This is part 6 of the continuing story of Chloe, Hotaru, Ahmed and Sava. Over the last few episodes, they've been chased by robots who saw off heads, escaped a massive warbot by running over it, out ran nanite-directed tornadoes, and encountered a band of survivalists who have the same goal our protagonists do. The team has just linked up with the survivalists, and now they're further scouting out the resort that they've been snowed into; getting ready to pack up camp and move to higher ground for when the snow melts.
This is part 6 of Human Black Box. You can find the previous parts here in this archive: Human Black Box Archive.
Chloe kept pace with Zira, even though she had difficulty seeing the uplifted gorilla. She also kept her head low, so as not to be visible above the scattered and busted gaming machines lined up in rows.
Chloe: [What are the odds that I'll hit jackpot?]
Blue: [I'm not sure any of the money left would matter, Chloe.]
Zira: [Why are you publicly broadcasting your conversations with your muse? Your muse should know better than that - take it private.]
Chloe caught up with Zira, who stood at the end of a long row of machines. She was looking at a large round table with several shattered screen situated in a circular pattern, which sat, staring out over the rest of the casino.
Chloe: [Look, I'm new at this Mesh communication stuff. I wasn't sleeved but a day or so ago. Before that... well, I'm not sure what happened before that, but I'm still new here. Cut me some slack.]
Zira: [I'll do none of the kind. Tell your muse to take your conversations private. I can't focus with inane chatter going on around me.]
Chloe scowled, as Zira ducked around the machines and made towards the large double doors. Chloe followed, holding her gun low and keeping her eyes open. She was following Ahmed's advice about not letting her imagination get the better of her, but it was really hard now that she was absolutely sure that it was dark outside.
Just ahead, the hallway opened up to reveal several overturned potted plants, and a flight of stairs along with two elevators. There were several skeletons here scattered around.
Chloe: [You called me an 'exsurgent' earlier. What's that mean?]
Zira paused, looking down the hallway at the rows of elevators, and then back towards the stairs. Chloe could only see her because she was moving - if she stopped moving, she would've been completely invisible.
Zira: [Exsurgent. That's a monster. I can't describe them; but they do things that I've never seen a transhuman or uplift do before. Taki says that they might be alien. I'm almost certain they're connected to the TITANs. That's my gut instinct, though. Everything that's fucked up about this world links back to those bastards somehow. Let's go up the stairs. I doubt the elevators are working.]
Zira reached up and touched the wall, crawling forward along it. She was making good speed despite being sideways; Chloe had to run to catch up with her, at least until she got to the stairs, when it became a slow and uncertain walk. She had no idea how stable the stairs were.
Chloe: [And that's like, the 80th time I've heard that term. Who are the TITANs?]
Zira: [You really must be new to not know who they are.]
Chloe: [Well, I mean, part of me feels stupid for asking because I'm pretty sure I do know. But at the same time, this damn amnesia is keeping me from a lot of things I should know.]
She didn't like how narrow the corridors were. These must've been stairs for the janitorial staff only. Her finger was away from the trigger, and she kept a look out, but couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. It was the same feeling that she got when she first encountered Zira, but was certain it was just her imagination.
Zira: [A bunch of seed AIs who caused the Fall. The United States built them - they stand for Tactical Information something something something. I don't remember the full acronym. They became sapient, in the middle of World War III, and they pulled a Skynet/Kill all Organisms on Earth.]
Chloe slowed her pace.
Chloe: [And... what happened? Did they get defeated?]
Zira touched down on the landing, looking at a door leaning into the second floor.
Zira: [They left. I'm not sure if they're in the outer system or not; I don't know. I just know they left, and they were followed by all of the Transhumans and Uplifts, and nobody bothered to check and see if there was anyone down here after that.]
Chloe stood beside her, as she looked at the door.
Zira: [What is it?]
Chloe: [I don't know. I guess I spaced for a minute.]
