Disclaimer: I don't own Rockman, X or any other variety or relative. Capcom does, and so do any other trademark/copyright/etc. holders. I don't even own the title, it's from a song owned by someone else.
Written ending at circa 4 am. I'll need to go over it later, I'm sure it contains the run-ons from hell. Born of musings re post-apocalypticness & X being especially cute in my head. I wanted a muse to squee for me, Cain was nice enough to oblige.
April 14, 2116: "I met 'X.' Light gave him the ability to think and make his own decisions..." (From the "Journal of Dr. Cain)
Even though he was a century old, the oldest living person on the planet, and looked like a teenager it was easy for Cain to remember that he'd been, quite literally, born yesterday.
It had only been fifteen hours since he'd come into the world, to be a bit more precise. X wasn't exactly a newborn baby: he could walk and talk quite handily once he'd completed system checks. Cain had needed to let X lean on him for a few seconds until he adjusted, and the first time he'd opened his mouth no words had come out. He'd been wordless, overwhelmed, not unable to speak. They had a bit of a problem since while they both spoke English, among other languages, X's vocabulary was a century out of date.
There had been a bit of a misunderstanding about the term 'last name,' that could have ended badly if Cain wasn't an archeologist who knew that 'last' hadn't always been a euphemism for doomed but could mean either final or remaining.
"What's your last name?" had once been an innocent question, not "what do you want on your tombstone?"
He'd been so apologetic, and worried, and he was the 'last' of his family, wasn't he.
Not a very good omen, or so X seemed to think.
The fact that he was sad about being an orphan was something else that didn't really translate. Dr. Cain was among the children of a trading caravan that had disappeared. You had to be insane to risk children, fertility, or the ability to carry children to term in the Wastes, so he'd been left with his mother. His father (via sperm bank, technically) and the others had died defusing one of the 'sleeper' bio-weapon capsules that still occasionally surfaced when humans came in sensor range. It was very heroic and so on, but unnecessary. They would have lived if they hadn't been stupid enough to take a shortcut. The mistake had cut their lives off short.
So his mother had stricken his father's name from his record and changed his name to Cain, the farmer, the survivor, in hopes he would get the message, stay at home, and not get himself killed. He'd stopped being her family when he became an archeologist. He was a dead man walking, in this profession, so they'd held a nice funeral so they could get the inevitable mourning over with in advance and he hadn't seen her since.
That wasn't something to be sad about. Survivors were lucky. The 'last' relic of Dr. Light, his gift of hope to the future, surviving the Cataclysm and all the years since?
A lucky break. A lucky child. A sign of hope.
A lost child, an orphan. He seemed to think that meant he was alone instead of everyone's child.
X looked out at the lichen, yellow scrub grass, cacti and mushroom-covered Wastes and saw its emptiness as a bad thing. It was, in several ways: Dr. Cain was here in specific to study Mesozoic plant life due to that environment being what should have happened in response to the restoration of pre-meteor mass extinction temperature and carbon levels, find out what went wrong, and hopefully find a way to fix it before it was too late. He'd expected trees, and clear rivers instead of healthy moss and algae-filled ones, and thought it was bleak and boring when the Wastes being boring were a good thing.
He'd expected robots, too. Well, there were still robots, but only in the cleared areas. Taking them out into uncharted territory where there might be a hacksignal was just begging to Darwin. X was immune to hacksignals, though, or should be, since they worked by reprogramming. You could have ai robots with wireless (which was just begging for a hacksignal) or you could have ones that needed to be manually reprogrammed and should just use a tractor with a human doing the button-pushing and have done with it.
Dr. Cain probably had children, at least genetic ones. He'd contributed to the sperm banks, as everyone did, before going out into the Waste and getting his genes scrambled by the residual radiation. He'd never met them. There was no point in them getting attached to a dead man walking. Strange that he'd gotten into an even more hazardous profession than his father despite everything.
So X following him around like this (like a baby chick, the old phrase came to mind) was something very new. Trainees usually followed him, the ones that lived did, but they followed at a safer distance. Experienced archeologists were like mine canaries, or they would be if canaries weren't extinct.
X, however, was sticking close, too close, Dr. Cain's habits screamed at him.
Only three or so feet away wasn't a safe distance if Cain stepped on a land mine or who knew what. He would tell the child to stay further back, but that wouldn't be a good idea in this situation. Telling him to stay away would be saying that he didn't want him close, that he couldn't protect him.
That was certainly true, but there was a difference between couldn't and wouldn't. He would do his best to protect X: he was a child.
In this world, people who didn't understand that children were more important than anything didn't have children that survived to have children of their own. Children were almost sacred.
The teddy bear (hadn't bears been predators? Why would they let them near children?) that X clutched was a case in point. One of the trainees' brother had a child on Hideaway island via the sperm banks, and had asked the trainee to bring a teddy bear to a child he would never meet in person. If it had been any other sort of …forget present, any other thing not necessary to survival he would have chewed the trainee out for wasting space on it instead of yet more survival gear.
But it wasn't a useless thing, it was a gift for a child, that had been given to this child in the certain knowledge that surely the brother could find someone else to take another bear to Hideaway, but here was a child in need right then.
