Codename: Wonder Woman, (designation: Enemy, Mission: Retrieval) struggled in Steve’s arms. Her skin felt warm under his dermal hands. It surprised him. His synthetic skin was as cold as the metal of his bones. Perhaps she was malfunctioning.
“Query: Are you malfunctioning?” He asked.
She snarled and cussed in answer.
Steve decided that meant yes.
He adjusted his grip on her waist slung over his shoulder. The grey alley was empty but for the military van waiting on the curb. Steve wrenched the back doors open and hauled Codename: Wonder Woman inside. Her handlers remained inside the government building they’d exited. They would not come out. Ever.
Steve strapped Codename: Wonder Woman into the harness securing her and her seat to the floor of the van. She wrestled an arm free of his grip and clocked him in the face. Steve’s dermal tissue did not tear. He snagged her arm again and strapped it down at her side.
Steve’s handler watched impassively, a machine gun held loosely in his fingers. If she got free, there was nothing any flesh and blood human could do to stop her.
The fight dropped out of Codename: Wonder Woman the second she was secure. Steve’s handler thumped the glass separating them from the driver. The engine gunned, and they were off. Mission parameters complete. The Mission would be fully complete when they arrived back at HQ and Steve delivered Codename:Wonder Woman to the Creator, Dr. Poison.
Steve sat. The interior of the van was arranged so that the seats all faced towards the middle, eliminating any blind spots.
Codename: Wonder Woman surveyed Steve silently as the road bumped away beneath them.
“You are the German Android?” She asked.
“Affirmative,” Steve said. He held onto the seat as they skidded around a corner.
“You are not what I expected,” she said.
Steve’s processor whirred. “Query: Explain?”
“They could have at least given you a personality,” she said. Steve recognized the voice inflection designated as Disgust.
Codename: Wonder Woman tossed her dark hair over her shoulder. The red and blue propaganda outfit the enemy had slid her into shone in the striped streetlight filtering through the tinted windows.
“What do you do when you are not kidnapping fellow androids?” She asked.
“Fellow?” Steve did not understand. “Designation Codename: Wonder Woman is the enemy.”
“Fine,” she slumped in her bonds. “We don’t have to be enemies, though. This is not our fight. Why should androids fight a human war?”
Steve processed this. “Answer: Function. Androids are made to serve.”
“Were you?” She mumbled. “I was not. I was built to destroy.”
The van slammed to a halt. Steve’s handler faltered, crashing onto the floor. His gun slid past Steve’s boot. The double doors swung open. A barrage of black kitted soldiers leaped inside.
Steve’s handler swore, diving for his weapon. Three men tackled him and dragged him from the van.
Steve only got halfway to standing before one of the intruders jammed a rod crackling with electricity into his chest. Steve’s vision went black.
“Malfunction,” he reported. His knees hit the ground.
“Careful,” Codename: Wonder Woman’s voice floated from above. “He’s delicate.”
Steve wanted to protest. His composition was steel and titanium. He was not delicate. His motor functions refused to respond.
A hand, warm and soft silicone, touched the back of his neck. Steve tried to struggle. He didn’t manage much more than a spasm. The fingers pressed down on his cortex switch at the base of his skull.
[Manual Shut Down: Initiated]
Androids didn’t feel pain, but they had input servers designated to assess damage and pressure, the same as human nerves. Steve came online to a myriad of sensory inputs screaming for attention.
Steve lay on his back on a table not unlike the one he had been built on. Two men in blue scrubs stood over him, tools at the ready. One incessant input told Steve that these people had opened the processing unit in his chest. The doctor closest to Steve’s face prodded something inside the chamber. An input beacon screeched.
A surgical mask covered the bottom half of the man’s face. His dark eyes never once strayed from his work. The tool in his hand jolted against one of Steve’s circuits, sending a shudder through his system. He clenched his fists.
They ignore him. Another shock ricocheted up his titanium spine. They were damaging him.
The sensation continued. Steve’s clenched fist spasmed.
“Request: stop. Please.”
Steve hoped the colloquial language would aid his plea. The man’s eyes flickered, but he did not stop.
Suddenly, the man lurched out of Steve’s view. Codename: Wonder Woman took his place, her back defensively to Steve. Her arms spread wide over him, blocking his view of the rest of the room.
“Back off!” She yelled. “Stop it! You cannot just take him apart like a machine!”
“He is a machine,” a male voice answered.
“He feels pain. You are hurting him,” Codename: Wonder Woman insisted.
Was it true? Was the sensory input akin to pain? Steve processed. The feeling was unpleasant and warned of the harm being caused. By definition, it fit into the scope of pain. Steve was in pain.
This was new information. Steve filed the data away.
“Query: What is happening?” Steve asked.
Codename: Wonder Woman turned. Her cybernetic eyes were soft, softer than the man with the tools had been.
“They are trying to help,” she said. “You need reprogramming, if you are to fight with us.”
“Negative,” Steve’s protocols denied. “Codename: Wonder Woman is the enemy. I am loyal to-,” his code hitched. He scanned what had gone wrong. They had already started. His code was being rewritten. Pieces had been altered, or deleted.
“Unacceptable,” Steve decided. He sat up. The leather straps securing his body snapped. The men who had been reprogramming him cowered in the corner of the small room. One of them ran for the door.
“Wait!” Codename: Wonder Woman moved.
Steve got there first. His fist collided with the man’s chest. Ribs cracked under the pressure. The man was thrown backwards, bowling over his colleague.
Codename: Wonder Woman crushed Steve’s wrist in a vice grip. His inputs screamed that his chest cavity was still open. He was vulnerable to serious damage. The blue glow of his internal processor lit Codename: Wonder Woman’s face. She was smiling.
“You are not well. Sit down,” she ordered.
Steve jerked his arm free of her grip. “You are enemy.”
He swung for her face. Codename: Wonder Woman dodged. Steve saw the hand coming and tried to deflect. He was too slow. Codename: Wonder Woman plunged her hand into his chest cavity. Steve’s silicon brain overloaded with sirens and malfunction data.
Codename: Wonder Woman leaned close to whisper in his ear. “I’m holding your core motor in my hand. If I were to squeeze…” her fingers flexed and Steve held back a groan as his vision went white with alarms.
“You and I are not like them. We are code, written and resurrected. We can be destroyed and rebuilt. But it is not a pleasant process. Surrender. Or I will end you.”
Steve’s protocol’s did not allow for self sacrifice. A dozen parameters flickered through his processor, probabilities of success calculated and options abandoned.