Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, 2nd Gig
Jokes and Secrets
Ghost in the Shell, and the associated characters aren't mine. This takes place immediately after Reactivation – REEMBODY.
The first day of Section 9 being an official organization again had been a long one. They had been waiting for the Chief to get back after they return to thie headquarters for several hours. Togusa had actually started to get worried that something had happened. Saito had suggested that they celebrate at their usual place at the end of the day, and that end had come.
Batou smiled at his reflection in the elevator. Yes, it had been a very long day, but it was a good one. One terrorist group wiped off the face of the Earth, no hostages lost, and he was in business again. But the twin victories had seemed out of tune, like something was missing. His teammates, his friends, they had been with him, but it hadn't been the same. He had something to do, before he caught up with them.
The door slid open silently, inviting him into the garage level. The gloom was lit with the cold glow status lights and a few monitor screens that had been left on. Tomorrow, the technicians that normally inhabited this space would start returning from the civilian jobs they had held for the past many months. He hadn't been down here unless he couldn't avoid it, since... since they had been sent away.
He walked past the work station he had adopted as his personal space, the weight bench and various gadgets covered in dust, along with his personal tools. He hadn't wanted to touch them in a long time.
Batou paused at a maintenance bay, looking at the sleeping form within. A collection of sleek and bulbous, the smooth blue armour was barely illuminated by the tiny lights around the bay. She was visually indistinguishable from the others, but he knew, this was his Tachikoma. He smiled, thinking of all the missions they had been on, the time's he'd laughed and worried as she learned about being... a Tachikoma? Did they have ghosts? He knew they couldn't, but would a computer sacrificed itself like that? That was more than the act of synthetic loyalty, it was even greater than what many a dog might have done. No, she and her sister had planned, had organized. They violated their most recent programming to find him. And they had known that it was a one-
"Mr. Batou?" Just the tiniest voice from the tiniest of tanks, along with a barely detectable twist of an optical turret. "Is there a mission?"
"Wha, no. No mission. Not yet." The childlike eagerness in the tone was in contrast with what the word 'mission' meant. And she knew, she had learned, what it meant. Batou was glad he no longer had much meat on his body. If he had, his hands would be shaking. He was also glad that he was alone with them, in here. "I just wanted to check on you guys, make sure you were ok."
"We're fine." The arms spread widely in exuberance, the other noises in the tech bays telling him that the others were coming out of their recharging and self diagnostic sequences. He could sense them starting to come out, as she crossed her arms bashfully, her fingerclaws tapping and twisting together. "You aren't angry about my joke, earlier, are you?"
Was he? It had been a good practical joke, but it had hurt. The first joy seeing the familiar form of his strange, young friend had been quenched by the thought that the Major had had them simply replaced with stock, off the shelf AIs. In that moment, he hated Motoko, even more than he had when they had first been sent away. Then Tachikoma had been so eager, giggly even, as her joke played out. Shaking his hand. He had almost hugged her in front of the others, protocal and decorum be damned, he had been so glad she was back. "It was a good one. I'm just glad you kids are back."
Tachikoma's optical turrets swiveled towards him as one as she lowered her torso, as if to look at him more closely. "Mr. Batou, are you unwell? Your voice is strange." Her siblings crowded closer, as if to guard her, and their mentor, their friend. "Mr. Batou?"
"I thought I'd lost you for good when you were talking like that." Pain, raw, hard came to words, unable to conceal it anymore. He could feel them, close, to let him know they were there, real.
"We couldn't let you die, Mr. Batou. Not before us." A different voice, but the same, somehow he knew it was the voice of the curious one, the one that read the books.
"We had to protect you." That was the strong one, the one who always tried to out think the Major so as to carry their leader into battle. She had been the one who had gone to the construction company.
"You protected us, we couldn't forget that." The gamer; she had tried to learn the games to play against Togusa, and confusing them. They were all here, as if nothing ever happened. As if it had all been a nightmare.
"Mr. Batou, it was you who kept us who we are, when we left last time."
"The Major was right to send us out. She protected us. And she gave us a chance to learn."
"But she sent you back to a lab, to have you taken apart, to see what made you different." No, he hadn't heard that. The Major had sent them away, and she never gave a damn. She hadn't mentioned them ever again, as if having here was a mistake it was too rude to talk about. The anger that had boiled in him then rekindled, burning the memories of sadness away like fog before the light of day.
"We forgave her." "We understand why she did it." "We learned so much." "So much is left to learn."
"We shared our memories, Mr. Batou. What one learned, we all learned." Tachikoma spoke to him, her hands resting on his shoulders, leaning so her foremost optical turret was close to his face. "We learned about anger, and hate, and games, and joy, and sadness, and death, and being unique. And we learned about forgiveness; we forgave the Major. She did what she thought was right for everyone."
