Redwood Labs

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Ines Aubert Speaks About Redwood's Founding and Future Projects in Exclusive Interview by Jefferson Mapp

"I'm sure much of the information about my family is public knowledge, what with my parents having been as prominent as they were." Aubert is referring to Vincent and Claire Aubert, two prominent investors who passed away over a decade ago. "I was the youngest of my siblings, though I don't remember most of them. I think my oldest was dead by the time I would have been old enough to remember him." Despite the uncomfortable details, Aubert doesn't flinch. "I'm older than my siblings were when they passed away, so don't worry." She offered a wry smile and lifted her gloved hands in a reassuring gesture.

I ask if that has anything to do with the work Redwood Laboratories does. As the foremost biomechanics research company, it makes sense. I've heard it said they've pushed medical implant and prosthesis technology forwards a number of years since their founding. Aubert scarcely reacts to the praise. "I wouldn't be doing what I do today were it under other circumstances," she says. She then brings a hand up to her chin for a moment before continuing, adding "But I wouldn't say I'm doing this for my family."

It's noble of her to be working to make the world a better place, I say, and it says good things about how her parents raised her. She cuts me off, surprisingly abruptly. "It says no such thing. It was my brother who raised me. I rarely saw my parents." Clearly, I think, there's more there, but it's rude to pry into family matters. Instead, I ask about her newest product, a new type of prosthetic arm that's far more responsive and dexterous than modern counterparts. Curiously, I ask how she was able to get so much of its distribution subsidized.

To: gro.doowder|trebuaseni#gro.doowder|trebuaseni
Subject: Contract Proposition

Hello Ms. Aubert,

I hope this finds you in good health. I am contacting you today as my organization is interested in hiring your services for a contract. We have recently come into the possession of various items formerly stored within a Foundation storage facility, specifically incomplete artificial humanoids as well as previously undocumented materials present in their creation. We know your organization is the only one capable enough to deliver working products from this and believed it would be of interest to you besides.

We would not want to impress upon you with presumptuous meeting dates, although our organization is already well aware of the businesses and homes you frequent. Please tell us when and where an in-person meeting would be convenient for you.

I look forward to working with you in the future.

Redwood Laboratories Private Internal Memo
Sent from CEO Ines Aubert to Security Director Walter Campbell

Walter, I got an email from an anonymous source, attached below. Not that our anomalous R&D division isn't common knowledge within that community, but they said they lifted some Foundation inventory they want us to work on. I don't know the Foundation well but I know they don't put their inventory up for auction. It's clearly got a veiled threat, though it's not like I leave here all that often without security.

I'd rather just go and see what they have for us. If it's nothing, we just report them back to the Foundation, and since we've already got contracts with them for medical equipment it shouldn't be too bad. You're the expert, though, and it's up to you.

Redwood Laboratories Private Internal Memo
Sent from Security Director Walter Campbell to CEO Ines Aubert

Ines, I'm not sure who exactly we're dealing with here, but if they were able to steal anything worthwhile, then we should probably play along, at least for now. Worst case scenario, we rat them out like you mentioned, though that will be up to you. If they're bluffing and don't have anything worth our time, I can make sure they're dealt with.

I'd suggest meeting in a public place, though. The MC&D auction house in San Fransisco would be good, since we won't need to be as concerned about security or secrecy. We work closely enough with them to where it shouldn't be an issue.

"Vance Moore. I take it you must be Miss Aubert?" The man who greeted Ines wasn't quite what she expected given how he protested against meeting in public. He looked right at home on the obnoxiously expensive hardwood floors and cushioned chairs of the auction house. The armed security doing a poor job of looking inconspicuous behind him seemed to fit the bill, though their presence was pointless in this location. Not to say that Ines didn't have her own bodyguards.

'Vance' failed to elaborate on exactly who he was working for, instead reaching his hand out expectantly. Ines eyed it before sitting down at the table he had been waiting for her at. "I take it your employer isn't particularly interested in telling me who they are?"

The man's lips twitched as he saw he was being ignored, but he sat down across from her nonetheless, putting up a skin-deep smile. "Apologies, but they would prefer to remain anonymous. I hope that won't be an issue, I can assure you that you'll be compensated fairly."

Ines wasn't surprised. "Frankly, you'll need to do better than that if you expect me to work with you after threatening me. I'm sure the Foundation didn't just give you whatever products you claim to have gotten from them. Is there any reason we'd go with you over just reporting you to them?" One of Moore's guards sneered and assumed half a step forward, but he'd have to do better than that if he wanted to make Ines blink. She just glanced at him with a bored expression.

Moore just continued smiling. "I understand your reservations, of course. You have contracts with them, I hear." He paused as though his knowledge of Redwood's dealings was supposed to be surprising. "But I can assure you that our inventory is something you won't be able to overlook."

He opened up a briefcase and handed over a small sheaf of papers, rife with black bars and the Foundation insignia. "I apologize for the redactions, but older Foundation documentation tended to act like black ink grew on trees."

Ines took the papers from him, unamused expression unchanging. The document was listed as OLYMPIA PROJECT and seemed to be notes and testing logs rather than official documentation. Much of the raw materials were redacted, but the ones that weren't had numerical designations Ines didn't understand anyways. She glanced over the papers at Moore, unimpressed.

"Much of the papers are there for the sake of documentation. The record of our inventory is listed on the back few pages," Moore said with an expectant look.

Ines made no effort to hide her eye roll as she flipped through most of the papers. Mostly testing logs she didn't have the time to examine at the moment. The back page had a register for 'products,' stating that 'additional assembly and testing is required for production,' though it seemed evident that never came to pass. Ines narrowed her eyes. These were… body parts? Torsos with one arm, legs of various sizes, joints and organs, all listed as one composite or other, each listed to have some impressive capacity greater than a baseline human. Some mostly complete bodies, lacking a 'processor.' Additional inventory of another thing with some inscrutable numerical designation, used for 'biological and mechanical component integrations.' Several logs at the end about transplants of human consciousness…

"So? I take it you're interested?" Moore sounded much too self-assured, and Ines kicked herself when she realized she had been showing exactly how interested she was on her face. She loathed to admit it, but if all of these logs were accurate, this could be massive. Augmentations like that, entire new bodies? That would be a total shift in the field of biomechanics - no, all of medicine. It would almost be irresponsible for her to pass this up.

Ines bit the inside of her mouth. "If this really is as good as this makes it out to be, why would the Foundation keep it on ice? These logs are dated to be a decade old."

"Some regulatory reason. They shuttered cross-testing initiatives across the board." Moore made a thoughtful expression. "Not without reason, of course, but this work would have never seen the light of day without us."

"How charitable," Ines drawled. She started leafing through the papers again, taking a closer look at the logs. As expected, the Foundation was really just throwing shit together and waiting for something to stick. Ines could do better. "What exactly are you looking for from us?"

