Send a space thing for questions
- Sun: Do you consider yourself social?
- Sirius: Have you ever failed someone?
- Rigel: Have you ever been arrested?
- Deneb: When was your first kiss?
- Arcturus: Have you cried out of something other than sadness?
- Betelgeuse: What’s something you can never forget about?
- Aldebaran: What’s something you care desperately about?
- Canopus: Have you ever broken a bone?
- Bellatrix: Have you ever been forced to lie/keep a secret?
- Alphard: Have you ever lost a friend?
- Vega: What’s something you’ve done that you wish you hadn’t?
- Comet: What’s your big dream?
- Meteor: What’s something you wish you could tell, but can’t?
- Nebula: If you could undo one thing in your life, what would it be?
- Shooting Star: If you could bring back one thing, what would it be?
- Supernova: What’s one thing you want to do before you die?
- Wormhole: What’s something you wish would happen, but know won’t?
- Black Hole: What’s the last thing you want to see?
it’s more of a rumble than a hum—the incessant noise that echoes from behind the ship walls. it’s either a marker of how well the ship runs, or how close it is to coming to a halting, grinding stop. it’s hard to tell. you’ll get used to it, the crew tells him. he doesn’t disagree.
hey, the noise is a good thing. means everything’s in working order. it’s easy to slip into memories of—spirits, what feels like lifetimes ago, when really it’s been no more than a few years—times he’s spent on derelicts no different than the one he finds himself on now. in his mind’s eye, the ghost of a person long gone grins at him. you should be worried ‘bout quiet. quiet means something’s gone to shit.
valen opens his eyes with a start, and roughly pulls himself from his own introspection. a sudden knot sinks deep into the pit of his stomach. yes, the press of metal walls around him is nothing new. it’s familiar, even. much more so than the lush green of his training grounds, the cracks in the stone ruins, vine covered and peeking out from behind the trees. if anything, he should feel at home here. here, underneath this slanted metal ceiling.
but the air that blows from the vents is nothing like the humid winds of devoraan.
everything comes back into view with a startling clarity. he sits up, straightening his back from where he’s perched atop a rusted metal crate. for a moment, he sees nothing but white. focus. the chugging of the engine pulses loud between his ears. like a heartbeat that isn’t his. focus. a dull ache from the cold, seeping in through the material of his pants. focus. his hands, flat atop his knees, twitch once. the pressure is unyielding, the angles too steep. overbearing.
and then, nothing at all.
the room seems to shudder before it gives way to a still silence. valen tilts his head up and eyes the lines of ceiling warily. ah. it seems that something has “gone to shit.” he inhales, then exhales slowly. so, there’s still air. for now. a sudden frenzy in the Force alerts him to an oncoming presence long before the sounds of boots pound down the hallway, the questioning voices rise up in the air. the door opens with a hiss, and valen’s head is still angled upward when they walk in.
it takes a moment to place him, but valen recognizes the man specifically for how he endeavours to avoid him. the derelict mechanic. the engine room belonged more to the mechanic than valen himself, so he was content to make himself scarce save for the off-beats in the mechanic’s schedule. on a normal night, the incessant noise of the ship would be enough to stave off most from wandering into the ship’s belly. but this isn’t one of those times.
he gives the mechanic a slow blink, and finally turns to face him. he gestures vaguely. “too quiet for you to sleep?”
to think he was finally at the brink of sleep after all this time, mind edging towards the dark subconscious, breath slowing slightly, the walls humming as the ship moved through space, body transported near light speed. physics don’t apply here, a hovering feeling that only comes from the stomach, the eternal inertia caused by the engine directly. what a harrowing task, the suction of space weighing on the walls, his responsibility to keep them structured; keep them intact. he thinks he does well, breath leaving, a moving chest. for just a moment he finds it in the way his mind begins to shut down, the vision behind his eyelids that of a vast desert planet, all oranges and yellows – it’s almost peaceful.
perhaps too much so.
the sun blares brightly, his eyes squinted towards the endless sand dunes and blue skies. there’s no other beings in sight, no flying ships or staining clouds. he feels as if he knows this planet, some forgotten memory or venture unfolding itself through visuals that blink in and out of existence. the world is black, he can hear the distant opening and shutting of doors in the hallway of the derelict. the world is alight with color and there’s a breeze.
the wind whistles on the planet that may or may not exist, but beyond that there is no sound. no whirling sandstorms or sounds of distant creatures either hovering above ground or burrowing underneath and the world of black is suddenly very silent – not even the clang of a struggling ship, not even the hiss of air through man-built vents.
his eyes open far quicker than they shut and he’s already pulling on his boots when he hears noise banging against his door.
he rushes out, barely listening to the crew member jabber off about a strange movement or sudden jolt only to wave him off outside the engine room with a simple statement of, “i’m handling it.”
the first thing he sees when he enters the familiar room is a not-so familiar face. one he’s seen in passing but certainly hasn’t spoken to and certainly wasn’t expecting to be sitting criss-cross-fucking-applesauce in his main area of work.
before he can figure out exactly what he would want to say, if anything, the man beats him to it – and the sentence pulls leon’s face down in a frown, a certain hesitation alongside it because ‘can these motherfuckers read minds too now?’ but it passes quickly, mind gathering the obvious; the hour, the promptness, and the physical state he’s sure he’s in; slightly disheveled, eyes a fraction wider than usual, his mouth struggling not to hang open with palms clenched. tense and, quite honestly, visibly exhausted.
“yes, actually.” is all he says at first before gathering himself, bee-lining towards the main access point for the ships engine, sleeves rolled up as he opens the metal protective door and reaches directly in, no cause of concern for his safety as much as keeping this fucking thing in the air. he feels something he isn’t satisfied with, a grunt of effort before he turns his head towards the other man, “since you’re here for some fucking reason can you pass me that wrench?”
*・ﾟ☆ﾟ*・ Aquila et Hydra: A Real Junker
“By the fucking stars, this hunk of junk is practically falling apart,” Joules said to no one in particular. He furrowed his brows as his gaze swept over the cockpit of the Derelict. Derelict indeed! As he tapped one of the screens that seemed to be stuck, he could tell some of the control panel had been cobbled together from bits and pieces of other control panels, but somehow, it worked. It did its job, he supposed. “Crusoe, you’d be having a field day here,” he muttered to himself, just barely above a whisper. “Wherever you are, I hope you’re okay, buddy. I’m coming to get you.” A wave of sadness washed over him when he realized that he had absolutely no leads on where the hell his damned ship could be, much less the safety of his beloved pit droid. The Ganymede was so much faster, but she was smaller, too, with top of the line, modified everythings.
Derelict. Why did that sound so familiar? The KR-559 Ronari class ship looked familiar, too, but where had he seen it before? Kran would’ve known. Another pang of sadness hit the blonde, but before he could give any of this too much thought, he heard a movement behind him. Turning to look over his shoulder, he caught sight of someone glancing at the controls.
