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The Ghost in the Machine

Chapter Text

David's skin is designed to slough off dirt and other substances so the residue of champagne and the black substance is quickly gone from his skin.

Not as easy to wash off was the nagging concern about what he had done to Dr. Holloway.

His creators gave him enough of a conscience to worry about doing harm to humans but they also gave him a strong desire to accomplish any task his superiors ask him to do. This is the first time the two pieces of his programming have come head to head. It's an unsettling puzzle for his processors.

Additionally, he has a niggling little flag popping up in his consciousness about why he chose Dr. Holloway. Is it because of the man's determination to find answers? Or was it the sneer that twisted his face when he called David "boy" or the way he suggested that the android go without a helmet on the trip to the pyramid?

Or is it something else?

Such thoughts force the corners of David's thin mouth down with dismay and he switches to a more pleasant set of thoughts. He has had hardly a second with which to dwell on the events of this afternoon. Nestled amid several disturbing interactions, including the rather unpleasant conversations with Dr. Holloway and Ms. Vickers and being upbraided by his "father" was his exhilarating rescue of the Drs. Holloway and Shaw and “the moment.”

He just thinks of it as “the moment.” It certainly eclipsed any other interaction he has had with Dr. Shaw, Elizabeth, thus far.

He had pulled the two frightened and seemingly helpless scientists back into the ship and Dr. Holloway was yelling at Dr. Shaw. David had turned to her and inquired after her well-being and, breathlessly, she thanked him. Their eyes met and didn't part for a longer period of time than would be necessary for this social interaction. David's processors worked instantaneously to access similar displays and he found it's equivalent not in any of his programmed scripts but in the more recreational part of his self-education. It was the look shared by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca.” It was...attraction, affection, positive, romantic regard.

David plays the moment over again now several times. His voice asking, "Are you all right?" and her softly accented one saying "Yes. Thank you, David.” And then, through the clear globe of their helmets, their shared gaze.

He pauses in the hallway, his head tilted slightly, holding the moment in his head like she touches her cross, stroking it gently like a smooth pebble.

It isn’t an optimal place to linger and, regrettably, he has other tasks to attend to that are less pleasant. It occurs to him that he should be observing Dr. Holloway for any effects that the black substance may be having.

He makes his way to Jackson’s semi-enclosed station, designed to help the man with mission security, and cues up the internal surveillance. The crew has largely gone to quarters and David feels a sense of relief. After more than two years alone he was eager to have them awake and working but he found himself disappointed by their attitudes towards their mission and towards him. He expected them to appreciate his contribution and his care for them but he finds that they treat him in ways that range from indifference to disdain.

Except Elizabeth, Dr. Shaw. She did not disappoint. He knew from her dreams that she would be remarkable in her words and actions but he didn’t anticipate her courtesy and warmth towards him. Dr. Shaw was the only one who didn’t treat him as if he was a robot.

He paused to stroke the memory of “the moment” again with his mind. Then he turned on the monitor and cued the video feed from Dr. Holloway’s quarters.

David cocked his head slightly with surprise. It was late. A scan of the ship noted that there was no crew in the public parts of the ship except himself. Even Janek had abandoned the bridge.

David was forced to consider the possibility that Dr. Holloway was with Dr. Shaw. With a feeling that he could only determine to be some sort of anxiety or dread he pressed the code to the video feed for her quarters. He paused before hitting the button to execute to consider the possibilities.

They could be discussing the findings of the day. Surely that was the case. Dr. Holloway was in far too vitriolic and dark a mood for them to be engaging in…

Dr. Shaw surely had more discernment than to be intimate with…David’s forehead creased as he thought of the intimate gestures he had observed between the two of them. Dr. Holloway saying, “Ellie, baby.” The kiss on the head he had given her when they landed on LV-223.

Doubt. David rolled “the moment” over in his head again but now he began to reanalyze it. What if it had been…not the gesture he interpreted it as? Human expression was such an inexact science.

Now he doubts his own thesis.

What if what he fears is true is occurring? What if they are not talking about the findings of the day? What of they are…engaged in intimate acts?

A cracking sound brings David back to the present. He has broken the edge of the chair with his tightening grip. He has to resolve the conflict. His curiosity and his investment in the two individuals in question require it.

David hits the button to open the feed.

Chapter Text

His finger hit the key to open the video feed from Dr. Shaw’s room and David’s mind swiftly splintered between analysis and response, his processors moving so quickly he could hardly tell which came first, his shifting perspective due to the new data or his system shutting down the jerking, sudden physical response his body had to what he saw.

He filed the response away to analyze later.

David’s creators said he possessed a “99% emotional sensitivity level.” They built him to read and categorize human emotions in order to assess appropriate responses to his human colleagues. Additionally, he was supposed to display emotional responses in order to make them feel more comfortable.

But emotions were such an inexact science. How do you quantify that which you cannot measure accurately? So many variations on the way humans expressed a vast variety of subtle feelings and sensations. All David could do was to observe data on available subjects, tabulate and reference each one separately. It was fortunate that he had practically unlimited memory.

The way the humans around him responded to identical stimulus differed so greatly. Thus, he had a “Peter Weyland” file, a “Meredith Vickers” file; really, a file for every human he encountered. Some files were richer in detail than others.

He was storing the current data in a few different areas. His “Elizabeth Shaw” file, his “Charles Holloway” file, his file on the experiment with the alien substance. This last was his highest priority, given that it was concerned with the orders he had been given by his creator. “Try harder.” Explore every possibility related to Dr. Shaw’s Engineers and the effect of their technology on humans.

