EDIT: So I was scrolling through and noticed that ffnet so helpfully automatically got rid of all of my formatting that I had on this. So hopefully it'll be easier to understand now as a series of short vignettes instead of one lonnnggg thing!
Also; uh, should have made a note earlier making this more clear, but this is the fic! There aren't any more chapters after this one, the last was just a prologue. Thank you for the encouragements and reviews though!
"Alright." Kozmotis mutters to himself. He can only mutter to himself of course, because he's the only living thing on the ship. Part of the downside of a one man crew was that it led to a lot of talking aloud. "Alright, so we should be at the new planet within only a few weeks, I'll have to signal out to let command know-"
The screen locks up. Kozmotis frowns and pokes at it, knowing already that it's useless. The little image of the planet he's on his way to investigate is completely frozen, as is everything else on the mainscreen. "What-"
The screen goes black, then is completely taken up by the image of gently falling snow and spreading ice crystals. "Oh no-"
'WHOOPS' flashes across the screen in bright blue, glittering comic sans.
"Son of a BITCH! Jack! Cut it out!"
'i cant do that dave.'
"I don't have time for this Jack! And why are you calling me that?"
'i came across an old database of retro movies. fun stuff."
The other downside of a single man mission was boredom. Boredom had led to tinkering, and tinkering had accidentally led to what ended up being the most advanced AI system to be born.
Unfortunately said AI was an asshole.
'nice headscarf, babushka.'
Kozmotis turns red and angrily whips off the bandana he uses to keep his hair out of the way when working. "Did you turn the cameras on!?"
"Since when do you have access to the cameras?" Kozmotis snaps. The text on the screen switches to a more dramatically sinister, bright red font.
'i watch u sleep'
The text goes back to it's usual garish sparkly blue. 'i only did that once actually. you're really boring to watch, you don't even talk in your sleep or anything.'
Kozmotis pinches the bridge of his nose and slowly counts to ten. "What do you want, Jack?"
'im bored, and it looks like there's a little malfunction here anyway. seems to me that you got a bug in your system.'
He manages to fight down a smile, but still feels the corners of his mouth twitch up. "A bug? Really?"
'yeah it won't go away till you check out this arcade download i found.'
A compartment pops open with an old fashioned controller sitting innocently within. Komotis stares for several seconds while his brain tries to catch up. There are several questions that need to be asked.
How did Jack open the compartment?
How did he hack into the cameras AND compartment controls of an imperial ship?
Was this something that Kozmotis should be seriously concerned about?
Where in the middle of godforsaken deep space did Jack get a retro game controller?
He lands on the most important of these questions, and the one that has the least amount of dilemma behind it.
"Where the hell did you get that?"
'it is like, stupid easy to hack into the 3d printer'
Kozmotis blinks rapidly and picks the controller up. He realizes that he probably should have asked if he needed to be concerned about Jack's newfound abilities. "You are slightly terrifying. Do me a favor and never start a technological uprising?"
'i promise nothing, meatbag. now shush and get ready to get whipped.'
The mission has no set flight plan, which means that once a week Kozmotis has to choose a path and set a plan for the ship to take. The autopilot takes care of the rest unless something like an unexpected obstacle pops up.
It's very convenient in many ways, but charting the course is always a pain. It involves more calculations and sitting down than Kozmotis has ever liked. Within a few hours he's surrounded by papers with hypothetical courses plotted out and various pros and cons scribbled in the margins.
He knows he shouldn't be happy when things break, but repair work is a nice way to spend several hours. It gives him something to do with his hands and even the frustration is worth the work.
That doesn't stop him from muttering angrily and violently while on his back, half stuffed under the console.
Jack has been unusually quiet today, which usually means he's up to something or trying to hack into a new part of the ship. Kozmotis decides that he can worry about his wayward creation's mischief later.
That was a mistake.
The voice that comes over the speakers is one Kozmotis hasn't heard from command before. It's also blasted at full volume and cheerfully yells out right by the console he's under..
"'KOZMOTIS! THIS IS YOUR GOD!"
Kozmotis shoots up so hard that he hears the sound of his head meeting the metal above him echo through the bridge. He yelps and clutches a hand to his forehead, seeing stars. "FUCK WHAT THE FUCK?!"
"Hey so I upgraded myself and I have voice capabilities now!"
The young man's voice rings in his ears as Kozmotis falls back, clutching his head and groaning while the room spins. "Jack?!"
It sounds older than he had imagined (honestly he had pictured Jack as a crazed child), it's deeper and rougher yet still very fitting in a strange way.
It also shouldn't be possible. Systems do not improve and enhance themselves like this. "How were you even capable of upgrading yourself?"
"The magic of science. Also; I looked up some software programming tutorials."
This should be worrying. Actually, it is worrying. Jack is hacking into what sounds like tutorial systems for advanced software analysis. He's hacking into the ships speaker system to talk and has designed his own unique voice and is using inflection perfectly. It's not the tinny, oddly monotone voice of most AI's, this sounds like a person talking through an intercom.
It's terrifying and extremely unnerving, but Kozmotis can't keep a wide grin down. "That's...ok I'll admit. That's pretty amazing."
"I know!" Jack chirps. He actually sounds pleased. He's happy. He's expressing emotions and even if it's mimicry it's done so perfectly that Kozmotis feels his head spinning.
That may be the concussion.
Pirates. Of course there would be pirates. And a lot of them. Kozmotis isn't technically holding anything of value, but his ship is unfortunately advanced and very desirable.
The realization that it also holds the brain of the most AI system there is sends a cold finger of dread crawling down Kozmotis' spine. Jack as he is, is technically useless. He's willful and stubborn and has a habit of not taking orders while doing what he wants.
But he's capable of hacking into anything that he comes across, has shown the ability to take over ship processes, and can control hardware on the ship.
With a few wipes and reboots...if they completely erased his personality...
Kozmotis shudders violently and tries to pull himself up. There are four bodies around him, but there happened to be seven pirates and it only took one putting a piece of shrapnel between Kozmotis' ribs to bring him down. He wheezes and tries not to cough up blood as he glares at the three pirates plotting nearby.
"There isn't...isn't anything here-"
"Pipe down," a particularly large pirate growls, "we already know you're hiding someone. Now go and bleed out quietly."
"Wh-...what?" He croaks. Jack is thankfully silent. Though this is probably thanks to the quick override Kozmotis did that threw the AI into standby mode. He couldn't let them find Jack, couldn't let them try and take him.
He is certainly going to get yelled at later for that, if he survives this. That is looking less and less likely though, he thinks, as he coughs wetly. "There isn't-"
"I said shut up! We've got the damn reading on our scanner so you can stop tryin to hide em!." The pirate turns to his companion whose scowling intently at a small screen. "Well? Where're they hidin? This bastard's denying it so I'm thinkin it's someone important."
Pirate three cackles and looks over at the scanner. "Ah! Gottem! Cargo bay. The shit's probably trying to hide in the supplies."
Kozmotis frowns, feeling lightheaded, and he's sure he's missing something here. "But..."
"Look, if y'aint bled out by the time we get your friend then we're just gonna put a shot through your skull anyway, so best sit nicely and go to sleep like a good bastard."
The three laugh like the man just told a particularly good joke and stride out. Kozmotis falls back against the wall, wincing as he clutches at the piece of metal sticking out of his side. He can feel his own blood pulsing out between his fingers, slick and hot and if he had enough energy he'd feel sick.
"I can't believe I'm getting killed by pirates." He mutters. There's a blaring sound, pounding against his head and it takes him a few minutes to recognize that it's an alarm. The ship's actual AI comes on, the monotonous and generic female voice is garish after so many months of Jack's cheerful teasing.
"Warning, evacuate cargo. Warning, life support lost in cargo bay. Evacuate immediately."
He blinks slowly, trying to think past the thick fog in his brain. "Wha-"
"Stop, ok just stop um, ok stop what you're doing I have the med droid on the way ok, Koz?" Jack, that is definitely Jack's voice. And It's definitely preferable to that horrible tinny woman who-...and wait...
"How are you on?"
"Oh we are having a TALK about that later but right now just, you need to stop leaking ok?"
"It's called bleeding." Kozmotis says distantly. He coughs again and groans when the metal shifts in him.
"You're broken and fluid is coming ok!" Jack is sounding close to panicked. He's getting very, very good at mimicking emotion. "That's leaking! And there's a lot and you need to stop ok you need to stop it because the med droid is on the way I swear Koz it'll be there soon."
"What-" Koz winces, seeing stars against the backs of his eyelids. "What happened to the pirates?"
"They're currently freezing to death because I cut off life support to the cargo bay they're locked in and who cares?"
"You killed them?" He should be more concerned by that then he is. Though he supposes that he killed four of them so Jack isn't all that bad.
"Yes I killed them! Who cares!?"
"Oh..." He needs to have a talk with Jack about casual killing. That's an important thing to establish. But he's having trouble remembering how words work and the room is slowly going black and grey.
"Hey hey no! No come on! Talk to me, the droid's almost there! Come on Koz! Um, what are we gonna do when we're done?"
He frowns, that's an odd question. "What?"
"The mission!" Jack's voice is higher than normal, and it's shaking oddly. "When you're done with it! I mean you can't leave me here, right? So what'll you do? Just tell me that until medical gets there ok?"
He hadn't really thought about that. He has grown so used to Jack's voice chattering at him that he hadn't thought about what he would do LATER. "I...I'll get you a body." Kozmotis blinks, suprised at his own answer, but...now that he thinks about it.
