Co-authoring a story is fun. I highly suggest it if you know someone with a similar writing style. I'm collaborating with Laryna6 on this one. The writing is roughly 50/50.
We're doing a completely AU setting for this one. As much as I love the original story for Mega Man, it's already been told. I'd argue that it's not told particularly well, as it's a kids' game and so is not plot-intensive. Classic fics are a bit scarce on this site, too, which makes me sad.
Anyway, as this is an AU, the tech in here will be a bit different. We won't be following the weapons weaknesses very closely because of that. Ariga did a good job of justifying why certain Robot Masters were weak to certain weapons in Mega/Gigamix, but because of the way the tech in here is different, a lot of those justifications simply won't apply.
We're referencing both the Ariga manga and the classic games, especially for characterization purposes.
We played with the reason for coming up with tech like this, too. In Classic, it's just like, okay, they built robots to help out for industrial purposes, but why are they humanoid? Fire Man would have worked just as well as a stationary incinerator. He could still have mastered the robots in his care that way. It could be that in a humanoid body, it'd be easier for the human workers to get used to the Robot Masters, but I'd think they'd have vaulted into the deepest depths of the Uncanny Valley, especially given that Bomb Man and Cut Man aren't that realistic looking. With the humanoid bodies and unnecessary abilities, of COURSE the evil genius reprogrammed them and used them as soldiers. A freezer isn't nearly as frightening as an adorable kid in a parka shooting ice from his mouth.
In the English/American version, it implies that Wily helped with creating them, and maybe duped Light into making them humanoid. As far as I can tell, in the original, Wily had no part in their design.
Mega Man/Rockman belongs to Capcom.
Consider this chapter a preface to set up the story.
The world was a red darkness that flickered with a million points of light, the funeral pyres of burnt-out brain cells. There were things—hands—that applied cold cloths and water, or tried to let things trickle down his throat. But instinct attributed the pain to them and wanted to fight them off: they were the only things that could be fought off. He wanted to get well, even though he knew death was coming for him.
Someone else already died here, someone with pale skin and cold hands, someone that coughed blood up onto the sheets. His fingers dug into the sheets until he lost the strength to.
In fevered dreams, demons tortured his flesh with red-hot pokers.
In reality, his father spoke to him, unheard, and gave him more needles, more medications. The virus would not win.
Death came as an untraceable virus, hidden in the blood supply; it was a silent killer that came from reusing needles. Needles like the ones used to give vaccine injections to the family of a doctor that came to Japan to teach at a university and study Asian diseases—the irony burned. A disease that attacked the immune system, leaving the victims vulnerable to anything and everything else: even the common cold could move in like a vulture to take what it would of the living corpse to proliferate itself.
There might be a cure, but for it to be put in place, the remainder of the immune system would have to be destroyed.
His father whispered that he would be alright.
The part of his brain that recorded memories was already gone, and what was built in its place would never hear that voice speak those words.
That the child could hold even the tiniest flicker of life through to the next morning was a miracle in itself. He was fortunate, however, to have the father he did. For generations to come, his father would be known as the man whose efforts revolutionized medicine. Redefined what it meant to be human.
Days passed and filtered into weeks. Every day, the results were a bit more promising. Blood count returning to healthy levels, breathing becoming less labored. Brain activity normalizing, fever dissipating. The child slept easily.
And finally, he opened his eyes.
At this point, Dr. Light almost panicked. The boy—his son—wasn't speaking. He wasn't comatose, no, but had the treatment come too late? He was responsive to various stimuli. He could see Light, see the stethoscope and syringes. He could hear his father's approach and the wind outside. It was as if the boy sustained massive brain damage. Had his mind not been repaired? His motor control was jerky; he was massively overestimating everything. It was not unlike an infant, figuring out its limbs.
