Chapter 35: Baby Pics
"Your sister is most unusual," Blue said, peering at the holographic image Alexander had projected for her.
It showed Cleopatra Spero, wrapped up in a snug white onesie, with a soft, white plushie in the shape of a goat clutched in her grasp. She was nomming on it, drooling heavily all over the toy Sebastian had sewn together. It'd been a surprise to Alex that his 'cousin' had had a talent for sewing and knitting, but apparently the former Scanner model had been practicing for the last year or so because he'd read that soft, homemade, toys were the best for young children.
It also explained what Sebastian had been doing with all of the goat's wool he'd been gathering as well.
"How so?" Alex asked, curious as to how the Machine viewed a newborn human.
"It reminds me of one of those wriggly white grubs you can find under a rotten log," Blue admitted. "She has little to no motor function, possesses no teeth yet is still trying to hunt and eat an animal, and produces a copious amount of bodily fluids from all orifices. Human women must have been exceptionally talented to handle all of their offspring's needs at once."
"True, but she's still kinda cute, don't you think?" Alex inquired.
"She is," Blue admitted. "Looking at her triggers the same emotional response I get when looking at ducklings, or images of cats."
"Yeah, cats were pretty cute," Alex agreed. "Shame the aliens wiped them all out."
Blue nodded, feeling the emotion known as [Sadness] flicker across her computing units at that reminder.
The aliens had, for some completely unknown reason, concentrated a considerable amount of effort into exterminating any and all felines upon the planet. No one knew why, but some Machines believed it simply because humans had liked them, at least if their literature and media was any indication. Only tigers remained after the purge, as they'd been simply too sneaky and dangerous to counter without at least a Tank-class Machine Lifeform.
They'd tried the same with dogs and other canines, but they'd had less success. No one was completely sure why, either, but old video of entire packs of wild dogs and wolves attacking and overwhelming Machine patrols from the early days of the invasion made most androids and Machines believe that to be part of the issue. That was why packs of wolves could still be seen running around here or there. Alex had heard rumors that YoRHa was planning on taming them and reintroducing them as pets for a reborn humanity. If nothing else, then it gave many of the 'retired' warriors something to do.
Alexander shook his head a bit, clearing away the stray thoughts that'd distracted him, and went back to grinning like a dope at the holo-image of his newest family member.
"And this meat-potato will become something like you?" Blue wondered as she continued to observe the hologram.
"Yeah, Cleopatra will grow up. Remember when we first met? She'll be about that big in six or so years," Alex said. "And then in a decade after that, she'll be closer to my current height."
He looked down at himself in thought. "I still have more space to grow, though. I wonder how tall I'll finally end up being."
"I hope you don't grow too much bigger," Blue said. "It'll be harder to give you hugs if you do."
"Fair enough," Alex chuckled. He then surprised the slightly larger Machine by leaning in and giving her a hug.
"Heh, maybe one day I'll have arms long enough to completely wrap around you," the no longer alone human commented dryly. He did not notice how still Blue suddenly went, nor how her eyes flickered momentarily from their usual blue hue, to a sinister red.
Alex released her shortly after, and Blue gave a stiff nod as her optics returned to normal.
"So, what have you been up to recently?" Alex inquired, unaware of anything unusual going on.
"I have been researching some things with Pascal," Blue revealed. "Since I can use magic like a Pod can, it has been a lot easier to excavate certain ruins, and recover more data."
"Oh, that's neat. Find anything new?" Alex wondered.
"We found a preserved copy of a new book," Blue revealed. "It is called 'Moby Dick' and is about a mentally unstable man chasing something called a 'whale.'"
"Whale, huh? I don't recognize that thing. Where does it live?" Alex asked.
"According to Pascal, whales used to live in the oceans of Earth. They were the largest living creatures on the planet, once."
"Oh, really? That's pretty neat!" Alex hummed. "Though it sounds like they went extinct at some point."
"Pascal believes there may be some still alive in the deepest reaches of the ocean, though I find it unlikely many would have survived the pollution and ecological collapses the planet has experienced," Blue said. "Still, the story is an interesting tale about madness and obsession. It… resonated with me."