“I was just… talking to myself. Didn’t see you th– I’m sorry, are you a part of this ship’s crew, or are you lost?” he asked, scratching his face lightly and shifting on the rather uncomfortable chair. The last thing he needed was curious townsfolk who knew nothing about flying crowding his space while navigating heap of junk. Not that he had difficulty flying it in the first place. Joules could fly anything.
the new stowaways had been aboard so short a time and already leon found them to be a pain in his ass, as ungrateful as they were annoying; taking up space, asking questions, and whining about simple discomforts that he quite honestly couldn’t care or afford to fix. it was enough to drive him up a fucking wall. he had already received countless complaints about noise and drafts in the quarters to the point he ignored them, near petty and most certainly without intent to do much of anything about it. it’s was a game of patience, something he found he had very little of.
at least the jedis had meditation to keep them sane, all he had was the solace of locking people the fuck out of the engine room and taking caffeine tablets until his head stopped pounding.
he was looking for sal when he entered the cockpit, but instead found someone he would’ve been content with avoiding; one of the countless new faces. he intended to simply turn around and continue his search elsewhere, but he paused when he heard the man speaking, albeit quietly and most certainly to himself. he wasn’t exactly amused, perhaps entertained, but more so more intent on hearing the thoughts of a person unable or unwilling to keep them silently to themself.
what he could make out from the entryway did, in fact, kind of piss him off, but maybe leon was starting to get sensitive after hours of passengers completely disregarding exactly how hard he works, and more so, the quality of said work. his face hesitated down into a scowl for less than a moment before he carefully rearranges blank features, silently approaching the man for a moment, looking at the console he seemed to be examining so closely.
when the man turned to him, leon took a moment to notice his features; the blonde curls and blue eyes that seemed centered on his face; something akin to surprise written above the curve of his nose and the shift of his eyebrows, followed quickly by what could’ve been embarrassment, but was covered too suddenly to be sure.
leon was cautious, but also irritated, his normal deep-monotone flavored with just a hint of intensity that could’ve very well been one of many things; anger, mocking, teasing, or some variation of the three as he said, “i’m the mechanic that keeps this “hunk of junk” in the air. i also built the piece of shit you’re looking at. that being said if you have any questions now’s the time to ask ‘em, and if anything stops working this is the face you need to find.” there was a barely discernible pause that followed before he finished. “i’m leon.”
it always touches the same way. first, the bottom of his stomach, a simmering, knotting mess, the coils of his frustration winding up like a corkscrew, a mirror to his personality, tighter and tighter until it manifests in his hands, wound and bent, and in his legs, itchy and restless. he bares his teeth as he crosses his ship, his footfalls thundering, the boots heavy and grounding him, linking him to the only thing he loves about this ship– that it’s solid and still flying.
even when it’s sometimes not always solid.
he hears about the ruckus, about the ship bending too much, the metal hull aching too much, hears about the part that’s needed and the time they have to get it by, which is always too short. too goddamn short. when he bought this hunk of scrap and engines, salathiel had thought it wouldn’t last this long, had thought it only a temporary living space, a short-term engagement to get him from one dustball to the next, until he could afford something better. nothing better ever comes, nothing better ever feels right, nothing better ever seems worth the trouble.
when salathiel walks, he is all sharp angles and straight lines, dark hair and dark atmosphere, an even darker disposition, his coat trailing behind him like a curse as he threads his way through the maze of the ship to its back-end, the engine room humming and throbbing below the main hall. he knows his mechanic is already there, waiting and doubtless just as pissed off as he is, so he doesn’t bother to even sigh when leon’s question is posed into the echoing metallics. “it’s a good thing i have one hell of a mechanic, right? for all our intergalactic duct taping needs.” he steps up to the other, not bothering to build eye-contact, unsure if that’s something leon wants to engage in at the moment. “we’ll head into a port soon, why don’t you make a list of what we need so we can immediately ignore and forget all about it?”
how he finds salathiel to be one of the least aggravating people on board the ship sometimes is a mystery to him. of course, it hadn’t always been that way, at first he made him uneasy, every time the captain took a step in the same room he brought the feeling of intensity with him and it drove leon fucking insane for a time, but slowly he grew used to it. now, it sometimes could even be calming, but maybe that’s just because the captains presence usually meant that at least someone was listening when he complained, not that much was ever done about it.
he turns and eyes salathiel, a once over before meeting his eyes, even if only briefly. he keeps his expression carefully blank, an art he’s mastered when taking notes but even still, he feels like sal can see right through him, is too smart, has known him too long to be fooled. sometimes he wonders if he knows what he’s thinking.
salathiel godkiller is the universe incarnate; he is the darkness between stars and the black holes that inhale galaxies – he’s the vast unknown and the cruel gasp for breath in a place with no air. leon loves inner workings and the parts that make things move and for just a moment he wonders how exhausting it is to be that complex. for a moment, he admires the fact that he is none of those things; he is a cog in a bigger machine, a nobody among the stars and he’s okay with that. he doesn’t understand everyone’s desire to be important or interesting or recognizable, because isn’t it simply enough just to be alive? to have the pleasure of traveling and building and existing and, as his eyes flit back to salathiel’s he finds the thought of watching the galaxy exist, if nothing else, because it is filled with stars.
the beauty of human beings; messy and disastrous. always quite the spectacle. it’s much easier being simple.
“at least you’re being honest this time.” he says, a tint of near invisible amusement before adding, “fuck it, i’ll get it myself, just let me know when we’re near port.” he pauses again, turning back to his scrap metal, toying with different objects trying to make them be something else. “where are we headed this time, you have any big plans coming up or are we just fucking around for the moment?”
location: the derelict halls
time: i dont fucking know, they should be sleeping
there’s a certain quiet about the ship when most passengers sleep, though quiet does not equate silence. the sounds of the ship moving can be loud when too many parts are unaccounted for, the floor sometimes creaks, and the insomniacs not unlike himself will wander or sounds of music or shuffling can be heard from their quarters. personally, he prefers this to a horribly muted world; the reminder that life still exists even when he finds himself feeling dead with exhaustion and needs to consider the air in his lungs and the feeling of his own heartbeat.
he spends the time trying to create makeshift parts and weapons from what scrap metal he has and when that becomes too tiresome he just lays down, chewing on his nails, a nasty habit, and staring at the ceiling – thinking. usually he can’t recall what it is he thinks about afterwards, either his past or other people on the derelict, but mostly he thinks about travels, the places he’s been recently or long ago or will be to soon. the different landscapes, the different people or species or plant life. the different technology and builds, sometimes near lack thereof. he thinks about reality, because what else is there to consider when the hallways are dark and there’s a rare need to talk to someone while they all sleep? no, loneliness, while something he’s come to terms with in recent years, is a weakness only when called attention to. so he bothers no one.
eventually the restlessness gets to him and laying or pacing ceases to do the trick, so he takes to the hallways, still fully dressed in day gear and without a proper destination, but he doesn’t get quite that far before sounds of other footsteps meet him around a bend. he pauses, considers turning around, but before he can he sees bare feet come around the corner, inhuman feet at that, and then she comes into view, even in the muted lights.
he doesn’t consider himself someone easily impressed by looks, thinking it shallow, but he couldn’t pretend she wasn’t beautiful. it wasn’t fair, even if just in the confines of him own mind he had to think it because ignoring it entirely seemed wrong. there was something ethereal to her, something delicate but strong and glowing, her bare feet and the hollowed, darkened atmosphere only heightening the awareness, and still his eyebrows furrow, not surprise but contemplation on his features. she’s made of all of the light of the stars and he’s embarrassed by the thought as quickly as it rings in his mind. still, his voice comes unaffected, the low register baritone always on the brink of monotonous teasing. “forget your socks somewhere or just couldn’t find ‘em in the dark?”
location: engine room
it always fucking happens the same way.