He did watch, though. He watched everything, and everyone. He watched his father come in to administer the meds, he watched the nurse move about the room, fixing his blanket and checking his readings. It didn't bother the others, but it was just so different from the boy Light had known. This calm calculation with eyes that did not miss a thing—it wasn't the person Light remembered. And who knew what he was thinking: none of it translated to the boy's face. None of it even reflected in his eyes. Even a baby laughed.
That may have creeped the nurse out a bit if it wasn't for the fact that such symptoms weren't uncommon for someone who'd maintained a massive head injury. She spoke to him more than his father had by this point, cheerfully telling him about the weather, or his charts. She greeted him happily, and always said good-bye. It was hard for Light to pretend to be so happy now, given what he was seeing. The mind seemed functional, yes, but something was terribly wrong. It sent a chill down his spine to even be in that room now.
It could just be amnesia. He could be guarded, worried: a lab, medical instruments everywhere, needles and monitors. He'd hired an Englishwoman as a nurse since his son had learned only the bare minimum of Japanese. If the research hospital didn't have the best facilities, he would take him home. He had wanted him here so that they could spend as much time with him as possible. His colleagues and the nurse wondered why he wasn't trying to jog his son's memory, why Light was letting others conduct the reflex tests, why he was letting them ask the boy for permission and explain each procedure, when surely the father would be more reassuring.
Leaving the television on in his room was almost a token effort, an excuse he could use to say that he was being given enough stimuli. The more things he was exposed to, the more likely he was to comment on something.
He regretted that he'd had all his wife's possessions boxed away, in futile hope of protecting their son from the spread of disease. Diseases. To open them up now, to have him look at them like that?
Their intelligent son, who even at sixteen had been reading old calculus textbooks and understanding them. Current thought said that calculus would overheat boys' brains, and should not be studied before college, but the medical profession laughed at that.
He brought in picture books instead, because if he could not talk there was no hope at all that Peter would be able to read.
Well, books with illustrations, at least. Dinosaurs and airplanes: the sort of book he'd been fond of three years ago, until he'd become too old for such things once again.
The books bemused him. He'd look at them, certainly, it was a new stimulus, after all, but he wasn't engaged with them the way a child might be. There was no wonder at what the images conveyed and Light had to wonder to himself whether the boy even understood the book's purpose. The images were chronological; they clearly told a story. That sort of imagery should be rather novel, outside of whatever cartoons may have slipped past his radar on the TV.
He watched Peter flip through the book, giving it the time of day, but barely that. Unimpressed. When he looked back up to his father, Light had to suppress a shudder. There wasn't anything conveyed there. Not bewilderment, not annoyance, not amusement. In time, though, Light reassured himself—things like this did not repair overnight. It could be amnesia very easily. He could be a stranger to his own son. If his memory couldn't be jogged, they'd just have to go from there.
He seemed to understand when they spoke, after a while. Or was it their tone of voice? If the request was a new one, he'd merely continue watching them. The first few times, the nurse and other researchers would pause, feeling a bit awkward. They'd finally taken to moving his arms, or shifting him to show him what they meant. Now he knew that when the nurse approached with a needle, he should offer his arm. She'd noticed that the needles that had once bruised his skin now left no mark. If she'd allowed herself to think more deeply into it, she may have had the sense to report that to Dr. Light. No one healed that fast.
The first time he moved unprompted was when a resident dropped a plate. He reached out in the direction of it. "That," he said in English. "Plate. Plate," he repeated, the second time in Japanese. "Fix."
The man hesitated, but carefully handed him the larger pieces, watching to make sure he didn't cut himself, trying to observe everything he could. Peter held them carefully, studying the geometry of each piece. The resident was alarmed when he thought the boy'd cut himself, but there was no blood, so he inched towards the door, trying not to take his eyes off him. "Tell Dr. Light he's spoken," he whispered, after flagging down a nurse. The pieces turned in Peter's hands, fitting together. He placed them on his lap, touching where they joined. He made sounds in his throat, concentrating. Soft sounds, almost hums, on the edge of hearing.
