Chapter 34: Dawning of a New Era
"My lady, what are you doing?" 13R stared at her 'master' as the machine-turned-android twirled about in front of a mirror in a strapless purple dress.
The scene was more than a bit disconcerting, as besides the oddly pristine full-length mirror and purple garment, everything else in the vicinity was ruined.
The two of them were no longer in the broken alien mothership, but the bombed-out husk of a building in a rubble strewn section of some nameless Japanese town. Ten thousand years of war and decay had reduced pretty much everything to dust and memories. Blackened buildings, darkened sky, and a bitter chill were all that was left of the country that had been first hit by the White Chlorination Syndrome, and later the staging ground of the alien invasion itself.
"I am trying on clothing," Purple Athena replied to her aide's query, while even as her focus remained on her reflection.
13R bit back a sarcastic comment. 'Did I just spend an hour searching this desolate wasteland because my boss wandered off in search of clothing?'
She took a deep breath, or the android equivalent of one, and instead of getting snippy with the person who could scrap her in an instant, counted to three before trying again.
"Okay, I can see that. Why, though?" the Recon gynoid demanded. "You're… well, you're not really a Machine Lifeform anymore, but you aren't technically an android, either. Why bother?"
"While it is true gods like myself have no need of bothersome human ideals, my beloved is still human for now, and thus I must make sure I can cater to his preferences," Athena replied. "And the magazine does have some useful advice for catching a man's eye."
"Magazine?" 13R wondered, tilting her head to the side. The ascended artificial entity gestured vaguely at the ground, and 13R spotted a human fashion magazine lying in the dirt. It was also bizarrely intact, with only some soot and dirt smudges on it from where it'd lain on the floor of the ruined store.
Picking it up, 13R flipped through the pages, reading it curiously. And as Purple Athena had claimed, there was a gossipy 'advice' section with tips on how to make a man notice a well-dressed woman.
'I wonder if any of these would work on 9S?' 13R mused, before shaking her head. 'No! Wait! Don't get distracted!'
"Alright, that makes sense, I guess," The Recon gynoid hummed thoughtfully. "But what makes you think this guy you're after will return your feelings?"
Purple Athena stopped spinning and primping in front of the mirror, and froze. Like a doll, she slowly and jerkily turned her head to stare at 13R, who gulped nervously at the deranged expression on her boss's face.
"Oh, silly 13R! Alexander would never abandon me! We're MEanT tO bE ToGeTHeR!"
Someone had once said that YoRHa's 13th personality series were something the Japanese referred to as 'Yandere.' 13R had felt insulted. Her love for 9S was pure! And completely reciprocated! He'd proposed to her inside of a church, after all!
Now, though, as she stared at the insane, blood-thirsty smile Purple Athena was giving her, the ex-YoRHa android felt she understood what that term really meant.
"O-of course!" 13R choked out. "I am quite silly, aren't I? Alexander loves you just as much as you do!"
"Of course he does!" Purple Athena said, and her smile became more normal and sincere, though her eyes had flashed purple for a worrying second. "Now, what do you think? Is the dress too much? I could make it shorter… do men like shorter dresses?"
"Probably," 13R said with a shrug. Her own experience with clothing was limited to the YoRHa uniforms, and those were supposedly quite 'short.' Especially the combat skirts they wore.
A thought then struck 13R and she frowned, giving Purple Athena a wary look. "Um, so, where did you find such an intact magazine? And mirror? And dress?"
"Well, it took a bit of work, but I repaired some of the stuff that was broken in here," Athena said lazily.
"You repair… huh?" The gynoid was confused, and scratched her head.
Athena giggled, then waved her hand in the air. Dust and ash suddenly began to swirl around in the room, and before 13R's eyes the particles of matter merged together, transforming into a piece of clothing!
It was a white blouse, and to all intents and purposes looked intact and completely new!
"Restoring something that has been reduced to such a forlorn state is tricky, but I've figured it out," Athena said proudly. "It's just a matter of harmonizing with the molecular traces and blueprints the object left behind and rebuilding it by following the data I've absorbed from the Mothership, the Tower Archives, and from the Lunar Repository."
"Y-you just remade something that was destroyed almost ten thousand years ago!" 13R gasped.
"Molecular Reconfiguring has always been a talent of mine," Purple Athena said, preening under the awe and disbelief coming from her servant. "As long as I know what it is I wish to make, I can recreate it, or restore it to its original conditions, even if I have but a single spec of matter left."
"How?!" 13R gasped out, to which Athena laughed.
"All things recall what they once were. A brick remembers the earth it came from, and a chair remembers the tree it once was. It's all about understanding the way maso reacts to quantum shadows – or memories, I suppose you could call them – of the object in question," Purple Athena stated. "Using Psychokinesis to read the 'past' of an object, I can know what it was, what it looked like, and so on, and then with my knowledge of how molecules and matter sticks together and works, I can easily return something back to the way it once was."