Really that's the best plan.
"You'll what?" Jack's voice gets an odd hitch in it, like he's confused and doesn't really believe it. Can mimicry do that? But AI's only mimic...
"Get you a body." Koz repeats. His own voice is oddly wet sounding, it's coming out as a thin rasp and he's very, very glad that he's going numb. It's a lovely change from all the agony before.
"You mean like a robot?"
Kozmotis takes a few minutes to process the question. "No. No, robots are r-rubbish. I mean there's..." He coughs, wincing, "there are bioengineered bodies. Mostly used by the obscenely rich to give themselves a young new body to play in. It's a mix of robotic and biological, but works like a real body. I-It's v-very easy to download any system into one. Some people load AI's into them to use like a maid service." He has to pause to take a few deep breaths, biting down a sound when the shrapnel grinds against his ribs. "And fortunately for you, I have connections."
"Promise." His breath is a soaked rasp and he can see the room blurring. "I think I'm dying." He says casually.
"No! No you can't, you promised, ok! You can't shut down just stay on! Stay on, see! See, the droid is right there, you'll be ok!"
He's distantly aware of a wirring sound and the cool blast of the med-patch hitting him. "I probably...shouldn't make promises while I'm dying. Not...not my smartest move."
The last thing he hears before waking up days later in the medical bay is Jack's enraged "You are not dying! You can't!"
It's been nearly three days (give or take, time was difficult to track) since the pirate attack and Kozmotis is about to go insane.
The wound in his side is mostly healed. The shrapnel and the force that had been used to put it through his side had broken a rib, dislocated another one, and punched right into his lung, but fortunately by the time he woke up most of that was taken care of. He was left to deal with the fatigue from blood loss and the sore ache in his side as his ribs finished stitching themselves back together.
He also has to deal with Jack.
"Are you alright? Did your rib fracture again? I saw you wince!"
Kozmotis sighs and bites back another wince when the deep breath pulls at his side. "Jack, I'm fine."
Jack had been hovering, as much as a non-physical virtual being could hover, ever since Kozmotis woke up. If Kozmotis coughed, Jack was pulling up the data on the possibility of an infection. If he moved too much, Jack would explain in detail how easy it would be to dislocate his rib again. When he went to bed, he woke up with medical scanners running over him and an ongoing log of his vitals on the mainscreen.
It stopped being flattering by the second day.
"Are you sure? You should rest again. You lost a LOT of fluid and I've read that sleep is a great way to replenish-"
Kozmotis slams a hand down on the console in front of him, "Jack!" He clenches his fist, takes a deep breath, tries to calm down and fails, "I appreciate the concern, really, but you're acting like an overbearing mother and I managed to get away from the original decades ago. I don't need a round two."
"Like a what?"
He groans and rubs at his temples, "Nevermind, that's not a conversation I feel like having right now."
"Oh, that's the female needed to make a new meatbag right?"
"Why can't you say 'organic' like all the other computers?"
"Stop changing the subject!" Jack snaps.
"Stop babying me!" Kozmotis growls.
"If you actually took care-"
He's having an argument with his software. Again. A lot of people yell at their computer, it just usually doesn't yell back. "WHY are you so concerned about this all of a sudden? I'm getting better! There was hardly any blood anyway!"
"It was almost more than two pints!" Jack's voice nearly goes up an octave and Kozmotis is outright impressed at how well Jack is using inflection, "You could have actually died!"
"I didn't die." Kozmotis points out. "And I've had worse than that anyway. It's fine, Jack."
"No it's not!" Jack yells. "It's not fine!"
"You could die!" Jack talks over him, "Anything can kill you! Anything!"
"Jack you're exaggerating-"
"Am I!?" Jack's voice hitches again, it's an odd sound, since it has nothing to do with how Jack is breathing. "Right now you could get an infection from a drop of blood that got left in your lungs and you could die from that, you could move wrong and your rib could break and puncture your lung again making you choke before the droid could get to you! At any time you could fall and hit your head, or there could be a malfunction and an electrical fire, the mainboard could overheat and explode, did you know it could do that!? It could go off and take your head off or a couple limbs! Or some pebble sized rock could hit the ship and cause a minor breach that would crumple the whole thing! Did you know that there is one spot on the outside of the ship that, if hit right and barely punched through, would take out all the life support?!"
"And you keep visiting new planets with new diseases! Or someone could kill you like the pirates almost did! And they were so easy to kill, they froze within minutes, and that can happen to you!"
"And you could have a bad run in with a magnet!" Kozmotis snarls, "So we're on even footing!"
"No we're not! You're stupidly breakable and you keep putting yourself in the way of things that can break you! I- I feel like I just need to-to lock you up in a padded room and make sure nothing happens!"
"Jack..." Kozmotis says slowly, "if you do that then you're guaranteed to kill me."
"Hey! I could take care of you!"
Kozmotis breathes in slowly, taps his fingers against each other while he thinks of how best to approach this. This...is going in a dangerous direction. He needs to find the best way to diffuse this without worrying about being kidnapped by an overprotective computer. "Jack, I'm sure you could do a splendid job. But I would die in there. I need this, I need to do things. Do you understand Jack?"
"What if I cut off all of your online access? I could lock you away in a hard drive and make sure no one could tamper with you. I could put you in standby like I did when the pirates came and then keep you there. I can't let anything happen to you, but I know that you wouldn't be able to handle being locked up."
"...that's why you put me on standby? Why would you be worried?"
Kozmotis runs a hand over his face, he tries to remind himself that this is a computer. This is a line of code. He shouldn't have to be reassuring a program.
It gets more difficult to remember by the day.
"Jack, you are extraordinary. You're probably the most advanced piece of technology I've witnessed and I can't even take the credit, you practically wrote yourself. In the wrong hands you would be a terrible weapon, but to make you one they'd have to take out all the things that make you what you are. You're a stubborn, cheeky, willful and infuriating brat, and I can't let anyone try to change that.
"And I'm the only person you know, Jack." Kozmotis continues with a sigh, "Technically I'm the only life you know. You're just over protective because you haven't seen anything else. It'll get better when you meet more people. You just need to see more of the universe and you'll stop worrying over just me so much. It'll get easier for you."
Jack goes quiet, absorbing the new bit of data, and Kozmotis can hear the soft whirring of machinery as the AI processes. He stands up and stretches with a small groan at the pull in his side, feeling loose and worn out despite the lack of activity. "And you were right, I should be resting. I'm going to sleep for a bit, try not to shove any scanners in my face this time?"
Jack doesn't answer, he's still quiet as Kozmotis goes to his bunk and settles in for a short nap. He's already half asleep when the AI finally says something again.
"I don't think it'll get easier for me."
Two years doesn't seem like that long a time; but two years cooped up on a ship, even with Jack's unexpected company, felt like an eternity.
The entire mission is meant to be four years, with one stop halfway through to replenish supplies and check to see how the ship is doing. It's nothing too strenuous, but this is an experimental ship after all and they're not taking chances. If this run is successful then they'll begin with longer and longer missions.
The ship lands smooth and the feel of fresh air as the doors open sends a giddy thrill through Kozmotis. He practically leaps out with a yell of "Make sure the droids don't mess anything up!" to Jack on his way out.
And if he is a bit undignified as he runs down the gangplank, then at last there aren't any important visitors there to see it. Instead there's a singer officer. A Pooka standing to receive him at the bottom with a firm salute ready.
"Your form's sloppy, get that disgrace out of my sight." Kozmotis sniffs as he skids to the ground. Ground! Actual ground!
"Go fuck yourself, General, Sir." The Pooka says back with perfect military briskness.
There's a tense silence while they stare each other down for a few seconds.
Kozmotis is the one who breaks first and doubles over laughing. He's been on that stupid ship for too long. The Pooka bursts out laughing with him and one firm shove nearly sends Kozmotis sprawling on the ground.
"The hell are you doing here Sehstor?" Kozmotis asks with a grin, once he can breathe again.
"Ah well they needed a properly high standing official to make sure the empires new General got back in one piece." Sehstor shrugs as they begin walking away from the landing pad and letting the repair droids do their work.
"And you're here because...?" Kozmotis nearly goes to the ground again as Sehstor gives him another shove.
"Shut up! You notice how you got promoted to general and then the higher ups instantly shoved you on some tube by yourself where no one would have to deal with you?"
"They don't want me making any of them look bad. Now where is the nearest place I can get actual food that was cooked by real people and not a matter builder?"
Hours later and Kozmotis feels wonderfully full, deliriously cheerful, and perhaps a little bit tipsy.
"Pirates?" Sehstor says unbelievingly, "Honest fucking pirates?"
"They weren't honest, they were pirates." Kozmotis points out before taking another long swig of his...he's not sure what it is he's drinking actually. But it tastes alright.
"You got boarded by pirates!?"
"And stabbed." Kozmotis waves loosely at his side. "By shrapnel. They stabbed me with a damned piece of my own ship, Sehs! Bastards."
"Complete bastards." Sehstor agrees.
"Really if it hadn't been for Jack-" Kozmotis sits up straighter, he could kick himself for not remembering sooner. "Jack! You have to meet Jack!"
Sehstor blinks, fur ruffling out slightly. "Who? Wait, isn't it a one person mission? As in, that is the point?"
"No no it's not- well not technically. Jack is the AI I created!"
That gets him a long blank stare. "Wait, so you upgraded the ship's AI or somethin? And you want me...to meet your computer program?" Sehstor puts an emphasis on the 'computer program' part.
