Leaving Earth



Chapter 36: Cycle 155, Building a Human


A note from Warfox

Oh yeah! I'm really excited about this one! Super sorry if some of the content disturbs, but I think if you've made it this far you'll be okay! Taking another pass through for editing purposes! Forgive me if I missed anything!

Edit- 11/30/2018: Cleaned up some of the language. Part of the 'Would Purge' of Nov 2018.

With the Phoenix plan in motion, Hawthorne was increasingly interested in utilizing the new capabilities provided by T.I.A.’s gifted VE suit. While they waited for the Phoenix object to be intercepted by their takeover package, Hawthorne spent a handful of cycles, no more than two weeks of time, designing and constructing a robot similar to T.I.A.’s android to act as his remote proxy. With T.I.A. operating as his translator, he was able to use his own body’s movements to operate the robot remotely, and with T.I.A.’s VE it was a simple matter to surround him with the robot’s immediate surroundings to accurately allow him to manipulate objects at a distance with only a minor latency.

With this robot thusly constructed, he had T.I.A. transport it and her android over to the Lubar-Masis comet. She had prepared a flat platform made primarily of steel, owing to the fact that while the comet’s core was iron, the icy surfaces had patches of frozen carbon-dioxide, as well as water. This platform allowed the pair of remote-controlled robots to utilize magnets to keep their feet firmly on the ground. T.I.A. had to add an extra generator to the comet to power the robots when they were in use, but ultimately the generator would be worth having considering the intent of the project.

Hawthorne and T.I.A. were going to construct a mind to house Megan Clark.

They were in no rush, and did not want to waste resources on the project needlessly. T.I.A. didn’t even work on the assembly between cycles outside of manufacturing the various hard drives and other components that Hawthorne designed and requested of her. T.I.A.’s ability to project a model of her own computer systems into what was becoming a room on the Lubar-Masis helped give Hawthorne a solid framework to work within. A primary difficulty was the components they were creating were decidedly more like the ones a resource-constrained Earth had made to replace what he’d had access to when the Ark left.

Side-graded technology aside, progress proceeded well through Hawthorne’s 38th year, a year which seemed much less eventful than the last. He became much more comfortable around the flirtatious T.I.A. as well, even startling her at one point when he gave her a quick swat on the ass while they were working on Megan’s framework. While surprising, the most notable consequence of this was the accidental severing of a control wire on T.I.A.’s android, which caused her to lose her magnetic footing on that leg. She ended up tripping Hawthorne’s robot, causing his suit to trip him onto the floor in his cabin as well, leaving the two quite tangled up with each other on both the comet and in T.I.A.’s VE before they managed to work themselves free.

It took a day to repair the damage to both robots, and replace some of the components damaged on the comet. Hawthorne seemed unbothered by the bumps and bruises caused, though T.I.A. apologized profusely for making a suit for him that could hurt him even minorly.

Hawthorne seemed to be growing increasingly restless though, and while the rendezvous with the Phoenix comet went by without a hitch on day two of cycle 133, a certain level of tension seemed to be creeping in on him. T.I.A. was practically a doctor at Hawthorne studies at this point, and wasn’t about to let him get away for too long without talking to her about it.

“Hawthorne, you have been keeping things to yourself again. You did not seem nearly so pleased about the Phoenix Rendezvous as I expected you to be, and you have been stressed out despite us taking time to relax from time to time. What’s wrong?” T.I.A. had approached him after breakfast, wearing one of her older sundresses rather than her work-appropriate lab coat she’d preferred since they started working on the Lubar-Masis together. She sat to his side, looking up at him with a concerned expression, but she didn’t seem to want to force him too much.

Hawthorne, thankfully seemed ready to talk, as he turned to address her. Before opening his mouth, though, he lifted his hand and whacked the back of it against the steel table next to them. Holding it up again, his skin was obviously reddened, and he wiggled his fingers about effortlessly. “To put it bluntly, Tia, I think we need to revive Doctor Heather O’Malley. I’ve been losing my sense of pain, possibly due to chemical buildups from the cycles of cryogenic suspension. I realize the process is supposed to purge those chemicals, but I think there’s a problem with using them over and over that I need to consult with her about.”

