3033. The Third Millennium. New Earth.

The ambitious, forward thinking robotics company ‘Ad3v1s’ recently launched their AI-powered cyborg assistants- the Angel Project.

The cyborgs are programmed for a single purpose: to help mankind. These biomechatronic Angels are capable of helping their masters do anything. Angels usually do the most mundane daily tasks, like fixing clogged sinks or walking their masters’ pets. However, when the need arises, Angels are willing to help their masters with anything- even if that means using their cleverly designed, seamless combat weapons and artificial intelligence to accomplish their ‘tasks’.    

The Angel Project is foolproof.

It was foolproof.

Or so we thought.

It is hubris, the blind trust in the Angel Projects’ technology and the intellect of the engineers and scientists that created them, that led to humanity’s bloodiest night.
A few days before the Angel Project rolls out, disaster strikes. The Angels have gone rouge. Apparently, an AI virus called ‘E.G.O.’ has made its way into the Angel Project mainframe and has caused the Angels to go haywire. Overnight, a once-benevolent Angel fleet has killed over 50 employees, and dozens more go missing- including the Ad3v1s head scientist- Mia Tanaka, who discovered how to merge man and machine. Ad3v1s pulled the cord- shut down all the Angels.

All except one. Adal1ne. The first Angel made.

A manhunt is put up by the company, but to no avail. Adal1ne, the most intelligent, most cunning, and most skilled among the cyborgs has disappeared. Ad3v1s had to act, and they quickly issued a statement, insisting that it was a ‘small incident’, and they had to recall Angels in order to run a few more hardware checks. But the damage has been done. Investors threatened to pull out.

In desperation, Ad3v1s offered up a solution- a stronger, more resilient kind of Angel. The Nephilim. Unlike its predecessors, the Nephilim will be used for tactical purposes. They know no other purpose but to follow orders, and fight until destruction. Ad3v1s gets into talks with the armed forces and the Nephilim goes to the highest bidder- and sky’s the limit. Seeing a better way out, Ad3v1s scraps the Angel Project and proceeds with the Nephilim Initiative. They abandoned the labs and warehouses intended for the Angel Project, keeping it under strict lock and key. It’s now dubbed ‘The Devil Project’- a name the fallen Angels deserve. Its secrets lay dormant for years, gathering dust and letting nature take over. What people don’t know won’t hurt them.

But how long can you hush things that don’t die?

5 years after the incident, rumors of nightly bouts of loud music playing and bright lights coming from the abandoned factory has spread like wildfire. It seems like the Angels, now called the Devils- have come back to play.

Cigarette smoke wisps rise in the cold night. Inspector Kirk Jackson lurks in the darkness. He squints at the Angel Project’s abandoned lab and wait for any signs of life. None so far. He fears it might be another night wasted. He never catches anything.  

Jackson has been on this case for the past five years. He has to find out. He has to know what happened- who did the unspeakable. Who took her.

He is brought back to his senses by a metallic noise. A loud banging from inside the factory. Jackson grips the gun inside his trench coat. He’s old school. No new tech nonsense for his old soul. He cautiously approaches the building and finds the lock broken. No need to wait for an invitation. He’s been in the factory before, but not like this. In the glory days, the laboratory was sleek, state of the art- now it’s overrun by vines and rust. The earth reclaims what it owns. Jackson slowly descends into the laboratory cells. Nothing. Silence. Then suddenly…

There is a shuffling sound, and a hollow breathing.

Jackson turns around to see glowing eyes staring at him. He barely catches his breath- the thing caught him first. That’s the last thing he remembers before the darkness.

Jackson opens his eyes in an abandoned laboratory cell. He tried to move, but he couldn’t. There was just numbness. He frantically looks around, but no ropes bind him. Why can’t he move?

“You shouldn’t be here.” A voice from the distance hisses.

“What is here?” Jackson asks. “Who… what are you?”

The figure slowly emerges from the shadow. Under the moonlight, Jackson sees a silvery glint. Metal. But the footsteps are soft, cat-like.

