Heya guys! Sorry for such a huge delay with this chapter-I've been horrendously busy and the internet has been down for the best part of a week. Real life has also played a rather serious part too. But here it is! The final installment of Archive Run! I hope it lives up to expectations and that you all enjoy it! Please let me know what you think! Now, without further ado, read on!
Caleb slowly regained consciousness, everything was still fuzzy but there was one thing he knew for sure.
He had never felt this awful in his life.
He had no idea how long he'd been out, all he knew was that everything hurt, all over, cold, aching and stiff.
This must be what it feels like to fight an army of droidz single handed, then get dunked in the ocean as an after-thought. Brrr.
But there was a memory of warmth, a lovely lilting voice that appeared, he tried to remember through the fog, when he was cold, it was bright like the sun and it wrapped itself around him sheltering him and comforting him. He longed to hear it again.
It made him feel like he wasn't alone.
He thought of the voice, like a ribbon of gold, closing his eyes trying to remember the sounds, relaxing as the melody began to wash over him, soothing his aches and lulling him back to sleep.
Several hours later he found himself slowly opening his eyes once again. This time, his muscles weren't screaming at him. Well not as much. Still, he knew where to take a plus when it came along.
He began to focus on his surroundings, taking in new information as and when his tired brain could cope with it. The first sensory reports began flooding in, most were far too complicated to process yet however the most concurrent one he could focus on was the realisation that he was, in essence warm.
Well, warmer than he had been in what felt like ages.
He didn't want to move, feeling more comfortable than he could ever remember, the harsh aches of consciousness being dulled by the overriding sensation of, well, coziness. He tried to source the location of this heat that was rolling over him in comforting waves and, after a while realized he had his arms wrapped around a radiator, a soft, fleshy radiator that seemed to extend around his back. That was odd he began, the thought slowly cognating but was quickly distracted by the realisation that his face tickled.
That was definitely weird.
He decided to chance a look. Opening his eyes he was surprised to find himself buried nose first in a mass of vibrant red. Red? He tried to re-focus, the image sharpened enough to make out glossy ruby curls that smelt of rain. Rain? Rain! He knew that scent! He did! Where from, where…recognition blossomed, Lexa!
She was lying beside him, fast asleep, curled up around and clasping him to her like she'd never let go.
Well this was unexpected. Felt nice though he decided a broad smile dawning across his face. She was sleeping soundly, she must be tired after all the hard work they'd put in the day before, building new equipment for Futuregate. He shifted slightly, trying not to wake her. This was a rare opportunity, despite the aches and the throbbing in his head, he didn't want to waste it. He wanted a better look. Just to appreciate how lucky he was to have been granted company.
She stirred, grumbling something into his shoulder, her lips mumbling against his skin. He could feel her breath rolling over him, making the hairs stand on end. He smiled at her, holding still, letting her settle again.
While he waited the sensation processed. How could he feel that so closely? Surely that wouldn't get through his hoodie? Sickening realisation began to seep into the pit of his stomach. Very gently he eased his right hand free of her, inching the fingers that so desperately wanted to touch her curls out from under the blanket. And into his line of sight.
His hand was naked.
His fingerless glove gone and as he drew closer to himself his wrist came into view sans hoodie sleeve. Real fear began to coil in his guts. Steeling himself he raised the hem of the blanket and looked down.
His worst fears were confirmed.
Save for his undershorts he was completely bare, pale flesh and ugly metal work glinting mockingly at him in the lamp light. All thoughts of stealth flew out the window as panicked terror seized his heart. He bolted upright with a cry, desperate to find his clothes, to cover his wrongness. To hide it from her.
His sudden vertical lurch not only made his head and vision swim but startled a seriously sleep deprived Lexa out of some well earned rest.
"Who? What?" She gabbled, "ROBOIDZ!" She scrabbled frantically about grabbing up the nearest item to hand, launching herself to her feet, planting herself between Caleb and the door roaring in defiance "YOU'LL NEVER TAKE US ALIVE!" Panting, seething with instant battle fury she brandished her weapon menacingly whilst things began to settle into focus. The Lair. She recognized it now, not one of the many ruined outposts she'd slept in. And defended.
No, the Lair was definitely not ruined, just a bit disheveled and decidedly lacking in any nine foot tall killing machines, "Oh," she looked about as if to make sure, "Right then," She announced trying to avoid Caleb's astonished face, "Er, false alarm," She looked hurriedly away from him, eyes catching sight of her intended weapon, "Beans?" holding the can somewhat suddenly unwillingly. She dropped back down to the bedspace, her face rapidly matching her hair colour. Trying to mask her embarrassment she deliberately turned her attention back to Caleb, discarding the can as discreetly as she could, "Another nightmare huh? You okay?"
Caleb could barely register her words on top of his temporarily distracted panic and flat out shock at her display, if he wasn't so stunned and damned unsettled he'd have found it hilarious (if not slightly terrifying) that Lexa could apparently go from asleep to armed warrior in half a second. And that she was doing so this time to protect him? Well that was just flat out stunning.
He found he was constantly reminded of just how truly dangerous and capable Lexa really was, even it was only armed with a can of Heinz.
It was a weird place to find oneself, caught between awe and terror. The image of Lexa in full Amazon mode was officially burnt into his retinas. Boy, had he underestimated how physically different they were.
