Chapter 1: Beginnings
This world was rotten and wretched. And yet, after all was said and done, A2 could not hate it. For all the sorrows it had caused, the world possessed undeniable wonders that captivated the mind and soul.
Seated on the roof of a crumbling skyscraper and staring out over the ruins of some city or another, with wild life surrounding her, A2 bowed her head in shame. She had failed. Some might claim she had succeeded. But not her. Never her.
The Ark was gone. Taken to who knows where by the Gestalt Machine Twins Adam and Eve. Probably crashed landed on Mars for all she knew.
The Tower was broken, and the Red Girls trapped in an infinite loop, unable to complete their objectives without deleting themselves.
And the Server. The Lunar Depot. The Final Resting Place of Man. All of mankind's data, from their history to their arts and philosophy, was safe from annihilation. Maybe in this way, humanity would live on.
The feminine android shook her head to clear the thoughts from her head. No, humanity did live on, their memories encoded into every single android, be they YoRHa or otherwise.
How cruel their creators were, she thought, to have blessed and cursed their facsimiles with free will. How maddening it was that they were now able to decide what to do.
A2 looked into the sky, frowning. YoRHa was… in disarray. Yes, that was perhaps the best way to describe it. Commander White and the rest of the primary Operating staff had their hands full trying to keep the Combat models from committing suicide, and from the Support models from doing the same, but with less weapons involved.
And the Resistance? Without anything to actively resist, barring the occasional Wild Machine Lifeform, they weren't sure what to do. Some groups were starting to rebuild. Restoring buildings and facilities all across Earth to live and work in.
Even if mankind was dead and gone, they still had mouths to feed, parts to replace, things to do. And, without the obedience programmed into them by YoRHa, the Resistance 'droids were far more able to explore and develop their 'humanity' now that everything seemed to be done.
The androids had a chance now to choose their own destiny. Where that would lead them, A2 did not know. But it had to be better than what it had been before. Still, it did not feel like she had won. And that sat bitterly within her.
Had she wanted the lie to continue to be perpetuated? No. Yes. Maybe. In the end, the reason she felt she had failed was simple: She did not know if she could consider these outcomes as 'winning.'
"A2, are you alright?"
The white-haired woman turned, the doves surrounding her flying away.
Emerging from the building with a stumbling gait was a fellow white-haired android, tall and slim. 2B. Or perhaps 2E? A2 didn't know which she preferred at this point.
Regardless of names, 2B was very similar in appearance. A2 had been the model the other android had been based off of. Since everything had settled down A2 had chosen to let her hair grow out again.
Not sure how that worked, either. Apparently, they were bio-mechanical in nature. One part modified human genetics to three parts technology.
"You have that look on your face again," 2B said softly, shaking A2 from her thoughts. The older android smiled weakly at the construct she'd come to regard as a sister of sorts.
"Just thinking about the future," A2 replied, turning back to watch the sky. The sun was starting to set, casting ruby glows across the ruins. So beautiful. So grim.
She turned back to 2B. "How's 9S?"
"His repairs are coming along," 2B claimed, sitting down next to her mentor and sister. "Another day or so should see him up and running at 60% efficiency. We'll be able to leave soon after."
"I see. That's good," A2 said with a nod of her head.
"Does he… remember?" She asked hesitantly. 2B paused before nodding slowly.
"Yes. And he is… sorry about stabbing you."
A2 snorted, but it was a sound of amusement rather than annoyance.
"I'm glad." The pair relaxed for a while in silence, simply watching the sky darken and the stars come out.
"What comes next?" 2B inquired. "What do we do now, knowing that everything is a lie?"
"Do as the humans did, and live," A2 replied. "They never knew the truth of their existence, and that seems in a way just as cruel as us knowing ours was a lie. Yet they endured, and made marvels. Like this city. Like us."
Further musings were interrupted by a beeping. POD 153 floated over to pair.
"Warning: Hostile Machine Lifeforms detected."
"I'll take care of this," A2 announced with a sigh, standing up. 2B watched with worry as she walked over to a katana lying nearby.
"Do you not want me to come?"
"You and 9S are still being repaired, and the nano-synthesizers are an older model. You'll only slow me down. Not to mention your cogitation processors haven't fully recovered from the Logic Virus's caress. And I don't want you getting hurt anymore."
That said, A2 took a running leap off the building and plummeted down towards the ground. 2B stared sadly out over the landscape before rising and staggering back into the ruined apartment complex the trio had claimed for themselves.
