A Question of Emotion

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Shion nodded to herself in satisfaction as she double-checked the data from Kos-Mos’s ‘bedtime’ checkup. “Everything looks good,” she informed the android, “no lasting damage from reentry – well, except your visor, that’s a total loss, but we can make a new one for you, I suppose.”

“Understood,” Kos-Mos said neutrally. “My predictive failure programming also shows a slight overcorrection in my left elbow actuator. If left unchecked, it will affect combat effectiveness by .008 percent within one hundred and forty operational hours.”

“I’ll take it under advisement,” Shion giggled, briskly snapping her laptop closed and rising to her feet. She let out a jaw-cracking yawn and stretched her hands high over her head, sighing with some satisfaction as her spine popped from her tailbone all the way to the base of her skull. “But if it’s ok with you,” she said brightly, “I’ll take care of it tomorrow. I think I deserve a good night’s sleep… don’t you?”

Considering what the people onboard the small spaceship named Elsa had endured over the day and a half prior, the Vector employee was sure that no one could fault her for being a little on the tired side.

After all, she mused as she ran the last few calculations to make sure that Kos-Mos was prepared for her nightly shutdown, it’s not every day you have a hand in saving an entire planet from the falling orbital platform of a dead madman, right? Pretty sure that entitles me to at least eight hours of uninterrupted shuteye.


Nearly jumping out of her skin at the sudden sound, Shion pushed her glasses further up on the bridge of her nose and looked down at Kos-Mos, finding the android looking up unblinkingly with her eerie red eyes. “What is it?” she asked, covering her racing heart with one hand as she added, “You scared the heck out of me, you know. I thought you were already powered down.”

Without apologizing for startling her operator, Kos-Mos said, “That noise you were just making – is that what is called ‘humming,’ Shion?”

Shion simply stared for a moment, completely at a loss for words until she realized that she had, indeed, been humming an old song under her breath. “Yes,” she replied, shifting to the ‘teacher’ role as she elaborated, “people sometimes do it when they are at ease, or if they are happy about something. Haven’t you ever heard anyone humming before? Wait,” she said, not allowing Kos-Mos a chance to answer, “I guess you wouldn’t have, would you? There really hasn’t been a lot of good cheer since you were activated.”

“And you are happy now, then?”

Considering this for a moment, Shion slowly answered, “Well, I’m not UNhappy. I mean, we still don’t know what the UTIC Group is up to, and we haven’t found any real answers for what the Zohars are or where they came from – but compared to the day the Woglunde was attacked… yeah, I’m pretty happy.”

That feels like so long ago, she mused as Kos-Mos processed this answer. How long has it really been? A couple of weeks? A Month? God, where did the time go…?

She refocused her attention as Kos-Mos said, “The tune is… familiar to me. What is it called?”

Shion smiled. “It’s called ‘Serenity,’” she said gently. “Would you like to know the lyrics?”

When Kos-Mos confirmed that she would, Shion took a deep breath and sang,

“Shimmering so bright
Guiding light, divine
Flow along the sea
Of fading stardust
Reminisce the touch
Over the hands you still clutch
We'll belong lost in the past
Left to emancipate

We pray among the clouds
In the pitch blackness of night
Our voices ascend to the stars
There's will to overcome
Though we stumble and fall

In this serenity…

After she had finished, Shion sat still, waiting to see what Kos-Mos’s reply to her small aria would be. Processing the data objectively, the android gave the only analysis she really could.

“It is not a very logical song, Shion,” she observed. “If taken literally, one cannot pray among the clouds unless one is aboard a cruiser of some sort, and voices cannot rise to the stars due to the restrictions on vocal cord strength and attenuation. If taken figuratively, then it is even less logical, as it specifically mentions a divine light guiding our actions, yet it also mentions having the will to overcome – contradicting the generally held Judeo-Christian concept that fate is not controlled by the individual, but rather by the supreme being.”

Shion, whose smile had grown weaker and weaker during Kos-Mos’s monologue, took off her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “I never thought about it that much,” she mused. “I just… thought it was a pretty song.”


“Sometimes…” Shion said, pausing to slip her glasses back on, “sometimes people just like things without having a reason.”

