Chapter: 38: A2 Interlude

"…and that is everything that happened while we were gone," Pascal said, her face floating in the holographic screen being projected in front of A2's. "Aside from slight exhaustion, young Alexander did not suffer any lasting damage."

"Thank you for keeping me in the loop, Pascal," A2 said gratefully, the gynoid inclining her head to the Machine Lifeform.

The leader of the Machine Village had just finished reporting back in to Alexander's family. Pascal hadn't been foolish enough to not alert A2 and the rest about where the human was, and what he was going to be doing on their research expedition. She'd kept an eye on him. And not just because YoRHa would have come down on her settlement like avenging angels if Alexander had gotten harmed, but because the teenager was a friend of the Machines.

"Oh, it was no problem!" Pascal assured her pleasantly. "It was fun having Alexander along, and he was very helpful in exploring the ruins with Blue and I. If you like, I can send you all of my data-feeds that I recorded of the event."

"I would like that," A2 said, a tiny smile working its way onto her face, before it slid off and was replaced by her usual mask of neutral indifference. "When will he be back?"

"I just dropped him and Blue off a few minutes ago. If he doesn't loiter around or procrastinate, I'd say you should see him in half an hour or so, thanks to the speed of his hover-cycle."

"That's a relief," A2 said, a sigh escaping her. "Have a good day, Pascal."

She glanced to the side, and rolled her eyes before adding, "And send 9S any data you have, please. He's very excited to analyze this new species you've discovered."

"Will do," Pascal said with a giggle. She then hung up, the hologram disappearing, leaving the androids alone.

"See? Everything went fine," 2B said, placing a comforting hand on A2's shoulder. "Alexander was safe and able to take care of himself."

A2 nodded wordless, still staring at the spot where holographic message had been moments earlier. Alexander's three android caretakers were in the living room, standing and facing the coffee table where the holo-transmitter had been set up.

There was a morose atmosphere, one that had lingered for the past couple of hours ever since the androids had discovered that Alexander had run away from home.

A2 had wanted to start a search party, and it was only 2B's level-headedness that kept the Assault-type from flying off the handle with worry.

Instead of creating a panic, the trio had planned on calling their friends and allies to see if anyone had seen anything. As luck would have it, Pascal contacted them first, informing the household that Alexander was with her and Blue on an expedition, and that she would keep a close eye on him.

Since he was already long gone, A2 had had no choice but to accept this, even though one of her first instincts was to go out and chase after her baby boy. 9S had reminded her that they were too far away at the moment, and all they could do was wait. So, she had paced around the house, trying to distract herself from her worries by cleaning and staring forlornly into Alexander's room. Even now, with news that Alexander was safe and sound and on his way back, A2's mood remained down.

Not everyone was quiet and melancholic, however.

"Can you believe it? A whole new species! And one that is completely alien to Earth and its environs!" 9S said excitedly from his spot in the living room, almost vibrating in place. "The things we can discover from these 'dragons!' The knowledge!"

"Now is not the time for this!" 2B hissed at 9S as she tried to break A2 out of her shell, who scoffed.

"If not now, then when? This is the chance of a lifetime! We have the opportunity to learn something not even humans knew! Outside of certain material sciences and industrial processes, we androids haven't exactly been doing much innovating. Almost everything we have right now is based off of human understandings of the universe. For the first time in android history, we have the chance to discover brand-new information and add to the textbooks, rather than just borrow from them!"

"I know, but could you try to stay calm?" 2B requested, gesturing with her head towards A2, who was still as a statue and unmoving.

"Ah. Right, yeah," 9S said, clearing his throat awkwardly. "Look, A2, you knew this was coming. Alexander was always going to fly the nest, or however the human saying goes. You can't keep him cooped up forever."

"I-I have to protect him, though," A2 said weakly. "He needs me."

"And you can keep doing that! But you can't do it the same way as when he was a baby, or even a pre-teen," 2B informed the other gynoid.

"What do you mean?" A2 asked the Executioner, confusion written across her face.

"It's not that complicated," 2B replied. "Give him more space and freedom. But let him know that no matter what happens in the future, you will always be there to help him, no matter the situation he finds himself in."

A2 didn't respond, and her expression was unreadable, but she did incline her head minutely after a moment, and 9S sighed in relief in the background while 2B smiled kindly at her friend.

2B then gently led the high-strung gynoid over to the couch, and sat her down at it.

"There we go," she murmured. "See? Just wait for Alexander to return. Do you want some tea? I can make us some."

