FIC: I, robot. Part 2 – Nonmonotonic Reasoning

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series I, robot.
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Here we go with Part 2… 

Buffy wandered aimlessly through the cemetery, twirling her stake disconsolately. It had been a particularly dull night. Not that there had been a lack of slaying opportunities – well, this was Sunnydale, so that was kind of given – but all that had been on offer were lame-ass fledgling vamps who were no real challenge and, worse, had no appreciation whatsoever of her painstakingly thought-out puns. It had been totally boring and she’d even be grateful for Spike to put in an appearance and liven the evening with a little pointless and annoying snarkage. Not that she missed him. No way. As if. Hardly even noticed the lack of him for the past sixteen and a half days.

Not that she was counting.

She stopped walking, looked up and frowned. And the fact her aimless meanderings had brought her straight to the door of his crypt was just pure coincidence. She paused, one hand against the heavy, worn wood. Maybe she should just go check it out, see if there was any sign of Spike. Best to know where he was and what he was up to, after all, because… well, just best to know. She hesitated. And if he was in there? She needed an excuse, a reason to come calling or he might just think she actually wanted his company. Which, as it turned out, she had to admit, now there was no-one around to hear the admitting… she did. And how disturbing was that?

She pushed at the door cautiously, frowned and pushed harder. Locked! Since when did Spike lock his door? Maybe he had left town after all. Or maybe he was in there; maybe he just didn’t want visitors. Or maybe he had a visitor. Oh. Buffy’s hand fell away from the door. She turned away resolutely. Well, whatever. She had way more important things to worry about Spike. And besides – she wasn’t worried about Spike. She set off back across the cemetery, resolutely resisting the urge to look back at the door of the tomb. Glory. Now there was something worth the worrying.

Worrying about Glory occupied her mind all the way across the cemetery and halfway down Main Street, but it seemed pretty much a fruitless exercise and was just adding frustration and a touch of panic to the mix that she could well do without. She frowned and kicked moodily at a can in the street. Life had to be about more than saving the world. Honestly, Saturday night a girl should really have something better to do with her time. Everyone else seemed to. Xander and Anya were having sex – at least, that was the plan Anya had announced to them all over coffee earlier that evening to Xander’s obvious embarrassment. Willow and Tara were baby-sitting Dawn, who should be in bed by now, so they’d be making with the smoochies. Giles was off on some mystery assignation or other, although surely not a hot date. Not Giles. Old people didn’t have hot dates. Unless they were old vampires, natch. Like Spike, for example. Buffy was willing to lay odds that Spike’s dates were very hot indeed.

She shook her head to chase away the pictures. “So not going there,” she announced to the empty street.

And she… she was lonely.

The first fat drops of rain began to splatter the pavement, glinting wetly in the light of the streetlamps.

Lonely and wet, it seemed. She looked up. “Gee. Thanks for that,” she muttered to the lowering sky, as the heavens opened and the rain came down in earnest.

She ran for the nearest shelter and let herself into the Magic Box, shaking the rain from her hair. She peered morosely out at the downpour for a while, soon tired of that and wandered into the training room. So it seemed she was left with this – a pale imitation of a pain-in-the-ass vampire. She looked over at the ‘bot and sighed. The adaptive programming had kicked in and it had developed over the past days, had almost got itself a personality. And it was sort of familiarly Spikelike in some ways, but still… overall… not. Whatever, she was stuck here until the rain let up and she was bored. She took out the control unit and pressed the green button.

Sla…” The ‘bot woke with his customary menacing growl.

“Don’t. OK?” Buffy held up her hand to interrupt him. “Just don’t.”

The ‘bot gave her a puzzled frown. “You don’t wanna fight?”

“No, not really.” Buffy slid the control unit back into her pocket with a sigh and sat down on the table.

“Oh.” The ‘bots puzzlement deepened. “You sure?”

“Not in the mood.”

“What kind of mood do you need to be in? Oh, wait!” The ‘bot grinned. “This is some kind of trap, isn’t it? You’re gonna lull me into a false sense of security an’ then when I least expect it… bang!”

“There will be no banging.” She blinked. “Fighting! Really don’t much feel like it.”

The ‘bot watched her uncomfortably. “You OK, slayer?”

“No, not so much.”

“Oh.” He shifted from foot to foot and frowned. “A nice fight might help,” he offered hopefully. “Unless you wanna… I dunno…” He winced. “Talk?”

