DLN-000. This was the original name he'd been referred to upon activation. Since then he'd been given two other names, Proto Man and Blues. The latter was his preferred name, though the former certainly had its uses. Only robots with proper homes and caretakers had humanish names like that, and Blues himself had long since ran away from the home he'd once had.
How long had it been, anyway? While keeping track of dates wasn't exactly a tough task for androids, Blues had spent some time knocked out due to the failing of his energy core. He supposed he'd lucked out with who had found him after his blackouts, as the wrong eyes laying upon him would have spelled a demise he'd be powerless to stop. He was a prototype after all. A prototype was just that, something crafted to be a rough draft, an early version of something better to come further down the line.
Thoughts of this nature weren't something that occurred often, but at the same time Blues' solitary lifestyle allowed for a lot of quiet time to think. Even when he made his way into the Underground, his mind would still drift to the places of many years ago. Back then he wouldn't have to venture into the city's hidden underbelly to scavenge and trade for power sources, but something also told him that he probably wouldn't be here today if that was the case.
"You're a fancy model aren't you?" A higher pitched voice called out to him. Blues turned and looked around. The Underground had never been known for being particularly well lit, though it was irrelevant as the majority of robots were built with some sort of night vision anyway. Humans had long since abandoned this old city and opted to build on top of it. Even then, they weren't allowed in under any sort of circumstances. Despite this, there had been work done to the old infrastructures to ensure all the inhabitants whether they permanent or just visiting could Teleport away to safety. The signal towers up on the surface didn't actually reach the Underground, and Teleportation was easily the fastest method.
The fickleness of humanity was what caused the Underground to exist in the first place. It didn't help that there were other robots shuffling around the area with similar intents -- continuing to survive even though they were well past their Expiration Dates.
"Down here." The voice directed Blues' gaze to a bot situated on the ground against one of the walls. He beckoned Blues to come closer with his hand. The bot had sustained considerable damage on his legs, though nothing seemed to have survived below where his knees would have been. He probably still had the hope of getting them repaired one day. The Underground attracted all kinds of bots, not just those who had escaped or had been abandoned. Some just wanted a change of scenery while others wished to share their talents and abilities with less fortunate bots. By the looks of things, this guy had been down here awhile, though not necessarily by choice. Still, it would be rude to decline the invitation, so Blues sat down beside the bot.
"You look pretty well taken care of to be wandering around down here." The bot gestured to Blues, particularly taking note of the vibrant colour of his armours. "No broken pieces, no missing limbs... What's your name?"
Blues watched as the bot's hand pointed at the different parts of his body, though the only indication of this was the slight movements of his head. His visor prevented anyone from tracking the direction of his eyes even in the harshest of light conditions. He hesitated slightly before answering. "... Proto Man."
This was met with the tilt of the other robot's head and a slight frown. "That your only name?" He shook his head, smirking just a little bit. "You know you don't have to worry about them coming down here, right? It doesn't matter what entrance you take, humans can't open those gates without robot assistance." He leaned in a little closer to Blues, "And you know those sorts wouldn't be using a robot to get down here. They'd barely accept the help from a robot on their deathbeds."
Blues let out a sigh. The other bot had a point. Even though a lot of overcooked prototypes like himself hung out down here even if they did manage to escape, the Sweepers wouldn't dare stoop to such a level to accept aid from a robot even for their jobs. Besides, as fate would have it they'd probably be Pitting that robot further down the line when their own Expiration Date was met.
"I suppose you're right," Blues said with a calmer voice in comparison to the other, more excitable bot. "They wouldn't come down here. If they did, the Underground as a whole wouldn't exist in the first place as there'd be none of us left to populate it." He settled in his spot, seeing as he'd probably be having a fairly good chat with this other robot. It wasn't as if he had anywhere to be and the random socialization was sometimes a nice thing. "I do have another name. It's Blues."
"Blues, eh? So you had a human actually bother to name you? Aren't you a lucky one?" He leaned up against the wall, but otherwise seemed invested in what Blues had to say.
"I did, but I don't know if I'd consider myself lucky." Blues shook his head. He passively rubbed at the tails of his scarf with two fingers and his thumb, "Nothing about being a prototype is lucky." All it took was a quick flash of the eyes behind his visor to prove to the other bot that's exactly what he was.
"Well I'll be. Unmistakable as ever, those eyes. There's not many of you around, is there?" The other android had only leaned in to look, just as soon returning to his comfortable position against the wall.
Another shake of Blues' head. "No. Our lives are even more strict than yours are." He turned his head away slightly. His teeth showed through the slight parting of his lips. "And they know that too. I had my own run in with the Sweepers."
