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Chapter 2: It's a baby

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2B blinked. She rubbed her eyes, took another look at A2 and was assured that yes, there was a miniature lifeform not dissimilar to an extremely young android.

"What?" Was all the gynoid could utter. Her synapses were firing, but nothing could get past the massive amount of WHAT going through her thoughts.

"A baby? Do you mean an infant human?" 9S asked, incredulously.

"Yes."

"Where did you find it?" 2B demanded, snapping out of her daze.

"Where the machines were. They seemed to have been worked into a frenzy for some reason. After I eliminated them, I went looking for the source of what had driven them mad. I found a door. And behind that door, I found a laboratory of some kind. Cryogenics perseveration pods were within, and a single unit was still operating," A2 explained. She strode over to a relatively clear and clean spot in front of the Terminal and lay the bundle in her arms down gently.

2B got her first good look of the last human in existence.

It was tiny and pudgy with a faint wisp of dark hair atop its head. Its skin was pale, not unlike her own. It was asleep, soft breathes lifting its chest up and down faintly. It was swaddled in a powder blue blanket and a onesie of a darker shade.

And it was adorable. 2B felt something tighten inside her chest when she looked at it, emotions she was unsure of flooding her.

"Is it… alright?" she asked hesitantly. She forced herself to look away from the child to stare at A2.

A2, for her part, was fussing over the tiny being, making sure it was comfortable.

"I do not know. Most of the data inside the facility was corrupted, and I have no idea what kind of substance or technology was used to preserve the baby. Also, it's a male."

"A boy, then," 9S said. "Young human males were generally called 'boys' until they reached adulthood. And before that, childhood was divided into several stages. Infant, toddler, child, pre-teen, and teen."

"Interesting. How do you know that?" 2A inquired.

"Oh, um, when the Tower was getting ready to fire, I may have hacked a few portions of the Server. Just to see if what I'd discovered about humanity's extinction was really true," 9S admitted, a tinge of guilt in his voice.

"A few of the files I obtained contained an eclectic assortment of knowledge. I know a bit about cow husbandry, the mating habits of forty-nine different species of birds, I can speak a dead language called 'Chinese,' and I have over twenty terabytes of media related to cats doing cute things."

"Huh. Anything you can tell us about how to raise a human child?" A2 asked.

"A few things. Like I said, very eclectic."

"It'll have to do for now, then," A2 said with a sigh. She settled down onto the floor next to the baby.

"I'm going to watch over it for now. 2B, stay on guard with POD 153 for any machines. 9S, concentrate on getting yourself fixed."

A pair of 'Yes, ma'am!' was her response, and she smiled fondly at her two companions before focusing on the baby once more. Compelled by some force beyond her understanding she reached out and stroked the top of the infant's head. He scrunched up his face at the contact, and A2 feared he may have been woken up.

She breathed a sigh of relief when he did not.

A smile flitted across her face, and she scooted closer to child. She dared not hold him close, for fear of hurting the much frailer being with her superior strength. But she did not shy away, either. Nothing was going to harm this child. Nothing was going to take away the meaning she had found in her life.

Anything that dared to try would perish upon her blade.

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Androids did not sleep. They could, however, enter a sort of standby mode where all there functions were put on hold for a short while, but could be instantly reactivated.

It was typically used when repairs were being done, but a few androids, Resistance and YoRHa alike, would use it to replay memories or access data of a more relaxing nature, similar to what they imagined 'dreaming' to be like.

A2 was embarrassed to say that she had slipped into this mode during the night. Or early morning, technically, since the sun had been an hour away when she had finally returned to their hideout.

So it was a great shock to her systems to be jolted out of her Sleep Cycle by a high pitched wailing.

She shot to her feet, hand reaching for her katana.

"A2, stand down! It's just the baby!"

She froze, and the gynoid warrior felt embarrassment creep up upon her. A2 looked down and saw the human she had rescued bawling his eyes out.

