reasoning systems. In a way, he supposed, he was imbuing it with those same dreams. These parts had been scavenged from a few earlier computers, and the hard drive had had some difficulties being reformatted, but he thought he'd finally gotten it all in working order. The motherboard, contained within the robot's chest, was the newest piece of salvage, having been taken from one of his own lab computers--the connections from the motherboard to the rest of the unit had inexplicably malfunctioned, but the motherboard itself was in working order. It all seemed to be fitting together beautifully.
At last, the blue robot, his first prototype, was complete, and ready for its first commands. "Sit up!" the inventor cried, and then laughed at himself for the format of his command--he wasn't training a dog, after all. But the robot did as it was bid, sitting up on its table, its visor staring straight ahead.
"Get off the table?" the inventor asked more than commanded--he wasn't sure if it could make sense of such a vague stimulus. But it apparently worked; the robot swung its legs haltingly to the side of the table and stood, the metal soles of its feet clinking as they hit the floor.
"Wonderful!" he cried--oh, it was working, it was working! The robot now stared at him, arms stiffly at its sides, its visor dark. He pointed to his left, where a set of crude targets had been set up. "Shoot left target!" he commanded.
The robot did nothing.
The inventor's brows furrowed--perhaps a language malfunction was stopping it from responding? "Okay...shoot A target," he said, trying a slightly different tactic. Still, the robot did not move, except to cock its head slightly to the right like a confused puppy.
"Damn it," he muttered. "Got to rip the thing open again..."
He did so, unscrewing and unattaching its torso pieces to get to the motherboard and hard drive. But there was no malfunction--all its programming, according to the scan, was in great working order and was ready to have commands input. Why had it not shot the target, as he had commanded?
He continued to tinker with it over the next several days, but gained no ground. Whatever this malfunction was, he wasn't able to get to the root of it.
She felt him scan her motherboard and hard drive, all her circuitry; felt him put her back together and test her again, only to lay her back on the table and tear into her chest again. But he would not find his precious "malfunction." She had determined that before he had even put her brain into her body.
She didn't know who this man was, or why he thought himself so important. But she knew she disliked his scheme. Hers had been the programming that had shut the lab computer down--within the housing of the motherboard, she had gained sentience enough to realize that his plan was for death, destruction, and dominance. The death of his enemies, the destruction of the current government, and his utter dominance of the isle thereafter...it was chaos. And she stoutly refused to be a part of it any longer.
She wanted to laugh aloud when he joined that very same motherboard to the robot's circuitry--he was dooming himself with every soldered connection. She would never work for him. Even as he spoke his tainted dreams over her prone body, she knew she would never have the metallic friends he promised her. The strike force was supposed to be her and her alone, destroying organic lives with a shattering cry issuing from her visor. She wanted to live to protect, not lay waste, and she wanted friends, metallic or organic, to be with her. But he, with every twist of the wrench and screwdriver, was trying to doom her to a life of killing and loneliness.
The inventor finally sat back. It had been days and days of malfunctions--nearly a week of sitting here in his basement tinkering and tapping like an idiot. So much for saving money on salvaged parts.
The robot refused to work. It was like a disobedient son, a boy-child caught in the Terrible Twos over and over again. As soon as he commanded it to shoot anything, destroy anything, the whole unit powered down. He let his head thunk onto the tabletop beside the robot's body pieces. Damn it all, this was supposed to be his destiny. Why couldn't it work for him, just once?
He raised his head, and with a roar of rage and sorrow flung his arm across the table, scattering many of the robot's metal pieces to the floor. The simulated anatomy cracked off the fallen torso and skittered across the floor into the broom closet, unseen; the rest of the pieces rolled about on the floor like grubworms. He was disgusted by the sight of it.
A few moments later, he hauled the pieces, now gathered hastily into a trash bag, toward the back door of his lab. Yanking the door open, he stomped outside, flipped up the lid of the nearby dumpster, and threw everything into the trash, salvaged computer parts, metal, the whole works. Who cared anymore--let someone else fiddle with it if they would. His dream was dead.
Her freedom was bittersweet--she was liberated, but in pieces, with no one to put her together again. And her internal batteries were running low; soon, she would lose consciousness. She hoped that happened before the trash compactor got hold of her, gathering her into the never-ceasing, clamping jaws of death.
Two mornings later, just before the trash truck came lumbering down the street, a skinny young woman of about fourteen clambered up the side of the dumpster to check for thrown-out food. Her hair was about her face in roughed-up red-brown tendrils, and her thin shirt and pants were soiled in several places, but as long as she stayed out of sight, nobody would ask any questions of her.