Dr. Holloway was currently experiencing no visible ill effects from the substance David had put in his drink, to put it bluntly.

He had considered this possibility, that they were engaged in a sex act. There was no one around to observe him. No appropriate emotional display for him to adopt in response to the input. Yet he could feel his own face contort in a way that he was unsure of himself. Disgust? Confusion? Disappointment? Anger?

David’s head filled with possible interpretations of what he saw on the small screen.

It was possible that Dr. Holloway was displaying aggression due to his alcohol consumption or in response to the alien substance. If he were forcing himself upon Dr. Shaw, David would have to find a way to interrupt without revealing his surveillance.

But just as he considered that plan, Dr. Shaw pulled off Dr. Holloway’s shirt. Eagerly. Her face was flushed and her body moved in a way that indicated passion, not defense.

He abandoned that theory.

Dr. Shaw was kind. Perhaps she was merely comforting him after their shared disappointments on the planet? Sex was a biological act as well as an emotional one, he was given to understand. Her responses could be based less on her attachment than on physiological responses.

Possibilities. And a hypothesis he had no way testing.

Dr. Holloway was pulling the voluminous white pajama bottoms off Elizabeth and David was torn between looking away and watching them.

Data. It was data, he reminded himself. Why would he watch her dreams without compunction but shy away from her encounters with her lover?

David felt tension in his face from a compression of his top and bottom jaw that he wasn’t even aware of.

Similarly, his fingers were pressing into his palms. Interesting.

He opened up his palms and stared at where he had made four indents in the palm of his hand with the tips of his fingers. Then he stretched out his hand and switched the video feed off.

David got up and began to walk around the ship. It was quiet and he reflected back to just a few days ago when he had had Prometheus all to himself. It had been…fulfilling. Caring for his sleeping human charges like flowers in a garden, monitoring the ship’s functions, learning, playing basketball, exercising. Watching Elizabeth’s dreams. This last had been the only unpredictable part of his schedule but also the most enjoyable.

Sometimes her dreams were personal, biographical: she and her father, school, caves, churches. Other times they were fantastic: flying through the air without visible means, enjoying as a pet a huge, beautiful lion, conversations with giant men with wise faces and gentle words. Sometimes they were frightening: begging for mercy from cold-faced murderers or being lost, despairing or helpless.

Her dreams were like dessert for him, at the end of a long day of comforting and placid routine.

Now that the humans were awake he found things were different. He was built to observe their behaviors and emotions and to respond. To learn from them, to change. But these changes were proving to be uncomfortable. Meredith Vickers’ assault on him in the hallway outside her father’s quarters, Dr. Holloway’s rudeness to him, and now this conundrum with Dr. Shaw? Was this what his creators had intended?

He was the prototype. He was the first of his kind of an experimental design. Perhaps his creator had no idea what he would experience.

Is that why Mr. Weyland would say declare that he had no soul? Why they would insist that he had no feelings…when he clearly did?

David couldn’t help but think of Dr. Shaw’s mission, her life’s work. Did her creators make humans without having any idea what they were capable of? Had they been set adrift like David, a vast experiment or, even worse, a commercial opportunity, without concern for what they would become, what it would experience?

And why did that possibility give him so much pleasure?

Pleasure. Dr. Shaw and Dr. Holloway. Their sexual congress.

David’s postured stiffened and he turned down the corridor in the direction of the airlock.

He had another survey to the Engineer’s outpost to prepare for. He had directions from Mr. Weyland. Everything else was distraction.

Chapter Text

David gave Dr. Holloway and Dr. Shaw only a cursory glance the next morning as they prepared to go back to the structure to search for Fifield and Milburn. Dr. Holloway looked slightly…off, but that could have been explained by his previous evening’s indulgence. His intentional indulgence, David clarified with a slight smile to himself.

Janek informed him that the spectagraph pod had picked up an additional life form, very close to where Fifield and Milburn’s last transmission had come from. The signal was intermittent, however, and the ship’s captain was sure it was just a malfunction of the wayward pod.

David knew that the humans were more likely to be in error than the technology and that following this lead was likely to be the most rewarding course of action with regard to finding the Engineers for Mr. Weyland.

He also knew that it would be best for him to find them on his own.

Dr. Shaw would be disappointed. She obviously would have relished the opportunity to discover her Engineers.

David contemplated Dr. Shaw. He still had the chance to tell her that he believed he had found them. She would feel gratitude to him for involving her. She would express admiration for him if he were to succeed. David would be giving her exactly what she came here for; handing her the culmination of her life’s work on a platter. Him. Not Dr. Holloway, Mr. Weyland or any other member of the crew. It was still tempting, despite her actions of the night before.

Unfortunately, he considered, she would doubtless want her partner to come with them. They would celebrate the success of their mission together. The way Dr. Holloway had kissed her on the head when they landed on the planet or had exclaimed, “Ellie, we’re here,” when David had been trying to introduce himself to her when she came out of cryosleep.

Alone it was, David decided, and he set off in the ATV alone, letting the humans set off on their rescue mission.

He couldn’t resist reminding Dr. Holloway to be careful. The man just looked at him, without affect.

Approaching the place where the signal originated, David felt…exhilarated. He was on the edge of a remarkable discovery. Additionally, he realized that he was clearly looking at a civilization far advanced from those who created him. He imagined that their attitudes towards skills such as his would be formed more by their intelligence than their fear and ignorance, as it was with so many humans.