Buffy looked at her feet. Why not? Maybe talking to someone would help, someone outside the whole mess of her worries over Dawn, and Glory, and just… slayer stuff. Someone outside but close enough to understand. And it wouldn’t be the first time she’d talked to him. She felt the words building in her brain, fighting for release. “Spike…” She looked up into the familiar blue eyes and paused. It was only the colour that was familiar. There was no understanding and sympathy half hidden behind the Big Bad awkwardness, no hint of the… something more… she’d come to recognize but fought not to acknowledge. She closed her eyes and shook her head. This wasn’t Spike. “I can’t talk to you!”

“Why not?”

“Because… because… you’re a robot!”

“Will you stop with the robot thing!”

“You’re not Spike, OK?”

“Am too.”

“Are not! You’re just a…a whatever it was Willow called you. A stimulant.”

“A what?”

“Simulant! You are a robot!”

“Say that again an’ I’ll bite you.”

“Yeah?” She folded her arms and glared at the ‘bot. “Go on, then. Vamp away.”

“A’right.” He frowned in concentration, paused, tried again, then gave Buffy a puzzled look.

“Well? I’m waiting.” She tilted her head and ran a hand over her throat. “Look at my poor neck. All bare and tender and exposed… all that blood just… pumping away…”

The ‘bot growled in frustration. “Don’t rush me!”

“You can’t do it. You’re not a vampire. You’re a robot.”

“I warned you, missy.” He pointed a finger at her. “S’just a bit of… of… I mean, s’never happened to me before…”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Give me your arm.”

“Why?” The ‘bot hugged his arms to his chest and peered at her suspiciously.

“Oh, for…” she grabbed his wrist and pointed to a small area of raised skin on his forearm. “There. See?”

“See what?”

With a sigh she pushed the skin flap aside to reveal a USB2 connection. “That.”

“Hey! What’s that?”

“It’s a connector thingy… A port or something…” Buffy was out of her depth and struggling. “for computers.” She shook her head. “Whatever. You’ve got one because” she looked the ‘bot in the eye and said slowly and deliberately “you are a robot.”

The ‘bot looked at his arm suspiciously. “Might not be.”

“Jeez, you’re just as stubborn as the real thing! What do you think that is there for?”

“Well, I dunno.” He glared at her. “Maybe the Initiative did it. Yeah, that’s it. Same time they put the chip in my head, they put that in my arm.”

“You don’t have a chip! Well, OK, you have lots of chips – part of the whole being a robot vibe – but not like Spike has a chip.”

“I’m a robot?”

“Yeah. Hate to break it to you like this, but there it is.” Buffy shrugged.

There was a long silence while the ‘bot processed this. “Makes sense now I think about it.” He shrugged.

Buffy looked at him in surprise. “You took that well.” Adaptive programming was clearly working overtime that night.

“Well – yeah. I’m like Brainiac or somethin’. That’s cool.” The ‘bot looked distinctly pleased.

“Brainiac?”

“Superman’s arch nemesis.”

“Oh.”

The ‘bot was still thinking. “So, you’re saying there’s another one of me out there somewhere? A copy or somethin’?”

“No, he’s the original. You’re the copy.” Buffy shook her head. How surreal was all this getting? “You’re… I dunno… Spikebot.”

“Not sure I like that idea.” Spikebot frowned. “Two of us?”

“You know, I’m not exactly overjoyed with it either, but there you go.”

Spikebot considered. “So I’m just like your Spike, right? I look like your Spike.”

“He’s not my…” Buffy sighed. “Well, more or less…” she conceded.

“An’ I sound like your Spike.”

“Yeah, pretty much…”

“An’ I fight like your Spike. Better I warrant.”

“Well…”

“So, far as I’m concerned, ‘m better ‘n the real thing.” Spikebot smirked, sat down on the table next to her and folded his arms. “Go on, then. Talk.”

“I… Look. You’re just… wrong. You’re a mess of Giles and Xander and Willow’s ideas of Spike, that’s all. Spike – the other, slightly more annoying Spike – is different…”

“Yeah? What’s he got that I haven’t, then?”

Buffy fought to keep her eyes from straying to his crotch. “You…” Where to start? “OK. For one, you’re all with the programming and the predictability.” She frowned. “Spike’s… surprising. He does things that really don’t fit with the whole big bad thing he has going on. I mean, he does the evil stuff, don’t get me wrong. Or… at least…he used to…but then…” She sighed. “There was this one night, before mom… I guess I’d been really hard on him… not that he didn’t deserve it and all,” she added hurriedly “… but… yeah… hard. So he turns up with a shotgun…”

“Yeah? Good for him.” Spikebot nodded approvingly.

