Chapter 14:

An Unusual Pair, Part 2


Caleb climbed through a thick brush, pushing aside branches and leaves as he forced himself through a forest growing wildly across what was once the American Midwest. Normally, Caleb wouldn't bother to trudge through such thick vegetation, but since his destination was only a half mile away, a mild surge of impatience made him push forwards in a straight line.

There were a number of reasons for this impatience. Over the last few years, Caleb had slowly grown weary of Computer's constant supervision, and would rather busy himself with remainer work, something Computer was also loath to give often. He knew that this was because he was human, and therefore less able to do many of the things other remainers could, though Computer would neither admit it nor see any wrong with its treatment.

He was also annoyed with being told to go all the way to headquarters. Normally, Computer would just talk to Caleb through the relay tower if it really needed to, but for some reason, this time Computer had insisted that he come all the way to headquarters, a journey that would take him far from the current job he was working on.

Nevertheless, a direction from Computer was absolute, and while Caleb wasn't wired to follow all of its directives, he knew he wouldn't get any remainer work at all if he ignored it. And so, he continued to trudge through the thick brush, hoping to arrive at remainer headquarters before night fell.

After another hour or so of travel, Caleb stood before a great building known only to him as the remainer headquarters. He had only been here once before, as he often had little reason to come here. Despite being called the headquarters, the building only held two things: the main terminal holding Computer's main system, and the facility that built the remainers' cybernetic bodies. For that reason, there was very little reason for Caleb to ever be called to headquarters, though Computer seemed to have finally found one.

Caleb walked into the main building as the doors opened automatically to let him in. The place was as empty as it was the last time he was here, with only machinery and robotics whirring quietly in the background. He ignored the machinery as he walked over to the end of the large main room, where a giant monitor sat flat against the wall, nearly covering it with its own surface area. On the screen's display was a familiar blue polygonal head, one that Caleb had seen many times now.

“Caleb. You're finally here. Didn't I ask you to come to headquarters right away?”

“I came here as soon as I could. You called me from pretty far away, you know.”

That wasn't untrue; Computer had indeed called Caleb from all the way across the country, after all. That he had also taken a number of detours on the way there was not something Computer needed to know. It wasn't as if there was anything urgent about it, otherwise Computer would have just told him about it at the relay tower. If it wanted to complain about his timeliness, it had only itself to blame.

“So, what did you want? It's gotta be important if you wanted me to come out here for this.”

“Indeed. First, a status report. Of the jobs I had for you, how many of them have yet to be finished?”

Caleb scratched his chin as he tried to remember what jobs he had to leave behind when Computer called for him. “Not many. Just a couple surveys at a few locations in North Canada checking the tundra biomes.”

“Well then, as of this moment they'll be reassigned to other remainers.”

“What?!” Caleb couldn't believe his ears. “Do you expect me to twiddle my thumbs for the next few weeks?!”

“Calm down,” Computer said in its usual, unchanging emotionless voice. “I'm giving you a new job. One that's going to take up a lot of your time from now on.”

Caleb simmered down a bit and waited for Computer to explain. He was still a bit annoyed – after all, this was far from the first time Computer had suddenly taken jobs from him – but he was willing to at least hear him out for the time being.

“How much are you aware of the directives programmed into my core system, Caleb?”

“Not much,” Caleb replied honestly. “I just assumed your main job was to direct the remainers' activity. Is that wrong?”

“Not at all. But I do have a number of secondary tasks added to my core system that a number of curious engineers felt tempted to include. Usually minor experiments and projects that were largely unrelated to restoring the planet.”

“Okay. What does that have to do with me?”

“As it happens, I have the result of one of those projects with me. Come in.”

As Computer commanded, a young woman entered the room from the side. She looked young and lithe, and her long and straight blonde hair was quite striking.

“Who is this?” Caleb asked, somewhat confused. He knew she must have been a remainer, but he couldn't connect her arrival to what Computer was talking about.

“This is the first synthetic remainer model I have ever managed to create,” Computer explained. “Unlike the remainers we have now, who were originally human, this model was artificially created using DNA samples left behind for cloning experiments. I used nanomachine cells to augment the fetus as it was developing, meaning that she was born as a synthetic being.”

