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Objective: Protect Cadet Silva


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You can’t blame yourself for everything.


I should be decommissioned.


It’s not your fault.


I failed. I failed them all.


You tried your best.


My best wasn’t good enough.


“Echo?” Professor Mo’Taki reached underneath the table, tapping a claw on the button to lower the platform. “Something is bothering him.”


Echo whirred softly, glancing over to the Tajaran. He was stretched out over the worktable before her, with screens and holopads surrounding him, monitoring his systems. The damage to his shell had been repaired, and now it was time for the development team to finish checking over his softwares. Professor Mo’Taki tapped a claw on a nearby holopad, checking the diagnostics running across the screen. She looked down at him, and flicked her tail.


“Nothing of consequence, professor,” he replied calmly, eyeing her movements.


She frowned, concerned. “…He sure?”


Echo glanced back at her, hesitating. He studied her face, trying to piece together her peculiar body language. He had come to learn that Tajarans were much more difficult to interpret than humans. A simple ear twitch could mean five or six different things.


“Yes.” He said.


She looked down at him with a frown and flicked an ear. Twice.


Oh crap.


She sighed. “Echo,” she said softly, reaching for a tool nearby. “She - alright.” She set the tool back down on the table and tapped another button, releasing him from his restraints. “…Is late anyway. She has to get home.”


Why did she stop pressing? He wondered with genuine curiosity. You and every other researcher have access to me, like an open book. Why give me space?


He whirred, sitting up, observing her curiously. “Have a safe trip back home, professor.” He said with a polite nod.


She gave a tired smile and bowed her head, a sign of respect of her people. “And he have a good rest,” She said, turning around to leave. “DragonSnap! Let’s go.”


The young IPC sitting on the table outside of the lab looked up and beeped. “Yes mother,” it said, hopping off the table. Mo’Taki turned around and closed up the lab, leaving Echo alone to his thoughts.


Curious. She noticed something troubling me, but ceased the examination. Echo climbed off the table, heading for the cyro chamber nearby. He opened the lid, and began to climb into the storage. REflection for another time. I must log into the Systems for the night.


He dropped himself into the pod, the lid hissing shut above him. Small mechanical arms inside the pod began to attach cables to his shell, physically assimilating him into his network. He stiffened slightly as the connections strengthened, switching him from wireless to cables, before he sank into a sleepless slumber, with his screen flickering faintly.


====


“Get DOWN!!”


Echo grabbed ahold of Silva, the both of them thrown helplessly to the cold metal floor. Another explosion shook the station, the glass windows around them reverberating from the impact. Echo staggered, clamoring on top of Silva to shield her from the blasts. Another jolt, and shrapnel of metal and glass scattered about them.


Explosions detected. Echo whirred, turning his head and scanning the area. Assessing situation: high alert. Reconfiguring directives. Protect the cadet.


Echo hunched over, shielding Silva’s head as another rain of flying shrapnel dispersed. He used his own body to block her from the majority of the debris. Two more explosions rang out nearby. Then just as quickly as all of it had started, it stopped, and silence reigned in the tunnels.


The station creaked and groaned, the only sound being that of Silva’s frightened gasps. Echo pushed himself up, scanning the young human cadet. Her long red hair was a tangled mess, with flecks of it drenched in sweat, and sticking to her forehead.


Dilated pupils. Hunched shoulders. Sweat. Rapid breathing. She’s terrified.


Echo grabbed her arms, pulling her up. “Area’s depressurizing,” He said. “We need to move. Now.”


She struggled to stand, grabbing ahold of the IPC’s solid frame for support. Echo helped her up, grabbing her tightly around the belt and dragging her down the hallway. They headed down the tunnel, toward the closest airlock.


Dread clicked in as Echo recognize the heat from his systems rising. Emotional simulators are activating. Great. This is just perfect. Oh, look. Sarcasm systems detected.


“Get your airtank on,” Echo ordered, suppressing his simulators and ignoring their emotional tendencies.