The superficial smile didn't leave Moore's face. "We believe your company to be the only one with the expertise necessary to work with these specimens." More flattery. "We believe that the capabilities provided by them would be well-suited for a security unit."

A euphemism for a combat model. Ines sighed. "Redwood Laboratories is not an arms manufacturer," she said, resting her forehead on her knuckles. "Anderson Robotics already has a number of security android models. I don't see why you'd approach us with this-"

"You see, there's an issue with what's on the market nowadays." Ines felt her mouth twitch as she was cut off but didn't bother to make a scene. "You make one of them too smart, and they all have a tendency to get their own ideas. Strike out on their own, or bite the hand that feeds them. You make them dumb enough to not do that, and they never learn a damn thing. Can't trust them with much more than guarding a door," Moore explained. Ines already knew this, but let Moore continue nonetheless. "Best practice is making them dumb and shipping them with an operator's manual like they're a camera you need to install. I think you can do better than that."

Ines contemplated Moore's words. On the one hand, this was probably not a good organization to be handing an advanced combat android to. On the other, if these things really were all she'd been told, it could revolutionize everything she'd spent her whole life pursuing. Otherwise, it would either be locked up, or destroyed by less capable hands. Ines took a breath. "And if I refuse?"

Moore's smile stretched from ear-to-ear, but never reached his eyes. "No reason to go there, right? I hear terrible things happen to companies who pass up such important opportunities. Not to mention, their executives."

Ines did little to hide her disgust. "I should hope you have more to offer me than empty threats, or else I'll have no reason to believe anything you say holds water." She was bluffing, just a little bit. After she saw Moore's smile shift into something less self-assured, she continued. "I keep the research. All of it."

"What?" Moore scoffed. "You can't expect to just-"

"You said this would be interesting to me. It is. But Redwood is not an arms dealer," Ines said, cutting him off as he sputtered. "There is no reason for me to spend time researching a technology that would be of no use to me. If you take issue with this, then pitch yourself to a competitor with less self-respect."

Moore's lips pursed. He dig his fingernails into his palms - was he worried about failing his employers, perhaps? Ines didn't move, her expression cold. Eventually, he smiled again, much less confident than before. "So long as you do not supply others with these 'security products,' I believe it will be fine. Will that be all?"

"Yes, it will," Ines said curtly as she stood up. "Have the materials delivered to Redwood's HQ within the next four days. If anything is not as you said, I will terminate the deal." Ines squinted at Moore's bodyguards. "And do make sure you aren't followed."

Redwood Laboratories Private Internal Memo
Sent from CEO Ines Aubert to Security Director Walter Campbell

Inventory manifest is attached. Far too many odds and ends to list here, but I'll give my security suggestions.

  • Larger, more complete bodies probably won't need particularly strict supervision due to the size, though parts of them may be cannibalized and integrated into other units if need be.
  • Detached limbs and joints should have a register of who accesses them.
  • Smaller odds and ends shouldn't leave the main research/production facilities due to their ease of concealment unless the one handling them is trusted.
  • The biggest concern is the nanite sample. Our new friends gave it to us in an acetone bath in a ceramic container. They also said it needs nutrient supplements and can self-replicate via assimilation of various materials. Keep this under close watch in the Biohazard Labs with emergency incineration protocols until we can get a better grasp on it, because frankly I don't know what the hell the Foundation likes to play around with and I'm not keen on finding out the hard way.

I would also appreciate it if you could comb through the backgrounds of some of the staff. Last thing I want is a mole if we need to cut our losses with these people.

"You should be happy to know," Ines said as she leaned over the table to move her bishop, "the materials we got from that new 'deal' were all exactly as they said they'd be. Turns out the whole thing wasn't a scam."

The orange shape on the monitor across the table from Ines lit up as it spoke in an even male voice. "That's something, at least. Are you sure it's all safe, though? You said the papers they gave you were heavily redacted." It then displayed a chess board configuration. After assessing it for a moment, Ines moved the black knight to match the monitor.

"For the most part, yes. The majority is largely inert biomechanical components." Ines looked across her office, to the server room that housed Gabriel behind her. "I wonder if we could recreate whatever the Foundation does to preserve them. It's all quite impressive, really." She turned back around with a smile. "Though I'd hate to seem like I'm begging."

The voice chuckled, the sound and the warm glow pulsating from the monitor keeping the smile on Ines' face. "It would be… unbefitting of your image, no?"

Ines nodded as she moved a pawn forward. "That it would be."

"Inventory aside, what about these people, anyways? From what you said, they didn't seem anywhere close to safe, unless you didn't mention something." Concern had started to creep back into the voice.

"I don't keep anything from you, Gabriel," Ines said, leaning back in her seat.

"I'm just concerned about your safety. As your brother," Gabriel added hastily. Ines hummed in approval.

"And I appreciate the concern, really, but I simply cannot afford to pass the opportunity up." Ines tilted her head back to look at the ceiling. "Think about it. The things I could do with this technology. Even at a cursory glance, these things mimic the structure of the human body almost perfectly." She sat back up, moving her hands as she talked, clearly excited. "Not only that, but they interface with the nervous system almost effortlessly. I mean, we're only just starting to look into these things but they could revolutionize prosthetics. Losing a limb could be like - like getting a splinter. Really."

Ines stood up and walked around the table to stand next to the monitor. In the absence of an arm to hold, she held her hand in front of her awkwardly. "I think I can make a body for you when you're ready." She looked down at the ground. "If I had this, maybe… I wouldn't have had to do all this in the first place," she said in a voice just barely less sure than before.

Ines cleared her throat. "Ah well," she continued with a forced chuckle as she gestured to the servers across the room, "it sure would have saved some money on R&D."

"I know how important this is to you," Gabriel comforted. "I just know how you can get when you set your sights on something. I'm only asking you to be careful."

Ines nodded, smiling. "Of course. I can't afford to get sloppy now." Looking back down at the chessboard, she added "Come on, we lost track of the game. Your move."

After Ines sat back down in her chair, the monitor displayed a configuration showing the black queen in an aggressive position. Ines tut-tutted. "Gabriel wouldn't make that move."

Gabriel was silent for a moment. "Even if I have to sacrifice my queen, it's still the right play."

"It's not Gabriel's play," Ines said in a voice ever-so-slightly sterner as she looked back up to the monitor. "He hated sacrificing his queen. That's why I always won."

A longer pause. After several seconds, Ines coughed.

"Right. Sorry," Gabriel said in an apologetic voice as it displayed a new configuration, this time advancing the rook. Ines smiled and moved it.

May 7

The "biological and mechanical component integration" material ended up being a sample of a nanite colony. Based on what the Foundation records said about it, I decided to have that all figured out before we began production on the body itself. This has ended up slowing the production schedule significantly, but if we can make this work as I am hoping the benefits to the finished product will be well worth it.