She opened the door and they entered the hallway, Chloe carefully creeping inside of it first. Zira followed closely behind. Even though she was invisible, it was so silent up here that Chloe could hear the uplift's heart beating.
That or it was her own. Chloe wasn't sure which.
Zira: [Here's the deal. I've come to the conclusion you're either really good at acting stupid or you're not an Exsurgent. I think Cornelius came to that conclusion a while back. So while I don't think you're a TITAN lackey, I still don't completely trust you.]
Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [I've set the conversation mode to private, Chloe.]
Chloe (private chat, #Blue#): [Why didn't you do that sooner?]
Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [You never asked. But, as a muse, I'm supposed to be able to circumvent your wants and needs, so I guess for once, I did that. How is your nausea and migraine?]
Chloe (private chat, #Blue#): [Gone; ever since I got in the slug-fest with bitchrilla back there. I'll take a migraine over her.]
Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [She is very abrasive, but I wonder if that's simply because it's how they survive. She may warm to you in time, Chloe.]
Chloe (private chat, #Blue#): [I'm not sure I want her to.]
Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [It'll be alright, Chloe. You might become good friends.]
Chloe looked over her shoulder, as Zira joined her. She was looking down the long hallway, as ghostly light from outside flickered into the hallway.
Chloe: [We could select any one of these rooms.]
Zira: [Let's take the one closest to the emergency staircase, then.]
Chloe turned towards the door into the nearest suite and pushed it open; it was jammed, but a solid shoulder to it unjammed it and forced it open. She stepped into the suite, looking around at the large, expansive room. It looked like there was a second door out; when Chloe walked through the living room towards it and opened it up, it opened to reveal a back passageway that led into a long corridor, connecting with a lot of other rooms.
Ahmed: [Did you find anything?]
Chloe: [First room up; you'll see it, because the door is open. You'll have to take the emergency staircase, though, and it's not very large.]
Ahmed: [Good, because we're going up. Zaius will be leading the way.]
Chloe: [I'll keep my eyes out for Magilla, then.]
Ahmed: [Magi... okay, you win +10 Mesh for that comment. If only because I pity you for showing how old you are.]
Chloe: [Shut up, Ahmed. I am not old. I just have a long memory. That is hit or miss. A lot.]
Chloe turned around, as Zira turned off her invisibility and walked from the bathroom, wearing a dusty bathrobe. She knocked the dust off of it, looking down at the crest on it. It might've been animated by Mesh connections at one point, but the batteries were clearly dead.
Chloe: [How's that robe feel?]
Zira: [Better than wandering around here with just my fur.]
Chloe: [I'll believe it.]
Chloe sat down on the bed, looking around at the dark recesses of the room. She wasn't sure she wanted to try and sleep in the armor, but she wasn't sure she wanted to take it off, either. She took a deep breath as the large form of Zaius appeared; he lumbered into the room, carrying what looked like most of the camp on his shoulders and back.
Chloe: [What are you? A pack mule or gorilla? I don't think *I* could carry that much.]
Blue: [That thing with the asterisks was cute, Chloe. I'm not sure how you did that.]
Chloe: [Neither am I.]
Zaius: [I'm both. Physically I am stronger than anyone here. Mentally - you cannot match me in subject matter surrounding linguistics.]
Cornelius: [One might say he's an ape of many words.]
Ahmed appeared, with Hotaru not far behind. She was still wearing the blanket that Chloe had gotten for her. Cornelius was next, followed by Taki, who was guarding the rear. Taki showed up and sat down the gun he was carrying, looking around.
Ahmed: [Not bad.]
Once they were all in the room, Ahmed shut the door and looked around.
Ahmed: [Well, Chloe. Here's the suite you wanted.]
Chloe: [I know, right? I wonder if the hot tub works.]
Ahmed: [Did you just make a sarcastic joke?]
Chloe: [I... I guess I did. Damn it, Ahmed.]
