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The Sound of the End

Chapter Text

He heard the explosion first, a metallic cacophony that resulted in projectiles of copper and iron flying all over the place and a cloud of fiery smoke to burst from the spot where the missile hit. In that same second he took to admire the spectacle, there was a flash of something on his periphery, moving quickly past his inert body and a newborn flare of pain by the side of his upper right cheek stung in a burst of heat. The man raised his right hand to press numb fingers to the injury on his face while turning to look at the fallen piece of machinery that could have beheaded him had he been standing four centimeters further to the right.

 The saw like extremity, one of the obstacles in the way of finding the objective he had been sent to eradicate, proceeded to crumble then, lifeless, to the ground, exactly where he was standing, and he was forced to sprint to avoid being crushed under its considerable weight. His legs creaked, sweat pooled on his every straining muscle, and he cursed once more his fragile disposition.

It was only when he was safe from any falling debris or crazy, murdering machines, that he noticed the flight unit stationed in the air nearby, right at the opening the giant saw-like arm had carved not too long ago, when he had barged in, pistols ablaze.

“That was way too close for comfort, wouldn’t you agree?” he commented, quite humorously, slightly out of breath, to his impromptu helper.

As expected, there was no answer. With time and a ton of what could hardly be considered positive experiences, he had come to learn Innovades were not exactly the talkative type.

The flight unit descended a few feet away from his position and its occupant climbed out of it quickly, a graceful silhouette clad in black leather and encased in a compact, lithe body. A scanner model, he concluded, since combat models were usually not so delicate in design. When the figure came closer he found himself giving that self satisfactory smile, dimples glowing like beacons of light, for which some unamused Operators back at headquarters accused him of acting flirtatious in their typical monotone drawls. The scanner was male from what he could tell, and a very beautiful one at that, with a cascade of silky violet hair brushing the sharp lines of his jaw, a stunning pair of amethyst eyes that could probably freeze the interior of a raging volcano in less than a minute if the abrasive way he was glaring at him, without the need to emote, was any indication of his petrifying abilities, and a face so inhumanly perfect and symmetrical the man was almost on the verge of speechlessness.

The perfect representation of everything an Innovade should be walked towards him with a sure gait, and he tried his best not to make it obvious he was eyeing the finely arched shape of his legs as he moved. Curiously enough, the violet haired android wasn’t as overtly dressed as the rest of Innovades he had met so far-after all, he had been the unwilling witness to quite a few choices in wardrobe that were unnecessarily revealing and left him very uncomfortable and bothered- , hell, even the man himself was wearing less layers on his person than this particular scanner.

He started to speak, “Hey, thanks for the save. The name’s-“

“Neil Dylandy,” the scanner cut him off, his voice a cold caress, a deep toned indifference that did not suit his appearance in the slightest. “Codename: Lockon Stratos. Aged 24. Most recent addition to YoRHa and the sole survivor of this operation. Yes, I know what you are.”

The man named Neil felt his smile straining. So, this Innovade was going to turn out to be another major pain in the ass to deal with.

Disgust stood out obnoxiously on that pretty face, on the tight line of the pursed mouth. Well, if nothing else, at least Innovades were predictable that way.

 “To be honest, I find myself appalled at the idea of having to supervise such an unpredictable variant. I fail to grasp what the Commander could have seen in a being as inconvenient as a human, but for the sake of the successful completion of the mission I’ll have to trust his judgment and assume you will come to serve your purpose, whatever that may be.” He finished with a condescending tilt, critical gaze sweeping over his form, and lingering on the places where Neil’s clothes were torn, were wounds had been made and blood had spilled.

Neil was more than a little annoyed. “Wow, I can never get a break from you guys.” He ran a sore hand through the thick, sweaty mess that was his hair in an attempt to reign in his exasperation. “Didn’t you just say I was the only one who survived the initial phase of the assault? A full squad made up entirely of your kind, and yet the one who got this far was the ‘useless human’. That must surely tell you something about my worth as both a member of YoRHa and as a soldier.” He didn’t even know why he was bothering in the first place. There was no point in arguing. Once Innovades were convinced they were right, there was little next to nothing that had the capacity to change their minds.

The android in front of him proved this conviction to still be true. He regarded Neil as if he were some kind of dirt staining the polished surface of his boots, and more or less informed him his opinion was worth shit, that if the rest of his comrades had failed was because they were, obviously, defective models who clearly deserved worse than what they had gotten; the shame they had, letting a mere human overpass them.