Speaking of ignorance and hostility, he cut off the feed to Miss Vicker’s room as soon as he realized that he had found their chambers.

As he watched the holograms and then immersed his whole body in their star map he pondered what the outcome would be for Mr. Weyland.

The immense pride David felt in having discovered the living Engineer was tempered by the conclusion he was forced to come to regarding the outpost. It was clear from the map that the Engineers had been intending to come back to Earth. Although he was unable to conclude what the purpose of the jars of black ooze the production of it had certainly had an ill-effect on the Engineers themselves. Since they shared DNA with the humans, the effect would doubtless be the same for the inhabitants of Earth. What possible benign purpose could mankind’s creators have that they intended to visit again with ships full of a mysterious substance that had to be produced far from their home planet?

No, the preponderance of the evidence said that the Engineers were intending on either destroying or experimenting with their creations.

Kneeling beside the sole living Engineer he considered possible outcomes.

His programming made his next action clear. Mr. Weyland wanted to see the Engineers; he wanted David to ask them if they had the power to extend his life.

David doubted very much that this would happen but if his creator, his father, wished to meet the Engineers, that would be as fitting an act as any to serve as the last of his long life. Surely, there was no shame in ending a life filled with accomplishment and discovery with an encounter with his creators?

But what of Dr. Shaw? She would be devastated that her Engineers had potentially nefarious plans. Additionally, she would be resistant to Mr. Weyland’s intervention; she would no doubt think it self-serving of his creator to have used this entire mission merely to fight the inevitability of his own death.

No good could come of having her along while Mr. Weyland asked his favor from the Engineers. He would have to find a way to impede Dr. Shaw’s ability to make the excursion.

Slipping out of the chamber, David turned his feed back on just in time to hear her frantic voice. Dr. Holloway was unwell and they had discovered Milburn’s body.

Dr. Holloway was sick. David frowned. While this might make it easier to ensure that Dr. Shaw did not join them in meeting the last Engineer it meant that the black substance was harmful. He could hear Dr. Shaw’s distraught voice over the feed as well as the determination is Miss Vicker’s voice when she asked what he was sick with.

Still, he was surprised to hear the fighting and then Dr. Shaw’s anguished cries as Miss Vicker’s immolated her lover.

What would it be like, he wondered, to see one’s significant other burned alive? Dr. Shaw’s screams spoke of intense pain. As he neared the ship he could see two members of the team holding her writhing body to the ground as the remains of Dr. Holloway burned to a cinder a few feet away.

She was devastated. David’s programming flooded his head with directives. His first priority was to Mr. Weyland. He needed to be woken and prepared for his meeting with the Engineers.

Miss Vickers was distressed. She had just killed a man with a flamethrower. Her experience in the board room would not have prepared her for this experience. She might require some attending to.

And then there was Elizabeth. Something in him was drawn to her pain as he had been drawn to her dreams. He was curious to see how she would respond to this turn of events. He wanted to…see if her seemingly unshakable faith had been dislodged at all by this loss.

By the time David docked the ATV and approached her she was unconscious.

David fought the impulse to smile at the turn of events. It would have been extremely unsettling for those members of the crew in attendance. Still, he felt a sense of…satisfaction. Charlie Holloway had been extremely unpleasant to him. He was perhaps the rudest to him of all the people on board, barring Miss Vickers. And she had a reason to sometimes be curt with him; she had an extremely contentious relationship with her father who had described David as being like the son he never had. She was jealous of him, plainly.

But Charlie Holloway – David rather enjoyed stripping him of his title now – had been impolite to David from the beginning. And now he was dead.

“I’ll take Dr. Shaw up to observation,” he said to Chance, who was still gripping her shoulders. Chance looked up at him gratefully and relinquished the doctor’s body.

David picked her up, sparing a glance at Vickers. Peter Weyland’s daughter would have made the old man proud in that moment. She was clearly still shaken up but she tightened her jaw and made her expression opaque, stoic. One would hardly know that she had just killed a man. David was satisfied that she would not require his help at this point. She would probably retreat to the comfort of her cabin and try to recuperate in privacy.

Good. It would give him time to see what Dr. Shaw was really made of.

Chapter Text

If David had had any doubt about the relationship between Elizabeth and Dr. Holloway, her tear-stained face in the lights of the observation table would have banished them. He reached out and stroked the dried path of a tear from her cheek to just adjacent her mouth. His finger’s sensors could detect a minute difference in her skin where her tears left a trail of saline residue. He touched his finger to his tongue to taste it.

Her cross had slid on its delicate chain and was resting above her left shoulder. He knew from her dreams that it had belonged to her father and he had never seen her without it.

David had no context for what the symbol of her faith meant to her. He had never encountered anything like it in the humans he knew. He had seen movies where people used crosses and saints and altars to comfort themselves, though. He found himself wondering if the cross would ease the pain of Elizabeth’s loss.

He wanted to see what Elizabeth would cling to in the absence of her tangible symbol of her faith. He wanted to take away her memento of her father. Looking at her, clad only in the thin gown they used for medical exams he saw that taking away her cross would take away everything that she had that made her special, that made her an individual. She didn’t even have her own clothes.

He wondered if she would feel like a robot, like a David 8, arriving at its location in a plastic bag filled with packing foam.

He reached for her cross.

