See? I told you the next one would be up (relatively) soon(-ish). Enjoy!
"Let's see… Hospital… I guess all of these? Name: Genos. Date of birth…" I bite my lip, squinting at the screen in front of me. My fingers hover over the keyboard for a moment, then continue. "Suppose just the birth year will have to do…"
A Do-Bop-Bot rolls up beside me and in it's melodic, computerized voice announces: "Creator found. Bop, bop! Creator. Allow two-way communication?"
"Sure, why not?"
"Why not: Accepting a two-way communication call may result in a lack of focus, an increase in unproductivity—"
"I meant yes. Patch me through. And set a reminder to enhance D-B-B's vocabulary again."
"Reminder set. Bop, bop! Patching Doctor through to Creator." The bright yellow orb at the center of the Bot flashes, then turns blue. "… Penelope?"
"I'm here, Grandfather," I say to the Bot. "Do you need me?"
"No, no. I'm fine for now. But you ran out so quickly, I didn't hear what you were saying. What is it you're doing?"
I sigh, returning my attention to the computer before me. "I said, I'm going to see if I can recreate Genos' face."
"Ah. I see." He pauses and the sound of a fine-point laser buzzes through the Bot's speaker. It stops. "How are you planning to do that exactly?"
"I'm checking the records of children born fifteen years ago named 'Genos' in and around his city. Then I'll cross reference the results with… Oh. Wait. I've got a match."
"Well, Genos isn't exactly a common name. Let me see."
I run the name on the birth certificate through a search engine and a surprising amount of results appear. Clicking the first link, a newspaper article with a picture overtakes the screen. There are multiple people in the shot. It looks like an award ceremony of some sort. At the bottom of the picture in italics is a small directory, listing off the names of those seen above. Genos' name is at the very edge of the second row.
The boy standing there is similar to the boy we rescued. However, this Genos has a full head of spikey blonde hair, all his limbs in place, and skin without a single gash or burn. Paired with a mature smile, both of his bright brown eyes shine towards the audience. Perhaps his parents are sitting there, glowing with pride at their son's accomplishment.
"Huh. He's actually pretty good looking," I mumble. My eyes skim over the article beneath the photograph. "This picture was taken last May."
"But are you sure it's him?"
"You say that like I'm supposed to know what he looked like…" I study the boy in the photograph closely. "I mean… Their features match up well. Same jaw, same nose… hair color, eye color… Yeah, I'm willing to bet this is him."
"Alright then. I'll leave you to it. Come back whenever you've finished."
The Do-Bop-Bot's monitor flashes again before returning yellow. "Bop, bop! Two-way call complete. Standing by."
Ignoring the Bot, I pull the picture onto my desktop and open several programs. One helps me to erase everyone from the picture but Genos. I zoom in on his head, select it, and send it to another program. This one has a simple gray ball of mass in the center of a black and green grid. His face pops up in a separate box in the upper left-hand corner.
"Do-Bop-Bot." A small melody plays, indicating that it is ready to receive orders. "Scan the face of the boy in the main lab and upload it to this program."
After a few seconds it goes, "Bop, bop!" and the blob in the center of the screen begins to shift, molding into the given dimensions.
I scowl at the long nose and big ears. "No, not Grandfather! Do-Bop-Bot, scan the face of the boy in the main lab!"
It doesn't move. "No boy found."
My back arches in surprise. "What?"
"No boy found," it repeats.
"But…" Wait, does he already register to them as a… "Scan the cyborg's face."
The gray blob returns to it's original, spherical shape. Then shifts again and constructs into the face I want.
"Thank you," I sigh.
"You are welcome. Creator."
With his picture as my guide, I reshape the digital clay. Filling in the gaps of missing skin and bone, blotching out the scars, and erasing burns. The program helps to restructure the area around his missing eye, along with the sockets and lids themselves.