“Like the way Mister Junior likes MoMo,” Kos-Mos offered. “There is nothing in common between them, yet he is overly-protective to the point of psychosis, while she-”


“Yes, Shion?”


Silently, Shion keyed in the command to shut Kos-Mos’s recharging capsule.

“Goodnight, Kos-Mos…”

- - - - -

The pristine halls of the starship Elsa were silent as a tomb, a concept that the man named only Chaos found rather disturbing. He knew that come the morning, things would be as lively as ever while the crew prepared to depart Second Miltia orbit once more. Since the repairs to the ship’s guidance system were finally complete, there really wasn’t much reason to hang around. None of this made the quietude of that particular night much easier to deal with, but it was at least a small comfort to know that they would soon be on their way once more.

Wandering the sleeping ship, however, Chaos found himself plagued by the age-old question, “Should I stay on… or get off…?”

He was not even aware that he had spoken out loud until his words echoed off of a nearby bulkhead, reflecting back to him in shades of tinny, hollow uncertainty. Certainly he wanted to stay onboard the Elsa, but he had to be honest with himself and admit to the fact that part of his desire to stay on was a growing interest with the wellbeing of the other crew members

And when interest became affection, it would be impossible to go anywhere.

And here I was only supposed to be onboard for six months, he mused, shaking his head as he considered his self-imposed limit. Usually takes at least that long to… hello, what’s this?

Rounding a corner, Chaos found the ship’s resident Gnosis-slaying android staring intently out of a small window at the icy stars outside the ship, her long blue hair tumbling down her back as it was temporarily freed from her destroyed visor.

“Kos-Mos,” he said politely. “I thought you’d be resting after… well, everything.”

“My repair cycle ended early,” Kos-Mos informed him. “I felt it would be better to patrol the ship than lie immobile for the rest of the night.”

Chaos grinned.

“So in other words… you couldn’t sleep.”

Kos-Mos did not even spare Chaos a courtesy glance for his weak attempt at humanization, forcing a sigh from him as he stepped up next to her and glanced out the window at her side.

“Can I ask you something?” Chaos asked after a few minutes of quiet.

“Yes,” Kos-Mos replied, wasting no more time with anything more encouraging.

“When the Proto Mercaba was breaking up,” Chaos said slowly, “and you shielded the Elsa – right before you left the ship you said, ‘Relinquish your pain unto me.’” He hesitated for a moment. “What… what did you mean by that…?”

He waited tensely as Kos-Mos stared out the window, seemingly oblivious to his question as his mind raced with possibilities – particularly the worrisome idea that she knew what, exactly, he really was. Finally, after several moments of silence, the android uttered six short, blunt words.

“I do not recall saying that.”

“You don’t?” Chaos asked incredulously. “I thought you had a digital memory? Is it even possible for you to forget something?”

Kos-Mos simply continued to stare out the window as she stated, “I do not recall saying that phrase to you.”

Barking a short laugh, Chaos ran a hand through his pale, silver hair. “Are you programmed to lie?” he wondered, realizing as soon as he spoke that Kos-Mos would probably just disregard him.

The reply he received was simple and bland.


Chaos shook his head. “What a stupid question,” he mused softly, “if I ask you if you are, and you say no, it could still be a lie, because if you really are programmed to lie, you would never say yes, right?”

Implacable as ever, Kos-Mos replied, “Your logic is sound.”

“Of course…”

They lapsed back into silence for a few moments, listening to the Elsa’s smoothly humming systems before Chaos gathered his courage and asked something else that had been on his mind for some time.

“Can I touch your face?”

“For what purpose?” Kos-Mos replied immediately.

Chaos shrugged. “Curiosity,” he explained. “Since we first met, I’ve forgotten – several times, actually – that you’re not human. I just want to see what you feel like.” As an afterthought, he suddenly added, “It would probably help in a fight if I could remember that you’re an android – you know, so I don’t risk the life of someone else by trying to save you when you can take care of yourself… someone like Shion.”

Kos-Mos considered this for a moment before turning to face him. “Your request is reasonable.”


Slowly, he reached up, drawing his glove off before laying his right hand gently on Kos-Mos’s cheek.