There was a feeling of quiet urgency over the entire wing as Dr. Light found himself moving toward his son's room as quickly he could without breaking into an outright sprint. The research going on here was beyond top secret, so where there may have been excited whispers in the hall, there was nothing, just that maddening anticipation. It took all of a minute for Light to get down to his son's room, but it felt like an eternity. He slowed as he neared, staying quiet and listening. It wouldn't do to interrupt, not if an interruption meant another prolonged period of silence.
It was the first time there had been emotion on his face besides study: curiosity. He seemed almost happy as he traced near-invisible lines. He ignored Dr. Light when the man came to look over his shoulder. Until, finally, he smiled. "There, done," he quoted, what many had said when they were finished with tests.
His tone even mimicked the emotion he'd heard when the people around him said it. Light's eyes widened at seeing the boy's smile. Something like relief flooded through him, though it left a backwash of apprehension. This isn't right, a voice in the back of his mind told him. He looked down to the plate, then glanced up at the resident, his gaze questioning.
"I dropped a plate," the man said apologetically. "He asked for it, so I gave it to him."
"Fixed. Cured," the boy said in one language, and then repeated in the other. He seemed almost cheerful, pleased with himself.
Light was silent for a moment, his attention caught between two things—his son's voice!—and what the resident was saying. What those words meant. That plate was ceramic, not plastic or paper. "It's in one piece," Light's voice was a bit weak with his own disbelief, "He fixed it?" He tried to gain footing in his own comfort zone. It would have been better to ask Peter directly, to address him, get a conversation started, but Light's head was spinning with what this meant.
"All better now," the boy said, and this time there was a questioning lilt. He corrected himself: "All better?" his voice was higher-pitched, more like that of the nurse.
"Has it been mimicry this entire time?" It wasn't the mindless mimicry of a parrot; the words the boy was using were correct in their application, though rather than it sounding like him genuinely speaking, it sounded more like he was imitating phrases he'd previously heard. Like he was playing off sound files. Light took a step back, eyeing the boy analytically.
"Mimicry. Mimicry? Which is it." One had the questioning lilt, one didn't. "Tonal languages. Chinese. What do you think, Dr. Light?" he asked, like an eager student.
Light froze, his rational side at war with his emotional side. A cold weight was settling into his stomach as he prayed desperately, to whatever god would listen, that what appeared to be happening here wasn't the case. "…It is both." He could feel the doctors' eyes on him, and he was thankful that his back was, for the most part, facing them.
"Mimicry. A statement. A fact. It is already understood to be true." He could see the boy's attention center on him as he explained. "Mimicry? A question. An unknown quantity, requesting confirmation." He watched Peter's face the entire time. The emotion that passed over it seemed a bit jarring. Rather than the natural flow of emotion, it was almost like he was switching between different expressions, flipping through different displays.
"Thank you. What is mimicry? What does this mean?" Three more quotes, asking him if he was piecing them together correctly. Studying him, to see if this was working. Whether he was communicating correctly. "Is it a bad sign?" A question asked about symptoms.
It was like hearing a language quilt, like voice clips from various shows threaded together to convey a message. It was jarring and unnatural, but even as they spoke, it was slowly slipping into something more fluid, even if his inflection and intonation were still all over the place. Light had to take a moment to calm his nerves before answering.
"Mimicry is an appropriation of something else." That was too vague. "It is a simulation. An approximation. Something close, but not exact." Not genuine. Not real.
"Incorrect. Broken. Fixing. Healing? Is it getting better? I'll do my best, Dr. Williamson." That part was cheerful: Dr. Light's colleague tended to encourage his patients. He also wasn't here.
