"The fusion reactor is operating at 100% capacity?" The Director asked as he looked over the control panel.
"It's operating at over twice what we assumed would be peak efficiency," Evans replied. "The Leewit had manuals for numerous fusion reactors and made some slight alteration to enhance stable power output."
"I thought we were the most advanced society on the planet," The Director said, wondering how her group had been overlooked and where they were based out of.
"I'm not sure we aren't," Evan said.
"I think the evidence speaks for itself," The Director said, gesturing to the reactor.
"Yes, it does," Evan agreed, "the tablet had numerous fusion designs… as part of starship blueprints."
"Pardon?" The Director asked.
"All the designs The Leewit paged through were for power systems on starships," Evans replied.
The Director silently contemplated what he'd been told for a couple of minutes before speaking, "The records of generation ships launched by the combined American and Chinese forces were not nearly advanced enough to contain such designs and it's highly doubtful they'd have advanced enough to do so while the majority of their resources were devoted to terraforming."
"Not to mention that they'd made no secret of the fact that they never intended to return," Evans added. "By the time they left they were already referring to the planet as The-Earth-That-Was, but then how did the children end up here? The tablet device they loaned us is filled with incalculable amounts of data but deciphering the language is taking time, so we aren't getting any answers from there as of yet."
"They may very well come from off planet," The Director admitted, "it would certainly explain their disparate DNA, but they are decidedly human. Sally and Linda got along with them well enough that they should be able to question them on their origins without them taking offense."
Evans nodded. "The boy's ability to repair things is astonishing. If we had even a single worker like that…"
The Director nodded. "We have sufficient amounts of his DNA to create entire lines of Synths, but from what we've seen his 'spells' require a bit of training. Provided it's not something that is a cultural taboo, I expect we can learn enough to train Synths based on him and if it is something he doesn't feel comfortable showing, then simple trial and error will eventually achieve the same end."
Evans smiled and nodded before going over the readings on the fusion reactor. "The future of humanity is looking better by the minute."
Harry woke up with The Leewit's arms around him and her belt fastening them together. He smiled, the momentary panic he normally felt on awakening, fearing he was in the cupboard, completely absent this morning. He wasn't quite sure what he was feeling, but he knew he liked it.
The Leewit felt Harry wake up, having been awake for a while, but had decided to let him sleep as he was still recovering from everything he'd been through and not because she was enjoying snuggling with him.
Harry's smile as he caught her trying to convince herself of that was ignored by the little blonde witch.
"Who's ready for breakfast?" Linda asked cheerfully as she and Sally entered the room they'd been given.
Harry's stomach rumbled as The Leewit tossed back the blanket.
"Why are you tied together?" Sally asked curiously, before they could answer.
"So he doesn't wander off," The Leewit replied as she undid the belt and shrunk it back down to it's normal size.
"He'll grow out of it," Sally told her, thinking of sleepwalking and how strange humans were while developing.
"I don't mind," The Leewit replied, grabbing Harry's hand and pulling him towards the bathroom. "We'll be ready in a couple of minutes."
"Do you think things will change if she finds that newly made Synths are... people?" Linda asked seriously.
"I don't know," Sally admitted. "Humans serve a purpose just like we do, though they seem to have a little more leeway in finding it. Maybe we'll be offered more choices?"
Linda nodded. "I wouldn't mind a little more choice in what I do, but not too much. Humans seem to have problems finding their purpose and it seems stressful."
"I know what you mean. Being assigned a purpose makes things much easier."
"We should probably have her look at some series two models just to be thorough," Linda said thoughtfully.
"Series Two are just machines shaped like humans, they are less complex than Mr. Handys," Sally pointed out.
"Mr. Handys seem more like people than some humans we've met," Linda said with a grin.
"Best keep that to yourself," Sally admonished her, "some humans are… a bit touchy about that."
"Some humans are touchy about everything," Linda said, shaking her head.
"I still say what you serve in the cafeteria is an offense to actual food, but it is exactly what Harry needs," The Leewit told the two synths.