Silva coughed up blood, gasping in the thin air. Let the personality surface – denied. Current situation requires action. Cadet Silva lacks direction, must direct. Presenting emotion may hamper her survival. “Small sips,” Echo said, as he supported her, helping her as she pulled the small blue canister out of her bag. “Don’t breathe in too fast. Take small sips of air.” Appear human, leader-like. Give her support. Focus on her needs.


She fumbled for her airtank, fastening the gasmask over her nose and mouth. Echo assisted her in securing the mask before continuing to pull her along, trying to figure out the safest route ahead.


Hallway outside is possibly depressurized. Explosions registered due east, and east north-east. Medical aid may be necessary for Silva. Heat levels continue to rise. Overriding personal preservation – Cadet Silva prioritized. Running estimates on how long shell will last. Charting safe passage. Issue: vision blocked; no way to determine safe passage. Assessing risk: more danger to remain here. We must locate pressurized area.


“My stomach hurts,” Silva groaned.


“Keep moving,” Echo said, trying to keep her attention. “We need to get out of here, and quickly.” Complaint of pain noted. It does not hamper her movements. Ignoring for now.


“Oh gods, this can’t be happening,” she clutched his shoulder. “This can’t be happening.”


Terror registered. “Focus on me, Silva,” Echo said. “Just focus on me. Focus on my voice.” Echo used his free hand to brush against the airlock sensors. The doors opened at his touch, noisily rolling along its rails. Bright red emergency lights flooded around them. Change of pressure? Unknown, no way to verify. Lacking sensors.


This shell is inefficient! Focus, Echo. Focus on Silva. Suppressing emotional stimuli again.


Echo looked over to Silva. She was getting weaker, and blood was seeping underneath her uniform, pooling around her waistline. Area still depressurized. Systems continue to overheat. He zeroed in on the blood seeping underneath the cadet’s hand. Silva is injured. Must assess injury as soon as possible.


Echo took a quick look down the hallway. It was too far of a walk to reach the other side. His motors grinded in protest as he pulled Silva down the other route, toward the downed firelocks.


We need a sustainable environment.


With one free hand, the other supporting Silva, he took out his crowbar from his vest, and rammed it into the mouth of the firelock. His frame creaked and groaned in protest as he strained to push it open.


Internal systems overheating. Ignoring damage to arm, forcing override. Enabling backup motors.


With a groan, the airlocks finally slid open. He dragged Silva behind them, himself crawling alongside her. He reached up and forced the airlocks shut, sealing them in the tiny area.


Silva collapsed against the wall, her hand still around her stomach. “Oh gods,” she cried.


“Silva, everything is going to be alright,” his shell creaked and grinded, heavily damaged from the heat and depressurization. He caught a reflection of himself in Silva’s HUDs – his white paint and synthetic padding was peeling from his face. He reached up and tore it off, revealing the stark black metal underneath.


“This can’t be happening,” Silva cried. “Oh gods!”


Echo tightened a grip around her hands. I need to comfort her. Panic might strain her injury. “Silva, we’re okay,” he said. Unable to verify temperature or atmospheric conditions. Temperature loss likely still apparent. Lacking any method of scanning environment. Stupid limitations. He looked over her quickly. She was shivering. Is action a result of fear or response to cold? Unknown. Echo wrapped an arm around her shoulders, trying to use the heat of his own body to warm Silva. Avoid skin contact – may cause burns. Assess her injury. “Let me see that wound,” he said softly, resting her back against the wall.


An announcement blared loudly into their headsets. Station Evacuation. Proceed to the departures lounge or escape pods.


Evacuation procedures. Echo looked up. Closest escape are pods located at arrivals. Stabilize the wound before attempting to move. Echo picked up her wrist, gently pulling her hand away from her stomach. Silva gave a sharp gasp at the movement. Gentle, be gentle. He peeled back the fabric of her uniform, blood sticking to it. “It’s going to be okay, Silva,” He said softly. I need to stabilize the wound, and fast.