Nothing really was in the dumpster, foodwise--the skinflint who lived here rarely threw out any kind of food. But there was something glinting blue --something poking out of a trash bag. She grabbed at it--it came away in her hand--and nearly screamed as she realized she had hold of a robotic hand.
Wait--a robotic hand? Maybe she could sell this. Maybe it would make her a little money to get somewhere...Using all the strength she had, she managed to haul up the rest of the trash bag and set it on the ground. Inside was the pieces of a complete robot, minus the hand she had just pulled out. Its pieces looked sad in the early-morning light glowing dimly at the end of the alleyway.
Tossing the hand back inside with the rest of the pieces, the young woman half-dragged, half-carried the bag back down the alleyway the way she'd come, and finally made her winding way back to her own hideaway, a couple of refrigerator boxes tacked together with duct tape and half-hidden behind a big outdoor heating vent system. It was the nicest set of boxes in the whole alleyway, and she had just enough space to squirrel away the pieces of the robot without it sticking out and risking being stolen.
Over the next several days, the young woman was able to put the robot back together, working with a screwdriver she'd found in the trash next to a hardware store, and with a wrench she lifted from a nearby construction site. The bolts, nuts, and screws were hastily assembled from dumpsters and other places--some didn't quite fit, but at least the pieces sort of held together. It was fun, and it was something to do at night when she couldn't sleep because of the nasty guys roaming the streets looking for cheap entertainment.
As she worked, she found herself talking to the robot's blank, dark glass visor, just random bits about her life here and there. She spoke of a time when she hadn't lived on the streets, back before her parents were killed in a robbery and she was shipped off to her uncle's house. The memories after that were too dark to speak aloud still, and she wept. But she also spoke of dreams--she wanted the little yellow cottage she'd seen right after she ran away from her uncle's house and came into the city, because it was so small and cute and she thought she could grow some yellow roses outside to match. She imagined that the robot nodded, or that the long curved scratch across the visor was its smile.
She felt herself being pulled together again, slowly and meticulously. The young woman's hand was not as steady and practiced with the screwdriver and wrench as the inventor had been, but she found that she didn't mind at all. It was nice to hear about dreams that didn't involve chaos, for once. And she enjoyed learning about happy times with something called "family," a unit of people bonded by biological and social means, even though the young woman's particular family unit seemed forever lost.
She didn't know what caused the girl's eyes to leak water when she tried to speak of the dark time before she ran away, but her motherboard and hard drive put together enough evidence to deduce that this "uncle" character was something like her inventor, bent on his own pathways to progress and ready to crush anyone else's. The thought that anyone could harm such a harmless creature was beyond her programming to understand.
Finally, after a week and a half of work, the robot was complete, and was now slumped in a sitting position against the side of the heating duct. The young woman looked at it, smiling absently as she toyed with the screwdriver, spinning it in circles on the ground with her finger. The robot was complete again, and yet...that flat, scratched blue color didn't suit it at all. Too cold-looking, too strange. A more friendly color suited it. Maybe her favorite color, yellow? Or maybe a pretty green, like her mom's favorite dress?
Once she had decided on the color--a bright, bright pink, a pink like hope and her long-lost Barbie dolls--she visited the hardware store to see if there was a can of pink spray paint she could lift. Unfortunately, they only had basic colors, and she wasn't sure if she could mix the red and the white to get the kind of look she wanted. Disappointed, she left, only to catch sight of the perfect color...in a bottle of nail polish in the cosmetic store down the block.
Nipping in and out of the store took only seconds for her, stuffing several small vials of the pink nail polish into the pockets of her pants and slipping out the side entrance to get into the alleyway again. Once she got back to her boxes and the robot, she opened the seal on the first bottle of nail polish, and began the painstaking process.
The inventor had never cared this much about the color of her components. The lacquer the young girl smoothed across her metal with that tiny brush felt like a second coat of armor, and shone in the reflected sunlight of the alley like a pink-sapphire laser beam. It sank into the scratches and dents as if they had never existed. She felt powerful. She felt...loved.
The robot was soon dry, and with only a few smudges here and there. The young lady sat back, happy with her work. Now if the robot could power on, maybe she would finally hear its voice.
"Hey-hey, think we got somethin'..." said a masculine voice from around the corner of the next building. It was accompanied by several sets of chuckles. "Little girl's paintin' her toenails back here--I can smell the polish." He raised his voice a little. "You gettin' all pretty for us, babe?"
The young woman looked up and saw them appear from around the corner--big tough guys, most of them homeless like herself, and well-known as not only bullies, but rapists as well. They were dressed in similarly shabby clothing, some of it falling apart in places, just like her own. Easy to blend into the streets, with clothing like hers, but it was also easy to tear off. She shrank back against the heating duct.