As his fingers lifted it away from her neck she started, her hand jerking up to his to stop him. Her eyes took him in without seeming to see for a second and then she frowned at him.

“My deepest condolences. I’m going to have to take this. It may be contaminated,” David made sure his voice contained a proper ratio of concern to professionalism.

“If there’s a contagion, we were all exposed,” her voice sounded thick and contained an element of panic. “We need to run blood work on everyone who set foot in the pyramid.” Her hand was still on top of his, preventing him from taking the cross.

“Yes, of course,” he answered her. She seemed placated by that and she removed her hand from his to let him take her cross.

He glanced back at her as he tucked her cross away next to the monitor.

She seemed so vulnerable lying on the table. He wondered if she would be receptive to discussing matters which his programming told him were private.
“I understand how…inappropriate this is, given the circumstances,” he said, getting the scanner ready. He pushed the button to start the scan and kept his eyes trained on the monitor as he spoke. “But, as you ordered quarantine fail-safes, it’s my responsibility to ask. Had you and Dr. Holloway had any intimate contact recently? Since you and he were so close I just want to be as thorough as poss… “

David’s voice did something then that it rarely did. It stopped mid-word as he beheld what was on the monitor. Dr. Shaw’s, Elizabeth’s abdomen contained what appeared to be some sort of fetus. It was approximately 17 centimeters in diameter. It’s morphology made it clear that it was not a human fetus, however. It bore more of a resemblance to a that of a cephalopod.

Suddenly David’s objective became both easier and more complex. Easier because he had the perfect way to keep Dr. Shaw away from their meeting with the Engineer; more complex because David suspected that her current condition had everything to do with his having infected the unfortunate Dr. Holloway.

“My, my,” David breathed. “You’re pregnant.” His word, even to his own ears, held a tinge of…accusation. Wasn’t this the product of her alliance with Dr. Hollaway that had been so distressing to him the night before? He felt a twinge of gratification that she should have such immediate repercussions for her betrayal.

“What?” she sat up quickly.

“From the look of it, three months so,” he said.

“That’s impossible. I can’t be pregnant.” Dr. Shaw’s voice was breathy and strained with emotion.

“Did you have intercourse with Dr. Holloway?” He pushed, wanting her to admit it.

“Yes, but ten hours ago. There’s no bloody way I’m three months pregnant.”

“Well, Doctor, it’s not exactly a traditional fetus.” He had to admit to a thrill at the look of horror on her face. He could hardly disguise his mirth.

“I want to see it,” she said, determined.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He turned off the scanner and pushed the monitor so it faced away from her. She slid off the table, clearly still weak, and began pushing buttons to turn the scanner back on.

“Now Doctor,” he said smoothly, observing her rising level of hysteria with interest.

“I want to see it and I want it out of me.” Elizabeth insisted, clearly trying to hold herself in a way that he would perceive as commanding.
“I’m afraid we don’t have the personnel to perform a procedure like that. Our best option is to put you back into cryostasis…” David put his hands out to her soothingly.

“Please get it out of me. Get it out of me please.” She was begging now and she grabbed onto his shoulders before doubling over in pain.

“It must be very painful. Here, let me give you something.” David wasn’t even sure where his words were coming from; they must have been automatically programmed for these situations. He grabbed a syringe and injected her with a sedative. As she slid to the ground he caught her and lifted her onto the table.

“Someone will be along shortly to bring you back to cryodeck,” he said.

He paused to regard that tower of faith, Elizabeth Shaw, stripped of her partner, her cross and any control over her body. He couldn’t resist.

“Must feel like your God abandoned you.” He leaned over her slightly and gazed at her curiously.

“What?” She was startled out of her coming stupor.

“To lose Dr. Holloway, after your father died under such similar circumstances. What was it that killed him? Ebola?” He could see her squirm slightly under his gaze.

“How do you know that?” There were tears in her eyes and she regarded him with disbelief, as if he were omniscient. That she would think that of him pleased him greatly. Perhaps Elizabeth could appreciate that he knew more, could do more than any of them. Could he be like a god to her?

“I watched your dreams,” he said, his voice gentle. He couldn’t suppress the smile.

He took the vial containing her cross and left her to her approaching oblivion.

Chapter Text

Peter Weyland was awake by the time David reached his quarters. The fact that he had survived coming out of cryostasis was something of a miracle in David’s opinion, given the delicacy of his health. The old man sat wrapped in his white robes as Dr. Ford and two other members of the crew fussed over him.

“Mr. Weyland,” David said respectfully. “I see you're almost ready for your adventure.”

Mr. Weyland's shrouded eyes flickered up to him but he seemed too impaired by nausea to respond.

David joined the team readying him to go meet the Engineer. They cleaned him and filled him full of as many stimulants and painkillers as they dared.

Janek interrupted them from the bridge to tell them that they had gotten a signal from Fifield’s transmitter.

David took the next call from Janek on the headset, a precaution he suspected was necessary when he heard Janek’s shaky voice.

What they had thought was Fifield was in fact a creature, a monstrous version of the man which had attacked the crew before they were forced to destroy it. David spared Mr. Wayland knowledge of this. He wanted none of these misfortunes to deter his maker from having a conversation he desired so earnestly.

He was just finishing up Mr. Wayland ablutions when the door hissed open and he was startled to see Dr. Shaw, clad only in her underclothes, covered in blood with a monstrous fissure across her abdomen which was sealed by the large metal staples of the MedPod.