Ahmed: [Ahaha. I win. I'll wear off on you yet.]
Chloe: [You'll give me nightmares is what you'll do.]
Chloe walked over to Hotaru, who stood in the middle of the room by herself wrapped up in the blanket, as they started to remove the equipment and set up camp. She held Hotaru by the shoulders, while the younger woman turned around and hugged her. While they embraced, the others continued setting up.
Chloe: [I thought you said you had clothes for her.]
Zaius: [There's another bathrobe.]
Chloe: [C'mon, Hotaru. Let's go get that other bathrobe.]
The two walked from the front room into the bathroom. It was very spacious, and there was indeed a jacuzzi, although it wasn't filled with anything. Hotaru sat down on the edge of the bathtub, as Chloe looked around.
Chloe: [How come I haven't heard much from Sava, Hotaru? What's your dad up to?]
"I cut him off. I was tired of listening to him."
Chloe stopped, and then spun around, looking at Hotaru. "You can talk?"
Hotaru was frowning; a mix of fear, worry, and anxiety on her face. It reflected in her voice, which had a faint, ethereal quality to it that was laden with emotion. "I could always talk. I... I just didn't want to."
Chloe walked over and sat down beside her. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know... I don't know why that robot person put him in my head like that. I never got along with my dad. He was never very good to me or my brothers and sisters, you know? I... I'd be scared to talk about this, but I know he can't hear me, and he can't see anything, and I'm happier that way. I want him out of my head. I hate that robot person so much for bringing him back, but not my mom or brothers or sisters."
Chloe rubbed Hotaru's shoulders, as Hotaru withdrew even further.
"It'll be alright. You know how to hedge him out now, so maybe it's for the best. Sava didn't seem like he would be of much use anyway."
"He's not. He's a know it all. He... He... Chloe, I don't like him. I...," she paused, looking down at the floor. "I trust you. I like you. You... you were there, and you didn't leave me to die."
Chloe hugged her, rubbing her back. "We have to stick together."
She looked around nervously. "I... I haven't actually felt what another person feels like, Chloe. I haven't. I mean, you hug me, and you've got the armor on, and Ahmed's been carrying me, but he's a robot. I..."
Chloe smiled. "What if I took the armor off?"
"Isn't that dangerous?"
"Well, sure. But sitting here is dangerous too. Look, I can understand. I haven't felt anyone either, except through this armor."
She stood up, unfastening the armor and letting it fall to the floor, and standing there in the uniform that she had on under it. Hotaru smiled bashfully, and Chloe continued to remove the armor, catching a glimpse of her face again in the mirror. She stopped, letting the boot hit the floor as she walked back over to it, and ran her hand over her cheek.
"Are you okay?" Hotaru asked, standing up and walking over beside her.
Chloe smiled. "This is my face, Hotaru. I recognize this face as me."
Hotaru smiled, but she was clearly confused.
Blue: [It just took a little time, that's all. Sometimes, integration can be a challenge for individuals.]
Chloe turned around and hugged Hotaru again, trying not to laugh. She recognized herself in the mirror; as small a thing as that was, she could remember how before, the first time she saw her face, she didn't recognize it. Now she did. It was an amazing thing.
She sat back down with Hotaru. "I'm surprised you didn't remember," she said, lifting up Hotaru's ankle.
"It was the other one," Hotaru said. "I noticed. My dad told me that I could heal and that I should just stop whining about it. It didn't matter how bad it hurt, I should just suck it up and deal with it, because it would get better."
"He said that?"
"He wasn't as nice about it."
"Jeeze..." Chloe said, rubbing Hotaru's shoulder. Hotaru reached around and hugged her again, the two loosing balance and falling into the bathtub.
"You're warm," Hotaru said.
"I should be. I'm still alive."
Ahmed: [Hey, where are you two sleeping tonight?]
"Probably in here," Chloe said. "Hotaru wanted me to stay close to her tonight."