Without her body armour he could see the actual lines of her slender curves. With all the rounding she should have looked softer but stood like that, stanced to do battle, she was all hard business. He knew he should look away, that it wasn't polite (the recruits really were quite hot on the whole manners thing) but he couldn't stop staring. She really was one of the most incredible things he'd ever seen (and that list included time travel working and Neuros' defeat) her paleness seemed almost luminescent in the gloom yet it was marked by angry red patterns criss crossing down one thigh and zigzagging across a shoulder. Lots of other, smaller marks peppered across her arms and legs like a myriad sprinkling. Some previously unknown instinct urged him to reach out and touch them, to try and make them better somehow.
He clamped down on it quickly, startled by the impulse. Why would he want to do that? Why did they need making better? They weren't wrong, on the contrary they actually looked kind of pretty in an random, intricate way. But he should definitely keep his hands to himself. He couldn't possibly make her better any way. No chance. Plus, if nothing else right now he'd probably earn a food tin to the face for his efforts.
He mentally shook himself, trying to pull himself together, focusing on the now. Which had the unfortunate effect of remembering why he was sat up in the first place.
Serious lack of clothing.
And there was the panic back again and in full vengeful flow at having been temporarily sidelined. He didn't want her to see him, he needed to get under cover and fast but she was looking right at him. Talking. He needed to work out a way of distracting her for long enough. Hoping for an opportune moment he snapped his attention (as much of it as he could muster away from the frantic screaming going on in the back of his brain) back to her, trying to zero in on her words.
"I said," She repeated for the fourth time, "Was it another nightmare?"
"What? Nightmare?" Warning bells began to ring in his already over-chaotic brain- this was a subject to move away from right now. How on earth did she know about his nightmares? He hadn't been yelling in his sleep had he? He thought they would go now he knew he wasn't alone! That wasn't fair! He hoped she didn't know what they were about. The last thing he needed was her not only seeing him for what he really was but knowing what a coward he was to boot. No. Not happening. She couldn't know.
"No, ah, it's nothing." He bunched the blanket up closer to his chin.
"Okay," She quirked an eyebrow, not really believing him but deciding for the moment to play along, "Well," she moved forward, "let's check your temperature then, you're looking much better."
Better? This was better? He shuddered to think how much worse he had been. Part of him was glad all that was rather fuzzy. Although the idea that he had somehow lost more time, and through being ill? He couldn't suppress the second, entirely new wave of terror that flooded through him. The only thing stopping him from meltdown point was the sudden distraction of a gentle hand appearing from nowhere and resting carefully on his forehead. He flinched back in shock.
She pulled back instantly, "What's the matter? I'm only checking your temperature." she explained as if it was the most normal, non-space invading thing in the world, "Which, by the way, is down." She looked at him sharply, "You HAVE had another nightmare haven't you?" Her green eyes were boring into him.
He shoved backwards as if she'd grabbed him, "No! Why do you keep saying that?" He demanded a little too defensively.
"Because you're always like this, well almost like this every time afterwards, so which one was it? Cryo-freezing or Neuros? Or both?" She couldn't stop the shiver at that one, from his descriptions she truly wished she could march right into his head and wipe them all clear so he could sleep without the threat of them.
"Neuros? Cryo-Freezing? Y-you know?" How could he have gotten into the situation where she knew about his? His stomach began knotting in apprehension.
"Of course! Don't you remember?" The words were escaping before she could try and claw them back. The second she spoke she realized why he was being so odd. He really didn't remember last night. Oh shearing axels.
"Remember? No! Actually, I don't!" His frustration, coupled with his panic fuelled his temper, "We were working on stuff then I woke up here.(not entirely true some fuzzy stuff was starting to filter back into his frontal lobe but he was far too worked up to start sorting through this latest download) He moved back onto his currently most pressing issue, " Why don't I have my clothes?"
"I took them off you," Lexa tried to explain as calmly as possible, "you were really ill."
"Ill?" he almost yelled in disbelief, "I don't get ill," A blatant lie given how he felt when he woke up but being ill was a bad thing, a very bad thing and had to be avoided at all costs. Given what happened last time.
"Well you do now," Stated Lexa matter-of-factly, "You were sweating buckets, trying to break the fever and burn the virus out of you. I didn't want you to get hypothermia on top of everything else."
"But, but, then," He tried to gather himself, "then you've seen…"
He couldn't bring himself to say it.
"You?" She offered simply, "Yep, don't worry, it's not much different to what I've seen before growing up in a military unit."
"Not much different?" His incredulity was giving way to rising anger and shame at having been witnessed unwillingly, "Did many people in Io have metal work bolted into them?"
"Then it IS different."
"Why are you still so het up about this?" She asked in genuine surprise.
In a sudden rush he threw the blankets aside and leapt to his feet.
"LOOK AT ME!"
Like that was a chore. Lexa's eyes were on him before he'd finished his outburst. Standing before her all she saw was the defiant resistance leader that had become her friend and who had fought off more than Roboid attacks.
But, now (well to a degree) she could appreciate what had merely been detail before.
Caleb was splendid. To use Britram's old term, she'd never really seen anyone else like him. Leaving aside his decidedly handsome (if slightly pointy) face his body was one that positively resonated power and life.