"No I wrote him while I was bored. Just something to pass the time but Sehstor you wouldn't believe it!"
"Him?" Sehstory says blankly.
"Well that's what he says at least but that's not the point! Sehstor he's developing himself! He was supposed to have a natural curiosity and I added an extra learning drive and he's taken off! He's developed a personality and I mean, Stars Sehstor! You should hear the voice he made for himself it sounds like a real thing!"
"The voice HE made?" Sehstor's eyes narrow and his ears swivel back.
Kozmotis laughs, remembering how Jack revealed that new trick. "Hah, yeah the little shit nearly killed me when he came on with that thing. According to him he had gotten bored of talking just through text so he looked up some programming tutorials. Then he somehow synthesized a voice designed how he wanted it and then the fucker hacked into the speakers and about gave me a heart attack."
Sehstor stares at him, fur bristled and whiskers pricked forward. "Koz...this thing doesn't...sound safe."
"What Jack? No Jack's harmless!" He avoids mentioning the incident with the pirates. "Come on! You have to meet him!"
"Yeah...yeah ok I'll meet this little program of yours. As much as you can meet a program."
Sehstor is quiet after that and his ears are flat the entire walk back towards the ship. Usually Kozmotis would go with his friends instincts, they've been through some ridiculous shit since they were thrown into the same bunk as trainees. And he understands why Sehstor's suspicious! Jack is something new, something that hasn't even been heard of. And the pooka was always nervous about things he hadn't heard of.
"Trust me," Koz says as they approach the ship doors, "you'll love-" he never gets to finish telling Sehstor what it is he'll love. As soon as the ship's door slides open every other sound is drowned out by every single alarm and claxon in the ship screeching at once. The sound is like a physical bludgeon to Kozmotis' head that pounds against his skull.
Sehstor yells and covers his ears while Kozmotis stumbles into the ship. "Jack! Jack what the hell are you doing!?"
The cacophony stops instantly and Kozmotis shakes his head against the ringing in his ears.
"Koz!" There's a frazzled note to Jack's voice. "You're back! Where did you go? You were gone!"
"Was that all because I left!?" He had told Jack he was stepping out!
"I didn't know where you were and usually wherever you go you can answer me when I say things but you didn't! Why did you leave!? Where did you go?!" Jack is practically hysterical now. "And who is THAT!?
"That," Kozmotis says slowly, "is Sehstor. He's a friend of mine." He smiles over at Sehstor, whose looking around with eyes that are about to pop out. Kozmotis winces when he sees that the pooka is in a slight crouch, ready to attack at any moment. "It's fine, everything is fine." He says, really addressing both of them.
"Koz..." Sehstor says slowly, "it took over your ship. It...Koz this is an imperial vessel! It's impossible to hack into them! That's why-"
"It wasn't hard." Jack says nastily. "Maybe they should have made the walls better."
Sehstor flinches at that, then lets out a slow breath. "You were right about one thing, it doesn't sound like any normal AI."
Kozmotis frowns, "He's not-"
"And YOU don't look like something that isn't supposed to be cooked for dinner!" Jack interrupts. "Actually, from what I'm seeing, you look like some animal that is often cooked in a variety of ways. I can list them if you want."
"Jack!" Kozmotis hisses, the little idiot is NOT helping his case. "I'm trying to convince my FRIEND that you are not a psychopathic rogue program so could you kindly stop with the threats?"
"Fine." Jack quips, "I'll leave the cottontail alone. Not like I could do anything anyway, I'm just a bunch of numbers."
Kozmotis sighs noisily as Jack goes quiet. "Oh he's going to be sulking forever now. Damnit!"
"Koz!" Sehstor snaps. "That thing is dangerous! It's completely out of control!"
"He's fine! Jack was just a little jealous but he wasn't going to do anything! He talks big all the time! He's just throwing a fit because I mean, he's only ever been on this ship with me to talk to. I should have given him some warning before I brought someone else on or left. He's just upset that-"
"Kozmotis this is a program! One that you wrote! It can't get upset and if it is then there is something seriously wrong with it!"
"There's nothing wrong with Jack!"
"It's wild and defective! Koz I am begging you not to go back out there with that thing! It's amazing, I'll give you that. The thing is damned mind blowing but it's out of control! Just let me get a few programmers in and we can maybe try to stabilize-"
Kozmotis sees red. They'd take away all the things that made Jack JACK. They'd get rid of that stubborn streak and the tendency to play pranks and that bright laugh that Jack had just developed.
If he let any of those damned people on here they would kill Jack. "Don't. Touch. Him!"
"Leave him alone, Sehstor! Jack is mine!"
"Listen to yourself!" Sehstor yells. "Koz this is a computer program! It's an incredibly detailed and complex bit of code but it's still code! You've been on that ship way too long with just that thing to talk to and it's doing things to your head!"
"He's turned into a person Sehstor! You saw that! He's making emotional attachments and having actual reactions to them! This isn't just a string of numbers anymore!"
"Just trust me on this Sehstor! Jack won't hurt anything!"
Sehstor scowls at him, tense and bristling. "Fine. Just-" He sighs and it's like he's physically deflating, his fur smoothing out and ears falling back, "just be careful with that thing alright? I'll keep in contact as I can, alright?"
Kozmotis runs a hand over his face, feeling drained, "Yeah...yeah that's fine. I get it. I'll let you know when I have to dock again."
He waves Sehstor off, ignoring the concerned look the pooka shoots at him before the door shuts. As soon as he hears the click of it locking he groans and rests his forehead against the cold metal.
"I know you're still listening, Jack."
Jack's voice is soft through the speakers, it's so, so painfully real and Kozmotis closes his eyes against it. "I'm uh, I'm sorry I freaked out like that. And threatened your friend...I'm not dangerous. I don't think I am at least..." Jack's voice peters off on a question and Kozmotis winces at how lost it sounds.
He sighs, pushing off the door and running a hand through his hair. "You're not dangerous Jack. You're too...you." He huffs, trying to find the words, he'd never think he'd be needing to reassure what was technically a computer program. Jack made it very easy to forget what he was. "You have the potential Jack, if you wanted to you could be dangerous. But the important thing, what makes you special, is you don't want to."
The silence from Jack is heavy, Kozmotis can imagine the AI listening intently, hanging on every word, "I'm sorry as well Jack, I should have warned you better and explained what was going on before I left. I forget sometimes that you react differently." He forgets that Jack has never been outside the ship, has never known anything besides the ships systems and Kozmotis' company and what he can find online.
"Because AI's always just stay with the ship, right?" Jack sounds resigned, but there's a touch of bitterness. It's complex and deep and Kozmotis is sure now that everything about Jack is more than just copying data.
"No," he answers, "I mean that I forget you're not-"
"Not real." Jack finishes.
Kozmotis stops, looking around at the walls and flickering lights of his ship. Of their ship. "Jack," he reaches up, rests a hand alongside the wall and feels the cool metal under his palm, imagines he can feel a heartbeat through the hard, smooth, steel, "you're just as real as any of us." He finishes quietly.
There are some days when he can just tell that Jack is going to be nothing but trouble.
"Hey. Hey. Hey Koz?"
Kozmotis' fingers pause above the keyboard and he frowns at the log entry he's writing up to send off. Jack has that tone in his voice. It sounds like he's barely holding back laughter which doesn't make SENSE since Jack doesn't have involuntary reactions like laughter. But that's Jack for you.
"Yes, Jack?" He asks cautiously, already knowing that this isn't going to be any sort of good.
"I just thought of something." Jack practically giggles, and Kozmotis can just picture him buzzing with excitement at whatever he has planned. Kozmotis can ignore him, or he can try that new mute button he's been considering.
Or he can play along.
"Did you now?" He's going to regret this.
"You're inside me!" Jack crows.
He regrets it. He regrets everything.
"Does it feel good inside me, Koz?" Jack purrs, which is ruined by the fact that the AI is actually cackling like a maniac.
Kozmotis drops his head into his hands, groaning in pain. "Jack did you just now discover innuendo?"
"I can discover a lot of things." Jack croons.
"Yes I can see that, feel free to stop." There is nothing more bizarre than having your computer purr filthy hints at you. Especially when it does so in what really is a very nice voice, which Kozmotis is trying not to think about.
"It's so cool!" Jack says brightly, "You can say something that means one thing, but like, just by making your voice different it means something else!" Since he apparently hadn't already demonstrated this to his satisfaction, Jack drops his voice to a more sultry register, "Do you wanna see more, Koz?"
"No." Kozmotis whines into his hands.
Jack's laugher echoes through the ship, and Kozmotis hopes he's heard the last of Jack's newfound skill.
He should know better than to hope by now, he really should.
"Oh yes," Jack coos lovingly, hours later, "press those buttons, that's how I like it."
Kozmotis actually has to stop in the middle of plugging in the new coordinates to take a breath and resist slamming his head into the control panel. "Jack."
"Or push them harder," Jack continues with a playful growl, "I like it when you press hard."
"Jack, could you NOT?"
Jack goes quiet and Kozmotis thinks he has a victory.
Until he flicks a switch and Jack makes a sound that is downright pornographic.
Kozmotis yanks his hand back, face heating up and heart hammering. "Jack!"
"I like it when you say my name." Jack purrs. Or tries to. He's breaking down into a fit of giggles.
"Would you cut it out!?" Koz pleads, voice breaking on a harried note.
"Make me." Jack says silkily.