"The Institute takes the view that food is simply fuel to keep your body operating, though with the fusion reactor operating that may change as they now have enough energy to spare for expanding the Hydroponics," Sally explained.
"It may not taste great, but it was very filling," Harry said, in defense of the food bars and slurries.
"Dr Li is going to create a brand-new synth for you two to scan," Linda said cheerfully, "it's a bit quicker and less messy than human reproduction, also no changing diapers or losing sleep."
"If you rely on a machine to continue your species then that is a single point of failure that can end your species," The Leewit warned, feeling a click in Harry's mind as he put several facts together and believed he knew why all the humans left on Earth had died out and not replaced the absent population.
"Nah, we got like a dozen synth creation machines tucked away in case of malfunctions," Linda said with a smile. "It may not be as secure as human reproduction, since you all carry personal units, but it has its advantages."
The Leewit laughed. "Faster and less painful as well as having a much higher output speed, I know. Can synths reproduce sexually?"
"The males are fully functional," Sally offered, "but female synths are typically created without ovaries, so we can avoid going through a monthly maintenance cycle."
"Monthly maintenance cycle?" Harry repeated, confused.
"They don't have periods," The Leewit explained, "which is something we of Karres control, for obvious reasons." Feeling Harry's confusion, she explained, "When you have a lifespan measured in centuries, letting all your eggs run out in the first eighty years means you can only have kids when you're really young, which would be annoying."
Harry smiled at the thought of having a large family filled with people like Leewit rather than the Dursleys.
"Our projected lifespan is only one hundred and eighty years on average," Linda said as they passed through one of the glass walkways overlooking the atrium, keeping to the right-hand side to allow those on the left to walk in the other direction.
"Pretty sure most people only lived to reach their seventies where I'm from," Harry offered.
"With their high levels of pollution and poor health care, I'm surprised they lived that long," The Leewit told him, thinking of what she knew of the time period in Earth's history, which was mostly guesswork and things Harry had mentioned, "but that's not something you need to worry about, we'll be taught the patterns needed to control our aging when we reach our late teens."
"And here we are," Sally said, waving to a large circular room that had a pool filled with a bubbling pink fluid in the middle with a complicated collection of robotic arms, equipment hanging directly above it, and a series of workstations along the walls.
"You have a dozen of these?" Harry asked in disbelief as an Asian woman typed away on some controls and the machinery sprung to life.
"No, we have everything we need in storage to build a dozen," Linda replied, "but only one is kept active at a time."
"Dr. Li, we've brought the children to witness the creation of a synth," Sally announced.
Dr Li looked up from the control panel and smiled. "Excellent, I was just getting everything ready." She turned to the children. "I'm Doctor Madison Li, but you can call me Maddie. I'm responsible for the Advanced Systems Division, which covers weapons, armor, the molecular relay, and the machines we use to create the synths."
"Nice to meet you, Maddie," The Leewit replied, "I'm The Leewit and this is Harry, we're on a camping trip."
"A camping trip?" Dr. Li asked in disbelief. "In the wastelands?"
"It's safe enough with our talents," the little blonde witch said confidently.
"I suppose that's true," the division head admitted. "I'd think your parents might object though."
"They'd only object if they saw something in the future that we didn't," The Leewit waved her concerns off.
"Would that we all could see the future that clearly," she said wistfully, before hitting a few buttons on the console in front of her. "If you'll direct your attention to the left, you'll see the first few steps in the creation of a synth."
A metal cradle supported a circular ring where mechanical pincers from the ceiling quickly assembled a human skeleton, pulling individual bones from a machine to the right of the cradle.
"We use an electrostatic charge to hold the bones in place," Dr. Li explained, "and those bones are a very high tensile strength plastic layered over cultivated bone marrow."
Once all the bones were in place, leaving the skeleton in a crucifix pose, the pinchers withdrew and a new pair of mechanical hands came down from the ceiling and started producing different tissues that it wove in place, creating muscles and organs over the lone skeleton.
