The drone is repairing the intra-axial connector, the digits extending from its servo-armature applying a two micron laser along its transversal lines, reinforcing the structure and function. The drone is also regenerating; the drone is also running a neural net diagnostic; the drone is also emerging from a maturation chamber, awaiting designation. This drone is not aware of itself as a discrete entity. This drone is all these things and this drone is using this singular servo-armature to repair the intra-axial connector.
The drone is --
The drone relocates to the navigational control node. The intra-axial connector is immediately irrelevant. The new impetus supersedes all previous assignations.
The drone rotates its digits and enables a different subfunction, an extraction tubule emerging from the end of its primary digit and interfacing with the navigational control node's access grid. The drone proceeds through the repair subroutines at a moderate speed that maximizes efficiency and preserves adequate energy reserves so that regeneration will not be necessary for another twenty-seven point eight cycles.
With unforeseen force, one of the drone's tubules ejects from the navigational control node's grid. Access is denied. The repair cannot be completed. Unacceptable.
The drone extends another extraction tubule and repeats the insertion process. It is ejected from the navigation control node's grid immediately, with exponentially more force.
The drone withdraws from the node, tubule snaking back into its primary digit; the first few steps back are stumbling. The rejecting energy spike of the navigational control node processes through the drone's primary systems, causing the drone to twitch.
Diagnostics are instantaneous and efficient. The drone straightens when they begin, the frontal cranial components returning to their optimal state.
The drone is accepting diagnotics. The drone is malfunctioning. Unacceptable. The drone is malfunctioning. Unacceptable. The drone is --
The drone turns, relocating to the central power matrix at optimal speed. The ambient illumination of the unimatrix decreases as the drone nears the destination; the varying and blinking shades of green reduce down to one, a single wan light.
The drone approaches One of One, Primary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One. One of One engages in active mode when the drone comes within its sensor range.
The drone's internal sensory node increases energy consumption by forty percent, processing conflicting data: the drone's external sensors indicate that the drone is larger than One of One in both mass and volume, but the drone's internal sensors indicate that the drone is smaller than One of One. The drone is malfunctioning. The drone is inferior in size and designation.
The drone, processing this data, lowers its cranial component.
One of One visually examines the drone and then raises its servo-armature, tubules bursting out all along the surface and snaking out to penetrate the drone. The drone is unprepared for One of One's actions and the drone's thoracic assembly shudders unnecessarily with the impact. The drone is denied access to One of One; One of One is silent, walled-off, closed. The drone is inferior in designation. The drone accepts One of One's actions.
We malfunction. The drone knows that disassembly is necessary. The drone malfunctions. The drone is unacceptable. The drone's failure to repair the navigational control node will enable the escape of the ship of Species 5618. Species 5618 must be assimilated. The task cannot be completed. Unacceptable.
Irrelevant. One of One's tubules pull the drone in closer, dragging it across the floor. More tubules snake out of One of One's thoracic assembly, reaching out to penetrate all jointed junctures and fanning in an unpredictable pattern across the drone's body. The drone's thoracic assembly is forced to adapt its shape, bowing out towards One of One. One of One lowers its cranial assembly, frontal cranial components nearing in proximity to the drone's. As One of One decreases the distance, the red illumination from One of One's eyepiece increases the ambient luminosity in the drone's ocular field by twenty percent, thirty-eight percent, forty-two percent.
We malfunction. The drone cannot process its continued existence.
One of One's tubules shove through the drone's components, but instead of the requested deactivation the tubules pry open the drone's components, activating more than are necessarily for minimal functioning, activating new components that were previously dormant. The drone's internal sensory node verges dangerously on overloading.
Your malfunction is irrelevant to us. One of One addresses the drone as singular, reinforcing the drone's irregularity, the drone's differentiation. Only your compliance is relevant. One of One yanks the drone further forward until their thoracic assemblies lie flush, until the drone's ocular field is dominated by One of One's frontal cranial components.
The external portions of One of One's oral cavity diverge from neutral position, angling upwards. A superfluous physical movement common to Species 5618, the drone registers. An expression of approval or of pleasure. Electromagnetism susurrates along the tubules and the drone convulses responsively, conduits opening to the input.
The drone visually examines One of One and the drone is aware of its continued existence. The drone is inferior to One of One. The drone accepts One of One's commands. The drone exists only in the present tense; the malfunctions are immediately irrelevant.
The drone's lower limbs part to grant One of One's servo-armature access.
I comply, the drone says, and after that there is only the hum of jointed junctures and compliance.
The Queen sighs, relishing the last of Seven's shuddering release. Her drone speaks of individuality, humanity, of finding a new collective, but the Queen knows better. In her dreams, Seven will always be the Queen's drone.