first comes a clank, an unsteady noise from somewhere in the ship just loud enough to hear, the jangling of something falling out of place that’s incessant and noticeable, but low enough to ignore. so they do, pausing first to listen before shrugging, continuing their way down the halls, forgetting the moment they disappear into a different room. definitely not stopping by to tell their ship’s engineer, the thought not crossing the mind. of course, not until the clanking then becomes a screeching, the horrible sound of metal scraping against metal, which then becomes something far more sinister, something noticeable in the way the ship moves, the sounds it makes, or the way the air feels in it’s passengers lungs and only then; only when it becomes a pain in the ass to fix – does the news finally get back to leon.
his first response came in a look that was carefully blank, face straight and serious but eyes instantly tired, persistently annoyed. he lived on the last straw; a sigh, a slight nod, and a quick return to the engine room coming up short of the one part he needs to do the repair.
wash, rinse, repeat.
every fucking time.
the ship should be kissing his feet, a true saint at work.
he notes the sound of the heavy door opening and suspects who it might be; a thunder storm with the clouds heavy, the air thick. he feels the aura come off in waves. a pissed off 5′11″, gun-slinger with a bad attitude on a good day. kinda hot, kinda scary, really fucking annoying when he comes bearing bad news. yeah, leon doesn’t need force sensitivity to know when it’s salathiel, an upheld energy that is all his own.
he doesn’t turn immediately, neck craning in a stretch, the soft sound of bone popping as he does. “let me guess, we don’t have it and can’t find it?” he says, the deep grovel of his voice assisted with a sigh. “you know everyone on this ship’s lungs might collapse, but i’m sure the intergalactic duct tape will have to do again.”
ares is a wolf beneath his skin, a wolvern monstrosity with grinning shadows and sharpened teeth, the drive in him unlike anything most people have ever had to deal with, unlike anything most people have ever seen, the compartments of his ensemble pieced together in malicious, festering ways, bloodthirsty in essence, hungry from the core of him, out to all the seams and edges, and if anyone should know this, if anyone should understand to be wary of their steps and motions around him, it’s gael. he couldn’t count how many times the proto has arrived on his doorstep in mud and muck and human remains, the marrow of their bones still scenting his clothes, the narrowed danger clinging to his atmosphere like every kind of warning sign, something abhorrent, something writhing, something evil hovering above his head like a raincloud. and he never asks for forgiveness, he never exposes shame.
but for all the times gael has witnessed him like this, for all the turbulent advisories on ares, he still lets the proto press lips against flesh, slide into his bed, graze his touch under the fabric of his clothes, whisper words of longing and promise in his ear, still lets the proto cover him in lust, in lechery, in desperation, and ares has a theory that the mechanic likes it more than he lets on. he likes being wanted by a monster, he likes the razored edge of it, likes the peril, the havoc, the way ares could slaughter men and machines for miles, all blades and bullets and red, gleaming eyes, but here, in the downy softness of this human’s bedroom, he is only hands and lips and planes of synthetic skin aching to be touched. however nervous or uncomfortable it may sometimes make the human boy, ares suspects he enjoys that hazard far more than even he himself can admit to.Read More Now!Read More Now!
he melts under ares’ touch, arching, rutting, breathing into it, because it’s been so long, because he’s become so needy, and because ares is everything he wants, everything could think to ask for. he grips his fingers in his hair, trying to pull him impossibly closer because he wants more. his eyes squeezing shut at the grasp of ares’ fingers around his cock, the friction bringing a surprised noise from his throat, toning down into something deeper. he forces them back open, lips parted and eyes looking up into the protos face, not as much for the promise of intimacy as comfort, because despite the danger and despite the fact that ares isn’t someone known for dependability, isn’t known for his soft touches or tendency to love, he feels safe, and even if by some stances awkward or unsure, they disappear quickly, hips moving on their own accord, legs and knees tightening around the protos waist, pushing his groin out to meet his thrusts, to seek the friction.
he kisses him back with a desperation of his own, fingers knotted in his hair, pushing up to meet him with sounds like whines back in the back of his throat, body malleable, moving however ares leads him to, letting him do whatever he wants, push and pull whichever limbs he feels inclined to with no resistance, no more hesitation. he moves to pull at ares’ shirt, feeling underneath it to claw at his hard stomach, pulling back from the kiss just enough to say, “wanna see you,” while tugging at the fabric. of course, he’s seen ares without clothes before, laid out on a table for replacements or repairs, but it’s not the same, it’s not like this, and he wants to. his perception, his timing, is different, the atmosphere telling him that he’d see something different this time, that being able to touch him however he wants now will sate something in him, some curiosity, some floodgate that he’s been repressing for so long.
the sound of tearing grounds him for a second, a soft gasp at the feeling of air hitting his thighs, knees tightening further, and any complaint that might be on his tongue is cut by the harsher grind against his skin, the push of fabric and flesh against his cock, a flush building up his chest with a feeling that’s not entirely at ease nor painful, sharp pleasure shooting up through his stomach, nails digging down ares’ abdomen with the force of his thrusts, head almost hitting the wall as it nearly becomes too much, a heavy moan breaking out louder than intended, more throaty than he could control, breath fanning fast, and he can’t remember the last time he’d been so wound up, the last person to make him so submissive so quickly, so eager.
it dawns on him then that he doesn’t believe he’d ever wanted someone this bad, never ached so openly. ex-boyfriends couldn’t do this, soft touches and the prospect of ‘love making,’ what he thought he wanted never giving much more than what was in the moment, not thinking about it afterwards, not touching himself to it, and yet ares, crass and violent, violated his thoughts in his own regards, in his bed even when he’s alone. the slowing of his hips gives gael time to catch his breath, eyebrows drawn together, mouth slightly open with the heaving of his chest, the vibrations ringing through his bones, and he wants to touch ares, wants to feel him all over, wants him inside of him to the point where he almost feels ashamed of himself, almost embarrassed.
“i want it, i want you,” it’s weak and needy, head thrown back as his lip pulls from ares’ teeth, a wanton tone that’s dirty and harsh and sounds so unlike him. the slowed pace makes his own thrusts greedy, wanting more, faster, harder, and his body betrays him, revealing just how bad he wants it, how much he wants ares to take him, to fuck him against all other morals and careful behaviors, a little winding up all it takes to break him down, something he was sure he’d feel embarrassed about later but too lost in to care about now. he finds it all too easy to say whatever it is ares wants to hear, to agree with anything that passes his lips, and even so far as to find it true as he pressed deeper back into a kiss, legs shifting where they’re tied around ares’ waist as he says, “just you, only you.”
the glare ares shoots at vera could wither plants and set houses on fire, but luckily for her, she has no eyes to see it, only sensors to understand words and situations happening around her, but that doesn’t stop ares from his sneer, the darkening haze of his atmosphere sharpening to wishful thoughts about crushing her casing to smithereens, despite how attached gael is to her. at the moment, that’s the only thing that keeps ares in check, keeps him from catapulting across the room destroying the mouthy, sass-appliance that’s always acting like a thorn in his side, a prick in the conversation. ares wishes gael would either turn her off whenever he’s around, or move her to a different room, but it seems gael would rather her hovering presence for moments like these, when he needs backup for his confusing, nonsensical ideologies.
but then ares is focusing back on gael, pitch black eyes pinned to the human like knife blades through his lashes, his brow furrowed and lowered slightly, to increase his own incredulous stance and expression, to give the mechanic a hint of how ridiculous he’s being right now about this. sure, protos had personalities and some of them were even growing consciousnesses, but at the end of the day, at the heart of it all, each proto had been designed for something and it wasn’t anything they could hide from, anything they could shirk away from, ignore entirely, disregard; it’s not like they can be anything other than what they are, and what they really are, is machines, mechanical, iron and oil and rust and purpose, and gael isn’t doing them any favors by pretending otherwise.