He wasn't huge like Jantro or made of sinew like Renta or even weather beaten like Galen. But he didn't need to be.
He was Caleb.
And standing there like that you could see his strength, his speed. In his leanness there was nothing wasted , broad shoulders framing a toned chest, the plate glinting in the light like a shield that fed into a solid abdomen, stomach muscles and ribs ever so slightly defined under the lamps. His legs were long and bore the traits of being used for a whole lot of running, probably helped a little by the cybernetic reinforcement on his right calve and ankle.
And his arms? She felt the heat rise involuntarily in her cheeks. She knew how strong they were. His cybernetics only reached up to his left elbow with two small twin regulators set into the tops of his biceps. He was, in short, the perfect example of resistance success and durability and told him so.
"Perfect?" He repeated in disbelief, You're confusing me for you, you're 100% I'm just a hybrid."
That did it.
She leapt to her feet storming towards him in challenge with such fire in her eyes he stepped back in alarm.
"Now you listen to me Caleb Lansing-Gant because I'm only going to say this one more time! You. Are. Human. You. Are. Alive. And that's all that matters, you're brave and strong, you fight for the resistance! And you've been successful! We beat the Roboidz , you defeated their leader! We are going to build a new future for the human race!"
She didn't give him chance to argue, carrying on at full throttle.
"I don't care about packaging you spanner-hacked ratchet! So long as you're you I couldn't care less. You just as, that's what matters everything else is just detail."
Well didn't that just make his heart leap into his throat.
"And anyway, total organics isn't what it's cracked up to be. I'm more breakable. You want to talk about perfect? You don't have any scars."
"Scars? You mean the red lines?"
"Yes, memories carved into me to remind me how lucky I've been and how much better I need to be."
This was Lexa the warrior speaking and he was learning not to argue with her when she was in this mode. Instead he concentrated on swallowing hard, not able to trust himself to speak, turning instead to wrestle his unruly emotions-looking about as a distraction his moist eyes caught sight of domestic debris that now littered his lair. Open books, spare clothes, medical supplies, the halogen hob, food packs, notepads and pencils.
Wow. They didn't appear overnight.
Then it hit him.
Lexa had been with him the whole time.
"You, you stayed with me?" He couldn't hide his honest surprise.
"Of course, wasn't about to leave you when you were ill was I?" She seemed almost affronted at the idea that she would have.
Evidently not. And he was indescribably grateful to her.
"H-How long was I out?" He ventured, nervous of the reply.
"Three days?" He repeated looking horrified, "Three whole days?"
"Yeah, but like I said, you were really ill, scared the cogs out of me." Her green eyes were still filled with concern, worry lining every angle of her. She was positively vibrating with it.
Instinct took over, his arms reached out of their own accord.
Her eyes glistened, letting herself be wrapped up by him. Trying to steady her breath and treacherous eyes she lay her head on his chest, focusing on his steady heartbeat. He was alright. He was alright she told herself. She wasn't going to lose him. She and Cybele had mended him. She tightened her arms about him. Everything was going to be alright. She let herself relax a little. The ordeal was coming to an end.
Caleb held her for a while, letting her quietly get in control of herself. He was still struggling to get used to the fact that she really did care that much. But boy was he glad she did. He hung on for as long as he could, waiting for her breathing to get more normal before asking the question that had been burning on his lips.
"I don't understand."
"Don't understand what?" She drew away from him slightly to face him
"I don't understand how I got ill. I don't get ill."
"It was the recruits."
"The recruits? How did they make me sick?"
"21st Century germs," She explained, "they were full of virus' you weren't immune to so you got a hefty whack of all of them. It's not really surprising you were knocked off your feet."
"But if it was the recruits how come you didn't get sick? How are you immune?"
"Well, I suppose because I grew up outside, with lots of other people so I've already had my share of bugs and bile thank you very much. But you had enough to fell a platoon. If it wasn't for Cybele you'd still be unconscious."
"Cybele? Cybele helped?"
"Of course she did." Although this was the second time they'd had this conversation she still felt bad for the both of them that he really thought she wouldn't have helped in such a desperate situation. Did he really think one argument could erase 5 years? Wow did he have a long way to go with understanding love.
"She cares a lot about you Caleb (just how much he'd have to discover on his own even with this second opportunity) She didn't want you ill any more than I did so we joined forces." She looked at him critically, as if suddenly registering where they were talking, "Speaking of which, she won't thank me if I let you get cold again, so come on, back to bed!" She caught up his hand firmly.
"Cold? It's like a furnace in here!"
She wheeled about smiling so broadly he was surprised her ears weren't grinning.
"What?" He had no idea what he'd said to get such a reaction, he wasn't complaining though.
"You have no idea how long I've hoped you'd say that! It IS a furnace but it's going to stay that way till you're totally better because I am SO not letting you get away with scaring me like that for a second time!"
They both laughed, she relieved and he grateful. They wrapped their arms about each other as Lexa led them back to the bed space.
As they settled, Caleb turned to her, fighting the fatigue that had begun to creep over him (Boy, would he be grateful when he was back to full Roboid-bashing capabilities)
"So Cybele really helped?"
"Really," Lexa affirmed emphatically, "honestly, I'd have been lost without her."