Dr. Light nodded slightly, more than a little unnerved by this development. He knew that this should be a good sign: communication was an impossibly wonderful sign, and the others were elated, but if what he suspected were true, then—no. He was not going to make assumptions based on barely two minutes of solid data with next to no context. He had to remember: this case was unique. This case was groundbreaking. They knew they'd be diverging from the status quo. This wasn't the time to make judgments; this was the time to compile notes. This was the time to observe. This was his son. He couldn't afford to be hasty. "Yes…we will all do our best."
"You're humoring... me." That was a change to the quote, a correction. "It's not a good idea to tell a patient that you're worried when you don't have to." He tried again with, "What's wrong?" That nurse's again, an echo of her concern for someone who was very sick.
The depth and spread of the probable answers to that question were so numerous that it'd have made Light laugh if the situation hadn't been so serious. The boy was surprisingly astute at reading people for someone who couldn't convey emotion very well. "I am just surprised, is all, at the speed of your progress. It usually takes months for a patient to speak with the ease you are." He managed a smile. "It is a good sign, though an unexpected turn. Not all surprises are bad ones, even in hospitals." He did genuinely mean what he said. Of course, there was the matter of that plate. How quickly could he get that under a microscope for examination?
"Sometimes using the wrong suffix is extremely rude. Was that the error, or was there another error?" He frowned, seemed thoughtful, perhaps wondering if that was correct, then frowned again. "Limbic system. Smiling releases endorphins that boost mood."
"Suffix?" What? Light frowned, trying to think back to when a suffix was used, but came up empty.
"Williamson? I used the wrong word again, didn't I?" The common refrain of Dr. Williamson, although the polyglot mostly did it when his mind threw up a word in the wrong language, or when he was half asleep.
Light looked blankly at his son for a few moments, then—oh! "No, no," He shook his head, "Williamson is a surname, not a suffix. Doctor is the title." It wasn't incorrect at all. Was that why he thought Light was upset?
"Surname. Family name. English uses family names second, so it's called the last name." He seemed pleased to have figured it out. "Give me your arm," he said, reaching out, the way they would say when they put a needle in, when they'd had him on IVs or were taking samples for tests.
Another moment of hesitation, but Light wordlessly offered his right arm, his gaze sharp and focused. Even if this development was unprecedented and utterly unexpected, there was still no reason to be apprehensive, despite what his gut may be telling him.
He took his father's hand. "The amount of genetic similarity between humans and monkeys is... Children inherit one set of each chromosome from each parent. Sex is determined by the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is the smallest, isn't that funny..."
Everyone turned to stare at the resident.
"I was reviewing for that test in here, yes."
"Y chromosome match... Minor variations... Accounted for by mutation: genetic damage to telomeres accumulates with age. A father's Y chromosome is identical to his son's: this would be a more accurate determination of paternity than blood tests."
"This diagnosis is also supported by..." they could hear the seam in the sentence. "Scent is the sense most closely related to memory. But I don't have anything, we just moved... and his mother... Maybe the hospital scents will help, he's spent a lot of time in them, visiting you, hasn't he?" Fragments of a discussion with Dr. Williamson now.
It was a bit odd, trying to piece together the meaning when Peter seemed unable to plainly say what he was thinking. He'd begun editing sentences together, but nothing thus far seemed original. Something about this felt completely unnatural and this wasn't right, this wasn't right at all. This was his son, and his son was up and alert and talking and trying to reach out. He should be happy, he should be relieved. This was where everyone got all teary-eyed and started hugging each other. The mood in the room couldn't be more in opposition. He let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding in those scattered seconds and found his voice.
"You were able to understand us for a while, then." That was good, that meant his mental faculties got back on their metaphorical feet much more quickly than first thought. That made him speaking to them now slightly more plausible. "This supports the amnesia theory," Light sighed. The boy had been inquiring about who he is. Light didn't know how to answer that. Not right now. Not when there was evidence that…no. That wasn't a conclusion he should ever jump to. "Do you recall anything before this hospital room? Not just sights, but any sounds or sensations?"
