Robots don't feel pain. This one doesn't, at least. He has sensors that detect when part of his hardware is damaged, or is under strain to the point that it might become
damaged if he doesn't back off. The signals reported by those sensors don't constitute 'pain,' in the conventional sense of the word, but they're as close as he can get without a biological nervous system.
Almost every one of those sensors is reporting damage when D0G's system reboots.
Chassis: 34% damaged. Electrical connectivity: 33%. Optical sensor: 41%. Auditory sensors: 22%. Tactile sensors: 27%. Servomotors: 30%. Zero-point energy field manipulator: 5%.
D0G shifts his right arm and, slowly and laboriously, drags himself out from under the collapsed roof and pushes himself semi-upright. His left arm isn't responding at all, and, once the dust and static has cleared from his optic, he can see why; it's been torn clean off, shoulder joint wrenched straight out of the socket. The rest of him isn't in very good shape, either, but it's not enough to keep him from functioning.
He's been offline for twenty-one minutes, thirty-nine point two seconds, according to his internal system clock. There's no sign of the dropships and not much left of White Forest. Where there were low-lying buildings and radio towers, now there's nothing but rubble, twisted metal, and smoldering ashes.Woooooooop?
D0G calls, plaintively. There is no response.
Is anyone still here? Is Alyx still here? No, of course not. Alyx went on the boat. But the boat's not here anymore. Where did it go?
D0G picks his way through the rubble toward the ravine where the Borealis
was parked half an hour ago. There's no sign the ship was even there, except... wait. That rock looks different. He limps over to get a better look.
The rock's surface is broad and flat, and six words have been hastily carved into it:
The only Dan at White Forest was Dan Shephard, Corporal Shephard's brother. 'Home' for Corporal Shephard is Rowlesburg, which is in West Virginia, almost due southwest of here. That's where Alyx is. That's where D0G needs to go.
First, though, he needs to look through the remains of White Forest. Just in case someone got left behind.
After seventeen minutes of searching, he finds someone.
Pinned under a slab of concrete in what used to be Alyx's workspace is a tiny white plastic form,
limp and inert. D0G lifts the slab and pulls Skitch out, letting out a whine of concern. The little robot doesn't respond. D0G taps Skitch's chest, then his head, then rocks him back and forth, hoping to wake him. Still nothing. The tiny robot's eyes don't light, and his servos don't so much as twitch.Mwooooooooaaaaaaaaaawwww...
D0G bawls. Skitch can't be dead, he just can't
be! Alyx could fix him, couldn't she? But Alyx isn't here, she's in Rowlesburg, hundreds of miles away...
That's it. D0G will bring Skitch to where Alyx is and then she can fix him. D0G knows how he'll do it, too. Seven-point-five seconds' digging through the rest of the workspace uncovers a small basketlike affair with four straps attached. Alyx had been fiddling with this in her spare time to see if D0G could be rigged with a harness to carry the twins once they're born. The carrier is little more than a crude prototype, but it'll serve D0G's purpose.
Hooking the straps onto his own undercarriage one-handed is tricky, as is placing Skitch in the basket without causing further injury, but D0G is patient and he manages. Eeep mwrrrp,
he says consolingly to his little friend. Don't worry, Skitch, you'll be back with Alyx again soon.
But before they can go, there's one last piece of business to take care of. D0G has to make sure the Combine can't follow them to Rowlesburg. And if he
figured out Dan Shephard's message, they probably can too, right?
D0G lumbers back over to the carved rock. His built-in gravity gun has been knocked slightly out of alignment, but it's still trivially easy to pull the rock out of the ground and fling it across the ravine, where it hits the cliff face on the far side and shatters into a dozen pieces. He watches it shatter, then nods in satisfaction and turns to the southwest to start the long trek.
Rowlesburg, here they come.