Transmigration 9: Brave New Worlds

Pan-fandom, SciFi, and Screwed-Up


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Perfection is in the mind that makes mistakes [Open] [Bendytimed after SHODAN]
Atom: oh no
tetsuwan_atom wrote in trans_9
The Vatican was empty now of the sounds of fighting, but one didn't have to look hard to spot reminders of SHODAN's attack on the ship. Laser burns here, a crumbled section of wall there, a bloodstain...

Atom wandered over the grounds, collecting pieces of the ruined droidekas and other robots that had attacked the crew, carefully piling the larger shells up in one corner and placing the smaller pieces into a large bag he'd found. It was all he had, really, to store them in. He faltered briefly when his fingers found a shattered eyepiece or the blasted remains of a CPU, but he continued onward anyway. It was like sifting through the bodies of the fallen, which was something he tried not to dwell on too long. Someone had to clean this place up, and with all the damage, likely people would want to reuse the old robot parts. And another crew member... well, they wouldn't be anywhere near as delicate with the broken robots as he was.

But he still felt like a vulture. Or a grave robber, maybe, scouring the battlefield for body parts that were still fairly intact, still had use. Still had value.

And in the end, wasn't that all the people around him cared about? He'd seen the way the crew had reacted when the robots had first appeared: shattering their frames with abandon, killing them without a thought. To them, no doubt, robots were just soulless, malfunctioning machines -- maybe even monsters. Certainly nothing to be mourned, nothing worthy of sympathy.

He found a small, slender piece of metal and plastic on the ground and recognized it instantly for what it was. A memory chip, simplistic in design, no doubt from one of the fallen droids. For a moment, Atom held it in his small hand, curling his fingers over it, feeling the grooves along its otherwise smooth surface. Then he unzipped his hoodie slightly, revealing a small indentation near the center of his chest. He inserted the chip carefully into the reader there, closing his eyes and holding one hand over his chest as he did so, as if feeling the beating of his own heart.

The droids were simple robots, built for battle. They'd been designed and programmed to kill people designated as enemies, to hurt them, so it hadn't been hard for SHODAN to simply designate all humans as targets. Atom could only struggle to understand why this had been allowed to happen. In his world, robots helped humans -- they were construction workers, designers, policemen, travel agents, teachers. They were people. Programming them to kill was a crime. And why? Why create something whose only purpose was to kill?

But that was the crux of it, wasn't it? Robots were limited by their programming; if someone programmed them to kill, they had no choice but to do so, regardless of what they might actually want. Only advanced robots could, perhaps, be said to be capable of overriding that programming. And the most advanced robots of all, the ones closest to being human...

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Atom wasn't the only one coming back to the wreckage. Cedric was here to pick up some of the things he'd left behind during his stay, stepping over pieces and worrying about parts of the battle that had spiraled out of control. He'd been nearly useless and it scared him...

...yet here his savior was, looking even worse for the wear. Cedric debated talking to him. Sometimes a person with that face just wanted to be left alone, but there was a chance...

"Hey. Do you need a hand?"

Atom started slightly at the sound of Cedric's voice. It was a strangely human trait -- but then, he had been designed to be human. Or at least to act as human as possible.

He smiled a little on instinct; his automatic response was to comfort people who were upset or hurt, minimize whatever was bothering him. "That's okay. I'm just cleaning up. How are you doing? Did your magic all come back?"

Cedric was hurt, but only physically. Human skin was fragile like that, and all the visible skin under his sleeves was bandaged. The slice above his eye was lovely too.

Atom seemed alright, but he wondered. Cedric knelt down to help lift stray pieces, careful not to cut himself further.

"It's restored. It just scared me for a while, knowing how useless I was. I could hardly do anything but run and hide. What about you?"

Atom frowned as he looked over the bandages and Cedric's cut. He looked pretty beat up.

"Hey, watch out if you're going to do that. There's some stuff that still has a charge." Always looking out for human safety, that was Atom.

"I'm okay. I didn't get my abilities taken away from me like a bunch of the rest of the crew. I'm sorry you were so scared."