but it’s not until the washing machine comment that ares truly begins to understand the depths of gael’s delusions regarding this, whether he believes in life and souls in a proto or not, his righteous indignation brimming to the surface in a way that coils ares’s features into a hint of a snarl, his head tilting animalistically, the anger coming to a simmering boil behind his irises. “gael, what the hell do you think i am? what do you think i’m made of?” it’s all nice and good to imagine sometimes that ares was created from flesh and bones, that he’s a match to the humanity plaguing the planet around them, mix with them, toy with them, engross himself in their problems and situations, but gael has seen the insides of ares’ body, seen the gears and circuit boards, the electricity running its current through his wiring; he can’t be this naive.
the proto side-steps away from echolas on the table, his eyes still stuck on the mechanic before him, all folded arms and misguided morals, and something dangerous uncoils inside his ribcage, a thunderstorm bolstering along the edges of his lungs, a darkness seeping out from the corners of his body. “i call him a washing machine because he was a hyperion scavenger, a cleaner, a bottom feeder, one of those shiny, pretty models they send out into the wilderness to destroy unregistered mongrels like me, steal the scraps from our bones, from our grasps, take the trash for themselves,” he takes another step, almost circling the human now, the way a wolvern would around prey, “and if i had been just another washing machine, or a toaster oven proto, or a glorified security system with arms and legs, it’d be me on that table, twitching and humming.”
a beat passes, ares’ words laced in poison, his eyes wide with intensity and finality, and he takes a step forward this time, a long stride, bringing their atmospheres to a tight crushing weight, as though gravity is being pressed down upon in this exact spot, and ares tries to keep his tone to a hinting growl but with each word, his frustration builds and his voice grows louder. “but i’m not a washing machine like him, i’m what you’d call a death trap; still a fancy gadget, but made from all the pieces and fragments of other protos i’ve fought, molded from guns and knives and weapons and supplies i took from them, stuff i had to take from them to survive, do you get it?! that’s how i was created, that’s what i was made for! i’m a war machine, gael! they stripped me of whatever purpose i may have had before and programmed me to aggression, so i’d fight and kill for them! you know this, you can’t get all sanctimonious on me now!”
for a moment, he has to hiss in air through clenched teeth, his eyes shifting down towards the broken proto in hatred, in disgust– of himself, of his lineage, of what humans themselves made him into, made all protos into, just so they could cross their arms and judge them for it. because it’s not like he’s ever had a choice in the matter, it’s not like he decided to be created this way, and it’s not as though he can ever change. he is a machine, and with his own words come a hopeless, itching realization, a question that suddenly flares to life inside his head: what the hell is he even doing here? why is he even explaining this to gael, to this human mechanic whose heart is bigger than his fucking brain? this is fucking pointless.
“shit. nevermind alright, i’ll just take it somewhere else, where i don’t have to put up with another human’s hypocritical, mushy bullshit.”
he burns at ares words, he sinks and smolders, resolve hardening and a hysteria rising in his throat, an indigence. he feels hot all at once, a bubbling anger and frustration so strong he feels it pricking at the back of his eyes, welling in his chest and face, and while he hates that it’s bringing him to tears, hates that his bodies betraying him and proving ares’ comments, hates that he’s so soft and so human, so visibly weak, it somehow also strengthens the argument in him, face drawing together. he tries to keep a tremble out of his voice, a noise of opposition in his throat. “don’t you dare call me a hypocrite when i do everything you ask me to and i never ask for anything back except for just a sliver of respect! don’t you dare talk down to me like that!”
his hands shake a little, a quiver in his expression as he tries to stand his ground against the glare, the intensity of ares’ face, ignoring the instant shock of fear he feels at being circled and ridiculed, calmed by only his trust, no matter how misplaced, in the fact that ares wouldn’t really hurt him no matter how angry he makes him. he believes it because he needs it to be true, because his trust in ares is one of the only things that keeps him from being lonely, from feeling empty when all other things come to pass and fall to shit. it’s not consistent nor is it something that he feels promised to on a day to day basis, but when he has it, he holds onto it, relishes it, and right now, he hopes that it holds, he tells himself he’s safe, and more so, that ares is wrong.
"i know very well what you are, ares, i know what you’re made of, i’m not saying you’re a human because you’re not. i know the inside of you better than the back of my hand, i know you aren’t human, but what makes me different is that i don’t think you being a proto is an excuse for anything.” he says with difficultly, building distress coming clear, almost impossible to hide as he was never someone well versed in hiding his emotions, something ares was good at taking advantage of, skilled at ripping out of him in all forms.
in one part, he’s angry, he’s furious and bitter at ares’ comments, but the bigger part of him is just upset. he’s hurt, brain reeling at the way he’s being spoken to, like a child, like he’s replaceable and ignorant, like his lack of arrogance makes him small. it stings, the realization that comes with how little ares actually understands him, how little he respects him and his wishes. he feels used, of course, the threat to storm off hanging in the air, the stab of pain that comes with ares’ insistence of going somewhere else, of leaving him so easily.
“you know how i see you, you know how i feel, and if you don’t like it then why are you here? why do you keep coming back? you’re the hypocrite, not me, you’re fine with me seeing you as a person and treating you like one when it’s convenient for you, when i’m telling you i miss you and that i care for you – it’s okay for you to be treated like a person until its time for you to take responsibility for yourself! you’re the one doing this! you think you can’t help yourself, you think you’re doomed, and i think you aren’t, i care about you and you know i do, and i’m not going to apologize for that! if you don’t want that then leave! if you want a mechanic who doesn’t give a shit about you then feel free to go find them, because i’m not gunna treat you like just a fucking machine no matter how much you think i should, i just wont. don’t act like this is new!"
“if you really think that way, and you’re just a deathtrap and you’re just here because you’re too lazy to find someone else then, yeah, go ahead, get out of my shop, but just stop messing with me if you do! stop coming over and having fun poking around at all the human parts of me you like and getting mad at me for the parts you don’t!” his voice isn’t even nor is low, raising to full hysteria, choked tears beginning to break through, face red in a way that’s familiar but different, not a blush but a deterrence. “have someone else bring you back from the dead and clean your systems and sit up for forty eight hours to fix the damages you get from picking fights in the wasteland and crawl into their bed at night, see if they’ll let you, see if anyone will do half the things i do for you.” he chokes on it, shoulders shaking and face wet, resolve weakening by the second, voice suddenly hollow and tired and pained, “you don’t get to treat me like i’m replaceable.”
and then it’s over, defiant and breathless, he pulls himself out of it slowly, starting with his lungs and then reaching to his face, closed off and hurt, because ares isn’t going to get it no matter how much he repeats himself, because ares doesn’t understand, and because, above all, it seems that ares really doesn’t care.
he sucks in a breath, turning his back on the proto, hands pressing to his work desk and his head down, chest heaving and a palm coming to wipe across his face harshly, trying to collect himself, trying to redeem his breakdown as quickly as it happened, voice still cracked and angry, but worn out, shoulders still shaking slightly. “if you’re staying, i’m just asking you already bring me things that are already terminated by the time they get in here, and if you’re leaving then just get out and take that with you. and don’t come back tonight.”
kitts arrives at the home of gael’s father right on the dot that they’d previously set. when it comes to punctuality, she’s usually settled on the midway point of caring and not caring whether she makes it on time to something, having spent more than enough of her life living on someone else’s clock. today falls under the realm of the former because of who it is and she’d had no hesitation clearing her schedule specifically so she wouldn’t have to worry about leaving too early.