"I created you!" Kozmotis points out, as if that will somehow magically make Jack listen to him.
"Oh daddy~" Jack breathes, and Kozmotis makes a strangled wheezing sound that in no way shape or form resembles a squeak. Everything is terrible. Kozmotis' face is burning and there is a horrible traitorous coiling low in his abdomen and nothing about what is happening should cause any of these reactions.
Something needs to be done to bring this to an end before it gets ugly. Uglier.
Jack lives for reactions, everything he does is to get a rise out of Kozmotis. But ignoring him is just issuing the AI a challenge to step his game up.
If you can't beat them...
Kozmotis narrows his eyes then smiles slowly, going back to his control panel and picks up a conversational, casual tone. "Careful, you'll turn my floppy into a hard drive."
Ringing silence. Kozmotis grins to himself.
"Oh my god." Jack says.
"Don't think you're the only one who knows how to use innuendo just because you discovered it today."
Jack pauses, clearly thinking this over very carefully.
"Oh Kozzy," he finally says, voice low, "you'll overclock my processor."
Kozmotis snorts, barely choking down a laugh and his grin just keeps growing. "If i was an operating system," he says lightly, "your process would have top priority."
"If I were an assembly language, I'd jump to your address, shift right a bit, push it in, pop it out, load a byte into your accumulator, then jump if you're negative."
He's finished. Utterly defeated. Kozmotis is leaning against the panel to keep himself upright, he's laughing so hard. "What does that even MEAN?" he wheezes between fits of cackling.
"Koz oh my god you WROTE me!" Jack says in disbelief, "how can you not understand that?!"
Standing isn't going to happen anymore, he's a man down. His sides are hurting as he slides down to the ground, barely able to breath from laughter. "Did you know," he chokes out, tears in his eyes, "I failed nearly all of my programming classes when I was in school?"
"Is that why when you tried to make a search engine you accidentally made a person?" Jack asks, a grin in his voice.
"Probably." That sends Kozmotis into a completely new fit, his face is starting to hurt from all the grinning.
"Laughing is so weird." Jack says, sounding mystified, "That looks like it hurts."
"You laugh." Kozmotis points out as he catches his breath.
"Yeah but not like that, that looked like it nearly killed you."
Kozmotis leans his head back against the wall, grinning from ear to ear. He can't remember the last time he laughed so hard. Especially at something that, honestly, was not THAT funny. "Just you wait." He says, "when you get a body I'll have my revenge. You'll see."
Jack chuckles at that, and even if it's not like a real laugh, it sounds close enough. "Yeah..." he says, "I will."
"Hey Koz? I found this like, huge memory drive on the ship, looks like an external-"
"Don't touch that." Koz says lightly, not looking up from lacing on his boots for the morning.
"I can't touch anything." Jack points out. Kozmotis does look up then, giving the camera a glare that he hopes clearly expresses the fact that it is far too early for his computer to be sassing him already.
"You know what I meant. Leave it alone."
"Just leave it alone, Jack."
"Ok ok, but what is it?"
Kozmotis sighs and stands up, wondering if he could possibly just fall back onto the bed and pretend he didn't have a work ethic at all. "That's my personal log, it's an ongoing record of everything I have done since I joined the service. Every mission, promotion, fight, and assignment is on there. It helps me keep track of things. If I need to remember something or if I need to look back to see how I handled a similar situation before, and what the results were, I can look it up." He smiles wryly up at the camera. "You were supposed to help with that, originally."
"Why do you think I was trying to make a search engine? I was testing it out on the ship but originally you were going to be part of the log. That way I could search for specific events more easily."
"Wow that sounds boring, glad that didn't happen."
Kozmotis snorts as he walks down the bridge. "Yes well, I'm also glad that you don't have free reign over that."
"Don't want me to read your diary?" Jack teases.
He shrugs, moving to a screen to look over anything that had happened while he was asleep. "You can read it all you want, just don't tamper with anything. That's one of the few truly personal things that I own."
"I- wow really? I can look in it?"
Kozmotis makes a humming noise of affirmation, reaching over to pluck the mug of...whatever caffeinated concoction the ship makes every morning, out of the materializer. He downs most of it in one go, to best avoid savoring the flavor, and winces as he puts it down. "Like I said, just don't mess with anything. Other than that knock yourself out. It's not too terribly interesting."
"It's your life though, right?"
"Hmm, past few centuries of it or so, yes."
He waits for some comment on being old, but Jack has gone quiet, probably already rummaging through the drive. Kozmotis knows he should feel more nervous about letting an inquisitive AI in there, but he can't bring himself to really feel bad about it.
Until he doesn't hear anything from Jack for nearly two hours.
"Alright what are you doing? All this quiet is making me jumpy."
"Shhh" Jack responds. "I'm reading."
Kozmotis blinks. "You're still reading that?"
"You know, for a dashing space general, your life is pretty boring." Jack says, sounding distracted.
"You don't HAVE to read it if it's so dull!" Kozmotis glowers, feeling offended. He's been shot at enough times to consider his life decidedly NOT boring.
Kozmotis sits back in his chair, smiling a bit stupidly. "If it's so boring, why are you reading it?"
"It's easier than just asking you this stuff. Also, what happened on this date like, way back when you were training? It got deleted and you put in a big 'NO' there."
Kozmotis nearly spits out the next swig of caffeinated mud and spends a few minutes choking. "Nothing-! Look there were just things I did when I was young and stupid and-"
"Fun fact," Jack says, and Kozmotis feels a chill of horrified dread at how pleased he sounds, "you can never fully delete anything."
"Ohhhh look what I found! Let's take a look."
"Let's not." Koz says, feeling broken.
"Now what was so bad that-...Koz...Koz oh my god."
"I told you not to look!" Koz says, ignoring how his voice hitches up an octave.
"You- isn't Sehstor that rabbit guy who came on here?!"
"Yes." Kozmotis whispers like the last words of a dying man.
"Oh my god YOU AND SEHSTOR!?"
"We were drunk!"
"I can tell!" Jack says, sounding absolutely delighted. "Oh god you were still drunk when you wrote this! Shall I recite a passage from times of old?"
"Shall I find the escape hatch and just fling myself into the endless void of space and into the arms of sweet death?"
"'Oghmf stars diary,' aww see? Even you knew this was just an overblown diary."
Kozmotis lays down on the console, hoping there will be a spontaneous electrical explosion that will take him out quickly. "I was being ironic," he whines.
"Sure sure, anyway, 'i wooke up thiss mornIng and SEHSTOR was IN MY BEDED and I WAS NAKED And i Thaink we did IT and iiM tryiNG not to throw UP OGSTARS THERE IS FUR IN MY TEETH.' I- no I cant, I can't anymore I-" Jack breaks down into fits of laughter before he can finish the damning passage.
Kozmotis still waits for the sweet embrace of death via electrical fire. Unfortunately the ship continues running smoothly. "You can stop now."
"Aahhh that's fine it just breaks down into keyboard smashing after that."
"I think I was crying." Kozmotis explains, feeling numb.
"This is beautiful. I hope I find more like this little gem."
"You're going to keep reading?" Kozmotis doesn't get it. His log is mainly data and information. It's hardly something for casual reading, especially all in one go.
"Well yeah, I mean. It's information about you and just you." Jack says nervously. "I wanna know more."
"You could just ask me." Kozmotis points out.
"Pfff as if you'd tell me all the good bits like your wild furry night!"
Kozmotis winces at the unfortunate choice of words and sighs. "Alright alright, carry on then."
Jack's already gone silent, no doubt rummaging for other good bits. Kozmotis shakes his head with a sigh and a small, private smile.
"Come on, almost-" Kozmotis winces when the third external drive let's out a puff of smoke and a sad crackle.
He hadn't accounted for how HUGE Jack is. The original program would fit easily, but Jack had expanded himself to take up the whole ship and was constantly adjusting his own coding as he needed. Jack was something entirely new, something no one had even thought was possible. He's like nothing, no ONE that Kozmotis has ever met.
The meeting with Sehstor had made Kozmotis realize several things. It would be so, so easy for someone to tamper with Jack. For someone who didn't understand how amazing he was to go and try to "fix" him. For someone to see Jack as only a weapon. Jack was more than a code, he was something bigger, but he could be tampered with like a code.
And Kozmotis can't risk anything happening to him.
"Fourth time's the charm." He mutters, digging around for a larger drive. The pile of them is supposed to be for data and program backup. But, well, somethings are more important.
Technically he IS backing up a program. He smiles to himself at the thought as he plugs the new drive in and starts the process over.
"What are you doing?" Jack asks. "That feels weird."
Kozmotis doesn't point out that Jack can't feel anything. "I'm trying to make a backup copy of you, in case anything happens."
There's a pause over the speakers while Kozmotis flicks his fingers over the screen. When he speaks again, Jack's voice is oddly quiet.
"You can copy me?"
"Technically." Kozmotis frowns as the external drive makes a suspicious crackling sound. "Though you're making it difficult." He laughs quietly, grinning as he looks at the little bits of code that flash over the screen. "Do you realize how HUGE you are? Feel free to refrain from any innuendo in response."
Kozmotis blinks, looking up at the nearest camera. "What?"
"I said stop! I don't want you to! You can't make a copy of me!"
Sparks fly out from the drive an Kozmotis leaps back, "Jack! It's a precaution! Calm down!"
"I can't just go making copies of YOU!"
"That's different! I-"
"You're what?!" Jack spits, "a real person?!"