It was dark and crumbling within. Most of the furnishing had rotted away over the centuries, leaving only rusted skeletal frame and scraps.
One thing did stand out though, despite being almost as rusted and worn down as its surroundings: a large, squat box-like device, shaped not unlike an Old Earth 'vending machine.'
What it was in reality was an Access Point, or more perhaps a Protocol Terminal, or just Terminal. Each one was an advanced piece of tech, scattered across the globe alongside the androids. They were used to download and save an androids data, ensuring they could be reuploaded into a new body. They also doubled as communication relays in places where the orbital satellites had limited access, providing radio links and map data, and as miniature fabricator units that could, if provided enough materials, pull off limited field repairs.
The trio's wounds were slightly more than what a mere 'field repair' could pull off, though, so they'd taken turns inside, healing up to the point they could move unassisted. Then, they could search for better repairs.
"2B? Is everything alright? I heard POD 153 leave and…"
"A2 went to take care of it," the combat android explained as a curious and worried young voice came the Terminal.
"Oh. I see." An awkward silence fell on the pair.
2B leaned against the Terminals' side, ignoring the rust stains she was collecting.
"I'm so glad you're alright."
"Me too, 2B. When the virus infected you, I thought you were done for…" 9S replied, his voice distorted by the Terminal.
The young-looking S-model had not believed his eyes when he had found 2B's body. She was alive! Or at least, capable of repairs. With the source of the infection cut off, and the Server containing the antidote protocols, 9S had proceeded to purge the Logic Virus from 2B. In no time at all, her Blackbox was restored to a semblance of functionality.
Then, overwhelmed by guilt at having slain A2, the badly damaged 9S dragged his body back to where he had left her, and with 2B's assistance, had fixed her up slightly.
After that, it was only a matter of finding a place to lay low that had tools for survival. Luck was on their side, and one of the abandoned buildings revealed an Access Point. Old and slow, but with its connection to the Bunker severed, the androids had spent a lot of time getting it running again, and healing up.
And that time had allowed the trio to come to grip with what had happened, and what their relationships with each other even were.
They had settled into a pseudo-family unit with A2 as the mother figure, and 2B and 9S her… disciples? Children? Cousins? They had yet to fully figure it out themselves, but they were working on it!
The duo descended into a companionable silence, waiting for their older sibling or whatever A2 to return. They both hoped she was alright.
"Why. Are. There. So. Many. MACHINES!?" A2 shouted, slicing apart the thirty fifth attacker of the evening. And at least a dozen more remained.
They were swarming around the basement of a large tumbled down complex. She was not sure what it had been used for, but from the scraps that remained she guessed it had been a lab or factory of some kind.
Whatever had attracted the machines had whipped them into a frenzy, beyond what even the Red Girl's virus had been capable of. And A2 was going to destroy it. If only for ruining a quiet evening with her companions.
"Kill! KILL! Must not be allowed! CANNOT BE ALLOWED!" one of the machines screeched, and A2 decapitated its squat, ugly head. Again with that battle cry! Each one had been chanting it the whole time she'd been slaughtering the lot of them. It was grating on her nerves.
"Begone!" the android cried, slashing out with her blade and releasing a crushing shockwave that tore into the remaining foes. Two more shock-slices and the hoard was dead, put to the sword.
With a hum of satisfaction A2 strode forward over the remains. Some of them looked in rather good condition, possibly useful as raw materials for the Terminal. To her regret she had not brought POD 153 with her. The device's trans-liminal storage system would have come in handy. Ah well, she could carry a few odds and ends in her arms if necessary.
After a short walk through the depths of the abandoned building, she came across what she assumed had gotten the machines in a tizzy; a large, sealed door.
She tilted her head. This was it? What on Earth could it be hiding that made the machines so violent?
A quick glance showed a few things of interest. Namely, a smashed and broken control console of ancient design, some rubble that looked like it had once been furniture, and faded and peeling words painted on the door.
The only words A2 could read were 'C,' 'nic,' 'ser,' and 'ity,' though they seemed more like fragments of words based on the decay of the paint around them.
With a hum, A2 considered her options. The doors looked sturdy. They'd stood up to a concentrated machine assault for a few minutes with only a few dents to show for it. And whatever controls had once existed were gone.
With a shrug A2 charged up her katana.
Two Super Charged Shockwave Smashes later, and the door was sundered. She carefully slipped inside, and then grimaced at the darkness that presented itself. Right. No POD meant no lights.
She focused her mind on her katana again, only this time made sure that the charge she built up was small and harmless. A white glow surrounded her blade, and with it she had an improvised flashlight.
