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Internal Memory

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The first thing he saw, the first recorded memory rattling around the drives in the man who would soon be known as Forrest Coreman's head, were bright, fluorescent lights. He blinked, then realized oh. I can blink. He knew his programming, he knew his objectives, he knew the entire layout of the Nautilus Ark. Every single screw and every single socket was lodged in his brain. But he didn’t know he could blink.

Weird.

A man in a grease stained lab-coat leaned over him, giving the man who now knew his name was Forrest Coreman a once-over. “Hello Forrest,” he said, calm as ever. “I’m going to tell you about your new assignment.”

Subject: Glass, Seraphine
Position: Captain
Report:

Forrest didn’t know many people. There were the researchers, this crew, and that was it. But he could tell, even from that small a sample size, that Captain Glass was something different. The crew seemed to rally around her. She worked well with Sgt. Garrett—the two had some prior experience. Combat? Dr. Frenno seemed to look up to her. Even Dr. Wiser gave the captain some begrudging respect.

It was one day, after another round of mission prep, as Forrest was getting ready for bed, that there was a knock on his door.

“Captain,” Forrest said, with a little nod. “Is there something wrong? Something that needs fixing?”

“Of course not,” Glass said, with a shake of her head. “I just wanted to check in. See how things are going.”

“Check in on…me?”

“Obviously,” she laughed. “We’re going to be working together for a while, both before and after the cryosleep. You’re my coworker, Forrest, but I want to get to know you as a friend as well. Learn what sort of stuff you like, what books you read, things like that.”

A friend. That’s nice. There was a moment’s hesitation before he admitted, “Well, I do like camping.”

“We need you because if the cryochambers malfunction or something goes wrong with the air supply, we’ll need one person to fix the problem. Better that person be someone who doesn’t need to breathe anyway. Likewise, in an emergency situation, we’ll download a basic piloting program into your mainframe. you’ll need to steer the ship to its destination.”

“A basic piloting program doesn’t really seem to cut it. Wouldn’t the Captain be better at steering?” Forrest couldn’t help but ask.

“Like we said. In an emergency situation.”

Subject: Wiser, Ramsey
Position: Computer Engineer
Report:

It wasn’t that Forrest didn’t trust Wiser. He trusted everybody on the ship. They were his crewmates, after all, it behooved him to trust Dr. Wiser. But at the same time, if anybody could look through him, if anybody could figure him out, scope out his true identity, it would be him. He was a computer engineer. Surely he would notice the computer.

It didn’t take Forrest very long to realize that Dr. Wiser didn’t seem to notice much of anything. He saw the rest of them as almost below him and his expertise. More often than not, he was relieved that Wiser spent most of his time with the other doctor, Frenno.

Still, he knew that it would probably be best to get to know the man. For the mission, the first part of his brain said, the part that still thought in protocols. But Forrest quickly amended that. Not because of the mission. Because he wanted to.

One day, he saw Dr. Wiser drinking a coffee (black, no sugars, with enough caffeine content that it looked like it could kill a small animal) while working on a crossword puzzle. Forrest paused, thought things over, then walked over to Dr. Wiser, small awkward smile on his face.

“You know, I’m pretty good at Scrabble. Up for a game sometime after work tomorrow?”

Wiser looked over, giving Forrest a once-over before giving the man a smirk and a raise of his eyebrow. “You know, I’m better at Scrabble. After work works for me.”

The first game of Scrabble he played, against one of the other men in the building they had him stationed in, Forrest hated it. There wasn’t any challenge when you had dictionaries in at least ten different languages stored in your brain. So he made a request, asking if they could remove all dictionaries except his technical dictionary and instead install a language program roughly equivalent to that of conversational English.

They did.

When he played Scrabble for a second time, he found it was actually a challenge. When he played Scrabble for a third time, he found that he liked it.

