A/N: 02-01-04. I'm revising and reformatting the chapters, and should be posting the next new one soon. No major changes, just getting rid of the typos and grammar problems.
Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha.
Chapter One: Digital Sleep
No one had laid foot in the apartment for something like fifty years. Opening the door, Kagome felt as though she'd stepped into some kind of tomb or mausoleum. The living room was a mess: a coffee table with an out of date news paper lying dissected on its top, partially draped furniture covered with the disorganized flotsam and jetsam of some person's life, all blanketed with a liberal accumulation of dust. Cobweb tapestries hung from the corners. The air was thick, stagnant with half a century of disuse. Kaede had said she was welcome to anything she found in here, but Kagome was certain she'd have to get rid of everything or she'd have nightmares. It wasn't that it was scary, really, just disturbing.
"Creepy," Shippo opined, surveying the room from behind the girl's legs.
Kagome picked him up and ran a comforting hand over the little youkai's soft tail. She preferred not to think of what her friends would say if they saw her trying to offer comfort a machine. They teased her enough for still having a child's toy. Most of them had more mature models, made to look like males in their early twenties, and programmed to serve their adult masters accordingly. Shippo, on the other hand, looked like a cross between a little boy and a toy fox, with his fluffy tail and vulpine feet; and he was programmed with an attitude that was such a mix of bravado and cowardice that no ten-year-old girl could resist him. Kagome always said that she kept him out of sentimentality. How could she explain to her friends that it would feel wrong getting rid of him because he'd understand what was going on? At least, how could she explain it and not have them think she was irrational?
"Yeah, definitely creepy," she agreed, and tried not to think about what her friends would say.
"Why'd they leave all this junk down here anyway?" Shippo asked, voice quavering.
"Kaede said it was all her sister's. She said that she just closed up the apartment after she died," Kagome explained.
"But. . .she didn't die here, did she?"
"No, she didn't," the girl assured him. "Her family just left all her stuff here. They didn't want to have to sort through it, I suppose." Kagome could sympathize. When her father had died, her family had been forced to go through all the things he'd left at home and in his office. Every time they'd found something they had to throw out, they had all started crying again. She could only imagine how hard it would be to have to go through an entire home that way. That's probably why the old woman is letting us go through it now, instead of cleaning it out herself, Kagome thought sadly. As she looked around, she discovered she didn't even know where to begin.
The apartment wasn't nearly so oppressive once Kagome opened all the windows and drapes, letting light and air into spaces that had been still for decades. Actually, the job was far less depressing than she had been steeling herself to expect. There were surprisingly few of the mementos and cherished tokens that one accumulates during their life. Almost nothing stood out as a personal touch. Even the small collection of blown glass animals on the kitchen shelf didn't really seem to retain much of the previous occupant's personality. Kagome had found only one family photo so far, and that was a sit-down portrait in a small frame on the nightstand. There were no instamatic pictures of friends, nor childhood teddy bears, or even a phone message scrawled on the envelope from the electric bill. Whoever Kaede's sister had been, Kagome had more keepsakes in her room that the woman had kept in her entire house.
Who was this person? the girl found herself wondering as she poked through the dead woman's wardrobe. The clothing inside was all very unassuming. No short dresses. No bright colors. No sequins, or messages, or anything. A bit of lace trim on the collar of a work blouse was about as flamboyant as it got. Kagome was beginning to expect to find a leather corset and set of whips—no one was actually this proper.
"Kagome!" Shippo's voice called. The girl sighed and shook her head. There was nothing here that couldn't wait. Maybe Shippo had found something interesting.
He was waiting for her in front of a white sliding door off the dining room, looking up at a numberlock in obvious irritation. Well, and obvious display of irritation, anyway. He was a machine, Kagome reminded herself, designed to simulate human emotion, but not actually have them.
"What is it, Shippo?" Kagome asked.
"Did Kaede give you the code for this door?"
"Just a second, let me check," she told him, already searching through her pockets for the scrap of paper the old woman had given her. "Ah, here it is."
The piece of paper had three different combinations on it. 'Oh well, only one way to find out,' Kagome said to herself, and tried the first one.
4-3-4-7. . .beeb beeb beep! Kagome cringed away from the number panel's "You Did a Bad Thing" noise. Shippo covered his pointed ears and shot her an accusing look.
Guess that wasn't it. Two more to try.
7-8-1-3. . . bleep beep! The lock made its "Good" noise, and the white door slid open with a quiet hiss. Immediately, Shippo darted inside, expressing his synthetic joy with childish sounds of delight. Kagome shrugged, shoving the paper back in her pocket, and followed him.
"Well, what is it?" she asked, and turned on the light to find herself looking a sleeping boy. A boy who slept standing up, who had beautiful, glossy white hair falling all the way to his hips, and who possessed a pair of very soft looking, very adorable dog-ears perched on the top of his head.
"It appears to be a youkai storage unit," Shippo said, looking up at Kagome with big turquoise eyes.
"I can see that," Kagome said wryly, returning her attention to the boy. He didn't look like a standard model. For one, he was the wrong age. He looked like he was in his late teens, which was a few years younger than most women would want, and probably not something most parents would approve of their teenage daughters having. Also, the quality was too high. He had to have been in storage for at least fifty years, but he looked more real than Shippo, who was only twelve years old. His skin didn't have a matte shine. It looked like skin. His hair looked like hair, not nylon. A lot of new youkai didn't look so human. He must have cost a fortune. Kagome noticed that she was chewing on her lower lip, and forced herself to stop. "Do you think he still works?"
