2012-10-23: Soldiers And Warriors


Connor_icon.jpg Echo_icon.jpg

Summary: A dimensional anomaly and a machine hold a dialectic about morality, justice, and self-determinism.

Date: October 23, 2012

Log Title: Soldiers and Warriors

Rating: G

Barnes Academy - Medical Center

The name medical 'office' rather undersells what his, in essence, a state of the art, high-tech and extremely well stocked medical bay and treatment center. There are always orderies and nurses in attendance to handle minor injuries and a doctor is always on call for more serious problems. In addition to a locked medicine storage facility, there are modules for isolating patients, a (hopefully never used) cryogenic storage and stasis module for preserving life (or bodies) when the local team can't stabilize a patient and a pair of ten bed infirmary modules attached to the main area. Each bed and exam table is equipped with the latest Stark-tech diagnostics gear.

It's the middle of the night, and some people are supposed to be in bed. Instead, Connor is awake, and is looking at himself in the mirror off in the corner. Both arms are bandaged up to just under the sleeves of the SHIELD-issue patient's smock he has on, with another one on top of his shaved head. The opposite eye from the bandage is covered with a pad, evidence of the eye that had been hit too many times and swollen shut. It's mostly superficial, but he still looks like he went toe to toe with a truck… and probably came out even. Which means you'd hate to see the truck. The worst injury is probably the stitches in the back of his neck, where the collar was ripped from the spot there.

Owing to the late hour, the medical office is quiet save the hiss of cold air from the ventilation. And though one of the isolation chambers is currently closed and secured, there appears to be no activity in or around it. Thick walls in layers of special reinforced glass (or an advanced material similar to it) are designed to contain and withstand breakage, a good place to house dangerous microbes, or even something a bit larger. A figure sits inside, all but invisible for the deathly stillness of it, a fixture rather than an occupant. Her face is downcast, shrouded in shadow from the dimmed lights that would allow patients to sleep. She too is wearing sterile scrubs, barefoot and alone. Most of the medical equipment from the chamber has been removed, leaving it flat and barren. It may come as something of a shock when the figure speaks suddenly, breaking the oppressive silence. "Did you win?" Echo asks.

Not looking back, a slightly creaky voice says, "Not sure. Body says bad guys, voices in my head call it a tie." Turning around, the young man looks at the figure inside with the one good eye… an eye that looks tired and strained for a human. Approaching your cell, he tilts his head to one side, and then Connor adds, "I don't suppose you're going to tell me why you're in there?" Says the person who's eye is glowing a shimmery blue green enough to cast a faint light down in the chamber, just like a cell phone.

"Evaluation," Echo replies laconically. Her head lifts slowly, dark hair a curtain that frames her face. Her own remaining good eye fixes unblinkingly on Connor through the transparent barrier. "It's yet to be decided if I should be destroyed. It's taking quite a while."

Connor actually snorts at that, as he takes a moment to look around the rest of the darkened room, and then reaches over to grab a stool and sits down on it, favoring one leg slightly, "Why should they have to evaluate you? And for some reason I'm guessing you're not all human? Cyborg maybe? Android?" Shrugging once, the good glowing eye looks away, taking the light off to one side, and then back once more, "I'm not prying, am I?"

"Mobile Anti-Personnel System," the woman in the cell clarifies, then adds, "An android, yes. They're concerned, rightly so, that I'm dangerous and unstable." It's stated matter-of-factly, with no hint of resentment or anger. Then she shrugs in a very expressive, human-like gesture. "I've agreed to cooperate as best I can. I've already been asked much more prying questions. So no, it doesn't bother me."

Curling his legs up to plant his bare footpads on the support ring of the stool, Connor takes a breath and then asks, "So… why did you come in?" Taking a moment to cough, voice rasping some from the pneumonia he's still suffering from, which leaves a bit of a pallor on his body, and some sweat on his forehead. One hand goes to his chest for a moment, and he then gives a bit of a look, "Sorry… Spent a month being tortured doesn't leave us in the best of conditions. Makes me wish I had a healing factor."