In another program, I replace the missing chunks of hair and 'rejuvenate' the dead, burnt hair that managed to remain on his skull. This takes the most time, as there isn't enough left on Genos' head to give the program actual, proper dimensions to work with. Eventually, after much trial and error, it looks like a full, healthy head of hair. There's a tool, essentially a comb, that allows it to be styled. Hopefully, Genos normally wears his hair as he did when the picture was taken. He'll be able to style it however he likes, of course, but this is how it will 'naturally' fall.
I save the file, then transfer the hair to the previous program. Once in it's proper place, and at the proper scale, the person in the photograph and the 3D model before me look nearly identical. Turning the model in every direction, I adjust a few details, trying to compensate for the passage of time between now and when the picture was initially taken. The final program fills in the colors, which–aside from it insisting his eyebrows be hot pink–takes no time at all.
The face is perfect. Literally. There are no lines or blemishes of any sort. It's a little unnerving and I have to remind myself it'll look better in person. Rather, when it's on a person. I combine everything and save the final image before sending it off to be crafted in another part of the facility.
"Do-Bop-Bot." Its melody chimes as I stand. "Have the finished product brought to the main lab when it's ready. Understand?"
"I understand. Creator."
Upon my return, I find Grandfather has wasted no time during my absence. He had begun wiring 'nerves' through the finished endoskeleton, but then, in his typical fashion, had moved on to something else. As he works, Grandfather likes to move from one thing to another, to another, and another. He sets down an unfinished hand, then picks up part of the unfinished core. If you watch him for too long, it can make you dizzy—or, if you're like me, drive you completely insane.
Pulling my fully charged goggles over my eyes, I join him at the table and pick up the discarded hand, a small screwdriver, and the fine-point laser. The pieces are too tiny to handle while wearing my gloves. Grandfather knows this but still sends me an unhappy look. Ignoring him, I focus on the data on my screen. My fingers wrap the tiny wires through the necessary components and zap them in place.
Before I know it, the hand and the blaster in its palm are complete. In the time it's taken, Grandfather has jumped from the core piece, to the connectors, to the knee joints, to the outer armor, to the mouth. I thought we had already finished with that, but Grandfather continues to tinker with it.
Picking up the nearly finished core, I grin. "Don't tell me the great Dr. Stench forget to install something?"
"As a matter of fact, I forgot the taste buds."
"Taste buds?" I repeat with a chuckle. "What would a fighter model need taste buds for? Is he going to lick his fallen enemies and taste their defeat?"
"There is more to this world than revenge, Penelope. Perhaps, after he has time to grieve, Genos will understand that and change his mind."
I frown. It had been a joke, but he was taking this quite seriously. "Grandfather…. His home was destroyed by that monster. No amount of mourning is going to change that."
"Not a monster. A cyborg."
"A monstrous cyborg. One you're chasing for the very same reason."
"Penelope," he sighs, setting his hands down. "I understand very well what Genos is going through. I only hope he won't use this second chance on something so…" His wrinkles deepen as he scowls, unable to find the word. "Imprudent," he says eventually.
"But Grandfather… We've been chasing this cyborg for as long as I can remember." My head starts to ache. "Does that mean we're imprudent? Wasting our lives on trying to find, and stop, that monster from causing any more harm?" A dull pain shoots though my head, making my fingers twitch. Grandfather sees this from the corner of his eyes and frowns.
"You have suffered. In more ways than you know. But that pain has not swallowed you, nor turned your life to vengeance, like it has done to mine. Like it may do to Genos'. You are free from that burden in ways we are not. At times, I am almost envious of that."
Pouting, I say, "What does that mean? I may be younger than you, but my life has been just as focused on finding this monster."
Grandfather does not respond and merely focuses on what's in front of him. I try to wrangle with the meaning of his words, but a persistent headache interrupts most of my thoughts. In the end, I too return to my work.