It's like a punch to the gut. Kozmotis clenches his hands into fists, feeling something twist in his chest before dropping heavy into his stomach. "Jack no. That's not-"
"Actually, go ahead!" Jack says breezily, "maybe you can give the copy a few upgrades! Get a few bugs out of the system! You can call it Jack 2.0!"
"That's not what I meant!" Kozmotis yells.
"Jack 2.0 won't care anyway!" Jack retorts. Before Kozmotis can say anything else there's the static crackle that means Jack turned the microphones off.
"If it makes you feel better," Kozmotis snarls, knowing that Jack can't hear him, "computers don't throw tantrums!"
Jack doesn't answer.
He doesn't answer for two days.
By the end of the first day of silence, Kozmotis is about to start flinging things around the ship just to make some NOISE. He hadn't realized how he had grown to depend on Jack's conversation, how many hours he spent just talking to the AI about everything and nothing. Jack was there when he woke up and while he was working and whenever he had anything to say.
It's at the end of the first day that he storms over to the computer and firmly types a quick, 'You are being immature. I didn't mean it like that, and there's no reason for you to go on a sulking tantrum!'
He's barely finished typing when the cursor starts moving against his command and the entire message is pointedly deleted.
"Fine!" he growls, storming away from the computer.
Usually lights bother him when he sleeps, he'll turn off or cover up as many blinking lights as he can before he curls up in the small room where his bunk is tucked.
It's completely dark, and he keeps staring at where there is usually a tiny pinpoint of blue light from Jack's camera. Kozmotis had grown used to that one, it was always on the edge of his awareness, a faint glow that stayed through his dreams and made him feel a little less alone while he was stuck in this metal tub.
The room is dark, it's dark and silent and empty.
"I'm sorry." Kozmotis whispers to where the blue light usually is.
The room stays dark.
He doesn't exactly wake up the next morning, that would have required sleeping in the first place. It also would have required a morning, which is a loose concept on the ship, but he doesn't worry too much about that.
Kozmotis is too busy staring at the dark corner where the camera light usually shines, to be worried about much of anything.
There's the faint hum of the engines, the small noises of moving metal and the whirring of various electronics. Kozmotis can hear his own footsteps resonating through the ship, bouncing and crashing off the walls and filling his head.
He sits at the main screen, staring at all the readings and the constant scroll of numbers and points of data. Everything is running smoothly, not a single hitch or bug or interruption to the precise flow.
He hates it.
A few clicks brings up a blank document and he spends several more minutes staring at that instead. Jack may have decided to ignore everything after he deleted Kozmotis' last message. This one may not even go through. There may be no point in it.
Thinking about that is a nice way of ignoring the fact that Kozmotis isn't entirely sure what to say.
Which isn't exactly true. He knows exactly what he wants to say.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry. You're the greatest thing that's happened to me. You are something that I can't even wrap my mind around. You've been here a little more than a year and I can't remember what it was like before I could talk to you.
I know what you felt like when you wanted to lock me away in some dark room where nothing could hurt me. I almost did the same thing to you. They could take you and change you and ruin who you are and I couldn't let it happen. I was too caught up in thinking about what it would do to me if they got you, if something happened to you.
But you're not something to be copied, you're not something that can be mimicked or recreated or simply written down to pick up later.
His hands clench, then unclench. His fingers tap a staccato near the keyboard as he stares at the blank screen.
He starts to type, stops, erases it all before he finishes one word.
Kozmotis huffs out an annoyed sigh, frowning intently as he finally types his message out.
'I'm sorry, Jack.'
It's not nearly enough, but at least it isn't erased on the spot this time. Kozmotis glowers at the three insufficient words.
He highlights them, feeling a bit silly, and changes the font to comic sans.
'I'm sorry, Jack.'
The click of the speakers is so loud that Kozmotis nearly falls out of his chair.
"I can't believe you-..did you just actually make that comic sans? You're such a dork."
He knows his grin is getting a bit on the stupid side but he can't seem to get the damn thing under control. "I thought I may have to stoop down to your language."
"Wow that is rude, nice apology there."
"I'm sorry." He says seriously, fingers tapping at the edge of the console.
"Yeah...well me too I guess. I mean, that was really damn stupid of you. But I probably shouldn't have just cut out like that. I'm glad you managed not to burn the thing down without me taking care of you."
"I piloted this ship for a damn whole year without you." Kozmotis huffs.
"Yeah and I bet you were going a bit crazy."
His face is starting to hurt, he wasn't designed to smile like this. And it's just humiliating, knowing that Jack can see it. Kozmotis is supposed to be serious right now.
"Maybe a bit." He admits.
"Aw come on big guuyyyy." Jack teases. "Admit it, you loooovve meeeeeeeee!"
Kozmotis freezes, fingers digging into the material of his sleeve of his suit.
He needs to laugh, needs to react and make some witty comeback needs to do something besides sit here like an idiot while his heart tries to climb out from between his ribs.
He pulls up the mainscreen again, clearing his throat while he begins looking over the new data.
"Maybe a bit." He says.
He tries to remember if there was a build up to him having to admit to himself that he might, MIGHT, be in trouble over his computer program.
The picture may have been a turning point.
"What did you break?" Kozmotis asks, not looking up from the screen in front of him. Jack sounds guilty, and that's never good.
"Nothing! Shut up! I just wanted to show you something."
Kozmotis blinks, then sits back, looking up at one of the cameras. "Alright...I'll give. What did you do?"
"I've been working on something for a while." Jack says, he sounds so nervous that Kozmotis raises his brows in curious surprise. "It's a rendering. I took it from a stockpile of a lot of different images and then started working up into something that looked, that felt-"
"Did you make a picture of yourself?" Kozmotis interrupts quietly.
"Yeah...well I mean kinda. It's a picture of what I look like. What I want to look like. When you get the body made. If you can do that!"
Kozmotis smiles, ignores the little flutter in his chest. "You can make the bodies look however you want, Jack. It should be easy. Let me see, then."
The screen in front of him flickers and the graphs are replaced by a single image. Kozmotis stares at it, at Jack.
It's a young human man, barely out of his teens. With pale skin and blue eyes and a thin, mischievous curl of a smile that makes his eyes light up. It's made to look like a photograph. The boy's, Jack's, head is turned just slightly as he looks at the camera, like someone caught his attention before snapping the shot. There's sunlight hitting him and even a generic, outdoors background.
It's not exactly what Kozmotis had imagined for the voice that has been his companion for almost two years, but it fits. It's so utterly Jack that Kozmotis can't even imagine him as looking any other way.
"It looks just like you." Kozmotis says with a smile, ghosting his fingers over the computer screen where Jack smiles back up at him.
"It is me. Will be. Same difference. Hey, Koz?"
"Hm?" Kozmotis doesn't look up from the image, from the details of it. How long had Jack been working on this? He can see each strand of white hair and the faint hint of freckles over his skin. There's even the detailed weave of thread in the fabric of his shirt. And his eyes are a perfect blue and reflect the artificial sun like-
"What's kissing like?" Jack asks in a rush.
Kozmotis freezes, blinks rapidly while he tries to come up with an answer and his face heats up. He clears his throat and looks away from Jack's eyes. "It's...difficult to describe."
"Try?" Jack prompts.
"It's..." Kozmotis clears his throat again and rubs at the back of his neck. "It's different for every person, really. For me it's something very...personal. Something small that you can still feel all over, that connects you with someone..." He's usually better at words than this. Usually not this bad. But it's difficult, with the image of Jack's smile right in front of him behind the glass.
He might be in trouble.
"When I get a body...that body. Will you show me?"
It doesn't sound as naive as it should. Jack sounds sure, like he knows exactly what he's asking for.
Kozmotis bites his lip and looks back at the image. Thinks of the last two years. He should say no, brush it off as the innocent question of an innocent computer program.
But Jack is more than that.
"I will." Kozmotis says softly.
Kozmotis hardly feels like he's done much for the day, but he falls back onto the bed feeling wrung out and worn down all over. He's loose and tired, ready to just pass out as soon as he hits the mattress.
Except he can't seem to get his brain to realize that it's about time to stop replaying the day's events over and over again.
He's starting to think that he's in a lot of trouble.
Jack's picture had not helped. It wasn't even a particularly alluring picture. It was just a portrait rendering of a smiling young man, blue eyes bright and grin a mile wide.
He couldn't stop thinking about it, about how much it looked like Jack. Which didn't even make sense.
He may definitely be in trouble.
And he needs to take his mind off it. Needs to find something to blank himself out and hurry him off to sleep so he doesn't have to think so much.
His hand almost starts moving on it's own, palm sliding flat over his chest. The material of the jumpsuit bunches and smooths as his hand moves over it and he closes his eyes, focusing on just feeling instead of what his brain is doing.
Kozmotis lets a slow breath out and drags his hand up his sternum, feeling the faint friction of material over his skin. It's easy to get lost in touch, to blank out as he leisurely traces the ridges of his collar bones, slides his fingers up over his neck. Fingertips ghost over the skin of his neck at the top of his collar and his next breath comes out on a sigh.
He takes his time, hooking one finger through the zip of his jumpsuit and pulling down slowly, slow enough that he can feel air hitting skin as the suit parts behind his hand.
With his eyes closed everything just -feels- more. He opens his suit down to his navel and leaves it, sliding a hand beneath the material instead of outright removing it.
Kozmotis bites his lip, scratches at his skin lightly and moves his hand up. His breath hitches, catching when he drags his thumb over one nipple. The rustling of the bed when he shifts is nearly deafening, and he opens his eyes slightly.