Ahmed: [So is that what you kids are calling it these days.]
"Nobody asked you, Ahmed."
Ahmed: [Didn't have to. That one comes free of charge.]
Chloe picked up the blanket and went rummaging around and found some towels, setting up a makeshift bed on the floor, using the towels as pillows. The blanket was wet, so she hung it over the bathtub to dry out, and pulled out the largest towel she could find - a very large one - and lifted it up.
"The buttons hurt," Hotaru said.
"On the uniform?"
Ahmed: [Uh huh. See, what'd I tell you.]
"Ahmed! Stop listening in!"
Ahmed: [My inner transhuman smiles. Unfortunately, this synth doesn't come equipped to do the same.]
Chloe sighed, shaking her head. "Don't you have something more important to do?"
Ahmed: [Nope. Everyone is trying to get to sleep. Taki isn't helping; he's a bird of many words, if you get my drift. If I was feeling spiteful, I'd link you to his long-winded stories about what life was like "wa-a-a-ay back when I had to fly fifteen hundred miles to school in the rain, sleet and snow..." Besides, I don't need sleep, so once our verbose parrot shuts his beak, I'm doing watch for the next four hours, until everyone is awake again. A parrot who won't shut up and is over talkative - isn't that a form of irony?]
Chloe removed the uniform, draping it over the side of the bathtub. "I wouldn't know, but thanks for not patching him through. Okay, well, we're going to sleep too. Don't wake us up."
Ahmed: [I may still. I didn't give you permission to go to sleep - if you do that, you'll be depriving me of your wonderful personality and condemning me to four hours of AR solitaire. And the face on the king of hearts scares me.]
"Then enjoy your solitaire and good night," Chloe said. "Blue? Block him, please."
Blue: [Of course.]
Hotaru crawled in beside her, closing her eyes and smiling contently.
Skin-on-skin contact - it was the first contact of that type since Chloe had sleeved. She pulled the blanket over her and wrapped her arms firmly around Hotaru, reveling in the warmth of another human being. She was amazed at how something so small could mean so much.
Chloe had drifted off into a mostly uneventful sleep. The feeling of warmth next to her made that sleep a lot better; it lasted until almost half-way through, when she thought she smelled fire. Sitting up, she realized that she was in the middle of a mad rush. All around it looked like there were fires and smoke, with the distant sound of gunfire, and the wail of warning sirens. She could feel her feet running - at least, she thought they were her feet - and looked back over her shoulder at the never ending blackness. She was running... and running... and running...
She felt the hand on her shoulder and she jumped, almost screaming when she realized it was Ahmed's synth right beside her. He was pointing furiously outside.
"Re... connect..." He said, trying to be as silent as his mechanical voice would allow.
Chloe: [I.. I... B-blue! Blue, reconnect him.]
Blue: [Right away.]
Ahmed: [Our friend is back.]
Chloe stood up, her nanotattoos giving off faint lights. Ahmed looked back at her, tilting his head.
Ahmed: [Boy, those things go all over your body, don't they? There's a few places where I fancy installation must've hurt like a son of a bitch.]
Chloe reached over and picked the armor up, trying to figure out in her state of being half awake which piece went where. Meanwhile, Hotaru remained asleep.
Ahmed: [So tell me, how long did she last? I'm just curious.]
Chloe: [We didn't have sex.]
Ahmed: [Uh huh.]
Blue: [I'm not sure, Chloe. If not, then what...]
Chloe: [Not now, Blue! Don't you jump in on me, too!]
Chloe grabbed her gun, and then started fastening the armor.
Chloe: [What do you mean "our friend" is back?]
Chloe perked up her ears, but she didn't hear anything.
Ahmed: [There. Did you hear that?]
Chloe: [No... No, I didn't.]
Ahmed looked back at her.
Ahmed: [Don't fuck with me. Did you hear that?]