"Well you can't just leave it at that."
"It was a few years ago," Blues started. He ceased his fidgeting with the scarf tails, opting to just hold them now. Even though much time had passed since the event, the memories were still as clear as day in his mind. Bringing them into focus was hardly an issue and he started to tell the other robot his tale.
The sky was dark, but only just. The city was always adorned with a wide array of lights which in turn made sure the sky never got completely dark. Blues stood at the edge of a hillside, looking over the cityscape. Since breaking off from Wily's clutches, he belonged to no one. There was no home to go back to, and he felt oddly at peace with the fact. He'd made his own makeshift home outside the city where no one would find him, not without an immense stroke of luck.
All good things come to an end though. It was time to go back into the city for supplies. A proper charger was something he'd never been able to get his hands on. Even if he did, he didn't want to risk hooking it into the same power supply as the disguised surveillance trees which reached even this far out. Blues knew the location of every single one and had specific routes he'd take to avoid them, but plugging a generator into them would create far too much of a noticeable power sap on them. While setting up the lights for his home, he'd stayed in contact with Elec Man and the other power plant stationed robots to ensure there wasn't too much attention being brought to the area.
A tap of his finger on his earpad lowered his visor. Out here it wasn't too bright for him but as he was going to the city it would be too much. On top of that, the last thing he needed was for his identifying feature as a prototype to be noticed by the wrong people. He inhaled sharply before making his descent down the hillside. He would have to walk a little ways before he was within range of the signal towers and could just teleport in. Being outside of teleportation range was another preference, as it made him harder to follow.
The quiet and brisk air of the city's outskirts was soon replaced with the warmer and bustling sound of the city. Just because it was night didn't mean it would be quiet, far from it. Humans and robots alike had jobs that would continue long after the setting sun. Thankfully, a robot suddenly teleporting onto the street was hardly a rare occurrence. In fact, it was almost preferred as it meant they were spending less time in transit and said saved time could be put into their work. Seeing the other robots around the city doing their jobs, many of which had been derived from his own schematics, Blues couldn't help but wonder what kind of task he would have been given if he hadn't escaped and he hadn't such a limited time to live.
No no. He didn't care about that. He'd left that life behind him when he ran away. He was his own now. What he did with his life was completely of his own choice and he wasn't about to let anyone take that away from him.
Blues' thoughts were interrupted when he came to a street corner. He'd gotten so invested in thinking about what could have been and had failed to pay attention to the specific point he'd have to go into the Underground. Teleporting into the Underground was strictly off limits meaning one had to find the entryways themselves. Asking where one was would just be suspicious, though Blues could swear he'd used one on this street before. It shouldn't have been too far back now... which alleyway was it? He walked a bit slower as he backtracked, not wanting to miss it again.
There was one thing that struck him as a little odd as he started to make his way back down the street, and that was the amount of people he was passing on his way through. Sure it was a city that never truly slept, but even it would have its quieter moments, especially at this time of night. Perhaps there was some sort of event going on and people were on their way home? That could be it, Blues told himself as he kept walking.
Blues wouldn't spend much time checking each alleyway to find this area's entrance. All he needed was to check the bricks lining either side of the wall. If there was no sun scratched into any of the bricks, then it wasn't there. Why a sun was chosen as a symbol for the Underground, he had no clue. He'd not even heard a single rumour about it, though he had noted a select few of the chutes dumping into the Pit also bore them.
He would almost backtrack half the distance he'd walked after teleporting in to the city before finding an alleyway with the scratched in sun. There was still quite a bit of people out tonight, some of which were giving him weird looks. Others he could swear he'd seen before, but when? It wasn't like him to forget a face, why didn't he recognize these people? Blues shook his head a few times, shaking the racing thoughts from his mind. He was just here to trade for some supplies in the Underground, then he'd be gone. He didn't care to start recognizing the humans. Just a couple of more corners then he'd be where he'd set out to go.
The sound of concrete underneath his feet would change to that of a dull metallic impact as he stepped on the external door to the Underground. As he knelt down to open it, a light bright enough even to cause him to squint behind his visor. His fingers slipped from the edge of the cover to shield his eyes, dropping and closing it.
"Going to the Underground, are you?" A voice asked. It came from behind the light meaning Blues couldn't see just who it belonged to, but he could hear it well enough to know it wasn't robot, it was human male. "Now what sort of reason would you have to be going down there? You look pretty well taken care of."
