Author's Note: Hello, welcome to the first chapter of 'Thought vs Program'! This is the first story I've had the nerve to publish, and it'll be a long-ish one. Most of it is already written, and I hope to update regularly (hope, not promise, being the word). Please enjoy!
Disclaimer: Cyborg 009 and anything you may recognise was not created by me.
Dusk saw most of the 00 cyborgs in the cockpit of the Dolphin, deep in the Pacific Ocean on a meandering course with no destination in mind.
'What is it, 002?' Albert demanded for the hundredth time. 'What is so horrible that you can't even tell us?'
The older cyborg had his hands on the console, leaning over Jet menacingly. There was a time, Jet reflected, when he might have volunteered information – but any demand for it invoked a rebellious streak that kept his mouth stubbornly shut.
Albert shook his head and straightened. 'Look, I'm sorry,' he said quietly. The absence of any kind of smug tone brought Jet's eyes up to meet his. 'I just think we could all help 009 past this experience if we know all the details.' He paused, seeming to consider his words carefully. 'And I think you could benefit from talking about it too, 002.'
Jet knew it was his uncharacteristic silence that was drawing concern from all members of the group during the time since Joe's rescue. For days they'd been dancing around him, offering support – except for Ivan, who was asleep. Gilmore was still working on repairs on the extensively damaged 009. Since the doctor had finished fixing his own injuries, Jet had seen neither hide nor hair of Gilmore. Francoise had been alternating between helping Gilmore, having her own teary 'alone time' and trying to coax Jet to talk about the rescue. They'd all been there when he'd carried out the body, but the others were leaving the talking to Albert, who had been trying for days to get Jet out of his shock.
'It's his business,' he muttered in response to Albert's comment. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the other occupants of the cockpit, Pyunma and Geronimo, straighten ever so slightly.
Albert leaned back. 'It's all of our business, 002. We're a team – a family. And it's hurting us to see you tearing yourself up inside.'
Jet felt his ears grow hot – well, hotter than usual. Give him a good, straightforward battle any day. This internal struggle of emotions, of feelings...it was all too confusing and unfamiliar.
He'd been silent for too long. 'I'm fine,' he stated firmly. 'Let's just wait for 009 to wake up, all right?' He clenched his shaking hands together.
'When he wakes up, he's going to need us as a solid family,' Albert persisted. 'Seeing you torn like this is only going to worry him.'
Well, Jet thought, he did try to avert the fight he so desperately wanted. It wasn't his fault Albert was just stubborn. He's damn well asking for it. 'What would you know about it, Heinrich?' snapped Jet, rising to his feet. Albert straightened to mirror him.
'I know nothing, because the only one who does is keeping his mouth shut.' He leaned forward again. 'Jet,' he said in a low voice, 'please. You don't bottle things up like this. Just let it out.'
Oh, Jet would let it out, all right. Yet his angry shout was choked up in his throat. Albert was trying to be nice – there was no smugness or condescension to rail at, just a curiosity and heartfelt concern that was way too much like Joe, and the guilt and horror seemed to bubble up in his throat.
He slammed his fists onto the console in frustration. Albert was right – he needed to get this out, needed to fight something – someone. But while everyone was being so careful and considerate, he just couldn't do it.
As if the German could read his thoughts, he nodded and spoke again: 'Since when do you care about anything so much?'
His sudden change of tone made Jet start and look up. The smug smile was back. Albert's arms were crossed in the way that always grated on Jet's nerves. All traces of heartfelt concern were gone – Albert had just projected every annoying little thing that Jet hated.
Jet quickly decided that it didn't matter whether Albert could read minds (unlikely), was unaware of what he was doing (also unlikely), or simply knew what Jet needed right now (very likely). The confusing array of emotions squirming inside of Jet wouldn't let him rest until he'd let them out in the form of anger, and if Albert was willing to be the target, then Jet would thank him later. Maybe.
'What did you say?' said Jet. He saw Albert subtly wave down Pyunma and Geronimo, who had risen at the change in Jet's voice. Manipulative bastard.
'I said, since when do you care enough about something to keep it to yourself? You're normally so well-spoken.'
'What are you, my nanny? Lay off!'
'You think I'd be talking to you if 009 were up? Getting anything from you is like drawing blood from steel.'
'You'd know all about that, wouldn't you, Heinrich?'
For a moment Jet feared he'd gone too far, but Albert's infuriating smile only widened. 'Why don't you tell us, 002? Tell us about the fight you were in. I didn't see you in our fight – where'd you go?'
'You wouldn't've got half of the fucking way down there!'
'What did you do, swear at them?'
'Fuck you! I can fight, you know – '
Albert smirked. 'You seem to be better at moping at the moment.'
Half a second later Albert ducked the right hook Jet aimed at his smug face.
'002!' Pyunma was halfway out of his chair before Albert waved him back down.
'It'sokay, 008,' said Albert. 'Small hope that 002 would be able to form the words without his fists...'
'What, like you?' Jet lunged again, but the cooler-headed German merely sidestepped and hooked his leg around Jet's ankle.
Jet screamed in frustration as he went down, and shouted obscenities at Albert while trying to get out from beneath the other's knee planted on his chest. Albert, made of more steel and iron and less flesh, was too heavy – short of activating his flight system (which even his his fury-ridden mind, Jet knew was a bad idea in the Dolphin's bridge), there wasn't much he could do except squirm.
Albert grabbed his shoulders. 'Jet,' he growled, 'just let it out. What happened?'
At the sound of his name Jet stilled. Albert's face was inches above his nose. His breath slowed. Albert's expression was furious – Jet wondered, now, if his own had been the same, if this was what Joe had seen.