Chloe: [No. I swear, I didn't hear a thing.]
Ahmed turned around.
Ahmed: [Wake her up. Something's rotten here. And I'm not liking it at all.]
Chloe knelt down, and gently shook Hotaru's shoulders.
Chloe: [Hotaru. Hotaru - it's time to get up.]
Hotaru forced her eyes open.
Hotaru: [I... already?]
Chloe: [Yes. We've got company.]
Hotaru sat up, rubbing her eyes and stretching. Chloe handed her the uniform.
Chloe: [I'm wearing the armor, I don't need the clothes under it. You can have these.]
Hotaru sat up and started getting dressed, as Ahmed stepped out into the front room. When Hotaru was fastening the shirt up, Chloe directed her into the main room, where everyone else as at.
Zira: [I swear I heard something. I swear.]
Cornelius: [I heard it too. And we were sleeping in the back room together, so I know it wasn't just him.]
Cornelius looked around, as Zaius picked up a rifle and tossed it to him. Zira picked up her own gun, as Chloe and Hotaru joined them.
Hotaru: [What's going on?]
Chloe: [Everyone is hearing noises. It sounds like giant footsteps.]
Chloe looked around, looking down at Hotaru.
Blue: [Chloe, Hotaru has started a private session.]
Chloe: [Thanks, Blue. (private chat, #Hotaru#) What's up, Hotaru?]
Hotaru (private chat, #Chloe#): [I'm not hearing anything.]
Chloe (private chat, #Hotaru#): [Me neither.]
Zaius: [There. There it is! It's down... stairs.]
Chloe felt her blood run cold. That's where the crash vehicle was. If it was downstairs, how were they going to get to the crash vehicle? She looked around at the shadows. But the thing was, she didn't hear anything.
Chloe: [Zaius, are you sure you heard something?]
Zira: [You didn't hear that?]
Cornelius: [It probably hacked her AR. Hotaru's too.]
Chloe: [Blue, have we been hacked?]
Blue: [I'm looking as we speak.]
Cornelius: [We should move. I don't like waiting here when there's a Warbot downstairs.]
Warbot? How did they know it was a warbot? Maybe they could tell from the sounds it was making, but Chloe wasn't sure. She couldn't hear them, and neither could Hotaru. She watched as they filed out, and took Hotaru and held her close, as they were the last two to leave the room.
That strange sense of being watched was rising, though. Something was staring at them.
They walked out into the hallway, when suddenly a large wash of fire appeared. Chloe spun her back and shielded Hotaru as the flames washed over her, and engulfed everything in between. Hotaru screamed, as, caught totally off-guard, the survivalists quickly made for the staircase. Zira ditched the burning robe, while Cornelius dropped on the ground and rolled. Zaius tried to pat the fire out on himself, as Taki, screeched and went running around, engulfed completely in flames.
Ahmed was the first one to open fire. When he did, Chloe wheeled around with her rifle, and going off of instinct alone, leveled the rifle and scored a critical hit on whatever was attacking them. She saw the sparks fly, and watched as its invisibility vanished. It hit the ground, looking like a twisted, mechanical centipede-spider thing. In the darkness, she couldn't get a good glimpse of it; it rolled too quickly and bounded back on the wall, vanishing.
Taki: [Water! There's water in that hallway - I can put myself out!]
Chloe spun around as Zira shouted that, and Taki, almost completely engulfed in flames, raced further down the hallway. She made chase, and stopped suddenly when the bird was sliced into a dozen pieces, running into something that she couldn't see. Ahmed grabbed her and pulled her back as another wash of fire filled the hallway. She turned and bolted, grabbing Hotaru and racing for the stairs, only for Ahmed to grab her and pull her back.
Ahmed: [Not the stairs!]
Chloe: [Not the stair....]