Just enough to see the faint glow of a blue camera light in the corner of his vision.
His breath hitches again, mind flooded with the memory of the picture Jack sent him. It's all too clear, how that smile would curl around Jack's laugh that he knows too well. How the blue eyes would light up when Jack was excited or the way those lips would work around Jack's distinct voice.
Kozmotis is in trouble. His breath comes in small, short bursts and he should ignore the light. He should ignore it or demand Jack respect a little thing called privacy.
There are a lot of things he should do.
"What are you thinking about?" Kozmotis asks, barely above a whisper.
There's a pause following him. A heavy silence where he holds his breath, holds his hand still and wonders if he just crossed some line that he can't come back from.
'Oh there's no question that I crossed it,' he thinks. If he's honest with himself he crossed this line a long, long time ago.
He's wondering if Jack is actually at the camera when the AI finally answers, voice quiet and hesitant. "I...I really want to touch you."
Kozmotis closes his eyes again and shudders at the sound, hearing Jack's voice so close and intimate. He moves his hand again, but now he's keeping his touches light and teasing, imagining a smaller, curious hand. "Tell me," he breathes.
"I want to know what it's like." Jack says in a rush. "I want to know what skin feels like, how your clothes feel different from your skin and how different areas of skin feel different. I'd want to feel your hair, run it through my fingers and then run my hands down over your neck. I can see your pulse there and I want to know if it's warmer on your neck, want to feel that under my hand."
Kozmotis closes his eyes again, sliding a hand up to rest over the side of his neck, right where his pulse flutters wildly in his jugular. "You'd be able to feel my pulse jump," he says, keeping his voice low and quiet, even though he's technically the only one on the ship. "And it definitely would."
"I'd...yeah I'd like that." Jack says softly, "I want to see how you react. I'd move my hand down, keeping contact because I want to feel every texture. I'd move down to your chest, feel your heartbeat there because I want to know if it's different than how it feels on the side of your neck."
His hand moves down obediently, pressing more firmly as it drags down his chest and pauses in the center, right over where his heart pounds against his ribs. The suit is still only partially open, his hand hasn't even gone lower than his chest yet and he's already fully hard. Kozmotis can feel his erection straining and pressing against the tight material every time he shifts.
Every breath shudders out of him, he wants so desperately to move down, to reach beneath his suit and wrap his hand around himself and let go. But he keeps his hand where it is, waiting for Jack to direct him.
"I would move my hand over to run your nipples under my fingers, because I heard they're sensitive and want to see-" Jack stops when Kozmotis' breath hitches on a whine while he rolls his nipple beneath his fingers, "-that..." Jack finishes. "I want...I want you to do that because of me."
"I am." Kozmotis sighs, shivering while he twists his fingers.
"I'd kiss you, now." Jack rushes out, and Kozmotis bites his lip, nodding even though Jack didn't ask anything. "And I would want to stay teasing, I mean...I really want to take my time and touch everything but I know myself too well." His voice breaks into a small laugh and Kozmotis barely bites back a groan at the sound of it. Stars just that laugh could do him in, he can easily imagine it breathless and huffed against his ear or muffled with a smile pressed against his neck.
"I'd want to tease," Jack says again, "but...I can see how hard you are. I can see it through your suit and I wouldn't be able to keep myself from touching it. I wouldn't be able to stop from tracing it through your suit with my fingers and Ty feeling the shape of it."
Kozmotis moves his hand down quickly, voice choking out a moan while his fingers run over the ridges of his erection. He keeps his touch light, maddeningly light; imagining Jack's curious, hesitant touch.
"Jack..." he barely recognizes his own voice, he's hoarse and strained and sounds completely wrecked. The brushes of his fingers are barely enough through the suit, he can only just feel the heat of his erection bleeding through and the hints of touch muffled by material only make him arch and whine, desperate for something more substantial.
"Press your palm over it," Jack says, "I want to feel all of it at once. Can you feel it throbbing like that?"
Kozmotis chokes again, grinding the heel of his palm over his erection, pressing against the head and thrusting up. "Yes. Yes Jack, please!" It's not enough it's still not enough, he's shaking while his hips move up against his palm, desperately seeking more friction while he rocks against his the flat of his hand. His head thrashes mindlessly, neck arching back and mouth opening as he pants on each breath.
"I don't know what to do next." Jack says softly, and Kozmotis is pretty damn sure he's lying. Jack lives on the internet, he knows exactly what to do, but Kozmotis' brain is too fried to call Jack out on it properly.
"Jack, please." He whimpers, deciding he can be embarrassed later. His hips jerk up, insistent. "Need you to touch me...please I need-I can't like this I need more-"
"I want to see." Jack breathes, "I-...open your suit the rest of the way."
It takes Kozmotis a few seconds to comply, his fingers fumble of the zipper and his hand is shaking as he drags it down. He grits his teeth on a high moan as his erection bobs free, swollen to a point close to pain and throbbing. Just the feel of air hitting it makes Kozmotis shudder and leak a bead of precome. The tremors move up his arms, he feels like he's falling apart and his other hand moves up, slapping flat against the wall of the ship in a desperate grasp for something stable.
The metal is cool on his hand, he can feel a thin layer of perspiration forming on his palm and warming the steel beneath it. He knows that Jack isn't really the ship, knows that Jack can't feel anything, but he presses his hand harder into the wall, rubs his thumb over the smooth surface and pretends that it can reach Jack somehow.
"Ok..." Jack says, voice low, "Ok you can...you can touch yourself now. I want to see...want to see how you do it. So when I get a body I can do the same thing and then I can be the one making you feel like that."
Kozmotis immediately wraps his hand around his erection, nearly sobbing as he thrusts up into his fist. "Jack yes Jack please-" He's not sure what he's begging for anymore, he's hardly aware of what he's saying at all.
He tightens his fingers, gasping as his hips move wildly. Kozmotis couldn't even stop if he wanted to now. Precome drips down over his hand, slicking his erection and smoothing the friction as he twists his fingers of the head and fucks up into the clench of his fist. It doesn't take long for him to feel the beginning of a twisting heat low in his belly, a tightening strain that he's sure will break any second.
"Jack-" he gasps, "Jack I'm close, I'm so close. Please Jack-"
"I want you to come." Jack says quickly, "I want you to come for me Koz, want to know I did it."
His hips stutter up, bucking one last time before his entire body snaps. He means to say Jack's name, it's on his tongue and screaming through his mind but he only manages to get halfway through it before his voice breaks on a moan and he comes into his hand. Convulsions tear through his body and he keeps thrusting through his orgasm, working through it until he's shuddered out every drop of come and he's falling limply back onto the bed.
There's electricity running over his skin, he feels exposed and hypersensitive and drained in the best ways. He's still gasping for air and there are still small aftershocks moving through his muscles as his arms fall open to either side of him.
"You know what I'd like to do now?" Kozmotis asks, voice cracked and hoarse.
"What?" Jack asks, attention focused.
"I'd very much like to hold you." Kozmotis says quietly.
Jack pauses for a second before he answers.
"Yeah," he says, voice so close and quiet and achingly far away over the speakers. "I want that too..."
His fingers drumming on the metal have bever been this loud, he's sure of it. They're a sharp stacatto, tap tap tap tap in a constant loop as he stares at the main screen, which is currently acting as a viewer to the extremely dense asteroid field they're navigating through.
"Jack, how long till we're clear of the field?"
"If you'd quit distracting me, it'd be sooner."
Kozmotis frowns at the viewer, tapping his fingers in a rhythmless beat against the console. The sound is driving him mad but it keeps his mind off of the incredible amount of rock surrounding them.
"You don't get distracted." He frowns, wincing as a particularly large asteroid glides by them. "Literally, you can't get distracted."
"Would YOU like to fly through the asteroid field that YOU thought would be such a great shortcut?" Jack retorts.
"The scanners must have misread something." Kozmotis mutters, mostly to himself as he frowns nervously at the viewscreen. "The field didn't look this dense before..."
"Well it's pretty dense now! Hold on we're almost through."
The ship tilts, flips and spins faster than the internal gravity can keep up with and has Kozmotis grabs blindly at the chair before he gets sent careening across the floor and into a wall. The viewer is filled with asteroids rushing by while the ship ducks and weaves through the field.
"I'm going to die." Kozmotis announces calmly, clinging to the back of the chair hard enough that he's sure his fingers have become one with the polyester cover.
"No you're not, now shut up and let me-"
Asteroids have a bad habit of going off predicted paths. They tumble through with no real purpose, bouncing off each other and careening wildly. Every single fact that he had learned about navigating through asteroid fields screams through his mind when he spots the small projectile coming in from the side.
It's amazing, how an entire text book flits through his head in the half a second it takes between the moment he spots the hunk of rock, and the moment the ship lurches sharply with the sound of buckling metal and he falls to the ground, dazed from the slam of the metal floor crashing into his shoulder and the shrieks of the alarms overhead while the cabin goes dark, basked in the red of the emergency lights.
That means that the thing messed up the reactor somehow which caused a short in the power which-
His body seizes, spasms sending his limbs flying in a whirl as he grapples at the chair to pull himself back up. "Jack!"
There's the faint, high whine of the emergency lights, the humming of the backup generators, the strange and stifling silence left in the wake of the dead reactor at the back of the ship and no voice there's no whirring computer no-
"I'm here I'm here calm down! Had to get myself tagged back into the speaker system and get them running again."
