Technically speaking, the mission was a success. They gathered a whole bunch of credits, and stole highly valuable tech. They simply had some... troubles on their way back, had to improvise an exit. The kind of improvisation that left them making their way out on foot with more than a few bruises. Central wasn't going to be happy.
They had lost contact with the operator and most of their equipment had been damaged. Reaching a communication point was their current main objective. Which was a lot harder than it sounded, being on the verge of exhaustion with an inconscious body on their hands.
Sharp was carrying Dr Xu over his shoulder with his one valid arm, which inflicted a great strain on his joints. He could feel his whole body whine under the effort. The rain wasn't doing any more good on his exposed wiring, fearing a short-circuit that would fry his brain.
They were followed by Internationale, panting behind, trying to catch up with Sharp's huge footsteps. Even hurt and broken, the man was an unstoppable machine, no less intimidating than usual. Not like she was going to admit it in front of him —she had her pride— but yes, she was intimidated by him. She wasn't the only one, everyone was intimidated by Sharp to some degree. Some were hiding it better than others.
"This is all your fault, Alex," she hissed in-between her teeth, using his first name for emphasis. "If you weren't so hot-headed we could have easily avoided these guards and—"
"Don't use my meat name," he cut her, resentment in his voice. "I don't need that kind of reminder in a situation like this."
"Ooh I didn't want to hurt mister's feelings," she snarked back. She wasn't going to put up with his bullshit. Especially not now.
"I d-don't have feelings." His voice glitched out worryingly. "Machi-chines don't have fee-feelings."
Internationale had a bad feeling about this. She saw him stagger for a few more steps before his knees gave up. As he fell forward, Dr Xu slid from his shoulder, hitting the ground with a splash. Sharp joined him soon enough accompanied by a loud bang. Internationale rushed to their sides. She knew she could carry Dr Xu, but there was no way she could also carry Sharp. Even on his own, she would barely be able to lift him. Also, she didn't want to.
As she inched closer, the machine man moved. Bringing his body up on an elbow, his body shaken by spasms.
"Can you walk?" she inquired.
In place of a reply was a string of unintelligeable gargled garbage that wasn't to reassure her. All she could catch was "defective". She held out her arms in disbelief, almost rolling her eyes. What was she supposed to do with this? She didn't need a killer machine having a breakdown right now! Why did she have to deal with the freaks? Why did she have to go on a mission with him to begin with?
"Are you going to be ok?" not that she cared for him, she just needed to know if he was going to be able to walk on his own.
He didn't reply. Instead, there was a displeasant grating noise as his fingers scratched at the synthetic skin of his face, ripping off pieces of it, black oily fluid pouring out of the wounds, as Internationale watched in horror. She covered her mouth as more of his face was torned apart, revealing the metal plaques underneath. Was there anything even remotely human left in him?
The spasms became more violent, causing him to curl up and hold himself. Then, he started banging his head on the ground, slowly but surely damaging one of his couplers. Crashing, crashing and crashing again, exposing the circuitry, sparks filling the air. It frizzled in the rain. He shrieked as his body jolted back from the pain.
He stayed immobile for a long moment before he resumed his rocking back-and-forth, mumbling to himself.
Internationale's lips were trembling. She wasn't sure what to do. She didn't even want to help him to begin with. He didn't deserve any of her sympathy. She could grab Dr Xu with her and abandon the machine to its demise. Granted, it wouldn't look good in their report, especially after the failed escape, but it would be a pain out of the picture for a long time. She would certainly not miss him. She knew she wasn't the only one either.
But she was better than that. Better than him. Even if she didn't like it, he still was their partner for the time being, and right now, he needed help.
With a groan, she moved closer to face him. She breathed in, before firmly yelling at his face to catch his attention:
"Sharp! You're a strong ma.. chine, you can get over this. Now, get your ass up, and let's get out of here!"
"How dare... you... give me... orders..." he slurred in a weak yet assertive voice.
She groaned again. Well, so much for the pep talk.
"Listen up." She reached for Dr Xu, figuring out the best way to carry him on her already aching body. "I'm going to find a way to contact Central, and get back to HQ. You can come if you want, but I'm not waiting for you."
She was hoping that this time, that'd push him back on his feet out of pure spite.
"Not... without... me..." His voice was cracking more and more. She almost felt bad for him.
She watched him unfolding his body in awe. He had rarely looked so inhumane. Barely standing on his legs, he stepped forward. He was walking. Good enough for her. She was done here.
Dr Xu over her shoulder, Internationale made her way out. She didn't want to stay one more minute closer to this monster.