To begin, you need just a smidgeon on the world he lives in.
--The universe my stories go down in is made up of a number of planets connected by a crazy roadmap of dimensional doorways. Portals. The place ticks much like our own world with the added dimension of MAGIC, yes, magic, defined as everything that does happen that shouldn't happen within the laws of physics. (They say that what is called 'magic' is just the set of physical laws that govern a closely overlying dimension leaking over into this one and crashing the party for the resident physics. But what do they know.)
Just another part of the fabric of things, magic was long ago harnessed by intelligent races in the same way they harnessed charged particles and called it electricity. (Granted magic is far more an unpredictable bitch on the whole.) Being a naturally occurring thing, you find species of flora and fauna that have evolved since the dawn of time to incorporate magic into their bodies and habits, as well as locations altered and defined by magical properties.
- --The first portals appear to be natural occurrences; in fact many of them are so obscenely old that the ecosystems on both sides of the portal (just an invisible, unframed film of space, sometimes many kilometers wide (unframed portals are often only recognizable because the time of day is different on either side)) seamlessly match. Early humanoids evolved, so say the scientists, on the world Niyra where they eventually encountered natural passages allowing them to spread to other worlds, which had passages to other worlds, which had passages to other worlds, etc., until you have the present day network. Humans (Homo sapiens) and humanoids (centaurs, lurigadaun, nymphs, banshees, fairies, everything else you vaguely recognize as humanish, etc., and all the crossbreeds therein) are by far the things you're going to see most on the streets of most worlds, but there are other major non-humanoid races and places where two-legs-two-arms-and-a-head is going to put you in the minority. People puzzled out the science (or lack thereof) behind the portals millennia ago and as long as you have access to two places already, you, or rather highly trained technical teams, can create a shortcut between them. This can be as little as the hop between a certain portal in Altalamatox's alleyways to the Master Librarian's office half a mile away, or as vast as the galaxies that are known to stand between the worlds Aagiea and Elarg, and quite possibly further. Before the rise of space science in the last decade it was thought that the worlds lay on different dimensions and though the notion is now outdated the denizens and I will often use the word dimension to refer to separate worlds. Just to confuse you. Portals are not exactly the easiest, cheapest, or safest things to create so they're used sparingly between close locations (pfft, use the train you lazy bum) and much more for linking worlds or distant cities. Kind of like places we would use a car versus an airplane to get to.
--So get on to Thomas already. Right, right. So portals are a bit more complicated for Tom. He systematically destroyed his flesh-and-blood body decades ago leaving him today what is basically the mind of a man wired to a vast array of machines, one of which is tall and pale and wears a top hat. This android body is controlled remotely by Tom's brain: sensory information is retrieved and sent from the robot back to Tom, firmly planted in his control center, who sends thoughts in return, controlling the machine. His robot can be comfortably controlled at quite some distance, certainly a much larger perimeter than Tom would ever need to visit any corner of his world (Elarg), however, other planets? An issue there.
The question arises: can you make phone calls across dimensions? Yes, yes you can. Complicated portal-tech-related methods allow technicians to string up physical lines that constantly span the gates. If you're Penny on Elarg and you call up Rebecca on the world Alté (Altalamatox being the capital city of Alté), your call would pass though physical wires until they hit the nearest Alté-Elarg communications gate where the signal is passed along a special wire that spans the dimension gap, then out the other end and onto the Elarg lines. If you live in a fancy place like Brindlington or have fancy things like mobile phones as many do this decade, your signal is directed at a receiver by the portal, transferred via physical wires, then an antenna on the other end sends the signal on its merry way through the airwaves. The network's internet works in similar fashion. There are tons of these little communication portals, created, controlled, housed, and regulated by the central government's Communications branch.
The upshot of this for someone like Thomas is that you can send your robotic self across portals so long as, as it were, you keep yourself on the line the whole time. Prior to satellite-type technology, Tom was effectively grounded to Amoth-Elarg, unable to cross portals. This puts a damper on your life in a society where movement via the things is routine. We all know how fun technology can be, and Tom is a still a little leery about lingering in other dimensions as for whatever reason his signal can falter and cut contact with his control base (just like cell phones! yay!). Which is maddening. He's programmed the onboard computer of his robot to, in such situations, make it to go stand in an inconspicuous corner and continually attempt to reconnect. On the rare occasions this sort of thing happens, Cornelius, Rebecca, or Ben usually receives an urgent call to go retrieve his precious machine. Speaking of which.