Before Neil had the chance to tell him the several different ways he could shove his opinion up his rectum, the scanner continued in a haughty manner. “I have not come here to satiate your need for useless social interaction, human. I was sent here to provide aerial support and that is the extent of my intervention. Enough time has been wasted already on idle chatter. ‘Get a move on’, as you would say.”

Without sparing any more of his precious time on the lowly being before him, the android turned his back on him and returned to his waiting unit, his movements not precisely stiff, but not quite flexible either.

“I’ll contact you shall the need arise.” The android said at last, once positioned comfortably in the transport/weapon, and took off to the vacant sky, leaving Neil frozen where he stood, with half baked arguments simmering at the base of his parched throat.

‘Ah, screw it’ he sighed internally. This was just another perfect example of a day in the senseless life of Neil Dylandy. There was nothing to be done about it. With that in mind, he switched his gaze to the sprawling complex he was supposed to raid in order to find and eradicate the primary target of the mission. His whole body ached, tremors ran in spasms across the weary expansion of his arms and legs, his joints felt locked-every part of him screamed in protest at the thought of performing actions related to physical activity, specifically combat. He was as ready as he would ever be, all things considered.

Just as he began to make his way across the graveyard of severed screws, bolts and nails, an image struck him. The beautiful face that had scorned him and the small detail he hadn’t paid enough attention to, because he had been distracted. Perched on the bridge of an angular nose, light caught on crystal, refracting, reflecting color that wasn’t really there. Lockon Stratos’ felt the corners of his lips pulling upwards again.

 The innovade… wore glasses.


 

The mission had seemed easy, at first. All it required was to send a squad of flight units to the factory on the surface, have them eliminate the Goliath type target, and come out with another triumphant victory for YoRHa and a major loss for the machine’s contingency.  Back at Command’s Center, not quite alone despite the solemn faces of his ‘mission companions’ and the watchful lavender orbs of the Commander, Neil hadn’t thought much of the situation. To him it had been another storm-in-and-out procedure, nothing worthy of being second guessed. He should have imagined the mission would turn out the way it did; after all, the Commander’s eyes had shined yellow as the Innovades in Lockon’s squad mumbled strategies and plans in low tones, and something inside him had quivered a bit then.

Nine hours had passed since the meeting and every single one of the Innovades sent on the mission had been killed on the first phase-as they had approached the abandoned factory, a laser beam showed out of nowhere, taking them by surprise, and managed to wipe out his companion flight units in a matter of mere minutes; he had seen them fall, become victims one by one, shattering in mid-air as soon as the beam grazed them, disconcerted screams echoing through his communication links while his mouth flooded with blood. He could do nothing but grit his teeth and beg his reflexes to withstand the assault, all the while parrying enemy shots coming from both the factory and the flying machines blocking his way.

And so it turned out that the human was the only surviving member of the team, the enemy had not been found as of yet and said human was at his wit’s end, tired of fighting waves after waves of murderous junk with no immediate results in sight, not to mention he was exhausted of having to restrain himself from insulting his more than unwilling and needlessly vocal partner who wouldn’t stop criticizing him for every stupid little detail.

“Haro!”, he exclaimed, his sword slashing at a couple of stubby machines near him, tiny things that could have been adorable trash bins had they not been actively trying to tear him to pieces, “How big is this fucking place anyway? Bloody hell!”

The hovering pod promptly began to answer, “Accessing assembly facility records-“

“Sarcasm, Haro. Sarcasm. You didn’t need to elaborate, buddy.”

“Understood. Understood.”

“Would you kindly refrain from sweet talking your support system and proceed onwards with the mission?”

A blinding white light was projected from Haro, and a holographic screen appeared, floating at the forefront of his vision. The grim face of the scanner unit shown on the screen, next to the wavelength depicting his voice register, made him consider the idea of burying his face in his hands for the rest of his life.

Lockong Stratos murmured a few insults, mocking the cranky voice flowing from the holo screen, but stopped abruptly as he noticed an interesting deviation from the usual script. “Huh, for an Innovade you sure know your fair share of human lingo. I mean, ‘sweet talking’? What’s with that?”

There was no answer, only the click of a tongue on the other side of the communication line. Neil bit down on a silly smile that desired to escape. How terribly cute, this scanner guy.

“It would be better if you stopped thinking so much. You might hurt your puny human mind.” The scanner said, as though reading his thoughts.