They were cut off by Cornelius screaming. Chloe broke free and raced into the hallway as Zira, in a frantic panic, drug her now one-armed lover up the stairs, as he bled profusely from the wound. Something had severed his arm in one swoop - she could see it at the bottom of the stairs. Zira pulled him back into the room as a wash of fire appeared from behind Chloe, and now the entire hallway was up in flames. She wheeled around as the strange mechanical spider centipede appeared in full for the first time, rearing up with two large, buzz-saw like appendages.
She ducked under one and slid under the thing, opening up on full auto and gutting it.
It almost fell atop her, but she rolled out from under it, ducking back into the room. From what she could see, it looked like the others were firing on something not there; maybe they could see them and Chloe couldn't. She wasn't sure. But when she was back in the room, Blue spoke up.
Blue: [Chloe, we haven't been hacked.]
Chloe: [Ahmed! Zira! Zaius! Cornelius! Hotaru and I haven't been hacked, it's you who's been hacked!]
Zira looked up from Cornelius side, near the middle of the room, as he lay dying. Meanwhile, Ahmed booted open the door in the back, stepping out into it as Hotaru ran past him. He grabbed her and pulled her back, stopping her.
Ahmed: [They trapped us. Those cunning fuckers. They actually trapped us.]
Chloe: [What do you mean?]
Ahmed: [They're weavers. They weave a fine, nano-meter wide spider's web. It's not for catching. If you run into it, it'll cut right through you. It'll cut you to pieces.]
Zira: [There's got to be a way out! Cornelius is dying!] Her entire body was trembling. Ahmed looked down at the dying Cornelius and pointed. He continued to moan, straddling the line between consciousness and death; bleeding profusely from the severed arm.]
Ahmed: [Pop his stack. He'll make a way out for us.]
Zira got right into his face.
Zira: [Now you listen the fuck up. I am not...]
The door collapsed, and one of the spider things appeared. The room was washed in fire, as Chloe stood in front of Hotaru again, her armor taking the brunt of it. The thing washed the fire across the room, and it looked for certain that Zira was going to get hit, but she didn't.
Cornelius had managed to get back on his feet and stepped in front to save Zira. He went down, burning like a Yule log, as Zira screamed and Zaius bolted over, trying to put out the fire. Ahmed and Chloe opened up on the robots with their guns, Zira picking up hers and joining in.
Ahmed: [Zaius! Pop his stack and throw him down the hallway! Those wires will cut him to pieces, but he'll also destroy them so we can get through!]
Zaius: [I'm sorry, old friend,]
Zaius knelt down and wincing as he tried to put the fire out and pop the stack. Chloe, meanwhile, ducked into the room, pinning one of the centipede robots as the wall caught alight now. The whole damn building was going to burn down. She stepped back as Zira went into a mad rage, running at one of them. It raised the flamer at her but Chloe stepped in and shouldered her, both flying into the kitchen as it lit the room on fire.
She grabbed the now unconscious Zira and put the uplift over her shoulder, gunning at the creature as she ran across the room. There was blood everywhere, but Zaius had managed, with a ice pick, to pull the cortical stack out. The stack now out, the body that Cornelius had been in was dead. Zaius picked it up and threw it down the hallway, Chloe arriving in time to watch the body get slicked into a thousand even pieces.
Ahmed: [Done! Let me through first! I've got armor on, if he didn't snap them, at least there won't be too many left to cut me to pieces!]
Hotaru grabbed onto Ahmed, using him as a shield as Chloe handed Zira off to Zaius and put a few more rounds into the room before retreating after them, stepping into the mushy pieces of Cornelius. At the end of the hallway was another staircase; they were able to follow that one down into one of the back hallways, on the ground floor. Chloe looked over and spotted a familiar white light from outside, but it didn't register until the loud "boom" and the shattering of glass ripped through the building. She was cut off for a second from the rest, looking around at the debris.
Chloe: [What the fuck was that?]
Ahmed: [The warbot!]
Chloe looked outside, as a warbot silhouette appeared. Strangely enough, it was missing one arm.
