– Bravo-tango-delta-three-nine-zero-zulu, you are cleared to dock.
– Affirmative, docking sequence initiated.
K8 docked manually; it was against procedure, but nobody would have been able to tell with her level of precision. It was one of the small joys that Dr. Charles Lagarde was encouraging her to reclaim. She – the doctor insisted she think of herself using personal pronouns, and part of her had once been female – had been assigned to him by the military. The first bio-borg created not to be so unstable that it had to be destroyed. Over the last year, Charles had helped her to find control and had given her a compass by which to measure her new existence. He had also refused to call her K8, turning it into Kate.
Charles was humming as usual. As she finalised the docking procedure, she felt his hand on hers. Her tactile receptors sent a message, received as comfort and pleasure by her CPU – was that any different from what she would have felt before her transformation? She could not remember.
– Ça va, Kate?
– I am fine, Doctor.
– You would say that if half your leg had been shot off. Chérie, you are doing good work in good company – that is more than fine.
He grinned at her and she fought and lost the battle not to smile – a foreign but pleasing sensation that threatened to become a permanent state of affairs around him.
The work did feel worthwhile, transporting vital medical supplies to a small outpost. This was a brief refueling stop on their way. And their companionship seemed to be turning into something she did not fully understand but welcomed.
Charles bounced out of their small but state-of-the-art transporter to greet an old friend, Major Oliver Laine. They had combined the refueling stop with the monthly status report Lagarde made on her progress with “socialisation”. She carried out the usual landing checks, her CPU monitoring him out of habit. She felt his surprise, shock and, then, nothing. His mind was… gone.
She moved fast. The pulse weapon she was not supposed to have already in her hand. She reached the deck in less than five seconds and her optical sensors registered his crumpled, prone form.
The major looked up:
– A regrettable loss but he knew too much. There was also some concern that he was not the right influence. You were made to be a soldier, not a sister of mercy.
None of K8’s rage or pain showed on her face as she lifted the pulse weapon and terminated the major; it did not slow her speed as she sealed the hold so nobody could enter. She finished refueling and hacked the station’s systems. She also disabled all the supposedly foolproof checks in her CPU and neutralised the remote self-destruct nestled deep inside it.
She carried Charles into the transporter, laying him gently on his bunk. She would send his body into space, like sailors had once honoured their own at sea.
K8 did not react as the station exploded behind her departing vessel. Her restraint had been based on his ideals, his complete belief that all life was precious. She had respected his feelings in this, but now it was no longer necessary.
She had a medical delivery to complete and then she had a new purpose. They would terminate her in the end but, before that, she would take out as many of their military bases as she could. They had not valued his life; she need not value theirs.
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