"Oh, there, there, don't cry, you're safe," she cooed. She sheathed her blade (or more accurately let it float at her back) and scooped up the infant. His blanket was dirty now, and she absently brushed some dust off of it.

She looked around their base and took stock as she comforted the baby. 2B was packing up the few meagre supplies they had into either a sack fashioned from raw beast hide or the POD's spatial distortion storage. Her katana, a fully upgraded Virtuous Contract, was already hovering around her back.

9S was already out of the Terminal, his major injuries taken care of. He was checking on POD 153 and running diagnostics on the handful of advanced tech they possessed. His own weapon, a fully upgraded Cruel Oath, was floating at his waist.

She could not help but think of her own weapon. A typical, mass produced one: a Type-40 Sword. Merely scavenged, and holding no true meaning to her. It was just a weapon. She felt a tinge of envy towards 2B and 9S for having their own custom-made katanas. After all, only the best YoRHa agents got their own unique items. She missed her weapon. She'd have to see if she could find it someday.

She shook her head and concentrated on the baby in her arms. She had something much more precious to worry about right now.

"Why is it crying?" she asked. Partly rhetorical, partly desperate to appease the child.

"It could be hungry, I suppose," 9S said hesitantly. "I seem to recall that babies would cry if they needed anything. It was up to the parent to figure out what exactly was required, though."

"What do they eat?" 2B asked.

"They drink milk," 9S said. "The baby in our possession looks too young to be able to consume solid matter as sustenance yet. Actually, does he have any teeth? Could you check for me?"

A2 nodded and gently propped the baby's lips with the tip of her right index finger. She was careful to clean the appendage off before doing so, of course.

The child immediately latched onto the digit, sucking for all it was worth. This gave A2 a chance to explore the insides of his mouth.

"I feel four," she replied, eventually removing her finger. The baby quickly teared up and began to wail again.

"It must be about at least half a year old then," the Scouter model mused with a wince at the volume of the crying. "Maybe closer to one whole year."

"So what can we do?" 2B asked, slinging the pack over her shoulder.

"We need to find an animal that produces milk. Any female mammal should suffice," 9S explained.

A2 looked out the hole in the apartment's wall at the wild, untamed land beneath them. Far below, she could barely make out a herd of moose milling around one of the giant trees.

"Hold him," she instructed 9S, handing the baby over to the shorter android.

He blinked and stumbled a bit in surprise but quickly rallied and held the child close.

The baby even stopped crying for a moment as he looked up at the new stranger who was holding him with curious and bright, almost glowing, green eyes.

Meanwhile, A2 once more flung herself off the edge of the building. This time aimed at the group of animals below.

"Should we follow her?" 9S asked, glancing over at 2B. She nodded.

"She didn't bring a container for the milk. Unless she plans on bringing us a female moose for the child to directly feed from, it would be prudent to remind her of that fact."

9S shivered at the thought and quickly nodded in agreement. He would not put it past the older android to do something like that. As brilliant a fighter as A2 was, she seemed like the sort of person to leap before thinking.

With extreme care and caution, the pair of androids descended the building. The bundle of joy in 9S's arms was beyond precious, and they had no intention of accidentally hurting him so soon after finding him.

"Did, did A2 just tackle that moose?" 9S asked as he stared off into the distance.

"Yes. Watch your step, now."

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"I have the milk. Now what?"

9S glanced at the glass jar they had filled with an irate moose's milk. It had been an interesting sight, watching the taciturn 2A beat up an entire herd of moose for a single cup of milk.

The only male android of the group then looked at the baby.

"I think we just pour it into his mouth? Slowly though, so he doesn't choke on it," he suggested.

2A nodded and held out her arms. To his credit, 9S only hesitated for a second before handing the baby back. The elder female android was covered in leaves and dirt, but she was the one who'd gotten the milk.

Besides, there would be other chances to hold the baby.

With exaggerated care, 2A dribbled the milk into the infant's mouth. He greedily began to slurp it up. After one or two frights when he started to cough it up, they figured out that the baby needed to be held at an angle propped up in their arms, rather than lying straight down when they fed him.

It made dripping the milk into his mouth harder, but he did not cough or choke afterwards. When there was about half of the milk left 2A stopped. Though the baby squirmed and pouted they had to ration what they had. And find a way to preserve it for the long haul.

"What now? Where do we go from here?" 9S asked after a while. The baby had settled down to sleep and they were walking randomly down a path through the urban forest.

"We care for him, obviously," 2B stated.

"Yeah, but, how? I know very little about humans beyond their formative years. Only bits and pieces. And we don't have the resources to properly feed or clothe him either," 9S protested.

There was another long silence.

"Could we take him to YoRHa?"

"No."

A2's words were quiet, so not to disturb the sleeping infant, but they were so full of venom that they sent a shiver of fear to run down the other two android's spines.

"Why not? They have the best technology, and a link to the Server! We don't know enough about humans to care for one, let alone a child!" 9S argued.

"I know you dislike them for what they've done, and I too can't help but feel betrayed by how often they… reset me." 9S looked angrily to the side while 2B stared at the ground, ashamed of her own part in it all. The young-looking male shook his head.

"But that does not mean I don't think this child needs better than what we can provide, and am willing to swallow my distaste for that purpose."

"They will use him as a tool," A2 replied. "Use him as a puppet leader, a propaganda act. Imagine it; 'the last human, a miracle made flesh, come to guide us onto the right path.'"

She snorted and looked at the sky for a bit before turning her attention back to 9S.

"She's right," 2B said, speaking up for the first time. "YoRHa is in the midst of a crisis of faith. Showing them a real human will only make them become overly zealous in his upbringing. And I agree, Commander White would use him as a tool, if only to control the rampaging units. She'd have the best intentions, and would never dream of harming him, but she would still fail to raise him as a person. After all, who among us can say we are human enough to teach the last son of humanity how to be, well, human."

Another long silence, this time filled with contemplation. 9S looked thoughtful before he snapped his fingers as he came to a realization.

"Emil!"

"Who?" A2 inquired, glancing at the Scout model. 2B's eyes widened as she caught his train of thought.

"Emil is a… something," the young android said. "He claims to be have been human once, possibly back during some sort of early phase in the GESTALT Project. I think. Most of his memories are fragmented from the long years he's been around."

"Yes, I recall," 2B said, mulling the idea over. "He was slightly hostile for a while, but calmed down after we helped him. And beat him up."

"Yeah," 9S said, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. "He did have some interesting items for sale, though. Wonder where he got them…"

"Anyways, he probably knows more about humans than any other being around. We should go to him for help! And even if he isn't human, or knows much about raising humans, we don't have much to lose. He could be a friend and help protect the baby if nothing else."

"Where does he live?" A2 asked, intrigued despite herself. She seemed to recall an odd creature by that name, but she wasn't sure.

"Near the ruins of Relic City, beneath the abandoned shopping mall," 2B said.

"That's close to where this whole mess started," A2 mused. The other androids shared a look.

"And if I recall, a Resistance cell led by a woman named Anemone is nearby as well. Perfect. We have close access to parts, technology, and another human! We'll be able to care for the baby until he grows up."

"What will we do then?" 2B asked. She was curious as to what the older android was thinking of.

"When he reaches adulthood, we will present him to YoRHa," A2 said, grimacing as she spoke her idea. "I despise their ways, but 9S is correct in that they have all the most advanced technology and science, as well as the best weapons. We want them on our side."

The long haired gynoid sighed. "I'd feel much better letting the human be able to make his own decisions if and when we bring him into the spot light."

"We need to start rebuilding, to make Earth a beacon of hope in the stars once more. If it takes a kick in the pants from the last human alive to get us androids to start living for ourselves, so be it."

A2 started to walk off faster in the direction of Relic City. 2B and 9S shared a look of surprise. They'd never heard the older model speak so passionately, or for so long, about anything. Their surprise then morphed into a smile. This baby was already changing their lives. One android at a time.