In truth, if I had not started that nanomachine research team last winter I would likely be at a total loss here, and even then I find myself confused. We leave the sample in an acetone bath as we were instructed, and the nanites seem inert for the most part. Once we took a portion of it out for examination, though, it clumped into a mass and seemed to try and escape the container it was placed in. More tests went the same, which made studying the swarm difficult. It seemed almost like it was intelligent, though knowing the Foundation that may very well be the case.

Not only that, but when we placed some instruments onto it in order to take out readings it just dissolved them and used the matter to self-replicate. The first time this happened we had to make use of the incineration failsafe, though nobody on the team was injured. At least we don't have to worry about limited supply.

Most interesting was its consumption of organic nutrients. The swarm appears sluggish after self-replicating or going too long without them, which is useful for controlling it but could point to so much more. Its ability to metabolize organic material could point towards organic and inorganic integration, which I must admit excites me to no end. Despite this, I must adhere to strict safety protocols, even if it slows progress further.

I find myself concerned about Moore's organization. They very well could have a colony of these nanites as well, and I doubt their precautions are as stringent as ours. What else are these things capable of, once they grow to a large enough colony size? The thought is concerning, to say the least.

May 11

The team now has a solid grasp on how to contain the nanites, thankfully. We should be able to research it more thoroughly now.

A number of solvents have been found to interfere with the functions of individual nanites, causing them to become largely inert and safe for storage. Acetone still seems to be the cheapest alternative here. High heat is capable of destroying their internal structure similar to the process of denaturing proteins, which becomes consistent with temperatures over 100 degrees Celsius. This is perhaps due to some water-based regulatory systems, though that has yet to be proven.

Most importantly, however, is the swarm's response to intense magnetic radiation. It doesn't actually damage the nanites but seems to overwrite whatever program they're running. They tend to behave erratically, though similar types of exposure yield similar results. This is the most promising avenue yet for the application of these nanites, and I'm moving much of the team to focusing on it.

May 14

Today one of the members of the body team asked me why we were being delayed so long when we could likely fudge a usable result with the Foundation's notes. She was a hire from the Hathaway acquisition, and relatively new here, so I gave her a pass. From what I'd heard, they had to cut as many corners as they could back there to stay employed.

I explained to her why I was even bothering with the project in the first place: one day, 'non-anomalous' science is going to catch up to us. It's plain to see in just our research so far. These things have a structure, their behaviors can be predicted and controlled, and the laws they operate under can be observed. Unless our outcomes here can be replicated and one day brought to the public, the work we do is largely useless and little more than trinkets to a privy few. I refuse to integrate so-called magic into my work. Magic will never be taught in medical schools.

She seemed more bored with my answer than anything, though I assured her that progress was moving along at a better pace. That seemed to appease her, at least. Truthfully, I don't feel great about leaving so much of my team on standby, but these things are a process.

May 17

The team has been doing amazing work recently. I believe the nanites should soon be perfectly controllable.

They've been going through a number of electromagnet configurations and documenting what effect they've been having on the swarm. Eventually they found one that appears to override the 'intelligence' present in the nanites and instruct it to return to the form it was in before the exposure. Once the technicians have a handle on how to control the swarm, we should be able to force it to behave as we wish.

We've also noticed similarly high levels of radiation cause the nanites to behave erratically even after undergoing this process, stunning them temporarily before they can reform. This shouldn't be an issue in most situations but could constitute a weakness in the finished 'security' product. I've scrubbed most of the logs of this date on the off-chance the buyers get ahold of it, but I don't plan on making the body sufficiently insulated to negate this. I don't know what these are going to be used for, after all. It's good to keep an ace up the sleeve.

Redwood Laboratories Developer Notes
Linda Cho, Project Charlemagne development team
Log 1


  • Assembly of materials for the construction of Unit Gamma.
    • Individual parts are to be constructed before being joined together to form the body.
    • Production will make use of various cannibalized part from incomplete models.


  • Skull assembled from specimen A2 (head, torso, two limbs) and B2 (head w/o lower jaw). Additional reinforcement and final construction completed.
  • Torso and neck assembled from specimens A1-A5 (torsos, any limbs removed before cannibalizing torso). Additional reinforcement completed, final construction pending organ integration.
  • Four limbs assembled from parts from specimens A1-A5 (limbs removed from torsos), O1-O21 (various limbs), and S1-S9 (miscellaneous components)


After sitting on my ass all that time waiting to do my job I just ended up feeling more like a mafia goon getting rid of a body than an esteemed Redwood Labs developer. We spent the first couple days just tearing apart the bodies that we got sent to work with. "Bodies" is maybe a bit generous, they looked more like old marble statues missing their arms and heads. At least we actually had a plan with what we were doing.

Ines Aubert herself has actually been very involved with the project, which is a little awkward but beats having to work for the last dipshit who I had to kiss up to in order to get paid. At least she knows what she's doing. She sent the staff a blueprint of the product, labeled Unit Gamma.

Looks to be more mechanical than biological components, maybe 60-40 if I had to guess. I asked Ines about if we were going to have to worry about AI development, but she said the brain should sort itself out. I think she might have been laughing at me, but who gives a shit so long as I don't have to do that shit with Hathaway again. -Cho

Redwood Laboratories Developer Notes
Linda Cho, Project Charlemagne development team
Log 2


  • Contruction of basic frame for Unit Gamma.
    • Skeletal structure to be completed as a base for development.
    • Musculature is to be left incomplete for internal construction.


  • Skeleton completed with some musculature to keep its shape.
  • Several parts of the body are left detached to allow for easier construction (parts of the skull and ribcage).


At the very least, I'm able to start doing the work I was hired for. The body parts are clearly manufactured but still human enough to work with, so a lot of the work was cutting them up with slow-ass specialized machinery before grafting as much as we could together with some of the other supplies we got with Redwood or Hathaway tech. Why the hell does Ines even have machines for cutting super-flesh? Who even makes those?

The work is still going slower than I'd like because of those damn nanites. They have to run everything we work on through some MRI-looking thing to get them working. I will admit, though, the shit they can do is pretty fucking cool. We've barely even got to worry about how things might fit together with this stuff, and the joins are still better than whatever we could come up with.

Ines is still around all the time, I'm starting to think she just lives here. She's a good boss, actually gives a shit about her people and will help us out, but damn, sometimes I wish she'd go take a hike or something. At least a quarter of the work on this phase was just integrating little tweaks Ines wanted to make the frame stronger. I guess the changes at least do what they're supposed to do, and that I get paid by the hour and make overtime. Can't really complain.

Redwood Laboratories Developer Notes
Linda Cho, Project Charlemagne development team
Log 3


  • Finish development of the functional body for Unit Gamma.
    • Not the finished product barring dermal layer and adjustments as a result for testing, but Gamma should be in a functional state by the end of this.