“Why? You worried about me or something?”

“Ridiculous! Such a statement does not deserve to be dignified with a response.”

“But you just did.”

“Excuse me?”

“You actually answered me, smarty pants.”

“Ha, ha, ha! Gotcha! Ha, ha, ha! Gotcha!”

“This is incredible. Somehow, you have found the way to infect your pod with some of that human idiocy you can’t seem to get rid of.”

“That ‘human idiocy’ you speak of is called a sense of humor, something you are seriously lacking, by the way.”

“As if I would ever be in need of those useless notions.”

“Yeah, well. I suppose that’d be too much to ask from an Innovade.” Instead of the sass he imagined he would get, there only was unnerving silence. “What? Did I irritate you for real? You know, I have the feeling that if I could see you right now, you’d be glaring at me straight to a premature death.”

The definitive cut of the communication link between them, along with Haro turning off the projection of the screen, sounded pretty much like a wordless ‘fuck you’, and Lockon laughed uninterrupted for full five minutes, the mirthful laughter ricocheting off the walls of the metal cage he was trapped in.

By the time Neil reached the door that would allow him to access other areas of the complex, his limbs were threatening to keel over and he wanted to fall against the closest and most convenient cool surface he could find and drift off into his head for a while, his bones ached in need of rest, his eyes burned with exertion and sweat, but he ignored his body’s wishes in favor of following through with his duty, for as soon as he located his target, the sooner he would be allowed his much desired reprieve.

Situations like these reminded him with enlightened clarity that, if nothing else, he did envy the Innovades’ subhuman skills and endurance- his scanner friend, contradicting the deceptive appearance of his exterior, would have had no complications raiding the factory three times over given that, unlike Lockon, he did not suffer from marked human limitations like thirst or hunger or exhaustion. What ailed Lockon, androids did not even possess the parts or wiring to process.

Bleak sunlight welcomed him the instant he set foot outside, the humid wind ruffled his sticky hair, pushing hairs away from his brow, and cooled his strained body. He looked upwards, smiling with his face submerged in natural oxygen. The air smelled of fresh rain, of a thousand wet leaves, the combination made him feel… content. Happy.

Not even ten minutes had passed, when the flutter of wings and cackling noises took him out of the state of strange euphoria.

Birds, a flock of them, flying east, their black silhouettes as dancing spots, feeble figures versus a backdrop of ghostly grey. He stepped towards the rusted railing in front of him, holding onto it as he took in the sprawling kingdom of ruins and vegetation. Below the platform, greenery and a distance of more than six kilometers warned him about the fate that awaited him were he to fall off the edge.

“I can’t remember the last time I saw a living bird,” he said, humbled by the sight.

“Not all life forms on Earth are extinct. Your surprise is misguided.” The comm. link came back to life just when Neil least expected it to. He was already starting to get used to his partner ignoring his verbal quips and occasional running commentary.

Neil shrugged, “True. But, isn’t this beautiful? Nothing up there in space can compare to this.”

He leaned over the railing, both of his hands now on top of it to support the weight of his upper body, green irises shimmering, displaying emotions different to fake cheerfulness or weary resignation.

A beat consisting of the beating of his heart, and his breathing, and-“Yes, it is very beautiful indeed.”

Lockon’s chest bones tried to conceal the rapid motion of his heart, tried to contain it within. “Beautiful, huh.” He mused, knuckles doing their best to break through skin, “What do you know about beauty?”

Resentment was not a pleasant flavor on his tongue but that had never stopped him before from letting the sentiment color his words anyways. “No. Why would an android like you care about beauty?”

It was a dumb outburst, and he blamed it on how tired he felt, on how alone and worn down he was. He also knew, though, that his passive-aggressive comments were a product of something older twisting in his brain, in his subconscious, demanding to be heard over the chaotic symphony that was his perception of reality, and it only chose to surface now, when his guard was lowered and the masks slipped down his face, cracked, inefficient.

When the other didn’t immediately retort, he mustered the courage to form an apology, remembering every single reason that enabled him from acting too belligerent with his saviors. The Innovade found his wits faster than he did, “It is 4S to you, human. Not android.”

“What?” Lockon said, anger receding in the face of surprise, partly because of his confusion at that specification that had literally come out of nowhere, and partly because he had expected a litany of derogative names, plus a couple of threats directed at his well being. The idea of the Innovade reacting non-negatively to anything he said or did was baffling, so he had not deigned to consider that possibility.