A large yawn overcomes me. I push back my goggles and rub my eyes before examining our work. The world is a little fuzzy and it's hard to concentrate but we're nearly there. Genos' head and three of his limbs are entirely finished, with the rest of him not too far behind. His face is still a little unnerving, being so flawless and motionless, but less so than when it was just a concept on a screen.
Grandfather had fallen asleep while working on Genos' final leg. Him cuddling it like it were his favorite toy makes me wish for a camera. Instead of bothering to search for one, I tap the top of his head. He stirs a little and smacks his lips.
"Don't drool on the gears, Grandfather."
He cracks open an eye, sees what he's holding onto, and springs upright in his seat at a surprising speed. A few loud pops emit from his bones as he does so. He huffs, dropping something on the floor as he rubs his lower back.
"I'm getting too old for this," he grumbles.
"If it makes you feel any better, all-nighters have never been your forte."
"I can't help–," he groans as he stands from his seat and begins to stretch, "–that my body needs rest." Grandfather checks his watch and frowns. "You've been up this whole time?"
"It feels silly to stop when we're so close to being finished."
He rubs his eyes and returns to his seat. "Ah, to be young and reckless."
"I'm not being reckless," I say. Or at least attempt to as another obnoxious yawn escapes me.
"Perhaps we should stop for the night."
"No way! I'm totally awake! See?" I jump up and start doing jumping jacks. "Moti! Vated! Ener! Gized!" I attempt a few lunges, getting stuck near the floor. "Check out how–ow, ow, wait, no, ow–awake I am?"
Grandfather chuckles, then puts his hands up to try and calm me. "Alright, alright. Settle down. We'll keep working. But," he brings a finger forward, "you will go straight to bed afterwards. Understand?"
"Sure, sure, sure!"
With newfound energy, I dive into Genos' chest cavity, tightening this and finishing the wiring on that. My mind moves faster than my hands could ever dream in my body's current state. Little mistakes start piling up and force my fingers to repeat every task at least twice. Grandfather, though sluggish from his nap, proceeds to finish the leg in a steady, flawless manner.
Together, we finish the rest of the torso, setting the larger tubes and hoses and locking them in place. We cover his stomach region with a protective material, similar to the kind on his arms and legs, though somewhat thinner to allow expansion. Grandfather checks the core one last time before we seal it away under heavy, shield-like plates, which are covered in even more protective material.
Yawning, I put my Fore Comp back on and link it to Genos via a wire within his forearm. I initiate a few basic tests while Grandfather reads the results on the large computer near the other side of the room. We monitor and alter different levels, and preset certain necessary functions, like 'average oxygen intake per minute' and 'standard vision settings'.
Per Grandfather's wishes, I try to keep most of Genos' default settings only moderately higher than those of a standard, organic human. But per Genos' wishes, I set certain things closer to that of a fighter model. Like his energy scanner, which I set in such a way that it will register any sudden changes within his surroundings automatically.
"Alright, everything looks good," Grandfather announces. "Let's see how this goes, shall we?"
"Let's do it!"
Slowly and carefully, we begin to remove all of the attached machinery that has been keeping Genos alive during the conversion. It's a delicate procedure. We have to be sure his new body can effectively keep up these functions without any outside support. If they can't, we have to reattach everything and go back in to fix the problem. Thankfully, Genos' body isn't giving us any trouble—Grandfather is an expert, after all. Eventually, there's only one piece left: the piece at the back of his head.
Until you get to this finicky little thing, the thing that keeps the brain alive and well, there's a pretty low chance of your patient dying during the operation. Removing it is the very last step of the transformation, nicknamed the MOB step—the make-or-break step. This is when you find out if the person is physically and mentally compatible with what you've done to them.
If things go wrong, the best case scenario is a quick death; the brain freaking out and short-circuiting the rest of the system. The worst case is when the brain can withstand the change but the mind cannot. That's how renegade cyborgs like that mad killer come about. Unlike that monster though, destructive renegades are in a constant state of destroying; they never cover their tracks or go into hiding for months or years at a time.