"I was brought in. Mike Drakos, an acquaintance, discovered my body after a power failure interrupted a deep charge cycle. I had shut down completely, and he brought me here. It wouldn't have been my first choice." The android turns her head slightly to fix her right eye on Connor, quirking an eyebrow. "Were you a prisoner of war?"

"You could call it that…" Connor replies, and then looks away, sighing once, "I can't remember most of it… but I was taken by the Church of Humanity. I'm a mutant… and for some reason, someone thinks that I'm going to stop something important from happening. In the future." To which the young man smiles a bit, and then leans forwards on the chair, "I actually know a little about a possible future, and the person I became is NOT someone these people want to deal with." But that moment of bravado fades, and he ends up looking down at his hands, "I wish I was that me right now… he'd get up off the bench, put on his armor, grab the biggest gun he could find, and blow the ever-loving hell out of all of them. Everyone who hurt him."

Though she makes no comment about knowledge of the future, Echo nods agreeably to the last bit. "It's what I would do. Neutralize the threat as efficiently as possible. Then it ceases to be a problem." It's suddenly becoming a little clearer exactly *why* she's in a secured holding cell. "Why don't you do it?"

Connor looks at his hands once more, and then he sits up off his stool and walks towards your cell, and then puts his hands on the glass, and looks at you through it, "These hands already have the blood of bad men. But those kills were self-defense… people who were going to kill others. They were in a moment, and not really considered against the consequence of what it would do to me." Then he goes to rest his forehead against the glass, and closes his eye, "But now this is me considering the lives of anywhere from two to a half-dozen men. People I don't know how to find. I'm not a hunter, not by any stretch… and I don't know what killing them will cost me. That's the reason why someone made you… to take away that cost from themselves. But no one considered that it might inevitably hurt you. If that's your first instinct, then it colors your perceptions of everything you do."

"Self-defense encompasses a great deal of situations," Echo opines, tilting her head to the side as Connor approaches the glass. She rises gracefully from the floor and for the first time a thick insulated cable is visible trailing from under the back of her mint green hospital shirt to an electrical outlet in the wall behind her. It is just long enough that she can reach the glass. "How many other people might these men go on to hurt? Wouldn't it be better to stop them as soon as possible to spare others?" Simple math, really.

Connor almost smiles, but it's there, and he takes a breath, "This is what's called a morality choice." Spoken as he rolls over on the glass, and then slides down, his voice still carrying as he turns his head to one side, so he can watch you with his good eye, "If we act as they act, does that make us any better than the people who hurt us? Where does the line between doing good, bringing justice, and just revenge lay? And for those of us who aren't mechanical… you have to consider how it affects you in the long term. Who will I be if I let myself become the kind of person who can kill just like that." Snapping the fingers on his left hand before he begins coughing again. It goes on for a little bit, and then finally settles, "Justice is not easy, nor clean… often times it's worse than actually just killing. But… justice is the one thing revenge isn't. Which is right. If you are on the path of revenge, dig two graves. One for your target, and one for yourself."

Echo remains standing at the glass barrier, perfectly still save the downward tilt of her head to follow Connor's slump to the floor. "You're saying there's a psychological toll," observes the machine dryly. "Which, as you said, would be a possible reason I was created, to keep one's own hands and conscience clean. But isn't justice motivated by revenge, to punish for an offense? What's the difference?"

There's a long moment for the young man to think, punctuated by another coughing fit, and ending up wiping some of the crud on his short sleeve. Connor then has to breathe for a bit to get it under control, and with a gulp, he says, "Justice is not about revenge. Revenge is the act of retaliating in kind. They shot your dog, you shoot their cat… they blow up your sister, you drown their wife… there's nothing but loss in the equation. Only when people who are not emotionally involved in the act of judging someone for their actions are allowed to consider what is being said… is justice taken into account. Justice means you accept you may never get what you want, but neither will they. They still had to see that they were caught, that for at least one shining moment the truth is exposed."