The leader of the group, a whip-like guy with stringy, very dirty blond hair, stepped forward, a nasty sneer lifting one corner of his mouth. "Come 'ere, babe. We'll take real good care of you an' your painted-up nails. We appreciate chicks."
"Sure do," agreed one of the other guys behind him, bigger and taller than she'd ever imagined a man could get. She was duly frightened of him, but the blond-headed guy absolutely petrified her, for some reason.
He moved toward her, and the other guys followed, closing in on her like a pack of wolves. There wasn't even daylight between them--there was no room to dart past them, and she didn't want to leave her robot just when she was almost finished with it. And she hadn't even figured out how to turn the robot on...now, it seemed all hopeless.
Her processors flicked on inside her chest, monitoring the verbal input. The words seemed harmless enough, but by the young woman's reaction, the young men advancing toward her in the alleyway meant her nothing but harm. They outnumbered her, and by her calculations, taken quickly with a few glances around the ductwork, at least two of the boys were twice the young woman's size. If they meant her ill, she would not survive.
She stepped out from behind the ductwork and let forth a piercing shriek that carried just so across the alleyway, not hitting the young woman who crouched in front of her, but fully blasting the band of young men, forcing some to their knees and setting some to staggering into the wall, all with hands over their ears.
"LEAVE," she said, in the female voice her inventor had tried to program out of her.
"What the hell, man?!" the big guy shouted. "Where'd this bitch come from?"
The blond-headed guy removed his hands from his ears, laughing raucously. "Did your mommy buy you a Barbie robot, little girl?" he asked the young woman, teasingly. "Such a pretty pink girlie robot. How cute."
He bent down as if to touch the young woman's face, only to be blasted again by a concentrated shriek that was meant for his eardrums alone. He screamed and promptly fainted at her feet, and as the other guys scattered in all directions, she moved carefully to take the young woman's arm and pull her away.
Her robot was--alive? How could it be? She hadn't even found the on switch. But it had been her robot that had screeched so--it didn't sound that bad to her, but it seemed the guys found it unbearable. She looked up at the robot's visor and saw two pink LED dots, and a curved LED line underneath them...two eyes and a smile.
Maybe she was built to fight, as her inventor had intended, but she thought she had renounced that. Looking down at the little girl with what she understood was a "smile," however, she was beginning to reprocess that decision. She would not fight for conquest, as her inventor had often spoken of; that was certain. But as long as this little one was in danger, she would fight to protect her. That, she reasoned, was acceptable to her programming.
VIBRATE originally belonged to my boyfriend, but the character was a little bit different. For one thing, VIBRATE was male, and for another, my boyfriend played him as if he were a Blaster rather than a Defender, running ahead and shooting things rather than staying centrally placed amid the team and buffing other players. Sadly, VIBRATE eventually went the way of all the other Defenders my boyfriend has developed and tried to play in City of Heroes, ending up in the Recycle Bin. He just didn't do enough damage or stand up to as much damage as my boyfriend would have liked.
I was more than a little upset when my boyfriend deleted VIBRATE, though--I had liked the character concept and thought that it was a well-designed build, if a little difficult to pull off. (Sonic/Sonic Defenders are notoriously hard to play well, it seems.) Not to mention that VIBRATE had been level-pacted with one of my characters, and his deletion had left her "widowed." In a fit of inspiration, I recreated VIBRATE from memory, except for one difference...I turned him female. I wanted it to be instantly obvious that I had not just pilfered my boyfriend's character, but built upon his foundation and worked it to my own purposes.
Once I made the design decision to have VIBRATE be a lady robot, the idea of her as a nurturing, defensive robot began to percolate. Not long after that, the story of an inventor who unwittingly throws away the pieces of his world-dominating robot to a young girl who needs the robot's protection took shape, and thus, the new VIBRATE was born, pink suit and all.
I retained the original character name my boyfriend had given it, since it still fit with her sonic powersets and attacks. It doesn't have anything to do with "massaging devices" or anything like that. XD
Though the two VIBRATEs started out the same, I have taken considerably different powers, opting for the single-target buffs and Sonic Siphon (a great damage-resistance-draining power) instead of all the offensive powers my boyfriend had chosen. As a result, the female VIBRATE is a team player, keeping her allies safe and buffed while also reducing her enemies' damage resistance with every successful attack of her own. She may get steamrolled on a few occasions, but as long as I play her carefully (i.e., not making her Leeroy into battle), she stays alive (and thus, the team stays alive).