title: he is one and i am other
word count: 1775
characters: Prometheus's Captain, Elizabeth Shaw, David 8 [Michael Fassbender], and David 9 [James McAvoy]
notes: written for the following enablers and friends: palalife, tehslowone, and Tybalt. Associated art here and here. Original fic here.
Only David 8 sees the twitch in the Captain’s face that signals some kind of break in his stoic demeanor; only David 8 notices that the news makes Doctor Shaw smile, just a little. Smile instead of worry, and that’s something strange, not when she’s been so apprehensive during the interminable process of getting the ship ready for its long journey.
And then it’s David 8’s turn to be surprised because he’s been tasked to receive the new arrival, and the new arrival is - not a human, walking up into the loading bay.
At least, the men aren’t boarding the ship for the purpose of staying on. What they’re carrying, however, is clearly marked with the Prometheus designations and labels. A box with a nearly familiar insignia. A flight suit already marked with the ship stripes.
“Good,” the Captain says as he signs off on Prometheus and its loading papers at last. “I was worried he wouldn’t get here in time.”
Doctor Shaw nods. “Maybe having him around will allow us all to sleep more easily.”
“For a given value of sleep, or easy. David 8?”
He looks up from his datapad, and snaps to attention. “I am at your disposal, Captain.”
“I hope so. Here is an amendment to your current directives. You’ll give the David 9 unit his orders when you wake him up, which will be in five standard days after Prometheus has cleared planetary orbit.”
“What orders am I to give him,” David 8 asks, calmly.
“He’s a SAVANT-type David 9,” Doctor Shaw says. “An elite unit, much like you. You are familiar with the type of programming these androids have?”
“Of course, Doctor Shaw,” David 8 says.
“David 9s are protective types, bodyguards, soldiers. This one is...well, he’s unique, and built to a different set of specifications. I repeat, he’s like you - programmed to learn more, to perform his own analyses, to devise his own strategies,” she explains, carefully, haltingly. “In other words, he’s been allowed to go beyond the standard combat parameters. So his orders have to do with battlefield tactics and a full and working knowledge of any and all forms of fighting that we already know.” She pauses, and David 8 watches her pick restlessly at the sleeves of her suit. “He also has the ability to learn more, from other life forms, should the need arise.”
David 8 makes a note of that, and then: “May I ask what his purpose on board ship will be? From your instructions I infer that you wish the two of us to share the two years of spaceflight.”
“Yes, because.” Doctor Shaw looks down, looks away, and sighs.
“Teach him everything that you know of this alien civilization we’re chasing,” the Captain says as he turns away, “and hope he’ll learn how to fight them.”
“His task is to defend you,” Doctor Shaw says - and then she, too, leaves.
David 8 looks down at the box - the clear box, which shows the other android’s face, the other android’s eyes.
Wide open, glowing a bright blue.
David 8 remembers having to open his eyes when he was commissioned, remembers looking down into Elizabeth Shaw’s face and waiting for the initialization procedures to complete. Remembers the soft chime in his head that meant he was online and ready to receive orders, and remembers saying, “I am David 8 at your service.”
He also remembers the slightest of smiles on her face, the warm weight of her hand on his shoulder, the conspiratorial gleam in her eyes. “How would you like to be allowed to do something different?”
Now, though, that spark seems to have permanently left Doctor Shaw’s face. Asked for another word to describe it, David 8 thinks he would have selected the word fled.
Asked to pinpoint when that happened, David 8 knows the answer all too well. He’d been there, after all, during the briefing. He’d been there when she realized what the star configuration was.
He watches impassively from the door to the cryosleep quarters as the crew begins to take their places in their protective pod-chambers. Brief flashes of irritation, of embarrassment, in the human faces as they disrobe and climb in. Scrape of covers being pulled down, long soft exhalations. The room accumulates a strange silence within its walls - one after the other, human faces falling into the slack softness of sleep.
The Captain is the last to go into cryosleep. David 8 follows him attentively as he makes the final checks to the engines and all associated systems, as the man goes over Prometheus with sharp eyes and gnarled hands.
At the end of it, of course, they’re back where they started, and the Captain holds out his hand to David 8. “Prometheus is yours.”
“I will do my best to look after her,” David 8 says, returning the handshake. “I will see you in two years exactly, Captain.”