From behind him, Blues heard an electronic whining. He turned around to see one of the people he'd encountered not too long ago as he was finding the right alley. In the woman's hand was a small scanner. Like how the robots could see each other's information via built in scanners, there was no doubt in Blues' mind that this lady was doing the exact same thing. A ping of fear raced through his entire body. With that thing she'd be able to see--
"DLN-000?" The woman looked at her screen. As his eyes slowly readjusted from the bright light that'd been shone in his face earlier, Blues started to count more and more people around them. As if his eyes needed any help having a hard time adjusting to light. Usually his visor was able to tint accordingly due to its direct connection with him.
From the crowd, various voices rang out.
"Shine the light on him again!"
Before Blues even really had a chance to react, the same woman who had been holding the scanner flicked a switch on it. Again, an almost impossibly bright light was emitted from it. As he raised his hand up to block it, Blues started putting two and two together. This wasn't just a random encounter, they'd been tailing him for awhile. That was why he recognized people he didn't know.
There were two reasons Blues wore the opaque visor. One was for it to serve as an automatic adjuster for the failing apertures in his eyes. The other was to prevent others from seeing his eyes themselves. One of the prototype markers available to creators was in the eyes, specifically a brilliant green with visible gold circuitry. This was the type Dr. Light had chosen for him.
"Well well, green and gold eyes? 000 serial?" The woman switched the light off, though again it would be a short while before Blues could see properly anyhow. "Your age account is much, much longer than it should be under the given law. You're a runaway!"
"An overcooked prototype!"
"The boss will pay more to know this one's gone for sure!"
He wanted to teleport out. Hell, Blues even tried it. But instead of connecting to the signal stream to do so, he was met with scrambled static. Of course they'd brought a signal jammer with them. These people were Sweepers, they'd had a long time to perfect their methods of capturing expired and renegade robots. Teleporting was usually the easiest way out so they'd probably started carrying short range jammers early on. He understood why he'd heard the stories he did not long after his initial escape. These guys set out to capture robots for termination and they weren't just going at it with their bare hands.
"Trying to teleport away?" Blues couldn't tell which person the voice was coming from. Between the bright sensor light and the signal jammer, he was starting to get disorientated. It was probably a part of their technique. Blues knew he was far from the first robot they'd gone after and he certainly wouldn't be the last. The voice continued, regardless of if it appeared Blues was listening or not. "What do you take us for, rookies?" He could hear footsteps getting closer as the static in his head grew more intense. Along with it... was that electricity crackling? Blues shook his head rapidly, forcing himself to focus in the direction the sound was coming from. His vision wavered between blurry and clarity, but there was no doubt about it - in the Sweeper's hand was a tazer designed to specifically affect robots, more commonly known as a Circuit Disruptor, though the street slang was still Tazer.
A twinge of fear ran through his entire body. All it had taken was one careless walk with his head in the clouds and he was in the hands of one thing he thought for sure he'd be able to avoid.
Blues' gaze shifted to his shaking hands. The crackling of the disruptor was practically in his ear. He shut his eyes. He wasn't going to go like this. He had a weapon of his own. He gritted his teeth and forced his arm into its alternate form and fired.
Blues didn't see where the shot landed, or if it even hit anything. As soon as the static wavered enough for him to make the connection, he teleported away. He went to the furthest point it would take him, further out than he normally teleported in from. Even then, he ran as fast as his legs would carry him, collapsing on the floor once he'd slammed the door behind him. He curled up, throwing his helmet into the corner of the room so he could cover his head.
"... Since then I've taken to using a scrambler as you saw and don't take the same routes if I can help it." Blues said, looking up at the other robot's face again now that his story was done. It was a lot to dump on a random stranger, but he'd just found himself continuing to talk once he got started. He rubbed the back of his neck, "That's probably a lot to take in, isn't it?"
The other bot had settled in quite a bit to his spot, sitting up again once Blues was finished his story. "You're a lucky one. Not many have an encounter with the Sweepers and live to tell the tale." He took Blues' arm and patted the top of it a couple of times. "And besides, you gave them something to think about."
Blues looked down at his arm as he pulled away to stand. "Yeah..." His voice softened a little bit, "I guess I did." He gave the other a nod of his head and a smile. "Thank you for listening." He left the other bot, moving through the Underground to purchase the E Tanks he'd originally came for. He'd never considered himself as an inspiration. The story was out though, and he had no doubts that the other bot would share the story to anyone who cared to listen.
The thoughts lingered in his mind as he made his way out of the Underground and, eventually home. Not just his potential as an inspiration, but the night he encountered the Sweepers. Dr. Light must have known about the policies on prototypes when he created him -there was no way he couldn't have- yet he still tried to give him a somewhat normal life. A frown formed on Blues' face. Dr. Light would have had to end his life when the experiment was over.
Maybe that was why Dr. Light never came after him.