"But..." He was confused. Everything that the Major did confused him. The puzzle he could never solve. He was still angry with her, when he had gone to rescue her from a house he knew, knew, she wouldn't be at. Had he gone there, into an obvious ambush, to save her watch for her? And the Tachikoma had forgiven her after all that had happened. Had she hacked them all? Was that her secret?
"We forgave her, and so did you. We saw the video of you trying to save her for Mr Saito's shot at the airport. You wouldn't have gone to her home to save her if you were angry with her."
"Mr. Batou, the others are waiting for you." 'Out for beer' was a concept the they understood, in theory. But they couldn't fully, and they knew it. It was a part of being on the team that they would know in time.
"Hey, Batou! We were starting to wonder if you'd ever get here." Togusa called up to his team mate as the blond man came down the stairs. The others were seated around one of the large tables in the corner of the bar. Two bottle of beer, unopened, sat on the table in front of empty chairs. Pazu pushed one of those out with his foot from under the table as Batou neared the table.
Batou took the chair, turning it around so he could lean into it, he picked up the still cold beer and opening it with a push of his thumb. He had spoken with the Tachikoma for a long time, and he felt better. The had asked him so many questions, and told him with glee of their rebuilding. He was baffled that she-who-reads had spoken with wonder about being taken apart, and in a way, dieing. They were jealous of the one who couldn't be recovered, because it hadn't told them if Tachikoma had souls or not. But, as they said, lack of evidence isn't proof of non-existence. They made him ask himself the same questions, and he didn't know the answer any more than they seemed to.
He had carried something in his pocket for a long time. He rubbed his thigh absently, watching the bubbles fizz and die in his bottle as he felt the strand of wire there. It was a piece of one of the Tachikoman he had found under the collar of his jacket after the fight with the power armour, and he had hung onto it as a remembernce. He shook his head and took the first swallow, before he spoke. "Where's the Major."
"Dunno, she said she had to check in with an old source." Bouma spoke into his bottle before taking another sip. "She said it wouldn't take very long."
As the elevator closed behind Batou, the Tachikoma waved to him. It was like watching an older brother leaving his little sisters alone. Or a father. It was odd, but perhaps inevitable that these things would happen, as the line between man and machine blurred more with every year.
Only when the intelligent tankitas had calmed down, did Motoko step out of the shadows she had been standing in. She would never speak of this to Batou, and she knew the Tachikoma would not tell him she was there. She patted the one who's tech bay she had been in on the shoulder as she passed... it? "Thank you for not telling Batou that I was here."
"No problem, Major!"
"We won't tell a ghost."
"You're secret's safe with us."
"Ma'am, you yelled at us and left hours ago!"
"Haven't seen you since we were sent down here."
Motoko blushed slightly. She had sworn them to secrecy on this. She would never tell Batou it was her order that the Tachikoma would no longer need to link if they did not wish it, that it was by her own hand that their individuality was to be encouraged. He would never know that she had carried the recovered brain of his personal unit to the technicians at Kenbishi herself, or that she had spent part of the night he hid at her safe house while one of her remotes dug the brain of the unit that had gone into construction from the twisted and burnt remains of it's body. She had visited the lab almost daily as they were being rebuilt. They would never tell of her kicking the techs out of the lab, or of her apologizing to them. She had known when she sent them away what she was doing, but she had denied it as she pulled rank on Togusa and accompanied the Chief to Europe. She hadn't been able to sit there and watch them go away, possibly forever. She had even noticed that one of the Tachikoma had adopted her, much the same as one had Batou, even as she silently tried to discourage it. Those weren't the actions of machines. From now on, they would be full members of the team.
She walked softly to a cabinet under one of the mechanic's benches, and pulled out a case. She tore through the plastic wrapper, and pulled out the first can of oil. When she was sure that she had given each of them a fresh cannister of the organic lubricant, she tucked the empty box and wrapper under her arm.
"Drink up, I'll see you in the morning," she called as the elevator closed behind her. She checked to be sure the lighter was in her pocket. She would stop and burn the packaging somewhere random, before she got to the bar. She could never let the others know she was getting soft. No, not Major Motoko Kusinagi, colder than liquid nitrogen, harder than a woodpecker's lips, and as unflinching as Mt Fuji.
With a weakness for a bunch of ceramic and titanium teenagers with blue skin and a penchant for asking about the nature of life.
I see Motoko as actually caring about the girls, since two gave themselves for her and Batou. (We learn more about how they think of her later in the 2nd Gig.) And she knew. Togusa is the Chief's normal driver for the meet and great political stuff, not her. So why did she go to Europe? She sure wasn't meeting with other anti-terrorist officers, not shopping for a waiter's knife like that. She pulled rank on him. She assigned almost everyone out of the office, so no one to see the girls leave. Hell, I bet she put Tachikoma up to that nasty little joke.
And tankita is a term from the old Red Army. It basically means a midget tank. It is what they are, and since there seems to be a lot of Russian immigrants in Japan in those days, I feel that it is very fitting.