For Tomorrow We Die

By ElectricZ

Scifi / Adventure

Why?

Thanks to the curative powers of medigel, even the most critical wounds, internal or external, could be healed in minutes. Dead cells were broken down into harmless basic compounds and sloughed away, transported out of the body with other waste material. Then, like blossoms bursting to life in the desert with the return of rain, new cells formed in place with the patient's own DNA providing the blueprint for the rapid regeneration of tissue.

That's how Dr. Chakwas explained it to Gabby, anyway. Since she inhaled acidic vapors, soot and every other toxin imaginable, Gabby required more recuperation than someone who simply had a broken limb or suffered abrasions. The doctor had kept her asleep for hours to not only let her body heal, but allow all of her vital systems recover from the shock. Zaeed Massani once recovered from having a severed leg reattached in less than an hour. Gabby had been out for almost a day.

The water cascading over her body in the shower stall was freezing cold, as per Chakwas' directive, but Gabby didn't notice. No heat or pressure for another twenty hours were the orders. So instead of a steaming hot scrubdown, she was forced to endure a cold, drizzly rinse. In a daze, she shut off the water, dabbed her self gingerly with a towel and put on the light white robe given to her by the doctor. She was to return to the medical bay immediately, but instead found herself standing, still dripping, in front of the main lift, leaving a wet smear on the "down" button.


"Daniels-Gabriella has entered port engineering sublevel," Mobile Platform Two announced while standing in front of Tali's command console in engineering.

Legion was unable to access the geth subnet Platform Two had created for the geth, but still had complete access to the Normandy's own network. Surveillance camera D14 showed the compartment where the entire engineering staff had been working to isolate the coolant leak before the oculus attack on the far side of Omega Four. The same compartment later became the focus of the explosion which crippled the ship.

With repairs almost complete, only a pair of generic geth platforms remained, covering exposed ductwork and replacing damaged panels in the chamber. Organic observers would have been hard pressed to tell anything at all had happened at all.

Which made the presence of Daniels-Gabriella down below that much more illogical. Her services were not needed there. She sat on the second-to-bottom step, her head resting against the railing, arms wrapped around her knees.

"We have formed consensus," Legion said. "We will determine the reason for her arrival."

"Negative," Mobile Platform Two said. "Her presence is not interfering with repair operations. We are to maintain repairs and system monitoring as directed by Creator-Tali'Zorah."

Legion's camera focused on the other mobile platform briefly before turning back to the security feed. Zooming in, it determined that Daniels-Gabriella's eyelids were less than 40% open, her teeth bared and the corners of her mouth turned sharply downward. Saline discharge covered her cheeks. It registered a one-hundred percent match with established human expressions of pain.

Legion's head flaps cycled once. Without a word to its counterpart, it locked the power console, turned around and walked out the port hatch to the stairs to the engineering sublevel.

Gabby did not turn to look at the sound of metallic feet clanking down the stairway behind her, nor did the two geth working in the compartment. Through the tears in her eyes, though, she did see the split-toed alloy feet stop on the deck. She felt, rather than saw motion close by as another geth settled on the step next to her, its white flashlight eye level with hers. Chipped paint, scored metal and exposed fiber optics told her immediately it was not one of the new units, and she felt instantly relieved.

"Legion," she said, wiping the tears from her eyes and the mucous from under her nose. She hated the thought of any of the crew, even the mechanical one, seeing her like this. "Hi."

The geth stared at her, its lens expanding and contracting, other lights flickering as it watched her.

"What are you doing?" she asked it.

"Analyzing your physical state," Legion responded.

"I'm fine," Gabby said. "Dr. Chakwas says I can return to duty on the next shift."

Legion cocked its head. "We do not concur. Your heart rate is 136 beats per minute. Blood pressure, elevated. Respiratory rate, elevated. Body temperature-"

"I'm okay, Legion," Gabby turned her attention back to the floor of the compartment. "Really."

"Query," Legion asked.

"What is it?"

"Why did you come here?"

Gabby fought back a sob. "This is where he died, isn't it?"

"You are seeking emotional closure."

"Yeah, humans do that," Gabby's voice was strained. "Probably doesn't make sense to you. Tell me what happened."

Legion spoke as if reading from a script. "During Normandy's collision with the collector base, one or more H-cell containment vessels or power conduits on the port side cracked. Also damaged: main lithium coolant lines, port and starboard. Liquid lithium from ruptured lines pooled and oxidized in service spaces below decks. Vibration from maneuvers during escape from collector base resulted in ejection of particulate matter from oxidized material into the atmosphere."

Gabby nodded, half-listening, waiting to hear Kenneth's role in the disaster.

"Normandy's reactors were offline when the collectors counterattacked. Emergency power-up of weapon systems overloaded the damaged H-cells. The lithium oxide dust provided an airborne conductor. The resulting arc flash caused a multi-deck containment failure and ignited the exposed lithium, resulting in fires in the sublevels and hangar deck."