“Uhmm….”

The calm, yet cutting voice continued, “My assigned denomination is unit 4S. Do try and remember that next time you attempt to insult me.” Then, he proceeded to give Lockon an extended, special explanation as to why Innovades were perfectly capable of appreciating and understanding the concept of beauty, and how much more objective and useful their version of aesthetics was in comparison to confusing-and-less-than-unfulfilling human views on the subject. He rambled for more than ten minutes straight, with almost no pauses made, and Lockon was totally pretending he wasn’t reeling from the unprompted reveal of the scanner unit’s alleged ‘name’.

Name. To think of 4S as a name felt wrong to him, strangely enough- nevermind that androids didn’t have other ways of referring to themselves other than their serial number and the first alphabetical letter of their model type.

Once he was finished ranting, Lockon snorted, forcing his mouth to offer an olive branch when his mind was dead set against it, “Look, 4S…I’m sorry. I get what you just said to me, and I already figured Innovades knew that kind of stuff. I mean, why wouldn’t you? You’re way superior to my species and… I was frustrated, that’s all. It was nothing personal.”

“Hmph. Your apologies mean nothing. Don’t let it become a habit or I might suggest to the Commander how much more useful you could be if you were without a tongue.”

For a second, the hard edge in the other male’s voice was gone. Was Neil hallucinating? Neil probably was, he decided, when the line went dead once more, with no further back and forth between them.

Lockon Stratos sighed, smirking sardonically to himself, pondering the strange interaction with more than a grain of salt. His emotions were all over the place, and the android was just simply confusing the living daylights out of him. Nothing so far made one bit of sense (not his too open attitude nor his visceral reactions, nor the Innovade’s constantly shifting moods, going from disgusted then to barely tolerating in the blink of an eye).

“Lockon! Lockon! Lockon!” Haro called, bouncing near his feet. A reminder. Neil was wasting valuable time.

He parted from the railing, choosing to leave those thoughts to pick at later. He had rested enough, the prior conversation had proved to be a time consuming distraction, and the mission needed to be resumed.

Approaching the rusted stairs to his left, he contemplated the passage of time demonstrated by the faded painting that covered the structure, the fallen segments of the staircase, the green ropes of vines zigzagging on the sides of the building attesting to centuries after centuries of evolution, of all-kinds of life blooming and decaying at its cemented base, of the nights and afternoons and days switching places indefinitely since the beginning-the pads of his fingers carrying dust as they brushed along the wall, leaving  erasable trails of momentary presence-, and he wondered about the blink of existence in which his kind had walked among these orphaned shells, these phantom remains of a civilization that was no more, when they had thrived in being ephemeral owners, uncaring of their impending finitude in a world that would long surpass their duration.

The man wondered too if, in the end, his also finite travels across the Earth would ever amount to mean more than just footprints in sand, or trees marked with slashes of swords, blood left to dry on cracked pavement, sweat and tears evaporating under vapory sunlight. His predecessors were still present-he saw them still in the silhouettes of buildings, in decayed vending machines, in magazines that would crumble with the softest whoosh of wind-, their spirit translated in his memories of a life that had once belonged to him, a life he had belonged in.  That was how they survived, ten thousand years after their unbidden demise, because the last human alive knew where to send his eyes to in order to read the signs, scattered in every corner and piece of land, that composed the writings of human history.

However, if the last human couldn’t go on, if one day his joints couldn’t bend and his legs weren’t able to advance any longer and his hands became useless and his consciousness refused to return to his broken body, who would remember for him, then?

Neil didn’t know, and when he arrived to the highest vantage point in the factory, he was entranced by the glistening reflections of light in the blue horizon that was the ocean, the firm rows of trees nearby adorning the awe-inspiring picture, and he was struck harder with the proof of his own mortality; he would never be a fixture as relevant or as unchanging as the sea, as the fruits of nature that outlived his race.

He stared at his bloodied hands, at the peeled areas where the handle of his swords had chaffed at his skin, and apprehended how truly limited he was.  Flesh, bones, and blood. All of those components were not designed to last.

There was a door to his left that would most likely take him back to where he came in (crashed, actually), and a bridge that united the section of the factory he was in with the other compounds. They were all tainted with the same antique look that forgotten constructions often wore.

“I’m guessing I ought to cross that bridge,” he asked aloud, wiping the dirt and blood off his palms on the thighs of his pants.

