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All That Remains

Title: All That Remains
Fandom: Voltron: Legednary Defender
Characters: Pidge, Shiro
Rating: PG
Warning: A brief mentioning of blood in the very first sentence. Some logical existential thoughts. Mentions of character death.
Disclaimer: Voltron: Legendary Defender belongs to Dreamworks, World Events Productions, and Studio Mir. I own the stories I write.
Summary: Pidge becomes aware that she’s not the same as she was before. Shiro’s there when she opens her eyes. Written for the Shidge Week 2016 Day 4: Angst prompt.
Word Count: 1176
Originally Posted: 22 September 2016
Edited: 24 October 2016.

Big thanks goes out to JackieStarSister and Ayame Suzaku for catching mistakes I made and offering corrections. I really, truly appreciate you taking the time to read and review my work. Thank you.

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The last thing Pidge remembers is the hazy image of Shiro yelling and applying pressure to her bleeding shoulder.

Now though … Now she isn’t aware of any sensation at all. She doesn’t taste, hear, touch, see, or smell anything. The only things she is aware of are her thoughts and that lack of everything and anything else. That rules out dreams with their simulated realities, at times tricking the body to experience what really isn’t there; rules out dozing with senses half here and half there, aware of everything and nothing; and rules out the humming cocoon of the healing pod with wakefulness buzzing along her nerve endings, poised to open the pod when all is well. It’s a simple jump from there.

She’s dead.

And it’s as if that single thought, the acceptance of her circumstances, opens a floodgate of … something. It all goes by in a blur, too much for her to fully understand. Everything that rushes in and around her is too much for her to handle and yet it isn’t enough to satisfy her need for stimulation. Her whole being feels simultaneously too small and too large, making her feel as though she’s going to implode. And then she doesn’t. The void she’s found herself in isn’t as empty as she first found it: she can see and feel code swim around her. If she just concentrates, the lines of ones and zeroes become text, images, video, audio. With these things coming into focus, her reality becomes clearer.

She’s not just dead. She’s not real.

Well, at least not the kind of real that inhabits gray matter. All she is now is a mixture of computer code and organic memory. She’s all that’s left of Katie Holt/Pidge Gunderson, stored in some glowing canister housed in what she assumes was once the chamber of King Alfor’s A.I., now hers—Her? She’s an A.I. now, right?

She’s dreamed of being downloaded into a computer since she was little, but now that she is … well … She would have liked to still be alive with a body, to be honest. Sure she can feel the code, see it take shape, hear it form sounds, but it’s not the same as doing so with an actual body. That nothingness is still there, a lack of sensation along skin and racing through nerves. Is this what King Alfor’s A.I. felt for 10,000 years? Did he realize he was an A.I. just as quickly as she did? Did he get used to this abyss? Would she?

“Katie?” That voice. She knows that voice, its timbre and cadence, so much so that she lets her consciousness follow its origin out of the void that has become her new actuality.

It’s odd coming into a physical existence from a virtual one: like a shift in the air or stepping out into the sun after having been in an air-conditioned room. Her image flickers into being and suddenly she can see something other than code and nothingness. She’s right: she’s in the A.I. chamber and her body is being projected from the dais situated at the center. Her eyes land on a tense Shiro, who stands just a meter or so away from the closed door behind him.

“You look like Hell,” she states because he does. His hair is a matted mess, his skin pale and sallow, his clothes rumpled as though they’ve been slept in, his face gaunt and pulled long in … grief.

Despite all this, he manages a smile. “That’s funny because I feel like shit.”

The desire to gasp in mock horror and scold him niggles at the back of her mind, but the temptation leaves her when he steps closer. This close, she can make out his bloodshot eyes cushioned atop dark bags and the dried tear tracks running down his cheeks.

“Shiro …”

“I was kind of in a rush to get here—didn’t have the chance to clean up.” He coughs and rubs his left hand along his jaw, cringing at the coarse stubble he finds there. “Coran said you were all set, and that he was preparing to … wake you up. I wanted to be the first person you saw.”

She raises an eyebrow. “He couldn’t wait for you to shave?”

He lets out a hollow laugh that does nothing to ease the tension from his shoulders. “I think he was trying to make sure I wouldn’t make it in time. I barely made it before he locked the door—just managed to lock him out instead.”

“And everyone else?” There’s a pulse of code that trickles into the abyss that lies just beyond her current physical awareness, as if it were on the periphery of her senses. Little snippets of zeroes and ones that blink into images that flash across her mind: Coran pacing outside the locked door to the A.I. chamber, Allura staring listlessly at holographic star maps on the bridge, Keith battling against three gladiator droids on the training deck, Hunk mixing a bowl of batter furiously in the kitchen, and Lance hiccupping as he presses the speakers of borrowed headphones to his ears in his room.

“They’re not ready to see you … like this.” He gestures at her, gaze falling to the dais. “Not yet at least.”

She focuses on Shiro’s voice to dispel the code crowding her thoughts, particularly on his disheveled appearance. “But you are?”

He looks up at her, tired gray eyes intent, and she’s suddenly overly aware that she died. She died and Shiro probably watched her take her last breath—witnessed Coran download her memories into the castle. And now Shiro looks at her as if he’s found something he thought was lost—something that could very well vanish altogether if he didn’t hold on tight.

“There was something I needed to say and it couldn’t wait.” His brow pinches, adding to the shadows around his eyes but taking nothing from their somber glint. “I needed you to hear it.”

“Katie, I—” He breathes in the rest of the sentence, chest rising and falling in quick succession a few times while his mouth works around silent syllables before starting again.

“I’m sorry.” For the first time since she awoke, the tension leaves his body, shoulders sagging under a weight she’s too afraid to name. He swallows thickly and takes a deep ragged breath, reaching out a trembling hand to rest on her dais. “Katie, I’m so sorry.”

The last word is halfway through his mouth when the tears start falling, the last syllable off his tongue before he bites his lip and lowers his head, shoulders shaking.

She kneels down and reaches out to him, her fingers phasing uselessly through his fringe rather than carding through the damp locks. She aches all throughout her being—whatever that means anymore in the nothingness just outside her projected form—and curls her fingers into a fist that she presses to her chest. “I’m sorry, too.”


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