Chloe: [You mean that wasn't a hallucination?]
Ahmed: [Not unless getting rail-burn is a AR hack-trick!]
Chloe jumped over the debris, as the one-armed warbot trained on her. It had honestly followed them all the way from Flagstaff.
Ahmed: [He's persistent!]
She ducked into the hallway, catching up with Zaius and Zira. Zaius was moving as fast as he could; Chloe could keep up with him, but Ahmed, who was lugging Hotaru, was moving even faster.
Zaius: [A friend of yours?]
Chloe: [More like acquaintance. In the most liberal sense of the word.]
They bolted back into the lobby, where Chloe thought she saw one of the centipede-spider things.
She opened fire on it just to make sure, sparks jumping where she hit it and forced it back. The snow was beginning to melt now; it was still about knee high, but it had stopped, and it was slush under that. They approached the crash vehicle as they heard the thunder of the Warbot moving around the building.
The door swung open; Ahmed jumped in first, taking Hotaru with him. Zira was thrown in next, and Zaius grabbed Chloe and pushed her in, as the warbot appeared around the other side of the building. Zaius lugged himself in, as the vehicle kicked on and threw itself into reverse. Zaius went face first into the seat, only barely managing to slam the door behind him. Chloe was face down in the back; when she looked up, through the reinforced glass windows, she could watch as the crash vehicle once again lived up to its name, slamming into the one-armed warbot and knocking it over. It couldn't run over the robot this time, though; the AGI driving it had to throw it into a forward gear and then spin around the slush and snow, ramming the warbot again when it tried to stand. It caught onto the vehicle as the crash vehicle spun and made for the road, Chloe steadying herself and picking up the rocket launcher.
Zaius: [What are you doing?]
Chloe: [Taking out the garbage. Again.]
She kicked open the back door, leveling the launcher. She homed in on the shoulder, and squeezed the trigger, the rocket slamming into the other shoulder of the warbot. The second arm severed, the warbot was knocked backwards, tumbled, and then spun to a stop in the snow. Chloe let the launcher fall to the floor, and then shut the door, latching it as the vehicle made for the road.
"There," she said. "Maybe it'll stay down this time."
She walked in the back and sat down, looking over at Hotaru.
Hotaru: [We... we... we may need to wash these pants.]
Chloe: [If you don't tell, Hotaru, I won't tell.]
Hotaru crawled over beside her, as Zira rolled over and rubbed her head.
"What the hell happened?"
"I kept you from killing yourself," Chloe said, as she looked around.
"Cornelius... where is Cornelius!?"
Zaius frowned, reached into his pocket, and pulled out the bloody stack. Zira reached out and touched it, but for some reason it must not've clicked. Chloe watched as she sat down on the floor, crossing her legs and looking at the stack as the first rays of sun shone through the windshield.
"He did that for me," she said, looking at Chloe, and reflecting on him jumping in the way of the flame thrower to keep her from getting caught on fire.
"Yes, he did."
She held the stack tightly, as Chloe sighed closed her eyes, and hugged Zira. Zira didn't return the embrace, but she did use Chloe as a shoulder to cry on.
Ahmed: [Why's she crying? Death is temporary. As long as we keep that stack, when we get off this wretched hellhole, he'll be resleeved and everything will be golden. If there's anyone they should mourn, it's the parrot. Nobody got his stack.]
Chloe: [Ahmed, she's overwhelmed. Fuck it, I'm overwhelmed.]
Ahmed shrugged his one working shoulder.
Ahmed: [I'm just an asshole robot without feelings, I guess.]
Zaius was rubbing her shoulders, as she continued to use Chloe as a shoulder to cry on. Hotaru hovered in the back, until Chloe held out an arm for her too, rubbing her shoulder.
Hotaru: [I'm fine.]
Chloe: [I know. But it's good to make sure.]
Edit: Thanks Brin :)