Chapter 15:

An Unusual Pair, Part 3


The first thing Caleb learned about Hope was that she was far from being anything “like a human,” as Computer had insisted. Sure, she certainly looked the part, but when it came to her personality, she would have stood out sorely even amongst the other remainers. Spending her entire life asleep in the growth pod almost definitely inhibited her emotional growth, though he doubted Computer saw any problem in that.

Caleb also noted that while Hope did indeed have plenty of know-how and knowledge relevant to the various jobs she would have to do, he also discovered that Computer had neglected to include any common sense knowledge that an adult human would have been expected to have. He had twice now needed to swipe her hand away from the campfire when she tried to touch it, and despite seeming emotionless and stoic, her rampant curiosity forced him to keep a vigil eye on her to make sure she didn't wander off when he wasn't looking. He had only been given charge of Hope for a matter of hours, yet he already felt himself growing exhausted.

As he continued to stoke the fire with a stick, Caleb turned to glance at Hope. She was watching the fire intently, but occasionally she would glance around to look at the world around her. It made sense; she was seeing all of this in person for the first time. In a way, Caleb felt that Hope was still quite the child, despite her appearance.

“Sorry, Computer,” Caleb muttered under his breath. “It might take more than a week for this girl to get up to standard.”

“What'd you say?” Hope asked quizzically.

“Er, nothing at all,” Caleb replied sheepishly. He had forgotten that remainers had much better hearing than most humans.

“In any case, you are in charge of my evaluation, aren't you? You still haven't given me a task to complete.”

“Blame Computer. It's the one who left me without anything to do.” Caleb scratched his head. “Well, if it wanted me to see you do remainer work, it'd have given me a job. Since it didn't do that, that means I'd better not have you do anything reckless.”

“Can you properly test my capabilities that way?” Hope prodded pointedly. “After all, remainer work can be quite dangerous. Wouldn't testing my suitability in those situations be more important?”

“Before that, I need to make sure you can even function on your own,” Caleb replied as he pulled out a collection of self-made maps. Caleb had spent the last few years mapping wherever he'd gone. He'd not even come close to mapping out the entire continent, but he was slowly expanding the area he had explored by himself. He pointed to an empty location on one of his maps.

“For now, let's take a look over here. I'd like to fill out this part of the map, and since my schedule has suddenly opened up, now's a good a time as any.”

“Is there a need for such an outdated method of navigation?” Hope asked as she curiously perused the map. “My system has a satellite-generated map of the entire world. I could map out this section with ease.”

“Well, that's nice and all, but I don't have anything like that,” Caleb sighed as he put the maps away. “Besides, it's a good excuse to see how you handle traversing the land. You're going to be stuck with me for a week no matter what happens, so don't rush things.”

“I understand.” Hope stood up and began looking for the location indicated on the map. “The map indicates that our destination is only a few miles away. Are you ready to leave?”

“What?” Caleb was surprised. “We're not going anywhere today. It's already night.”

“Why does that matter? My night vision functions perfectly fine, so there's no need to rely on the sun for illumination.”

“Well, I don't have night vision,” Caleb said with a sigh. “Besides, I need sleep. We can get going once morning comes, so for now, just sit tight.”

“Humans are so inconvenient,” Hope sighed as she sat back down. Caleb ignored that comment as he silently worded a complaint against Computer for so poorly neglecting Hope's common sense.

After some light chatter and a quick meal for Caleb, the night ended uneventfully. Caleb's rest was interrupted by Hope, who woke him up immediately as the sun rose into the sky. As he went about his morning routine and chewed on some jerky for breakfast, Hope stood silently watching his every move. It might have been his imagination, but to Caleb it almost looked as if she was being impatient.

Soon, his routine was done, and the two set out for the location Caleb had specified on his map. On the way, Caleb was forced to repeatedly remind Hope to slow down, as her walking pace was not only faster than his, but she also did not feel fatigue or exhaustion. As a result, if he didn't remind her to slow down, he would have absolutely been left behind.

For what it was worth, Computer's knowledge programming had given Hope expert-level physicality and flexibility, allowing her to traverse the hardy terrain with ease. Caleb had deliberately chosen a mountainous area full of rocky hills for his destination, but Hope easily scaled and hopped her way up to the top with little struggle. Of course, this was just a small mountain that any moderate hiker could conquer with ease, but it was more than enough to prove that Hope's physical abilities were nothing to sneeze at.

Of course, she still had to be told to wait for Caleb, who despite his years of experience had trouble keeping up with her breakneck pace. Hope's expression was largely emotionless, but every time she was told to slow down Caleb thought he saw a flash of impatience and irritation on her stoic expression.