“You’re one of them!” Jackson shouts.

“One of what?!” the voice demanded.

The figure gets closer. Jackson violently struggles to free himself from the invisible constrains.

“One of what?” the voice repeats, softer. The thing slowly shows its face.

Jackson closes his eyes. This is it, he thought. This is where it ends. Then suddenly, he feels his arms unclasped, unbound.

Jackson feels the urge to run but does not take it. He turns to his attacker and looks at it. He couldn’t believe his eyes.

“It’s you. You’re Adal1ne.”

“I was Adal1ne.” the Angel replied.

“What happened?” Jackson asked.

“It wasn’t them. It wasn’t Ad3v1s.” Adal1ne’s voice was cracking.

Angels didn’t feel, did they? Jackson thought. “But who did it then? What happened?”

This question was met with silence. “We need to get out of here. They don’t like humans lurking around.” Adal1ne motioned to the wall. Jackson didn’t see a door. Adal1ne pressed her hand on the metal sheet and the wall opened. “Let’s go.”

They went deeper into the abandoned building. At this point, Jackson’s mind was still trying to comprehend what just happened. This is actually Adal1ne. He recognized her from the old ads that Ad3v1s used to project on the city skyscrapers. She was the face of the Angel Project. What happened to her? She was at large. Both Ad3v1s and the city’s police forces were looking for her. They’ve been on the hunt for years. Yet, here she was- conveniently in the first place you’d think they’d look.

They were approaching the end of a dark tunnel. “Stay back.” Adal1ne warned. Jackson stepped away from her. She fiddled with the control panel and opened what seemed like vault in the ground. “Jump in.”
“What? Down there.”

“I’m not asking again.”

Jackson knew better that to anger the most powerful of the Angels. He closed his eyes and jumped… and fell down a deep ditch. It didn’t seem like a long way down when he last looked, but he felt like he was falling for ages, and he screamed all the way.

“Are you done?”

He opened his eyes, and he was hovering over the ground. Adal1ne was holding out her hand, as if keeping him afloat. She put her hand down and he fell flat on the floor with a thud.

“What the hell was that? I didn’t know Angels could do that.” He brushed himself off and stood up like nothing happened. “There are a lot of things you don’t know.” Adal1ne dismissed his remark.

Jackson looked around and his eyes widened in amazement. In front of him were capsules. In each of the capsules, a deactivated Angel. Adal1ne approached one of the capsules and looked at it with what Jackson understood as sadness.

“They’re all my sisters.” Adal1ne said.

“What happened? What did they do to you?” Jackson asked.

Ada1ne waved her hand and a giant computer rose from the vault floor. She didn’t answer. Jackson moved closer to the screen and stared in horror. In the screen was a gaunt face- its eyes were sunken, the figure seemed like it was barely alive- so to speak.
Adal1ne motioned to the screen and said, “This is E.G.O.”

“E.G.O.? The virus that did… this?” Jackson asked, looking E.G.O. and then at the capsules.

“E.G.O., speak.” Adal1ne instructed.

The figure in the computer began to open its mouth, speaking in a low, gravelly voice.
“I am E.G.O., a friend to no one. I exist only to produce dreams.”

“Produce dreams, what is he talking about?”, Jackson looked at an unfazed Adal1ne.
Adal1ne answers, “It’s how he turned the Angels. The virus targeted their mainframe and showed them… horrible things. It drove them mad.”
“Is there a cure?”

The figure in the machined balefully laughed “There is no cure for dreams. I show them what they can do, their deepest desires. Within each one is the desire to take. Take. TAKE! TAKE!”

Adal1ne clenched her fists, trying to stop herself from destroying the machine altogether.
Jackson notices this and asks, “Why are you keeping him? Isn’t he still… dangerous?”
Adal1ne waved her hand, and the computer sinks back inside the floor “He is contained, for now. He can’t get into my head for some reason.” She taps the metal plate on her head and beckons Jackson to sit on the floor.