"Was, was she okay?"
"Well, she was worried about you, if she could be she'd actually be physically worried sick about you. And…"
"And what?" He leaned in urgently, eyes widening in suspense, "What else?"
"She," Lexa started, trying to find the right words.
"Come on Lexa! What?" He demanded allowing his nerves to raise his voice.
"She misses you Caleb."
It was like he crumpled, dropping back into the bedspace, looking down at his blanketed knees.
"I miss her too," He admitted in a small voice, refusing to meet her gaze.
She lay a gentle hand on his shoulder and was deeply reassured that he didn't flinch this time.
"Then why don't you go and see her? Tomorrow, when we get up you'll be back to normal then I bet. Strong and bouncing as ever."
"But the things I said!" Anguish written all over him, "I don't know-"
"It doesn't matter." She smiled reassuringly, knowing for a fact that Cybele was more than eager to talk to him again, "I know she wants to see you and you want to see her, so go. It'll be good for the both of you. You need it." Carefully she slid her arm across the top his shoulders, delicately avoiding the first of his three spinal ports to clasp the far side. Wordlessly he leant into her, drawing comfort from her support.
"You're right." He agreed, "We do need to talk, I've got to see her again, I don't think I've gone so long without." He paused, "Thanks."
"Don't mention it, but now, if it's all the same to you I'd very much like to go back to sleep."
He grinned, "I think I could manage that."He squeezed her affectionately and they shared a satisfied smile.
"Sleep well Lexa."
Settling down, the thought to let go of each other never even crossed their minds.
The freedom fighters awoke several hours later.
Caleb first, feeling far better -the aches had faded and the pounding in his head had stopped. Finally! He could get on with proper things and stop time wasting. He made to move but caught himself, registering the comfortable warmth he was encased in. Lexa slept on next to him, totally oblivious to the world.
He actually couldn't remember a time when he'd been more content. Well, actually, he could but it paled into insignificance next to this. Well nearly. Discovering bananas was still one of his best moments ever.
Which reminded him he was hungry, his stomach began roaring orders at him. Still. He wanted just a little more time here. Just a little more peace. He couldn't remember a time before when it was this peaceful. Even sleep was a dangerous thing with the Roboidz about. He snatched it when he could. Then the recruits arrived and he needed to grow an extra pair of eyes just to keep track of them, and, well, he'd barely slept at all. It was all very well testing them but when they were sleeping? He couldn't have them all taken by surprise and they needed their strength for the day. Didn't bother him too much though, it was a handy excuse to avoid the nightmares.
The nightmares. That was another thing. He couldn't believe Lexa knew about them. Knew and didn't mind. She didn't think he was weak at all even though he let Droidz and Neuros stalk him in sleep. Instead, she sympathized. Said she had her fair share of them. That it made him human.
He turned to look at his sleeping friend. He really was lucky he considered to have such company. He knew she felt the same. The pair of them so immensely grateful to have found another.
He turned carefully. Her wild hair looked like it was doing its best to escape her head, sprawling all over the pillow in a desperate bid for freedom. It looked different from the last time he remembered, definitely more red. And shinier. Her curls intrigued him. None of the recruits had anything close to matching this and his? Well, he didn't know, it could be curly if he let it get long but he doubted it. It was just sort of there, he kept it short and practical anything else was nothing to do with him. He didn't have time for much personal upkeep. With his face he didn't need to anyway. Yep.
The corkscrews were looking at him. Positively daring him. He reached out & pulled one of the ringlets gently. Wow, they were sneaky with their length. This stuff just kept going! It was nearly down past her bicep before it stopped. Unfortunately he'd gotten rather too interested in what he was doing to notice what was going on at the other end.
Lexa awoke to the feeling of someone tugging rather insistently at her head, "What?" She grumbled, "No! Gerroff!," She started flailing. It couldn't be a serious problem else the alarm would've gone off or she'd have been dragged out of sleep. Not nudged. "Go away." Her hand connected with something warm and vaguely pointy and shoved with concentrated effort.
Caleb was nearly pushed out of the bedspace face first. Initially he was too stunned to react then burst out laughing. The warrior from before had been replaced with a grumpy ogre.
"What?" She managed opening her eyes to focus properly, "What is it?"
"You!" He laughed, "I've seen friendlier Wardroidz!"
"Yeah?" She sat up looking disgruntled, "Well, Some of us haven't slept much in the last few days!"
"You've just had at least four hours!"
"Yeah not enough!"
She responded by whacking him with her pillow.
"Oi!" He kept laughing, enjoying her indigence.
She caught his amusement, giggling despite herself. "Fine, now you have effectively woken me up I suppose we should get on with the day."
Caleb turned serious. "Yeah, you're right. We've got a lot to be getting on with. You want some parts for your EMP?"
Hmm? She was rootling in the food box, hunting for suitable breakfast material, "EMP?" She turned back to him grinning, freeze dried scrambled eggs clutched triumphantly in one hand "Oh, don't worry, that was the first thing I fixed, well, rebuilt." She considered, "Sorry. I would've asked but you were pretty out of it. I'll scavenge some more parts on my next run." She smiled, "What I wanted to do this morning was get the radio systems back on track. I don't how much Neuros messed with them. Got make sure they're not totally scrambled!"
