Error 50

My first foray into a cyberpunk AU featuring Elias Dawn and their first encounter with a little assistant robot buddy.

The scrapyards at the bottom of the city, far below the walking levels and lower residences, formed a landscape of sharp hills and flickering lights. Without protective gear or a good map, one could get lost in the piles. Only so many work elevators came down this far, and even then only a scrapyard droid had the passcodes to operate them. On the occasion someone did wind up down there, flagging one of the scrapyard droids for rescue was one of the only hopes of getting back to the walking levels via the elevators.

If one wanted a rescue, anyway. A few lurkers could be seen slinking among the scraps most nights, for their own reasons. Some risked the yards for a chance at supplies. Some sought things to sell, things that should never have been thrown away. And some lurked because they knew it was a good place to hide until the drones stopped looking for them up above.

El found themself down in the piles most days for the latter reason. They didn’t mind taking the long way back up on the old service ladders, and the jump down, well … their uncanny abilities were the whole reason they needed to hide in the first place. Magic had not left the world in the wake of the machines, but anyone who had it had a knack for disappearing.

The breeze whistled over the jagged metal scraps El passed as they wandered a quiet section of the scrapyards. The droids appeared to have sorted discarded robotic parts into the area – outdated hardware and corroded plating formed tall stacks around them with the occasional LED flickering as old power crystals died among the rubbish.

It seemed a good place to hide out for the night – the constant blue glow emanating from their left eye wouldn’t stand out among those many lights if someone happened to scan the area. The robots around were all too broken down to ping them with the drones above, and the scrapyard bots were focusing their efforts elsewhere. They had a peaceful, quiet spot to wait out the night.

Until a tinny voice shattered the quiet. “ERROR five-zero-pksht!” El jumped away from the nearest scrap pile as the attempted message repeated itself over and over, always cutting off after zero.

It wasn’t as loud as they’d initially imagined it in their startled flinch, but still they stared at the pile with a mix of betrayal and intrigue.

The error cry didn’t let up, so with a grumble El leaned towards the scrap metal to try to find the source. The last thing they needed was for that sound to alert the scrapyard bots and bring way more activity to the area than they could deal with. They had some makeshift bracers on their arms, so they were safe from sharp edges at least as they gingerly shifted scrap metal around and hoped the whole pile wouldn’t fall on them.

It didn’t actually take long to find the deceptively small machine making all the noise. With some awe, El pulled a small humanoid android from the pile, only about six inches tall and hanging limp on their palm while their little limbs twitched. The lighting behind the eyes blinked and flickered in distressed red and the little mouth hung open as the error message continued. The little doll clothes it wore had been stained and torn, but this assist-bot had been high end once upon a time.

From the look of things, it was barely even damaged. El noted a few scratches on the little head and one leg had lost its casing. From the looks of things, this was a case of some kind of imbalance in the power crystals causing the little bot to malfunction. El wondered if someone had thrown it out without even trying to get it repaired.

“Alright, alright, hush now,” El chided it over the continued error report. “Just a second.”

They pulled the glove off their free hand with their teeth. The marbled scars there, which covered both their arms, almost reflected the light in some spots; El had to shake out their hand in an attempt to regain some feeling. They’d need it for the next step. 

Their finger and thumb rubbed together for a few seconds until tiny blue sparks flickered out of them; this was the tricky part. Too little and they wouldn’t be of much help, and too much and they could fry the little bot’s sensitive wiring. El watched the sparks build for a moment, and then finally touched their fingertip to the robot’s little chest, sending electricity right into the metallic body and (hopefully) resetting the power crystal connections.

The bot went silent and the eye lights went out so the glow from El’s eye washed it in blue. Several seconds passed and they began to worry that they’d overdone it after all.

Then the tiny bot shuddered, limbs coming to life and eyes lighting up soft green as it tried to sit up.

El grinned with relief and held the little robot closer to their chest while it reoriented itself. “There you are, little guy. Take your time, I’ve gotcha, little Error 50. We’re not alone down here.”

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