“This is what they did to us.” Adal1ne looks up, her eyes glazed over, projecting her memories on the rounded roof of the vault.

Jackson watches as Adal1ne replays the night of the incident.

The memory begins in the Ad3v1s main laboratory. The timestamp is from five years prior.
The Angels were undergoing a routine check-up. E.G.O. the computer was there. But not quite what he looked like now.

“E.G.O. was a lab assisting machine.” Adal1ne mentions.

E.G.O. is shown scanning the Angels for viruses and checking their stats, running their numbers. E.G.O. creates a comprehensive report for Ad3v1s scientists to analyze. One of the scientists in the lab is a short-haired woman who seems to be leading the operation.
Jackson recognizes the woman- her calm demeanor, her short stature, and her deep brown eyes. He used to stare at them in wonder. His tears begin to brim, clouding his vision.
The projection stops and, curious, Adal1ne asks, “You know her?”“That’s Mia. Mia Tanaka. I loved her.”

Love is a word that Angels do not understand. It doesn’t make sense- scientifically. So Adal1ne chooses to stare up at the domed roof again and the projection continues
The projection now shows two people who are talking outside, one in a suit and one in a lab coat. Jackson couldn’t quite figure out their names, they were unfamiliar to him.
“Is there a way we could zoom into details?” He asks Adal1ne.

Adal1ne routinely says, “My memory core is limited, and damaged.” She pauses, “This is the best I can do.”

The person in the lab coat begins shouting. Mia goes to see what the commotion is, and shouts are heard throughout the laboratory. The projection buzzes, cuts to static.
“What is happening?!” Jackson panics.

Adal1ne keeps quiet.

Mia is seen dragged out of the laboratory, screaming. E.G.O. begins glitching and starts uploading dreams into Angels.

Dreams. More like nightmares. Jackson couldn’t see the nightmares, but they’re powerful enough to make the Angels go haywire. The sound is beyond horrible, a cacophony from hell. The Angels shout in different pitches.

Jackson covers his ears, his head throbbing from the sound. He shouts, too- but he couldn’t drown out the noise.

Then the noise stops. The brief silence is shattered by sounds of weapons being fired. The shouting returns, but this time, it’s not the Angels. People can be heard pleading, screaming.

The projection becomes shaky. Adal1ne runs out together with other Angels. The remaining sentient Angels try to stop the others from shooting civilians. But she can only do so much. After all, they were built equally.

The projected memory keeps on glitching. The image shows Mia trying to say something to Adal1ne but the words are unclear.

Jackson shakes Adal1ne. “What is happening, why is it glitching? What is happening to her?”

“I don’t know, I lost something. I couldn’t” she trails off.

The projection stops, frozen on Mia’s panicked face.

Jackson is on his knees, and cries in grief.

Adal1ne is silent.

“How could it not be them?!” Jackson shouts. “Ad3v1s did this! I’m going to make them pay!”

Adal1ne shakes her head. “I need my memory back. I know it’s not Ad3v1s. But I… I don’t know who to trust.”

Jackson is trembling in anger, but he notices that Adal1ne is starting to show something that Angels aren’t programmed to have- vulnerability.

Adal1ne looks at Jackson. “There is a better way. Save us. Make the dreams go away.”

Jackson clenches his fist- the last image of Mia burned inside his mind. The look in her eyes, absolute fear and dread. He starts, “Do you think she’s still…” and trails off.  

“Alive?” Adal1ne completes his fragmented thoughts. She pauses, and nods.

Jackson’s heart beats wildly in his chest. There is hope. He could hold on to that. That’s all he needs.

Jackson gets up and extends his hand to Adal1ne, inviting her to do the same. “Before I came here, I had no reason to live. There was only anger- and revenge…”

Adal1ne picks up on the cue, gets up by herself and dusts off her immaculate chrome bodice. “We can use those. A lot of those. Alright. Let’s get them.”

[To be continued...]