Subject: Fremmo, Nomen
Position: Astrobiologist
Report:

Out of all of them, Forrest wanted to get to know her the best. He watched her as she hopped around the lab, as she followed Dr. Wiser, listening to his every word, hanging onto them as if they were life and death. She was so good in her own way, she was so smart in her own way, but she seemed…nervous. As if she was constantly surprised why she was on the ship.

He caught her talking to her snake once. It was an accident, he left one of his laser spanners back in med-bay after performing a check on the air vents. She was whispering to Virgil, watching as he ate a mouse.

“I just keep wondering why they chose me,” she murmured. “I mean, um, not that I’m regretting it or anything. Considering the other option, I’m really glad to be here. But I’ve got eyes. I’m the only non-human here—except you, of course Virgil. And sure, MOTHER’s taught me about all the things that I need to know about humanity and life outside the Ark, but it doesn’t really change that I’m, um, different.”

So am I, Forrest wanted to say, though he kept it to himself.

He brought her some coffee the next day. Nomen looked a little surprised, but she gave Forrest a little nod of thanks.

“I’m curious about your snake,” Forrest said, casually, as if asking an idle question. “Mind telling me about him?”

Nomen’s eyes lit up with excitement.

“Can I ask a question?” Forrest asked, before leaving the research lab to start assimilation, to start his new life pretending to be a human, learning enough that he can pass for flesh and blood. “Why aren’t we just open about the fact that I’m an android?”

“People are desperate to get on the Ark,” they explained. “If they knew one of the slots was taken up by an android that could be rebuilt if needed, there’d be mutiny. You need to keep this a secret, for your safety and ours.”

He understood why. He just wished it was different.

“Likewise, during the prep station, we’ll need reports on the rest of the crew. You’re our eyes and ears, Forrest. If someone starts to slack on the job or crack under pressure, we need a pair of objective eyes to report that so we can have them quickly replaced.”

The longer he worked with his team, the more laughable the idea of being objective became.

Subject: Garrett, Cameron
Position: Gunnery Sergeant
Report:

It was good working with Garrett. He didn’t ask too many questions. He didn’t ask too much about what Forrest was doing or what sort of tests he had to run. He just looked down at the project, made a little noise of approval, then went off, probably to talk with the Captain or double-check the supplies on the ship one more time. It was a while before the two had an actual conversation.

“Ears, catch,” Garrett said, as he lightly tossed a wrench in Forrest’s direction. He caught it easily, barely looking, before he couldn’t help but ask,

“Ears?”

“That hat you wear makes your ears look big.” It would be an insult if someone else said it. But Garrett had a brusque, take-no-shit way of speaking that made what should be an insult feel like a compliment, like a joke between friends. A nickname because that’s the sort of man he was.

Besides, it was the first time Forrest ever had a nickname. He liked it.

“I like my hat.”

“And it makes your ears look big. The two things can exist at the same time, y’know.”

Forrest couldn’t help but chuckle as he resumed his repair work.

When he felt the spike of fear shoot through his chest as the sight of that black slime, Forrest knew in that moment that there was no man he would rather have by his side than the Gunnery Sergeant.

Subject: Coreman, Forrest
Position: Engineer
Report:

Forrest didn’t know if he was going to die. That is, he was fairly certain this body would die, burned up into little tiny shards of metal along with the ship. But what would happen then? Would his consciousness be uploaded into a new body? Did they even have a back-up of his consciousness to begin with? Would there be a new Forrest, a different Forrest that would be waking up in the laboratory soon? And would that Forrest know about the easy way Captain Glass seemed not to worry about things? About Dr. Wiser’s tendency to fudge the rules a little bit in board games? About how everyone knew when Dr. Frenno had a good word as that frog had an amazing lack of a poker face? About how Sgt. Garrett read the same few magazines over and over again?

He didn’t know. But if that other Forrest didn’t hold the memories of his dear, beloved friends, this Forrest, the Forrest that could already feel a growing heat as the ship’s cooling systems finally gave out, he hoped that the other Forrest could find friends just as dear.