"There was extensive brain damage. I am working on... data recovery, but there was a system crash. Don't you keep paperwork?" The hospital's computer systems were experimental and temperamental, so paper copies were a must lest all their data be lost.
"The language center was entirely destroyed. I am trying to repair it. Learning English is just like learning medical terminology: memorization, memorization, memorization. You'll... I'll pick it up," he corrected.
There was a soft murmur from the others in the room, but to Light, it could have been static. This was….he couldn't assume it was anything else, not any more. His face was a bit ashen and it felt like a block of ice was weighing down his stomach.
This was..how? How? How could this have happened? It would be foolish to turn a blind eye to this now. He needed to validate this theory. He straightened up, his hand slack and slipping away from the…unknown entity on the bed.
"Call Dr. Williamson in. Let him know of these developments." This was just too much.
"Don't go yet." He frowned again: what had he done wrong?
"I'd like another blood sample sent for analysis." He was in full-blown Doctor and Head Researcher mode now. "You, monitor his condition and update Dr. Williamson when he arrives." That was directed toward the resident. He didn't need to tell them to keep quiet about this; that, at least, was a given. He glanced back at the...he needed to give it a designation, and soon. "I will return shortly. " With that, he turned on his heel and left the small hospital room.
"Don't... go... What did I go wrong?" The switch from distress to frustration was sudden. "This is wrong. People are supposed to be with their families... You need to spend time with him, damn it! I know it bothers you, but you can't give up yet, you know you got the programming right. It's going to fix him." Then, in a broken voice, "It has to, because I don't know what else to do." That was Dr. Light. He nodded, decision made. He swung his legs over the side of the bed: the physical therapist had been leading him around for weeks now. "Goodbye. Excuse me? Both?" He'd figure it out later.
"Wait, you can't..."
"I have to. It's my function. Excuse me," he repeated himself, wanting the resident to move out of his way to the door.
When that didn't work, he frowned. "Adrenaline rush, strength is limited by tearing of muscle fibers except in emergencies... Theoretical capability to repair... Goodbye." When he started moving again, he moved fast.
Light heard the sound of running feet heading toward him. He looked back, already having a feeling of what was going on. The part of his mind that housed the researcher and analyst wondered how it was coordinated enough to run like that? Last time he'd seen it with the physical therapist, its movements were still stiff and uncertain. Light stopped walking and allowed it to catch up to him, though his own adrenaline was through the roof. His mouth was set in a grim line, wearing the very same stern expression that would silence over-ambitious interns.
A hand clutched at his lab coat, but the tug was gentle. "Please, don't go." It leaned against him. "This is wrong. You're unhappy. I'm supposed to fix things. You wanted me to make things better." He'd prayed that it would work. "The physiological reaction... People are supposed to be with family."
Light wasn't good with social situations, not the way Albert was. Granted, he wasn't challenged in dealing with people, but standing here, in this situation, he couldn't help but feel ill equipped to handle it. He had to somehow disconnect himself from his inner turmoil and deal with this. Okay. It was upset, somehow. Something was going on with the treatment. These side effects…the cold knot tightened in his gut and he sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. He knew that despite what it could do, it was still weak. It still needed bed rest, and undue stress could be disastrous. His son could still be in there, and what if this just set them back?
Very gently, but not quite gingerly, he put a hand on the child's shoulder. "My leaving upset you?" This much? "I said I would be back later. I meant that." Someone Peter's age shouldn't be so attached to his parents. Light leaving, even on a bad note, shouldn't upset a teenager so.
"You were unhappy. I'm supposed to fix things and make them better. There are more reasons, but... I don't know the words. Except..." Dr. Light could feel that the heartbeat was fast, the breathing as well, as though he was panicked. "You should stay with him more," he said, another quote.
"Family is important. Both my 'heart'—Is that the right word? — It gets used for emotions and an organ that... Oh! The pulse varies according to emotional state. So it serves as an indicator. Of emotions." The question, trying to make sure he had the right words distracted him, but he tried again. "Medical advice is that you should stay. This is confirmed by status indicators. So... Also, if you go, I can't fix everything that's making you unhappy. That's what you wanted, isn't it?"
