"Just, please, give me another chance! It was just the one time! I'll never do it again, I swear to God!" A human male sat in a chair across from Vergil, tears welling in his eyes. Every line of code in her processor screamed at her to take action. Of what kind, 2B didn't know. Just something. A human was in front of her and he was suffering. Such a thing couldn't be allowed. Shouldn't be allowed.
Yet, it was a human that she gave Authority Command Level 1 to that was causing the suffering. He gave no express orders to not take action, but 2B doubted that he would want her to considering that he was doing this. Was this some kind of test for her?
Vergil sighed, his hands clasped on his desk and clad in thin black leather. "Tom, a minute ago you said you've never taken a bribe once," Vergil said, pointing out an inconsistency in his fellow human's testimony. "And, to reiterate - I. Am not. Kicking. You. Out. This is about your place in the Lowtown Guard, not your place in Lowtown."
Tom shifted in his seat, clearly distressed. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'll never do it again, I promise." He pushed back his dark hair, his face red and splotchy, and the white of his eyes were tinted red, which made his green iris stand out that much more. 2B looked to Vergil, who she stood to the right of, yet behind. A respectable distance that would give her room to react to any attempts on his life.
"Tom… Two-Face brought a bomb in Lowtown-"
Tom shook his head, "I didn't have anything to do with that!" He protested though he fell silent when Vergil rose a hand.
"I know that, Tom. You were stationed at a different gate when it was brought in. You weren't even on duty," Vergil stated. "The point is that he managed to bring in a bomb. He smuggled it in. And he would have detonated it, killing hundreds of people to prove his insane point." The idea was insane to 2B. Humans killing humans.
Her understanding of humans was… broadening, but still shallow. Perhaps this Two-Face suffered some biological variation of the Logic Virus? It would explain why he could kill and injure fellow humans. But, even for humans to fall to something even remotely similar to the Logic Virus was difficult to accept.
"You live here. You've lived here for over a month. I know that you value this place… but can you see why I need guards above reproach? Ones that I know won't accept bribes or sell drugs to make a quick buck? Because that's what Lowtown needs. And it's what the people here deserve. They deserve to feel safe. They deserve to have protectors better than the GCPD," Vergil continued, his tone gentle but severe. There would be no room for argument with him.
Tom squirmed in his seat, opening his mouth as his hands curled into fists as he gripped his pants. "I… I'm… I'm so sorry, I… it was just one time…" he trailed off and Vergil leaned back.
He offered a thin smile, "Tom, we both know it wasn't just one time." The word made Tom's face fall, his posture crumpling. 2B had never seen anything like it. Not even close. Even Androids worn down by the war never carried themselves how Tom was now. The only thing that 2B could compare it too would be what an Android might look like if they learned that the war had been lost and humanity had been eradicated. "Again, let me be clear - I'm not angry with you. I'm just… disappointed."
2B suspected that was worse given the sob that threatened to escape Tom.
"I can't have you in the Lowtown Guard, Tom. You'll always have a place in Lowtown. Always. And other opportunities will come your way. I promise you that." Vergil reassured, earning a shaky nod from Tom, who looked like he was on the verge of tears. It was wrong. So very wrong. All of it. But, he rose from his chair and reached into his pocket to slide over a badge.
"I… I'll do better, Saint Vergil. I won't let you down next time," Tom stated, swallowing down a sob.
Vergil rose and stuck out a hand, clasping one of Toms with both of his. "I know you won't," Vergil said. Tom sniffed once and stepped back. He started to turn towards the door, and Vergil spoke up. "A lot of people are going to Becca and Ann. They might have something for you. Don't let this get you down, okay?"
Tom offered a shaky smile, "I won't, Saint Vergil." And with that, Tom left Vergil's office.
Vergil took a seat in his chair and blew out a sigh. That had been the eighty-eighth firing for the 'LG' that had transpired today. Of which, sixty seven had broken down into tears, eleven had gotten angry, and the remaining ten had simply accepted their removal with grace. All of which had been directed to Becca and Ann.