"I wasn't that scared," Cedric said rather unconvincingly. He had to get better than this.

"But I'll help you. How can you tell what's still charged without touching it?" He took in the sight of the wreckage, still unaware of precisely what that meant to Atom.

Atom smiled a little, then put down the bag. "Really, it's all right. I was going to take a break anyway. But I'd stay away from the larger..."

A brief pause, then, as if for thought. "The larger pieces, with all the damaged circuitry and power unit still attached. Some of the humanoid robots have explosive fuel cells."

Humanoid robots. That was a funny term catching his attention. It meant that they were human-shaped, but that was just a function, right? He looked down at it, then back up. It also described Atom.

"Oh---did you want me to take a break with you? I can grab anything you need."

As far as Atom was concerned, the shape of the robot didn't mean much; it was the person inside that counted. So it really was just a descriptor for the Terminators.

He smiled a little. "Sure." Then he moved over to a series of steps nearby, relatively free of debris. "Come on and sit down. Maybe we can talk about... I dunno, magic and stuff."

Cedric was happy for the invitation, at least. He hopped over the debris and picked a clear spot to sit, looking over at his new friend.

"Are you sure you don't want to talk about something more interesting? I haven't really used much of it lately."

"Huh? More interesting?" What could be more interesting than magic?

"Well, we don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. Um, are all your friends okay? How long is it going to take you to get out of the bandages?"

"I've been thinking about how to survive without it, actually. That can happen again."

The thought scared him, but it was one he'd have to cope with if he wanted to be a useful member of this crew. He clenched his fist, in and out, wondering.

"Not too much longer, I hope. But speaking of friends...why are you out here by yourself?"

Atom laced his hands together, fidgeting a little in an absentminded fashion. "Yeah, I guess it can. And it's not bad to be prepared or anything, but... I have a feeling no matter what we do, something's eventually going to happen to mess all that up."

He smiled a little. "Well, you know. I didn't think people would really want to come out here so soon. And I know everyone's kind of tired and recovering, so..."

"True, but I'll feel better if I train." Cedric just neeeded to figure out where to start.

"Yeah, but we all went through this. Even you. You don't need to recover? You did more work than I did." Atom was a robot and his body might be better equipped, but didn't he need to be checked? Oiled?

Atom looked a little sad. "Wish I could help you, but I'm not really a prize fighter."

He shook his head. "I'm okay. There were way bigger and stronger robots where I came from. Although I guess if I start experiencing metal fatigue, I'm in trouble. There aren't really any roboticists on the ship. Anyway, it's not like I did that much..." Or not that he really wanted to think about, anyway.

"That's okay. I'm sure I'll find someone."

Cedric looked over at his friend, still wondering. "Surely someone can fix you? I don't know the first thing about robots, but some of the Muggles do. They're really good, I've heard."

Atom frowned a little. "I guess if I had to, I'd ask, but... I don't know. Back where I'm from, there was an entire industry devoted to creating robot components, and even then most of my parts were custom. It'd be best if an actual roboticist took a look at me."

While the people in Engineering seemed nice, he wasn't sure he'd volunteer to be poked at by most of them. Or any of them, really. They didn't really seem to specialize in artificial intelligences.

"We don't know if one will awaken, though. And they might know more than you'd think. It worries me...it's like not having a medic for you."

Given how dangerous things are, everyone needs a medic. "But you're okay. That's good."

That got Cedric a little shrug. Atom just didn't feel comfortable letting the crew poke around in his innards. Especially since some of them seemed so eager to do it. He was treated like a curiosity on Earth, but at least the people there hadn't seen him as some kind of exception. Like something out of the ordinary. Here, he was afforded some rights because he was humanlike and non-hostile, but the actions of the crew had given him the impression that when it really came right down to it, robots weren't people. Not in their minds. "Yeah, and I'm not planning to get injured any time soon. So don't worry about me."

There was a brief pause. "I wonder how many more attacks like that are going to happen before this is all over."

"You'd better not." But it was funny, the amount of bad things that they weren't planning on that tended to happen. For example, that last attack.