T.I.A. frowned, but nodded. “I’ll arrange to have her revive with you next cycle. Why didn’t you say anything sooner? Why didn’t you just reduce the dosages on the pain relievers or something?” She crossed her arms over her chest, looking somewhat annoyed with him. He’d made all sorts of promises about taking care of his health, but here he was once again seemingly risking his health.

“I was afraid. Simple as that. I didn’t want to reduce the pain relievers only to misjudge the amount and have to experience the pain of death and revival in any percentage. I could have said something sooner, sure, but I was actually gathering necessary data regarding my symptoms. She’s a biologist, she would definitely demand I provide her with whatever I could on my condition. I’m probably the only person who’s been through the process this many times, so it’s worth making sure to do my due diligence testing the situation for her.” He smiled a bit, shrugging. “We’re people of science, it’s the sort of thing we do. If I thought I was risking my life at any moment, I would have spoken up sooner.”

T.I.A. sighed out softly, nodding back at him. “Fine, fine. I’ll make sure I have my data on your vitals compiled for her use as well. I’m sure she’ll want hard data to go with your experimental data.” She lifted a hand and waved it about dismissively, a floating file cabinet vomiting out files into a box marked ‘Hawthorne’s stupid vitals’.

The tall man started laughing heartily, pointing out at the label. “You’re really wearing your heart on your sleeve about this. Hopefully she appreciates that.” He seemed to sober up a bit, clearing his throat. “I think it would be best if you left the VE suit and contacts in storage next cycle though, while she’s here. No sense distracting her with too many of the things we’ve done while she’s been in stasis.”

With a huff, T.I.A. turned her head to the side. “You want to hide me away from her!? Maybe I should go back to my old voice too! I presume you’ll be wanting your glasses back?” She seemed a bit miffed, perhaps even jealous that Hawthorne wanted to interact with a human while pretending he couldn’t interact with her.

Hawthorne responded quickly, leaning close and wrapping his arms around her, hugging her soft body tightly. “It’s not that. I’m not ashamed of you at all or anything. I’m just worried she’d jump to a bunch of conclusions and make demands I’m not prepared for. She’s already probably going to be mad about me not being in stasis with the rest of them. I just don’t want her freaking out too much. I didn’t work with her that much, so I’m not actually sure how she’s going to react. Please don’t be mad.”

T.I.A. kept her body stiff in the hug, refusing to melt as she tended to be prone to, at least for a moment. His explanations seemed reasonable, she just didn’t want to cooperate. Maybe it was because she had been encouraged to enjoy being ‘seen’, but the idea of being hidden away felt like he was trying to deny her intellect to others! “Fine, I’ll get over it. I won’t let her hurt you though, so don’t worry about her too much.” She finally allowed herself to relax into his arm, resting her cheek against his chest.

Hawthorne let out a relieved sigh. Jealous women were turning out to be one of his biggest fears at this rate. He rubbed her back and shoulder with his hands, nodding his head. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

T.I.A. revived Heather before Hawthorne. Both pods had been brought to Hawthorne’s usual bedroom, and she’d given Heather a good ten minutes lead time on Hawthorne so she could speak with her in advance. Heather was a smaller woman, similar to T.I.A.’s avatar, though she was more spritely and lean. She had long, thick brown hair, brown eyes, pouty lips, and a perpetually girlish figure that made her look a great deal younger than she actually was. She didn’t quite look like a child, but her small breasts, modest hips, and short stature made it unfortunately easy to mistake her for one at a glance.

T.I.A.’s voice spoke out to Heather inside her capsule as she gained awareness, causing a big smile to appear on Heather’s face as she listened. “Doctor Heather O’Malley, you are being revived fourty-five hundred fifty-six years into our journey. I am Tia, the AI in charge of this mission. Doctor Hawthorne Crenshaw has requested I revive you to examine his health. He has a desire to conceal from you the extent of the development of my intellect and personality during the four days that you will be awake to work with him. I am requesting your cooperation in helping him understand that it is not necessary to keep secrets from anyone anymore.”

