My first memory is waking to the sound of an old man’s voice.|
“...are going to have to keep a low profile. They will all be after you… General Garivus, the military...” a pause in the voice. “...even the Circle Of Nine, should they learn of your existence.”
I turned my head to look and saw a small, hunched frame hurriedly packing several tools into a wooden chest. He turned to look towards me and his eyes lit up. A smile grew on his face as he looked me up and down.
“But after fifteen years, Protoss... fifteen years of effort and work to make you what you are today... well,” he paused, grinning at me, beaming with pride, “I’m not about to give you up that easily. I don’t care what they say.”
I heard, then, my own voice for the first time.
“Protoss?” I asked.
I had a voice! It was tinny and sounded distant, as though filtered somehow, yet it was unmistakably mine.
The old man wrinkled his eyes and scrutinized me, a look of worry passing over his face amidst the smiling pride.
“Yes m’boy. Your name, of course. That’s what I’ve named you.” He laughed a bit under his breath. “Only took me fifteen years to come up with it!”
Protoss. My name. That was my name: I had a name.
I looked down, taking in my surroundings. I was sitting on a table in a workshop of some kind. It looked as thought it once held a great deal more than it did now. Empty spots on the walls where dozens of tools once rested. This place seemed familiar to me, yet I could not recall any other time when I had been here before. In fact, I couldn’t recall any other time at all.
The old man bit his lower lip and pursed his face in concentration.
Without knowing why I looked down at my left hand and flexed my fingers. I would feel them move... one at a time, then all at once. It was a part of me, connected and unified with my being. I held it up and looked at it in fascination and I caused it to move, each individually armored digit bending at my command.
“How is your hand? I did my best to replicate it based upon my original designs. Very hard to construct, mind you, given your unique nature.” A smile crept back into the corner of his face.
I felt a weight on my right side and looked down, only to discover a second hand, much like the first, waiting for me. This one looked the same but felt... different somehow. I bent my concentration to it and began the process of feeling through the problem.
“The sub dermal plating in my right hand contains micro structural fractures. The external armor also bears superficial signs of wear.”
He old man glanced down at my right hand then glanced up into my face. For a split second there was a look of worry on his face, as though his mind was being drawn into a memory.
He turned back towards the chest and took a few steps forward.
“Usual signs of wear and use, Protoss. Nothing to be concerned with. The one I just replaced will stop feeling so strange after a year or so of use.”
Wear and tear. Had I existed before this moment? Why couldn’t I remember it?
I sat there in silence for the next few minutes, watching the old man busy himself in his hurried packing. Eventually he straightened and half turned to regard me with distant eyes.
“Protoss, I have to go.”
“Where?” I asked. He seemed worried, even fearful.
“ I... I wish I could tell you. Just know that I will be back when the time is right. As soon as I can, I’ll come back for you and Cidra.”
“Cidra?” my vocal tone raised slightly near the end of the word, indicating a question. I had heard people talk that way before... but when? It wasn’t emulation anymore, I knew that. It was natural... it was a learned habit. I knew, somehow, that this had not always been the case. Had the old man changed me somehow?
“My granddaughter. She will need your protection. Watch her.”
He paused in mid sentence, collecting his thoughts and taking the occasional deep breath.
“Protoss, you have a purpose.”
I snapped to attention, attenuating my audial receptors. Those words held power for me. I was waiting for him to speak for what seemed like an eternity, though my chronometer had only registered the passing of a third of a second. I leaned forward towards him, my eyes wide. My entire body thirsted for his next words as though they were the words of a god.
“Please define my purpose.” I said mechanically. Two thirds of a second had passed. He was going to answer. His body posture adjusted slightly. I sat still and rigid.
Another second, then another. His brow bent in thought.
“Protection, Protoss... protection. Protect yourself. Protect my daughter. Keep her safe. Protect the innocent and just... but harm only those who are evil, and only then when it cannot be avoided.”
I relaxed, my core structural fibers expanding and allowing my adamantine exoskeletal plating to resume a casual posture.
“I have a purpose.” I responded ritualistically. Something had just passed between us. I felt whole, somehow. I knew what I had to do: I had a goal.
The old man grabbed a hold of my hand, his old wrinkled hands grasping around the plating of my large metallic fingers.
“Protoss, though you be war forged you need not be an instrument of war. You are your own being now, not just an automaton or some other construct. Your are unique. You are alive. Go now," he paused, smiling broadly, "and live.”
I have a voice. I have a name. I have a purpose.
I am alive.