The holo screen surged at the sound of his voice and the haughty demeanor of 4S drilled through his eardrums again, “Indeed. Pass the bridge and the following establishment is located the zone where the Goliath’ signals were most recently detected. The charging bay, to be precise.”

So he was going to get to see the sea after all.

Lockon nodded, although his partner wasn’t able to see him do so. Just as he began to cross the bridge, a few small flyers descended from the skies, instantly shooting purplish orbs of energy that would obliterate him as soon as they grazed him. Quickly sliding backwards, boots screeching over metal due to friction, he drew his pistols and started firing back. He hit one of the machines right in its yellow, circular eye, and the remaining glowing ball lost its light as the flyer fell, now shooting off sparks, landing with a sonorous explosion in the middle of the bridge. Lockon hoped the fight wouldn’t compromise the stability of the structure, specifically the bridge, and kept on dispatching the robots.

Soon, metal parts were spread by his feet, dangling from the bridge’s railings, lying on the ground below him. He was done with them in less than ten minutes. Flyers were not much of an obstacle anyway. A round head rolled down the bridge, only to meet a stop at the end of his foot.

Suddenly, he felt an impulse, a need to say something and,

“You have a name,” he told to open air through panting breath, “but it isn’t 4S.”

That sentence took life on its own, without his permission or participation in its creation. Lockon was hard pressed to try and track the place where that thought had originated from. The only thing he was certain of was that it needed to be spoken, for his peace of mind. Somehow, he needed him to know of his awareness.

Haro didn’t project the screen; Lockon imagined silence was the sole response he was permitted to have.

 The doors opened on their own when he approached, the bulb above it turning an obnoxious shade of blue. He walked inside the building, asking his pod to show him an amplified version of the map of the annex, and prepared himself for the new onslaught of enemies he was just about to encounter, unsheathing Virtuous Treaty and Cruel Blood Oath at the same time.

 


 

He didn’t do much, asides from blinking, the moment he saw the gory stump that was now his leg. His stomach might have done a lurch at the sight, he could have felt the acidic burn of bile attempting to dissolve its way through the walls of his throat, he could have been shaking as an unconscious reaction to pain, but the shock overwhelmed even the recognition of the physiological processes his body made in the face of irreparable loss.

 In the far off distance- or maybe not that far, maybe closer, nearer than what he was able to perceive, lost in the swirling pool of erratic heartbeats and the life source oozing out of him-the theater of battle continued to rage on, the bullet hell singing to every living creature capable of hearing, the gigantic shape of the Goliath (a sleeping, giant death trap that had caught him unaware, with cranes on his shoulders, saws for arms, and laser beams and rockets blooming out of its head) performing havoc on the environment as it fiercely fended the attacks of a much smaller blur of silver, and the overbearing scent of metal burning that attested to the epic struggle.

In the not-so-far off distance, he (useless, broken on the pavement, a hint of uneasy white peeking from blown, wide open flesh) managed to hear the scream.

LOCKON!       

Loud, piercing, a knife cutting through delirious reveries. And anguished, incredibly anguished, there was so much suffering contained in the expansion of two syllables that he should have fought to reconcile the owner of the voice with the subject and the rawness of it. That crude emotion felt rawer than his torn limb and he spoke, he spoke something, his mouth forming feverish letters using dehydrated and split lips with no voice and he didn’t understand himself, his mind did not grasp what he was desperately mouthing, and he knew, he wasn’t confused because he knew, had always known, and would always know.

The voice called his name again, in anger this time, and he thought of wet grass, wet cheeks and the coppery wet feeling dripping out of the gaps in his watery smile.

Slowly, consciousness started to bleed back into existence and along with it, his bearings and his surroundings, the chirping orange ball hovering by his side, yelling his codename over his swarming headache, and the defined sense of pain he had been deprived of previously, submerged in a stupor as he had been.

“4S…I…”, he groaned, unable to finish what he was about to say, and he began vomiting blood like rainfall on top his lap, the liquid splashing his clothes, dripping incessantly down his face. Painting the world in angry red.

Through Haro, he heard the Innovade curse. Neil glimpsed the scanner’s flight unit circling the Goliath, delivering blows whenever there was an opening. Extenuating blood loss made him unable to fully grasp the scene unfolding before him, to marvel at what was happening, the franticness of the battle itself. He wasn’t even surprised or alarmed when 4S singlehandedly took the gigantic machine down eventually. He wouldn’t have been able to claim to know for how long the struggle lasted, for he wasn’t in the proper state to care enough to count the minutes and seconds and time… Not even as the monstrous robot torn the ocean in half with its fall.