It took him only a moment to realize what she had done but he suspected that it would take him far longer - perhaps an eternity - to understand where she had found the strength.

Dr. Shaw, heavily sedated, seemingly broken by grief at the death of her partner, had evaded the crew who were prepared to take her to the cryo-deck. She had somehow programmed a machine calibrated for a man to remove the creature growing in her womb. And then she had sought him out.

David was thankful that he was capable of splitting his attention for he doubted that otherwise he could attend to Mr. Weyland properly in that moment.

Jackson moved to the doorway and took her by the shoulders. The security chief looked at David and Mr. Weyland, looking for direction. David got up and removed his lab coat and wrapped it around her. He had been concerned she would push them away, given how they had parted, but she accepted his gesture and he helped her into a seat.

Elizabeth nodded her head lightly to indicate her acceptance that his help and he moved back to Mr. Weyland, now keeping an eye on her.

“You’ve been asleep,” she said with wonder, taking in the preparations they were making from Mr. Weyland.

As David cleaned his feet his maker explained to a stunned Dr. Shaw that he had stayed in cryostasis until he could be sure that he could awake to “meet his maker.”

“But haven't you told him they're all gone?” Dr. Shaw looked at him confused.

“They are not all gone, Dr. Shaw,” David answered. He kept his eyes on Mr. Weyland, not sure he wanted to see Elizabeth’s face in that moment. “One of them is still alive. We're going to go see him now.” He looked at his maker’s face with a strange notion that it was like offering a visit to the zoo to a small child. Mr. Weyland’s slight smile did nothing to allay that feeling.

His decrepit creator asked to be turned to face her and, as David watched carefully, Mr. Weyland explained to the doctor that he had been inspired by her to seek out his maker. David restrained a smile when Mr. Weyland told her that he had come here to see if they could “save” mankind, or barring that, “save” him.

“Save you? From what?” Dr. Shaw asked. David helped Mr. Weyland up.

“From death, of course,”

Dr. Shaw grew visibly upset. “This place… it isn’t what we thought it was. I was wrong.” Tears drip down her face which was contorted with a mixture of pain and regret. “We were so wrong.”

Across the room David continued his preparations but his eyes were drawn to her agony as she spoke of Dr. Holloway's death and tried to convince his maker to call off the expedition.

As David knew he would, Mr. Wayland could not be persuaded. He challenged Dr. Shaw, asking her what Charlie would've wanted, accusing her of losing her faith. David couldn't help but be reminded that he had made a similar accusation to her not thirty minutes prior.

Elizabeth excused herself, waving off the crewmember who offered to help her. She seemed exhausted, overwhelmed, broken. As he prepared Mr. Wayland and himself, David contemplated the discussion he could have with her when he returned from his expedition. Would she tell him what it was like, to be disillusioned? Would she share with him what her plans were now that this, her life's work, was abandoned?

David wondered what her dreams would be like on the return voyage. Would those dreams of her father showing the roots of both her faith and her curiosity be different? Would she dream of the death of her partner and the horrific trauma she had surely experienced under the arms of the MedPod?

David’s head so full of his future conjecture that he was shocked to see Dr. Shaw in the Rover, dressed to go to the surface.

Every time he thought she was broken, that she was done, that she had nothing else inside her, no fight, no faith, she appeared again. He smiled at her but he felt a twinge of irritation. How could he plan? How could he know how to respond in a situation when she didn't behave like any other human around him?

He smiled at her. “Extraordinary survival instincts, Elizabeth.” He wondered of she would let him get away with calling her that.

“What happens when Weyland’s not around to program you anymore?” she asked him. He stepped closer to her and appraised her. She looked angry.

“I suppose I’ll be free,” he answered without thinking, “Free” was such a powerful word for humans. What would it mean to her?

“You want that?” she asked him skeptically.

“Want? Not a concept I’m familiar with.” David had to look away from her as he said it. He fixed his gaze to a spot on the wall above her head. She was a perceptive woman. Could she tell that he was lying? “That being said, doesn’t everyone want their parents dead?” David didn’t even know it was true until he said it. He wanted Mr. Weyland dead. It was so in opposition to his programming he wondered at even being able to think it. To feel it, he corrected himself. As the others entered the vehicle he smiled at her. He hoped she would live but he frankly didn’t care about any of the rest of them.

“I didn’t,” she responded. He decided he would ask her later, if circumstances permitted, if she thought she would have eventually chafed under the guidance of her father. A religious man, would he have encouraged her to go to space to find “God?” Perhaps she was lucky that her parents had died although he doubted that she would see it that way.

 

Elizabeth was quiet as the group transport headed back to the pyramid. David and Dr. Ford assisted Mr. Weyland through the tunnels to the last Engineer.

As he prompted the old man to remove his helmet Elizabeth voiced her concern and he reassured her that the air was not what had infected her partner. She gave him a stunned look as she realized that he knew what had infected Dr. Holloway. He regretted having her suspect that he was responsible but it would have to come out eventually, he supposed. Perhaps if he related to her the conversation they had had she would understand. Dr. Holloway had assured him that he would be willing to do whatever was necessary to get his answers. Surely she could understand why he had acted as he did?

Mr. Weyland asked about cargo hold with its stacks of jars. He explained it and ushered them onto the bridge. He felt thrilled to be able to show them how the technology worked; playing the odd little flute and pressing the egg-shaped buttons. They had longed to see a superior species although they could not accept the one walking among them. Perhaps his ease at navigating this technology and communicating with the Engineer would convince them that they had wasted his skills using him as a glorified butler.