“dad… isn’t doing so well…”
when first told about the man’s failing mental health and his growing preference towards booze, words hadn’t been capable of expressing what she’d felt. they still aren’t. she’s thought over it repeatedly, near endlessly since, and can’t find a single one in her vocabulary that seems to encompass it all clearly. she’s known gael’s father since she was a child, remembers him guiding her and gael in tandem through inner mechanical workings and wires just as her own father had, how he’d helped her get her job at hyperion after her parents died, helped give her something to focus on that wasn’t grief. he’d given her the smallest boost in getting her shop off the ground too, stuck his neck out by pointing some clients in her direction. she’d happily repaid him with a flourishing business, not failing to meet his expectations of her.
how does she describe the hollow ache in her chest cavity born of concern and worry and sadness over the failing health of a man who’s like a second father to her, over the man who’s more brother than friend and has to shoulder the pain of it all?
“you haven’t been waiting too long i hope,” kitts muses when she reaches where gael currently waits for her just a few feet from his father’s house. she’d question about arriving late but she knows she’s not, having checked her watch just moments before. she places a hand on gael’s shoulder, gaze flicking to the door of his father’s home, “ready?” she questions softly, long since having resolved to be a steady strength for him however she can.
his hands are tense, palms pressed clear with the crescent shapes of his nails, lips red from being bitten and chewed on in his wait, his anxiety seeping easily through his skin. he looks as bad as he feels and he knows it, the faintest purple tainting under his eyes, flushed paler than usual. he’d been sleeping less, the nightmares worse with the escalation of his father’s condition, a stomach churning realization after the last time he saw him, because not only is he sick, but he’s aware of it, and choosing to greet his illness and failing well-being with the bottom of bottles and unwashed skin and clothes.
gael’s afraid he’s dying, or perhaps in his own sense, already dead.
he showed up early, too early considering he refused to go in alone – considering that he couldn’t. he paced outside the home that was his own for years and looked at it as if a stranger, face drawn dark and nervous, lines between his furrowed eyebrows likely imprinting permanently in his skin at the age of twenty three, constant vigilance tainted with fear and wonder, heartbreak and disaster, sandstorms and barriers – he’s afraid of losing the only blood he has. he knows those things only go skin deep, dna and punnet squares, dark hair and brown eyes, and he always voices as such, knows he should be glad to have even gotten two decades of having a father but watching him deteriorate feels like two more of it’s own and in a way that’s entirely unfamiliar. yes, heartbreak.
he waits for kitts and he’s so happy he has her, he’s so glad she exists and that she cares, that he had someone to grow up beside. she is the only person who can relate to how he feels about his father, the next relative that he’s closest to in his own way, and he knows that with her, even if only by a fraction, this will all be much easier. a support system, a friend, a sister, but for the first time when he sees her approaching – he feels dread.
not of her, of course, but of what her arrival means, where it leads from where he stands. still, he tries to smile but even he knows it doesn’t reach his eyes, weary and weak, his hands fidgeting and disposition heavy and damp like a rain cloud, shocks of lightning without thunder; his turmoil doesn’t make a sound. he shrugs at her first comment, not wanting to admit he’d been standing there for an hour nor wanting to lie before sucking in a deep breath, turning towards the door, and releasing it. “as ready as i’ll ever be.”
He’s stumbling through some nameless back alley street on the outskirts of the city, of society, obscured behind some ramshackle building that doesn’t have a name. The virus infecting his circuits is affecting his sense of balance, and he’s dragging himself forward, supporting his weight against the crumbling stone walls. The homeless don’t give him any mind, sitting by their respective fires and makeshift beds fashioned from the scraps that they scavenged from trash thrown out by the city’s (relatively) middle-class. Who can blame them? It’s about survival, and if there’s anything living on the streets teaches you, it’s to turn a blind eye towards anything that doesn’t affect you.
He doesn’t remember how he made it this far and the static that was in his ears is replaced by nothing, recognizes the possibility of complete auditory center shutdown but remains unfazed. Maybe if he was human he’d care a little bit more about the fact that, for all intents and purposes, he’s now deaf and also happens to be missing half of his right arm, but he’s not human and protos aren’t generally programmed to instinctively gravitate towards self-preservation.
Instead, they’re programmed to pursue a purpose, an end goal, through whatever means necessary and with complete disregard for personal cost.
He stops momentarily at the mouth of the alley, a split second that somehow seems to stretch on forever, tugging off the helmet he wears as part of his standard military-issue full-body armor, titanium producing a dull thud when it collides with the citadel’s steel floors. Synthetic eyes remain glued to the towering structure sticking out of the city center and into the sky, a monument to both human capability and human greed in its own fucking right.
He grits his teeth at the sight.
He’s snapped out of his little reverie by the WARNING! signs flashing before his eyes, vision tinted red, pace quickening as he follows directions supplied by an internal positioning system.
Gael. Gael. Gael.
“Find Gael, his name should be in the system, he’ll help you. Now go. Go!”
- WARNING! VIRUS INFECTION AT 87%! IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY SYSTEM REPAIRS ADVISED! COMPLETE SYSTEM SHUTDOWN IMMINENT!
- THREAT DETECTED! REASONING CENTER HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE TO VIRAL CORRUPTION!
There’s a click, inaudible to the human ear as he releases the latch to the 28A steel blade designed into his left forearm; it snaps open, similar to a switchblade except much longer and much, much sharper, and in one fluid motion makes a shallow, clean cut across his nape, slicing through the three cables leading up into his ‘brain’.
He feels no pain. After all, designing a killbot to feel pain would be rather counterintuitive, no?
A single thought occupied the confines of his artificial consciousness even as he dragged himself forward the rest of the way, even as he banged his fist against the doors to gael’s garage, once, then twice before he simply forces them open, the mechanism of the lock snapping like a twig under the strain.
I can’t forget. I can’t forget.
He remembers everything so clearly.
He barely makes it a step inside before collapsing.
it’s hot like panic, erratic like fear – he is forever the proto equivalent to an emergency room doctor, with hurried healing and fatal breakage.
the face through his door isn’t familiar, the torn up machinery and missing pieces absurdly plentiful and battered, a machine of chaos and destruction falling onto his floor in a heap. for a moment he freezes, a wide-eyed panic shooting through his limbs and mind, alarms ringing in his ears. it’s late, he should be sleeping, he should be undisturbed, but the nightmares kept him awake, kept him alert, only to be greeted with the same hungry jolts of fear in the real world with the pile of damage, the appearance of hopelessness. he should be used to this, it shouldn’t stutter his already broken heartstrings anymore, not after the countless times he’d witnessed such similar occurrences, but he finds it difficult to get used to such carnage, such violence.
he snaps himself out of it, tries to convert his mind, switches into work mode, into lifesaving mode. he swallows his emotions, his feelings. there’s no place for anxiety here, no room for uncertainty.
as he shoves his gloves on his hands, the ones that prevent him from getting electrocuted, the ones that stop him from feeling their burden, he’s reminded of bringing protos back from the dead. it unnerves him, the image in front of him so jarring and yet it feels familiar, something like déjà vu. he isn’t a savior, he doesn’t play god in a traditional sense, but he feels like he walks the line of life and death far too often, both doubtful and indispensable.