13R nodded, numbly. She didn't understand a lot of what her boss had said, the terms too complex for a Recon model to dedicate processing power to solving. But she did understand that this power the delusional AI possessed could change everything.
Who cares if an entire army of Machine Lifeforms was destroyed! Purple Athena could simply fix the broken ones and remake the Machines that'd been vaporized! Damaged resources or buildings? Restored! New weapons and materials? Brand-new with a wave of her hands!
And yet 13R shivered not with fear, but excitement. She knew she had backed the right horse, as the old human saying went. Now nothing would stand in the way of her reclaiming her beloved 9S from that bimbo 2B!
'So begins the start of a new world,' she thought to herself as she watched the childish and flighty 'goddess' pose in front of the mirror while trying on different outfits.
A wicked grin spread across her face, and if she could see it, 13R would realize her smile was just as twisted as the one her boss had worn earlier.
Truly, it was a perfect example of the blind leading the blind. Or a Yandere leading another Yandere, to be more precise.
"Are you certain this is what you want to do, Alexander?" A2 inquired, even as she fussed with his outfit, making minute adjustments to the tie he was wearing.
"Mom, please!" Alex uttered, trying to resist his mother's attention and affection. He was unsuccessful.
Finally, after another couple of alterations to the neckwear he wore, A2 stepped back to admire her work.
"You don't have to go," A2 continued after a few terse seconds of silence. "It's just a PR stunt."
"You have to let go of your hate for White and YoRHa, A2," 2B said. She stood at the entrance to Alexander's room, her hands on her hips as she glared at the Assault-type gynoid. A2 glared at her, but the android Alexander had come to call his aunt matched the look she was given.
"Alexander can make his own decisions," 2B stated gently.
"Mom, I want to go," Alex piped up. "I want to be there when it happens."
"Are you sure?" A2 whispered, turning her attention back to her surrogate son. He nodded, determined.
"I want to see my baby sister," he declared, and after a moment of trying to resist, A2 sighed and gave in.
"I am willing to… tolerate White so long as she does not bother me," A2 spat out in compromise.
"I highly doubt she's going to be in any state to give orders," 9S's voice called out from behind 2B. "From what I've learned from the archives, giving birth was a time consuming and mentally stressful period for human women. The artificial womb likely takes away some of the dangers a live birth might have, but I don't doubt the mental concerns and worries about safely birthing the first human child born in thousands of years will make Commander White in the mood to argue with you."
A2 waved the Scouter's words away. "Pah! She'll find a way. Always has."
"Try to at least pretend to be polite around her at least," 2B requested with a shake of her head. "You should try to let bygones be bygones."
"Oh, don't give me any of that sanctimonious crap! You just want to brownnose the commander in the hopes she is willing to give you and your boytoy the special priority on the waitlist for the reproduction upgrades," A2 growled.
"Th-that's not true!" 2B stammered, flushing red and looking away from the Assault-type and her 'nephew.' In the background, 9S could be heard spluttering in denial as well.
Her frown turned into a smirk, and A2 leered at the former Executioner with a grin that wouldn't have been out of place on Jaqueline.
"Come on, we're gonna be late," Alexander said, and with that, he managed to herd the androids down from his room and outside to the garage.
Hatchet had managed to restore a pair of old sports cars. They were sleek looking things, one jet black the other ruby red. He'd modified them to drive over practically any kind of surface.
The odd-ball family piled in. Alexander had wanted to drive his hover-cycle to the Bunker, but he'd been vetoed. The only two people who could keep up with him were Jaqueline and Emil, and both of them had been gone since yesterday helping with last minute prep at the Bunker.
"Come on, let's go," Hatchet called out as Sebastian and Alexander loaded up into the spiffy red car, and the ex-YoRHa units piled into the black model.
"Are we picking up Popola and Devolva from the Resistance base on the way?" 9S inquired as he slipped into the backseat, 2B by his side while A2 took the wheel.
"Nah, they're already at the Bunker. Being the only ones who have any experience with human child care they've been requisitioned to help oversee the birth," Hatchet replied, revving the engines with an eager grin. "Seatbelts, everyone!"
With that warning, he then blasted out of the garage, speeding down the repaired driveway and onto the mostly repaired road leading into the city ruins.
Much of the surrounding infrastructure had been fixed up in the last few years. The roads would be vital for transporting goods and androids all over the area as more of the Babylon's Garden facilities were constructed and finished.
Add in repaired buildings, semi-functional plumbing, and some basic electrical wiring, and numerous sections of the ruined city were starting to look like they had been before the collapse of mankind all those millennia ago.