"What I...wanted." Was it? His voice was a bit faint. This was how it was interpreting things? Light sighed and squeezed the boy's shoulder lightly, an effort that took little thought. Fix everything? He wasn't sure that everything could be fixed, not any more. He needed more information. "You should be resting. Running around isn't good for you." He began to walk back toward the hospital room, his arm nudging the boy along with him. Maybe for now, he should just play doctor. At least until Albert arrived. Then he'd be able to sit down and…do what? His head was spinning. None of this…was this really what he'd wanted? A fix for everything? Was this really what he'd said, what he'd enforced?
"I healed the damage. He wouldn't get out of the way and I had to see you." The boy was happy to walk by his side, close, as though it had no idea of personal space.
He allowed it to continue, seeing no point in creating undue stress any more than he already had. Really, the implications here should be exciting, and they would be, if not for what he may have paid in exchange for this. There had to be a way to undo this, to regain his son. He needed to find out where it went wrong so he could nudge this back on track. It hadn't been long: it had requested data, so there had to be something left.
"You mean the plate? How did you repair it?" He looked up and around: the hall was conspicuously absent of medical personnel. Anyone without the highest level of clearance would have been ushered out the second this child opened his mouth.
"I meant my leg muscles this time. The plate was repaired the same way." He frowned. "I used my nanites, the way you told me to. It was instinct. Or programming? I'm not sure what the difference is." He lowered his eyes. "I intended to wait to talk until I was sure I was doing it right, but I wanted to fix the plate. It made me happy, so I wasn't thinking about other things."
Aside from this anomaly, this presence, it seemed to be working the way it was supposed to. "You should only speak about the nanites when you're around either myself or Dr. Williamson, and no one else, like we are now." The others weren't to know. Not now. Not when everything was balanced on the edge of a knife, poised to topple down on everything Light had ever worked for.
It was editing its sentences more cleanly now, though Light wasn't sure why it clung to his side so. He forced his mind to remain focused on business, not on his emotional state or what this thing's presence might mean.
He nodded. "Yes, Father. Dr. Williamson is my other father?" Right?
Light actually faltered in his gait at that, a sickening feeling moving along his spine. The sensation doubled on itself, making him feel very vulnerable in that instant. In a sense, it wasn't wrong, but the very idea of acknowledging it as his son...he'd never felt this sensation before. Was it grief? Rage? Was he offended? Disgusted? He was all of it, and none of it. He felt numb. He felt sick. "No." Sick. "Creator is a more correct term." Sick in his heart, sick to his stomach. They arrived at the door to the hospital room.
"Because there isn't a genetic relationship... I made you unhappy again. I'm sorry, I know genetics are important. I didn't mean to imply that you weren't important, Father." It wrapped its arms around him. "This helps," it said, smiling. "According to my research on brain biochemistry." It was proud.
Light stiffened when it hugged him, but he allowed it to do so for a socially acceptable span of time before separating it from his person. He was being gentle but firm. Even if it thought this was a good thing, there was so much sick and wrong about this that he didn't even know where to begin. It didn't even seem to perceive that there was something macabre and unnatural about its own situation. And when had it researched brain biochemistry? Certainly, a set amount of knowledge had been imparted for it to do what it needed to, but to "research" something? It being so proud may have been cute, had the whole situation not been so wrong.
It tilted its head at him. "Am I not doing it right? It made me happy, but not you. That can't be right."
It was asking what wasn't right when, in reality, Light was hard-pressed to find something that wasn't wrong. He sighed and led it into the hospital room. He had to try to explain it in a way it would understand. "I just need some time. There are some things that cannot be done with…outside assistance."