“It’s… cold,” he said quietly, drawing his fingers across her features as she stared impassively into his emerald eyes. “Like marble.”

“My core temperature is kept steady at fifty degrees Fahrenheit, while my surface temperature is variable based on external conditions,” Kos-Mos informed him as his finger ran down to her chin. “This is ideal for maintaining the appearance of my outer shell and armor plates. Further, a lower external temperature assists in keeping my internal processors cool without taxing my coolant system.”

Chaos’s lips quirked up at one corner. “Spoken like a true robot,” he sighed. Hesitantly, he moved his finger up and traced the outline of her mouth. “But you could adjust it, if you wanted,” he guessed. “Am I right?”

“Yes,” Kos-Mos answered, ignoring the finger running back and forth over her lips. “If it was necessary, I could raise my core temperature to ninety-eight degrees to simulate human body heat.”

Chaos nodded. “For infiltration purposes, right?” he wondered. “Fooling infrared cameras and thermal sensors?”



Bringing his other hand up, he cradled her face in both palms.

“But your lips are soft,” he murmured, “and your body is designed to be attractive. Why is that?”

Meeting his gaze straight on, Kos-Mos said, “I fail to see why you need that information.”

Chaos smiled faintly. “Still curious, I guess,” he said. “Can you explain it to me?”



They stared at each other without saying a word, with Kos-Mos making no move to push Chaos’s hands away or break eye-contact. Finally, Chaos let his hands fall to his sides, averting his gaze as Kos-Mos turned her attention back to the window, taking in the cool, glistening stars for several minutes before Chaos cleared his throat and joined her in her examination of the endless space outside.

“Can I ask you one more thing?”


Pulling his glove back on, Chaos whispered, “Does your programming allow you to feel anything when I touch you?”

“Yes,” Kos-Mos replied, “my surface sensors are accurate to within-”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Kos-Mos said nothing for several moments, and Chaos was starting to think that she would simply ignore the question when she calmly said, “I am a weapon. A weapon has no use for emotions such as the kind you are trying to evoke.”

Chaos nodded. “From a purely physical standpoint, neither do humans,” he countered. “And I wasn’t trying to get you to feel, I was just trying to find out if you already felt.”

“For what purpose?” Kos-Mos asked. “It is illogical to even consider the idea that an instrument of destruction should care for those around it. You do not ask your AGWS if it holds compassion for you before you climb into its cockpit – you should consider me in the same light.”

Smiling faintly, Chaos whispered, “That’s pretty defensive talk for an unfeeling robot.”

To this, Kos-Mos made no reply.

- - - - -

The bay in which Kos-Mos’s capsule was kept cold for much the same reason the android kept her core temperature low – convenience. It cost valuable energy to heat any open area on a spacecraft, and when the only resident of the room could survive the vacuum of space, why waste ergs on heat?

Shion, Kos-Mos could tell, was not happy about this arrangement, but considering the fact that she only ever stayed for a few minutes during the evening, the technician had made no complaints or requests to have the heat increased during her visits.

“All green,” Shion told her, snapping her laptop closed just as she had the night before. “By this time tomorrow, we’ll be half a solar system away.” She smiled softly. “I’m glad Chaos decided to stay on, aren’t you? Hammer was saying that Chaos was thinking of getting of at Second Miltia, but I guess he changed his mind last night.”

Kos-Mos stared up at the ceiling of the modified storage bay and said nothing, her processors logging everything from the time of Shion’s last spoken syllable to the temperature of the woman’s skin as she waited for her next order.

It came in the form of the simple directive to have, “Sweet dreams,” though as Shion turned to leave, Kos-Mos focused her eyes on the tech’s back and broke the silence with a few simple words.

“Shion. May I ask a question?”

Taken completely off guard by the sudden question, Shion tripped over her own feet, stumbling into a bulkhead and cracking her elbow sharply on its unyielding surface. “Er, yeah,” she said, rubbing her bruised joint with a pained expression. “What’s on your mind?”

Kos-Mos waited until her operator turned to face her before asking, “Have I been programmed for emotional simulation?”

