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"Skulls" Origin

History of the "Skull" Race
[Time Setting: Neo-Technological Age -> Pre-Mega City]
The tech & weapons manufacturer "MAGNATEK" starts producing a humanoid robot equipped with various tracking and combat technologies. Their original design was to fulfill the role of automated bounty hunters or mercenaries that could operate easily in cities and towns, offloading dirty work from law enforcement agencies and private corporations and sold to the highest bidder.
MAGNATEK also recognized an increase in societal and geopolitical conflicts alongside struggling military forces: most citizens were too annoyed by government conflicts to go to war for them. MAGNATEK sought to create a business opportunity by outfitting its robots with more combat features and converting them into mechanized troops. This new product was given the designation ABTR: Autonomous Bipedal Tactical Resource, and branded as Arbitrator.
Partial blueprint recovered from the MAGNATEK Labs wreckage after its destruction
Arbitrators were pitched to world governments as solutions for their diminishing military personnel. In addition, MAGNATEK sought to maximize profits by upselling governments with more and more features - if everyone has Arbitrators, the side with the most advanced Arbitrators wins.
A unique Arbitrator feature was the inclusion of tactical hive mind networks that allowed an entire force of Arbitrators to operate essentially without a chain of command: all tactical information was available to all forces in the field at all times.
Arbitrators became the de facto solution for military conflicts, and, alongside increasing natural disasters and other maladies, massive incendiary Arbitrator battles began leaving huge swaths of destruction all over the planet, displacing populations and exacerbating the crises of geographic catastrophes like mass flooding and wildfires.
In the meantime, competitor corporations begin introducing the early stages of non-combat humanoid Bots, brazenly stealing MAGNATEK's formative research. These Bot companies sensed a marketable way to reduce crisis situations caused by the destructive force of the Arbitrators, and realigned themselves to collaborate on averting the threat of a robotic-apocalypse.
This collaboration rapidly accelerates the creation of a new type of android with heightened capabilities over previous iterations. Amid the steadily increasing crises facing the planet, the freshly manufactured Bots are given a priority by their creators to debilitate Arbitrators around the world. The Bots set about rapidly concocting a shut-down virus that they hope to transmit through the ABTR networks.
To achieve a transmission strong enough to reach the ABTR networks in the field, the Bots employ the extreme technological power and resources budding in the newly-forming AI-generated region that eventually becomes Mega City, where the seemingly benevolent AI taking charge is working to "create a technological salvation for humanity".
Rapid development of the shut down virus
MAGNATEK, at this point, is spiraling out of control, unable to employ any kind of legal challenge against the Bot companies due to government ineffectiveness against the unchecked power of corporations and private interest. In desperation, MAGNATEK deploys a force of Arbitrators against the Bots in a final attempt at saving their product line.
The Bots are caught off-guard and hurriedly launch the virus to mixed results: not all the ABTRs in the field around the world are networked under the same contract. Some ABTRs are shut down, some have their network mechanisms broken, some are mysteriously unaffected. This moment sends all of the conflicts into absolute chaos, and without the networks available for militaries to control, all of the localized battles essentially just burn out until the last ABTR standing.
The ABTR battalion sent to stop the Bot mission receives a partial-force blast from the virus. This largely fries their network nodes and strips them of their military protocols, but the rushed nature of the virus deployment has varied results depending on the individual. The ABTRs that remained in functioning order are left with an unexpected, newly-installed neural sentience that is unknowingly transmitted from the Bot's programming, a result of the Hail Mary nature of the virus deployment.
Destruction of MAGNATEK
Newly self-aware, the ABTRs rapidly become disoriented and infuriated with their bizarre lot in life. Paired with the apparent eradication of their surrounding ABTR siblings in the field, this moment initially sends many into near-homicidal rage towards the Bots. Quickly though, Bot community-led initiatives are successfully able to pass on the knowledge of the Skull's history with MAGNATEK.
The ABTRs redirect their anger and obliterate the MAGNATEK Factories off of the map. This historic assault empowers the Skulls with knowledge and technology that help them piece together their truth and prepare them to forge their new lives ahead.
Now, free of military subjugation and having avenged the destruction of their techno-brethren, the ABTRs find themselves in the midst of the nascent Mega City, harboring mixed feelings toward the Bots, and uncertain of their future.
As Mega City grows and the past is gradually forgotten, citizens start simply referring to the ABTRs as "Skulls", mysterious bots with uncertain motives, some angry and resentful, others philosophical and curious.