"Internal organs, veins, and nerves are all painted in place, much like a 3d fabricator," the doctor said cheerfully.
The two watched fascinated as a human was created step by step before their eyes, the growth of skin encouraged by a device that simulated sunlight, blocking their view for a moment before it was withdrawn into the ceiling and the body was given an electrical shock to start its heart beating before the cradle was submerged into the bubbling pool and a few minutes later a synth came out.
"There's just the barest sense of self," The Leewit reported, "it's like I'm reading a newborn."
"But is he sapient?" Dr. Li asked.
"He's getting there," The Leewit replied, "I can feel his mind gaining in complexity, even as we speak."
"He should gain some trousers first," Harry suggested, gesturing at the naked synth who stood silently, awaiting instructions.
"Probably a good idea," Sally agreed, "I'll get him a jumper." She waved for Linda to stay and left.
"Do you have any synths that were created a week ago or possibly a month?" The Leewit asked.
"I have dozens of different ages, even including a couple of Series Twos in the next room," Dr. Li said, having anticipated the need for further test subjects.
"I'm at the seven-year mark as is Sally," Linda offered as they entered a room filled with lockers and a series of benches that were occupied by a wide variety of synths, male and female of various ethnicities and two robot that roughly resembled humans, their greyish latex skin and exposed joints making it obvious what they were.
"What are Series Twos?" Harry asked as the group turned to face them, the majority having been talking to one another quietly.
"I'm guessing the two robots in the back," The Leewit replied. "What series are the current synths?"
"Series Three," Linda said proudly.
"You guys went from robots to cyborgs that quickly?" Harry asked in disbelief.
"There were some experimental models before we moved from the purely mechanical to mostly biological, but yes we at the Institute pride ourselves on how quickly we can advance technologically," Dr. Li said.
"Can't say you didn't earn it," The Leewit said with a grin. "Yeah, all of them are definitely sapient except the robots. I can't read machines, so I've got no idea if they are or not."
"Do you know anyone who can read robots?" Dr. Li asked curiously.
"Technopathy isn't common, but I've met a few," The Leewit replied. "I know sapient machines are possible, but your Series Twos don't look advanced enough to be sapient. A good rule of thumb is that if it's intelligent enough to claim to be sapient, it probably is."
Dr. Li nodded. "A reasonable assumption, and one a few of us already ascribe to. I've always been of the opinion that Series Threes were sapient, but it's nice to have enough evidence to back up the theory."
"Bob has pants on now," Sally announced as she entered with the just created synth.
"Any change?" Dr. Li asked.
"More complex, but not sapient yet," The Leewit replied. "What do you think?" she asked Harry.
"I can sense him… his mind is kinda quiet compared to the others, but I haven't put a line on him, so I don't know," Harry replied with a shrug.
"In close range, meaning whatever range you can rell things at, you don't need to use active threads, you can use passive ones," she explained.
"Passive threads?" Harry asked, even as he saw a glimpse of the answer in the thinking but decided to ignore that and wait for her to answer as she really enjoyed teaching him.
The Leewit smiled. "Threads of klatha are omnipresent, where there is life, there is klatha. When you sense things you are relling them through the passive threads that surround us. Your mental senses are still adjusting to the layer we put around your mind or you'd sense a lot more and further away as well. I'll teach you a couple of ways to meditate that should let you sense them better later," she promised.
Harry nodded happily.
"How long does it take for sapience to develop?" Sally asked curiously.
"Somewhere between creation and a week's time at best guess," Dr. Li replied.
"What does that mean for us?"
"Probably not a lot," the doctor replied, "you're still created to serve a purpose, which you should excel at, so I doubt any of you will truly want to change professions. The main differences will be social as well as some legal distinctions being added to prevent the more abusive members of the Institute from treating you as equipment."
"What about the whole reset thing?" Harry asked.
"That's not going to change," Dr Li said confidently, "It gives us an option other than execution should they turn on the Institute. If we knew how, we'd install them in all the humans as well. The forces aligned against humanity may not have the strength and intelligence of the Institute, but they are far more numerous."