"Really? What on Earth could someone like you be obsessed with?" Alex bluntly asked.
Blue looked over at her best friend, and hesitated. For some reason, something within her programming was warning her about telling him the truth.
"Humans," she finally said, giving a half-truth. "Specifically, their history. You had a very fascinating culture. Before you died out, of course."
"Right," Alex said. "I admit, it sounds interesting, even fun, to be out there digging up ancient relics and learning about what humanity was like before it went the way of the cat."
The black-haired human nodded. "Sounds like something Uncle Nines would like to do as well."
"You could always come with us!" Blue blurted out eagerly. "Just you and me… searching for knowledge…"
"…Yes. And Pascal," Blue said slowly, her data-flow experiencing the emotion of [Annoyance] with Alexander's obliviousness.
"Sure! Sounds like it could be a lot of fun!" Alexander said. "I'll have to ask mom, though, but I'm sure Uncle Hatchet and Aunt Jacky can talk her into letting me go on an expedition with you two at some point in the future!"
'One day,' Blue vowed to herself. 'One day you will acknowledge me, Alexander!'
Off in the distance, two gynoids working away in YoRHa's Bunker felt the strangest urge to feel pity and sympathy for someone else dealing with an adorable yet naïve blockhead.
After the feeling passed, 6O and 21O both shared a look with each other, and quietly made plans to set up a double date with 2B and 9S. It was time for them to have a long and pointed discussion about what the Operators wanted.
Back with Blue and Alexander, the pair continued speaking with each other, simply enjoying each other's company.
Of course, time passed, and Alexander felt the communicator in his pocket buzz and vibrate.
"Oh, hang on, I've got a call," Alex said apologetically to Blue. He reached into his pocket and took out the smooth, matte black device. It was modeled after something called a 'Nokia Cellphone,' some sort of indestructible communication device from the old human society.
Apparently, the Nokia phones had been made so well, they'd lasted all the way up to the present, having survived societal collapse, human extinction, alien invasion, and more.
The one that Alex had was a cleaned-up model, its casing repaired and software updated. Ever since Cleopatra had been born, A2 had become more maternal, and old habits Alex had hoped she'd forgotten as he'd gotten older had come roaring back with a vengeance. In particular, she wanted her son to have one of these communicators so she could make sure he was safe wherever he went. He accepted the call with a sigh and held it up to his ear.
"Hello, this is Alexander," said into the phone.
"Where are you? It's getting late!"
"I'm with Blue, mom. Same as when you called two hours ago to remind me about dinner," Alex drawled.
"Well, hurry home, then! We've got something called 'curry' cooking. Emil found some food packets for this stuff in his base and 2B is making it."
"Oh, is Uncle Emil finally sorting through that junkyard he calls a storage unit?" Alex hummed.
"He is. Now come back quickly!" A2 instructed, before hanging up.
Alex sighed as he looked down at the phone, before giving an apologetic look towards Blue.
"Sorry about that. Sometimes I wish she hadn't gotten this for me since she just uses it to check up on me constantly," the human said.
"It's alright. It's just proof that she cares," Blue said with an understanding bob of her bulbous round head. "Pink used to do the same, always asking around and trying to find me whenever I wandered off."
Blue felt a pang of [Emotion: Melancholy] go through her circuits at the thought of her sister, and Alex noticed. He reached up and patted her gently on the shoulder with a sympathetic expression.
He then gave her a hug farewell, and went over to his hovercycle to return to the house.
"I'll ask mom if I can come with you and Pascal the next time you go ruin delving," Alex said cheerfully. "Hopefully she'll say 'yes.'"
That made Blue cheer up as well, and she waved as Alex departed, the young man disappearing in a cloud of dust into the distance.
"That was good, Aunt 2B," Alex said, putting his spoon down into his empty plate. The food called 'curry' had been spicy, and served on a plate of rice with a glass of goat's milk to sooth the burn.
