"Refrain from doing ill; for one all powerful reason, lest our children should copy our misdeeds; we are all too prone to imitate whatever is base and depraved."

-Juvenal


He smiles because it's all he knows how to do.

It's not a matter of protecting his seemingly fragile AI from the potential harms of –justified?- murder, but instead, it is because of the simple reason that he lacks any motive or backing as to why he should do otherwise. If Red will laugh and smile as the maverick bodies fall to nothing more than pieces of scrap and fraying wires to the blows of a whirling scythe and dual pistols, then so will he.

He has two memories of waking up. The first is of no importance to him and his –Red's?- beliefs to forget the past and focus on the here and now. Nonetheless, he dutifully clings to it like a lost child to their mother and from time to time dares himself to hope that it will maybe, in all its blurry images and fuzzy words, eventually direct him to even a sliver of the answer belonging to the question which is his existence. Rather complicated, he believes.

The second tidbit of recollection he keeps for informational purposes, –and perhaps, he will admit, because he enjoys remembering it now that he is able to fully understand- and all other irrelevant events and memories, like waking up after a recharge, are filed away and compressed where they can be reached if the situation calls, but at a much slower speed. He feels it is an efficient way to free some space for his inner hard drive.

He tells this to Red and all he gets is a glance that could almost pass for sympathetic.

But still, he remembers the second awakening. He remembers that Red told a joke, and that he did not understand. Or rather, he did not, at the time, consider the concept of a joke. What the joke was is irrelevant, he could not tell it unless he looked through the compressed sections. He does not look back on this moment and kick himself for not understanding, and instead, he uses it as reference as to when certain things are appropriate. Jokes are allowed if A occurs, but not if D happens before it. If C continues for more than five minutes, proceed and...

What else would he do? The programming that he was created with, or indeed, if he ever possessed any, was erased at a point before his records stretch back to; much like a newborn babe delivered into the world without a clue as to its purpose, he knew little more than the fact that he had nothing to know. At least the infant can cry out in its distress, at least the innocent child is not expected to understand what it was doing in the world. The best he could manage was a blank stare and stuttered attempts at a language he did not know he possessed.

Now that he understands such things, he wonders how Red ever taught him. He wonders how he ever learned. There is no file within his databanks that indicates any tampering within his executables usually reserved for things such as language and reactions, though he would not put it past Snipe Anteater –No one really knows what he is capable of when given a computer- He ignores the fact that the geezer notes how interesting his inner circuits appear as he mutters on. He would prefer to remain in one piece after all.

Being the topic of study was never really his ideal.

But he digresses, because he knows it is what Red would do when faced with such a musing. It is better to just forget about it. Worry about only the here and now…although planning for the future could be beneficial as well; There is no point to distressing about the past, because it has already happened and is therefore out of sight, out of mind.

He ignores the part of his relatively newly-constructed logic sectors that tell him the past can always come back to haunt.

And so he continues to smile. The child, attempting to mimic the parent, siphons off what they can and attempts to make it theirs. It is all done in innocence and no one thinks worse of them for it. And yet, the parent still wishes for the child to learn on their own, to create something new to the world instead of borrowing and never giving back.

This is why, he knows now, Red laughed as he copied for the first time. Ironic, had monotoned Stone Kong as he'd passed by. 'Little brat', had been Splash Warfly's contribution. He had merely grinned and waved back, though safely from behind the shield of the mettool that he'd 'borrowed'. -Which had turned out quite useful later as the latter had attempted to poke him with a rather pointy spear-

But still…stealing and/or borrowing the abilities of minor mechanaloids was the first time he defined something as awkward without solid proof that Red had done the same. And for weeks he wondered whether or not this minor tidbit of mental independency was entirely safe, after all, Red knew everything…

He never brought it up and he never planned to.

Deoxyribonucleic acid, he originally learned, was more associated with humans than reploids. Most homo sapiens, he would learn at a later date, lacked even the knowledge that Reploids and their Mechanaloid brethren also happened to contain the genetic blueprints once thought limited to purely natural life. This, he knows, is untrue as he listlessly sorts through every single strand of DNA that he has collected over a set period of time, deleting the invisible footprints that they have left on him and whatever personality may have been considered 'his' to begin with. He will not cower like a metool, he cannot fly like a glider, he refuses to throw boulders like a ruinsman. It is not him –or at least, what he expects is him, as he cannot truly define what he himself is-

He wonders what happens when he does not get rid of these fragments. Sometimes he is afraid that that he has not, in fact, fully erased them, and that they still live on somewhere other than the backup sectors which he has quarantined from the rest of his systems. He refrains from pondering over whether, if those imprints still exist, would he even notice?