Echo dug around in his vest, pulling out a length of cable wires. Not bandages, but it will have to make do. He scanned his memory databanks, trying to pull out critical information. I need connections. Come on, Echo systems. Connect to me. Tell me how to stabilize this wound; I need to know, now.


A coded file downloaded into his mind. He envisioned a memory, retrieved by another Echo. He could see two soldiers in the middle of a grassy field, one severely wounded on the stomach. The other one used a cable cord to seal off the wound, wrapping it tightly around a piece of fabric to slow the bleeding.


His screen flickered slightly as he set to work. Echo mimicked the technique, grabbing the cuff of his sleeve and straining to yank off the fabric. The threads tore with his applied strength, but his shoulder clicked, the motors damaging even more. Ignore it. He noted the mangled shell underneath the sleeve, with the thin wires beginning to fray. More damage detected. Cannot initiate self-repair. Ignoring it. His fingers twitched as he struggled to retain control of his motions, folding the sleeve up to create a clot for the wound. He pressed it Silva’s stomach, as her face contorted in pain.


With one hand pressed down on the wound, he took out his gun, manipulating it to release a single rubber bullet. “Bite down on this,” he ordered her, holstering his gun again and picking up the bullet. He placed the bullet between her teeth. She clenched down on the bullet, growling in pain, as Echo pressed both hands into the wound.


Now, fasten it. He took the cable wire, and began to wrap it around her waist, and over the makeshift bandage. It needs to be tightened. He took out a screwdriver from his vest, wrapping the ends of the cable wire around it, and twisted the screwdriver about, tightening it more securely and tucking it into the wires. It held fast.


“Gods,” Silva gasped. “This can’t be happening.”


Echo held her in his embrace. “Silva,” He whispered softly. “I need you to be strong for me.” Voice modulator fracturing, possible damage to synthesizer. “Can you be strong for me?” he creaked.


Silva quickly nodded, her face etched with fear. “I – I can try..”


“Good,” Echo said. “We’re going to get out of this alive. We’re going to make it to the pods, and we’re going to okay.” He nodded, trying to reassure her. “I will be here, right next to you. We will make it.” he nodded softly. “Now, can you move?”


Silva nodded. “Y-yeah, I think so,” she said. Echo placed himself under her arms, and with as much gentle care as he could muster, he helped her stand, supporting her. Obligations are to serve and protect. He proceeded to the other side of the small enclosure, struggling to open the firelocks that blocked them from the escape pods. Override self-preservation enacted. His leg buckled and twitched as his hydraulic systems began to fail. I must protect the cadet.


As the firelocks slid back, a gruesome sight greeted them. Three dead bodies littered the floor, and blood painted the walls. Silva cried out in horror, grasping onto the IPC as she reeled from the sight.


Echo whirred. Why does this shell lack medical scanners. He tugged Silva along, picking his way among the bodies.


“Oh gods! This – this can’t be happening. These people…” Silva gasped, unable to tear her eyes from the grim sight. “Are they all dead?”


“I don’t know,” Echo said. “Listen. Once I drop you off at the pod, I’m going to come back here and check their vitals. But first, I need to get you to the pods. Shell is continuing to overheat. Unknown amount of time registered before potential shutdown of systems.


Echo whirred, hiding his simulation of aggravation from Silva. Why don’t I know?! He hefted Silva along, gently seating her by the pod doors. This is my own shell, my own body. I should be able to know everything I need to know about it! His foot buckled again, and he dropped to the floor, reflexively catching himself before hitting the ground. My existence as a pAI was more efficient than this hindered shell. I am struggling to find compatibility between this shell, and my designed purpose. He strained to stand up, noting the worry in Silva’s face as she watched him. “I’m…okay,” he told her, supporting himself against the wall. No I’m not.


He tilted his head away, scanning his shell’s remaining integrity. I’m heavily damaged. And Silva – well, she does not know how to repair me anyway. There is no point in asking her for assistance.


He looked back down the hallway, to where the three bodies laid unmoving. Possibility of any survivors: low. New directive established – check for survivors. His motors stiffened, whirring. Issue – I will sustain damages while moving, and I may shut down.