It was certainly flavorful, and far more potent than anything he'd had previously. Before YoRHa had started building the Babylon Agricultural District, most of the food Alex had eaten had been much milder, and nowhere near as spicy. Sugar and salt, as well as herbs from the forest, had been fairly obtainable, but the more exotic spices like pepper and the like had been hard to get. A lot of the Earth was still recovering from one war or another, and some spices had sadly gone extinct over the ages.
Alexander's aunt smiled softly at him from across the table, pleased by the praise. While androids had taste receptors, it was still reassuring to hear a human's opinion on the dishes she made.
"Instead, you've outdone yourself," A2 said.
"Yeah, she's gotten really good at cooking," 9S praised, eating another spoonful of curry. "Really, really, good!"
"You just say that because you're bumping uglies," Jaqueline said, which got her a kick to the shin from 2B who was sitting close.
"Don't be jealous, dear," Hatchet said, patting the Resistance gynoid on the back. "You make nice things too, you know. It doesn't have to be a contest."
"I know, I know, I just feel listless and bored ever since Cleopatra's been born," the mad scientist admitted. "The H-types have been upgraded to handle all the new data with the artificial wombs and they can perform the implantation operations all on their own without me hovering over their shoulders, doubling checking the work."
She slumped over, pushing the plate of half-eaten away from her in the process. "Ten years of hard work, and I've finally achieved my dream! I successfully brought humanity back from extinction! But, now that I've done so there's nothing else to do!"
"Find a new project, then," A2 suggested. "Just try to avoid doing anything dangerous."
"You know, speaking of new projects, Blue invited me out to go ruin delving with her and Pascal," Alex spoke up.
"Oh, sounds fun!" Emil said, Sebastian nodding in agreement.
"No, that's too dangerous," A2 said firmly.
"Mom, I'm not the last human anymore, you don't have to be so protective of me," Alex said.
"There could be a billion humans, and I would still forbid you from going," A2 curtly informed her son.
"Mom, please, it's not like I'm defenseless," Alex protested. "I have my gun, my sword-knife, and of course my magic! Plus all those years of you and the rest of the family teaching me all sorts of ways to survive in the wild! I can fend for myself!"
"It's not about being defenseless, it's about being prepared! It's about experience!" A2 scolded.
"And I'll never get any experience if I'm never allowed to do anything!" Alex retorted. "It's like you think I'm incapable! But I'm not! If you keep holding me back, all I'll end up being is obsolete! Expendable!"
"You will never be expendable, Alexander! Not to me!" A2 hissed. "If I say it's too dangerous, then please, take my word for it!"
"I want to go!" Alex shouted.
"And I want to protect you!" A2 said loudly.
The two stared at each other for a long time, before Alexander snorted angrily.
"I'm going to my room," Alex grumbled. He got up from the table and walked over to where Chompy was eating her own dinner out of a bowl on the floor, and scooped up the elderly goat into his arms.
He then stomped away up to his room and slammed the door shut behind him, brooding with his beloved pet in his personal space.
"Hormones," 9S said sagely with a knowing nod. "It had to happen sooner or later."
A2 glared at the Scanner model, who merely ignored her.
"Will he be alright?" 2B wondered worriedly.
"He'll be fine. According to the child rearing manual I downloaded, it says that the teenage years are the worst, with mood swings, increased appetite, and other deviations of previous attitudes. He's basically a laboratory overflowing with conflicting chemicals as his body matures and reaches his final stage of growth before adulthood. Eventually his body will sort itself out and he'll go back to normal," 9S assured the family.
A2 grunted, and nodded, though her eyes lingered on the ceiling on the spot where Alexander's room was.
Then, she also stomped off, leaving the house. She brought her swords with her, however. The rest of the family shared knowing looks.
"10 scrap says she leaves a swathe of destruction a mile long," Sebastian offered.
"I'll take that action," Jaqueline grinned. "10 scrap on her blowing up a Goliath."
"10 says it's a Tank," Emil offered.
"20 scrap that she blows up both a Goliath and a Tank," Hatchet smirked.
As the family gambled on A2's kill count, the sun began to set, and another day in the Spero household came to an end.
Author's Note: Happy Halloween, everyone! Have an extra chapter as a treat!