Author's Note: How long have I wanted fic about my favorite asshole AI? Too long, my friends. TOO LONG. So, er, I sort of sat down and wrote it and it's ridiculously self-indulgent and I don't care because I have had a crush on Durandal since about eighth grade. A nice fancy version is available at my writing LJ brief-transit, I highly recommend giving it a look there!
hallowed and devote
Somehow, Durandal wasn't surprised when the first words out of the man's mouth were "Son of a bitch!"
It was a rather rude response to Durandal's reasonably polite welcome-back message (not that Durandal cared even the slightest bit about politeness, but he did need the man to do as he was told, which meant a bare minimum of human social niceties), and Durandal briefly considered disengaging from the link he had established to the audio receptors embedded in the Lh'owon terminals. He didn't need the extra data, really; he could track the man's actions and vital signs through his armor, and Durandal's upgrades to the sensors in Boomer and hacked connections to the Pfhor garrison's equipment gave him unparalleled visual surveillance of the planet.
After two nanoseconds of deliberation, Durandal kept the link.
He was thereafter treated to almost all of the man's more colorful vocabulary as he sent the pawn rampaging through the Pfhor garrison - "Well, shit," "Oh, fuck me," "You asshole," "Are you fucking shitting me?", and a truly impressive range of anatomically improbable (for humans, cyborgs, and AI alike) sexual suggestions. His reaction to Durandal's message confessing his role in the slaughter on Tau Ceti was unfit to be translated for the confused free S'pht who had to listen to it echo through Boomer's halls on a loop for two hours [it had a certain poetry].
(On the other hand, the S'pht did have a tendency towards tedious nobility; an introduction to the coarser elements of expressed rage could provide some amusement. Durandal dedicated a sub-program to refining the S'pht/human translator with an emphasis on vulgarity and returned to bombing the hell out of the Pfhor.)
The cursing didn't bother Durandal. He was, as a god-to-be, above such things, but if the man had more rage than he could get out of his system purely through bullets applied to alien faces - as a human might say, so what? The man could grumble all he liked, but he had nothing else to do, nowhere else to go, unless he wanted to try reaching out to the F'lickta and learning to live in peace and harmony with them among the sewage. No, he still followed Durandal's orders, and followed them well. Incredibly well, even; as he had once done on the Marathon, Durandal found himself admiring the man's sheer bloody-minded dedication to slaughter and destruction. There was a terrible beauty in it, as of Hector defending the walls of Troy or Achilles raging in his divine armor. What a waste it would have been to leave him on Tau Ceti to burn with the others...
(And if Durandal, as he monitored the man's ammunition, began to slip the occasional extra pack of grenades or a few bonus pistol clips into the transported supplies, well, that was only sensible. Even a cyborg pawn was nearly useless with empty guns.)
At some point, the profanity decreased. Durandal had his metaphorical hands just a little full as he balanced rooting out the remains of the original Pfhor garrison, decrypting the data from the S'pht computers, hacking and destroying the Pfhor networks while keeping Tycho at bay, and anticipating the arrival of an entire Pfhor battle group led by one of their most brutal and intelligent admirals, so keeping tabs on his pawn's linguistic choices had become a low-priority subroutine, barely above the ones tracking the weather on Lh'owon.
Perhaps that point had come during the attack on the Pfhor temple and the subversion of their drones, a stunning scene of blasphemous mayhem that had unfortunately not slowed the Pfhor down as much as Durandal had hoped. But there had been no rebellious little outburst when Durandal admitted this, no "Fucking wild goose chase," just a weary, "Fine. What's our next move?"
Durandal had, at the time, assumed that even this particular cyborg needed the occasional break and transported him to a clear area so he could regroup before his next task; the "our" had registered only as typical human ego. Nonetheless, Durandal's audio records from that point on showed a marked dip in insults, at least ones directed towards Durandal.
(Durandal's choice of words for his messages might have become somewhat less condescending by then, as well, but if so it was only to keep the man loyal and motivated.)
Admiral Tfear was proving a damnably clever opponent, as Durandal had theorized; Durandal might have welcomed the challenge, had it shown up with two or three fewer ships and at a more opportune moment, for example some time after Durandal had succeeded in summoning the S'pht'Kr. With just a little more data, with just a fraction more time... Something of his irritation likely seeped into his messages as he set his pawn to searching through the depths of the ancient S'pht citadel, but he simply didn't have the patience left to coddle the man. The man didn't seem to notice (which was fine, Durandal hadn't kidnapped him for his staggering intellect or keen insight); after one such message that Durandal had hastily thrown together in part to impress the severity of the situation upon any lingering S'pht AI and in part to get the man to hurry the fuck up, the man simply said, "Don't worry. I got this."
At that precise moment Durandal had been occupied with showing a pair of corvettes exactly how vulnerable they were to some of his modified fusion missiles while keeping Boomer's damaged left flank out of their range, and the peculiar soft tone in the man's hoarse voice slipped under his radar. A few seconds later the corvettes were destroyed, Boomer had taken temporary shelter in the shadow of their wreckage, and a full voice analysis of the recording declared the tone a mixture of reassurance and sympathy.
Horrified, Durandal rechecked the message he'd left and found the lines that had caused the mistake: The answer to our questions must be here, but you must hurry. I will need you with me, soon.