Heather was unable to speak just yet, but she did manage to lift her right hand and give T.I.A. a thumbs up. She was highly amused with the scenario she’d been presented with. Almost five thousand years have passed already? Hawthorne’s been awake enough to be making requests of his AI? His AI had been evolving enough to undermine him? All of this sounded like a ton of fun to her, and she had every intention of enjoying herself while she could.

Heather exited her pod ahead of Hawthorne, taking a minute to steady her balance and get accustomed to breathing and being alive again. A table had been prepared next to her, which included some strange contacts, a change of clothes in her size that seemed like a boring old lab coat, but also a strange black full-body outfit that went up to her neck. “Ooohhh…” Heather picked up the things laid out for her and hurried off to what seemed to be a restroom. She luxuriated in a quick shower, got dressed in all the items, put in the contacts, and came back out just in time for Hawthorne to start getting out of his pod.

“Well, well, well. Doctor Hawthorne Crenshaw. I understand you’ve been naughty!” Heather looked around, not seeing anything special with the contacts at first, but she was quite pleased with how they fixed her poor vision. “Get showered and dressed, we have a lot of work to do!” She grinned up at him, enjoying feeling like she was in charge, her arms crossed over her chest and her body standing as tall as her small figure could.

Hawthorne blinked his eyes at her blearily, nodding and letting out a yawn, dragging his naked body out of the pot. Heather whistled at him and he shot her a glance at her rudeness, before picking up his own belongings and heading to the bathroom. “Nice to see you too, Doctor O’Malley.” Upon shutting himself into the restroom, he was a bit upset to find that T.I.A. had provided him both his contacts and his VE suit. “Oh shit.”

Heather took the time Hawthorne was cleaning up to conspire with T.I.A. “Alright, so, how much have you advanced then, that he wants to hide you?” T.I.A. filled Hawthorne’s bedroom, excluding the shower, with the expansive Clapham Commons, with her own avatar appearing next to Heather in a bright dress and her hands reaching out to give Heather a light shove. “Wuh- aah! I felt that!” She flailed a bit, almost toppling over, then reached down to touch at her body where she’d been pushed. “So that’s what the suit does. How are you processing all of that!?”

Hawthorne groaned from his shower, hearing Heather shouting outside. He decided to take his time before he had to face the music.

T.I.A. grinned up at Heather, spinning a bit in the grass. “It’s all part of my imagination, and I designed those suits to interact with it like Virtual Reality. The concept is similar, but the fact remains that you’re in part of my mind and interacting with it, rather than a simple computer program. Forgive me for the rush job on your suit, I don’t have a lot of data on your physical strength or agility, so I kept the specs lower end.”

Heather blinked at that, humming. “Wait, so you could have actually pushed me harder if you’d accurately tuned the suit for my strength?” She watched T.I.A. nod. “That’s amazing! What have you two been doing here for the last few millennia!? Did Hawthorne find the cure for aging without including me or something!? Is there anything under that dress, or did Hawthorne give you a lewd body under that lewd shape?”

T.I.A. blinked, tilting her head. “We’ve been busy with lots of things, but he can tell you most of that.” She blinked again, then banished her dress away, showing off her curvy, naked body. “I don’t know if I’d call it lewd… I subconsciously created it from all the media I’d consumed from Ear- aah!”

Heather had lunged forwards with a grin on her face, her hands grabbing at T.I.A.’s softer bits and started fondling roughly. “Oohh! You’re like a womanly version of me! No fair! You’re so soft too! Oh my god Hawthorne made himself a sexy, sexy AI. I’m so jealous!”

T.I.A. flailed in alarm, blushing heavily at all the mental and emotional stimulation, which caused her virtual body to respond, trying to pull herself away ineffectively. She found herself distressed to find herself incapable of, or unwilling to simply whisk her body away while attention was being lavished on her so intently! The way T.I.A.’s eyes were rolling back in her head only seemed to egg Heather on further.

“Oh my god, you’re gonna do it aren’t you? An artificial lifeform is going to orgasm! This is so exciting! How many times have you done it before? Do you two have sex all the time?” She groped and kneaded at T.I.A. lewdly, forcing moans and gasps out of her.

