The elevator rang as it stopped on the twentieth floor. Iris kept her head down to keep her scowl out of Robertson's sight. "Remember what I told you," he said in a warning tone. Iris merely sneered back at him and got off, headed to her own office. A quick scan of her thumb opened the door.
Unlike some of the more pristine offices of the other departments, Iris left a lot for wanting in terms of tidiness. She hung blueprints, notes, and holo-screens from wires woven into the ceiling, and thousands of spare parts were boxed, hanging and overflowing all over the place. An equally chaotic desk was jammed into a corner, and a wider space to the far side held seating for robot "surgeries" as they were named, and tables with half-done projects. Spare jumpsuits and coats hung from a coat rack and a small bed was nestled into a corner with manuals and books pooled along with cups and plates. The janitorial squad always dreaded the hours spent to, at the very least, clean up what little they could from the Mechanical Ward.
"What's new pussycat? C'mon, lay it on me."
Iris began to snort with laughter as Jake, her personal NS-4, hummed to life as Iris entered the office. Iris, so taken with her NS-4, had not applied for an upgrade when it was offered to the staff. Jake was a personal memento of Alfred, who had helped her make it himself. Jake was almost as messy as the office, his dingy orange paint chipped in several places and his torso peppered with stickers. "I'm just working late Jake. Just looking over blueprints."
"Cool daddy-o. Pop a squat and kick up your feet."
Iris was bubbly with giggles as she worked. Jake had often been her companion in watching black-and-white films; ancient movies with gangsters, counts, vampires, and old versions of graphics. Iris collected them and spent many an hour with her faithful NS-4 as he memorized the lines and distributed them throughout her day depending on his analyzation of her mood and situation. As Iris pulled up the normal NS-5 blueprints with a holo-scan of Sonny, Jake cracked jokes, replayed favorite movie quotes until Iris finally asked him to go into hibernation mode for fear of cracking a rib. Even though Alfred had died that morning, his ghost was still existent in Jake, and Iris felt her smile coming back.
A half-hour later, as Iris compared holographic blueprints, the door slid open. It was Dr. Calvin. "Have you discovered any anomalies?"
"More physical so far," Iris replied, barely registering the psychiatrist's presence. "Denser alloys, more flexible joints...and look here. Alfred made his own set of motors for S-...for the NS-5 that makes him faster and stronger, using some of parts from an old NS-2 set...and those things were near invincible. But I didn't detect any real problems. The rest is in the realm of the positronic brain system. Did you talk to him yet?"
Calvin frowned at Iris's use of words describing Sonny, but went on. "No. I'm scheduled for a diagnostic tomorrow. Laurence said you're to attend if anything is malfunctioning in the physical state of the brain."
Calvin gave her a serious stare long enough to make Iris finally look guiltily back towards her. "You don't really think a robot did all this on its own do you?" Iris's expression gave her away before her reply.
"I just can't believe Alfred did it himself," Iris said miserably, shuffling her feet as she walked away towards the coat rack. She picked off a clean jumpsuit. "He was the heart and soul of every operation here...and the physical state of the crime scene leaves so many empty spaces, I don't know what to think of them." Iris stepped behind a screen while Calvin turned to allow her some privacy. "He was a very brilliant man Iris," Calvin reminded, "Even if his situation did require some help from a robot source it doesn't mean it was murder. You've read the definition, murder is only capable when a human-"
"-Is killed by another human, I know," Iris said hastily as she zipped up, stepping out from behind the screen. Her expression looked weary. "The problem is, I don't know if the NS-5 is really counted for either."
"It's just a robot," Calvin said sternly, making Iris wince as she recognized the old tone of her uncle. "And a robot cannot harm a human being."
Iris was tempted to remind Calvin of the collar of bruises left from their experience with Sonny in the lab, but she was reminded that it wasn't very smart to bait someone of Calvin's status. Especially with an uncle keeping such a close eye on her. "Laurence wants you to interview the NS-5 on his physical attributes and have a report written up by the end of the night," Calvin reminded as she opened the door. She gave a disapproving frown at Jake, who was humming "Hit the Road Jack" in his sleep. "And please Iris...nothing strange."
Iris felt a twitch of irritation as Calvin left, and wonder if this is how Detective Spooner felt all the time.
