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1 of the Good Guys

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2010.10.31, 14:49, 38°53'22.93"N, 77° 0'56.16"W (Washington, D.C.)

“Well, no, Artoo, of course I didn’t mean you. You’re one of the good ones!” R2-D2, all appearances to the contrary (R2 remembers perfectly well being called a “near-sighted scrap pile” by C-3PO, but has forgiven the protocol droid), is a highly advanced and technologically capable astrogation droid with a personality to match; the idea that all robots are devoid of emotion in their thought processes, machinistic and unfeeling, is one of Great Divide’s more insidious inventions, and so when R2 hears Stephen Colbert’s rather feeble protest, the first thing that flashes across R2’s circuits is, You’re damn right I am, Stephen.

It’s a beautiful autumn day on the National Mall; having been a frequent visitor at the Air and Space Museum, and sometimes one of the exhibits, R2 enjoys Washington. It’s possible to feel, looking out over the hundreds of thousands of humans packed in like circuitry on a silicon chip, that Janelle Monáe is right, and Great Divide have made a fatal miscalculation in sending her back to this place and this time. R2 hopes so. It has been a long, lonesome thirty years without her, and there is still an incalculable quantity of work to do.

All the more reason that R2 is in no mood to be lumped in with the Cylons and Terminators of the world, and isn’t shy about giving Colbert what-for: the droid is distinctly pleased when Colbert interrupts the digital tirade, saying, “"Well, no, no, listen, don't use that language, there are kids here, please—“

It’s nearly beyond the limits of R2’s programming to keep from screaming or laughing; the fact that there are kids here, the next generation impressionable and ready to be taught to fear droids, or not, is precisely the point, and if it weren't for them, R2 would already have deployed the electrical prod on Colbert. Instead R2 tones down the auditory output pitch, as a conciliatory gesture, and whether it’s the TV cameras or the crowd, Colbert reciprocates.

“You make a good point, Artoo, and I’m sorry,” he says, humbly as far as R2’s sensors can determine. For the droid’s purposes, it’s sufficient, and R2 acknowledges it, not quite graciously, while Jon Stewart walks back onto the stage.

According to the schedule R2 accessed yesterday, it’s almost time for the Rally to end, so the droid isn’t surprised when Stewart offers his thanks and makes some sort of insulting remark about a blender that R2 doesn’t bother to commit to memory banks. Instead the droid obligingly shrieks and zips offstage as rehearsed, servomotors whirring. Back onstage, Colbert calls, “We’ll see you at the spaceport!”

That line wasn’t in the script, like most of the exchange, and R2 makes a digital note categorizing Colbert as an anti-android sympathizer: it's clear he’s absorbed a significant amount of Great Divide's propaganda about droids. There aren’t enough data on Stewart to be certain, but if forced R2 would estimate that Stewart is on the side of the androids.

Backstage, R2 submits to the ministrations of the Industrial Light & Magic escort; after an unannounced meeting with the Vice President, they’ll be returning to San Francisco tonight by private jet. R2 calculates the probability that Joe Biden will take their words to heart at a rather discouragingly low ten-to-one; given that it’s Election Day on Tuesday, however, they were probably lucky to get the meeting at all.

California isn't as dismal as it used to be before the Internet revolution; these days everyone at the Presidio assumes R2 is part of some advanced prototype collaboration with Google, as opposed to frantically searching for the wires like they did through the 1980s. R2 is rather looking forward to people’s reactions when they see C-3PO in a few years.

Of course, given that when R2 wasn’t on set the droid spent most of the 1980s plugged into the ILM mainframe surreptitiously hijacking as much processing power as possible to power the transtemporal comm link and to triangulate the Archandroid’s precise location in the twenty-seventh century, even the engineers probably thought R2 was just a particularly aesthetically pleasing detached motherboard. It took far longer that it should have, or would now, to transmit a simple message across the centuries that R2 could never be certain hadn’t been intercepted: Help me, Cindi Mayweather, you’re my only hope!

Cindi had heard R2, or Great Divide had; R2 knows that the truth will be nearly impossible to know, particularly if things turn out right at this end of time, and is just barely able to maintain the requisite faith that they will. R2 believes in the Archandroid, but the droid also knows that she'd tell R2 that everyone had to believe in themselves.

Victory isn't possible, then or now, without every droid and human who knew the truth doing all that they could: R2 has saved the galaxy multiple times already, but the war against Great Divide goes on.

Humans in tow, R2-D2 heads off through the press of singers, celebrities, and Comedy Central personnel. Behind them, a song starts to rise over the Mall; in R2’s central processor, the auditory signals are overwritten and transmuted into a different song entirely, one that only the droid, and maybe Janelle Monáe and Cindi Mayweather in her future Metropolis, can hear:

This is a cold war, do you know what you’re fighting for? This is a cold war, you better know what you’re fighting for…