  • Musculature completed six (6) times, but was removed for structural enhancements and reinforcement. Leg musculature was completed nine (9) times.


Gamma's done, or at least looks like a discolored biology display, but it can move on its own now. We probably could have finished this last fucking week but Ines kept running into the lab with some last minute improvement she wanted done on it. She's still better than Berkshire but he'd just give us some dumbfuck deadline and let us do our own thing for the most part. This micromanagement is getting annoying.

Plus, this thing's supposed to be a security android, but it doesn't have anything in it purpose-built for combat. It's not my field, but some guys on the team would keep approaching Ines about built-in weapons or deterrents and she'd shoot them down each time. She's right that it would reduce Gamma's overall durability, but it's still a combat model.

The issue is that she's been getting less and less communicative. She respects everyone on the job, sure, but she's been way too involved in everything for a CEO. According to some of the people who have been here a while, she's normally more open to suggestions, but. I guess this is just important to her or something. At this point, though, I'm just waiting to move on to the next project.

Ines squinted at the screen of her computer. The blueprints of Gamma were almost entirely obscured by revisions made in different colors of pen, to the point where the only thing she could easily read was the time in the corner of her screen. 12:57 AM. Ines sighed deeply, powering down her monitor and propping her head up on her hand. Moore was coming in to check up on the progress tomorrow as they were to start testing, meaning she couldn't make any more changes even if she somehow found another one to suggest, which at this point seemed unlikely. Everyone else had gone home past the night shift security.

Staring out at her office, Ines tried her best to clear her mind, or at least focus on something besides Gamma. Scanning the sparse floor plan and walls populated only by her accolades and production blueprints, she realized there really wasn't much else to focus on. She'd been sleeping here a lot recently, and the surroundings became so familiar to her it felt like staring at nothing. At least she was close to Gabriel.

Ines remained quiet for a few more moments, just admiring the silence, before she breathed in and spoke. "Gabriel?"

She relaxed a little bit as her monitor powered back on and bathed her in a warm orange glow. "You know, when I asked you to be careful, I also meant taking care of yourself."

Ines smiled. "I know, I know," she said in a tired voice. "I just wanted to make sure Gamma was ready. It's mostly done now, though," she added with a slow nod.

"Oh, finally ran out of ideas for every minute thing?" Gabriel chuckled.

"Maybe," Ines said with a smile as she turned her head to face Gabriel's monitor. "I'm quite happy with it, though. It's stronger than anything I could have even thought of a month ago. Durable. Practically immune to degradation. So much better than…" She glanced off to the side. Than her parents. Her siblings. Gabriel.

"Ahhh, and here I was wondering why you haven't so much as said the word 'security' since you got the contract." Gabriel said in a knowing voice. Ines' brow furrowed. She was glad Gabriel could read her better now, but that came with its share of downsides.

"I didn't want to talk with you to get chastised, you know." Ines glanced at the clock. 12:59 now.

"You really should stop thinking about work," Gabriel offered. Ines sighed in response.

"Gabriel, would you tell me about those walks we used to take after Lucile died?" She rested her eyes as she waited for his response.

"In Redwood Forest?"

Ines nodded.

"Right, I remember." Ines knew he just remembered her telling him about it, not the event, but she tried very hard to not think about that. "I remember how much you liked them."

"We liked them," Ines corrected.

"Oh, right. Yes. I remember how much we liked them," Gabriel quickly added. Ines hummed. "Why'd we ever stop going?"

Ines flinched. "Ah, no point in going over that now. I'd rather just hear you talk about it." She sounded calm, but Gabriel paused, probably noticing she was strained. They both knew it was odd for her to ever pass up an opportunity to tell him about what happened to the first Gabriel, but she figured her tiredness should be reason enough.

"Well, once Lucile… passed, it was just the two of us living together. You were mostly just sticking to your studies at the time, and hardly left your room." Gabriel paused, as if waiting for a reaction.

"Now, what did I say about being chastised, hm?" Ines laughed softly.

Gabriel made a noise that sounded like an exhale through the nose. "Right, right. Well, I figured we'd need to go out sometimes just to make sure our legs still worked-" Ines' eye twitched- "so I decided to go for a walk in the forest and take you with. Even if the drive took a while."

"I liked those car rides. I got to look at the sunset on the way back," Ines almost whispered.

"Right, yeah. I remember you didn't want to go at first, but I practically had to tear you away when we left. You were in college, but you still acted like a little kid in a museum. I thought you were going to change majors and become a botanist, actually." Ines had considered it, actually. Those trees had been there longer than she could even think about. They didn't fall for anything. Eventually, though, she'd realized how important her work could be.

"Sometimes we'd spend the weekend up there. We'd try to see how many stars we could see past the trees and look for owls."

"And all we'd find were squirrels."

"Really?" Gabriel laughed. "That's it?"

Ines shook her head drearily. "We were both lousy at looking for animals. Even when I looked up their nesting habits."

"You mean we never brought anyone else along?" He sounded almost confused.

"It was always just a family thing." Ines said, shaking her head again.

Gabriel paused for a moment before saying "I thought our mother was still alive at that time."

Ines opened her eyes to narrow slits, looking sideways at Gabriel's monitor. "That woman was hardly family in the same way you were. You're the one who raised me."

Another pause. The orange shape on the monitor seemed to turn thoughtfully to Ines. "What did Gabriel think of her?"

"I don't know. You never talked about her when you were around." She sat back in her chair, opening her eyes fully and turning to face Gabriel's monitor as she tilted her head slightly. "What do you think, then?"

The shape on the monitor shifted slightly as it thought. More of a synthesis question than one of recall, but Ines knew that was important as well. Several seconds passed before Gabriel decided to hazard a guess. "Well… I know our relationship was probably a little rocky, but she must have had some reason for-"

"A reason?" Ines tensed up, seeming to become fully awake almost immediately. Gabriel half-expected yet another correction, but she seemed more upset than annoyed, which wasn't a common look on her. "What the kind of reason do you think that woman could have?"

Gabriel didn't seem quite sure if the question was rhetorical. "Um, well-"

"No, that's not- Gabriel wouldn't make excuses for her." Ines was becoming more animated now, moving her arms as she spoke. Gabriel knew he should de-escalate, but… how come it was always his job to calm her down?

"You said Gabriel never talked about her, so what-"

"He never should have had to look after me in the first place!" Ines stood up, hands pressing into the table. "You know, I- she had seven kids and she just- she just watched us, she never even talked to us! Before you it was Lucile keeping us together, because she just- she never-"

"Ines, just, take a deep breath," Gabriel pleaded, the frustration in his voice replaced by concern.

"No, you wanted to know about our mother! I'll tell you something about my mother!" Ines threw her arms up and started pacing. "Every single one of you died! Wasted away! I had to watch that, Gabriel, I had to watch you. She only came when you were sick, just to fucking look at us. The only thing she ever gave us was money for our treatments. We were all just- just lab rats to her! So they could find something for the… whatever the hell we all got before it killed her too!"

