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Elegy for Elpis

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Timothy made a lot of bad decisions. Case in point, he was sitting on a sad excuse of a cot, starring dejectedly out of a terrifyingly flimsy window at the cracked lunar landscape and the hazy glow of lava. Every step he made along the way seemed logical at the time but the more he went, on the more they piled up. So here he was alone on Elpis, with no way out and no official papers because, to put the cherry on top, he didn’t officially exist anymore. He didn’t even have his own fucking face anymore. His only way out, get this, was at the mercy of his boss, who not only was he quickly growing to despise, but also demanded that he find a freaking vault, all while in personating the guy. God, how had acting school led this?

OK, even Timothy had to admit, that alone at the moment what’s a bit of a stretch; Springs had been nice enough to let him stay at her little waystation as thanks for getting her back to Concordia, but as nice as she was, he couldn’t wait to get back to civilization. If he wasn’t getting more and more terrified of Springs, he would definitely tell her to stop writing children stories. God, he sure helped that not everyone on Elpis was as mad as they made Pandorans up to be.

So that was quickly becoming to be Timothy’s days, thinking about the fact that the only people in his life were his narcissistic playboy of a boss, the strange mechanic who was more than capable of breaking his neck despite her bubbly exterior, and two digistructed assistants whose skills include killing things and shouting out lame catchphrases.

The last thing in the known universe he wanted to do was get up and fight Kraggons or bandits in low G, but it was that or think about his bad decisions until Springs finally got fed up and kicked him out.

—-

Slowly but surely, and oh how slowly it seems, Timothy was getting better at risking his life and shooting things. He Hated to admit it but the only thing that kept him alive until he got his bearings were the digi-jacks. At first he didn’t want to use them; they were an unnecessary reminder of the trouble he had gotten himself into, but when you’re just a little actor who expected to have a cushy desk job impersonating Jack while the guy got the real work done, you take any weapon you have, especially ones that auto aim. Timothy didn’t know what function exactly they were meant to fulfill; obviously they weren’t complete, not with the stupid handful of things they shouted and the fact that they were obviously holograms, but if they were to function as bodyguards, why the hell with the guy need them to look exactly like himself? Maybe Timothy wanted to know when he first received them before heading up to Helios, but after meeting Jack and seeing his disturbingly distracted and interested face, Timothy tried very hard not to think about it.

 The digi-jacks’ existence was just plain stupid. And yet, and this was how he knew the moon getting to him, the inevitable shout of “And the world just got twenty-five percent more handsome” was beginning to fill him with a sense of relief. He really, really hated his life.

——

“So, handsome,”

Timothy grimaced at Jack’s voice, more than grateful that the communication was audio only.

“ since this whole freaking jamming system fiasco has taken a lot longer than expected, and you’re so kindly field testing the digi-jacks for me-“

“They haven’t been field tested!”

“Relaaax, kiddo, I was, like, ninety two percent certain they weren’t going to kill you. Gotta protect my investment, after all.” Timothy can practically hear the wink. “I’m gonna send down some updates, since I’m just sitting in this broom closet anyway.”

“And, what, are you ninety eight percent certain your updates aren’t going to kill me either?”

“Calm your tits; it’s just some learning algorithm I already had mostly written. It should help them be more combat effective. Just don’t be a dick to them and it should be fine.”

As much is Timothy disliked Jack, he had to admit there were the strange moments where he seemed uncharacteristically nice, such as sending him down to Elpis instead of Jack. Of course, Timothy could often file those moments away as being beneficial to the mission, and he often did, but it still was kind of nice. Timothy guessed that you had to take nice wherever you got it. After all, where else are you gonna find it when your own mom laughs of the news of your death.

“Oh, by the way, you’re going to have fend for yourself while they update; can’t use ‘em while the codes being changed. Ciao!”

Timothy cursed, looking down at the digi-Jack controller. A new progress bar began to blink. Right when he was in the middle of a bandit camp.

——

Somehow, it’s a relief to go back to fighting Kraggons. Kraggons, those...those he can handle. If you had related the incident to Timothy before his misadventures on the moon, he would’ve thought that killing dead lift, bandit or no, would have been the worst part of the whole incident. As he sitting there taking a breather between waves of Kraggons, his hands still trembling, it’s the freaking jump pads that refuse to let the adrenaline leave his system. Past him would’ve probably been appalled, but past him never would’ve seen the lack of humanity in the scavs eyes, wouldn’t be able to comprehend how little life was worth here. It almost didn’t feel like killing humans; he can hardly feel bad about it when they would’ve just us easily killed a Child.

So yeah he’s terrified, in over his head, and while the dangers he’s been facing have always been real, this is the first time he starting to realize that he’s not going to make it to Concordia. Killing dead lift was a fluke. He knows Jack had sent out the call to many other vault hunters. And if the attack on Helios hadn’t been so sudden, and if he hadn’t already been on the way, there would’ve been no one to pull Jack’s ass out of the fire. Literally anyone else would’ve been better than Timothy; he more than willingly admits that. It’s going to take a vault hunter to get this job done.

Timothy has never felt smaller before in his whole life and that’s saying something. While Timothy has never been a short man, his exact height matching Jack’s was one of the things that got him the doppelgänger gig, he’s has always been easily forgotten, out on the fringes, quiet and shy and unremarkable. It’s one of the reasons he liked acting; sometimes it was good to just be someone else. And look where that got him.