It was dwarfed by X's arms, but he was still clinging to it, glancing furtively at Dr. Cain for reassurance and sticking close, although with X's sensors he was more likely to spot something the perimeter guards hadn't than Cain was.
Still, X was a child and Dr. Cain seemed to be his choice of parent. He knew more about the world that had created X than, oh, all but seven other people on the planet. And Dr. Cain was the one that was here.
He was going to have to retire from archeology, then. He couldn't take a child into the wilderness and he couldn't raise a child knowing the word that would be noted after Cain in the records was certainly going to be Darwin.
Not to mention that the technology that made up X, and the scraps they could salvage from the wreckage here?
They could save them all.
Robots, or not technically robots, that could safely be sent out into the Waste? Archeologists that were immune to bioweapons and mostly immune to radiation?
X's children could do things that numbered the days of humans fearlessly.
And that, that meant that…
That someday children would be like X. Afraid of being orphans, instead of wanting to be orphans, because that would mean they'd survived. Not that he'd wanted his parents to die, certainly not, and he hoped his mother was alive and well although she'd been showing signs of… (He didn't even want to think the word cancer.)
Not that it wasn't better to have a family.
But in a world where so many died, you prayed to be the one that didn't. To live so that the sacrifices your parents made for you wouldn't be in vain.
Dr. Light was dead, and X's siblings, and X was alive. That was a good thing, not a tragic thing.
The thought of a world where something like that would be considered a tragedy…
He still couldn't really grasp it.
His attempts to comprehend it were cut off by a yell over the loudspeaker. "Everyone, get on top of the trucks! Slime mold!"
Members of the animal kingdom had a hard time surviving out here. This was one of the reasons why.
Slime molds were unicellular organisms that joined up into one large critter when it seemed like a good idea, and one of the things that made it a good idea was prey. Human immune systems, provided they'd gotten all their boosters, could fight off single cells. However, a slime mold could kill a human, and then all it had to do was wait for the white blood cells to die before moving in for a meal.
They needed to roast the thing, and he could hear the flamethrowers working as he pushed a confused X up the ladder into Dr. Simon's arms, but the smell carried on the breeze and more cells would show up, and other things, to either fight back or feed on the remains.
Once a slime mold showed up there wasn't much you could do but leave and wait a week or so for it to completely disperse before coming back. There were ways to prevent them forming, but it looked like someone had gotten their hand cut and hadn't managed to clean up all the blood in time.
"I have a buster," X told him in hope it would be helpful.
"Buster?" The only thing that came to mind was the name of this old movie. "Does it burn or vaporize?" Bullets didn't do anything against things that could flow around the wound.
"It fires plasma." His arm, held out to demonstrate, changed before Cain's very eyes. He itched to take it apart, although that wouldn't be practical. Dr. Light had left a message to discourage anyone who thought they could learn his secrets by dissecting his son. Cain had no idea how that worked, but he was glad it did. Both the buster and the protections. X didn't look like a child, until you met him, and this wasn't a world that was unwilling to sacrifice the one for the many.
X was a good enough child that he'd probably volunteer, and that made Cain's heart ache even though he had volunteered to be one of those sacrifices himself, coming out here and facing certain eventual death.
"Go ahead," he motioned, and X nodded, looking serious and determined, wanting to do this right and to help.
The buster also 'charged,' and it was able to keep the slime mold too small to move fast enough to keep up with the trucks.
Everyone was cheering, and X still looked to him to ask if he'd done it right? He patted him on the shoulder. "That was great." It had also been scary. "Careful." Dr. Cain leaned over to loosen X's grip on the bear.
It had been tight enough to rip a couple of the stitches of an arm, "I'm sorry!"
"Don't worry, I've got a sewing kit." In with the rest of the first-aid/field surgery supplies in his pockets. "We'll fix him right up. Do you know how to sew?"
"Theoretically." And he didn't want to experiment on his teddy bear.
"Let me show you."
He didn't have to meet their looks to know he was getting more than a few jealous glares as he sat next to X and not only showed him how to sew but used the rubbing alcohol to clean the charred residue off the buster when X shaped it again. He had self-cleaning systems, but they hadn't really been used ever, although the capsule had been running tests… He'd used them for the dust, but they weren't up to buster residue without a solvent to work with yet, or chemicals to convert into one.
He was a good kid. A very good kid.
Dr. Light had to be proud, in the City or wherever he was. He had to think that his life and death had been worth it if X lived to have children of his own and help others, right?
His final creation, the remainder of his children, his ultimate creation.
Dr. Cain refused to dwell on the fact that X was the last of Dr. Light's family in more ways than one. He would be the first of a new family. Not the last of a doomed family, the only member of a stillborn race.
X was awake now, alive now, and he would stay that way.
Nothing else mattered compared to that.
So he'd find a way to learn how to repair him and replicate him, as soon as they got X home and learned what X already knew about himself. He didn't have plans, but he, thankfully, knew how to do repairs and maintenance, and that was enough to build a human in these days of gene damage.
Hopefully Dr. Light, who had built him capsule able to last more than twice as long as planned either just in case or so that his child would have the most reliable care, had been smart enough to let this child be born enough that they all could live, that X wouldn't be left an orphan, the last, once again.
April 15, 2116: "Light was a genius! I may be able to replicate his design..." (From the "Journal of Dr. Cain")