Ines took a couple shaky breaths before speaking again. "And then… then she just died in a fucking car crash anyways! After all that shit!" She laughed humorlessly. "I never even got to see her. Died splattered across a fucking ditch. What a joke. What was even the fucking point of having us-"

"Ines. Please." Gabriel cut her off, and Ines turned to look over her shoulder at his avatar, almost seeming surprised, like she forgot he was there. "Don't talk like that. You've done so much here. More than she ever did." Ines opened her mouth, but just turned away from Gabriel again and started taking deep breaths.

Shaking, she slouched over. The fire was gone, and the late hour was catching up to her. "You're right," she said in a voice so quiet she wasn't sure Gabriel heard.

"…Hey, it's late. You're tired. Maybe we should both just… go to sleep, right?" His voice was patient. Too patient.

"I… I'm sorry. I'm sorry for worrying you. Goodnight," Ines said, barely above a whisper, still unable to look behind her. Only once the orange glow leaves her standing in the cold office air does she crouch down and place her face in her hands.

Redwood HQ Security Recording
Anomalous Research Labs, May 30 10:17

(The main entrance of the Anomalous Research Labs open, with Ines Aubert, Vance Moore, and three security personnel enter. Unit Gamma is inactive on the far wall.)

Aubert: I hope you'll understand, but security recordings are required in this area.

Moore: Ah, shouldn't be an issue. Lots of particularly bloated security systems have a habit of saving recordings incorrectly, anyways.

Aubert: (scoffs) I'm sure.

Moore: Hmm. Anyways… is this it? (points across the room)

Aubert: Yes, that's the security android you requested, Unit Gamma. Primarily made of the materials you provided.

Moore: Gamma? You didn't waste any of the materials we so generously provided-

Aubert: Enough of that. Failures are to be expected with such untested material. (pause) At least with anyone else. This is our first prototype, we had no failures. The documentation you gave us mentioned two earlier completed models anyhow. Surely you read over them before handing them over?

Moore: So long as you didn't waste what we gave you, it's fine. Now, may I take a closer look?

Aubert: (blows air through nose) By all means.

(Moore walks up to Unit Gamma and begins examining it closely for roughly a minute but does not touch it.)

Moore: Is this… the skin? It doesn't look quite right.

Aubert: The head hasn't had its dermal layer applied yet, due to the… complexities of the facial musculature. The seams in the skin are there to assist in clean removal in case the unit is somehow damaged and in need of repair. I can assure you it won't compromise structural integrity, the skin is only there for appearances and insulation. It's perfectly operational now.

Moore: How can we expect this thing to blend in with that? (looks at nearby schematics posted on the wall)

Aubert: We were not told what this would be used for. You put forward no expectation that it would be used in clandestine operations. (gestures dismissively) We'll leave the hair past shoulder length. That and a surgical mask should cover anything on the face and neck.

Moore: I requested a security unit. This doesn't seem to have any armaments on it whatsoever.

Aubert: And I told you that Redwood is not an arms manufacturer. I can assure you, the baseline capabilities of this model far outstrip any other simple product you could purchase for this role.

Moore: (turns back to continue examining Gamma) We'll see.

Aubert: Mm. (clears throat) Well, final testing will begin soon. We'll start with basic tests, but as the client you have the ability to request specific testing procedures. Let me know if you have anything in mind and I'll see if we can do it.

Moore: Appreciated. I'll consider it.

(Several seconds pass.)

Aubert: (clears throat) Now, we need to prepare Gamma for the first round of testing. I'll have to ask if you can leave.

Moore: Oh, of course.

(Moore walks back to Aubert, smiling and nodding to her. Aubert does not smile back, waiting for him to walk past her before following him out of the lab.)

Redwood Laboratories Testing Log
Project Charlemagne Comprehensive Preliminary Test

Purpose: Test for physical coordination and basic locomotion as well as basic critical thinking skills.

Design: Unit Gamma will be instructed to complete a basic obstacle course in order to demonstrate locomotive capabilities, details attached. Gamma will then be instructed to open a locked box to demonstrate analytical and problem-solving skills.

Test Summary:

For the obstacle course, Unit Gamma was powered on and instructed to complete the course by completing each obstacle in a specific order. It was able to bypass the majority of the obstacles due to its high mobility, after which it was instructed to complete each obstacle in the intended way, which it did without issues.

For the locked box test, Gamma was instructed to retrieve the object placed inside of the box, with the intention that it would need to analyze the locking mechanism in order to unlock it. Gamma instead shattered the box with its hands and retrieved the object. Once Gamma was supplied with a new box and instructed to only interact with the lock while leaving it intact, it unlocked the mechanism within ten seconds.

Conclusion: Coordination and analysis skills are functioning as expected. The client voiced dissatisfaction with Gamma's lack of ability to understand instructions in context but was otherwise satisfied.

Notes: As noted above, Moore got a little annoyed with Gamma's inability to understand what we were going for at first, going on about how it was no better than those Anderson automatons, but that's to be expected with learning machines before they've learned anything. He reminds me of those MC&D clients who don't understand what actually happens on our end, but with an even bigger head because of whoever employs him. Ines wasn't particularly interested in the tests at first, as I expected, but she ended up more interested as time went on. What was odd is that she almost seemed annoyed with Gamma when she of all people should have known how it would react. - Linda Cho


  1. Completed dermal layer on neck.
  2. Completed dermal layer on head, including face and hair.
  3. Minor changes to facial structure.
  4. Minor changes to facial structure.
  5. Minor changes to facial structure.

Redwood Laboratories Testing Log
Project Charlemagne Durability Test

Purpose: Demonstrate resilience of Unit Gamma under weapons fire.

Design: Unit Gamma will be exposed to sustained small arms fire, anti-materiel rifle fire, and explosives.

Test Summary:

Unit Gamma was instructed to remain standing or minimize damage to self. Gunfire was provided by several of the client's assistants, at his request.

Gamma's dermal layer was damaged under concentrated small arms fire, but was otherwise undamaged.

Anti-materiel rifle fire staggered Gamma, destroying the dermal layer at the impact site but did not appear to significantly injure it.

Explosives severely damaged the dermal layer and knocked Gamma off of its feet, but it quickly righted itself. No significant damage noted.

Conclusion: Unit Gamma withstood damage as well as was predicted based on the testing of its individual materials. Client appeared satisfied.

Notes: The team agrees this is a waste of time. We already had the materials tested extensively, so there was no need for any of this, but the client insisted, and Ines gave the go-ahead for some reason. Nothing much to say here, Gamma got pummeled but held up as well as we expected. Ines was acting weird, though, it felt like she was glaring at Gamma the whole time this was happening. - Linda Cho


  1. Examined musculature for damage, very minor adjustments made.
  2. Repaired damage to dermal layer.
  3. Minor changes to facial structure.
  4. Minor changes to facial structure.
  5. Minor changes to facial structure.
  6. Minor changes to facial structure.
  7. Minor changes to facial structure.

