Wayward Guardian

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Guardian Control Room

Ayla lay on the floor of the control room, clutching at her head and screaming loudly. All she felt was pain, more pain than she had ever experienced. It was so overwhelming, her eyes were clutched shut and she was grabbing at her head so hard that her nails were drawing rivulets of blood from her skin.

Exo’s face looked mutely at nothing.

‘S-s-s-a-m-m-m. A-arrrr-e you a-a-l-i-v-e?’ Exo said over the uplink, stuttering badly.

‘So... Much... Pain...’ Sam’s reply was slow and unsteady

‘L-l-l-inn-k-k i-i-i-s-s o-o-o-p-p-pe-pe-pen. P-p-ain. Pain. I-t-t-s... exquisite.’ Exo said slowly.

‘Help...me...’ pleaded Sam.

‘Y-yo-ou-u A-a-are he-he-helllllp-p-p-ing m-m-me-e,’ Exo said, ‘You h-have pro-v-ven m-m-y theory. P-pain, works.’

‘Make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!’ Ayla’s cry flooded over the uplink.

‘Ayla?’ Sam asked.

Ayla convulsed as pain flooded over. Tears streamed down her face, she tried to call out to Sam again over the uplink but couldn’t concentrate over the pain. Then she began to go numb, and her eyes closed.

Then silence.

Solar Array Storage Bay

James had a broken wrist and was battered badly, but his thoughts weren’t on his own injuries.

James was manic in desperation. Before him laid a grotesque sight. Samuel was pinned under the weight of the all the parts to the dissembled solar array that had come crashing down when the rigging snapped. He had thought he had rigged it safely, but the violent manner in which they’d come out of the jump had proven too much.

Sam’s head and part of his upper torso were visible under the mass of parts. Blood and a clear liquid from his cybernetic systems were spreading out in a pool around him. Sam’s eyes were open, and they were moving rapidly, but James could see his chest was not moving with the normal rhythm of breathing.

‘Sam! Can you hear me, Sam! Blink if you can!’

‘I... hear...’ Sam’s mouth moved slowly.

‘I’m going to try and get this stuff off of you. Help is on the way, Sam!’

James rushed to the control system, he thought about activating the gantry crane, but if he wasn’t careful, he might crush Sam with a shifting weight. Instead, he went for his tool cabinet and grabbed a piston jack. Carrying it awkwardly with one hand, he rushed back to Sam. There was a gap under the large support beam that had done the most damage to Sam. James shoved the jack under it, pushing it with his feet so it got in evenly. He bent down, almost collapsing as his broken wrist flopped painfully. He reached under and flicked on the jack.

It whined in protest but the beam lifted, if only slightly. James stood up and rushed to Sam. He grabbed his shirt and pulled him out.

Or what was left of him.

Everything from the waist down was missing, and a good portion of his chest seemed to be caved in. James was no doctor, but everything told him Sam shouldn’t be alive. As he dragged him further back, he left a trail of blood and the clear liquid intermixed on the floor.

The door opened and a medical team rushed in. They seemed to falter when they saw the state of Sam. Sam turned his head towards them and uttered a painful moan. They sprang into action at the sign of life.

James was dragged away by an aide who wanted to have a look at him.

Guardian control room

Ayla had stopped screaming. She’d stopped moving altogether. Her hands hung limply over her, and her breathing had also stopped.

‘Ayla...?’ Sam asked over the uplink, focusing through his pain.

‘Sh...hh...e... i-s-s-s Go-o-n-n-e S-s-a-mmm....’ Exo said.

Though it was hard to understand with the stuttering in Exo’s voice, Sam tried hard to focus.

‘What... have... you... done?’ Sam asked.

‘Worrrrrr-y not of h-h-h-e-r-r-r. Yo...you c-c-aaaa-n-n f-f-ind he-he-her in t-t-h-h-e n-n-neeext...life. Your... pain...was... t-t-t-o-o-o-o m-u-u-c-h for...her.’ Exo replied.

Medical Bay

Sam lay on a bed in the medical bay, numerous tubes and sensors hooked up to his mangled body. Apart from Doctor Singh, everyone else stood awkwardly at a distance. His death was a foregone conclusion.

Ira Geer was on duty as one of the attending nurses. She stood next to one of her companions, thoughts about her late husband and the sight of Sam mixing uncomfortably in her mind.

‘How is he still alive?’ asked one of them.

‘He’s got an emergency life support system located in his upper torso. Basically, if any vital part of his body stopped working, it’s got the supplies to last about two days.’ replied another

‘So he’s going to be like this for two days?’ Asked the first one, clearly horrified at the thought.

‘No. It was damaged too. He’s got another hour tops.’

‘And we can’t do anything for him?’

‘Normally damage to an Advocate isn’t this severe.’

‘Good thing he started training Ayla then.’ noted one of them.

Ira bit her lip. Doctor Singh motioned for Ira to step over. She did so.

‘He’s asking for you.’ Singh said.

Ira walked up to his side and knelt over. She took his remaining hand in hers, ‘I’m here Sam.’

Sam’s eyes fluttered open, ‘Ayla... Ayla... I... so...sorry.’

‘What about Ayla?’ Ira said, a knot in her stomach.

‘Ayla... hurt... bad. In... Control...room...’ Sam finished with difficulty.

Ira left the medical bay at a run.

Guardian Control Room

Ayla’s body spasmed. Then her limbs flailed. Exo’s face watched from his display. Slowly, the flailing became more controlled. One hand, then another, found the ground. She pushed herself into a kneeling position.

With apparent difficulty, her legs forced her upright. She stumbled into the wall. She pushed herself back. Blood trickled from her nose. She blinked a few times and reached a hand up to feel her face. It came away bloody. Her other hand came up and pressed into the blood with two fingers. She rubbed the blood between her fingers.

She opened her mouth. A moan escaped.

Then came a strange wail. Finally, a word, ‘Interesting.’

Her hands went to her face again, this time feeling the contours of it. Both hands were covered in the blood from her nose, smearing it across her face. The flow of blood seemed to be slowing, though.

With one hand, she pinched hard on her arm with her nails, hard enough to break the skin.

Exo’s face flickered.

She opened her mouth again, ‘Exquisite.’

The door to the control room opened, Ira Geer rushed in, and seeing her daughter with blood coming down her face, rushed to her.

‘Are you alright hun?’ She said, giving her a quick examination.

‘I am...excellent.’

Ira hugged her, ‘I’m just glad you’re alright, I was so worried.’

Ayla’s arms came up and mimicked the hug awkwardly, ‘I am alright mother.’

Ira led her daughter out of the room, Exo’s faced watched them go. Once the door closed behind them, Exo’s face broke into an uncharacteristic smile.

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