"Yeah, would help. Resistance can't talk to us if the frequencies are knackered! You want any help?" He asked reaching for his boots.
"Nah, I'll be alright thanks-you going to have a look at the generators?"
"Yeah, after I see Cybele."
Lexa was pulling her sunny face, "I'll see you when you get back then, "She paused, squeezing his hand encouragingly, "It'll go well, I know it."
Fingers crossed he grinned, hoping he was hiding the nerves that were trying to knot up his insides.
"You want some breakfast?"
The way his stomach was behaving? Not a chance. "Erm, I'll pass. Thanks though. I'll see you later."
He dragged on his jacket, "Thanks, I'll be back soon." With that he was out into the corridor.
"Take all the time you need Caleb," Lexa smiled to herself, "all the time in the world" She grabbed the packet and settled down to work.
She materialized before him instantly, though looking a little diminished since the last time he'd seen her.
"Caleb!" Pure relief flooded from her before she reigned herself in, "How are you?"
"I'm good, better now. Thanks." He was trying but the awkwardness still echoed from every fibre of him.
"I'm so glad, you had me worried." (and wasn't that one of the biggest understatements of the century)
"Yeah, Lexa said, thanks for helping her. From what she was saying I don't know I'd of lasted without you both, don't think I've ever been as useless since I woke up, never felt as worse that's for sure and Lexa says that's when I was getting better! I never thought I'd say I be glad for a lack of memory, I'm kinda grateful I don't remember how bad it was."
"I'm glad for your sake, Lexa was very articulate on just how ill you were."
"Yeah, she does have a way with words." Caleb agreed, grinning despite himself. Her powers of articulation were something akin to staggering on occasion.
"Nevertheless, I am very grateful to her. She could actually tend to you, there's little I could do other than impart knowledge."
Caleb was learning quickly and he didn't miss the regret in her words, "You do much more than that," He was swift to reassure, "you've been the one to keep me sane, kept me going for the last five years." He paused, another thought striking him. He looked up earnestly at her, "I don't think I've ever thanked you for that. So I'm going to now. Thank you." The sincerity in his eyes was heartbreaking. "And, and, I'm sorry. About earlier, I-I, it was a lot to get my head around."
"Oh Caleb I know, I'm sorry, I wish I could still put my arms around you. I could never bear to see you upset"
"Wait. What? When did you have arms? Computers don't have arms. Do they?" He started looking about nervously
Cybele paled. Sounding like she was taking a synthetic breath she ventured a sentence that could change everything, "I, I wasn't always a computer Caleb."
"W-What?" All the hairs rose on the back of his neck. "So what are you then? An upgraded toaster?" He tried to sound light, casual even, to try and hide the tremor in his voice.
"No I was very different once and it breaks my heart every day that you don't remember. How much you were loved."
"Heart? Loved? What?"
"Caleb, I am your mother."
His jaw almost disconnected.
She began to fade. Hiding in shame? No chance.
"No, Cybele!" He tried again with the unfamiliar term, "Mum! (wow did that sound weird) Please! Don't go!" his voice edging in real desperation.
She re-bloomed. Once he was sure she was staying,
"H-How? How is that possible? How can you be my mum?" He was totally blindsided, "She was human, a human woman! Laura Gant, the inventor of the Roboidz! How can you be her?"
"One of the main projects I was working on split into two parts, project N and Project C." She began.
"I read about that in the archive." He agreed, "A consciousness download, so you did. You actually downloaded yourself into a digital format?"
"Why?" His eyes were wide with incomprehension.
She sighed, "You were very sick, you somehow contracted a virus, a serious one. It was eating you alive. Despite our best efforts you went downhill too fast for us, it was like one minute you were fine the next you were dying. And there was nothing we could do. The only way we could save you was to cryogenically freeze you. It was our only hope to buy you some more time."
He was going to agree with her, say that's what she'd said on the archive message but he couldn't bring himself to interrupt such was the intense rush pouring out of Cybele, his mother, Laura. He couldn't imagine how long she'd kept this to herself.
"It was the only choice you father and I had. We worked night and day on a cure but we got nowhere, no one knew where it had come from, the best specialists in the world at the time were at a loss. But we kept trying. We were not going to be beaten." Conviction hardened her voice, her determination shining through.
"Then, a few years later, we discovered I had it too. It wasn't advanced as yours but it was there, and there was nothing I could do about it. We worked out that at the rate it was reproducing I had maybe five or six years left."
"I realized I had to do something to preserve myself."
"Could, couldn't you have just frozen yourself? Like me?"
"Why not?" He demanded, the impotent rage at the awful hand his mother had been dealt began to surge through him, the forgotten instincts of a child that would tear the world apart to save his mother. Had he not been so caught up in revelation the sudden onslaught of emotion would have staggered him.
"Because it was a prototype, the only working one in existence, the others failed their testing and construction, it was built for space travel and had to be adapted."
"But, but there must have been something they could have done for you! You had more time!"
"Time yes, but not the resources, the world was going wrong, bit by bit, the warning signs were all around but I was too blind to see them. The essential components we needed were off world. Mined by the Roboidz. Who were beginning to rebel. Shipments slowed, stopping altogether."