The android lowers herself slowly to a crouch, bringing her head nearly level with Connor's. "Favoring justice over revenge sounds riskier. There's the possibility of failure, yet you say you'd do it anyway. It would be simpler to be direct, to take the path most assured of success." Echo pauses, face expressionless. "Someone tried to set me up. To kill me, dispose of me conveniently. I can't fault their reasoning, but if I were to retaliate… justice or revenge?"

Connor pushes back up to standing, and turns back around to face you, and once more, one of those bandaged hands on the glass once more, "Revenge is going yourself and striking back at the people who made you and then disposed of you." Then his other hand motions behind him, "Justice would be giving the information to SHIELD, and letting then do what they will with it. It means you'll never know if anything was done, unless you trust what they tell you… it's a risk… but then you take it from the other side… If you kill them, you prove them right in what you were made for. If you give the information and trust someone else will find them, and bring them to face a judge and jury for their crimes… it raises you above what they wanted you to be." A pause with a cough comes, and he adds, "It's counter-intuitive, but morality seems to work against instinct."

Echo rises as well, keeping herself in a similar posture but not reaching to touch the glass in reciprocation. "You misunderstand me. I've never met the people who created me, never spoken to them. Not in any records I currently have. Being reformatted frequently was standard procedure. I know this much because many file timestamps predate the first waking memory I have." She folds her arms across her chest. "It was another man, a criminal for whom I'd been working. Money is not easy to come by but he paid well until I was no longer of use. If I simply give the information, there is the possibility he'll escape before being caught, or if caught, still go unpunished."

Connor asks after a brief moment, "If you kill him, you do nothing more than fulfill your function. But if you bring him to the police for his crimes, then again… you're no longer the machine. No longer just the set of hands someone else made to kill." Pushing off, the glowing eyed young man steps back a few times, "I could go anywhere in the world with a thought right now… but instead I choose to stand here and talk with you. The problem with making a killing machine look like a human, is you run the risk making a human who looks like a killing machine. Who's to say… you're not more than the sum of what you were made to believe? That's faith."

The android actually scowls, a look of displeasure and incredulity. "And if I don't fulfill my function, then what? The right tool for the right job. It's why I was made. It's my purpose." She looks skeptically at Connor, the light catching her eyes and highlighting a spiderweb of cracks in the left orb. "Faith is not my strong suit."

Connor begins walking towards his bed, "Thing about tools is… they find different meaning in the hands of others. Just because you have a screwdriver, doesn't mean you use that just for screws. I've used one as a prybar, the back and for a makeshift hammer, and even a bottle opener. Pretty good for a screwdriver." Pulling the sheets off the bed he's using, he fingers them a moment, "If you're made to kill people… why not use that to protect people who would be killed? It's the same function… just a different point of view."

The captive's functioning eye darts to the side, breaking eye contact for a moment as her lips press into a thin line. The body language is surprisingly telling, that Connor has hit a nerve or made her rethink something with his speech about tools. It passes and she looks back to him. "I don't see how that would benefit me," Echo deadpans, completely serious. "Putting myself in danger for others. And yet that is exactly what Mike did. He put himself in jeopardy to bring my body here. I still don't understand why."

As the young man slowly and gingerly climbs back into his bed, he looks up and says in a voice loud enough to be heard, "It doesn't benefit you, and that's the point." And then he rolls over and closes his eye, adding with a yawn and a tired tone, "Mike probably saw in you something he's scared of in himself. He's been nothing but energy inhabiting machines for years… he's got no body, no proof that he's human. Maybe he felt if he saved you, he saved himself. Maybe… if he helps you find the human inside, then he proves he's human too. I don't know. I'm just a writer who's become a warrior. Something my uncle taught me… if you must fight, be a warrior, not a soldier. Soldiers only follow orders, warriors follow their heart." Those last words come with a bare echoed whisper as he drifts off.

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