His knees are having trouble staying locked in place, which makes Kozmotis very thankful for the chair he's clinging to again. The wave of relief that slams over him leaves him feeling loose and jittery. "Don't do that to me Jack I-"
"Koz," Jack interrupts, voice strange and grave, "this is bad. We're in bad shape. Luckily we're at the edge of the field but-"
"It's fine." Kozmotis sighs, spinning the chair to face him and turning to slump into it. "It's fine Jack. If the backup system is going that means a beacon was sent out. It should only be a few days before a rescue team can shoot over here and-"
"We can't BOTH last more than a day Koz!"
Kozmotis stops, his fingers, which had started their nervous drumming again, going still. "What do you mean? It's not like we're going to both use up air."
"No but we both use up POWER. Koz I'm kind of an energy sucker, I can't keep going for more than a day, not if life support keeps running."
His fingers start drumming again, his other hand fiddling with nothing where it rests on the armrest. He blinks rapidly.
"We'll think of something. I'll think of something. That's my job. I'm not-"
"If you stay alive then I'm going to have to shut down and divert everything to life support."
Kozmotis rubs at his forehead, teeth bared. "Shut up and let me think, Jack!"
"Koz I can't-!"
"I said shut up!" He snaps. It's only by chance that he opens his eyes and sees the simple drive sticking out from the main computer.
The one that he's had his entire life, specially made to be large enough to hold every single thing he's done.
He thinks of something.
"Koz," Jack says, "I'm gonna start diverting power, it may take a few minutes but-"
"Shut up no you're not!" Kozmotis growls, flying over to the computer and hitting the small, plain icon for his memory drive. His history takes up the whole screen, countless entries spanning a very, very long life. Every accomplishment and every failure, everything he's ever done picked out in pixels and code for him to see.
"Koz it's already started, I don't know what you're doing but I'm already setting things up to redirect the power."
"Koz I need to say something."
"Would you stop doing whatever you're doing and look up!?" Jack snaps.
Transfer? Yes. "Shut up, Jack!"
"Koz please! I need to say something before-"
Confirm. "Before nothing! Nothing is going to happen to you! I'm not going to hear any desperate, last minute-"
"I love you!"
The screen burns into his retinas, his fingers clutching at the console while he stares at the small sliver on the load bar.
"Jack-" He can't hear that. Not now. Not yet.
"I mean I'm pretty sure I do." Jack goes on quickly, sensing that he's about to be cut off. "I don't know maybe it's just some weird glitch. I don't know if I even CAN love or if it's just some Stockholm syndrome thing because I've been stuck with you. But I've seen other people I've watched them online and through their logs and journals and none of them are YOU. I don't care about getting out and getting a body unless you're there! So I can't let you-"
"Stop it!" Kozmotis snaps. "Stop! I'm not going to listen to you thinking that this is some desperate confession at the end of-"
"I need to do this!"
"And I made you a promise, Jack!" His fingers dig into the edges of the screen, staring down at the bar willing it to load faster. Willing this to actually WORK.
"Koz please..." Jack's voice is small, shaking and broken and how could ever have thought that anything about Jack was artificial. How could he have taken so long to realize that this was something real, something that he can't let die. Not now, not ever, if he can do anything about it.
"I'm not going to hear it." Kozmotis growls, not looking away from the screen. "We're both going to make it out of here, and I'm going to get you the body that I promised you and-"
"Koz I need to shut down to get you the life support! Please! Just let me say this!"
"Can you say it then?" Jack asks, voice quieter. "I mean, before I have to-"
"I'm not." Kozmotis says, voice low and shaking. "I won't. I won't say anything until I can look you in the eyes and say it. I'm not saying anything until we're out of this. So if you want to hear it then you're going to have to stop trying to kill yourself before I have a chance to get us out of this mess."
"I'm sorry Koz I can't-...I have to-...The power redirect is done I just have to shut down now, I can't stay on, Koz."
"No! Jack just wait a little longer!"
There's that sliver of space left right at the end a small barely millimeter length of data, a fraction of everything Jack is, everything that makes him Jack and it's so close-
"I'm sorry Koz I'm sorry. I wish I could have gotten that body. I'm sorry."
There's a click. It's such a small sound, and it's not even from the speakers. A click and a rush of air from the vents, a flicker in the lights.
The screen flicks for a second. A small alert popping up. A blip of a cheerful message.
-File transfer incomplete. Save loaded content?-
He knows he must hit the confirm button, because he can hear the bright ping as the file saves.
Not a file.
95% of Jack.
The ship is silent. There's his own heartbeat pounding like a drum through his skull. The rasp of metal on metal as he slides his drive out and grips it in his palm, feeling it warm up against his skin as he holds it.
It had once held his life on it. It still does.
He's found curled in the same place three days later without a single hitch in the life support system. And no one can make him unclench his hand from the tight fist he has around the small, simple drive.
There's 95% of Jack resting against his chest, attached to a length of chain and tucked under his uniform. He can feel his heart thump against it with every beat and imagines that he can feel it begin to pulse with it's own life.
He wonders if Jack is awake in there. If Jack feels trapped in the impossibly small walls and circuits of the drive.
He wonders what that last 5% was, wonders how much it matters with something as large as Jack.
95% of Jack has rested against his heart for a month now. Trapped while he fights to keep him, small and silent when he stands in front of the Imperial Council.
His heart pounds against the plastic and metal drive, though his posture is perfect and his voice calm and even.
"The program was an accident yes, but I believe destroying it would be demolishing a valuable resource."
Resource. Program. He can't tell them they'd be murdering someone, knows they can't understand. Sehstor stands next to him, stiff and just as calm as Kozmotis. He had stopped calling Jack a psychotic rogue AI as soon as he heard what had happened on the ship.
"General Pitchiner, you must understand our concern." A councilwoman sighs. "This...program of yours took over an Imperial vessel and, from what I can see of the recovered logs, it did so with little to no difficulty! Something like that can't be allowed to go about on it's own!"
They won't need to worry about an AI going rogue. They'll have Kozmotis to deal with. He only blinks though, his hands tense briefly behind his back, he takes a slow breath.
"This AI can be kept controlled. He...it...simply needs more help with development. But it could be an invaluable asset to the Empire. This system has the decision making skills of a person, but the ability to access endless knowledge with the speed of our most advanced supercomputers. It can learn and hack into any database or mainframe, if applied properly he could provide a mix of tactical help as well as a way to access any information we may need."
He's Jack. He has a laugh that lights everything up, he's mischievous and troublesome and can't stand being bored. He'd rather play games than look at asteroids and likes shades of blue and ridiculous glittery fonts. He worries too much and can make rash decisions. He likes action movies and lives to get reactions from everything around him. He's Jack.
"And where would you propose to put this program?" Another councilor asks. "We can't allow it anywhere near the government systems, or any ships for that matter. What's to stop it from just spreading? It's takeover of the single man vessel, Starbright, was almost virus-like."
Kozmotis has planned for this, already counted on this question and had his answer ready long ago, when he was still not so lonely on a single man ship. "A body." He says bluntly. "It's not unheard of to upload AIs into an artificial body, though I will admit it's usually used for servants or less savory purposes. A body will keep him separated from other systems unless he directly plugs in, which could be under my supervision. The AI, Jack, listens to me." Usually. Sometimes. When he feels like it. Even though he wouldn't listen long enough for that last five percent.
"Are you sure that you can keep this thing under control, General?"
Sehstor clears his throat before Kozmotis can respond. "Council, if I may? I came in contact with the AI when General Pitchiner made a supply stop on Colony G42E. It's just as advanced as him and the logs have indicated, and I won't lie, the thing scared the shit out of me. But it listens to him, and I think destroying something this advanced, this lifelike, would be a mistake."
Kozmotis lets out a slow breath through his nose. The council goes quiet, looking amongst themselves as they work over Sehstor's testimony.
The portable drive burns a hole into Kozmotis' skin..
"Very well." One woman says gravely. "We'll provide the necessary funds to secure the AI system into a body and assign General Pitchiner as it's primary caretaker and handler." She leans her elbows on the table, face grave as she looks Kozmotis in the eye. "I want you to understand, General," she says, "that if this thing goes rogue, or is at any point perceived as a threat to the Empire's security, it's on you."
Kozmotis nods, back perfectly straight and face unreadable while his heart tries to climb it's way out between his ribs. "I understand. I accept full responsibility."
It takes two more months to build the body. It's a process that Kozmotis doesn't quite understand, creating something that's a full mix of machine and organic. The end results always look, feel, and function like any natural body, except with a mechanical base and a neural system replaced with circuits and an entire computer.
He's heard that they took one look at Jack's filesize and went to create a whole new hardware system to contain him while giving him room to continue expanding and developing himself. Part of him smiles when he thinks that Jack can't be kept in by anything normal, that Jack is something that needs a whole new system just to hold him, just to give him life.
It also makes him very glad that the Empire is being kind enough to fund all this. He's not short on funds by any means, but he'd rather not try to think about the cost behind the whole new computer brain for Jack.
The 95% of Jack that remains stays on him at all times. He never removes the drive that hangs from his neck. It's there when he sleeps and when he eats and the waterproof casing makes sure it's not affected when he bathes or when he's out in the rain.
Two months, two months he carries 95% of Jack around, waiting for a body. Trying not to think about what 5% can hold.
At his request, the new body is brought to his home. The empire would rather keep this possible new weapon quiet, and if that means he can get away with doing this in privacy, then he'll let them call Jack a weapon all they want.