“What?” Caleb could scarcely believe what he was hearing. “What were those scientists even thinking? Were they trying to play God even when they were planning on abandoning the planet?”

“I have no answer to that. It was merely a project that I was tasked to do, and I have completed it. Still, I could guess as to a few benefits. Should the circumstance arise where a remainer was permanently put out of commission, there would need to be some way to replace them. I can only assume that is why such a project was programmed into my system.”

Caleb was doubtful. In his travels, he had occasionally found a few magazines, books, and papers about the past, and while he still knew very little about the world he supposedly used to live in, he could tell that there was a high occurrence of people messing around with science they did not understand. He wondered if an overly ambitious researcher was looking to create a new race of humans when that project was planned.

“In any case, what do you want me to do? The project's finished, isn't it?”

“In matters of the project itself, yes. However, practicality demands that some testing be done before I could summarize the results as a success.”

“In other words, you want to see if she can actually do the work.”

“Correct. How much do you know about nanomachine cells?”

“I know that they're what remainer bodies are mostly made up of. I don't know much else, though.”

“Nanomachine cells are synthetic machines developed in order to precisely mimic the properties of real human cells, and in some cases outdo them. They are powerful enough to even read genetic information, which is how the fetus was able to grow into an adult like this with no problems.”

Caleb nodded as he took a better look at the woman standing before him. Like any of the other remainers, he certainly could not tell that she was not human. Nanomachine cells certainly were terrifying. It was not the first time he had dwelled on how far science must have come in the past.

“In any case, despite the nanomachine augmentation, the fetus and resulting child still needed the requisite amount of time to fully grow – in other words, eighteen years,” Computer continued explaining. “To keep things simple, I kept her asleep in a growth tank, monitoring her closely while uploading all sorts of knowledge and information into her brain. She should know just about as much as any remainer working now.”

“She should, but you're not sure, huh?”

“Which is why she needs to be tested. However, I don't dare send her out on her own, and I can't have her attempting a job if there's a chance she might struggle with basic functions. That is where you come in.”

“I see.” Caleb began to understand why he was being called here. “Is there a reason why you picked me over everyone else? You can't make the excuse that I wasn't busy.”

“You don't have a partner. This project might provide a unique opportunity for you.”

Caleb held back a scowl. It was true that he didn't have a partner, though that wasn't entirely his fault. The other remainers were obviously touchy about working with a human, and they were overprotective to the point of irritation. After several months of cycling through half-hearted partners, Caleb finally decided to go solo, despite Computer's assertions that he would not receive as many missions.

“And? You want my partner to be someone you can't even trust to do basic jobs?”

“Should she manage to pass the test, she should be more than a capable partner for you. Plus, she lacks the apprehensions that has soured your relationship with previous partners. Don't you think she makes the perfect partner for you?”

Caleb sighed. He felt like he was falling for Computer's trap, but at the same time, he did want a partner. It'd mean Computer would have less excuses for not giving him jobs, and work would just be easier in general. But most of all, working alone was starting to wear him down, as much as he was loath to admit it. Walking the land with no one to talk to could be soothing, but it could also be unbearably dreary as well.

“Can I assume you won't be interested in giving me any work until I accept?”

“I would rather not be so heavy-handed, but if it would make matters simpler...”

“Fine. Don't finish that thought. I'll accept, okay?”

“Good. For now, just spend some time with her. Familiarize yourself with her basic abilities and knowledge.”

“That's it?” Caleb called out. “And how long am I supposed to do that for?”

“At least one week. I'd like the report in person, so I'd rather you not go too far, it's that all right.”

“Understood,” Caleb sighed. He turned to the woman in question, who had not said a word so far. If he didn't already know she was a synthetic human, he almost certainly would have assumed she was a robot.

“So? What's your name?”

“Name?” The woman's voice rang out in a cool, clear tone. “I have only ever been referred to as successful experiment #1.”

“So Computer didn't even give you a name?” Caleb let out an exasperated sigh. “All right. Then... I'll call you Hope. Is that okay?”

The woman nodded, her expression betraying no sign of like or dislike. “Very well.”

“Good.” Caleb picked up his things and turned to walk out. “Let's get going, then.”

MyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon