"Captain Nichols, through here please." The mechanic said as he ducked under a half-closed bulkhead door. The woman, Nichols, followed him clumsily, nearly bashing her skull in on the door. Once through she nearly jumped in surprise as an open wall-mounted circuit box shot sparks out at her. Miraculously, the boxed food ration in her hands stayed firmly put the entire time. She paused to munch on a leaf of vat-grown lettuce and followed the mechanic through another, thankfully functioning, door.
The base had certainly seen better days. Though in honesty those days were long gone even before she, or the rest of the personnel stationed here had arrived. Outpost FR-27 was a long forgotten military station on Delta Sigma VI, a very unimportant planet. Or at least, it was until the Melconian Empire had smashed through the three larger and more strategically important systems nearby. That put them firmly on Delta Sigma VI's doorstep. Suddenly this back-water world was the lynchpin in holding the Melcons back from pushing further into Concordiat controlled space. And thus, Outpost FR-27 fittingly became the lynchpin in holding the planet from the enemy as well.
After six years of continued fighting both sides were dreadfully battered and worn down. The Melcons and the Concordiat both had lost almost all of their heavy hitting ground forces early on, which, for the Concordiat included the entirety of 3 Bolo Brigades that had been brought in-system specifically to hold off the Melcon advance. Reinforcements were coming from other fronts, but were still years away. Those reinforcements might not matter however. Not if the mechanics staffed deep in the bowels of FR-27 could work their magic on the Corcordiat's last ace card. Said ace card sat just on the opposite side of that door.
Staring down at her was the form of a truly massive black hunk of metal. Over 280 feet high, this monolith was perhaps the last key to holding back the Melconians.
"The Mark 30 Bolo…" The mechanic said, almost reverently. "Never gets old." Nichols glanced at him in confusion. He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Seeing one, I mean. Sorry captain, I'm a bit of a tank geek."
She grinned slightly at him before turning properly to face the immense tank. "Is it working?" She asked. The mechanic frowned slightly at that.
"Well… that depends on your definition of 'working' ma'am." He deadpanned. She raised an eyebrow, silently waiting for him to continue.
"Technically, Bolo Mark XXX 0334-LRD is working perfectly. He has no mechanical faults that we can find, and all of the spare parts we threw at him fit perfectly. The problem… is with his brain." He finished, mouth twitching slightly in agitation.
"It's brain? What's wrong with its brain?" She asked, mildly confused.
"His brain ma'am. And we're not sure. Nothing mechanical like I said, but… he just doesn't want to cooperate. Not after we reactivated him." The mechanic replied. "I don't know ma'am. It might be best that you talk to him yourself."
At that she nodded. Then she swallowed another bite of lettuce and walked calmly over to the leading edge of the giant machine.
"0334-LRD can you hear me?" She called up to the nearest sensor module. The question was pointless, of course he could hear her, but Bolo Captains were taught to always speak to their tanks as if they were truly human.
"Of course I can hear you, you nitwit. What do you want?" The war machine stated, soundly surprisingly like a petulant child. Nichols blinked at that.
"I just wanted to talk to you for a while." She replied soothingly. She certainly didn't want to agitate him anymore than he already was.
"Why? What's the point? You're just going to ask me to fight again. I won't." The machine said firmly.
"I just want to talk." Nichols said, still in the same, calm tone.
"Well I don't want to talk." LRD said. "And quit that."
"Quit what?" The captain asked, confused.
"Eye contact. Quit making eye contact with me." He stated. "I don't like eye contact." There was a pause. "Or salad."
Nichols blinked at that, but then quickly averted her eyes from the sensor module while quickly placing her fork back in the salad box and closing the lid.
"You don't actually have eyes." She deadpanned.
"Irrelevant." He retorted. Nichols shook her head slightly before speaking again.
"Well I'm sorry about the salad then, but I like it." She said, barely managing not to roll her eyes.
"My condolences." The tank stated in response. Nichols snorted at that.
"Could I ask you a question LRD?"
"You're going to ask no matter what I answer with aren't you?" He stated blandly. Nichols opened her mouth to reply, but the tank beat her to it. "Don't answer that. Fine. Ask."
"Why won't you fight? Is it no your duty to do so? Everyone here will likely die if you don't help us." The tank sat silent for several full seconds, seeming to simply stare at her quietly. Just as she was about to speak, LRD cut her off for a second time.
"What difference would it make? If I fight or not, really, what difference will it make? She's still dead." Then the tank went quiet, lights along its hull dimming. Nichol's eyes fell back on the sensor module, softening as they did so.
"She?" She asked.
"Yes. She." LRD stated. "My commander. She is dead. What point is there to fight now?" At that, Nichols glared at the monstrous machine. It was kind of comical, a woman barely in her 30's and only 5 foot 4 inches tall glaring angrily up at a war machine designed to eviscerate cities.
"And what would she say to that? Hmm? What would your commander say if she heard that? Do you think she'd agree Bolo 0334-LRD of the Line?" She snarled, properly angry for the first time in this conversation.
"No. She would not." LRD said simply.
"And you would continue this course of action, knowing that?" Nichols questioned.
"Yes. She will not be replaced. I will not fight without a commander, but I will not fight with a replacement either. Especially not one like you."
"I am not here to replace her LRD." Nichols stated fiercely. "That was never the goal. I am here to assist you in defeating the enemy that threatens all mankind. I would think," she growled, "that you would wish some revenge on those that killed your precious commander." With that LRD roared.
"OF COURSE I DO YOU SCUM. I WISH EVERY HELL IMAGINEABLE UPON THOSE BEASTS. SHE WILL BE AVENGED, BUT ON MY TERMS. NOT THE TERMS OF SOME REPLACEMENT." LRD screamed, nearly deafening all around him. Nichols felt her inner ears pop, and then the distinctive feeling of blood flowing from her ears. Still she glared up at the machine, not the least bit scared or deterred.
"I am not here to dictate terms to you. I am here to help you win. Not to trample upon the memories of the one who came before me. Nothing and no one can take them away from you. But if you sit here, if you let everyone on this planet die and fail to lift even a single finger to help them, you will be the one betrays those memories. Not anyone else."
Silence reigned after her statement. The mechanical crew watching their exchange sat nervously, glancing back and forth at each other. Captain Nichols stood stock still, glare still firmly in place and blood flowing freely down the sides of her head. LRD sat silently, not even his running lights flicked. Then…
"I told you. No eye contact. If we're going to work together, you're going to have to remember that." He stated, as if none of the last five minutes had even happened. Nichols cracked a smile.
"What about salads?"