"Is Saint Vergil your designation?" 2B questioned now that they were alone. "All eighty-eight humans have referred to you as such." Vergil encouraged questions. He seemed to understand that her understanding of humanity was limited. Despite his words that she was somehow… human because she had humanity, 2B held her doubts. Despite it being a human that told her so.
Vergil sighed again, "Might as well be at this point. There's no way I'm shaking that nickname now. But - you can just keep calling me Vergil. I prefer it." He added, likely suspecting that 2B would have gone with the official designation. Vergil seemed to have made it a habit to give orders that were… outside of her 'comfort zone' as Tifa put it. "So, what did you think?"
So, this was a test?
"I find humanity…" she trailed off, not sure she was willing to voice the word.
"Disappointing?" Vergil finished for her, and he seemed to have read her mind. Disappointing was the most accurate word for her observations of humans in recent days. From the interviews, to watching Vergil interact with others. There were plenty of great things about humans, but they differed wildly from what 2B imagined them to be.
2B offered a small nod. "If an Android had taken a bribe, then they would have been reprogrammed." She offered - it was a harsh contrast to what she had known. Acts that would have been considered treasonous were punished lightly, if at all. Worst of all, it was humans that committed those acts. Bribery, cowardice, incompetence… those traits shouldn't belong to humans.
"Hm. Part of it is because there hasn't been a multi-millenia spanning war. Things would have been a lot harsher where you're from than here. Humans wage wars all the time, but it's never for long. Comparatively, at least." Vergil explained. He always explained the things that she had trouble understanding.
Vergil was perhaps the closest thing to what 2B had imagined of humanity. Kind and selfless, yet decisive. A leader. One who was willing to make personal sacrifices, but didn't hesitate to make less personal ones despite feeling empathy for those he sacrificed.
Since she was put into service, 2B had fought for humanity. The idea of humanity. She had wondered if the humans on the moon had ever truly cared about the androids that died so they might return home. Their speeches said that they did, and until now 2B had no reason to really doubt that, but hearing the empathy and kindness in Vergil's voice as he tried to make those he fired understand why he did what he did…
Only instead of turning that leadership for the good of all humanity, Vergil's desires were far more insular, yet expansive. He cared only for Lowtown and those in it. Those that came were welcomed, but Vergil made clear lines between those he was willing to protect and those that he didn't.
2B couldn't understand it. Not quite yet.
"But that should be the last of it for today," Vergil decided. "Now the rookies understand there's a no-tolerance rule for bribes, so they should stay on the up and up. If they aren't…" 2B nodded. Vergil had those that he was firing to train their replacements. Efficient. Then Vergil spun in his chair to look at 2B. She already stood at attention, but she tensed further now that he looked directly at her. "I wanted to run an idea by you. But, I want to make this very clear - you can tell me no."
2B couldn't see herself refusing the desires of a human, but she would at least try given that it was an order.
Vergil displayed a blank card to her, though to him there was likely something on it. "Would you feel comfortable with me copying your design to produce more androids?" Vergil questioned, and it caught 2B off guard. Mostly because she was uncertain why he was bothering to ask at all. She was an Android that was created for humanity. She existed to serve their will. As a human with the utmost authority designation she could assign to him, he didn't need to ask. "They're not going to be direct copies, but I'm looking to produce android models."
2B nodded, accepting the request.
Vergil seemed to believe he needed to explain further. "The idea is to mix them up in the population of Lowtown and the Lowtown Guard. I don't know exactly the limits of your abilities, I'm assuming that they're well beyond what the average person can perform. The androids would be charged with protecting Lowtown," he explained.
It would seem that history would repeat itself. "Of course," 2B agreed vocally.
That seemed to displease him ever so slightly, "2B, I'm not going through with the idea if you're not fully on board with it. If you have any concerns, or worries or reservations, then tell me." 2B shifted at the order—Vergil had a habit of giving her orders she was not used to. If he told her to destroy his enemies, then she could obey without a second thought. But to speak of her doubts?
Her doubts were something that 2B was used to swallowing down. Never to speak of.