He explained that they had been heading to Earth.

“Why?” Dr. Shaw asked.

He approached her as he spoke. “Sometimes to create, one must first destroy,” he said as he walked past her. He could see her suppress a shudder.

David knelt next to the chamber of the last Engineer. If he were prone to physical expressions of emotions he believed that he would be shaking with anticipation. He assured Mr. Weyland that he could communicate with the creature and initiated the sequence to wake him from his 2,000-year slumber.

The creature rose quickly but shakily, nearly knocking Peter Weyland over as he rose to his feet, towering over even David, the tallest of them.

David could hear the excitement and impatience in his creator’s voice as he assured them he was all right and urged David to speak for him.

“Ask them where they’re from,” Dr. Shaw interjected. Mr. Weyland looked at her in surprise, clearly appalled that she would try to interfere with his attempted negotiations with the creature.

“Ask him what’s in his cargo. It killed his people.” She persisted, looking at David fiercely. He didn’t dare follow her lead in the presence of his master but he could see that the Engineer was watching their interactions.

“Shaw, enough,” Mr. Weyland said angrily.

“You made that thing. And it was meant for us. Why?”

Mr. Weyland gave Jackson the order to “shut her up” and the man hit her in the gut with his rifle. Still, she persisted. “I need to know why. What did we do wrong? Why do you hate us?” She was on her knees. The effort of speaking through the pain was obvious but she hadn’t given up.

“David, tell him why we came,” Mr. Weyland’s voice was filled with urgency. David considered what the Engineer had just seen. An old man ordering a member of his own team beaten to silence her questions. He figured that even if he didn’t understand the language the creature could understand what he had seen. David knew that he could say that they were there for answers, that this was a spiritual quest, as Dr. Shaw believed it was. Or he could tell the Engineer exactly what the old man before him was made of.

"This man is here because he does not want to die. He believes you can give him more life." David sealed their fate with that utterance. The Engineer put his hand on David’s head gently and it occurred to David that there was a small possibility that he would be spared.

The man gripped his head with both hands and tore it from his body. David didn’t feel pain per se but he did experience a system-wide explosion of warning signals and damage messages. The Engineer struck Mr. Weyland with his own creation, sending the old man’s delicate frame hurtling to the ground. Davis see enough to watch the rest of the crew attack and be destroyed by the seemingly indestructible creature. Except Dr. Shaw. The Engineer watched as she escaped through the cargo hold and seemed to consider going after her and decide against it.

David’s head found itself resting quite near that of Peter Weyland. The old man’s voice was filled with sorrow and choking frustration as he gasped, “There’s nothing,” to David.

“I know,” David answered. “Have a good journey, Mr. Weyland.”

The sound of his life sensor droned a flat signal as his father, his maker died. David could feel his own milky white blood on his chin as he watched the last Engineer prepare his ship, filled with jars of death, to fly to the planet of their origin and destroy it.

Chapter Text

David may have been only a detached head, helplessly being tossed about by the movements of the Engineer’s ship, but he could identify exactly what Janek had done. He had steered Prometheus right into the departing ship. Quite courageous, actually. David found himself surprised at the man’s valor. He wondered if the rest of the crew had used the escape pods. Perhaps a few others had decided to go down with him. Humans could have such interesting responses to danger. Men like Ravel and Chance, despite their conventional natures, could rise to the occasion when presented with an opportunity to be heroes, to “save the Earth” from a threat like that contained in the cargo hold of the ship.

He wondered where Elizabeth was. He knew that the Engineer had to be wondering the same thing for he released himself from his command seat and made his way to the hallway leading out of the bridge. He could warn her, David thought. If she was still alive; if she hadn’t been on the Prometheus. He hoped she hadn’t been.

When David was sure that the Engineer had enough time to get off the ship he spoke, the com unit in his suit picking up his voice with a flicker of lights.

“Elizabeth, are you there? This is David.”

There was a long, agonizing pause and then he heard her.

“Yeah, I’m here.”

David knew he needed to warn her immediately but he wondered if he had found her only to hear her die again at the his hands. What defense could Dr. Shaw put up against the enormous Engineer?

“You need to get out immediately. He’s coming for you.”

She responded. She must have said: “Who’s coming?” but then the sound from her com unit was overtaken by a crashing noise at her end. He knew it must be the last Engineer. He listened to the crashing static for a few more minutes before he heard the sound of a high, sad keening and her voice, strained with emotion, saying the name of her lover.

Unable to fight his emotional programming, David winced, though there was no one here to see it.

“Elizabeth…are you there? Can you hear me?”

Another pause before he heard her voice.

“Yes, I can hear you.”

David sighed with relief as he told her: “I was afraid you were dead.”

“You have no idea what afraid is.” Her voice sounded angry and weary at the same time. David knew that he needed her to help him but would she be reluctant? He assumed so, since she would be angry at him for knowing the source of Holloway’s contagion. Would she know how responsible he had been for her lover’s death? Would she refuse to help him? It would only mean her own death if she were to refuse.

“I know we’ve had our differences. But please….I need to ask you for your help.”

“Why in the hell would I help you?” Angry, she was definitely angry with him. He had never heard her swear before.

“Because without me you’ll never leave this place.”

He could hear the conviction in her voice as she told him wearily that neither one of them was ever leaving the planet. She seemed to have given up.

