Introducing: Friday

Friday, ‘real’ name Five of Twelve, Brood Three (stylized as 05.12.03), one of an unsettling number of nearly identical human-shaped drones. Collectively called ‘the Hive,’ they’re born from a mysterious biomechanical broodmother code-named ‘Fetahil’ by the still tentatively-named Incursive Security Agency. He’s a good boy, full of sincere curiosity about humanity and the earth. He and Aspen are very close friends, though various agents in both of their lives meddle to make that relationship as difficult as possible. Not to mention Aspen’s various traumas and the fact that, as human as he appears, Friday is an alien, with an alien mind and a muddle of different instincts, inscrutable even to him.

He was selected by lot from Brood Three to go out and interact with normal humans in the ISA’s various training/penitentiary programs. He’s not entirely certain why, as it was decided his explicit knowledge of the experiment’s purpose would distort the data. The most benign theory is that they’re studying if long-term distance from the Hive and Mother will change him any or cause him to develop differently. The more ominous one is that they’re throwing him into a dangerous, unpredictable situation to see what instincts and protocols activate. If this theory is correct, the ISA has knowingly put every single human being in his vicinity in serious danger. The drones are dangerous: stronger, faster, more durable, and pre-programmed to know how to defend themselves and the Hive. If one of them decides, quite possibly without any conscious input, to Go Apeshit…

Sylas Fortinghall, Aspen’s Horrid Father, is one of the researchers working at the facility around Fetahil. He’s been charged with discerning where, in this universe or another, Fetahil came from. He has a very uncomfortable interest in the drones, and Friday especially, since Friday and Aspen have become friends. He couches it in very friendly language and nothing he’s done is technically out of line or rude. Still, he gives Friday the creeps.

More than any other character, Friday reminds me that I haven’t done enough development on the mundane world. I’ve got a (very loose) cosmology and a general fantasy level (hella), but precisely how things are in every day life, how the agencies work, how the city itself and the law enforcement and everything works… I’m still in development Hell. But I tend to do characters first and go from there, so we’ll see.

Where Aspen’s personal narrative is concerned with exploring trauma and interpersonal abuse, Friday’s is concerned with systemic abuse and with questions of identity and free will. Fetahil doesn’t communicate with its drones in concrete words and orders. Instead, there’s programmed responses, there’s instincts, there’s inborn worldviews and behaviors. It’s not entirely clear where their programming stops and individuality begins. The drones don’t show much individuality, really, just minor personality tics and some physical differences that can be chalked up to epigenetic factors (overall size, build, immune system). But could that just be because of the way they’re treated, the way the researchers give them numbers instead of names and keep them strictly segregated from the rest of humanity? The endless tests and exams, the constant need for the more gentle researchers to argue on their behalf, like they aren’t even sentient? And how can the researchers discern what behaviors are healthy and unhealthy? Psychologically speaking, they’re in the Uncanny Valley: close enough to pass at a glance but still very off from the human baseline.

Friday just wants to learn about people and maybe cultivate some hobbies, once he figures out what options are available. He wants to take care of Aspen and his other friends. Is he going to get those things? Probably, but he’s also going to get a mountain of bullshit. Such is life.

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