Virtually Imperfect: Tom's Mechanical Body
--Breathless. And he makes no pretense of breathing. Tom's very effectively tricked his brain into accepting his prosthetics, however, so it's not uncommon to see him yawn when tired or sigh when exasperated (or mime these things, at least). So a few consequences. He can't smell, not at all (he also can't taste (and fun fact, his android has no tongue)). He can't blow out a candle, he can't fog up a window to draw a smiley face, and he's never out of breath. You wouldn't think you'd notice another person's breathing until you meet someone who doesn't, and it'll bother the hell out of you once you do. (It's one of the many little things you don't notice other people do, that you do notice Tom doesn't, that never quite let you forget his body's not real.) On this note, he obviously doesn't speak in the conventional way, rather his voice comes from a speaker (either down what would be his throat or under his jaw, I'm not sure yet) and he lip-syncs.
--Them eyes. Tom's 'human' eye, the left one, is a light shade of blue that makes his pupil stand out like he's mildly insane. His right eye functions similar to his left only there's no pretense that it's not just a covering for an optical device behind it. It's clear blue glass and the direction the mechanical 'eye' behind it is focused can be told by a bright glow. In addition to reading the usual visual spectrum, Tom's souped-up his eyes with enough gadgetry to make any spy envious, from the infrared and ultraviolet to heat vision, night vision, and a special lens treated with potion that picks up magical fields (he plays down the fact that he has such a thing; Tom's quite anti-magic, he thinks it's unpredictable and silly and he's right). Of course he can snap photographs with his eyes (that lens of his, actually) and take video as well. Because he doesn't need to he doesn't blink, except when, like breathing, body language dictates that such is required. Obviously he does have eyelids; though rumor has it having his eyes shut doesn't necessarily affect his vision.
- --What is up with that lens thing? It works in close companionship with his eyes. It's a tiny monitor, mostly used for supplemental vision enhancements (its program has a degree of A.I. and assists in targeting things, be they familiar faces in a crowd or proper incision points during surgery). He can also view data/video on it, but this is uncommon and he generally views files/the web/programs/the Elarg-Thurmund'hl semifinal rugby match/whatever straight from his stationary computer banks back in the Tower. You might have seen him with the lens and earpiece missing. This is because it comes off. Derp. --An Aside: I can't stress it enough: Tom never leaves the Tower, no matter where 'he' might be off wandering, whatever 'he' is doing, at all moments Tom Destastiel himself is as present in his lab as if he were sitting in his chair. Since operating two complete sets of controls without walking into a wall is a little difficult he usually doesn't heavily multitask between what he's doing in the Tower and what he might be doing with his android off somewhere else, but if he ever suddenly seems to glaze over, you know he's directing his attention to something he's doing back at the lab. This also means he has constant access to the internet and all his files and documents. And that he's always, always, always at home. It's a comfort to his friends and patients knowing he's always around and findable in a fix though sometimes this is irritating to him and if he wants a moment to himself he'll put a notice on his doors and you'd better have a damned good reason for knocking. Understand that Tom's prosthetic body is not just the robot we're used to seeing but in effect his entire building.
--Clicks n' whirls. To his constant annoyance, it seems like Tom can't quite keep things well-oiled (okay, it's not as simple as that). He makes noise when he moves. It's not loud, but if you're next to him and he turns his head or reaches out, you can hear the whirling, clicking, and sliding of his gear work and hydraulics. He's especially infamous for the sounds he gets from flexing his metal fingers.
--Like a well-oiled machine. Except not. Very far from perfect is this contraption of his. Joints stick, signals backfire or fail to fire, balance is odd, wires get tangled, dumb things happen like his fist clenching and refusing to open or his voice will cut out. None of this is extremely common, but things go wrong on a daily basis and even at the best of times this machine is subpar to the human body in a myriad of ways. Obviously, swimming or any kind of submergence in water is out. He can run, but it's a little tricky as flexibility is an issue for him. The cane he carries is not just for looks; he doesn't need it to balance but it sure helps. His facial construction is also a little less than life-like, not bad, but the fact we don't see a load of expressions out of him is partly due to his mellow humour but also to the limitations of the mechanics behind his skin. But then a fully functional face is a difficult thing to construct. He's constantly working away at this robot seeking improvement, the thing (or at least the design) being a work in progress of nearly sixty years.
- --Does he keep a backup? Yeah, kind of sort of. His last incarnation is pretty dated; you'd recognize him but things are noticeably different and mostly it just doesn't work worth beans compared to his current model. He's certainly got all the design specs down for what he's got at the moment and could put together another one if this was completely nuked, it's just ungodly complicated and expensive. He's been making good headway on his next model and plans to be finished with it in three years; once it's finished his current design will become the backup machine. On that note... --Is the android we know and love the only bot he uses? Nope, it's just the most common by far. In his lab, he can take full control of most any of his robotic 'helpers,' and a few contraptions along their lines have been rigged to leave the Tower, mostly small, flying things that might be used to run an errand, deliver or retrieve something, maybe ahem, spy on things, whatever. When in control of these, Tom is more in the position of guiding a remote-controlled device than anything, none of them being kitted out with fancy sensory instruments (in the sense that they send any physical stimuli except visuals back to Tom as his android would).