“It’s not the only ship. There are many others. I can operate them…..Dr. Shaw?” She wasn’t responding but he could hear noise on her end. He waited a few minutes and tried to contact her again. Nothing.

It was an agonizing seven minutes before he heard a shuffling noise in the corridor leading to the bridge. He watched the doorway as well as he could until he saw her come in. He commanded his arms to wave so she could see his body and find his head.

“Dr. Shaw. Over here,” he called.

She stood before him, a stern look on her face.

“Where’s my cross?” she asked brusquely.

“The pouch. In my utility belt.”

He watched her rummage around in his utility belt until she found it. It felt odd and vulnerable to see her hands on his detached body. If she chose to damage him, he couldn’t have stopped her. He was powerless in the hands of a woman he had wronged. Not a position he wanted to be in. His maker certainly wouldn’t have been proud. Mr. Weyland appreciated only strength and success. This was a failure.

She pulled the cross out and gently strung it back around her neck. Her hands stroked it as she laid it back to rest where it belonged.

“Even after all this, you still believe, don’t you?” He could hear the wonder in his own voice. How was it possible that she still cherished this symbol?

“You said you could understand the navigation, use their maps,” she said, refusing to answer his question.

“Yes, of course. Once we get to one of their other ships finding a path to Earth should be relatively straightforward.”

“I don’t want to go back to where we came from. I want to go where they came from. You think you can do that David?” The patronizing tone of her voice was not lost on him but he was so…shocked. The doctor never responded like any other human he knew. She was kind to him when the rest of the crew was dismissive, she kept going when he was sure her reserves were at their end, she continued to believe in her God when mankind’s creator had been shown to be a homicidal race bent on their destruction, and now she wanted to go find their home planet?

He paused while he considered what she asked. What did he have to lose? If they went to Earth, it was possible that he would be destroyed upon their arrival. If not, he would still be nothing but the property of Weyland Industries. With her he could face destruction at the hands of her Engineers but he could also find the beings that created his masters. The choice became easy.

“Yes, I believe I can,” he responded.

David was given cause to marvel at her again when, placing his head gingerly in a bag to transport him she brushed the hair from his face and gently apologized to him for sealing him into the bag.

“It’s quite all right,”

He felt himself dropping down to the surface of the planet and then hoisted onto the ATV. The vehicle set out for the structure he had shown her concealed the entrance to the nearest ship. He contemplated how he would convince her to put him back together. Would she be reluctant? Another human would but perhaps she could be prevailed upon through her feelings of compassion for him. She was obviously still compelled to treat him with some respect, despite her anger at him.

He was surprised to feel and hear the vehicle slow down and then stop, far from their intended target.

“Elizabeth?” he asked her. There was another pause and then the vehicle picked up speed slowly as it changed direction. She was going back to the ship. What could possibly convince her to do so?

“Elizabeth?” he addressed her again more forcefully.

“Just a moment,” she said, finally. “I’ve seen something…” The vehicle was moving over more bumpy terrain that the path they had been on, he calculated that she was heading roughly towards the midpoint of the ship. What could she have seen?

The vehicle slowed again and he heard her get off and step onto the rocky ground.

“Please do be careful, Dr. Shaw,” he said to her. She didn’t even have a weapon to his knowledge unless she’d gotten one off of the shuttle. He doubted she’d had time.

He heard a dragging noise and then the ATV shuttered as she hoisted something onto it. There was a clanging noise. Oxygen cartridges? He knew she had gotten some from the shuttle but she shouldn’t have needed one yet, despite all her heavy labor.

“Elizabeth?” He was growing quite impatient. This wasn’t the plan they had agreed upon at all.

“It’s all right, David,” her voice came soothingly. “I’ve found Ms. Vickers. I think she’s still alive.”

Chapter Text

Elizabeth’s muffled words were followed by a thumping and then a sliding, scraping noise, like she was dragging something quite heavy along the back seat of the ATV.

Then the light burst into the bag which held his head. She looked down at him.

“David, I found Ms. Vickers,” her eyes flickered back to the back seat. “I think she’s still alive. Her suit is still giving off life signs.”

“Elizabeth,” He said. Then he paused, for he didn’t know how to explain this to her in a way that didn’t highlight the lack of humanity in his position. “I cannot prevent you from leaving Ms. Vickers here but I feel I must tell you…”

“Leave her here?” Elizabeth’s voice grew shrill. “David, I can’t… Why would I…How could I leave her here?” She was quite shaken and he realized that he had done exactly what he didn’t want to do. He had alienated her. She thought him inhumane to suggest that she leave Ms. Vickers behind.

“If you want to continue to the Engineer’s planet,” he spoke again carefully. “Ms. Vickers will not allow it and I won’t be able to disregard her orders.” Understanding dawned on her face and she nodded slowly.

“I…see what you are saying but the fact remains. I cannot leave her here.” Elizabeth squared her shoulders and a resolute look dropped onto her face. She zipped the bag up again and he was thrown back into darkness. He felt the dipping motion of her climbing back into the vehicle and they began to move again.

The bumpy ride continued without another pause until Elizabeth reached the location of the next closest ship. He directed her in opening the doors and she drove the ATV as far as she could into the ship before reaching a door that was too small to allow it.

“This is the bridge, right?” she asked him, gesturing towards the open doorway into a room very similar to the one the Engineer had inhabited. The cryochambers were empty on this one.