The human's face was contorted once more. Though not its intention, Legion knew it was inflicting pain on its shipmate. All of its programs, in unison, directed its vocal processors to stop.

As it had pondered in the infirmary, the question posed itself to Legion once more: how could it solve this issue? An allied entity was in distress, and was willfully inviting a situation which would cause her more damage. Legion knew disseminating of information to organics was inherently complicated, and the result depended greatly on the emotional state of the entity receiving the data. For geth, new data was prioritized over almost anything else. There was no categorization of news into "good" or "bad." Information just came into being, providing understanding where it did not exist before.

It scanned through years of accumulated information. Though separated from the collective, Legion still possessed cached copies of what the geth had learned of organics over centuries of observation, as well as limitless knowledge from the databases created by the organics themselves to explain their own behaviors.

After several seconds, eons for a machine, Legion came to two conclusions: first, that when organics asked how, the information they really sought was why, even if that question could not be answered. The circumstances surrounding the disaster didn't matter. Legion had access to all of the data from sensors around the ship, even after the point EDI's data inputs were cut off by the explosion, and could provide details that would keep analysts busy for days.

But that that knowledge was useless to Daniels-Gabriella. It did not provide the answer to the question she was really asking. Raw data would provide no relief. It needed to frame the available data in a way that would provide context.

"Varghese-Ranjit was in the crawlspace in the initial explosion," Legion said. "His remains were located and identified by analysis of carbon residue in the crawlspace. He was killed instantly. Donnelly-Kenneth was monitoring progress from this compartment. His status was undetermined after H-cell detonation as surveillance in this area went offline."

Gabby looked at Legion at its mention of Kenneth's name.

"Engineering compartment safety overrides and backup circuitry were annihilated during the overload. An uncontrolled fire erupted on this level and would have spread to engineering." Legion pointed toward the compartment's single instrument panel at the base of the stairs. "Twelve point nine-five seconds after H-cell detonation, manual override inputs were received from this location."

Fresh tears welled up in the human's eyes.

"The operator of this panel sealed the engineering compartments and activated fire suppression systems, preventing damage from spreading further, but rendering escape impossible. The position of Donnely-Kenneth's remains in close proximity to the control panel indicates he activated the suppression systems at the cost of his own life."

Gabby paused to take in Legion's words. Tears dribbled down her cheeks, but Legion's sensors showed her vital signs all took a dip. They still weren't normal, but they were close.

"How about that," Gabby said, "the dumb sonofabitch actually saved the ship."

"Yes," Legion said.

"I thought Tali was just trying to make me feel better," Gabby said and laughed before leaning forward on her knees, her hands clasped in front of her mouth.

Legion briefly regarded the other geth platforms continuing their work in the compartment. They paid the two Normandy crew members on the stairs no attention at all.

That realization led all of Legion's processes to come to their second conclusion: there was nothing more damaging to an individual than isolation in times of duress. Sharing experiences allowed for the resolution of the most tumultuous internal conflict.

For Legion, that meant unanimous internal consensus, or what an organic might call inner peace. Until recently, Legion's processes could fall back on the nearly infinite resources of the collective to solve its unsolvable problems. But now, cut off and alone with the most inefficient and error prone method of communication available to it, Legion finally understood.

Organics were truly alone, even when amongst their own kind. Overcoming the barriers imposed by their design took a tremendous amount of patience and effort, and the result was never certain because verbal communication was so unreliable. But that was the only method open to them. To make matters worse, it was the method most likely to break down when internal conflict reached its peak, making resolution impossible. The entity in question would shut down.

Unless an external connection is established by an external entity, Legion thought. Upon their own explusion from the collective, Legion's programs experienced such internal conflict that consensus became impossible, until Tali'Zorah vas Normandy made a connection.

It had seen the organic members of Normandy's crew do so many times since coming aboard. The methods they used were as varied as the crew itself, always tailored to the recipient. Statistically, the most successful methods seemed to entail two main components: Physical contact and two-way visual connection. These are the stimuli to which individual organics respond.

Slowly, deliberately, Legion gauged the distance from its hand to Gabby's back, and gently applied equal pressure across its three digits against the area surrounding her mid spine. This had the desired effect of making the human to look around with bewilderment to see what was touching her.

When she saw Legion's arm reaching behind her, she sat up reflexively, and Legion's hand rose easily with her before it pulled back into its lap.

It's head flaps wavered in and out as it's central camera locked on her eyes. It buzzed and clicked like it always did whenever it was convincing all of its own internal processes to cooperate, or to formulate a coherent answer. It was something that she and Kenneth mocked at first, but quickly looked upon with great affection. It always meant Legion was confused about something. The machine's undulations finally smoothed out. She waited for it to speak.

From the difficulty it was experiencing, she expected to hear three familiar words. No data available. Instead, she got three words that her own mind could barely comprehend coming from a machine.

"We are sorry," said the geth.

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