Carefully making her way through the new path, she found herself descending a flight of stairs before reaching another door. This one was much less impressive though, and a single kick was enough to open it.
What she found on the other side caused her mouth to drop open.
A cavernous space, hundreds of feet wide and tall, spread out before her. The gloom could not be penetrated clearly by her dinky sword-light, but what was revealed was astonishing. Dozens of metal and glass tubes, each one large enough to hold an android, even a bulky Maker type, filled the area. Tiny blinking lights dotted the tube-pods, most of them red.
After a moment A2 realized something. She was cold. The air was frigid, but thanks to her inorganic body it had taken longer to realize it. She glanced around, spotting a glass enclosed booth of some kind. She approached, but her steps faltered when she saw something slumped over in a chair.
A desiccated corpse. One with two arms, two legs, a head, and a physique not unlike her own.
"A human," she whispered in disbelief tinged with reverence. A dead one, slain by asphyxiation judging from the lack of taint a White Chlorination Syndrome infected corpse would have. At least, according to the data A2 had scrounged up about the fall of mankind. She drew closer to the body, which was dressed in a lab coat, and saw she was slumped in front of a computer. Primitive, yet miraculously intact.
And still working. Breath caught in her throat, she leaned over and tapped one of the keys. The screen lit up, revealing whatever had been worked on before the person's death.
"WARNING! Cryogenics systems failing! Please evacuate the ERROR ERROR Unable to connect to system ERROR ERROR failsafe engaged CAUTION Override Code Prima 5-231 in effect, all remaining power rerouted to Cryogenic Preservation Pod 77 ALERT Power low shut down in ERROR ERROR ERROR Pod 1-76 OFFLINE Inhabitants Status DECEASED Pods 78-100 OFFLINE Inhabitants Status DECEASED Please contact ERROR!"
A2 stared at the screen, unable to tear her gaze away. This was some sort of facility the humans had used to try and preserve their race!
Trembling the android reached out and pressed a few more keys. More data appeared and she soaked it all in. Then, in shock and mounting awe, she saw a single message.
"Cryogenic Preservation Pod 77 ONLINE Inhabitant Status ALIVE."
Alive. There was a human alive. After thousands of years…
A2 shook her head. No. She didn't trust the ancient device. Its code was badly corrupted, who knew what data it actually possessed anymore. She had to see for herself.
She dashed out of the room into the rows of large, suspended tubes. Numbers flashed before her eyes. 1. 2. 33. 46. 69. Then, finally, 77.
She stopped in front of it, hardly daring to breathe. To believe. A green light was lit up on the tubes surface, where only red was for all the others. With shaking hands she reached out and fumbled around the pod, trying to find a way to open it.
After a few tense hours of searching the facility and scanning the scrambled code that remained in the computers, she was finally able to transmit the activation code to thaw the human from its preserved state.
With a hiss of super condensed air and a gurgle of some kind of bio-preservation fluid, the pod lid opened, revealing its contents.
A2 would later swear that she did not cry. Everyone knew she was lying, but politely kept it to themselves.
2B was getting worried. It was nearly dawn, and yet A2 was not yet back!
"153, is she nearby?" she asked, rounding on the floating robot.
"Negative, 2A has not returned."
"Damn it all!" she cried, slamming her fist against the wall. Cracks spread out from the impact and dust rained down on her.
"Calm down, 2B! 2A is a strong fighter, she wouldn't lose to mere machines," 9S assured her from his spot inside the Terminal.
"It shouldn't take hours to do a routine clean up mission!" the feminine android protested. "What if she ran into another Gestalt Entity, or a Goliath-Class Machine, or rogue YoRHa agents?!"
"I understand your concern, but we can't do anything while we heal. How about this: We send out POD 153 to check on her in another hour or so?"
2B pursed her lips but relented with a nod. She sighed and turned to the hovering device.
"153, is she nearby?"
"Affirmative, 2A has returned."
"Damn it all wait what?" she demanded.
"You really shouldn't be pacing in your condition, 2B. We don't want you to aggravate the damage to your servos."
"That's what I've been saying!" 9S said loudly in agreement.
Filled with relief, 2B spun around, a smile on her lips. The smile froze and she stared at her mentor/sister/mother (?) with a look of extreme confusion and disbelief.
"A2, what is that in your arms?"
The battle-made android looked down at the object in her arms, up to 2B, back down at the object, then up to 2B once more.
"I thought it was obvious." She held out the bundle with a completely straight face.
"It's a baby."