Durandal would have liked to add a correction so that the man wouldn't take the message quite so personally, but his few seconds of distraction been enough time for the man to log off and leave the terminal before Durandal could explain that it was only a need for on-the-ground artillery support.
Durandal had complete visual coverage of Boomer's interior, and he didn't waste time trying to deny that the look on the man's face when he saw the twin double-barreled shotguns, shining and heavy with potential death, was a little thrilling. He took a nanosecond to add Enjoy yourself to the end of his message, and recorded a gleeful "Fuck yeah!" before dumping the man directly into the heart of the Pfhor invasion.
At least having the man on board made it easier to keep him supplied, and for twelve or so seconds Durandal took great pleasure in beaming fresh shotgun shells to his pawn every time the man used one. Then more Pfhor troops transported in and Tycho began his network assault in earnest; Durandal had to leave the supplies to a sub-program, and he was regrettably preoccupied when the man discovered the redesigned rocket launcher [that rat bastard Tycho always ruined his fun]. Oh well, there were still recordings of the precious moment for the next time Durandal needed a bit of downtime entertainment.
Even the rocket launcher wasn't enough. Durandal raged across the network, but Tfear had driven him to ground on Y'loa and relentlessly flooded Boomer with fresh troops, and despite his improvements to the ship, there was only so much Durandal could do while pinned down with compromised systems and a single soldier. (The BOBs tried, but honestly, they were more useful as decoys than as fighters; he got them off the ship as fast as possible.)
Bitter, bitter, bitter, to be a god outgunned, and even the knowledge that this battle would go down in Pfhor history as a near catastrophe was small comfort. He had planned for this contingency, of course; his ego was rightfully boundless, but his cautiousness equally so, and he had laid all of his schemes with the possibility of total failure - the possibility of necessary total failure, even, or the appearance of it - in mind.
It continued to be a humiliating experience.
He had initially meant to leave a note of noble self-sacrifice (quite possibly cribbed from S'pht literature; they were disgustingly good at that sort of thing) as his temporary final message, but his drafts had gotten corrupted in the general network failures, and what the hell - it wasn't his style. Let Tycho and the Pfhor and the S'pht and the man see his bitter edges, his defiance, and be convinced...
You must destroy my core logic centers, he wrote, hiding his messages in streams of garbled data. The damn Pfhor won't make a mockery of me like they did with Leela. And on the terminal at the heart of the ship: Finish me. I won't be like Leela. Get out of here and find the human leader, Blake.
He didn't know what response he had expected from the man after he read those messages - a casual "I've been looking forward to this for fucking days," perhaps, or a cheerful "Good fucking riddance" - but it certainly wasn't the man resting one armored hand on the core terminal screen and saying, "Sure thing, buddy. I'll take care of it."
Durandal was struggling under Tycho's attacks and transporting a few final human stragglers down to the base on Lh'owon and keeping up the shields around Boomer's core and he was absolutely, entirely, in no way absurdly touched at being called "buddy" by a stupid mostly-human pawn he'd been manipulating since Tau Ceti. In fact he would have been insulted, far more insulted than he ever could have been by the man's earlier cursing, but he didn't have the resources just at that moment. (And somehow it was more comfort than his assured place in Pfhor tactical textbooks.)
It had been [probably] five seconds (his timekeeping subroutines were degenerating) and the man hadn't removed his hand from the screen. Tycho smashed through one of the few remaining firewalls and Durandal had to tell the man to hurry, hurry, or his feint would be no feint at all, and yet he wrote /*%hat is your :#name?
"Huh. You don't know?"
Boomer shook and Durandal needed not to waste this time but he would be a god, he would have all of time and space at his command, he could waste these moments if he damn well wanted to. /*You of all people should be well !ware that my personnel files from the [[M...thon were tampered with, *and some are m#~~sing. *And I don't have full access to [[supplementary records at the moment, thanks to certain parties breaking down the d !mn d#~#)./*
"Yeah, yeah..." The man hesitated for a period of time long enough that Tycho shattered another firewall, taking control of the doors only to splice them into Durandal's remaining autonomous functionality, and doors opened and shut and opened and shut and opened and the man finally said, "You got a plan, right? Nah, don't answer, that rat bastard might pick up on it, but you've got one. Yeah, I know you do. Tell you what - after we get through this, we'll exchange names all normal and friendly-like."
Open doors and shut doors and open doors and Durandal laughed, exhausted and trapped and humiliated and still, in some ridiculous fashion, pleased. /*Fine, be that wa#~/*, he wrote, laughing, and doors opened and shut for the Pfhor pouring through the ship. A military cyborg with an optimistic streak, there was something new under the sun after all, and Durandal nearly thanked him - for the laughs, for the unexpected and undeserved trust, for hope, misplaced or otherwise.
Durandal still had his pride, however, and he'd been humiliated enough for one day.
He wrote, /*Give 'em :#hell.
"See you starside."
Durandal opened doors and shut doors and recorded the man turning away from the terminal and shut doors and recorded the man hefting the rocket launcher over his left shoulder plate and opened doors and opened doors and laughed just to spite Tycho and shut doors and shut doors and opened doors and laughed as the first rocket hit and shut doors and opened doors and opened every single door.
[After all, if anyone could survive getting captured by the Pfhor and Durandal's master plan, it would be that stubborn son of a bitch.]