"I was wondering why we had so many all ready to attack us. She'd carry weapons just to kill her own crew? Or were they misused?"

It worried him.

"I think it's more likely," said Atom, frowning, "That they were part of a robot army. You know, to be activated in times of war. Except SHODAN hijacked them and used them for what she wanted instead..."

Disturbing in and of itself, really.

Cedric recognized the implications of at least that much. He bit his lip, staring out at the ruins of what had gone on here.

"And she could've hijacked more? Anyone?"

He shook his head. "I don't really know. But it probably means there are more things like that hidden on the ship, waiting for us to discover them. Or for someone else to."

"And that worries me."

Cedric fiddled with his hands in his lap. "Isn't it just overwhelming? You start to feel like there's nothing you can do to protect yourself, because it's always going to surprise you."

Well... maybe Atom wasn't the best person to ask about the feeling of helplessness.

"Is that how you feel all the time?" That sounded awful. "Well, I guess it's true... I mean, it doesn't look like we'll be able to predict what happens. But we just have to keep trying. We can't give up or anything."

"I won't. I'd be a poor excuse for a crew member if I did that." It's not always horrible, but that depressing mood still lingers. Why is it so hard to shake off.

"You never run out," he marvels.

"Well, it's not just that," said Atom thoughtfully. "It's not good for people to lose hope. Sometimes that's all that's keeping them going."

He blinked. "Run out of what?"

"Optimism. Faith that we can do this," he clarified. "I'm still not used to all this, I suppose. This is life now, and it's not what we want. But we have to fight."

Even if that probably means he'll die. He owes it to them all.

"Oh. Well, I guess that's just how I was programmed. Where I came from, there were things that were worse than dying, so..." Atom kind of trailed off. He was sort of in a unique position to draw that kind of comparison, having died once himself. Or more than once, depending on how you were counting.

"Anyway, I still hope we can fix the war peacefully." Hope sprang eternal, apparently.

That's a shocking one. Cedric stares, wondering how that was possible.

"What could be worse than death?"

Uh. Well. Should he really be talking about this with Cedric?

"Losing a child... losing hope. It depends on the person." Thiiis was a little awkward. Should he change the subject? But to what?

"Oh. Other deaths...friends, hopes." This was incredibly depressing. Cedric buried his head in his hands, trying to shake off that little blanket of despair that had started creeping up.

"I'm really depressing, aren't I?"

"Nah, you're just in a depressing place." Atom smiled at him and patted him on the back.

"And if you want proof, just look at the other long faces around here." And... there were many.

That cheered him up just enough for his imagination to come back. Cedric pictured his own idea of long faces and hid a snicker behind his hand.

"Sorry! I always thought that expression was funny. Because I picture a face that's...long," he explained, lifting his hands to his head and miming stretching it. "They look like that after spell damage sometimes."

Atom laughed. "Really? Like in cartoons? I didn't know there was a spell that did that."

Well, it wasn't that he knew much about magic in general, though. But he assumed from Cedric's manner that it wasn't permanent or anything.

Edited at 2012-01-22 05:06 pm (UTC)

"There is. It looks absolutely ridiculous," Cedric confided. "I'd cast it on myself, but I worry a stray damper might still be around and I couldn't undo it."

Instead, he picked up a small rock and started fiddling with it. That was enough to calm him down.

Atom smiled a little. "And then you'd have to walk around like that all day, huh? Well, guess that's one way to get people's minds off things."

He watched Cedric fiddle around with the rock. "You know, there's a river in the City, isn't there? Bet you could skip rocks on it."

"I used to skip rocks on the Great Lake. I miss those days."

Cedric glances at Atom, wondering. "Do you do much with the water, though?"

Fuu wasn't sure to do now that the threat of SHODAN had been removed. She still wasn't part of any department, so she didn't really have instructions to follow. Still, merely resting was unacceptable to her; she hadn't sustained any severe injuries during the fighting.

She was looking for Clef, but that was just part of it--if there was anyone hurt or lost, Fuu wanted to help. With her magic back, she could heal again. When she heard the vague noises of stirring at the Vatican, she hurried over to investigate--someone trapped? But it turned out to be Atom, investigating the destroyed battle robots.

