By Spinning Demon (Topman) and Gauntlet (Shadowman)
"Home is where the heart is."
I don't know if you've ever noticed, but in times of crisis, clichés are rarely helpful. Especially in those instances where you're a robot, and your "heart" is a complex system of wires and a processing core. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.
And for those slow on the uptake, yes, I did say I'm a robot. Of sorts. That is to say, when the words robotics, cloning, interdimensional travel and mutation all manage to find their way into your biography, it's a little hard to come up with an appropriate definition for what you are... let alone philosophize about hearts and souls. Again, though, I'm jumping the proverbial gun. I suppose the most appropriate way of starting off, albeit again using a cliché, would be to introduce myself.
With a history as complicated as mine you're bound to pick up a few names along the way, but Top Man is what I go by these days, and I've grown fond of the title. Despite any double-entendres or innuendo the name seems to carry, it really refers to the gyroscopic toy I've taken as a trademark of my fighting style. In other words, well, I fight by... spinning around... oh, and capoera, lately. Yeah, I'm a dancing robot. Combined with my short stature, you can see why I have trouble sometimes getting people to take me seriously. For the time being, though, I was focused not on my image, but on the first of many crises that were fated to befall me.
"Seriously, Top, when are you going to clean your quarters? They're disgusting."
Allow me to introduce our boss, Shadow Man. Even if you've never heard of him, you've probably fallen victim to his antics at some point in your life; a counterfeit bill, a poorly-made knockoff of an action figure, that big crater where a building used to be, somehow incidents can always be traced back to our fearless leader... or rather, they would be, but he always seems to have a way to cover his tracks. Ninja skills, or something. But needless to say, he's quite good at being sneaky. Of course all that's long in the past, but I can't say that I've stopped thinking of him in these terms. Maybe I've never let go of those days, the days when we were wacky and wild and could do whatever we pleased. Right now he was doing a pretty good job of reminding me those days are long gone.
"I'm not going to tell you what to do with your own stuff, but this is robot police headquarters and I expect you to show a sense of professionalism and dignity."
"Boss-man, the only people who'd ever see our rooms are us and, on the rare occasion they get by the security, our enemies. And I'm pretty sure they don't care if there's dirty clothes and empty E-tanks lying around! So what's the big deal?"
Shadow Man sighed deeply with frustration. I got the feeling he'd been putting off this conversation for some time. "The big deal, Top, is that lately you haven't been pulling your weight around here, and it's starting to show. You're rarely around, you've been taking on less duties than any of the others... and now you're neglecting the base. You gotta shape up a bit. I mean, think of how much overtime Magnet Man's been working, and his quarters are spotless."
"Oh come on, Magnet's room has one shelf in it! And it's just got guns on it!"
"Yeah. But it's clean." And with that, the conversation was over. Don't get me wrong, I had an expletive or two that could have prolonged the argument, but Shadow Man has this way of ending a sentence so conclusively that nobody would even think to say something back... and if they did, chances are he's disappeared in a cloud of smoke by then. Fortunately for my lungs, today he just took the stairs.
Besides, I thought with a sigh, he was right. I've been slipping. Hell, if Shadow, slacker extraordinaire, had decided to step in and say something about my conduct, then it must be pretty serious. I should feel lucky we're still in one piece after so many years, after so many friends lost and teams disbanded. So why had I been so unable to focus lately?
As I stood in the hall, zoned out while staring at the floorless mess of my room, a door behind me clicked open, another one of my teammates getting up to start their day. I spun around and started to give an enthusiastic "Good morning!" to whoever it proved to be, but I swerved a little in surprise and almost lost my balance when I found myself grinning into the chest of our stone-cold new Hard Man. Not wanting to look like I'd completely lost composure, I still grinned stupidly up at him as he looked down glumly, or maybe condescendingly, to meet my eyes. It was one of those moments where you were unsure which would be more awkward, talking or silence, but I decided I'd had enough of the latter. "So, uh, the future, eh? Crazy, right?"
This was pretty much the first time I'd tried to make small talk with him, though the word "small" probably didn't exist in this hulking behemoth's vocabulary, and I was pretty unsure what to say. He, too, looked at a loss for words, but out of exasperation more than anything else. I decided to cover up my lame-ass rambling as quickly as possible. "So I guess they have some pretty cool toys there, huh?"
Immediately, I knew that this was not the right guy to ask... in fact, I began to wonder if he was the right guy to ask about anything, as the torturous silence and piercing stare continued for what seemed like ages. Finally, with an air that clearly showed he deemed me no longer worthy of attention, possibly ever again, he stiffly walked past me and down to the lower level. "Yeah, nice talking to you too..." I muttered when I figured he probably couldn't hear me anymore.
Our newest incarnation of Hard Man, was something of a mystery to me. He has a history even more confusing than mine. If that's possible. He started out in the future as a robot named "Magma Dragoon" and I met his future self once or twice in the present. Well, the past now. I always get my tenses wrong when I talk about time travel. The point is, back then he always seemed angry and explosive. Then he somehow became Fireman and Heatman. At the same time. Don't ask, I have no idea how that happened. I met him then too, and he seemed to have mellowed out. And then both Fireman and Heatman died. Fireman went out in a blaze of glory; a hero. Heatman, though, went on to jo in the Scissor Army and was turned into a plutonium addicted monster from what I hear. I honestly have no idea what to make of that. A while back our commandant Crorq merged the remains of both of them in order to restore his consciousness, enlisting him Hard Man and forcing him on the team in the process. Crorq was hoping he could tell him things about the future for his own profit, but Hard had no useful information to give him. I can't blame him. 100 years is a long time, so long that the tech of the time would seem like magic to our modern processors.
Now it seems like all he does is wander around in silence. I've technically known the guy for years, but we've never been close and now I feel like I don't even know him at all. Is he the mellow Fireman? The explosive Magma Dragoon? The psychotic Heatman? Or is he just a malfunctioning mess, reliving his many deaths in gloomy silence?
Still deep in thought a short while later, I was also knee deep in a pile of clothes. While most robots have abandoned the idea of garments altogether, I often took to dismantling the more cumbersome parts of my armour and wearing casual outfits on my trips to town. It frees up my mobility on skates, and also helps to look less conspicuous... for some reason having a top for a head makes some people look at you funny.
As I tossed clothes to and fro, a stray pair of boxers flew past the door and into the face of a newly-woken teammate who happened to be passing by.
"Ah... sorry about that, Magnet Man..."
The gun-toting cowboy who often goes by the moniker "Sheriff Mags" pulled the garment off and looked at it with bemusement. "Well gawsh, Top, I 'preciate bein' hit on as much as the next guy, but I'm afraid I ain't interested." He tossed it back onto my face with a chuckle. Sheriff Mags was very different from his predecessor, Kenta. He was laid back, easy going, and had a flare for the dramatic. Did I mention he dressed like a cowboy? He uses real guns and everything. He had a refreshingly positive attitude towards the team and life in general, a polar opposite from Hard, pun fully intended. It might have been a only a short amount of time since he joined the team, but we've become good friends.
"Oh, and Top," he said as he sauntered back out of the door frame and down the hall, "try to be a bit more subtle with yer approach next time, n'kay?"