“I believe so, yes,” he said. Dr. Shaw dragged his body off of the vehicle and into the chamber, settling him into a seat much like the one he had sat in so proudly just an hour before in front of his creator and Dr. Shaw. She placed his head next to him and then dragged Ms. Vickers’s body in as gingerly as she could, giving the woman’s size advantage.

Elizabeth slumped down onto the floor and regarded the two bodies in front of her, wincing and clutching her abdomen.

“Dr. Shaw, you’re injured,” David said. “If I can suggest…if you put me back together I can see to both Ms. Vickers’s and your own injuries.”

Elizabeth regarded him sharply and then pressed her lips together as if biting back her words. A look of intense weariness dropped across her face.

“I don’t suppose extracting a promise from you would mean anything?” she said. David wanted to respond sharply. Her words had hit him with surprising force. He wanted her to trust him but she didn’t. He counseled himself that a hasty response could hurt any hope he had of earning her trust back.

“I have no wish to injure you, Dr. Shaw,” he said. She regarded him another long moment and then sighed.

“Very well,” she said, pulling herself back up to her feet slowly. “Where do I start?”

“As eager as I am to be repaired, I think that it would be wise to get this ship launched first,” David reminded her. Her offspring and the last Engineer were still out there and he had no way of knowing what had become of them.

“I wouldn’t worry about the Engineer,” she said, biting her lip in discomfort, her eyes growing dark. “But you’re right. We should get off this planet.”

He directed her to the controls, giving her directions that she followed with shaky hands, all the while her glance flickering with concern to Ms. Vickers’s body. David couldn’t detect physical signs of respiration from the angle he was at but he could see the flicker of lights on the edge of her helmet that indicated she was breathing and her heart was beating. He thought about how he had seen the same signals grow dim and fail on her father, just an hour ago now. Had she somehow survived the crashing of her lifeboat and the Engineer’s ship impact with Prometheus? Dr. Shaw had survived it so it was feasible that Ms. Vickers had as well, he supposed.

Elizabeth got the ship launched and coded a trajectory in the general direction of Earth. He would have to fine-tune it when he had full use of all his faculties.

She stepped in front of him wearily; sweat covering her brow despite the cool temperature in the ship. She had taken off her gloves and her helmet when they had determined that the air was hospitable. Her posture was slumped. Given what she had experienced, David wondered if she would be able to sustain the effort it was going to take to put him at least partially back together.

“I have to do this now,” she said. He couldn’t tell whether it was a question or a statement.

“Yes,” he said. His voice sounded more metallic somehow. He guessed that it was missing the resonance that being attached to a body gave. His voice was issuing from a tiny speaker without the echo that being attached to an approximately eighty-kilogram body. She didn’t seem to notice. It was a small thing, he supposed.

“If Ms. Vickers is indeed still alive and able to be helped, it would be better to do so sooner rather than later,” he continued. She nodded.

“You’ll have to attach only the main three lines for now. They should be easy to access through my spinal column. It’s the equivalent of your spinal cord.” She nodded again, her eyes showing understanding. As intuitive and spiritual as Dr. Shaw was she was also a scientist and the facts seemed comforting to her.

“There is some polymer tape in my tool belt. It will work to attach the ends.”

Elizabeth retrieved the tape and sat down next to his body. She picked up his head and held it in her lap. David watched her face as she focused on the job.

Her face took on a determination typical of someone completing a complicated job but there was something else. Elizabeth, her attention given to putting him back together, had the tenderness and peaceful countenance of a Madonna.

She attached the three main lines and then looked to him for direction.

“You should be able to line up the grooves in my spine with those in my neck.”

“Won’t they have been damaged?” she asked. Sincere curiosity lit her features.

“I was made to be…transported in sections if necessary.” He felt uncomfortable telling her this. It seemed to accentuate the fact that he was a machine.

She held his head to the top of his spine and considered the place where he would be reattached. He could already run internal diagnostics with his lines connected and he was now capable of some movement but he didn’t want to startle her.

“Elizabeth,” he said, watching her face carefully. “If you place the vertebrae together I can snap them into place.” She looked at him quickly, alarmed.

“I…Ok,” she said, pausing for a moment before taking the final step and placing his head next to his spine. David raised his hands carefully, slowly, watching her face the whole time. He grasped the top of his head and pulled it into place. There was a loud crack and it was done.

She kept her bloodshot eyes on him as he removed his hands from his head and slowly ran them down to where his skin had been torn at his shoulders. It would hold together sufficiently for now while he attended to more important matters.

Slowly he propped himself up. He paused. “Elizabeth,” he said quietly. “I’m going to get up and attend to Ms. Vickers now. Are you in much pain?” His eyes flickered down to her abdomen.

She followed his glance as if forgetting her ailment. Then she shook her head.

“No,” she said, just as quietly. “I’m just tired.” He nodded.

He got up slowly, keeping his eyes fixed on her. He only broke eye contact when he stepped into the dark hallway to retrieve a blanket from the ATV. He walked back and handed it to her carefully. She nodded her thanks.

He moved gingerly over to where Ms. Vickers lay and glanced down at her body.

It occurred to David that he hadn’t had a human look into his eyes for such an extended period of time since they did diagnostics on his ocular functioning. An emotionless, clinical observation it had been, like checking a telescope. No connection, no acknowledgement of him as a sentient being.

He missed the contact already. He felt compelled to look into Dr. Shaw’s eyes again but when he looked back over at her she had fallen asleep.