"So that leaves inside assistance." It smiled and nodded. Placed a hand on his chest, and warmth radiated from it. Suddenly, he felt awake and energetic, lips wanting to curl into a smile. "There, that's better." It snuggled against him again.
He actually felt a lot more comfortable. Safe? Not that Light was being kept safe so much that he wasn't being threatened. Anymore. His heart rate slowed to a more natural rate as his adrenaline levels fell some. His body relaxed. It was true: he did feel better this way.
"What did you just do?" His voice was barely a whisper. It could do this much? The medical implications were beyond monumental. But this way, it was like a violation. He couldn't let this continue. Even if it felt good…getting pumped with drugs felt good, too. Bad feelings were there for a reason; to remove them was to nullify not only the alarm, but also a good portion of the security system.
"Fixed the unhappiness. You said that it couldn't be fixed with outside assistance, so I provided inside assistance. Was that not the right treatment either?"
"Don't…don't do that without permission. It…people aren't used to being manipulated that way. It's not right, to make someone feel something untrue. Unhappiness…happens for a reason. Wariness and unease are important feelings, even if they don't feel good." It was like pulling himself through a fog. "Without pain, we wouldn't know when something is wrong. Killing the pain, but not the problem, doesn't solve anything. It usually just lets it fester and become worse." He needed it to understand why this was wrong, why he could not allow this.
This thing could become very dangerous, if it couldn't understand.
"I'm sorry I assumed I knew what you were talking about, Father. I should have known. I know that pain is an important status indicator, but... you were unhappy." It held him tightly. "I was... your unhappiness was the reason for my unhappiness, but I should have thought about the reason for yours."
"It is alright, but…try to remember. Everything is in place for a reason. Even if it seems nonsensical, that doesn't mean it is pointless or useless. There is a reason, even when we can't see it." The truth was what he'd always done his best to seek out. He tried to keep an open mind so that he could see the truth. He feared it wouldn't be enough.
The boy nodded. "I'm trying to put everything back the way it was, father. I've read the genetic code and everything." To be sure he was fixing it right. "So please don't be sad, Father. I'm still replacing the data in the brain, and I'm not sure about some of the instinctive survival requirements, but everything else is fixed." He promised that, "I'm definitely not going to die. So please don't be sad, Father."
A status report. It was trying to reassure him. Let him know that it was doing its best, that it was trying to cover every base. Tell him it'd be okay. Light nodded slightly, slumping a bit before shifting his weight. He'd always been a larger man, but he'd put on quite a bit of weight in the past few years. "Just focus on restoring everything." Its words did relieve him slightly, despite himself. Despite what he suspected.
The boy nodded. "Of course I will. That's what you made me for. I won't get bored or knock off work early: fixing things is what makes me happiest. Thank you for giving me something so important to fix."
He pressed his face into his father's chest. "I know I'm experimental, but I'll get better. I absolutely won't let you down, Father."
Light sighed, though it wasn't a dejected or disbelieving one. A tired sigh. He knew his own programming well enough to know that it honestly believed what it was saying. "I know." How had it become so autonomous, though, to be able to make judgment calls like this? Had it used the human mind as a template, and continued from there? There were far too many unknowns. He ran a hand along the child's upper back, his mind occupied with determining where to even begin. He needed to discern the coding that led it to this result, how it had reasoned that this was the best way. He'd expected either a vegetable or his son. Instead, this was the result. And he had no idea how.
"There you are! I heard you were finally up and about."
"Dr. Williamson!" Suddenly, Dr. Light's... creation was hugging someone else.
"Are you feeling better?"
"All status nominal, except some of the instinctive ones I'm not sure about. And I lost 95% of the brain data, even with redundant storage. I got confused and it turned out that one of the things that was trying to heal was a cancer trying to grow. It tricked me."
Light looked like hell, though he was doing his best to keep his face and mannerisms neutral to avoid upsetting the…perhaps they should determine its designation before anything else. He watched Albert's face for his reaction to the child's words.