--Viruses. Computer viruses. He gets them. Bane of his existence, they are. The effects can be negligible or devastating, either way he's got more firewalls and sundry protections set up than most major corporations. Security's no laughing matter when your computer network is effectually you.
- --Can Tom get physically ill? Tom has all kinds of things wrong with him that are entirely biological, though they count more as chemical imbalances than diseases. He pumps a constant schedule of drugs through his sorry self to stay sane, starting with anti-depressants, then mood-stabilizers and pain-killers to treat the headaches and sleep-deprivation they cause, medication to help him sleep, to simulate hormones, to do several dozen other things which generally keep him human. You know immediately when Tom's messed up his medication; sometimes this is funny (you feel guilty about it, but it's something to see him dashing around grinning and giggling like a kid), and sometimes it's wrenchingly pathetic (after a century of back-breaking work to cheat death it's awful to see suicide ticking behind them electric eyes), and mostly it's just plain dangerous to his delicate health.
--Full-body phantom-limb. Originally this put Tom through some hell until his mind fully adjusted to controlling his prosthetic body. He's also rewired some functions, the flicking of a finger or twisting of a wrist, to code for commands in programs ranging from word processors to modeling and simulation software. Where he would appear to have an almost psychic control over what you see on one of his monitors, his interaction with programs is almost directly his signals to his hands working with mouse and keyboard. Inhabiting a panel of machines and controlling software directly with your thoughts is not exactly what the human brain was built for, which is partly why he built his mechanical human form.
--When 120 you reach, look so good you will not. So now a little about his biological body. There's not too much to say. What's left of Thomas these days can be cupped in the hands, just the brain matter necessary to contain his being and control his false body. It was the work of decades to wean himself from his body, now he lives on life support, brain laced with a zillion wires carrying thoughts and impulses to his machines. He can be found in the back basement of 'The Tower,' his large residency on Diright Heights, Amoth-Elarg, in a series of small rooms he generally avoids (except for the fact that, you know, he physically cannot leave them), and almost allows visitors.
In the very rare event that his systems massively glitch, that the backup systems fire up and attempt an auto repair, Tom is temporarily plunged into the blackest hell he can imagine, experiencing what it is to be absolutely without movement or sensation, a mind suspended in nothing. This happened on a few occasions some time ago, scared the living shit out of him (only ever for an hour or so, but to him it might have been years), and afterwards he swallowed his contempt for magic to make one last safety net for himself. There's a procedure used in medical necromancy to communicate with those in comas/severe paralysis and such which temporarily pulls the soul from the living body, and through a bit of technomancy (technonecromancy?) Thomas was able to work the spell into his programming on a trigger system. So these days when things need a reboot he can at least prowl around the basement an intangible ghost, infinitely preferable to the alternative. He's only had the misfortune of having to try this out once, but it worked-- like a charm. :3
The Man Behind the Machine: Less Technical Tidbits
--Family. Tom was an only child and never married so he doesn't directly have family these days. But through his cousins' descendants the Destastiels do go on. At one point I was experimenting with reacquainting Thomas with his kin, most especially with his cousin's son's daughter Karen and her daughter Jane, Jane being a twelve-year-old with as much innate knack for all things science and technology as her distant relative. I dropped the ball on this; in the future I'll be weaving Tom's family back into his story but for now it's all a great big plooot hoooole. They'll know he exists, I'm sure. How close they'll be I don't know.
--Nine to five. So what's the old doctor do for a living? A few things, actually. The biggest is of course is cyborgnetics. A century ago when he was a kid, prosthetics were not fun. They were a shot more advanced than what we've got here in 2011 but not amazingly so. They had a good artificial heart; we know that because Tom started out life on the wrong foot with a very bad ticker that was surgically replaced just after his birth. Give it a decade and they had something that passably returned vision to the blinded, useful to a teenage Thomas that had lost the sight of one eye.
- Why exactly was Tom falling apart? He was one of those people, you may know one or some, born with what can only be called a Highly Shitty Set of Genes. He had a number of physical disorders from birth that played hell with his circulatory and nervous systems (the artificial heart did not help), eventually blinding one eye and threatening the other as well as necessitating the amputation of an arm that stubbornly repeated to develop something like gangrene. He was so weak by twenty he began using a wheelchair which he would use until his 'death' at thirty-six. His brief adulthood as 'conventionally alive,' as he puts it, was a bit of a grim race to get the hell away from his own flesh before it killed him. This has left him with an extremely low opinion of Mother Nature and an infatuation with controllable, predictable, perfectible machines.
