Do Not Let This Consume You.

He thinks about her too much.

(He shouldn’t be thinking about her right now. He’s needed in the present. But he can’t help himself, and perhaps it’s better he’s not focusing on reality. He would be too distracted to do his job. )

He thinks about that women he met no more than three months ago. With her raggedly cut dark brown hair and sharp eyes. He thinks about her silver tongue and the cutting words that fell from her lips, and then he thinks about the times her voice fell to gentler tones. How she would soften her edges when she spoke to children, or to the quiet and nervous engineers.

He thinks about her voice. How easily it could shift from loud anger to a quiet frigid calm. How her words could flow from cutting to soft. Soft, like the way her calloused hands had felt against his metal when she had finally touched him without the barrier of her thick work gloves. Her hand was so small in his, her pulse so quiet compared to the thrum of the flowing tubes of his veins.

He finds himself thinking about her a lot now that she’s —

(Dressed in red and oh so silent. How could she stand to be so silent? How could she stand to be so cold? She had always complained about the cold of the labs, even as she refused to wear thicker clothes. It interfered with her work, she’d say.

No biting remarks fell from her lips now. Her too pale lips. Even when he had scooped her from the cold metal. No gasp or smile greeted him as he held her up. There was only the silence. Only the drip of her blood. Only the echo of her final words. Words meant to save them — the ones who did not deserve her mercy.

He wonders, as he carries her, as he sets her in a cot before turning away, a promise to bury her properly at a later date, his dutiful programming reminding him he is needed elsewhere, if it had been a misplaced kindness meant for them, or for him.)

He thinks he remembers the scent of her. That strange spice hidden beneath the sweat and oil. The metallic scent of him stained across her fingers. She had never minded the harsh scent of chemicals that burned her nose, nor the metallic taste that clung to her tongue with every breath. She said it was comforting to her. Said it smelt like home.

She had made the city her home. A place of safety. A place where she could rest and laugh and live without fear. And yet, yet she was gone. How could she be gone? How could he have failed to save her? He was supposed to save her! Her name was never supposed to turn red on his readouts. Her pulse was supposed to sing, steady and strong in his presence. She was not supposed to die. Not to an invader. Not while he stood.

(But she did. Her name, blinking in his readouts, drenched in red while he stood and watched her die. All his strength, all his speed and intelligence, all his power — it amounted to nothing. He was not faster than the reaper it seemed.

But he was supposed to be.)

She was supposed to be smart. Smart enough to keep up with him, to aid him. She was supposed to be safe. He was supposed to keep her safe. Why couldn’t he have saved her? She was important. So why, with so much power rushing through his wires, couldn’t he have kept her alive? The only human to have ever really understood him, the only one who had ever come close to being his equal — and she is gone.

She is dead, and he could have prevented it. No matter what his logistic systems told him, he didn’t care about the numbers anymore, screw the logic, he could have saved her.

(So why was she dead?)

His core jolts, a surge of lightning that jerks him back to reality. To the present he wants so desperately to ignore. There is still smoke in the air, there are still screeching voices and the whirls of the cannons. There are voices, calmer and frantic, they are voices he knows, the engineers and the citizens — but none of them are hers, so none are important. Nothing matters anymore.

(The echo of her last words ring out again. Loud despite their original straining rasp. He hears them, and recalls his promise to honor her last request. Despite how much his mind strains to comprehend why. Why had she asked that of him?)

He blinks, optics whirling as they calibrate. How long had he been in his own mind? He looks around, takes in the ashen faces and frantic voices. He looks, and sees the trembling remains of the army who had tried to take the city. Who had tried to take control of him and hundreds of mechanical guards. Who had tried to exterminate all the citizens under his protection.

Enemies who had succeeded in killing her.

His arms quiver, though he knows not why, and the engineers circling him try to question him. He says nothing, he doesn’t trust his voice box, nor the words that coil in his throat. His sensors and diagnostics try to pull his attention to the remaining people standing around and behind him. Instead, he focuses on the Heads of the city standing before those who had threatened the city, listing charges and the consequences to come. It would not take long for him to close that distance. It would not be hard to keep the Heads out of the way as he tore through the bound soldiers on their knees.

His core whirls with heat, his optics narrow and glow their sickening red. He is struck by one loud thought, one desire alone. He wants to kill them.

He wants to rush forward and kill them all. He is supposed to tear through anyone who threatened the city or its people. He is suppose to protect people like her. And yet he stands a failure. They had killed her and many others, the opposing soldiers deserved to die. But they are at the mercy of the Head now. He no longer has a say in what happens to them. He no longer has permission to turn them as red soaked as her, not unless he is given permission.