"Are we to be your army?" 2B asked, making Vergil consider the question for a brief moment.
"You will be members of Lowtown, treated no better and no worse than any human that steps through those gates." The very idea was absurd, but Vergil continued. "I won't lie to you, 2B. Ever. The reason I want to produce androids is because of your combat capabilities. You're our best shot of protecting this place if the need ever arises. But, you are not slaves. Not mine, or anyone's."
2B shifted, "If an Android was… unwilling to enter combat, what would be done to them?" She had seen it before. Androids that just… lost their willingness to fight after years of it. Such androids were marked as defective and reprogrammed. Their memories wiped clean to the point that combat protocols had to be redownloaded. It wasn't any different than death.
"Then they could come to me and request a transfer. Or they could simply quit and move on," Vergil said, and 2B searched his gaze, trying to find a hint of deceit. If there was any there then she failed to find it. "2B, I meant what I said—you're human in every way that actually matters as far as I'm concerned. That applies to those that will be built. And people, which is what you are, cannot be owned by anyone. We fought a whole war about that a couple of centuries ago."
She shouldn't believe him. Well, she should on account that he was a human, but if he had been an Android telling her this, 2B wouldn't believe him. But… she did. Tentatively. Since they met, Vergil had treated her oddly. He treated her as if she were human, just as he said he would. He had no reason to ask or make requests of her. She had informed him that he now possessed the maximum authority over her that she was capable of giving, but his behavior hadn't changed in light of the information.
"Then I have no reservations on the condition that you remain the Authority Command to all androids that are created." She had overstepped. Drastically. 2B saw it when Vergil hesitated to nod. But she couldn't bring herself to regret the request. Her limited experience with humans taught her that not all humans were created equal. For every example like Vergil, there were dozens of… of… humans that… disappointed her. Immensely.
"If you're sure, then I'll make sure that I live up to the trust that you're giving me," Vergil said, and the words felt like the truth to her. "I'll need you to enter the card just for a moment. I'll copy the blueprints to another card, then I'll let you out as soon as I'm done. It'll just take a moment, I promise."
2B nodded in agreement, reaching out to the white card and Vergil pressing it to the tips of her fingers-
Her position changed by about five degrees. The clock on Vergil's desk was a minute faster than her internal clock, which she corrected.
"All good?" Vergil asked, his blue eyes raking over her.
2B nodded. The experience of being sealed in a card was one that she couldn't recall. There was no damage done to her physically, or to her operating system, so there was no issue.
"And I've been meaning to ask about the Pods. I know he's not as advanced as you are, but is he sentient?" Vergil questioned, earning a shake of the head from her.
"They are not. Support units possess a high-level decision-making process that can give the impression of sentience, but they are not." 2B answered. Vergil nodded to that and she could see him processing the information. "Would you like to create Support units as well?"
Vergil nodded, "I would. They could be invaluable when it comes to certain tasks. Additionally, I would like to sell dumbed down versions of Pod 042 to other humans. It might take a bit to secure several patents like the hover technology and the code, so you have time to think about it."
There was nothing to think about. Pods were support units. Mass producing more of them to serve their purpose was simply the obvious choice. 2B nodded, giving her agreement.
"Perfect. Well, Miranda is taking care of some other business, so let's make the rounds," Vergil said, standing. He put in an earpiece that allowed him to listen in through his meticulous surveillance. It was an impressive network. 2B followed behind him—Miranda was the left hand, as it were, according to Revy. Both she and Miranda occupied the titles of secretary.
Additionally, Revy also made a point that the right hand often did not know what the left hand was doing… which was annoyingly accurate.
2B followed Vergil out of the building that served as his office. There, she was greeted with the sight of humans going about their day. Some cast looks at Vergil, split between fear and awe. He ignored them easily as he continued to stride forward to his destination—a human known as Jack.
It was difficult to place Jack in a hierarchy. He held no official designation or title, but he was someone Vergil held in high regard. The older human waved at them, and 2B remained uncertain if she was supposed to return the gesture. "Vergil, 2B," Jack said, still sounding uncertain of her designation. 2B concluded that it was because there were numbers in it. It was worth considering adopting a name that would make humans less uncertain.