“Hmm. Well, anyway, mom was ill and I was…” devastated, worried, scared as hell… “upset and Spike…”

“Wait. You’re not dead. He didn’t kill you? What, he fell for the tears routine? How lame is he?” Spikebot snorted.

“No, he didn’t kill me. He sat down beside me and he was just…there…” A memory of an awkward silence, a clumsy pat on the back that touched her more than she’d admit, a silent, comforting presence at her side, the way he’d looked at her when she’d told him about her fears, the way he listened. And yet, the next time she’d seen him she’d acted as if it had meant nothing…

“Wuss.”

“No.” She shook her head. “It helped. He was…” she gave a puzzled frown “…sweet.” He really had helped her that night, and looking back she wasn’t sure that it had even registered at the time. “And Willow told me he… he brought flowers…” her voice tailed away. And he’d been waiting for her a few nights later, standing quietly in the yard, awkward and uncomfortable, strangely vulnerable. He was still carrying the scars from the Ghora and he’d tried to apologise for what he’d done, with Dawn, that spell, and explain why he’d done it and how sorry he was and about her mom, and if he there was anything… She’d stood in silence, arms folded, tight-lipped as he stumbled on and eventually the words failed him, although his eyes… his eyes said more than his words ever could. And she… she’d just turned and walked away, went inside and closed the door and her mind…

“Flowers? Sweet? Bugger me! You sure this Spike of yours isn’t a ravin’ poofter?”

Buffy dragged herself back from her thoughts. “I think you can take that as read,” she said wryly.

“Well, clearly there’s somethin’ not right with him. I mean, if t’d been me… bang bang. One less slayer to plague the world. That’s what vampires do.” Spikebot nodded knowledgably. “I know about these things.”

“Yes.” Buffy stared thoughtfully into the distance. “It is.”

“An’ speakin’ of the whole vampire-slayer story, how come you haven’t offed him?”

“What? Well, I…”

“Supposed to be your job an’ all, killin’ the vamps. And he clearly qualifies as a vamp,” Spikebot pouted, “even if I apparently don’t.” He thought for a moment and then brightened. “Hey! If I’m not a vampire, then y’ can’t stake me! Vampire slayer’s what you are, not robot slayer.” He thought a little more as Buffy watched him bemusedly. “So if you can’t slay me… then there’s no point in fightin’ you, is there?”

“Well, if you put it like that…”

Spikebot considered for a moment then shook his head. “Nah. Every point. I like it.”

“Right…”

“So, why then?” He wasn’t giving up.

Buffy gave a puzzled frown. “Why do you like it?”

“No, why haven’t you offed the wussy one?”

“Well, he’s…” She paused. OK – so why? Not like she hadn’t had the chance, or the provocation, or the urge… but still, no slaying… “Oh! The chip. He has this chip thing, so he can’t hurt anyone anyway, and you know, I don’t slay just anything! I only slay things if… if they’re a real danger, and he’s not… not really… and…”

“Yeah, but the chip’s not always been there, has it?”

“No, it hasn’t but…”

“But?” The ‘bot smirked as she stumbled to a halt. “You’re gettin’ soft on the evil undead, slayer.” He looked at her, tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. “Or is it just you’re getting soft on one particular big bad?”

“Spike has his uses,” she glared at the ‘bot icily.

“Yeah?” He leaned towards her, a half smile twitching at his lips. “An’ what uses would you have in mind, then?”

“I…” She felt herself blushing. “Oh, for heaven’s sake!” She stood up quickly and pulled the control unit from her pocket. “I think it’s probably time all good robots were asleep.”

The ‘bot shrugged. “Not sleepy.”

She punched the ‘off’ button and Spikebot subsided into silence. “Oh, yes you are,” she muttered. She frowned at him, sitting quietly, eyes closed, that irritating half smile on his lips. All this super-clever adaptive learning or whatever was all very well, but tomorrow she was asking Willow to reprogram him back to be more with the fists and fight and less with the perceptobot. Turns out he’d developed more of his alter ego’s characteristics than she’d thought.

And Buffy wasn’t sure she could cope with two of them being all with the ‘speaker of uncomfortable truths’ routine.

Part 3

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/38368.html

Series Navigation<< FIC: I, robot. Part 1 – Fuzzy LogicFIC: I, robot. Part 3 – Visual Recognition >>
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