Lockon drifted in and out of reality; in the comings and goings of his mind that acted like a conflicted wave, he perceived that 4S vanished from the sky. One blink and the flight unit was touching ground, another and then 4S was running towards him. He closed his eyes, blinded by the shine of purple hair and amethyst irises simmering behind glasses. I’ll miss this. Lockon forced his eyelids to part, and he discovered that the android was kneeling at his side. His small hands adhered themselves to his languid cheeks. The material of the gloves was boiling in contrast to his chilled skin, but he didn’t mind. He mouthed the same letters, and 4S shook his head, strands of hair slapping the sharp edge of his jaw. He wanted to touch the android, he realized, but he couldn’t. Couldn’t. Couldn’t.

“You… were right. I,” he had to stop there, stuttering on thick clots. 4S eyes widened, one palm flying to Lockon’s neck and settling over his Adam’s apple-it was trembling. “I am-aam useless…don’t know…”

“Shut up! Just shut up!” Lockon would have flinched at the scream if he could have done it.

“Don’t say anything.”

After he said that, The Innovade pierced Haro through with a glare, ordering him to run scans on Lockon, and the human almost smiled, feeling pity, faced with denial incarnated. They both knew what the ending was going to be like. They wouldn’t be able to reach the Bunker in time, and he had already lost so much blood…

“4S, stop…”

“Quiet! I can’t concentrate if you keep talking.” And the small hands ripped the material of the android’s long sleeved jacket; they hovered uncertainly with the torn shreds on top of Lockon’s missing limb, their owner seeming more vulnerable with synthetic , blemish-less skin exposed for the world to bear witness.

Lockon wanted to tell him everything was going to be alright, but perhaps to spite him in his last moments, the ground started shaking unexpectedly, resembling an awakening beast, saluting the Earth, its hunting ground, after a long period of hibernation. 4S kept him from tumbling to the ground by hooking his strong fingers onto his shoulders, and he pushed Lockon’s head until he was nestled on 4S’ chest, cheek plastered, buried in the scent of grass.

The make-shift bandages were left forgotten on the ground.

 One by one, four Goliath types emerged from the sea, rising like the monsters that the apocalypses from Lockon’s time had foretold. There were too many of them. Destroying one had required Neil giving up everything he had and had cost 4S the functionality of his currently damaged and spent flight unit. But there was a clear path to victory drawing itself in front of his darkening sight.

 4S turned to look down at him, breathing through his mouth, a crease between his eyebrows. His hold on Lockon tightened.

“Showtime’s over, partner.” The man whispered, a trail of blood escaping the side of his mouth.

He hurt so much, too much, too vividly, and yet, he clasped the little strength he possessed within, and compelled his arm to move, reaching for Haro. When his fingers touched metal, he pressed the button he knew to be located on the underbelly of his pod. He raised his hand, pulling it back to his chest, a black box in its grasp. The scanner’s eyes shivered in understanding. The words Neil had been forced to memorize by his superiors resounded in his ears, serving as an anthem. “You know what we…must…do…This is the only way…”

Fingers brushed sweaty hair away from Lockon’s forehead. Softly. A gentleness hidden in the desolation of death.

4S said nothing, didn’t agree or disagree. His hand went to his own chest, to the middle of his ribcage, and he extracted something from the inside: a simple black box, identical to the one Lockon held in his limp embrace.

The intense stare the android gave him then, was enough to overcome the pain, to dissolve any doubts or concerns Lockon might have possessed in regards to his finite existence, nothing else mattered but the points of contact joining him and 4S, the heat flowing from one shell to another, the rhythm of a heartbeat that 4S could feel, the rush of shared memories, memories that were being relived, re-learned in this last act. It was time.

Neil Dylandy flashed the cheesy grin he was criminally known for, saying, voice hoarse: “It was an honor to fight alongside you, 4S.

He sensed a mild wet feeling on his cheekbone; it leaked from above, and fell down his cheek.  He immortalized the glint of teeth, also welcoming him from above.

“The honor was all mine. Thank you, Lockon Stratos. Thank you.”

The black boxes met and the boundless ocean, the ruins that served as memorials and the eternal force of nature were swallowed in soundless light.