"Having your mind wiped ain't exactly a big step up from dying," The Leewit said.
"I agree," Dr. Li said readily, "but even a small step is better than none at all."
The Leewit reluctantly nodded.
"Well, now that that's settled," Sally said, "if you feel up to it, we have a selection of plasma rifles that are all broken in different ways that they want to see if Harry can fix."
"He'll get to keep one right?" Linda asked. "Pretty sure the rule is if you fix three you get to keep one for yourself."
"You can't give a preteen a plasma rifle," Sally chided her, "it's nearly two thirds his body length, making it difficult for him to handle properly."
"Safety first," Linda agreed. "So, plasma pistol?"
"With holster," Sally agreed.
"I'm still going to teach you how to use a bow," The Leewit quickly told the excited boy.
"I'll be happy to learn that too," he assured her, knowing it meant a lot to her, but not why, still he was going to get his very own ray gun!
"Leewit?" Harry asked as she fastened her belt around their waist so they could sleep.
"Are we going to screw up the past by helping them?" he asked. The Dursleys may have banned any form of fantasy in their house, but even he'd seen Back to the Future.
"Time travel doesn't work that way," she assured him. "If you go back in time it's to do stuff that has already happened."
"I don't think I understand," Harry admitted after he thought about what she'd said.
"I'm not sure anyone really does," The Leewit told him. "Let me tell you the story of how I got my name and see if it makes more sense to you then."
"Okay," he agreed, wondering what it had to do with time travel.
"While my mum was pregnant, she heard tell of a pretty, smart, and powerful witch who showed up out of nowhere, stopped a plague, saving thousands of lives and vanished before the Empire could catch her," The Leewit explained. "Mum thought those were excellent traits for a witch to have so she named me after the heroic witch in the hopes I'd be like her."
"Who was named The Leewit?" Harry asked, just to be sure.
"Exactly," she agreed with a grin. "Now, when my older sister reached marriageable age she decided she wanted to see what the man she'd decided to marry was like when he was younger. So, to make a long story short, we jumped back in time and I ended up stopping a plague."
"You're named after yourself?" Harry asked in disbelief.
"I am," The Leewit agreed with a wide grin.
"Then where did your name come from?" Harry asked with a frown.
"No idea," The Leewit replied with a shrug.
"Now I'm confused and my head hurts," Harry said with a sigh. "Can I just pretend I understand and not think about it?"
"That's what we all do," she assured him and gave him a squeeze. "Do what you're going to do and let the universe worry about the details."
"So, we can help people and not worry about it changing things?" he asked just to be sure.
"Exactly," The Leewit agreed. "It's already happened in the past, so nothing is going to change things, plus places like this tend to fall apart so anything we tell them is likely to get wiped out when they do."
'What? But if it's going to fall apart, why help them?" he asked, concerned.
"You like Sally and Linda, right?"
"They're nice," Harry readily agreed.
"Just because things aren't going to last doesn't mean you shouldn't help the people who are here now," the little blonde witch told him. "Societies collapse all the time, it's only the people who matter. In fact that is why societies collapse, because they start treating people like they don't matter, which is why this place won't last more than a couple of centuries at least."
"Isn't there any way to help them?"
"Once people get it into their head that they're working for the greater good of society, rather than the people that make it up they're usually too far gone to help," The Leewit admitted, "but we'll do our best to help them anyway. Just the fact that they were willing to see synths as people is a good sign even if their view of people in general isn't."
"I hope we can help them," Harry said with a yawn.
"So do I," The Leewit agreed, "and even if we can't do as much as we'd like to, at least we helped Sally and Linda."
"Yeah," Harry said brightly, snuggling into The Leewit's arms and closing his eyes, satisfied they were at least improving the lives of the two cyborg girls.
"Night, Harry," she said softly.
"Night, Leewit," he mumbled back as he drifted off to sleep.
"Alright, this is slightly concerning," The Director admitted as he listened to the recordings from their visitors room.
Typing by: fyrewolf5