he leans over the proto and takes inventory of all visible lacerations and open wounds, wires and hardware splintered, his neck and the disaster that lays there with tightly knit eyebrows and a frown carved into his features. he presses into the protos side to roll him over, to see his face, his awareness, take stock of his consciousness. the eyes that greet him are red and there’s another sharp sting of fear, the knowledge of what those mean on different builds, what they could translate into, but he remembers the neck, the severed wires. even if he was dangerous, he couldn’t do anything to gael now, not without his bodily functions.
he continues to looks for damages, not giving the eyes a second glance as he zeros in, trying to focus, to shake the exhaustion hanging onto him, the sleep deprivation giving way to attentiveness and quick thinking. yet his friends still wonder why he’s always so stressed, on the clock twenty-four hours a day, he’s barely human himself anymore.
he speaks directly to the proto, eyes shifting over the rest of his body, unsure if he still has the available brain capacity to speak as he hadn’t gotten quite that far in his assessment yet. there wasn’t time for his usual greetings, smiles and handshakes, he was too tired and it was too urgent for any sense of formalities. he spoke quickly but clearly, hands picking up different limbs, scanning, thinking, planning.
“if you can speak tell me who you are and what happened to you.”
ares feels gael wrap himself around the proto and the war machine seeps down further against him, aligning their bodies like paths of water in the same river, melting together, molding together, swirling and tilting and coiling together until there is no air, there is no space, there is no sound except the thudding of their heartbeats, both half-human, half-machine, pressed up against each other in the impossibility of ares’ defection, knocking on the other’s ribcages, but the throbbing is nothing comparatively to the rest of his body. gael smells like sleep, like warmth, like skin and sweat and small smudges of oil, iron like a proto himself, but he tastes like silk, tastes like tulle, tastes like weakness, the malleable haze of his thready consciousness edging him on the point of willing.
feeling gael rise up against his hips, their pelvises meeting and clashing slightly, carefully, in that oh-so-gael way, that timid, shy, adorable hesitation braided through everything he does, causes electricity, causes lightning, causes blaze and energy to spark through ares’ veins, the idea of ruining him delicious and burning on all the corners of him, kindling to a flame with every second spent in his arms, listening to his breath quickening, his sheets rustling, his bed creaking. ares’ hands begin to roam slightly, curling around the human like snakes, like ropes, like cages, strong and wide enough to sear his brand into gael’s flesh, every sensor ringing and alert, soaking up all the tiny details of gael’s body he’s not always allowed to touch, not always allowed to experience, his fingers and knuckles almost desperately coursing across the lines of his torso, his shoulders, his hips, his legs, unhurried, measured, memorizing.
he’s such a tease, ares is convinced, so goddamn tempting and so goddamn frustrating, his fingers lacing through the proto’s hair like tantalizing tendrils, the way he pulls on him, the way he presses their mouths together; everything is a persuasion, everything is sweet and hot and aching, a fun little game ares dies to play, begs for more of with every glance and word that tumbles between them in the daytime world, every touch, minor or grasping that gael is constantly rejecting whenever they are around anyone else. he closes his eyes against gael’s lips, forces his own down a bit further, angling his jaw slightly to deepen the kiss and coax gael into opening his mouth wider– he wonders how much gael is willing to take, how much he’s willing to swallow, and dips his tongue down into the heat between his teeth, licking slowly as he draws back. he eventually lets gael relax down into his pillow, the soft, demure grin like starlight gleaming between cloud cover, something luminescent, something precious, something that doesn’t belong to ares or to this workshop or to this planet.
gael melts into the touches like candle wax, liquid and shifting and hardening all the same, breathy gasps and lingerings fingertips. he dares to explore more than he wants explored on himself; dipping under ares’ shirt, over the hard plane of stomach and abs, perfectly sculpted just how he was always intended to be, lower to his pelvis, his hips, where his grasp tightens, as if to somehow pull him closer.
his perfection is daunting, it makes him self conscious, it makes him want to hide all the fleshy, soft, human parts of himself; the imperfections that came with being born and not made, of not spending as much time on himself as others. he remained hidden away in clothes, nervous at too much attention, his bodies natural instinct to cover his stomach and shoulders and thighs despite knowing there’s nothing particularly wrong with them. perhaps the days spent staring at bodies and figures designed and made to be perfect had penetrated his psyche, but of course, how could it not? slim builds and hardened muscles, curves and edges, all statures he felt he couldn’t compete with, and yet he prevented himself from hiding by busying his hands, his arms, trailing them over ares in his entirety, finding all the stretches of silicon skin he can, hardly bothering with the boundaries of clothes except for where they hug too tightly.
he knew ares’ body like he knew like his own, inside and out from hours and days and weeks of fixing him, repairing him, advancing him. he was familiar with it in a way that was purely medical with the exception of the occasional kisses, crawling into his bed like tonight, the unfamiliar wandering of hands, usually almost innocent, but this night was different. it was intimate, it was intense, and it was unwaveringly sexual, and as he became more aware of the situation, more awake and alert to the friction and the taste, the more nervous he felt himself get, the more desperately he clung as if he was afraid of being rejected at any moment.
he wanted it, he knew that much without a doubt, and suddenly his hesitation had less to do with morals and more to do with nerves, with inexperience and embarrassment, because no one had touched him in years while he knew ares could be only hours from his last conquest. it plagued him, his own motions becoming slightly less aggressive, more slow and lagged, almost mechanical for the stiffest of moments as he presses his lips back to ares’, a returning share of his tongue, a mental precession of more, more, more. a part of his mind tells him to take what he can get, to grasp and pull and to allow him to do the same, and the other warns him to stop, to hold onto his pride. he finds himself more inclined to the latter.
when ares grinds down a soft noise leaves gael’s lips, surprised and desperate and needy and oh-so responsive, so sensitive to every touch from being deprived for too long. his body responds by trying to chase the feeling, brain foggy with want and pleasure, his senses overloading as his hips move to press back, to get more friction, more attention.
something in ares’ word choice sends a thrill through gael’s body, his fingers tightening, his lip pulling between his own teeth before escaping just as quickly. it almost sounds challenging, it almost feels akin to a wave of fear, a churning feeling in his stomach as the danger of the entire situation dawns on him, shocking and sharp, and he just as quickly finds that he likes it. his hips widen only slightly more, knees loose around the proto’s, fingers trailing up his sides, under his shirt, before starting on their way back down.
the sensation of ares untying his pants makes him freeze entirely for a short moment, the anxiety taking over, his whole body frigid, his own inexperience mocking him, the nerves of someone seeing him naked for the first time, all rising to the surface slowly. his expression blanks for a beat, a hesitation, before he breathes out, slow and careful, hands moving once again to cling to ares’ waistband, to press his human palm to the front of ares’ own pants, to feel the proof that he wants him too, how hard he is against his palm. he blinks up slowly, eyes half-lidded, blown with equal parts nerves and lust, back arching up slightly, hips raising to give ares better access to the tie, to his body, to him.