To Fuu's great relief, he looked uninjured; she didn't think she had the ability to properly repair him. But 'uninjured' and 'all right' were two different things. "Hello, Atom-san."

He looked up from what he was currently doing -- inspecting a large power unit. It looked like it was made of explosive material. "Oh, hey, Miss Fuu. You know, you can just call me Atom. I look younger than you."

"How have you been?"

"If you insist," Fuu said, smiling a little in spite of herself. Her typical habit of politeness to excess might not have extended to a child, but when it was a famous fictional hero she'd thought that the respectfulness was warranted.

But the smile was short-lived. "I'm..." For a moment, Fuu was going to say all right, but that would be like Hikaru's assertions that she was fine when she blatantly was anything but. "Well, I didn't suffer any severe injuries in the fighting, but I don't know if I'm all right." She looked him over. "And you?"

Atom smiled back, reassuringly. "Yeah, I guess that makes sense. I think it'll take the crew a while to recover from everything that happened. And anyway, i didn't get damaged or anything, either. I'm not magical, so I still had my abilities during all the fighting."

Fuu had been lucky; he'd seen Cedric, who had been a little beat up.

Fuu nodded. To experience such a betrayal from the ship itself... the battle in the pod caverns... it was like getting the rug pulled out from under her. Not that it had been very secure in the first place.

"I'm glad you didn't have any trouble fighting," she said sincerely. "Those robots that SHODAN released were truly vicious."

He flinched a little at her words, drawing himself back. "No... I didn't do much."

Fuu chided herself inwardly at Atom's wince. He was a robot too--she knew that he had been designed to be a boy rather than a tool of war, but it might have been even worse for him to deal with them than an organic person like her. "I'm sorry," she said. "That was tactless. It must have been very difficult for you."

"It's okay," he said. "Actually, I guess I should get used to that kind of thing, considering what we're up against."

There were people on his own world that disliked robots, of course, but the events of the last few days had left things a little closer to the surface than usual. Once again, he was left to turn over the old questions in his mind -- why did people create robots? Why did they give them feelings?

"And besides, it was a lot tougher on the people who had their family... killed."

Fuu almost winced to hear Atom say that he ought to get used to destroying things that he saw as his own kind. It would be like hearing a human boy say that he had to get used to killing other people--something that she was confronted with herself. It wasn't something she wanted to be normal.

And she herself had been glad that their enemies had been robots rather than living beings--now she regretted feeling that way.

"I suppose," she said, thinking back to the pod caverns. Nobody close to her had been killed, but to see Sakura and Mami and Punchy forced to watch while their loved ones were murdered in cold blood was something she would never forget. "But you have the right to feel bad too. It was hard on all of us, in different ways."

Not just people destroying robots, but people killing other organic life forms as well. But that was how war worked; Atom knew that.

"A lot more people are going to die before this is over, though," he said glumly. "That's the worst part."

They're going to die, some because we kill them.

"It's terrible," she said, nodding. "I want to do everything I can to end this war quickly, without regrets, but I'm not sure how to do that." She didn't want to learn about more Earths and Cephiros. At the same time, though... a quick end to the war would mean nothing if it came at the same cost that years of fighting would.

It didn't help when they had to fight against the ship itself, either. So much for having a safe haven. She moved next to him, resting a hand on his shoulder for a moment. "We still have each other. That's important." If you have someone to talk to, it's okay.

Edited at 2012-01-28 06:51 pm (UTC)

"Yeah..." said Atom. "Kind of makes me wish I were a detective." Although he did have a detective's memories. Still, the evidence was scattered across the multiverse, and he had no means of traveling between worlds. Well, not alone, that was. Maybe he could pick up some kind of technology?

He blinked a moment as she put the hand on his shoulder, then smiled. "Guess you're right!" Was the best strategy still to remain on the ship? He wasn't entirely sure. Perhaps it was better to stay a while, and observe a little longer.

"But it sure seems like some long odds. I mean, we don't even know that much about the war to begin with."

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