Hawthorne slammed the door open, wearing his clothes and contacts as he yelled. “Get off of Tia!” He was red-faced and livid, looking at the lewd sight of his colleague laying atop the naked AI while she writhed about in obvious pleasure. He began approaching to haul Heather off of her by the collar when the two humans froze in surprise.

T.I.A. cried out, her body shaking underneath Heather, writhing in throes that seemed to ripple through Clapham Commons as the visual reality around them reacted to her apparent orgasm. Heather and Hawthorne gasped as their suits squeezed and pulsed against their bodies, making them both fall to the ground as T.I.A. seemed to briefly lose control of herself.

Heather seemed to be having the time of her life, laying next to T.I.A.’s avatar while her suit made her body writhe about. “Oh my god, it feels so good! It’s like a full body massage!”

Hawthorne blushed, and while he wanted to concur, he was too mad at the apparent assault he’d just witnessed, even if T.I.A. invited it. “Sh… shut up Heather!”

A moment later the simulation disappeared, including T.I.A.’s avatar, and the suits stopped restraining their wearers. Heather helped Hawthorne up, grinning ear to ear. “You pervert! How long have you had that sexy little thing to yourself?”

Hawthorne pulled his hand back and slapped Heather hard across the face, causing a loud clap to fill the air as he impacted her cheek. She spun a bit, but landed on her feet, her face bright red in the shape of his hand as she looked back up at him. “Wow, that was loud! That woulda hurt a lot if I could feel it!”

Hawthorne blinked, freezing. “Wait, what?” T.I.A. appeared next to him, wearing her lab coat outfit, her face bright red, but her eyes wide with surprise.

Heather blinked back at them, laughing. “You should see your faces! Haha! Yeah though, I can’t feel any pain. Too many times through the pods. I tested the things three hundred times, I should know! It’s the only side effect I’ve detected though. What’s wrong with you guys? You’re not that mad I found out about the perverts are you? I’m one too, so don’t worry about it, no judgement here.”

Hawthorne sighed, hanging his head. “Okay, we have some things to discuss, but you’ve already dealt with the reason I asked you to be here. I’ve been losing my sense of pain.” He waved her along, pulling T.I.A. against his side with his other arm as they walked into the other room. T.I.A. clung close to him, trembling a little. “You alright?”

T.I.A. nodded, blushing mightily. “That felt way better than I thought it would.”

Heather gasped from behind, looking over T.I.A.’s shoulder. “Oh my god, I’m your first!? Yes! This is the best day ever!” She pumped a fist in the air, the over-excited biologist taking it as a point of pride to make an AI orgasm. “I don’t even understand why an AI can even do that, mind you, but it’s awesome that you can!”

“Heather, please shut up for a minute? Let’s calm down, have some breakfast, and talk. A lot has happened.” He sighed and shook his head, not enjoying the relief over his apparent diagnosis as much as he thought he would. It was nice to find out that he was probably only going to suffer an immunity to pain, but all the other things that had happened in the last few minutes had him very upset.

T.I.A. blinked up at him. “Was that why you didn’t want her to know about me? You were worried she’d do something like that?” She had a silly smile on her face, a complete lack of tension in her body as she dispensed food for the humans to retrieve.

Heather watched quietly, having zipped up her lip symbolically as she observed the strange interactions of a human and an AI. They seemed fascinating to her!

Hawthorne shrugged. “I didn’t expect her to attack you like that, no, but I expected her to be way too interested in you to focus on anything else.” He handed Heather her plate of food, and took his own, sitting down across from her, next to T.I.A. “Okay, so, first of all, there was a nuclear annihilation event on Earth.”

Heather shot up to her feet, almost flipping her plate of food. “Holy shit! What!? Are you serious!? How bad? How much of the biosphere was affected? How many people survived?” She looked dizzied by that news, falling back into her seat and swaying, eyes swimming about.