Attempting to override shutdown procedures: denied.


Attempting to override shutdown: denied.


Attempting to ove- denied.


He buzzed softly. “Silva..” he looked over to her. “I’m going to check the bodies. You will remain here. When the pod doors open, you go in, and stay in. Do not come out and wait for me,” he bore down at her, doing his best to give an authoritative tone. “Do not delay the launch. If I do not come back, leave me behind. That is a direct order. Understood?”


Silva swallowed a gulp of air. “Y-yes.” She whispered softly.


Echo reached down and gripped her shoulder, trying to reassure her. “…Good. Okay. Everything's going to be alright.” He shifted his weight, motors grinding as he moved. Why did I assure Silva’s survival before checking on the bodies-


He twitched slightly. Don’t dwell on that. Focus on the task at hand.


Echo dropped down next to the first body, checking their pulse. Deceased. He pushed them over to lay them on their back. Human. Male. No identification. Uniform: engineering. Brown hair, green eyes. His systems urged him to move faster as he heard the announcement for the escape shuttle docking. Next target – Tajara, deceased. Zhan-Khan decent. Female. Cargo Technician. The last body was further away. Echo strained to move closer to examine it, using his arms to crawl over to the body, instead of risking more damage to his systems. Human, female. Cargo technician. Red hair, black eyes. He supported himself by the elbows, scanning the victim. Deceased.


He lowered his head slightly. I can’t stay here. He pushed himself up, struggling to stand. Logging physical features into a memory file. If I can report them back to Odin, they might be retrieved. He looked back down the hall, toward the awaiting pod doors. Silva had moved inside, as he had ordered her to do so.


Mapping route that will grant the least damage done to the shell. He buzzed softly. Adding stipulation: need to move, quickly. I will shut down – that is inevitable now. But if I can make it to the pod, at least I will power down somewhere safe.


Echo clamored down the hall, dropping and stumbling as he did so. He struggled to pick himself up, straining for the doors. He collapsed again, just outside. Motors not responding. Come on…


Silva turned in her chair at the sound of metal hitting the floor. “Echo!” she cried, unbuckling herself from her seat and reaching out to drag the IPC into the pod. She propped him up against the wall of the pod. “Echo?”


System shutdown initiated.


Oh come on!


Enacting failsafes. Disconnecting processor from shell to prevent further damages.


Attempting to override-


Denied.


…I hate this body.


Enabling secondary cameras.


Gee, thanks. I can watch the world go by while I helplessly remain inactive.


The secondary cameras activated, revealing Silva as she examined him. “Echo?”


Silva. And I am inside the pod. I made it in. Silva scrunched up her face in dire concern. “Echo?!”


I am alright, Silva. I obviously cannot tell you, but I am alright.


-----


Silva carried the mangled IPC into the robotics lab. A bandage was wrapped around her head and waist, but for the most part, she was healthy. “Please,” she begged the first person she saw in the lab. “Can you save him?” she pleaded.


I’m not dead, Silva. Echo watched the people around him as he was laid on a rolling table. I’m alive, just unable to respond. He began to be wheeled away, toward the back of the labs. Which I really hate… He watched the corner of his camera, realizing that the roboticist attending him was now staring at his mangled shell, utterly perplexed. Ugh. Great. You’re not a roboticist, you’re just the lab assistant. He picked up Echo and transferred him to an empty tray. You’re going to put me in storage and wait for someone else to either come claim me or – The technician shrugged, sliding the tray back into a small, dark, and cramped cubicle.


...Ugh.

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I remember this shift like it was yesterday, all thanks to this post. Holy moly, it's all so impressive, I'm taken aback that you wrote about this situation involving my character over others and it's interesting hearing Echo's side of the story.


This all happened during that one shift that took place maybe a week ago when most of the station blew up. Fun times.


One day Silva won't be utterly useless. One day..



One day.


As a side note, she owes Echo her life many times over. Extremely fun times.

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