They can call him anything, as long as Kozmotis can call Jack his.
It seems like such a small thing, he thinks as he lays the body out on his sofa. Jack had made exact measurements long ago, and he made sure they were followed perfectly. It's a slim young man's body, nearly a full head shorter than Kozmotis, with shock-white hair and pale skin dusted over by faint freckles. It's a perfect replica of the young man smiling in the picture that stays in Koz's pocket.
He just tries not to think about the fact that it looks like a corpse, lying loose and unmoving on his couch, the half open blue eyes staring out glassy and dead. They dressed the body in a plain white hospital gown in an attempt at modesty, only making it look more deathly as it lies still and white.
For the first time in three months, he lifts the chain of the necklace up over his head and removes the external drive. There's a small panel on the back of the body's neck, right at the nape where soft white hair gives way to skin, with two drive slots and a jack for when he may need to plug into another computer.
It takes him ten minutes, to still his shaking hands enough to keep the drive steady.
"Here you go Jack." He says softly, lifting what will be Jack's head up and sliding the drive into place. "Don't ever say I don't keep my promises."
A click, so much like the last one he heard before Jack went quiet. A click and a soft hum, then a rush of air as the body registers the arrival of it's new brain.
He winds his fingers through Jack's, hands shaking again while he watches the eyes flicker as if dreaming, downloading all the information.
"Come on come on come on you're almost there Jack…"
Jack's eyes open. Bright blue and almost glowing from the evening sunlight streaming into Kozmotis' living room. Jack's eyes open and Kozmotis can look into them, can look at Jack and see-
Jack stares up at the ceiling. Eyes flitting aimlessly for a few more seconds before he finally speaks. "Error. File damaged."
Kozmotis' lungs turn to stone, his whole body seizes up and he's sure he can feel the bones in Jack's hands grind under his grip. "What? No. No Jack. Jack come on."
Jack's head tilts, stiff and automatic, to look at Koz. His eyes are still wide and glassy and dead, blinking mechanically. "I did not understand the command prompt." He says. His voice is monotonous and wrong wrong WRONG he sounds wrong he sounds-
"Please repeat the command." Jack says, sounding like a normal AI.
"No." Something breaks, his voice breaks everything breaks. "No no no Jack don't do this please don't do this you're so close!" He runs his hands through white hair and cups the warm skin on Jack's cheek, tries to see a spark of something in the glassy eyes. "Please Jack! Come on! It's such a small amount I know you can do this!"
"I'm sorry. I did not understand."
It's such a small body such a small body for such a large thing as he gathers it to his chest, trying to find Jack as he clings to the empty shell. "Jack please please don't do this I know you're in there please you can fix it!"
"Please wait." Jack says. "System rebooting. Assessing damaged files. Scanning."
He can't tell if he's crying or not, he can just feel the tremors wrecking through him as he holds the still, frail body against him and tucks the head under his chin so he doesn't have to look into those dead eyes.
"Please Jack please. I can't have been carrying you around only for you to be gone already. I promised you a body I promised you a kiss just get yourself together please…"
"Scanning." Jack says.
Kozmotis lowers his face into the hair, wonders if it would have begun to smell differently after Jack had been in this body long enough, if it would have gotten a scent that was entirely Jack.
"I never got to tell you, Jack." Kozmotis whispers. "I never got to say it, please come back…"
"Rebooting. Please Wait."
Kozmotis leans on the couch, still shaking. He's gone. He's been gone this whole time. Kozmotis couldn't get them both out, couldn't bring Jack back and now the most amazing thing that's ever happened to him is gone.
Jack goes limp.
Jack jerks violently, nearly breaking Kozmotis' loose grip on him as he thrashes and gasps, sucking in air loudly as if he's just come up, as if he was drowning.
Kozmotis jumps back slightly, staring down in shock as Jack heaves and convulses.
Jack looks up, his eyes wide and blue still, and filled with panic and confusion while he gasps.
"Jack! Jack is-"
"Koz wha-!" Jack convulses again, fingers digging into Kozmotis' sleeve as he grabs onto his arm, still sucking down air in quick bursts.
"Jack it's alright, it's alright, just breathe! You're ok, just calm down alright it's me! You're here I've got you."
Kozmotis knows he's crying this time, and he's still shaking and his face hurts from smiling this much as he cradles Jack's face between his palms.
Jack moves his hands up and grabs Kozmotis' wrists, trembling and blinking rapidly while he gulps in air. "Too much too much what-I can't...how do you do this how do you FEEL so much I-"
"Shh Jack it's alright, try not to process it all at once. You're alright." He barely keeps himself from running his hands over Jack's face, through his hair, over his shoulders. More than anything, he wants to feel Jack, but he can tell that Jack is already having trouble adjusting to his newfound senses. "Just breathe with me Jack, slowly, come on."
He exaggerates his breathing, still holding Jack's face in his hands and can't stop smiling while Jack stares up at him and gradually slows his breathing, though his body still trembles in small little aftershocks.
"Woah…" Jack breathes, unwrapping his fingers from Kozmotis' wrists, slowly, as if they had to be pried off, and lifts a hand up, tracing his fingertips over Kozmotis' cheekbone. "I...woah." He says again.
Kozmotis laughs, though it breaks oddly in the middle, and runs his thumbs in circles under Jack's eyes. "All that processing power in there and that's all you can say?"
"I can feel you…" Jack exhales, eyes running over Kozmotis' face with wonder. "I-...wait". He frowns, eyebrows coming together and looks up into Kozmotis' eyes. "I think you also promised to say something to me. You manipulative ass."
"I love you." Kozmotis rushes, moving his hands down to cup the back of Jack's neck and feeling his own breathing hitching up now that he's finally calmed Jack down. "You're amazing, aggravating, and you're more alive than anyone I know. I love you."
"Finally." Jack huffs, his smile is crooked, a tilted grin that is still unsure and shakey but it's perfect, it's so perfectly Jack and Kozmotis can't call it strange to see Jack in front of him like this when it seems so perfect and right.
"You look perfect." Kozmotis says softly, moving a hand up into Jack's hair.
"I know." Jack says, smile growing. "I designed it myself."
Jack is here, here and real and physical and perfect and he's here for Kozmotis to laugh into his hair and hold him close while Jack shivers and runs his fingers over the weave of Kozmotis' coat with wide eyed wonder.
"Hey." Jack says, tugging on a strand of Kozmotis' hair. "You need to finish your job."
"What?" Kozmotis blinks, laughter subsiding as he tries to work out-..oh.
"Yeah, you said you'd show me what kissing is like."
He pulls his head back, cupping Jack's cheek in his palm again and watches the way Jack's breathing hitches, the way he shakes whenever the air stirs around them or whenever the white hospital gown shifts against him. "Are you sure, Jack? I mean it, you're still adjusting and."
"If you don't, then I'm gonna grab you and try for it, and it'll be bad. I have no idea what I'm doing."
"Alright…alright. Just tell me if you need to stop."
Jack nods, already vibrating beneath Kozmotis' hand. Kozmotis drops his eyes to Jack's lips, pink and parted and flushed already in anticipation, and can hear his heart pounding a quick, fluttering tempo. He closes the space between them slowly, partially to give Jack a chance to back away, and partially because he wants to savor this. Wants this moment where he can finally feel Jack to last.
He had wondered if there would actually be a spark when their lips met, but there's just warmth, warmth and softness as he presses his lips to Jack's as gently as he can. Jack jumps slightly, just a twitch of movement and a small, startled noise before he hesitantly leans into the kiss.
It takes everything, not to grab Jack's head and part his lips, not to feel that warm mouth, Jack's mouth, opening beneath his and sliding his tongue in to feel everything. He wants to push Jack back onto the floor and map him out, finally put a form to the voice that has kept him company for almost three years. He wants to hear that voice gasping on his name and crying out for him.
But Jack is already starting to breath in short, hitched bursts again, pressing hard into Kozmotis' kiss while shaking like he's about to fall apart. This is already too much, and besides, they have as much time to take things slow as they could want.
Of course Jack wouldn't be smart enough to admit that he's getting overwhelmed, so Kozmotis pulls back first, breathing in as Jack exhales loudly and leaning their foreheads together. "And that," he says, voice more hoarse than he was expecting, "is what kissing is like."
"Oh." Jack squeaks. Actually squeaks. Kozmotis is polite enough to not point that out though. "A lot of things make sense now."
Kozmotis chuckles, keeping their foreheads touching and curling his hand over the back of Jack's skull. "I have to ask though...now that we have all my debts settled between us."
"That's definitely not all of them, I know there are WAY more ways to kiss than that."
"Fair enough." Kozmotis grins. "But for now...I was only able to get 95% of you downloaded onto that drive. Can you tell what was missing?"
"Huh? Oh...I guess I can? Hold on." Jack blinks and his eyes go distant, flitting minutely back and forth and flickering with their own light for a few seconds. "Oh! Oh damn it!" Jack moans, face falling. "I lost all my fonts!"
Kozmotis snorts, face hurting again from how wide he's grinning and presses a kiss to Jack's forhead. "Thank stars for that." He snorts.
"I'll have to download some new ones." Jack sighs, looking dejected.
"You don't need them anymore you know."
"Hey! You never know!"
"When are you going to need a bunch of useless-"
"My fonts are awesome!"
"Were, you don't have them anymore."
"What is wrong with you!?"
They go on, sitting on the floor against the couch, sniping back and forth long after the sun goes down. Depending on who you ask, the bickering never stops, even years and years later.