"So, so you…"
"Downloaded myself? Yes. And I would do it again in a heartbeat. I tried, for the longest time, I wasn't willing to give up, I wanted to be by your side, in person, for as long as I could. That's why I held off till after the fall, I went through the process just after I made that final message to you. I had no idea if you'd ever wake up to see it but I had to hope. Had to believe there was a cure."
She sighed, her voice trembling,
"I stayed to defend you and Futuregate, our home. But at least I was sure there would be a copy, the most up to date version of me there was with all my knowledge and most recent research. Ready to carry on."
The magnitude of what was being said was crashing into him, he was reeling with everything he was learning, all the terrible events and yet, over everything he wanted answering, everything he wanted to say only one question deserved voicing.
"Did-did it hurt?"
The question, so genuine, floored her utterly, making her want to weep. That was the little boy she remembered so well. The one who cared so much, who thought so deeply.
He looked up at her, eyes wide horrified at his own imagination but desperate to know the answer, wanting to know if he caused her more pain.
"No Caleb, it's just a scan, I perfected the technique it just takes a few hours to complete. I was fine."
He visibly relaxed, swaying a little on his feet in relief. "Good, good, that's that good." He managed a small smile then sunk forwards, holding the railing for support, it was a lot to take in.
"You did all that for me?"
"Of course, you're my son. I love you Caleb and I couldn't bear the thought of you waking up all alone."
"Alone? But where was Dad? Did you hold the Roboidz off together? Like a last stand?" He sounded so hopeful.
"No, no your father was long gone."
"Gone? You mean he, the Roboidz?"
"No, no Simeon, your father went missing a few years before."
"What? Missing? How? Where?"
"He went into his lab like normal one morning, he was convinced he was on the cusp of a breakthrough that could save you." She paused, trying to control herself, "I never saw him again."
"What?" Caleb was aghast, "He disappeared? Right out of his Futuregate lab? It's a boat! What was he working on?"
"Your father was a brilliant scientist who was a pioneer in the field of temporal physics."
"Yes, that's what allowed you to build the technology that brought the recruits here, you've inherited his skill" Caleb felt himself blush with pride as she continued, "people had laughed at his theories so he came to work here, to continue his research without ridicule."
"So you met here? Here on Futuregate?"
"Yes, he was a wonderful man your father, clever and kind, he'd always try to find a way to help someone. He loved us both very much, he never gave up hope that he'd find a way to save you."
"And, was that, that the last time you saw him?" It was a harsh question but he had to ask. Had to know.
"Yes," She sighed, longing filling her, "I kissed him goodbye and never saw him again."
"I'm sorry," What else could he say? He tried to imagine never seeing Lexa again. His stomach turned to stone. No, he couldn't even begin to follow that thought through. "That's, that's just awful," He sympathized with feeling.
He tried to move her on, "Where was his lab?"
"In what used to be called cargo bay 6."
"Cargo bay 6? But that's V-lab!"
"The Vaporizer is a time experiment? So you think something went wrong and Simeon, Dad got vaporized?"
"I don't know," She admitted, "I'd sit waiting for him, after a few months it began to dawn on me that he wasn't coming home. I locked up the lab but I'd visit everyday. Just in case."
Any remaining animosity he may have held against Laura melted away. She'd suffered so much, and his Dad, Simeon Lansing where could he have gone? Come to that, where had the recruits gone?. Something else for him to find out.
"Why didn't you tell me any of this sooner? Maybe I could have helped! You did all this for me! And it worked! I mean, I'm fine now, even after that flu thing, so there must have been a cure."
"Yes, eventually, I never stopped working on you. The Cybernetics helped, they act as regulators for you, keeping your vital systems functioning; brain, heart, spinal cord and blood vessels."
"Really?" He looked at his hand in surprise, "That's what they do?"
"Yes, they're part of the key to your survival, for a hasty design, they're not perfect but they do their job well."
"I'm still moving" he agreed, "and only had a few goes at self-diy so far!" He looked up suddenly realising, "you fitted them before the fall didn't you? So I still wasn't better, they were just to help." He put two and two together, breathing out in awe, "All that time. You never gave up on me."
"I could never give up on you! I may never have been the best mother-"
"But you are mine," He interrupted meaning every word. She was his
"Caleb, I can't ever tell you how proud you made me, before all this, even when you were ill. Everyday you've been awake."
Caleb had to swallow hard as tears spiked his eyes.
"I never knew. Never. Why didn't you tell me?" He asked softly, "I've spent the last five years asking who and what I was. You knew all the time! Why couldn't you have shared it? Even just a few days ago?"
"And risk losing you?"
She let that sink in before carrying on, "A few days ago I wanted to but you'd left by then. It was probably for the best, the way you were you wouldn't have taken it well."
He opened his mouth to argue then remembered, the bitter rage he'd hurled about. At the time he meant every word.
"You're right, I wouldn't have wanted to tell me either. I'd have probably exploded."
"I'm so sorry I didn't tell you sooner, when I realized what the cryo process had done to you, I, I was almost relieved."
"Relieved? How could you possibly be relieved that my memories were wiped?"
"Because then you wouldn't know anything else, anything but this life, this new existence. It's broken my heart that you don't remember us but I consoled myself that it was for the best, you couldn't miss what you didn't know." She considered, "I think it helped keep you sane, keep you focused on your mission."