And would Red, in all his infinite wisdom of the world, condemn such a thing?

The first time in which he is positive that his opinion differs from that of Red's is also in relation to this increasingly larger part of who he is considered. He, being the commander-in-chief would want for nothing more than a longer transformation, a larger window of opportunity in which hunts could be carried out and planned around. He, on the other hand, wishes for nothing more than for it to end. Because at least then, he knows, this infernal game of kill, copy and repeat will finally come to a halt and Red will once again see him as an equal and not an oddity that he just happens to be affable with –he ignores the voice that says Red will never see him in this light again, and will instead mourn the possibility of rising further within the world-

The child begins to grow and change, and suddenly the parent does not want to let go. The infant hesitantly steps forward on unsteady legs, and while the guardian will gradually release the chubby fingers from their grip, they will wish to snatch back the flailing limbs and once again hold order over every point of life.

By the time he is branded as different, he realizes that he could get no more similar. He is now past the point at which irrelevant items are filed away, and will now live in the moment to relish in the sweet savory of victory afterwards time and time again. It is because of this, he knows that he remembers so clearly.

He returns from the mission with his helmet seemingly beyond repair and the space between his eyes stained with the crimson of blood supplement and the serenity of translucent coolant. The medic will groan and force him onto the table, and by the next time he is online, the same medic is leaning over him and telling him that there was just nothing that could be done and that he was just too different.

The doctor also remarks how similar to Red he now appears.

He, originally so quiet and later so thunderous will again be reduced to speechlessness, which are the chains that prevent the sense of self that he was only just beginning to attempt. He falls back, head over heels, and in essence is once again nothing more than the blank slate, needing nothing more than the role model to imitate, the parent to copy off of and borrow from.

They are so alike, after all; both without another place to go; Both without the past to be linked and/or chained on, nor the future to look forward to. There is one scar, watches as it falls down across the face and makes him half blind. There is the other mark, watch as it slashes between the eyes and warns all before it of what this body has been through.

…Right?

And once again he puts himself through the paces of learning, only now with the knowledge that he is not the same as Red, and never will be. This scar, on the bridge of his nose and towering up to the upper ends of his forehead is different from Red's. Whereas Red kept his own for looks, his was retained only from necessity. While one may be repaired, the other must stay its course as a discolored patch, marking its owner as unusual in more than one sense.

He was made with the thought in mind that he would never be different. As he was expertly engineered, hardware was crafted so that he would come to conform on a level which had previously been considered out of reach for all involved, reploid and human alike. And here he stands, apart from the group with the sole fact that he cannot hide that which marks him as unique, whether it be on the inside or out. Here is this patch of poorly grafted tissue. Here are the smudges of fingerprints left behind by those who refused to die within him.

It is still all he can do, because it is still all that Red will permit. He is still smiling as anarchy begins to spread its weed-like routes into the only place he may label home. He is still smiling as he unquestioningly hands over the footprints upon his own self that were once so worrying. He is still smiling as Red too laughs and grins while the bodies fall to the floor, though these are no longer strictly maverick cadavers.

He is smiling when Red breaks into his room one night and spills what has to be the most sincere apology, or even jumble of words, that he has ever heard from the taller one. He continues grinning as the elder shakes him for all that he is worth, near-screaming why he is so damned happy about this. He still retains hints of a beam even as the open hand closes in on the tender cheek, and thinks nothing of it right up to the moment synthetic skin begins to scrape across its brethren.

The slap rings out.

"Leave before we all kill you" he says without a hint of mirth.

It is then that Axl stops smiling, turns his back on all of them, and never looks back.


Will update 'What Matters' in near future. Do not kill me. Axl is more fun to write about than Rock, for some strange reason.

And yes, yes, I acknowledge the fact that Axl is faaaar more...how should I put this? Alive? As in, 'Lookie lookie! I've got this giant bazooka!' kind of alive :P But, just wanted to mess with him I suppose. If he really doesn't remember anything, how did he learn to be what he is?