"Jack - I need a package delivered, and only by someone I trust," Vergil said. Did he not trust her to do it?
Jack frowned, looking down at a package that Vergil unsealed from a card. "Is that to who I think it is?" He asked, causing 2B to briefly wonder who he meant.
Vergil nodded, "Yeah. Time tables were moved up. The tunnels need to be completed sooner than later."
Jack cocked an eyebrow even as he accepted the package, "We haven't finished the one we've been working on. The other sections haven't been touched. And you want to complete the network?" He questioned, earning a smirk and a pat on the shoulder by Vergil. "Eh, just ignore me. Sounds crazy, but you have your reasons. Where too?"
"Between the roots in a tree in central park. Doesn't matter which one," Vergil answered. That seemed unusually careless for a package that was deemed important. She wanted to ask, but 2B swallowed her questions for now. Vergil was less forthcoming in public locations, she noticed.
Jack's lips thinned, implying he had information that she lacked, but he agreed. "... Don't you want to send a woman for this job?"
"Cass is at ballet, Tifa is with Sammy, Miranda is already working on something else, and Revy called her a psychotic bitch last time they were in the same room together. And Waylon stands out too much," Vergil explained. She was absent from that list. It bothered her, but 2B reassured herself with the knowledge that she was otherwise occupied as his bodyguard and secretary.
Jack shrugged, "Fair enough. I'll head there now."
"Thanks, Jack. You're the best," Vergil said, nodding to Jack as he walked by to deliver a small package that was approximately six inches long and three thick. She could not guess the contents, but her estimations placed the package as being very light.
Vergil took in a deep breath, as he always did when he was making difficult decisions. He took a moment to consider something—likely whether or not to prevent Jack from delivering the package after all, then nodded to himself, apparently content with the decision. He glanced at her, "We should go check up on Tifa." He decided, stating without stating that he would not answer any questions for now.
He led the way, heading to a golf cart that was parked and waiting for use. Vergil had attempted to explain the concept of golf to her, but 2B had yet to understand the appeal of knocking balls into holes with minimal amounts of swings. Getting in, he waited until she was seated next to him before driving off. He had also ignored her points that she could better protect him by jogging next to the golf cart.
She could sprint up to speeds of sixty miles per hour, though with her modular efficiency chips, with enough time, she could sprint up to a hundred miles per hour. Keeping up with a golf cart would be no issue. Yet, 2B sat next to him in the passenger seat, looking at those that looked to them.
Vergil smiled and waved every time someone pointed, smiled, or waved at him, seemingly compelled to return the gesture. It was very clear that he commanded a great deal of respect. Perhaps more so than the commander of YoRHa. She did not have murals of her painted on the streets and buildings. Thought that was something that seemed to displease Vergil.
"I swear there's no winning sometimes. The concrete eats the paint, so they paint more to spite me. Where are those damn kids getting all that spray paint?" He muttered to himself, looking at a mural of him pointing down at the streets below, at the people below, while dressed in an odd blue, white and red suit with a tall hat. Underneath it said, 'You Are Worth It.' "The brat recruited a whole mob of kids…" he sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "At least they're not painting on the wood."
2B said nothing, merely nodding in agreement. Vandalism was a serious offense, but Vergil seemed overly uncaring about it. Odd, considering how many people he had fired. Of course, some offenses were more severe than others, but she had thought that Vergil would be more strict on rule breakers that personally annoyed him.
They drove to a building that was flanked by similarly shaped buildings. To make up for it, each one was decorated differently. The one they parked in front of was colored a soft blue and white. The front door was tucked into the corner of the building, and opening it revealed a staircase - three floors and three doors. They walked up to the third door on the highest floor, and knocked once before Tifa revealed herself.
It was a unique interaction—Tifa's eyes softened before she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his. The clear affection between the two. Revy was fond of making fun of it, but 2B found it… sweet. Romance was possible between androids. Even common. It served no biological purpose, but it was something that blossomed between two androids in spite of the conditions they found themselves in.