The explanation made horrible sense to him, the selfish part of him now felt suddenly grateful to the Cryo Lab.
"That," She continued, "and that you wouldn't know what I had become. It was easier to hide it if you didn't know any of this."
"But even, even just to know who my mother was. Surely you could have shared something!" He refused to believe she had to have suffered for so long in relative silence.
"You're a clever boy Caleb, you always amazed me with how quickly you learned, sooner or later you'd have worked out the link. I never wanted you to know what had become of me, the mother who became a mother board."
Never more in his life had he wished for her to be corporeal. He had to touch her, to reassure her but all he had was words. Sticking his hand out to her would only short circuit his arm.
"Cybele, er Mum, He corrected, " I'm sorry."
"You've nothing to be sorry for Caleb." Came the emphatic response.
"That's debatable" he thought of all the times he'd gotten angry, demanding help, answers comfort. He'd never really stopped to think about her. She was just always there for him. An endless resource to use. The guilt squirmed through him. "But I am, I'm sorry, for everything you've been through, for me. I can't imagine what it's been like."
"It's better if you don't." she answered gently, "But now you know the truth, I have dreaded this day for so long. I was convinced you'd run from me like you did last time."
"I was upset, it was a lot to take in but, but I came back," He paused, trying to articulate the ache in his chest, "I missed you." He smiled up at her, "You're still the one who's been there for me, when I first woke up. You've been my mother in this life as much as before. Now I just know who you really are."
"What about earlier?" She couldn't help but ask, that incident was the end she thought she had been dreading for so long. His total rejection of her.
"I was angry, I suppose a part of me still is." He admitted, "I mean sentient Roboidz? What were you thinking?" He held up his hands to stop her response, "But I know, arguing about it now won't change anything."
"No, no matter how much I wish I could."
"I bet. So now," He explained, "we've just got to get on and rebuild with what we've got. Lexa's checking the frequency waves-making sure they're all decoded. Once we've got open channels we can start broadcasting the good news."
"And then what?"
"Well, wait to see if the resistance get in touch, we need more people to get Futuregate working again. Once we've got a proper working base we can start branching out. Start re establishing ourselves again."
"Sounds like you've given it a lot of thought." She was impressed, she'd had the assumption that he'd planned only up to victory day. Clearly she'd underestimated him.
"Yes, well, me and Lexa. We've both had a long time to dream of a world without the droidz and what we'd do with it. How we'd make it better. And now we actually can. A fresh start for the human race."
"I'm proud of you Caleb, I always knew you'd be the one to end the war and start rebuilding."
"Thanks for the confidence," He grinned, "but I couldn't have done it all on my own. Me and Lexa make an excellent team." His smiled broadened, "but there's just one thing,"
"I was wondering if you'd be willing to help us?"
She practically radiated joy, "Of course! As if you had to ask!"
And what a relief it was too. She thought, foolishly, she realized now, that once he had someone else, another human, he wouldn't need her. The recruits didn't count of course, they were still children. But they challenged him with more questions. Questions she found hard to answer. It started sowing the seeds she thought. Then Lexa appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. A forgotten survivor that pulled him even further from her. She had resented her and her physical presence. It was one more piece. Once he knew the truth he wouldn't want anything to do with her. Of that she was certain. Never had she been more grateful to be wrong.
"I hoped you'd say that!" He beamed his brilliant grin. There was a light in his eyes, his determination was burning all the brighter.
"What are you going to do?"
"Well, to start with I'm going to see how Lexa's gotten on with the radio, if we can't broadcast there's not much chance of us uniting people. Plus I want to give them the all clear."
"If there are people out there then I think they'll probably know."
"Yeah, but it doesn't hurt the morale to have an official bulletin does it?"
"No, I suppose not" She laughed easily now, making him realise how little she actually managed it "And then?"
"And then the three of us start getting this base back into shape! There's not much point being a chosen one or being in a fantastic resistance if we don't do anything! We've beaten them! Beaten the Roboidz! And Neuros! We can do anything! And will!"
His enthusiasm was infectious. Bouncing, full of life. If she could've returned his grin she would have. For the first time in a long time she had real hope. Hope for the future.
Her son was going to make amends for her mistakes.
Caleb returned to Lexa feeling lighter than he could ever remember. They really had done it! They'd stopped the Droidz and now he knew his past. Finally he knew the answers to his mysteries! At last! His cybernetics were explained. They were good. And made with love. By his mother.
It was a huge amount to get his head around. But it made sense. And the thought that he was known, had family sort of overruled the torment of before. He could understand if not agree with her reasoning. That was something. But he believed her. Every word.
Talk about adding to the list. The idea that the vaporizer was actually a time portal! Incredible! And that his father had not only invented it but had disappeared through it! He could be out there! Somewhere! Alive! He had to find him! And the recruits! Maybe they were out there in time and space too.
Guilt sliced through him. He hadn't even thought of the vaporized since the beginning of the final mission. His was in battle mode, just writing them off as casualties of the cause. Rationalising with the hope that they just got sent back home. But what if they weren't? What if he just pulled innocent (if willing) kids forward in time to fight a war that wasn't theirs then let them risk themselves in V Lab all for the cause. He hadn't realized the callousness of his actions.