“show me you missed me too.”
life, as humans understand it, is a very interesting, intricate idea for ares– the term printed and defined on paper as the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death, but there’s something else about life that humans deem necessary for objects to receive such an amendment; that of the soul as well, something even stickier, even heavier, even more brutal than the simple mechanics of operation. he’s heard it before, the arguments for and against protos having souls and thereby their abilities for housing true life, whether it is real or fabrication, whether the synthetic turmoil inside their gears and grains attain the bare minimum for the established rules on the subject, despite being able to perform all the necessary physicalities of living. from the data he’s gathered so far, he’s come to the understanding that the term is no more a real construct than that or morality, that it means something different to different people, and that most of them are batshit fucking crazy anyway.
he’s aware of the distinct divergence between his and gael’s ideas of life, aware that gael feels more than him, not directly because he’s human and ares is a machine, but also something very singular inside gael himself that distinguishes him from other humans as well; gael cares so damn deeply for everything around him, ares sometimes wonders if he’s named and deemed his own appliances as pets. he already talks to a bot all the time as it is whenever ares isn’t around, and he knows the mechanic has other protos he works on as well, caring for them with the same amount of support and attentiveness as he would for ares ( possibly even more depending on whether ares is being particularly annoying that day ).
and usually it’s amusing enough of an attribute for ares to either dismiss or overlook when he has to, a flaw in the boy’s system, a weakness of his mentality, the harbinger foreshadowing to what will certainly be only sorrow and agony in the near future, a characteristic ares finds just as frustrating as he does fascinating. it colors gael uniquely soft and succulent in a world dry and bitter, torrid surroundings to the mechanic with velvet skin and a careful demeanor, piques ares’ interest unshakably, enthralls him enough to return time and time again despite their differences.
their differences which are usually always highlighted in moments like these, when ares doesn’t compute what gael finds so obvious, or visa versa, the discoloration of the human’s face completely lost on the proto, his expression surprised a bit but yet undaunted, his shoulders shrugging, his eyes shifting between gael and the impediment he’d taken care of earlier. “i’ve brought you stuff before, what’s the big deal?” suddenly this is an issue? it’s not immobile yet? is that how gael assumes sentience, by whether or not it twists, whether or not it whirls, quiet motors humming their last notes– this is how gael determines life?
“it’s just a couple of gears there in the headpiece, look–” he balls his fingers and smashes his fist down onto the face of the proto once named echolas, trying to get the rigs and wind-ups inside it to calm and grind to a halt, but it takes two, three, four more hits for it to finally stop making so much noise, albeit something in the arm is still twitching– hopefully gael can’t see that bit though. don’t want him to start crying or anything like that. “see? it’s just like a malfunctioning washing machine.” his voice is clear and even-toned, unashamed and unabashed by his actions or what he’s brought to the mechanic; it’s a good find and he needs gael’s help. “i need the parts off it, i can make better use of them than he could.”
he was appalled, and his expression showed as such, a sort of twist of shock and disdain on his usually so soft features, eyebrows pinched, lips slightly ajar, stance frozen. his eyes didn’t leave ares’ face for a long moment, an aura of discomfort that he was sure wasn’t effecting ares at all, the absolute sociopath he tended to be.
“actually, protos, unlike humans, are much less likely to remain moving or functioning without some semblance of energy running through their brain centers. it works similarly to how blood remains much more central around the human heart.” vera crackles from her speaker and gael gestures a hand in her direction for emphasis. he feels grateful for the help in the moment, an almost wordlessness overtaking him, even with the feeling that her stepping in had less to do with helping him and more to do with her blatant distaste for ares. either way, he takes the assistance as it comes.
“you realize this is a shop to fix broken protos right? to fix them and not break them further when at all possible?” he says, running his hands through his usually well-kept hair and leaving something of a distressed look in it’s trail, a wildly dissatisfied disposition, an expression of almost pain. he wants so badly for ares to understand him, to see what was wrong in the situation, to know the difference. if ares brought things that were already immobile, gael could pretend that ares had simply found them in the wasteland, that gael himself was still virtuous in doing what ares asked with the ruined machines – but if they showed up moving, alive, then gael couldn’t ignore it, then he could feel the guilt seeping into him.
he could feel how wrong he was in assisting in the things ares did against all gaels morals.
he feels the cold drop in his stomach as he witnesses the rather brutal assault, cringing away from it, flinching at the display of both violence and strength. “ares, stop it, what the fuck!” his voice barely raises above it’s normal volume, more hysterical than angry with the use of vulgarity that is the most uncommon from gael’s lips, a usual avoidance of foul language at any cost. it was a slip, unintentional, but the best possible descriptor for the sensation that came with ares’ actions. he was disturbed by it, frustrated.
he takes a moment, eyes closed, a deep breath, a clear tension in his face and body, attempting to wind himself down as if speaking to a child. he tries not to let himself get upset, eyes slowly reopening and focusing on ares, arms crossing over his chest. he feels ages older than his twenty-three years in that moment, trying to convince himself not to get more agitated than he already was, not to lose his temper.
“a malfunctioning washing machine? is that what you think? ares, what do you think you are then? are you a washing machine too? i do a lot of work on you, way more than i’d ever do on a washing machine, so just let me know now so i can fix your spin cycle and send you on your way.” he says, almost insulted at the connotation, not quite sure if he’s more upset about the living aspect or the work that went into poor echolas, though he supposes it’s a good mixture of both. he can sense himself getting abrasive, feel the heat rising to his face both angry and sad, bottom lip subconsciously jutting out subtly in almost a pout despite his serious tone and disposition.
he sighs, almost exasperated, his stance defensive but loosening slightly, his more rational side trying to calm him down, his weight shifting from one leg to the other before he finally decides to explain, to attempt righteousness. “i don’t like seeing how you get the protos you bring me. i already know, yeah, i like to think i’m pretty smart, but i’m not really a fan of being a part of this… mutilation while they’re still moving in my shop.”
kitts remains hunched over the proto as gael pulls away, eyes scanning over the repairs they’ve made, checking and double-checking to be sure nothing is loose or placed in the wrong spot. it’s simply her being somewhat anal rather than her doubting either of their abilities. they work in sync, two parts of one whole, when it comes to their work and she’s always confident that everything they do together will be successful no matter what bumps in the road may arise.
“is that you subtly admitting you doubted me about that?” kitts asks, a tinge of amusement in her voice as she finally straightens up, back popping some in protest of the singular position she’d kept for so long. as she stretches out, the kinks in her muscles, she observes him, remembering back to when those dimples were accompanied by a smile that held a missing tooth. she’s known him for so long and she considers him as much a brother to her as boone is, one of very few that she trusts and cares for dearly. she wipes away the sweat from her forehead with cotton band on her wrist and offers him a smile, one that’s soft and warm, “we learned together, gael. you’re as good as i am. how else did we accomplish patching him up today, hm?”
her gaze falls to the proto in front of them then, brows creasing slightly as her mind re-creates the image of the shambles he’d been in when she’d first come over. she could theorize all day over how he’d wound up in such a condition but none of the reasons matter now. he’s on his way to recovery and that’s what counts the most. “why don’t we take a break for a few and we’ll come back and finish up? i’ve got nothing pressing that needs my attention back at the shop unless you have other plans?”