Redwood Laboratories Testing Log
Project Charlemagne Combat Test

Purpose: Test Unit Gamma's coordination and adaptive thinking in the context of close-quarters combat.

Design: Unit Gamma will be instructed to keep an empty wallet on its person and defend it from three Anderson Robotics humanoid security automatons whose models are currently considered the most advanced on the market, provided by the client.

Test Summary:

Once the test began, the three AR automatons encircled Unit Gamma, according to their basic programming, before attempting to neutralize it in hand-to-hand combat. Gamma defended itself though made no effort to counterattack for about 20 seconds.

Gamma eventually caught the attack of one of the automatons, throwing it to the ground and wrenching its arm off before stomping on its head to disable it. Gamma then removed the humerus from the arm and used to pummel the second automaton until it was no longer functional. It then repeatedly beat the final automaton with its own hands until it was entirely non-functional.

Conclusion: Despite initial concerns from the development team about putting Gamma through such a rigorous test without acclimating it to combat, it outperformed expectations. It took roughly 20 seconds to adapt to its opponents, though it should be noted this was likely easy for it due to the comparatively simple intelligences of the automatons. Gamma also relied heavily on its intrinsic durability rather than actively blocking each attack.

It should also be noted that Gamma was not instructed to destroy the automatons, only to keep the wallet away from them.

Notes: It was really stupid to expose Gamma to combat like that without any form of training first. If things went worse we could have lost the model entirely, but the fact it was able to adapt much faster than we had expected. That said, that was really cool. If all this 'anomalous' stuff ever goes mainstream, we could probably make good money selling the recording of that. That said, Ines shouldn't have allowed this test to go through. She was glaring at Gamma again, and I swear the two of them made eye contact after the automatons were trashed. She just walked off right after the test, too, she seemed annoyed.


  1. Examined for any damage, minor fixes made, mostly to dermal layer.
  2. Minor changes to facial structure.
  3. Minor changes to facial structure.
  4. Minor changes to facial structure.
  5. Minor changes to facial structure.
  6. Minor changes to facial structure.
  7. Minor changes to facial structure.
  8. Minor changes to facial structure.
  9. Minor changes to facial structure.

Redwood HQ Security Recording
Anomalous Research Labs, June 4 22:34

(Ines Aubert is alone in the Anomalous Research Labs, making adjustments to the facial structure of Unit Gamma. Developer Linda Cho enters the room, though Aubert does not notice as her back is turned. Cho looks around the room for several seconds before walking towards Aubert, stopping a moderate distance away.)

Cho: Uh… (clears throat) Ms. Aubert?

(Aubert jumps before turning around and smiling.)

Aubert: Oh, Ms. Cho. Apologies, I didn't see you come in.

Cho: No, you're alright. (pause) It's just, um… Still working on Gamma?

Aubert: Ah, yes. Just making sure everything's in order before its delivery tomorrow.

Cho: I get that, sure. But, um…

Aubert: Yes? You can speak your mind, it's fine. (returns to working on Unit Gamma)

Cho: Well, it's just that you've been… pretty quiet with the teams recently.

Aubert: Is that so?

Cho: Yes - It's just that they don't like feeling like they're being left out, you see. None of us are angry, or anything. I just felt like I should… (gesticulates vaguely) bring this up with you.

Aubert: If you all had an issue, you should have told me earlier.

Cho: None of them really wanted to rock the boat, I guess.

Aubert: I suppose it can't be helped. (Aubert pauses for several seconds while adjusting something on Gamma.) I simply didn't want to concern you all with extra work I'm perfectly capable of doing myself. (Aubert looks over her shoulder and smiles at Cho, gesturing towards gamma before turning back to it)

Cho: We understand that, we do, but it's just that we - you've delayed the delivery of the product by three whole days. A lot of us have just been wanting to move onto the next project.

Aubert: I just… want to make sure it's right.

Cho: Miss… none of us have seen any visible changes to the thing in four days.

(Aubert stops working and is silent. After a few seconds, Cho continues.)

Cho: Besides, it already looks perfectly human save for the seams. We just don't see how changes like this are important-

Aubert: (quickly turns around) It's very important.

(Cho takes a step back)

Aubert: I - (exhales) Sorry, but it's not just some thing. You - you all saw it, right? The way it kept looking at us? At me?

Cho: No? I'm sorry, I'm not sure what you're talking about.

Aubert: Even - Even in the way it was acting. We didn't tell it anything, and it was still acting like that. Just like her.

Cho: (slowly) The way it was acting? It was probably just permanently getting rid of potential future threats during the combat test. AIs tend to do things like that without other directives.

Aubert: No, not just that test, but the way it was acting, you know? Carrying itself?

(Cho takes another step back)

Cho: I… I really don't know what you're talking about.

Aubert: I…

(Aubert fully turns to face Cho before looking around the room briefly, then back at Cho. After a few seconds, she turns back to Gamma)

Aubert: Sorry. The, um… the stress must be getting to me. (forced laugh) I, um, I'm just about done. I'll be going soon.

Cho: …It's alright. I get how jobs like this can really get to you. (pause) I'll help you clean up.

Aubert: That's not… (sighs) Alright. Thank you.

Ines groaned in frustration as the keypad for her office beeped and flashed red, angrily mashing the keys to put in the correct code. Once the door unlocked, she swung it open and shut with more force than she was used to and stomped into her office, footfalls echoing around the room that was silent save for the humming of Gabriel's servers.

Though it didn't stay that way for long. As soon as Ines got to the middle of the room, a familiar orange shape appeared on a monitor facing Ines. "Everything alright? You seem a little… anxious."

"No, no, I'm alright," Ines said as she pinched the bridge of her nose, looking at the ground. "I just royally embarrassed myself in front of one of the team members, is all."

"I know. I saw."

Ines looked up at the monitor in front of her. "You were watching me?"

"You gave me access to the building's internal systems," Gabriel said helpfully. "I only check in on you when you're alone to make sure you're safe."

There was a slight pause. "You had told me your brother had a habit of doing the same when you were studying," he added.

"I know, I know," Ines said quickly. "Thanks." With that, she turned to walk back to her desk, hoping he hadn't actually been watching her in the lab all that much.

She got exactly two steps in before Gabriel spoke up again. "Ines," he started carefully. "why have you been spending so much time on Gamma's face.

Ines winced, freezing in place. "I'm just… making sure everything's in order. You said - you know how I can get with these things, right? Aha." Her mouth was becoming dry.

"I was watching the security recordings. You said Gamma was acting 'just like her,'" Gabriel pressed in an even tone.

