Characters: Razer and Aya
Word Count: 2,468
(Note: Story has not been beta'd.)
(EDIT as of 4/15/12: Made a few slight changes to bring the story more in line with the episode "Reckoning.")
"Stay with the Inceptor, Razer. Kilowog and I will be back as soon as we drop these two off somewhere far away from here."
The Red Lantern merely nodded once in response as Hal and Kilowog flew off with Zartok and Drusa, the pair of criminals held captive by binding construct. After being tossed down the Interceptor's ramp and then half buried in rock by Mogo, Zartok and Drusa weren't much of a problem. However, they were too close to the Interceptor and Jordan wanted them moved before the ship took off.
Razer cast a glance in Aya's direction, a silent indicator that they should get on board themselves. He then walked up the ramp, making his way further in to the ship's bridge. The sound of metal clicking against metal informed him that Aya was following in his wake.
Coming to a halt near his usual station on the bridge, Razer glowered at the scuff marks that had been left on the floor, walls and even the ceiling. When the Interceptor had come down earlier, it had gone into a barrel roll, tossing Drusa and Zartok about on the inside like rag dolls. Aya herself had been laying in heap when Razer found her in the adjoining area, helping to ignite the fury that fueled the Red Lantern's assault on the pair of hijackers.
"What happened?" he asked, glancing back at the AI where she stood near the helm. "How did they gain control of the Interceptor?"
"Drusa placed an override device upon the main access panel to my CPU chamber, the one you destroyed in order to--"
"That isn't what I meant!" Razer snapped, cutting her off.
Aya's brows lifted slightly, betraying her confusion. "That was the direct method used to override my systems. Did you require a more technical explanation?"
Razer frowned, working to control his temper. Given that Aya was an AI, he had to be more specific when requesting information from her. "No. What I wish to know how Drusa gained access to the console in the first place."
"During our search for the Green Lantern, Drusa injured her ankle. She requested medical aid be given on board the Interceptor."
"And you brought her here."
"That is correct."
"What happened when you arrived with her?"
"I placed her on a berth, then prepared to administer treatment for her injury. She questioned the function of the main access panel to my CPU chamber. When I answered her query, she placed the override device on the panel," Aya replied evenly, as though giving a simple status report.
"You told her?" Razer's eyes narrowed, one corner of his mouth twitching. "Why in the name of Grotz would you do that? One should never give away their weaknesses!"
The AI tilted her head to one side. "She inquired and I supplied the data. It is my function to be of assistance, even if only answering questions."
"Not to a potential threat, it isn't!" Razer glanced briefly at the open door leading into the adjoining area. "In addition to tricking you into revealing your weakness, it would seem that Drusa lied to you. If she was so injured that she needed to be brought back here for treatment, how did she reach the access panel without help?"
"She walked to it from the berth." Aya was silent a moment, following Razer's gaze before looking to him once more. "Is it common for people to falsify information to do harm to others?"
His scowl deepened. "Very common. You cannot answer every question posed to you with all pertinent data. You must learn to supply half truths when necessary. Even lies. If we cannot be as crafty as our enemies, they will defeat us."
"Is it correct for a Green Lantern to falsify information?"
Razer's lip curled briefly, exposing his sharp teeth. He wanted to retort that many of them likely did. They answered to the Guardians, who the Red Lanterns blamed for the destruction of certain sectors of Frontier Space. At the same time, though Razer had experienced some prejudice from the Green Lanterns on their crew in the past, mostly from Kilowog, the mission to save the cargo ship from a pinhole had demonstrated that Razer could trust them both to an extent. However, that did not mean they would never lie to him if it was to their benefit or for the good of their overall mission.
"Seeing as how they are supposed to be paragons of virtue and justice, probably not," he said after a moment, unable to completely keep the vitriol from his tone. "Keep in mind that this is about our survival, however. Without you and the Interceptor, we lose the fastest method of transport available to us and the roof over our heads."
"Do Red Lanterns lie?"
"Of course, they do! Everyone lies!"
It was like speaking with a child at points. Realizing that the volume of his voice had escalated out of frustration, Razer folded his arms across his chest and took a calming breath, trying to keep his temper in check. If he could not make her see his point, Aya might jeopardize their survival at some point in the future.
"How will I know when someone is falsifying information if I do not possess data that contradicts what I am being told?" Aya asked, taking advantage of his momentary silence to put in another inquiry.
"If you do not know someone, you cannot trust them completely."
"Then it is a matter of collecting the appropriate amount of information to determine the reliability of an individual in any given situation." A pause. "How much data will I require?"
"There is no specific amount. It is something many simply know from experience." And something that apparently Razer needed to work on himself, given his previously misguided faith in Atrocitus.
"How much experience will I require before I can assess each situation and determine the reliability of others?"
Razer sighed, lowering his gaze to the floor. She couldn't fully grasp the concept and likely she never would, not when gut instinct often played into the mix. After all, knowing when to rely another was a combination of not just what you knew of them, but what you felt about them. As an AI, moreover one that had only been online a short amount of time, Aya would not be able to fathom the use of intuition. She was incapable of it.
At the same time, he could not simply instruct her to give full and true information to only the established crew of the Interceptor. If they temporarily took on another Green Lantern for a single mission, Hal would insist that he or she be taken at their word and kept in the loop.
"I...don't know," he finally admitted, the frustration draining out of him somewhat, defeated by his inability to provide a clear answer. "As a nav program, you cannot understand what it means to make decisions based on gut instincts. On feelings."