"…Please." A2 mumbled out, even as she kept her attention on the entrance to the house.

Twenty minutes later, the front door creaked open, and someone entered, clearly trying to remain silent and undetected from anyone else in the house. It didn't work, because as soon as Alexander had gotten close, the security systems White and the rest of YoRHa had set up to monitor for any unauthorized intrusion had pinged him.

Alexander froze like a deer in the headlights as he appeared in the doorframe, eyes widening as he saw A2, 2B, and 9S sitting and waiting for him.

"Oh! Uh, you're here. I mean, hey, mom," Alexander said nervously as he stepped inside the living room.

"Do you know how worried I was when I discovered you were missing?" A2 demanded as she stood up from the couch, folding her arms across her chest as she glared at her son.

The human frowned at her, and opened his mouth to respond, likely with something scathing, but was unable to as his mother all but jumped on him, cutting him off. The gynoid rushed to his side and swept him up into a big hug, keeping herself from squeezing too hard. Just in case.

"I missed you," she muttered, deciding to take 2B's advice. "And… I love you, Alexander. Please don't make me worry like that again."

Any anger the human may have had in him vanished like smoke, his expression twisted into one of remorse before hugging his mother back.

"Sorry, mom," he mumbled into her shoulder.

"Awww!" 9S cooed, before being dragged off by 2B.

"Come on, let's give them some privacy," she told her shorter companion, and they left the duo alone.

"I'm sorry," both of them said at the same time a minute later, and they shared a chuckle at that before separating.

"You go first," Alexander offered, and A2 nodded.

"I… it's hard to let you do your own thing, son," she finally managed to admit. "I am scared of losing you. You're one of the few good things to ever happen to me, and the idea that you could disappear and get hurt without me there to help you… it fills me with dread."

She took a deep breath before continuing. "However, 2B has managed to convince me that locking you up in your room and putting a tracking collar around your leg would be… bad. She made the compelling argument I could still protect you while also letting you keep your freedoms. As such, I'll just be discussing with Jaqueline and White about installing a GPS tracking chip in the back of your neck, or something else instead, and let you have more… freedom in your day-to-day life."

"Yeah, that's Aunt 2B for ya," Alexander snickered, before frowning. "Wait, what was that about a GPS implant?"

"Not important," A2 said, waving it off.

"No, I feel like that sounded very important!" Alexander shot back.

She looked at him with an innocent expression that did not fool him in the slightest, but Alexander held back a sigh and decided to circle back around to that problem later.

Instead, he took his own deep breath to steady his nerves, and looked his mother in the eyes.

"Thank you," he finally said. "I, I know you just want to keep me safe, but I also want to have my own life. To live, to do what I want. And if I get hurt? Then so be it. At least that way I can learn something from the event, even if it's just 'don't do that again.' That's what it means to be human, after all."

"I'm sorry for leaving without telling you where I was going, but I felt so stifled these last few weeks. Ever since Cleopatra's been born, actually. The androids… they want something from me, something I don't believe I can give them, and it's stressed me out. I wanted a chance to just… be myself, without having to watch what I say and do, in case I accidentally start a holy war or something among the androids over which is better, coffee or tea."

"Ah, yes, that is a reasonable worry," A2 agreed with a slow nod. "Although I believe both sides have begun to unite against the new 'Soda Faction' that's popped up recently."

"Seriously?" Alexander uttered in a deadpan, before covering his face in exasperation. "Cripes, this is going to end up as weird as that argument about whether to slice sandwiches horizontally or diagonally!"

"I still stand by my statement that diagonal cuts are better," A2 declared. "They give the sandwich more volume. And it looks cooler."

"It's a sandwich!" Alexander said, throwing his hands into the air. "It doesn't matter how you cut them! You still get the same amount of sandwich regardless of the way you do it!"

A2 just patted her son's head fondly. "There, there," she said. "One day, you will realize I am right, and diagonally sliced sandwiches are the superior form of sandwich."

"If not for the fact I know you are being a hundred percent sincere right now, I'd assume you were patronizing me," the human grumbled.

He then shook his head, dislodging her hand. "Anyways! Mom, I promise I will never stop being your son. Just because I'm growing up doesn't mean that will change. And, I won't run away like that again. If I'm going anywhere, I will tell you where I'm going. But, in exchange, you have to stop treating me as if I'm a helpless toddler, and let me make my own decisions on things from now on."

"Okay. Thank you. I love you, Alexander," A2 said, tearing up a bit as she resumed her hug.

"I love you, too, mom," he said back. "Always and forever."

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