The ride to the Bunker was relatively short, though to Alexander it felt way too long.
When they finally reached the edge of the Sunken City – now with many sections drained, dredged, and repaired – the bulk of the Bunker loomed on the horizon like a metallic island.
Numerous tankers and ships had towed the wreck of the Bunker out of the middle of the ocean following its crash there in the wake of the Red Girl Disaster, and now it occupied the old harbor like a secondary city.
YoRHa had ensured the Bunker would not sink further, and had expanded in the years since it was confirmed Alexander, the Last Human, existed. They had purpose again, and it was to ensure his survival. YoRHa patrols still launched from its hangars, and certain advanced technologies were manufactured within its onboard industrial fabricators.
That wasn't all. Daily ferries moved goods to and from the facility, and the area around the pier showed considerable improvements. Some Resistance androids had even restored a couple buildings and set up shops.
It was still clearly a crashed space station bobbing in the water off the shore. But the Bunker looked much better compared to the last time the YoRHa agents had seen it.
'Though, given it'd been exploding and overrun with virus-maddened androids, that's not saying much,' 9S mused.
The docks were bustling as usual, but there was a fervor to the crowd as countless off-duty androids – Resistance and YoRHa alike – stood shoulder to shoulder, alternating between staring out at the Bunker with wide, hopeful expressions and watching the roads intently with eager looks on their faces.
"He's here!" someone called out as the two sports cars drove up, and hundreds of heads turned to stare at the pseudo-convoy.
"Adoring fans at twelve o'clock," Hatchet muttered under his breath. He glanced at Alexander in the rearview mirror. "You doing okay, kid?"
"I'm fine," the Last Human (for now) lied through his teeth as he stared at the mass of androids who were now chanting and cheering his name as they got closer.
'Calm down! Deep breathes! I can do this!' Alexander told himself, swallowing nervously. 'This isn't like the last time. They know better.'
'I wish Blue was here.' That stray though only worked to make Alexander depressed. Even a friendly Machine Lifeform wouldn't be welcomed among the androids today. This was their special event. The reason they'd been fighting the Machines for so long.
Alexander wasn't sure if the androids in the crowd before him knew what the word 'sacrilege' meant, but if they did, they'd no doubt feel it a fitting word to describe the mere thought of a Machine being present when the Earth regained one of its lost masters.
'We are not gods,' Alex thought sadly. 'But that's what these androids want us to be.'
Alex then plastered a smile onto his face, silently praying the androids wouldn't notice how fake it was, and waved at the crowd as it parted before the vehicle.
They let him and his escorts past, their cheers ringing in the air. The mood was festive, and it was without a doubt the most upbeat Alex had ever seen the androids, Resistance and YoRHa alike.
A bridge was lowered, allowing the car to drive into one of the Bunker's old hangars, now repurposed to accept ground vehicles.
Hatchet parked the red car, and A2 pulled in with the black one, parking beside it. All of them stepped out, and were greeted with by a number of T- and O-models.
"Welcome to the Bunker, Alexander Spero," they intoned in unison, bowing at the waist as the Last Human came into view.
"Hasn't changed at all," 9S muttered to himself as he looked around the gloomy interior of the former space station.
"This is no place to raise a child," A2 grumbled, 2B nodding in silent agreement with the older gynoid.
A pair of excited Operators emerged from the crowd, angling towards their respective former partners.
"21O! 6O! How are you two doing?" 9S greeted them.
"Great! Although, things have been tense recently," 6O complained. "I think the artificial womb is messing with Commander White's emotional settings. This past couple of weeks leading up to the birth has seen her acting… erratically."
"Supposedly, that's how human women would act as well when pregnant, so I don't think it's a glitch," 9S replied, rubbing his chin in thought. "Though I can't say I know why Jacqueline would make an android go through the same things. Authentic experiences are one thing, but if it's actively disrupting things in the Bunker, perhaps that feature should be phased out in future models."
"Agreed. Because if acting angry one minute and then weepy the next is a mandatory part of motherhood, I'll have to turn down the upgrade," 21O said, shivering a bit at the thought.
"And where's Jacky?" Hatchet interrupted, concern filling his tone.
"She's with the commander, keeping her company while also doing last minute diagnostics," 6O said, turning to the nervous Resistance android. "Popola and Devolva are also with them. They are the only ones programmed with human interaction software, so the baby will be kept safe, one way or another."
"Then let's go there," Alex said, and with that, the group was whisked away to the med-bay. It had been expanded compared to the last time the human had seen it.
'Though at that time, I was hopped up on drugs and sick as a frog,' Alex mused as he homed in on the big window showing off a surgery center on the other side of the glass.
Within the enclosed room were the four androids they were looking for, Jaqueline, Commander White, and Popola and Devolva. White was lying back on a surgical table dressed in an old world style hospital gown, while numerous metallic limbs like those of a spider hovered above her, ready to do surgical things to the commander of YoRHa.