2B looked away. In her hands, she felt the phantom grip of her katana, the feeling of resistance crumbling under the edge of the blade… and her heart shattering into a million pieces. She remembered each time she was forced to murder the one that had somehow forced himself into her heart, no matter how many times she shut him out or what walls she put up.
More than forty times.
And now… 9S was gone forever.
"Hm. I was just swinging by to tell you that it's done," Vergil said as Tifa stepped out into the walkway and closed the door behind her.
"Is it…?" Tifa trailed off, bringing 2B's thoughts back to the present.
Vergil offered a smirk, "Everything's going to plan. The two of them are rallying up the others, and they're about to set off with Revy nudging them along," Vergil explained.
Tifa frowned, "And they won't attack us?" She questioned, making 2B tense at the prospect. Harming humans was something she had yet to do but feared all the same.
Machine life forms would not be her enemy. Nor would it be fellow androids. It would be humans. It was difficult… no, it was next to impossible to truly imagine, but she may be expected to spill human blood. 2B could only hope that she wouldn't hesitate.
"No, it doesn't seem like it. A couple floated the idea, but the vast majority of them agree that they owe Lowtown and me a debt. They want to keep protecting this place, but they're going to do it their way. Their hat is officially in the ring for the Crown of East End," Vergil said.
Tifa appeared troubled, but nodded all the same. "Okay. And the LG?"
"Already replaced. We're back to full manpower and then some. In a couple of weeks, we'll be better than ever." He responded, making Tifa's eyes dart to 2B.
She reached out, grabbing one of her hands. The casual touch of a human was also something she hadn't gotten used to. "Thank you, 2B." As was receiving thanks. It was all… strange. But not wholly unpleasant.
2B nodded, her eyes looking down to her gloved hand that had been touched by a human, but said nothing.
"I'm about to head upstairs to take care of the last major thing on my to-do list," Vergil informed.
Tifa cocked her head, "You could have just sent a message, you know?" She pointed out before Vergil leaned in, cupping her face with his hands and pressing his lips to hers.
"Then I wouldn't be able to do that," he pointed out as if it should be obvious. Tifa gave him a sly smile that 2B recognized as the one she wore when there would be sexual intercourse, when both humans were available. "Tell Sammy hi for me, and keep me posted."
It was an inefficient use of their time, but Vergil seemed happier on the drive back. 2B supposed it was worth it then.
After they deposited the golf cart in the designated area, they began to ascend the staircase. The bar was filled with people, and just as many looked at her as they did Vergil. It was easy to hear what they said about her. She would have to do something about her overt appearance. She had only yet to do so because Vergil said it was unneeded. She was beginning to disagree.
Stepping into an elevator, they rose to the top floor of a building, walked down a hallway… it was odd seeing what buildings looked like without thousands of years of decay. They were surprisingly fragile—though 2B suspected that the drywall and carpet were the first to go, and underneath it was the concrete and steel that could endure thousands of years of time and weathering. They stepped into a room before Vergil crossed the distance and went to the window.
He unsealed a card, revealing a crystal owl and a letter sealed in an envelope. He placed the letter in the talons of the owl before setting the owl on the window ledge. He looked at it for a moment and nodded to himself.
"You are using the Court?" 2B questioned, eying the crystal owl. Another he would rather use than her. Was she lacking in some way?
"I am," Vergil agreed. "They're going to use the favors to get leverage over me… but, they already do have leverage, I suspect. Might as well get some good done with them while they're playing nice with me. Three favors from the Court of Owls isn't anything to scoff at."
2B frowned ever so slightly, "What did you ask of them?" She could likely accomplish the same task, but she wanted confirmation.
However, she received a smile from Vergil. One that was different than the ones he gave Tifa. It was a little too sharp and filled with teeth.
"And ruin the surprise?"
The next chapter is currently available on my Pat re on and Subscribe Star, so if you want to read it a week early, all it takes is a single dollar in the tip jar. Or, for five dollars, you can read the chapter after that two weeks before its public release! I hope you enjoyed!