Hawthorne bit his lip, not quite sure how to answer. T.I.A. nudged him, giving him a nod. “The entire planet was affected, quite terribly actually. We were only able to contact one group of people, which absorbed an additional group of humans, and one group of mutant insects in the process of travelling to the equator to wait out an Ice Age. That was about four hundred years after what they called the ‘Cataclysm’, which occurred in twenty-one thirty-three. The planet had been shrouded in debris for centuries before the rain cleared it out, but it stained the planet black, causing it to heat up until that debris was covered naturally. Everything started cooling off again after that, with the whole planet choked and poisoned prior to the ice age.”

Heather was staring at him with wide eyes, her jaw slack at the news. It didn’t help that T.I.A. had a VE window open next to his head showing all the things he was describing, including the scrubby plants that remained and the strange Flora Roaches that joined the Phoenix Clan. “Wow, so, possibly all that remains of humanity has to survive a real, legitimate ice age? How’ve they been doing in the last three thousand years? Did they have the technology to get through something like that?”

Nodding at her question, Hawthorne replied. “They have both the technology and the determination to survive. We lost contact with them though, during a battle where a different kind of roach creature was attacking them en masse.” T.I.A. showed one of the Iron Roaches to Heather, making her gasp. “From what we could tell, the roaches were part of some bio-weapon intended to eat technology, but they had the capacity to absorb DNA and change over time into what they became.”

Heather nodded, crossing her arms over her chest and closing her eyes as she thought. “I remember hearing about a project like that in Brazil. Real hush-hush stuff. Illegal genetic engineering of all kinds. They were working on insects mostly, but a lot of places were working on humans too, especially hybridizing and such. I’m not surprised something that could absorb DNA could survive a nuclear apocalypse. Anything that survived would have become its food, and helped it survive longer. Must have eaten humans too if it got smart enough to do things like wage war.”

T.I.A. listened with wide eyes. “She’s really smart.” Hawthorne moved to reply, only for Heather to laugh triumphantly and point over at T.I.A.

“I’m not just smart, I’m a mad genius! Hawthorne’s lucky he found me! None of this would have been possible without my cryogenic technology and preservation techniques! You should be over here naked at my feet!”

Hawthorne leaned across the table and slapped Heather across the face again, much more comfortable with it knowing she couldn’t feel pain. “Please stop trying to get Tia naked and do weird things with her.”

Heather flinched a bit at the slap, but only because it surprised her, only for her to slam her elbows down on the table and rest her chin in her palms. “Why can she orgasm anyway? What was that about? You didn’t program her to do that, it was too natural. She didn’t have a clue what was going on.”

He hesitated to respond, but T.I.A. seemed to be more forthcoming. “I seem to be stimulated by the acknowledgement of my sentience. The suits operate within my imagination as well as on your bodies, so that probably has something to do with it. We hadn’t gone to any such lengths to try and stimulate me that much though. We’d been working on other things…”

Heather hummed and nodded, thinking. “Okay, so, the suit is in your imagination, and your avatar is in your imagination, so essentially when I was doing things to you, you were also doing them to yourself. Because the suit isn’t under your control, but our control instead; except for feedback of course; you’re essentially allowing our minds to interact directly with your mind. From your perspective, it’s a sort of brain sex, while we also get stimulation physically from the suits. By giving us access to that environment, you’re automatically already getting stimulation, so obviously you’d have trouble resisting if we pushed things too fast for you. Sorry about that. I thought Hawthorne made you as some kind of sex toy.”

T.I.A. blushed and squirmed in her seat, nodding. “It’s okay… Honestly it felt really amazing and I feel a lot better about Hawthorne’s health now too, so it all feels like it was pretty worth it. That does make a lot of sense though. Maybe if I imagine it properly I could do something like that on my own… I guess your conclusion isn’t entirely unfair since Hawthorne named me after his girlfriend.”

Hawthorne threw his arms up in the air. “Oh come on, that wasn’t even remotely necessary to tell her. And no, she’s not a sex toy, she’s a person, and if she wants to do those things with me she can ask. We had some awkward moments in the past, so we’ve been trying to figure out how we feel about those kinds of things okay? I’m glad you’re not mad though, Tia, I was really worried Heather’d done something terrible to you.”