Renegades aren't always a danger to others. In fact, most of the time they're only a danger to themselves. Tearing apart their own flesh and metal, muscle and wiring. They cry unable to produce tears, and laugh hysterically while they rip out their own throats. I've seen the footage. It's heart-wrenching.
Taking in deep breaths, we share a look and then a nod. He moves around to the back of the table while I call in a swarm of Do-Bop-Bots. I stand behind them, close to the door and order them to create a blockade around the two of us, careful not to use the word defense. Not yet anyway.
"One…" Grandfather reaffirms his grip. "Two…" There is a click followed by a slight hissing sound as he unlocks the nozzle. "Three!"
Grandfather detaches the piece from Genos' head and quickly jumps away. Several Bots flock around him protectively as Genos shoots up. Big black and gold eyes spell out panic on that porcelain face. He takes in huge gulps of air and catches sight of his body. Looking down, he opens and closes his hands and studies them all the way up to his shoulders. He feels his chest and grabs at his hair before finally noticing me, barricaded behind a handful of bronze, oval-shaped robots.
They aren't very menacing. The tallest only reaches my waist and the shortest stops at about mid-thigh. The older models sway a little, trying to balance on their singular wheel, but the newer, three-wheeled ones are too 'hyper' to sit still anyway. Genos' sensors don't seem to recognize them as a threat, either, since I haven't yet ordered them into defense mode.
Awkwardly, I give him a small smile and a wave. He returns it, slowly, albeit looking quite confused. A fantastic sign.
"Did…" He stops. Surprised at the sound of his voice, perhaps? He tries again. "Did it… work?"
"You tell me."
Genos looks down at his body. He grips his hands into fists then flexes his fingers. "I think so," he replies sheepishly.
Grandfather and I regard each other with a mixture of pride and relief before dismissing the majority of the Bots. Genos' eyes follow them curiously and he jumps a little when Grandfather pats his shoulder. We both take a moment to revel in our good fortune, confusing the poor boy terribly.
"Why don't you try standing, Genos?" Grandfather suggests. "Walk around a bit if you think you can."
His brows furrow a bit but he goes along with what Grandfather says. I move to his side as he attempts to maneuver off the operating table.
"It feels a little weird."
"I'll bet," I say, taking hold of his arm before he can step down. Good thing too, because the moment his feet touch the floor he nearly tips over. "Your brain," I say with a groan, helping him into a standing position, "still thinks it's navigating your organic body. More weight in places it doesn't expect, less in places it does. That sort of thing."
"So you're telling me I have to relearn how to use my body?" He finds his center and I move back a step, my hands ready to grab him again if necessary.
"That wasn't what I was telling you, but, yeah, kinda. Oh, and if anything feels loose in your skull, don't worry about it. It's just your detached brain rattling around."
I laugh as his hands fly to his head. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Seriously though, if anything feels super weird tell us right away, got it?"
He glares, clearly not appreciating my golden sense of humor. "Everything feels weird."
"Better than feeling dead," I counter, still grinning. His face falls, as if a bomb as dropped upon him. My hands slam over my mouth, realizing what I've just said. Despite their artificial nature, his eyes expose a flurry of horror and pain. The past few hours–days? –are playing over in his mind. The deaths of those he loves–loved?–, his own bout with mortality. Shit. Shit! "I'msorryI'msosorry! I didn't mean to! I was just trying to… I'm so sorry!"
For a moment, he returns to reality. He glances at my shirt, his face twisting in an almost queasy fashion –something you don't often see on a cyborg–, before looking elsewhere. Curious, I look down and find myself still covered in his blood. The nearly black color practically engulfs me and has stiffened my clothes considerably. I hunch over and try to hide what I can, which isn't much.
My existence is just one fucked up reminder of the Hell he's endured. Nobody should have to go through something so traumatic. Nobody should be forced to relive it, either. I apologize again and quickly excuse myself.