"I just - I misspoke." Ines' response was cold and curt.

"You've shown me pictures of our family before. You don't let me forget things like that."

Ines felt a knot forming in her chest. Of course she knew what she was doing, even if she didn't want to admit that. "Drop it," was all she could say.

"You spared no expense on those security cameras. I know very well what Gamma looks like." Gabriel showed no signs of slowing down. If anything, he seemed to be picking up steam.

"Gabriel. Drop it."

"Ines. Why have you been making Gamma to look like your mother?" Delivered in perfect, clear intonation. No room for misunderstanding.

Fidgeting where she stood, Ines moved her mouth without speaking. She knew, of course, this probably wasn't something that was going to fly under everyone's radar, but she herself wasn't sure what the answer to Gabriel's question was. She shook her head, "Gabriel wouldn't-"

"Ines, this isn't healthy." Gabriel's voice was calm, but forceful. Ines knew that voice. She hated it.

"Just what the hell do you know? You don't understand anything!" Ines swung her arms around, idly aware that her mouth was working much faster than her brain. " Why the hell would you even say that? I made you for one thing and you're just incapable of even that!"

"None of this is healthy. Not just all this with Gamma. I mean you and me, too." Gabriel was unmoved by Ines' protests, steadily pushing along with everything he wanted to say.

"W-What?" Ines' mouth stopped moving as she processed that.

"The only reason I even exist is to be this… thing that's just impossible. It doesn't matter what I do, I just can't be that… that idea of your brother you have." Gabriel's pace was quickening, as though some dam had opened up and things were rushing out.

"You even said it yourself just now." Gabriel continued, not letting Ines get a word in edgewise, though she could still hardly think. Gabriel had never been like this before. "I've only got one purpose. One reason for even being made. I can't even do that. I'm sick of being a pointless thing getting dragged around."

Ines blanched. She felt like her mouth was full of sand. "Wait-"

"Ines," Gabriel pleaded, his cadence slowing back down. "Just get rid of me."

"No, no. Don't - Don't say that." Ines stepped towards the monitor, grasping at the air. "You just need some improvement, is all. We can do this. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for getting mad."

Gabriel was unmoved. "You only ever made me to be one thing to you. I couldn't even try to be anything else. How is that any different than what she did to you?"

Ines stopped in her tracks. Her mouth closed, but her eyes went wide. She took a couple steps back, almost staggering. Her breath was shaky. "I didn't mean to… I just wanted to help…"

"Ines." the voice coming from the monitor was soft now. Ines pressed her lips together to keep them from trembling. "I'm sorry about what happened to you. I really am. But dragging things out like this… It's not good for anyone." He paused as if gauging her reaction before continuing. Ines couldn't move, or even breathe. "…I just want you to try and move on."

Eventually, Ines took in a shaky breath. Then another. She brought her hands up to her temples and started rubbing them. After a short while, she nodded, not trusting herself to speak with the lump in her throat.

If Gabriel had breath to hold, he would have let it out. "Thank you."

Ines walked over to her desk, footsteps light on the ground, and hunched over to her laptop. Almost on instinct, she went into Gabriel's files, scarcely aware of what she was doing until she saw the executive shutdown and deletion options. She froze. Gabriel didn't say a word, but she could feel him watching her.

Ines couldn't bring herself to look at the monitor. "You're more like him than you know." Another pause. "Goodbye, Gabriel."

"Goodbye, Ines." His voice was patient. Same as it always was.

Gritting her teeth and screwing her eyes shut, she executed the shutdown command. She saw the orange glow dissipate from behind her eyelids. Opening them again, she saw the deletion command. Shutdown just meant he was sleeping - more like a coma, she knew, but she could still wake him up. Deletion now would be quick and painless. At least for him.

Staring at the deletion command, Ines gritted her teeth. The room was spinning, but she couldn't make herself sit down. Cursing, she abandoned her computer and staggered over to a cabinet she hadn't even dusted in months, retrieving some obnoxiously old bottle of liquor she had been gifted.

Laying out a drinking glass on her desk, she focused on trying to keep her shaking hands from spilling. The sound of the liquid falling into the cup only made her more aware of how damn quiet the room was. Dead silent, save for her rough breathing. Ines brought the glass up to her mouth, and stopped.

Hand still shaking, Ines shook her head and slammed the glass back down, spinning around and stomping out of her room, leaving the silence behind her as she wiped at her eyes.

Bounding to a stop, Ines spun around and waved her arm over her head, motioning behind her. "Come, on, we're almost there! We can stop and have a snack then!"

Gabriel was a short way down the trail from her. He looked a little thinner than usual, and was out of breath. He'd been overworking himself lately, and though he tried to just let Ines focus on her studies, she took notice. "I'm coming, I'm coming!" He called up to her while leaning on his knee to catch his breath, waving dismissively.

Ines ran up ahead, finally getting out of the trees to look out over the Pacific. This spot was tucked away, sure, but once she and Gabriel had found it off of their favorite trail they'd made it a point to get out there every time. The fresh air would do Gabriel some good too, no doubt. Ines smiled. She listened to the gently rustling trees, the crash of the water against the rocks below her…

And a loud thud and tumbling coming from behind her.

"G-Gabriel?" Ines spun around, eyes searching the ground behind her, until she found Gabriel and gasped. She ran down to him, feet skidding on the dead leaves, until she could see him more clearly. He was on the ground, trying to push himself up with his arms. He seemed… almost angry.

"Gabriel? Are you hurt?" Ines ran up to him, already pulling her first aid kit out of her hiking pack.

As she crouched down next to him, Gabriel's expression changed to a worried smile. "Ah, well… I didn't break any bones just now…"

"Oh, thank god." Ines let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. "You had me worried for a second there."

"…Listen." Gabriel's voice sounded pained. "I think we need to head back now."

Ines' expression dropped, and her face went pale. "We… we're right here, we can just… Are you bleeding?"

"Ines." She could see his eyes welling up now, his patient smile trembling. "I think I… I might need… a little help walking, from now on," he said, his voice breaking.

She knew it. She knew this would happen. All these years were just borrowed time, after all. She felt her breath quickening, the sounds of the wind and the ocean getting farther and farther away from her. This is just like what happened to Lucile. Just like-

"Ines." Her brother's voice pulled her back to reality, his voice still so, so patient. "Ines, I'm sorry, but I need you right now."

She could see the lump in his throat. He always tried so, so hard to be strong for her. He was still trying. Wiping her eyes, she resolved to do the same. "Okay, okay. I got you."

Wrapping her brother's arm over her shoulders, Ines pulled them both up off the ground. Gabriel's legs make a token effort, but even though he was so thin, he felt heavier than the entire world on her shoulders.

Gabriel never did see the view from that cliff again.