Shion hesitated. “Well, no, not exactly,” she said carefully. “No one can simulate emotion – we just don’t have that kind of technology. With Realians it’s different – they have biological components, so they’re almost human… but for an android,” she looked apologetic, “I’m afraid the best we could do was install adaptive programming to allow you to learn how people behave when they interact, and respond accordingly.” She fidgeted with the bottom of her shirt as Kos-Mos stared at her, seemingly waiting for further elaboration. “So, um,” she said finally, “does that answer your question?”

“Yes, but it has generated another one,” Kos-Mos replied. “May I ask it?”

“Of course,” Shion nodded encouragingly, ignoring the shiver in her back as the cold of the room started to settle deeper into her skin.

Kos-Mos, bland as ever, calmly asked, “Is attraction mental or emotional? My databases define attraction as the desire for interaction and sexual union between two or more parties, but it does not specify whether it is a psychological response or an emotional one. Can you clarify, please?”

Shifting awkwardly from one foot to the other, Shion mumbled, “Umm, I don’t… know how to answer that. I mean, you can – well, I can, I guess, this wouldn’t apply to you – I can see a really cute guy walking down the street and think I’d really like to be with him, but then get to know him and find out he’s a real jerk and never want anything to do with him.”

“So it is a psychological response.”

“Well, no,” Shion replied, looking a bit flustered, “because I’ve heard of women that started going out with a really great guy, and then found out later he was a total jerk – and they still stayed with him.”

“That is contradictory,” Kos-Mos pointed out.

Shion smiled ruefully.

“That’s what it means to be human…”

She stared at the back of her hands for several minutes, contemplating the conversation they had had up to that point before softly adding another thought on the subject.

“Kos-Mos, even if you were programmed with emotional simulators, I don’t… think you could ever really feel the way a human does.”


Keeping her eyes downcast, Shion whispered, “I’m not smart enough to explain it clearly for you, but the long and short of it is that no matter how good we are at simulating feelings, we don’t know how to simulate a soul…”

She never could have expected Kos-Mos’s response.

“And where does the soul reside?” the android asked. “It was my understanding that the soul is ephemeral – intangible. Has there been documentation regarding its whereabouts?”

Shion fumbled for something to say, finally blurting out, “No, but… but we know that humans have them, and inanimate objects don’t.”

“Where is the proof of this?” Kos-Mos wondered. When Shion had no immediate reply, Kos-Mos lifted her gaze back to the ceiling and said, “It is irrelevant. Thank you for answering my questions, Shion.”

“Er… yeah…”

The tech hesitated for a moment, feeling that she should make some other kind of statement regarding the soul, since it was heady conversation to be having with an android and she did not want to give up on it just because she had been stymied on one aspect of the debate. But the longer she stood there, the more she realized that she had nothing else to say on the matter, and so she gave Kos-Mos a small bow and closed the android’s capsule, making her way to bed, where she would toss and turn late into the night, thinking of everything Kos-Mos had asked.

In her capsule, Kos-Mos did not power down for several minutes herself.

She had acquired far more information over the past forty-eight hours than she had initially known, causing her processors to work overtime to try to calculate it all. Emotions, feelings, happiness – alien words, alien concepts – things she had no grasp on whatsoever. It was easier for her to detail the chemical composition of a human disintegrated by a gnosis than to explain what made a person cry or sing.

Staring at the lid of her capsule, Kos-Mos slowly lifted her hand up in front of her eyes.

“Shimmering… so bright… guiding light… divine…”

No, she decided, it did not seem right coming from her lips. The tone was flat, the inflection nonexistent – wholly synthetic and false, a parody of normalcy so grotesque that she was sure any true human would find it nauseating and offensive. Even the content of the song, still so perplexing to her logic circuits, paled in comparison to her dull, lifeless rendition of the opening lyric.

“Chaos,” she whispered, slowly letting her hand fall back to her side. “I am sure that his voice would make it sound the way it should.”

In that instant, Kos-Mos decided that singing was not for her, ironically renouncing her own ability to feel without pondering the reasons why she was doing it and never grasping as she powered her systems down just how human the decision was.

The End

This story was pre-read by people that shall remain nameless until the contest is good and over.

All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition

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