The door opened to the white, white room of the Diagnostics Lab #51 and Iris, out of place in her gray jumpsuit and messy hair, entered cautiously. Sonny was fastened to an examining seat, his head bowed as he appeared to be thinking very hard about something. He immediately looked up at the uncomfortable Iris. "Good evening Miss Robertson."
Iris was unaccustomed to being called Miss Robertson, and even more disturbed by Sonny knowing her name, but she continued down to the examining pad to pull up the diagnostics entry. She could at least be reassured that no matter how much more advanced Sonny was, he couldn't get out of the chair, which could restrain the most stubborn and powerful robot on the market.
"Have you come to fix me?"
"You're already in good condition," Iris replied, taking a seat on the stool, "I'm just here to ask you why Dr. Lanning gave you your extra physical attributes."
"I was not aware that mine were any different from any others." Sonny replied, almost astounded, "I have seen so many like me."
"But they're not like you," Iris corrected, typing in Sonny's response, "Dr. Lanning apparently gave you denser alloy, more flexible joints, and more effective motors. You're far more unique than a normal NS-5."
"Unique," he echoed, before turning his head to Iris. "What does that mean?"
"It-it means you're one of a kind." Iris stuttered, "That there is no one else like you in the world."
Sonny was quiet, gazing at Iris. "Thank you," he replied, "For thinking me as a 'one' and not a 'thing'. Dr. Lanning used to think of me as a 'one' too." Iris's fingers hovered over the entry pad...and she almost added this. But she reminded herself, with a stab of defiance, she was supposed to document only the physical attributes of the interview. "So Dr. Lanning never told you of your enhancements?"
"No. I think he did not consider them as important."
"Did he perform any extra operations on you of any kind that you might have logged?"
"Alright," Iris input the information. Obviously Alfred had his reasons for mystery, never to be known. "Thanks. Dr. Calvin will be in here tomorrow morning for a diagnostics."
"You're sad about Dr. Lanning, aren't you?"
Iris stumbled in midstep, heart pounding and jerking painfully. This wasn't like any other diagnostic or checkup she'd ever performed. Her robots never simply asked things, they responded in accordance to codes and principles in their design. But Sonny... "Dr. Lanning was very important here. He made a lot of people sad when he died," Iris said resolutely. "And with all the joint projects we did together it's very natural I miss him too." Sonny looked very solemn at the answer. But much to Iris's discomfort...he also looked rather satisfied and pleased.
"I'm glad to know he was so appreciated," he answered.
Iris left the diagnostics lab in a fit of discomfort. Robots didn't feel glad.
Later that night as she ate a celebratory dinner with her co-workers, Iris was relieved when Detective Spooner finally called. "Iris. They told me you were on first bat for diagnostics with Sonny-"
"You know his name too?" Iris cut off in surprise.
"What? Oh right. I'm surprised you do too," he answered back, "He said his name was Sonny during the interrogation...but the thing is, USR is getting a little tight on how much more I interact with them on this case." Iris nodded. "Right. I need to talk to you anyways...something was off about my diagnostics today."
Spooner was quick to take her up on the offer, and confirmed he'd pick her up in front of the pizza place. While her fellow mechanics were loathe to see her leave, she pulled on her jacket and paid her tab, hurrying outside as Spooner's sleek, silver car pulled up. The door slid open and Iris jumped inside.
"When did he tell you his name was Sonny?" Spooner asked promptly. As expected, he was quick to find out all he could. "When I was fixing himshe answered back quickly, not even buckling in as she hurriedly explained herself. "I had to make sure it wouldn't malfuction at the police station, and he said his name was Sonny when I was fixing the injuries he got from the SWAT team." Iris paused uneasily, before asking back. "Did he...act strange during your interrogation?"
Spooner raised an eyebrow suspiciously, but seemed to be thinking on the same unsure lines Iris was. "Yeah, you can say that." he answer gruffly, "He was very expressive...he even had a bit of a snit in the room. Ruined a perfectly good table. Said some...abnormal things."