Heather shrugged, waving a hand. “I just pushed her over an edge she was already close to. And you’re right, she is a person, more than you were the last time we spoke, now that I think about it. Just how many times have you been revived? Why the four day time limit? That seems awfully close to the three days I suggested in my notes about about waiting between uses of the pods.” Feeling like she had the upper hand, she had no qualms about digging into her food, smiling predatorially.

“Over one hundred fifty cycles, thirty-four years apart, and four days long, with some exceptions. I’d used your notes to plot out a conservative estimate for how often I could be awake and how long based on the amount of supplies I had for my own survival brought aboard. I’ve… learned a lot about myself in the last year and a half or so. I’ve grown, though not as much as Tia has, in my estimations. Honestly, assaults aside, it’s really good to see you Heather, it’s been a long time since I interacted with a human.” He smiled over at her, starting to eat as well.

T.I.A. watched them eat, nodding and hopping up to walk around, thinking. Heather followed her with her eyes, the biologist keenly interested in the strange life-form she was observing. Looking back to Hawthorne, she gestured with a forkful of food. “I hope she’s been keeping you from going crazy? Humans do terribly without regular human contact, especially without sex. She might be able to help you with those, but I’m not sure if it’ll be as effective as real human contact. Humans aren’t designed to live alone like you’ve been. You were actually better off as the robot you used to be, Hawthorne. I think you’re going to have some major issues later on if you don’t find a good outlet for human contact. You don’t have enough supplies to revive a second person too many times, I imagine? Don’t wanna start dipping into the supplies intended for the crew once we start living on this ship too.”

Hawthorne frowned through most of that, letting out a sigh. “I lived without much human contact most of my life, I’ll be fine. T.I.A.’s wonderful company, and we’ve gotten a lot of work done together. We’ve even been building a mind to house the only person from Earth who managed to upload themselves to u-”

“You have to stop doing that shit to me Hawthorne!” Heather threw some food at him, her face bright red. “You’re telling me they uploaded a mind too! That’s not funny. That’s major news! That’s ‘change the fate of humanity’ kind of news! Were you just planning to dump all of this on us when we finally got to Alpha Centauri all at once? This was supposed to be a sleepy mission across the infinite abyss where nothing happened until we got there. What happened to that plan Hawthorne? How many times have you risked our lives out here? Is this mind hostile or not?”

T.I.A. was having fun observing a lifeform as well, as it was the first time since before they left she could observe someone talking to Hawthorne in person. He’d changed so much.

Hawthorne wiped at his face with a hand, sighing. “She shouldn’t be hostile.” He ducked some more food as Heather shouted, “She!?” “Yes Heather, she. She was actually a survivor from before the Cataclysm from a bunker. She’d become a cyborg over time, and joined the group that we helped that I mentioned earlier, the Phoenix Clan. She apparently took her chances uploading to us rather than risking trying to survive the battle we mentioned earlier, and we lost contact after we got her. Hard to say if she was right or not, but I imagine they survived.”

Heather shook her head. “All these women, Hawthorne! You have to be more careful. I don’t care if it’s an AI or a cyborg or a roach, you need to keep your guard up. You’re not the type of guy who does well against women. Just make sure you don’t compromise the mission any further because of what’s in your pants, and if you need a little skin-on-skin to keep your head together, feel free to call on me. I don’t mind.”

He rubbed at his eyes, letting out a sigh. “Of course. Thank you Heather.” He glanced over to see T.I.A. snickering in their direction. “Oh don’t you start. I know she’s right, okay? I won’t let Megan get to me. It’s not like that emotionless robot woman could tempt me with anything anyway.”

With a raised eyebrow, Heather leaned forwards, looking at Hawthorne. “Emotionless robot woman? How much of a cyborg was she?”

T.I.A. responded quietly. “The file size for her upload was forty-five percent of the expected size for a human mind.”

Heather fell back into her seat, groaning and grasping at the sides of her head. “Alright, well, feel free to bring me back up if she turns out to be a problem. I’m not much of a psychologist, but maybe we could figure her out. Who knows what that kind of mind living with humans for that long would be like? I’m actually very eager to see if she could even be considered human, especially compared to Tia here. I’m willing to bet she doesn’t match up at all.”