Tim looked up as the trembling subsided, surprised to see that the expendable assets execution file was still up and running, the holograms flickering slightly as they always did. What was unusual though was the fact that they were looking at him. While true Timothy had only been using the tech for a few days now, he had been summoning them as soon as the program recharged; the minute they flipped off it was painfully obvious to him how much of a sitting duck he was. Before, when he had left them idling while looking for ammo, they had just stood there practically frozen eyes stare blankly ahead when there was no enemies within range. Now though while their posture was still rather stiff, they were definitely focused on him, one going so far as to tilt his head to the side.

“It’s, uh, a good thing we made it through.”

And then timothy realized he was talking to holograms. Really hadn’t thought he was quite that lonely, but he had been feeling alone since way before this moon fiasco.

The digi-jacks looked at each other, looked at each other, before saying practically in one voice “From one Jack to another, well done.” The delivery was flat and robotic much like their other catch phrases, but this was one of the incredibly embarrassing phrases Timothy had come up with in battle, while the only people who could witness his hopeless fumbling would be dead shortly. He gawked at them for a moment before the program ran out.

——

Timothy didn’t know what he expected from the digi-jack learning protocol. After the mad dash back out of Deadlift’s bandit camp, he had forgotten about the upgrade, didn’t even realize it was done installing until after he instinctively summoned them a couple of times. Now, though, he paid attention to them during combat rather than just letting them do their thing. He caught them listening when he was trying out his Jack persona. He saw them pay attention to him when he slipped up a bit in combat. Apart from The time they watch him freak out, the signs of them learning were very subtle. He used to dismiss them quickly after combat, just in case he ran into an unexpected nest of creatures, but now he begin to wonder what they would pick up if he kept them running.

Concordia was smaller and grungier than what Timothy was hoping for. He had gotten there at a decent time, but between that idiot claptrap unit and the physical examination, he figured it was late enough that he could reasonably Buy room with his hard won loot. The food was unappealing, some strange mystery meat that he really didn’t want to think about where it came from, but at least it was fresh and he need didn’t have to mix it with water.

Timothy hoped that Concordia would feel like a safe place, but he was beginning to see what Jack was talking about when he called the place run by bandits. The people in this town didn’t look that much different than the hordes of assholes that had willingly tried to gun him down. Taking his Kabab, Timothy walked one of the back alleys that had a pleasant view of the landscape. He felt kind of stupid, but he turned on the digi-jacks, telling himself that it was to increase the things they were learning from and not at all because he felt unsafe. He had to turn down their violence setting, which would have the added bonus of extending their runtime, and if he still felt eyes boring into him as he ate, at least they were stares he was getting familiar with.

—-

He wondered if the holograms could take any form. Having two gorgeous Moxxi angels materialize to save the Day sounded a-ok with him. But he’d probably had to ask Jack to change them, and if the sheer humiliation wasn’t stopping him, the fact that Moxxi was Jack’s ex might. Or maybe it was the fact that having a Moxxi he couldn’t touch around all the time would drive him up the wall. Knowing his luck, they would still probably sound like Jack.

——

Timothy was grimy and gritty and smelling faintly of bile by the time he got back to Concordia, the terrifying high satellites finally destroyed. He...he had killed so many people. Not like the planet wouldn’t be better without Red or Belly, but all he wanted to do was wash off the grime, sleep for a thousand years, and wake up from this nightmare. So naturally Jack fast traveled in as soon as timothy reached Concordia’s Center Square.

It seemed like it was all strictly business, much To Timothy’s relief, until, at least, they were going to find that stupid CU5TM-TP unit.

“So, how are my little digi-Jack’s doing? Are they getting more effective?”  Normally, Timothy would have chalked this up to more business, but there’s something in jacks eyes, something that is sizing him up and analyzing his response. “ Uh, yeah they really are getting more effective. Don’t know how many times they pulled me out of the fire. They started digistructing my weapons? Did not know they could do that.”

Jack’s eyes are still searching, and Timothy wonders with the shock of horror if he’s going to take them away. Because he’d be a sitting duck if Jack did. That’s the only reason. Right? “Part of the program has basic gun schematics, and their scanning capabilities are increased, so they can effectively replicate any gun they come across.  Not to mention, all the schematics get forwarded to me as a nice bonus.”

“That’s...cool.”

“The thing with a smart AI, though, is that they start developing in ways nobody can expect. Standard procedure is to forbid them from changing their own code outside of certain parameters so we don’t get, like, a rogue AI set on world domination.”

“Huh.”

 “Most AI have request system so programmers can see how they’re developing, accept and deny changes, yada yada, but those guys,” Jack pointed to the digi-Jack controller. “Don’t know they can request code. Oh, it’s there, but they need a reason to go digging for it.”

“Why would you even hide it from them?”

“‘Cause no one's ever done it?” The ‘duh’ is tangible. “And I wanted to know how they think. I was gonna debug them myself after you took care of the initial calibration, but, eh, they turned out useful ahead of schedule.”

Timothy sat there, thinking through the implications and coming up empty. “Why are you telling me this? Do you...need me to perform some tests, boss?”

Jack stopped, abruptly serious. Timothy gulped. “Three hours ago I received a request for a code change. Normally it’s for correcting inefficiencies some numbnut left in their code. But this request was repeated an hour and a half later. Which is a thing most AIs only do when they have a buttload more sentience than these guys should have.”

“What-what did they ask for?” Timothy’s heart hammered in his throat.

“Tangibility.” Jack’s eyes bored into him. “And as soon as we get this information from the Meriff, you’re going to tell me exactly what the hell happened!”