“me? doubt you? impossible. i’ll never forget the amount of times you’ve entirely saved me from my own disasters, without you correcting me half my life i’d probably be the least reputable mechanic in all of fyrestone.” he countered with a laugh, only partially joking. her corrections throughout the years had definitely made him a better worker, but he knew the sentiment was mutual, at least in some sense, as they had, just as she said, learned together. he was grateful for that, especially considering how much her teaching methods and his father’s differed. it was good to have multiple sources, more eyes to look over predicaments, even if the latter pair were becoming less and less helpful these days.
he looked up at the clock on the wall, nodding at the time and pausing to think over his schedule, his appointments. “uh, yeah i think that should be fine. no one’s supposed to come in for a few hours still and i can close down walk ins for about a couple without it being a problem.” his face cracked into something of a smile. “i really hope there aren’t any emergencies around here because this neighborhood is down two mechanics for the moment.” he was mostly kidding, the ring in his voice showing that above all else, but he did have a short, sharp sting of anxiety over the idea. he worried about his patients, the times they come in seemingly beyond repair and make him do the impossible, always concerned he wouldn’t be able to help. it took a toll on his mental health, surely, but if it wasn’t his patients it was something else, consistently, often irrationally, stressed out.
most people call this workaholism, he just calls it necessity.
“what do you have in mind? please don’t say drinks, last time was embarrassing and i really don’t need a repeat.”
surprisingly, zachary’s interest remains on the same steady level, his attention not wavering a moment as the other male speaks, even when gael talks of things that he didn’t actually intend to learn about. mostly because it’s information he’s never been given before, and zachary has never considered learning something new a waste of time. at least not something new that could come in useful in the future. he’s not about to learn the holy art of painting one’s face like the women do, but being taught more about the specifics of proto programming, now that is a treat he will enjoy.
so he listens to gael, truly listens more so than faking his attention, and he finds himself nodding out of understanding automatically, his noises of agreement coming of their own accord. and as gael proceeds to talk, the mechanic becomes more dynamic as well, more relaxed and more interested in his own story, and suddenly they’re no longer mostly strangers talking in a bar, they’re having a conversation. even if gael’s currently doing all the talking, zachary’s just as much an active part, listening intentively and showing it in not just his responses, but also the way he’s leaned in a bit closer, his hand still on his glass but no sip having been taken for a while now in order to be able to catch everything being said to him.
when eventually gael replies to his final question, theorising on how it would be that these protos develop a conscious, a sentience of sorts, zachary straightens up ever so slightly again, eyebrows drawing together a bit as he considers the way the mechanic’s explaining it. “you’re saying,” he eventually states when it appears the other male has finished for now. “that we’ve built them to react off of us, off of everything they see, in such human ways that we’ve actually programmed them to think of themselves as individuals in the end.” he pauses for a moment, thinking, then finally does take a sip from his ale again before deciding to voice out his other thoughts.
“meaning that even this so-called personality they create is mere programming? their outrage at being made to obey orders nothing more than another part of the story put into them? you’re saying if we were to wipe these protos memories, so to speak, they would go back to just being robots and nothing more?” he finds himself feeling disappointed somehow as he says that, finds himself thinking of the protos he knows, the ones with really distinctive personalities, the ones seemingly built to be as human as they can get, and for a split second, he finds himself feeling empathy for them.
then the moment passes and he lets out a hum.
“an easily fixable problem, then,” he decides, considering how the hyperions must look at it like that. “as long as one notices the defiance on time, as long as one manages to switch off the proto before it goes off on its own to do whatever it is it thinks it’s required to do to retaliate.”
“you’re misunderstanding me.” his words come hesitantly, a moment of thought, of evaluation. “they were never made to think of themselves as individuals, not made to have feelings or personalities, in fact, it’s the opposite. they aren’t supposed to be upset or angry, hyperion..” he trails off, or more so, cuts himself off. even despite the neutral territory of the oil rig, the protection it provides, politics is a touchy conversation, a dangerous topic to discuss publicly. especially when he reminds himself that he technically works for them. “well, builders,” he corrects, “designers, they want protos to only be machines, seemingly thoughtful yet emotionless. it’s more black and white, they weren’t supposed to mimic us as much as cater to us, just how to respond to what we, as humans, do and don’t like. don’t forget, they were made to do all the labor humans don’t want to do, so why would they take the chance of the androids forming the same opinions?”
he gives that a moment to settle, another sip of his drink, trying to stop himself from pulling a face at the taste. he was never a fan of alcohol in general, ale very much included. “they developed that ability on their own using the technology we inadvertently gave them. it’s as if we gave them a gun with the safety on and purposely never taught them how to turn it off. they could hold it, point it, look and sound as if they’re going to fire but they can’t actually shoot it. we narrowed their scope by deprivation, however, they somehow learned to turn that safety off and now they can shoot, they’ve unlocked their own full capabilities by watching us, interacting with us.”
he shifts in his seat slightly, eyebrows knitting at one of zachary’s statements, mind latching onto it tightly. “that’s objective, more of a comment on all living creatures than just protos. if you wiped all my memories, or even your own, would we be the same people? nature versus nurture sort of scenario. we’d still be sentient, we just wouldn’t know what sentience really is, what our own definition of sentience really is, and it’s more or less the same situation with the protos. just because they forget how to fire the gun doesn’t mean the safety is back on.” the analogy suits the conversation, best expresses his ideas even despite his hatred of the weapon of choice. “as far as if it’s even possible to turn that safety back on… well, admittedly, i don’t know. i’ve never tried.”
he pauses again, short with a slow nod, a comprehension before finally addressing the final statement zach made, lips pursing slightly as it made something in him almost sour, his wording of choice striking something odd. “that’s… well, that’s definitely not a solution. restarting or shutting them down doesn’t corrupt any part of them mentally, at least not if it’s done correctly. i’ve brought a few protos back from complete catastrophic shutdowns a few times… one in particular a multitude actually, and somehow, he’s still okay.” he shrugs, a bit of a roll of his eyes accompanied with a small laugh. “well, that’s actually subjective. i think he’s fine, but others beg to differ. he’s the same as he was when i found him, is my point.” he doesn’t know if zach knows ares, assumes he doesn’t, and tells the joke just for himself anyways, his own break of amusement in such a complex conversation.
“i’m sure there’s ways to block off the parts of them that are in control, but i’m an optimist. a philanthropist of sorts. i think damage can be undone, and there would be ways to get them back even in the worse case scenario. i’ve seen protos recover from some serious disasters.”
Send ‘’🍺‘’ + a question and my muse will answer it while they’re drunk – accepting
“you mean like… socially, right? and not like…” he gives something of an expression, eyebrows raised, as if to insinuate what he means without saying it. “i’m gunna go social, yeah? like things i like in people and things i don’t.” he says definitively, not giving it much of a second thought. “i like people who are honest, and up front so to speak, kinda direct. i don’t like secret intentions and playing games and that kinda stuff, i’d rather just know off the bat than have to guess at what someone wants from me.” he starts almost slowly and thoughtfully, as if he were attempting to sober up to really answer the question. “i like… people who are funny and can make me laugh in general, even if it’s at my expense, i don’t really mind. i get teased a lot by my friends so i’ve gotten pretty comfortable with that sort of thing as long as it isn’t really meant to be hurtful.”
he pauses with a slight hum, trying to choose words carefully. “i don’t like… thoughtlessness, like people who don’t take others into consideration, or more so, those who do things to purposely negatively effect other people.” he continues, almost frowning. “you see i would say it’s easy, and that i just like people who are morally fair, y’know, like good guys so to speak, but i guess that isn’t entirely true. it’s all subjective and it overlaps a lot, which, even saying that i’m kinda making excuses aren’t i?” he admits with something of a weak laugh.
“i guess… i’m at the point where i want to surround myself with people who make me happy, regardless their, like, decisions or moral fiber, which… i don’t entirely know how i feel about that, but… it is what is it, i suppose.”