Jaqueline was busy typing away at a console, running through a series of complicated schematics data, as well as a life sign monitor which beeped with soothing regularity. She had on a pristine white lab coat.
The redhead duo stood to the side, wearing their usual getups, and were watching everything careful, though Popola did notice the other group's arrival and waved at Alexander as he all but pressed his nose to the glass in order to get a better view.
"Ah, welcome!" Jaqueline said in greeting to the observers, her voice coming through a speaker on the wall. "We're just about ready to begin."
She turned away from the computer terminals and put on a pair of rubber gloves as she approached Commander White.
"Now, I am going to disable all of your servo-motors, save the ones in your head," the kooky Resistance genius informed White. "I'll also be disabling the pain receptors. You'll still have full sensory function in your head, though. Wouldn't want you to miss this, after all."
"Do it," White ordered, and Jaqueline nodded, then pressed a few buttons. Straps automatically lashed themselves around her wrists and ankles, and a wire was plugged into the back of the commander's neck. She went limp, her limbs no longer moving. Only her head could still function.
"Now, this operation would technically be called a Caesarian Birth, or C-Section, among human medics," Jaqueline informed everyone as the spider-limbs descended onto the immobile gynoid. "It involves cutting open the stomach to access the womb, usually only done when there are complications in the birth."
"And the mothers would survive that?" 2B asked incredulously, her disbelief and revulsion at the idea of hurting a human, even if it was for the sake of another human, shared amongst her mechanical companions.
"In most cases, yes," Jaqueline replied. "Medicine was sufficiently advanced for it to succeed over 90% of the time when it was first introduced. Though considering we are androids, I decided that this would be the optimal way to extract the newborn humans instead of designing the artificial wombs to deliver humans the old-fashioned way."
"Old-fashioned way?" Sebastian inquired, head tilted to the side in confusion.
"Let's just say it involved trying to shove a watermelon through a pipe that normally only could fit grapefruits," Jaqueline said with a shake of her head. "Really messy. Androids are not built for it, and let's leave it at that."
The surgical tools whirred to life, and began to cut away at Commander White's stomach. Alex winced, but didn't look away. After a couple seconds of work, some mechanical claws removed a large patch of the commander's 'skin,' revealing the metallic egg-like device inside of her.
Jaqueline hastily wiped some residual goo away from the surface, and plugged a cord into the side of it. She quickly scanned the bio-data coming from the artificial womb and gave a sharp nod at the twins. Everything was going well, so far.
Then, with extreme care, a few more components were attached to the surface of the egg-like baby chamber, including a pair of hoses which began to syphon away the amniotic fluid within while also pumping in fresh oxygen for the baby still sealed away.
After several nerve-wracking minutes, a beep rang out from the fake womb, and the hoses were disengaged. Jaqueline then delicately pressed down on the surface of it, and there was a faint "click!" followed by a panel popping open.
Ever so carefully, Jaqueline reached in, and reverently removed a tiny, squirming little creature. It was pink and soft and squinting, and as soon as it felt the cool air of the surgery room on its skin, it burst into tears, wailing loudly.
Despite the sudden onslaught of crying, everyone sighed with relief as nothing seemed to be wrong, at least visually.
"It's a girl!" Jaqueline announced gleefully as Devolva came over and snipped the umbilical cord still connected to the fake womb.
"I want to hold her," White demanded, eyes locked onto the squirming little bundle that had previously been growing within her.
"Give us a sec to put you back together," Popola said as she took the newborn child from Jaqueline with quiet awe and reverence.
White grit her teeth, but obeyed, letting Jaqeuline and Devolva clean out the last traces of birthing goo from the womb before closing it up and letting the surgical limbs reattach her skin. Meanwhile, Popola had very carefully wiped the baby down with a soft, damp cloth and taken her vitals and measurements, before wrapping her in a white blanket.
When she was finally given motor functions back and allowed to sit up and take her child into her arms, White's eyes were glistening with unshed tears.
The baby, who had quieted down during Popola's treatment, began to sniffle a bit, but was shushed and calmed by White rocking her back and forth gently. For several minutes she and the rest of the androids just stared at the lifeform she'd helped create.
"Have you decided on a name for my sister yet?" Alex asked, breaking the silence.
"I have," White declared, though her voice was still soft. "Her name shall be Cleopatra. Cleopatra Spero. In honor of the most famous human woman in history."
"May she lead humanity into a prosperous future," Jaqueline whispered.
"Glory to Mankind, my daughter," White uttered.
"Glory to Mankind!" the androids watching this echoed.
And Alex just stared with fascination at the tiny baby in the commander's arms who had black hair and green eyes, just like he did.