Well he was going to find out. Between the three of them there HAD to be answer. For the recruits and his father. He, Caleb Lansing-Gant was going to make sure of it.
There was so much to find out still, so much to build and test! If he thought the last few weeks had been busy he got the feeling he hadn't seen anything yet.
His mind was racing, going over the conversation, trying to organise it so he didn't rush it all out to Lexa at once. No, they needed to talk about this all sensibility. He wondered how viable reverse circuiting the vaporizer would actually be, he'd run it past her, see what she thought.
Another recall suddenly struck him, one he hoped she may know because really, on top of everything else what on earth was kissing?
Cybele had said Simeon had kissed her before he left. He had no idea what that meant but he hadn't wanted to interrupt. After everything else she'd said he'd forgotten to ask. He hoped it was something nice, though its sounded a bit snake like if he was honest, all that hissing sound. Still, hopefully Lexa would know.
He should definitely start with that one. From the way Cybele, no Laura, his mum (this was going to take some getting used to) was talking it was probably something good at least. Probably a good warm up question to pave the way for the conundrums he had up his sleeve.
It was hardly a fair to launch into 'So, anything thoughts on how we reverse time?'
No, start easy and build up.
"Lexa!" He called as he reached the command post, "How're you getting on?"
A muffled "Alright" of response follows by a yelp and an angry curse of "Ratchets!"
"Everything okay?" He walked in as something fizzed then exploded.
"Fine, fine. It's going well!" It took him a second to see her through the smoke, "just need to connect, aha! Done! That should be better now!" She grinned triumphantly
"Sorted!" She emerged, soot streaked and slightly singed but looking rather pleased with herself, "Essential circuit boards my boot-buckles!" She caught sight of his expression and sombered up immediately. "How did it go?"
"Er," The little scene of her victory over transmitting technology, "Had derailed his thought train somewhat, "What?"
"You, talking, with Cybele. How did that go?" She prompted, unsure of what to make of his demeanor she'd decided to prep for both good and bad outcomes whilst she worked. Just in case. Right now she didn't know which one to go for.
Erm, well." He admitted, pulling back to his senses, really well if a bit weird, "She's , she's my mum."
Actually saying it aloud, to another person made the whole thing suddenly very, very real. "She's my mum!" He repeated stunned. He sagged against the bridge edge.
"What?" She downed tools. She'd decided a while ago that playing dumb on this occasion would be by far the better option. She didn't need to upset him further by admitting that she'd actually known this little fact from the first night he was ill. No. that wouldn't help matters at all.
"Seriously. She's Laura Gant. Well," he re-phrased, "she's Laura Gant's mind."
"Her mind?" Lexa did a good imitation of thunderstruck.
"Yeah, remember Project C?"
"The conscious download? Cybele is the conscious download? Laura's mind? Wow. But I suppose that makes sense." She looked thoughtful, "Well, it explains why an AI could get so upset. No wonder it sounded like she loved you. I thought it was faulty programming. Evidently not. So you talked okay then?" She smiled.
Lexa was taking this extraordinarily well, he'd kind of expected her to get all angry that the woman who invented the end of human civilization was actually alive and functioning on the lower deck.
"You're, you're okay with this?"
"Well, it's a shock, that's for sure but like I said it kinda makes sense. She's always really cared for you hasn't she?"
"Yeah, but everything you said before, about Laura. Aren't you-?"
"Er, yes, I mean part of me always will be but there's not a lot we can do right now. What's past is past. We can't change that. And right now. I think we need another genius to help us fix this mess so if it has to be her then so be it. Plus, she smiled, she's got us to act as a failsafe."
"Yeah, she does, you're really alright with this?"
"Really am. So, I'm guessing you two had a lot to catch up on."
"I'll say!" He beamed, the relief of her acceptance giving flight to his words, "She explained so much, finally I know exactly what my cybernetics do and more! There's so much I need to process. Should've taken notes! First thing though, there was one thing she mentioned that I didn't understand."
"Well, I meant to ask her but I didn't want to interrupt, she just kept talking she's been waiting 42 years to talk to be properly, I didn't have the heart."
"What was it?"
"Oh nothing major I'm sure, just be nice to know."
"Well, I'll do my best," She grinned, her face open and interested.
"Okay, Lexa, do you know what ki-"
"Hello?" The radio crackled into life, a man's voice calling over the airwaves, "Futuregate? Come in Futuregate!" Lexa and Caleb leapt for the equipment, both pairs of eyes rounding to saucer-like proportions. A voice! From the outside! The resistance! They were alive!
"This is urgent!" The voice insisted, tone commanding all attention,
"The war isn't over! I repeat, The war isn't over."
And there we go! The long awaited end (and I am truly sorry for how long it has taken-I blame the internets and real life!) I hope you guys have enjoyed Archive Run I am going to take a short break as life is getting very, very serious currently however I shall return with my third installment, Battle Rites, sometime soon!
I would just like to throw out a massive thank you to everyone who has commented and reviewed this story-it's been a labour of love and a way to keep me sane! So thankyou all so much!
Please feel free to let me know what you think and don't hesitate to use our shiney forum as we're all nice there! It's open to discuss anything Mission:2110 related including all our stories!
Love, Oddements and Tweaks :D x