(Again, his thoughts turn to her. His lost engineer. His Morgan Steel. And doesn’t it just burn to think of her name, now forever painted red. She’s distracting him from the present. Which is fine by him, he’d rather not think. He wants to act. His body doesn’t need higher thought processes right now, his limbs know what to do. They know the motions of battle well enough to not need him. He doesn’t need to think to tear through them–

Her words come again. Loud as a thunderclap. Despite how much it hurts, he obeys without a second of hesitation. How could he disappoint her now?)

He does not rush forward and kill, no matter how much he wants too. And isn’t that a strange thing? For a heartless being of metal to want. To feel. He doesn’t know what to think. He doesn’t think it matters, what is done cannot be undone. He doesn’t know if he would want it undone even if he had the option.

His body of metal and wires is not meant to contain the surges emotions would bring on a daily basis. The brief sparks he gets burn his core worse than if he had dropped into a smelter. He is not supposed to be like this, he is not supposed to succumb to irrationality and emotions. He is supposed to be better. He doesn’t have the capacity to feel to the degree the organics do, he is not even supposed to come close. He is not like the citizens he is tasked with protecting, and yet.

Yet he cannot ignore there have been moments. There were moments before her, and there will be moments in the future, but the moments he’d experienced with Morgan, those flickers of feelings not dictated and regulated by his programming, he knows he will never feel them again. He does not know how he feels about that thought. He is not sure if he wants an answer.

Again, he supposes it doesn’t matter. He cannot act on his emotions. He cannot bring her back, he cannot execute those who had done her harm. He can do nothing else, but do as he is told. He’s a slave to his programming, and it had never bothered him before, but now that he knows the echoes of the joys and aches of real life, he finds himself wanting more. Even though he can’t. Not now, perhaps not ever.

(He wonders what Morgan would have thought about this. He wonders if she would have been happy. He wonders if he could have made her happy.)

A hand brushes against his face, and he is jerked once more out of his thoughts. He looks down, the face of Dr. Song stares back up at him, lit by the crimson glow of his optics. He likes Dr. Song, she was trustworthy, had to be, given her position as head engineer, and she had been good friends with Morgan. He tilts his head, but says nothing. Song gestures, her eyes wet, to his face. He blinks and reaches up to his cheek. His fingers come away flecked in red.

Ah. Morgan’s hand had been drenched in blood hadn’t it? He stares down at the red as his vison flickers with static, his core warning him of another surge, but he surrenders to the memory of the gentle touch of her fingers against his face.

(He finds himself back there. Down in the dark, surrounded by the blue glow of the screens, kneeling over Morgan as she bleeds out under his hands. He had been too late. He had failed, unlike her. She had managed to activate the kill code that had stopped the invading army from taking control of the city. She had been the one to save the city, and all it’s citizens.

He remembers the way she had smiled at him, pale lips stained with a red that would not stop flowing. He remembers the way her eyes had grown so soft. He remembers meeting her halfway, and he remembers her last words, spoken in that terrible rasp.

“Do not let this consume you.”)

Someone screams. He looks up, the leaders of the army are screeching, cursing him for getting in their way. Cursing the Heads and the people of the city. They blame him for the failure of their mission, him alone, and though he knows they could not have known, he is angry that they know nothing of Morgan’s sacrifice. A mistake, he cannot abide.

Ignoring the calls of the engineers, he marches towards the fallen army. Some flinch at his approach, some stare back defiantly, but he sees the way even the bravest of them tremble. Good.

He stops before him, ignoring the looks and trembling fists of his higher ups. He leans over the beaten people and opens his mouth.

“I did not cause your mission to fail.” He says with a hiss of steam. The room falls silent, and though his voice is quiet, it seems to echo as if he had shouted. “I may have fought your army, dragged you to your knees, but I was not the one to tear through your defenses and tip the scales back in our favor.” He pauses, the desire to smirk at the confusion and fear shinning in the faces of those he so desperately wants to kill, but he resists. He is making enough of a fuss simply speaking to them. There will be consequences later, but he finds he does not care.

“Morgan Steel is the name of the woman who bright you down. Remember that name.” He hisses as he crouches to speak directly into the face of the leader of the army. “For it is the name of the woman who keeps me from slaughtering you and all that you love.” He rises back to his full height, then pivots on his heel, and marches away. The room watches, in silence, in confusion, in horror, and in awe. Only Song seems to understand, and she smiles at him as he passes. Tears dripping silently down her face.

He ignores them all as he marches away. No one tries to stop him. They just watch, wondering what Morgan had done to stay the hand of the City’s most powerful weapon. What had she said, they all wonder, to keep him from the rage simmering beneath his metal? What had she said, to stay such a wave of violence?

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