Anyways, Tom was a bit of a child genius in the realms of math and mechanics, obviously he had more than a bit of a personal stake in improvements in prosthetic systems and this would become his life-long passion. His doctorate is in cyborgnetic surgery so he's trained and authorized to hook people up with permanent rehabilitating machinery but more important to the worlds at large are the leaps and bounds he's pulled the field through as he hacked out new and improved systems first for his own use and then for market. Today, as he has for many decades now, he continues to work independently and with a small team as designer, engineer, and programmer (and often tester) of prosthetics and sells his designs to production companies and clinics. His is hardly a household name but in his field Destastiel is unanimously regarded as a god.
The medical field has mixed feelings on him as he's a habitual, almost hobbyist, offender of practicing non-cyborgnetic medicine at home without a license but skates away unscathed each time he's challenged. He keeps a portion of the Tower as a small but capable emergency room and provides free services- sometimes dire ones- usually to friends of friends who for monetary or social reasons honestly can't get the help they need. (After his mortifying mutation in a galatini left him ailing of mysterious illness and depression, Penny Montrey had her brother's sorry, dying carcass hauled to Tom on the suggestion of a mutual friend who knew Tom keeps under the radar and would help without attracting the media attention the Montreys were so avoiding. Although he did eventually get him back on his feet, Tom was NOT happy to find out the monster he was treating was Cornelius Montrey, a politician he rather detested.)
--Hobbies? At the rare times Tom is neither asleep nor working he's got a few things he does to unwind. There's a grand piano in the Tower's parlor that has some history to it: way back when he'd set a goal for himself that he would create a set of hands for himself that would, among other things, be at least nimble and responsive enough to play piano with and the old piano would become part of his tests of each new model. He succeeded; his robotic hands are a bit of pure technical beauty though you'd never guess they were mechanical from what he can do with them and a keyboard. He really enjoys playing and is astounding at it. About twelve years ago he added a new challenge, the violin, which he's not nearly as good with but is making headway.
Otherwise, he likes to read. And visit with friends. He's not a common sight outside the Tower aside from hospital work but through his patients and their families and friends Tom has a formidable social network, so lest you get the wrong idea that Tom hunches over some table in his dark, cold workshop all night and day and hisses at people... no. Often his cyborgnetics team is at work at his place, he gets visitors on business, past patients checking in or needing repairs, and people in general dropping by to say hi at all hours of the day and he loves it. Where Brogan and Marie's tailor shop is one of the unofficial hubs of the shapeshifter/monster community, Tom's Tower is equally so for the handicapped and/or cyborgs and he's well-known in certain circles as a safe place to run to when you're down on your luck.
--So I herd a rumor... Outside the people who know him or the people who know the people who know him, there's a tiny bit of tension between the general population and Tom Destastiel. Quite some time ago, before Tom's birth, there was a widely-spread, ridiculously violent gang that took up cyborgnetics as its Thing, that is, members were splicing, dicing, and peppering their bodies with weapons. Freaky. A major issue right around when Tom was growing up, they were basically obliterated forty decades ago. But the subliminal mark they left on society that cyborgs are dodgy, dangerous, and criminal remains to this day. Just common bigotry.
Anyways, Tom's a quiet but known figure and ended up the target of some haters a while back. It's NOT a widely known fact that Tom is about as extreme a cyborg as one can be, most people, even many of his friends, don't know this, but somebody that knew passed it on and as the story spread it got twisted. Now there's a mad scientist thing that circulates about Thomas, that he's experimented with cutting the brains out of people he's cajoled alone off the street and keeps their helpless minds captive in machines... It's not a rumor taken very seriously by most serious people although you see it flicker behind some eyes when first meeting him.
Cornelius Montrey, when the two were initially becoming acquainted and having a mutual loathing fest, was the very first to have the utter gall to shove the rumor in the doctor's face. (Who'd had a long week, snapped, told him his true story in garish detail, and though he was victorious in freaking Cornelius out and shutting him up this also had the fortuitous effect of making the senator see his own formerly-human condition reflected in Thomas and started their relationship rolling towards the thick-as-thieves friendship they enjoy today.)
-Tom's nation of origin is Brindlington. You might've guessed just from Tom that the place is my entry into the realm of steampunk/cyberpunk and draws heavily on Victorian-era Great Britain and America for inspiration. Most Brindlingtonians don't dress quite as obviously Victorian as he (and certainly with more color) but the look is definitely there.
-When he had his biological body, Tom had brown eyes and hair. When asked about the change to blue and white and he says brown looked awful alongside all the silvery metal. Random note that Tom's age should look ambiguous and he modeled his robotic form, so he says, very closely off how he actually looked while 'conventionally alive.' And he did a good job. (Although since I am the omnipotent narrator I can tell you that he did give himself an extra inch.)
- Got any questions? XD