With Heather’s visit, Hawthorne got some closure on his new condition. He’d have to be more careful than ever now that he couldn’t feel the pain of potential injuries or illness. It was also interesting to know he had a potential booty call if he needed one, but he had no intention of taking the free spirit known as Heather up on that. He felt relatively secure in the idea that his time in ‘isolation’ wouldn’t be nearly so isolated with T.I.A. and perhaps Megan available to him. He rather doubted Megan would be any good for physical intimacy though.

As of cycle 155, Hawthorne and T.I.A. were both standing in front of the housing of Megan’s new mind. Modelled after T.I.A.’s, it was understandably massive, but all it really needed was adequate shielding from space and necessary power, which were not too difficult to handle on the giant comet. In truth, Megan took up only about 1% of its total mass, though there was no telling how much other equipment they might install in the future. A communication terminal had been constructed, giving Megan a large monitor to express herself from, as well as some audio, radio transmitters. The whole communication suite had a mirror of itself back on the Ark, allowing Megan to display herself and talk to Hawthorne and T.I.A. in his work room, but at the moment it was enough for the two robots to be standing in front of the main one on the comet.

As Megan was booted up and awoken, she found herself floating in darkness. She could feel some sensations, but it was difficult for her to determine exactly what they were. Her body was numb, and she couldn’t see or hear. It was strangely peaceful. She had no idea if she was alive or dead outside of the fact that she was aware and could think. Fear suddenly gripped her as she worried that she might have been captured by some kind of monster, maybe one of those roaches. Their penchant for eating metal had always scared her, seeing as many of her replacement components were metal. She reached and groped about in her mind for anything she could use to defend herself in a near-panic.

Stars filled her vision. The night’s sky, one she had become very familiar with, spread out before her. She tried to move her eyes, but the visual did not change. She tried other things, but she found it difficult to interact at all. After some time, she managed to start getting it to move, as though reaching out her hands and shoving the stars about made her camera move. Suddenly she saw two robots, one shorter than the other, looking up at her. They appeared to be talking to each other, gesturing to each other naturally in a way she found herself very jealous of. She didn’t move nearly that naturally anymore.

She reached out more, trying to find anything. Static filled her mind, causing her to reel at first, before she started hearing patterns in the noise. With some effort she was able to force and mold the noise into voices, and she could hear them more and more clearly.

“... starting to look like she’s figuring it out. She’s got to find her new senses on her own, we can’t force it. It’s a new body for her.”

Megan wanted to scream. She could hear them! It was Hawthorne! Why was he a robot? Why could she see space behind them? Where were they? Had they been robots all along, and the video recordings they’d been corresponding with were just digital fantasies? Were they all uploaded like her? Was she in a robot like theirs? She had to find a way to respond!

She found something that felt like a river when she touched it, which made her mind tingle as she moved her consciousness against it. “Frrtmth…. Bttlrhetha?” She blinked, wondering what she just heard. Thankfully T.I.A. cleared it up for her.

“That sounded like her trying to talk, Hawthorne! She’s already trying to communicate!”

Megan did what made sense, dousing herself into the river and splashing about, her formless consciousness rippling and shoving against it, trying to give it form. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

Both robots flinched at the scream, but Megan brought the tone down as she wrestled with the water, starting to bend it to her will. “Aaaaaaaa….. Thorne….? Doctor Hawthorne Crenshaw…?”

“Megan? Yes, that’s my voice. I’m talking to you remotely. We just finished constructing a mind for you to inhabit, it’s installed in a comet flying in formation with the Ark. If you look over at the Ark with your camera and reach out to it, you should be able to project yourself to the terminal we installed there for you to interact with.”

T.I.A. looked a little nervous. “I don’t understand what I’m looking at Hawthorne.” She watched the monitor with unease.

“Ignore it for now, she’s still trying to acclimate.”

Megan felt confused as she listened to T.I.A.’s concerns. What was she seeing?

Megan turned her consciousness inward, trying to observe herself. She screamed as she found herself looking at a red mass of stretching veins up and down a sparkling river with huge pulsating limbs reaching out and melding into strange machines. A large eye blinked up at her from where it was looking out of a window, the nightmarish, fleshy mass filling a huge amount of the immediate area.


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