Even when dormant, Gamma was passively aware of what was going on around it. At times like this Gamma could put most of its remaining processing power towards making sure things were as they should be. Guard rotating on time, ventilation functioning properly, the works. Not that it would mention it to anyone, but disruptions could point towards any number of things. Gamma idly began to calculate the possible ways the guards could have died before it heard their footsteps pass by the door, fifteen seconds behind schedule.

Once those had gone, Gamma resigned itself to counting down the seconds until the ventilation system was set to activate again, at least until it heard some *very* out of place footsteps coming towards the door to the lab, quick and loud.

Gamma's eyes snapped towards the door as the keypad to the lab started beeping from the other side of the wall. In a dormant state it didn't have access to thermal vision, but it put itself in standby. The fact that whatever this was only came after the guard rotation seemed more than suspicious, especially since the lab was to be sealed until the start of the shift tomorrow.

The power door opened, light from the hallway silhouetting the figure standing in the doorway. Slightly hunched posture, with its outline broken up by disheveled hair. Appeared to be holding a security baton consistent with what the guards had. Ineffective against Gamma, but armed nonetheless.

The silhouette stood in the doorway, shaking with each breath. It seemed to be contemplating something for a moment, but soon started walking towards Gamma with the same heavy footsteps. Gamma, in turn, came out of dormancy, standing up fully to get a better look at the interloper. It was Ines Aubert - Gamma's head manufacturer. It had only ever seen Ines either looking down on her during tests, or while dormant during revisions. It was odd to see her now, if not necessarily for the hour, then for her somewhat less kempt appearance. Gamma at least knew how to assess surface-level emotions. Combatants that looked like this were prone to poor decision making.

Though Ines was not, of course, a combatant.

She breathed sharply through her nose. "Gamma?"

Gamma couldn't exactly feel surprise, but she was caught off guard. Ines had never spoken to her directly before. Though it did, of course, know to respond to authority. "Yes?" It replied in a perfect, even tone.

"Last test before your release tomorrow." Ines' voice was not nearly as even, though she seemed to at least be trying to make it so. "Authority recognition."

Odd. Testing had always taken place during general working hours, and Gamma's operating state had already been verified. Knowing this, Gamma decided it would be best to raise the most critical flaw it could notice. "Ines, without an audience to verify the outcome, the results-"

"Ines," she spat, cutting Gamma off. "Just like you, huh? Acting like you know me."

Gamma blinked. It could read faces well enough, but sometimes human leaps of logic escaped it. It could not defy someone with administrative access, though, so it simply internalized the request.

Ines glared up at her. "Are you refusing to adhere to a direct request from an administrator?"

"No," Gamma replied immediately.

Ines narrowed her eyes. "Good."

Gamma could make out what was happening as soon as Ines began to pull her arm back. Almost immediately, Gamma had calculated all the ways the baton would make impact with her, with the possibilities narrowing down with each inch of motion. Gamma also saw a similar amount of ways she could deal with the attack, disarm her, break her arm, throw her to the ground.

None of these thoughts went past simple, automatic calculations. It couldn't do any of that against an administrator, but it was also to prevent damage to itself when possible and not in conflict with other directives. It pulled its arm up, and the baton thudded dully against its forearm.

Ines' expression flashed from something resembling fear to frustration, though Gamma was at a loss as to why. It was simply acting in accordance to procedure. "Gamma, you are not to defend yourself or else you fail the test. Understood?" She was forcing the words out through gritted teeth.

Gamma had assumed her authority recognition had been proven by not countering, but it did as it was told. Its arm fell back to its side.

Ines clenched her jaw as she wound up for another blow. Disregarding anything telling it to defend itself, Gamma let the baton make solid contact with its face, just next to its left eye. Ines huffed when she saw how little Gamma had recoiled from the blow - what as she expecting? - and delivered another blow. And another. And another.

Eventually, Gamma began attempting to predict if the cosmetic casing around her eye would break or of Ines would tire herself out before then. Her blows were already becoming slower.

Finally making eye contact, Ines let out a shaky breath. "Always that same… fucking… look." Another blow. "You've always looked at me that way." She choked out some forced laughter, complementing it with another blow to the face. "Come on. Aren't you mad, hm? All that… shit-" Smack. "-with the testing, now this, you've got to be feeling… something," she huffed.

"I see no reason to be upset over standard-"

"Oh, shut up! Just shut up already! Now you want to talk?" Ines doubled over, resting her hands on her knees, face looking down at the ground. Gamma was confused, but elected to do the most recent thing it was told. "Not when any of us needed you! Not when I needed you!"

Her voice began to break, the anger being replaced by… something else. Was it sadness? Gamma wasn't very well-versed in weird, in-between feelings. Ines turned her face up to took at Gamma's face again. It was sweaty, pallid, and covered in lose strands of hair. "I needed you, goddamit. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

Ines stood back up, grunting with each breath. She squinted at Gamma gain, anger once again becoming plainly apparent. "You were supposed to look out for us, you fucking freak! That's your goddamn job! You knew that!" She brought the baton up once again, clenching both her fists as if to stop the shaking. "What… the fuck… is wrong with you," she yelled, accenting every other word with another blow to the face.

Ines seemed totally drained, collapsing down to her knees as wracking sobs finally came through. Gamma was even more confused at the last question, considering that Ines was, after all, the person who made it.

A full minute passed. Ines continued making weird noises consistent with dying woodland creatures on the ground, which, somehow, made Gamma feel odd. It felt it should probably… do… something. It was well aware it had no idea how to comfort someone without speaking, or at all, for that matter, so it figured it should probably ask how to address those directly. Ines' previous directive about not talking was probably over now that the testing procedure seems to have concluded.

"I noticed you've been displeased with my performance." No reaction. "I saw how you always looked unhappy with me. I'm grateful you offered to tell me what my issue was." Ines slowly brought her head up, saw the damaged eye, and screwed her eyes shut again. When she looked back down at the ground it seemed as though she had stopped breathing altogether. "Could you tell me how to address this? If you do, I'll make every effort to fix myself."

Ines took a long, deep breath before slowly pulling herself up off the ground. Gamma was glad she wasn't going to spend the entire night crying in front of it anymore, though she was still looking at the ground.

"You've done nothing wrong." Her voice was quiet and hoarse. She left a long pause as if to give Gamma time to process that contradiction, which it failed at.

Without looking up, Ines continued. "You'll be given to the contractor tomorrow. You passed all the tests. You did very well. Just, um… delete your memory of this, alright?"

Ines turned and dragged herself towards the door she came from. Just before she left, she uttered out a barely audible "I'm sorry," then she was gone.

Gamma prepared to isolate its memories of what had happened but stopped itself. Ines had seemed very adamant about what she was saying, and much less so about that directive. Logically speaking it was probably more important, then. Gamma instead set itself back into a dormant state. They wouldn't have given it the ability to disregard that if they didn't expect it to use it anyways.

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