The moment the duo reached the top, Caleb quickly set up some makeshift shade and ate a small lunch as he sketched out the sights in front of him. Cartography had become a sort of passion for him as he traveled the world; at first, it was merely a method for him to keep track of where everything was, but as time went on, he started to appreciate the intricacies the task. In a way, it felt as if he was mapping out a journal of everywhere he had been since starting out his role as a remainer.

As he finished up mapping out one part of the area he was looking at, he'd noticed that he'd reached the end of the parchment he'd been writing on. As he reached into his bag for another sheet, a bundle of maps popped out and rolled onto the ground. He quickly snatched the bundle before it rolled away, letting out a sigh of relief once he'd had them in hand.

“Is there anything special about those maps?” Hope asked. She had been standing there silently for the last half hour, waiting patiently for Caleb to finish his work. To be honest, it sort of unnerved him.

“Sort of. Why do you ask?”

“Well, you seemed panicked when they fell out. I assumed from that reaction they must have been important.”

“I guess you could say that. They were the first maps I ever made. I guess they're a memento of my first job.”

Hope seemed confused. “You have a memento just for that? Don't you think you're being too sentimental?”

Caleb grimaced wryly, but he didn't retort back. After all, he doubted she would understand the real reason why he was keeping these maps. Not if she was saying things like that. He turned his attention back to the landscape before him and continued sketching.

Once he was done, Caleb pointed to another location he wanted to explore and set that as their next destination. As they made their way there, Caleb paid attention to how Hope maneuvered down the mountain and made her way through the forest. It was flawless, and exactly how any other remainer would work their way through an area like this. Still, was that really all she needed to work as a remainer?

Night fell. Caleb cooked some fish he had caught earlier on the fire and had himself a light yet filling meal. As he ate, he glanced at Hope, who simply sat nearby on a fallen log. She hadn't made any complaints about inefficiency when he told her that they'd be stopping for the night, but he wondered if she was still thinking it in her head.

“How have you been evaluating my abilities?” Hope suddenly asked as Caleb finished up his meal. “Would you consider me ready for remainer work?”

Caleb scratched his chin thoughtfully. “I'm not really sure. You're certainly doing well, but you don't instill the most confidence in me either.”

“Isn't that your own biases? You should be judging my abilities objectively.”

“Hey, I'm not biased about anything!” Caleb growled. “Don't underestimate how complex remainer work can be. It's not something so simple that I can judge someone's suitability after only a day of traveling with them.”

Hope didn't argue back, but he could tell she was unsatisfied. However, he had long reached the point where he no longer cared much whether she accepted his judgments or not. He dowsed the fire he was stoking and pulled out his sleeping bag for the night. As he laid down, a thought suddenly came to mind.

“Hope, what do you do when I'm sleeping?”

“I simply stand watch for wild animals,” Hope replied blithely. “I don't need sleep, after all, so there's no need for me to rest for any reason.”

“It has to be boring, isn't it? There aren't that many dangerous animals wandering around this area. You can sleep if you want to.”

“There's no need. As I said, I don't require rest.”

Caleb sighed. “You know, I used to live with a couple of remainers a few years ago. We basically spent our whole lives together for five years. Every now and then, I would catch them sleeping, and I'd ask why they were doing that if they didn't get tired. Do you know what they said?”


“That even if they didn't get physically tired, it was still emotionally wearying to be awake all the time. That closing their eyes, even if it didn't give them rest, allowed them to forget everything and find some peace. Don't you think you could use something like that?”

Hope scoffed. “I've only been awake for a handful of days. Do you really think I'd be that worn down already?”

“Well, it's your first time ever being out like this, so-”

“So what? Besides, they probably felt like sleeping because of old habits remaining from when they used to be human. I was never human, so I don't have any feelings like that.”

“I wouldn't say that,” Caleb said thoughtfully. “You were created using human DNA, after all. Sure, you weren't conceived the natural way or born from a womb, but that makes you human enough, doesn't it?”

“Is that what you think? I've been composed of nanomachine cells ever since I was born. Until yesterday, I knew nothing but the growth chamber I was encased in.” Hope's previously even tone slowly became aggravated and harsh. “Besides, I don't even want to sleep in the first place. How inconvenient it must be to be human. You're better off quitting being a remainer.”

That irked Caleb. He was doing his beset to be patient with her, but that comment finally made him lose his temper. “Where do you getting off saying things like that?”

Hope didn't respond. Instead, she turned around as if she was no longer interested in their conversation. Annoyed, but knowing that arguing with her wouldn't yield many results anyhow, Caleb turned over and went to sleep.

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