Chapter 29: Ride through the gardens

The wind was fierce as it whipped away at his hair, but Alex paid it no heed. Behind his goggles, his eyes narrowed as a stream of data passed before the lens. Reading over it in a single glance, he followed the instructions that had popped up, and eased back on the throttle, slowing down slightly.

Then, he weaved in between multiple orange cones that had been set out for him, and easily maneuvered around each obstacle. He made a sharp turn at the end of the course, the cones evaded and not one had been knocked over.

He could see his aunt watching him down at the finish line, standing next to her own vehicle. Alexander revved his engines playfully before shooting down the track towards her. Before he got any closer, he hit the breaks, smoothly sliding the last couple of feet before stopping at his destination.

"Woo-hoo! Nice job, Alex!" Jaqueline cheered as the Last Human came to a halt beside her, the whir of the motor humming through the air.

"Thanks, Aunt Jacky," Alex said with a grin. He ran a hand through his hair, undoing the mess the wind had made of it. "It was another smooth ride!"

"You've taken to riding it like a fish to water," she commented with a nod, before patting the machine he was riding fondly.

Despite calling it a motorcycle, the vehicle Jaqueline had gifted Alexander was closer to a hover-speeder from that old sci-fi film about magic swordsmen.

It had the body of a motorcycle, but the wheels had been replaced with a pair of Machine Lifeform hover-discs, while YoRHa-grade Float-tech – the sort used by Pods and the Variable Fighters – had been incorporated into the rest of the device, turning it into a hover-craft complete with specialized safety protocols. It also had a smart-sync system, which allowed it to hook up to a rider's tactical visor – or in Alex's case, his unique goggles – and provide all kinds of helpful data to assist the user.

And thanks to some gravity magic courtesy of Emil, it was also crash-proof. It could hit a wall or go flipping head over tailpipe and still land safely as if nothing had happened. The skullboy used the same spell in his own scooter, so safety was guaranteed!

"Yup! I've gone and done it again! Gosh, I'm such a genius!" Jaqueline crowed. Alex rolled his eyes as his aunt praised herself and her inventions. She built herself a hovercycle of her own to test the technology out before she put it into his gift.

"So, what do you think? Have I learned enough to get your approval?" he inquired, and the gynoid nodded.

"Yes, I believe so. These past couple of weeks have shown you to be diligent and safety minded," Jaqueline concurred. "Here you go!"

She flipped him a plastic card that had his picture on it, along with some data like his date of birth (estimated, of course, they'd not been able to find out anything in the cyro-pod facility about his original birthday or previous parents), and home address (although 'Big-Ass Fancy Manor in the woods due north of Relic City' wasn't very informative).

"Humans called 'em Driver's Licenses. They were sorta like government ID's that gave you permission to drive, but also to buy cigarettes and booze. They were a key aspect of becoming an adult from what I understand," Jaqueline explained.

"Neat," he muttered, slipping it into his pocket.

"Well, we've got a bit of time before your lesson ends. Want to go on a drive? There's something I want to show you."

"Uh, sure, I guess I can," Alexander agreed, and his aunt grinned happily.

"Awesome! Wait a sec!" she turned and leaned over to check on her own hovercycle, making sure it was in working order.

It was hard for Alexander to tear his eyes away. He knew he treated her like a member of the family, but damn it, those pants were way too tight!

"Follow me," she said, getting onto her own hover-cycle. Alex snapped his gaze up, fighting down a blush as Jaqueline started up her engine. He mimicked her, and soon the two were blasting off out of the motor pool and leaving the base behind.

They sped down the streets of Relic City, the hover bikes smoothly turning the bumpy, broken stretches of asphalt into a pleasant ride. Alex could barely feel it when the bikes passed over a fallen lamppost or pothole!

Eventually the pair reached the vast canyon that separated the city from the forest with the medieval life emulating Machines, and began to drive along it to the north-west.

Nearly an hour later, and they'd gone further into the ruins of the city than Alexander had ever traveled before, to the point that most of the cityscape had been left behind. The skyscrapers had given way to overgrown suburban developments and housing, and eventually the forest itself on the both sides of the vast fissure faded behind, giving way to rolling hills and vast grassland.

The pair came to a stop atop at the edge of a cliff, which overlooked the grassy landscape. In the distance, Alex could just make out some mountains. Those weren't what they had all the way to see, however.

"Behold! Operation Babylon!" Jaqueline proudly declared, sweeping a hand across the horizon. Before them was a vast field of construction. Great swathes of land were cleared of rubble while the old buildings at the edge of Relic City were torn down and replaced with new ones.

Of these buildings, many were squat, multistory glass enclosures, others reminded the Last Human of the farms and ranches he'd seen in the human media files he had viewed in the past. Others had the look of industrial units.

"What is all of this?" Alex wondered aloud, and his aunt smirked.

"This is an effort to create specialized greenhouses and farming sites for mass scale food production. Food will be grown here, then processed in factories and refineries being built nearby as well. This will be an combined agricultural center capable of feeding hundreds of thousands of humans once it is complete," Jaqueline revealed proudly.

"There aren't even a couple dozen humans currently alive, though," Alexander pointed out, before frowning. "Wait, if you've begun building something like this, does that mean…"

"YES!" Jaqueline cheered. "We finally did it, Alex! A decade of grueling study and experiments has finally paid off! We've figured out a way to grow new humans! And it's all thanks to you!"

She then fished a photograph out of a pocket and passed it over to Alexander, who took it, his emotions in turmoil. Shock and disbelief, mingled with desperation, hope, nervousness, and not an insignificant amount of fear.

When he looked at the picture, however, several other emotions burst to the forefront. Namely, arousal and confusion.

"Why did you give me a photo of Commander White when she was undressed?" Alex demanded, blushing a red as he shoved the photo back into his aunt's hands.

"It's not like she was naked in the pic," Jaqueline said with a smirk as she took it back and returned it to the pocket it'd come from.

"Might as well have been," Alexander muttered. The skimpy undergarments the leader of YoRHa had worn had left very little to the imagination.

"Did you notice anything odd about White in the picture?" Jaqueline cajoled, and Alex frowned.

"Well, her stomach looked… bigger," the Last Human finally admitted. The Resistance Gynoid laughed and nodded.

"She should be. She's pregnant, after all!"

That made Alexander whip his head over to her, making Jaqueline cackle a bit.

"Yes, the Phoenix Egg artificial womb is a success! Inside of it, which is inside of her, is a human fetus we made by inseminating a spliced egg cell with a modified sperm cell sample. In another three to four months Whitey will give birth to the first human child since the last one was born in the year 2023."

"The first wave of new humans will have to be made via artificial insemination using lab grown egg and sperm cells. Got to make sure the fake womb can handle the stress of a growing infant," Jaqueline explained to her nephew. "But once all the kinks and bugs are ironed out, we'll begin passing them out to any android who wants one, along with the male counterpart to ensure successful insemination the natural way."

She waggled her eyebrows at him, and Alex flushed again, before looking away back towards the scenes of construction with a huff.

There was a long moment of silence between the two of them. Neither spoke, instead they quietly watched Operation Babylon continue to grow.

It was Jaqueline who finally broke the silence.

"In some ways, I think it's for the best your kind died out when it did," Jaqueline admitted to her pseudo-nephew. "From the records we've got access to, it's clear Earth was only a century away from an extinction-level ecological disaster of the human's own making. And even without that, economic and political data shows a major societal collapse was also imminent. White Chlorination Syndrome simply sped up the end."

"We're not going to let you humans go down the same route as you did before," Jaqueline sternly informed Alexander. "It's a blank slate we have to work with. We'll be able to educate you properly, and correct the mistakes of the past. You won't have to flail around blindly in the darkness of your own ignorance, anymore."

Alexander was silent, and seemed content to just keep staring out at the construction that was going on in the distance.

"Well?" she asked, feeling a mite unnerved by his lack of reaction. "I just told you I thought it was for the best your species had died off! That I plan on

"You know what I think?" Alexander asked, finally gracing his 'aunt' with a neutral expression on his face. "I think whoever built you androids made you too human for your own good."

"What?" Jaqueline uttered, confused by the comment.

"You might be right. Perhaps it was best that everything is wiped clean, and we can start over by cherry picking the best aspects of human civilization and teaching it to my future brothers and sisters. To teach them racism and bigotry is bad, that lying is bad, that cheating, greed, and violence are all terrible sins that bogged down our ancestors. That we can do better. But, can you truly claim that you can eradicate all of our evils?"

Alex sighed heavily. "You androids don't want humans, Aunt Jacky. Not really. You don't want the humans who fought and tortured each other for centuries over minor differences. Who built monuments to arrogant kings on the backs of slaves. I realized what you wanted when I was cornered in the Resistance base all those years ago. You want your idealized, perfect, flawlessly envisioned humans. You want gods, Aunt Jacky. And we are not that. We never were, never will be. We're as flawed as you androids are."

"Flawed?" Jaqueline demanded, though there was a nervous tremor in her voice.

"Flawed, aunty. Imperfect. YoRHa wouldn't have defectors if you were perfect."

Jaqueline couldn't argue against that, and could only nod and listen as Alexander continued, unabated.

"You can coddle us, comfort us, and guide us all you want. But, sooner or later, just like with YoRHa, humans are going to start questioning things. They'll start to become curious, and wonder if, perhaps, there's another way. Eventually, just as it happened many times throughout human history, we are going to choose freedom over safety. And what will you do when we decide we are through being treated like children, and want to make our own future, even if said future is one filled with pain and mistakes?"

Jaqueline had no answer to that. Or, if she did, she kept it to herself. Another drawn out moment of silence descended on the pair. When it was broken, this time it was by Alexander.

"What, uh, what will it be?" Alexander asked. "And will it be like a sibling, or something?"

"Scans indicate that it is a girl," Jaqueline replied. "And, genetically speaking, yes, she will be like a sister to you."

"I wonder what it's like to be a brother," he muttered to himself. He then shook his head. "Let's go back. If we're out here for much longer, mom is going to wonder where we are."

"Yeah, that's a good point," Jaqueline chuckled nervously. Even after almost fifteen years of motherhood, A2 was still the scariest android this side of the planet. Especially when it came to protecting her 'baby.'

The two turned their hovercycles around and zoomed back the way they came towards the interior of Relic City and the Resistance base.