Iris shivered, and felt her bruises throb. Yeah...Sonny certainly had the potential to be expressive. Spooner looked over with concern. "Why? Was he-"
"Oh he wasn't violent." Iris quickly reassured him. "But...it wasn't like any other diagnostics I ever did." Spooner appeared anxious to inquire further, but he simply remained silent as he eyed her bruised neck from the corner of his eye. Iris finally looked around the car in mild curiousity. "Where are we going?"
"To Alfred's house," he replied, driving into a high end neighborhood. "It's possible he might have left a clue as to why he died. Just a matter of following leads." Iris nodded, fidgeting in her seat. She felt extremely restless, the simple endeavor of checking a possible lead making her feel as if she was being swarmed over by ants. Spooner looked faintly annoyed as he kept swiping glances at her, still wriggling in her seat. "Would you calm down? We're just checking out the house."
"I'm sorry," she apologized, "Only...um..."
"What?" Spooner's voice became even more suspicious as he eyed her cautiously.
"Umm...my uncle...doesn't really want me getting in too deep here." she admitted with a bright flush. "He warned me that if I went outta line I'd be suspended. Technically being in the same two mile radius as you counts as misbehaving. But I-"
"-I really want to know what really cause Dr. Lanning's death. I don't know if Sonny malfunctioned or if he did it himself...but I think this case is a lot deeper than just him jumping otu of a window. And that's not even beginning to describe Sonny's case." She stopped, taking a deep breath as she tried not to ramble. "He's the main suspect...and he gave me..." she fingered her bruises as she trailed off, "But despite all that he doesn't act dangerous. But he doesn't act like a robot either. And that's what makes this death all the more confusing. I know it looks like suicide," she shuddered, turning white, "But it feels like murder."
Spooner was very quiet. The sound of gravel as he pulled in through the driveway seemed to be the only sound to permeate the night...and the sight of a sprawling mansion came into view.
"Maybe Calvin's right," he muttered, "Maybe my paranoia is contagious."
They approached the house. Iris was very familiar with it...it was often the center of some business parties hosted by Alfred in which she'd attended at as young as six years of age. It was an expensive and lavish mansion, with a big garden and ten bedrooms and bathrooms big enough to house a small family. Of course...it wouldn't be that way for long. Already a demolition-bot was stationed for it's future job in tearing the place down. Iris shivered. Perhaps his relatives were a bit hasty in making their decision about the house, but Iris was loathe to relinquish any memorable things about her former friend.
"Demolition due 8 am tomorrow," Spooner confirmed, flashing his ID as it appeared on the screen. "Ought to give us enough time to look around."
His ID was flashed once more as he gained access to the house. After a voice greeting allowing him entry, Iris followed him inside. However, she jumped with an arm snapping onto Spooner's jacket as the door shut itself behind. Spooner was alarmed, grabbing his gun, but looked rather peeved at Iris's jumpiness. "Relax." he said irritably, "Even if you are a suspect, nothing's gonna happen so long as you're with me."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she apologized rapidly, following him up the stairs. Her hand remained hung onto his jacket, and she bit her lip anxiously. "I'm...I was always so used to working with robots. Knowing just what they're capable of is just a reminder that I did good work. But now..."
"Feels like they're about to jump out and put a gun to your head right?"
Iris shuddered, and let go. Spooner however, sensed he was a bit tactless and turned around, looking tired...yet apologetic. "You did do good work. You helped produce somethink people are going to appreciate, and feeling proud about your efforts is healthy. But you gotta realize that in the wrong hands, a good thing can turn bad. Even if it's not the creator's intention."
"Do you still think Sonny did it?"
"Yeah. And your uncle is going to have a helluva time convincing me otherwise." He scoffed, remembering the stubborn CEO. "But something still doesn't smell right about this case. I need you to remain on the inside and try to keep your ears open."
Iris nodded, still shaky, but resolute. "I will. I don't care how many toes outta line I get...I don't want Alfred's death to be brushed off like..." she trailed off, feeling she'd spoken too much. "...Well I sure as hell don't want it to be disregarded as some old man's disillusion."
"You and me both," he chuckled. Iris smiled back with eagerness, feeling accomplished at having lifted someone's spirits. The last person after all...had died two hours after she did.
Author's Note: Ha. There. Now they're going to be turned into gritty, human mush by a demo-bot in the next chapter. Only not. There will be cats though 3