Aya considered that in silence for a few seconds, likely calculating another solution. Watching her, however, Razer swore he saw a flicker of what appeared to be disappointment in her expression. That she was incapable of something meant that, on some level, she was failing her fellow crew members. Still, how could she experience disappointment? It was an emotion. Perhaps she was merely mirroring a reaction appropriate to the situation based on her observations of the Lanterns on board.
Finally, she spoke again, fixing him with those glowing blue eyes. "...can you assist me in understanding? If trust is essential to the crew's continued survival, I must learn how to measure it."
Razer made a low sound of annoyance at the back of his throat. "What do you expect me to do? Inform you every time I consider someone to be untrustworthy? I will not always be around to determine someone's reliability for you! What happened today is a prime example of that."
"I am asking you to teach me when it is appropriate to trust others."
He turned away, focusing his gaze on the console in front of him. "Judging character is not something that can be taught to an AI. I'm hardly the one to teach anyone about trust, anyway."
"Perhaps I have already learned some of what it means to trust."
Aya moved closer, coming to stand behind and just to the Red Lantern's left. She looked to him, optics glowing softly in the ambient light in the bridge. "I trust you, Razer."
He tensed, gaze shifting to Aya, his eyes momentarily wide in surprise. It took him a second to find his tongue, his lips parting slightly before he managed a response. "Why? What makes you think I am trustworthy?"
"You helped me save Hal and Kilowog from the prison. Additionally, you assisted in saving the cargo ship from falling into the pinhole and you removed the control device from my main access panel. I have difficulty processing true emotion and judging character as you say, but am I incorrect in assuming that those experiences make you trustworthy?"
"Did it ever occur to you that I am only doing what I deem necessary to repay my debt to Shyir Rev and his people?"
"What are the other Red Lanterns like, Razer?"
"What does that have to do with--" He cut himself off, pursing his lips before deciding not to argue and simply answer, even though he was angry that she dared to ask him such a question. "Killers. They'll do whatever is necessary to take their revenge, even at the expense of innocent lives. I think you know that."
"And yet you do not do as they do." She took another half step, now at his side. "Did you want to protect her?"
His eyes narrowed dangerously, hands clenching into fists. "'Her'? Who are you talking about?"
"I told you that matter is private!" he snarled, rounding on Aya suddenly, face a mere six inches from hers. "You cannot understand my pain! I do not wish to speak with you about this!"
To her credit, the AI did not back down. Though the volume of her voice dropped off somewhat, her gaze remained steady as she looked into his eyes. "Please answer the question, Razer."
He snorted angrily, pulling back and straightening up. For a long moment, he said nothing, debating a quick exit from the bridge to force an end to the conversation. With her eyes on him, however, he finally relented.
"I did. I failed. You know that." His voice was tense. Quiet.
"You are someone who protects others and is willing to accept responsibility and punishment for wrong doing. Based on my experience with you, I 'feel' that I can trust you."
"That's not really feeling. It is a prediction based on the data you have collected."
"Perhaps in this case, it is close enough." Reaching out with one hand, she touched the side of Razer's arm. She had often seen Hal put a hand on Kilowog's shoulder and, in conjunction with the friendly words that usually accompanied the gesture, come to understand it as a sign of camaraderie. Physical interaction was apparently important to those made of flesh and blood; it somehow served to further the connections between people. What she was telling Razer was important. Perhaps the contact would help him understand that better. "If I am to be a functional member of this team, I must trust you, Hal and Kilowog. I am learning more everyday from all of you. Perhaps one day I will understand what it is to have the gut instinct you speak of. Regardless, I will attempt to exercise caution in the future."
The touch to his arm had startled him, yet Razer did not draw back. He glanced down at her hand in silence as she spoke before meeting her gaze once more. Finally, he reached up and placed one hand over hers to encourage her to break contact with his arm, though his hand did linger just a moment before her palm slipped away.
"A wise idea," he said. "I...will try to help you to learn how to be a better judge of character. To not be too trusting in bad or questionable company."
"Thank you, Razer."
Something much like a small smile crossed her features. In turn, the corners of Razer's mouth twitched upward ever so slightly. He had originally determined that Aya was "safer" than the Green Lanterns when it came to discussing certain matters since she operated purely on logic. With her showing hints of basic emotion here and there, and attempting to better comprehend what it meant to trust, he questioned briefly just how "safe" she would be in the future.
Footsteps sounded beyond the door leading into the bridge and Razer immediately took one step back from Aya. A second later, Hal and Kilowog entered.
"Alright, people. To your stations and let's get airborne," Hal ordered as he walked to the command chair. "Once we're past Mogo's atmosphere, we'll discuss our next move."
As Razer took his seat, feeling and hearing the distinct hum of the Interceptor's engine as it came to life, he glanced to where Aya sat at the nav station. He watched her fingers dance lightly over the near console keyboard for a moment before turning back to his own station.
'I trust you, Razer.'
It had been a long time since anyone had said that to him. Briefly, he allowed himself a moment of "weakness", letting the statement exploit the chink in his internal armor so that he could have a few seconds free of self loathing. Her words were more of a comfort than he wanted to admit. Still, they brought with them something unexpected.
Death did not frighten Razer. Very little did. However he now found that there was a nagging fear at the back of his mind... That he might be forced to do something in the future that would break her trust in him. Something drastic. Something the Green Lanterns couldn't bring themselves to accomplish.
Trust. It was both a blessing and curse. He could accept it for the moment, even though the part of him that wallowed in rage and hate protested it.
Unfortunately, it was a luxury he probably wouldn't be able to keep.
- Fan Fic: "Trust"