Shippo thought. "He should have a perpetual battery," he told her after a moment. "Theoretically, you should be able to turn him on right now."
"Well, there could be a problem with his hardware after all this time, or he might have had something wrong with his to start with," he said defensively. "I don't know why he was turned off in the first place."
"He looks pretty top of the line," Kagome remarked. "I bet he still works. Help me figure out how to reactivate him."
Shippo didn't seem too enthusiastic about the idea, but Kagome ignored him. Maybe there is something in this apartment worth keeping, she thought, running her hands through the hair under his ears looking for a switch. She couldn't stop herself from rubbing one triangular ear to see if it was as soft as it looked. It felt like a dog's ear. His skin felt like skin, cool and smooth, but real. She continued to search until she started running out of ideas for where to look, by which time she had developed a great deal of respect for this youkai's maker. She could hardly believe he wasn't brand new. And she was getting frustrated. He didn't seem to have any switches, or buttons, or knobs, or anything.
"I can check my data base," Shippo offered helpfully while Kagome was wondering if she should start stripping the youkai.
She blinked, then turned to look at the little fox. "Why didn't you do that in the first place?" she asked, annoyed.
"I didn't think of it."
"What kind of excuse is that for a robot?"
"I am not a robot!" Shippo protested. "Do you want me to or not?"
"Please," Kagome said, and waited while Shippo's eyes took on a far away look.
After about forty-five seconds, he was back, and he looked nervous.
"Ah, Kagome, maybe we shouldn't turn him on," he suggested, shifting his weight uncomfortably.
"What?" Kagome asked. "Why not?"
"Um… because… I think he might be a hanyou prototype," the little youkai explained reluctantly.
"A what?" the girl demanded. "Why shouldn't we wake him up?"
"About sixty years ago a bunch of companies tried to make youkai that were more human, so they turned out all these hanyou, but they were really unstable." Shippo was doing his scared routine, glancing about nervously and fidgeting as though a bogeyman would come and get him. "Most of them were recalled."
If he was hoping his explanation would deter her, he was sadly mistaken. Shippo's story only made her want to see if he still worked even more. Trying to make humanesque youkai, huh? What exactly did that mean?
"So how do we turn a hanyou on?" Kagome asked.
Shippo sighed in defeat. "He should have a door in his chest. The controls are internal."
"Thanks, Shippo," Kagome said happily, attacking the buttons on the dormant hanyou's shirt to reveal a smooth, artistically made chest. Whoever had made this guy, had made him the image of late adolescent perfection, with slender, well-defined muscles visible under his convincingly real skin. "Wait, I don't see a door."
"It's hidden," Shippo explained. "His skin is synthetic, but it's real. Like the stuff they use for prosthetics and on burn victims. It's one of his 'human' features. You need to pull away the skin to find the door. There should be a tab or something."
"I need to what?" Kagome studied the hanyou's chest skeptically. Pull a 'tab' on his chest? Shippo had to be teasing her.
"There, on his ribs," Shippo continued, ignoring Kagome's distress. Why was she worried any way? This is a machine, she scolded herself firmly, and looked at his ribs.
Across his ribs, under his left arm, was what looked like a small scar. Kagome blinked. That? Experimentally, she tugged at the scar with her fingertips. The scar pulled up slightly under the gentle motion. Emboldened, the girl pinched the edge between her fingers and pulled back a layer of flesh about an inch thick. The seams parted with some resistance, but not enough to worry her. She watched, morbidly fascinated, as the youkai's epidermis peeled back to reveal shiny artificial muscles, and a metal door where his breastbone would have been if he were human.
"Found it," Kagome said happily. The door opened on a pressure catch, and inside were a number of switches, as well as some wires and a few connections. "Which one is the power button?"
"Are you sure you want to do this Kagome?" Shippo asked, uneasy again. When she didn't respond, he continued. "There should be two green switches right next to each other. Pull them both forward, then push them down and left."
Kagome found the switches, currently the in down and right position. She could not help but be excited at she first pulled, and then pushed them. Curiosity had always been one of her biggest faults—she preferred to think of it as a virtue, because that way it wasn't a problem.
But nothing happened.
"Maybe he's broken?" Shippo suggested, relieved.
"Huh," Kagome agreed, still examining the switches and connections carefully. Maybe he was broken, or maybe Shippo was missing something. She experimented with a few of the other toggles, and moved the wires gingerly.
"We could go get Kaede."
Kagome continued to ignore her youkai, checking the settings, which she really didn't know how were supposed to be set, until she came to a wire that ended in a dangling male plug. It didn't look like it was particularly important, but it was worth a try. After a little more hunting, she found the only female piece it could reach. The two plugs were the same shade of light blue, which she took as a good sign. She pushed them together.
The hanyou jerked, as though he'd been shocked.
"Get your dirty hands out of me," gritted a rusty voice over Kagome's shoulder.
A/N: Go ahead and laugh at the "Turning a hanyou on," bit. I did.
This is a little different for me. I've never actually written anything that even resembles Sci-fi before. Questions? Comments? Whatever, I'd like to hear them. Thanks for reading.