“Be well, David 8,” the Captain says, before the pod-chamber closes on him.
Leaving him alone on the ship.
Well, theoretically he’s not supposed to be alone - not when he still has his orders, not when they’ve apparently seen fit to provide him with some kind of bodyguard or companion.
Five days pass by in a blur. There is some turbulence to be dealt with, a minor malfunction in one of the guidance systems. David 8 makes his rounds calmly - up until the moment when he’s to awaken the other.
He’s been reviewing the specs for the David 9 line; small, powerful, compact fighting machines. One unit is a lethal combination of instinct and strategy and grace. David 9s are so suited to their programmed tasks that a handful of units, working in concert, are already more than a match for entire squadrons of experienced fighters, whether human or mechanical in origin.
This is not a comfort to David 8, though, and he taps a fingertip absently against his lips. He’s standing over the David 9 unit, he’s looking into the blue eyes, and in the end he places his hand against the panel on the top of the box, keys in the required codes, and stands back.
The first thing the David 9 unit does is - blink. He blinks, and then he gets up, and he’s looking around with interest.
And then the David 9 unit sees him, and smiles, and gets to his feet. Broad shoulders, flight suit sleeves falling past his wrists. The slap of feet on the floor. An entirely relaxed and also entirely correct attitude, as the David 9 unit walks up to him and offers a smart salute, fist over heart. “This David 9 awaits your orders.”
David 8 nods. “At ease, if you would. I am not your commanding officer - the Captain of Prometheus is currently in cryosleep. He has asked me to brief you in his place.”
“You are to take in the information that has already been gathered on the alien civilization that we are currently investigating, and then use the data to devise appropriate combat strategies and responses. In addition, you are to continue to hone your current fighting abilities. An area of the ship has been set aside for you, so that you may carry out these tasks unhindered.”
“I look forward to it,” David 9 replies. “Where are the data banks, and when can I begin?”
David 8 clears his throat, and taps the fingers of one hand against his own temple. “The data is all collected in here.”
It may be a trick of the dim light, but David 8 thinks the electric blue in those eyes might just darken somewhat, whether in interest or excitement he doesn’t know.
The more immediate surprise is that David 9 holds a hand out to him, and that impassive face is breaking out into a smile. “Pleased to meet you, then...teacher,” he says.
David 8 takes the offered hand. It is warm, and the fingers are short and squared-off and both supple and rough; somewhere in the back of his mind he can feel connections being made and completed. He feels like time and space and Prometheus could have stopped around the two of them and he wouldn’t have noticed.
Danger, danger, he thinks. There is nothing useful to be learned from this contact - or is there? Why does he react to this touch? Feeling, sensation, strange ripple of awareness that stretches out to encompass himself and the David 9 before him.
When David 8 activates the star map for the first time, when he holds the image of the Earth in his hands, he knows wonder, and he knows satisfaction.
He knows he’d like to pass this on to David 9, and he knows that there’s one way of doing it - an inefficient way of passing on knowledge, to be sure, but satisfactory enough in its own way.
Later still, he reaches out through the ghostly characters and the orbiting images of the map, and he seizes David 9’s hand and pulls him in to safety. He lets David 9 use him as a shield, feels the incredible recoil from the assault rifle over his own shoulder, and he lets David 9 keep holding on, until the final energy clip is expended and now there’s nothing for them but to stay within the star map.
For some reason the organisms on this world will not touch the star map.
Here they’re safe.
Here they’re trapped.
“Here for the duration, then,” David 9 says.
“Until we are relieved. Or until there is nothing left of us.”
“That won’t be for a long time yet.”
There are fingers wrapped around his hands, and for a moment their grip is fierce and crushing.
David 8 looks up into the star map, at the tiny image of Prometheus trying to make its getaway. He hopes the Captain will survive the trip; he hopes Doctor Shaw will be believed when she makes it back.
As for him and David 9 - they have to stay here, powering the map and the makeshift interdict beacon together.
He looks over his shoulder, meets David 9’s quietly determined expression with one of his own, and they step closer to each other, keep their hands joined together.
As tasks go, as missions go, this one is easy. They just have to be here, together, and it’s no hardship at all.
He holds on to David 9’s hands, and settles in to wait.