Albert frowned. "Ninety-five percent... Can you tell me what your name is?"
"DRN.000 - Proto. It was brain data that was lost, not my programming data." He almost seemed to pout. "I'm not going to let my nanites mutate like that, and now I know how cells work better, I won't be fooled by cancer again, either."
Light's gaze was somber. Albert picked up on it as well. As far as he'd been able to tell, the nurse and resident hadn't suspected a thing, and they were long gone. A ninety-five percent loss in brain data…he felt sick all over again.
Dr. Williamson patted him on the head. "It's not your fault. I'm sure you did the best you could. We're the ones that programmed you, after all. A machine can only do exactly what it's told: you used the brain to think, didn't you? Otherwise, you couldn't have caught the cancer, and…the body would have died." He sighed.
The boy blinked.
"It was the brain data that was important, you see. That's where the personality is stored. Of all the places for a cancer..."
"It... I can replace data, but personality data? Is there some way to derive it?"
"Every human... every person is unique. If there is a way, it's beyond me." Dr. Williamson shook his head.
Had he recognized the cancer immediately, he wouldn't have encouraged its growth. The damage to Peter's personality and memories wouldn't have been nearly so devastating. How had they not anticipated that? Of course that was a risk—they'd had to completely take out the remnants of his immune system to even install this. Light rubbed his temple with one hand. What other suffering had his son endured in those final weeks? Did he really want to hear?
"Boy... Don't cry now."
The child's breath hitched, but he didn't sob, even though yes, that was water at the corners of his eyes. "It's a physiological response. My father said I wasn't supposed to hide pain or distress signals, Creator."
"Creator?" Dr. Williamson chuckled as he dug out a handkerchief. He kept a few: family members often needed them here. This hospital accepted the most desperate cases. "Sounds like I'm playing god. And it's alright, let it out. How old are you again? You were activated a few months ago, but it would have taken you some time to begin thinking... Anyway." He coughed: science later. "If you replaced most of the brain cells, your brain must be like an infant's. That's good, you'll need to learn quickly. But still, crying is only natural at that developmental stage."
Science. Light could handle science. He was very near his limit, and was suddenly very tired. "I think that…Proto…has been conscious since its eyes opened. It gathered observational data for some time—that's why it took so long to speak." It wasn't that it had amnesia: it was a blank slate with nothing to go on. The lab setting must have been somewhat intimidating, given all of the equipment and tests they'd constantly done.
"Um... That would depend on the definition of conscious, and I'm not sure I know exactly. Languages are very confusing, I raised the accuracy of my sense of hearing to get more data, and..." Its breath hitched again.
"It's not your fault: you've done very well."
"But, the success condition! I failed!" That now, that was a sob. "I'm supposed to help, that's what I'm for, and..."
"Think of it like any other medical treatment. We…your father and I... Peter was a dead boy walking. We gave him an untested treatment that we knew had only a very small chance of working without more refinement and animal tests for the sake of that hope, yes, but also so that he could... So that he could have a legacy. Contribute something to the future." Dr. Williamson stroked the boy's hair. "Five percent is better than zero percent, and you kept the body alive. That's good, that's very good: no one else has beaten this virus, and you had other diseases to deal with. It's our fault for forgetting that virus leaves people vulnerable to cancer as well."
So that was it then. More than likely. Unless they could figure something out, some way to obtain data for the unit to install…his son was dead. He'd known that this was a far more likely outcome than the cure working perfectly. He knew that with such an advanced case, it'd be next to impossible for a full recovery. He should be elated that the experiment worked so well. The unit essentially told them that, had the brain been left intact, the conversion would have been a complete success. To a less advanced case, it'd have been a sure cure. He shouldn't have hesitated. He shouldn't have waited so damn long. What did he have left now? The reality of it came crashing down on Light now that the initial shock was wearing off. His son was dead due to a simple oversight. Due to something that could have been patched had it been detected. They'd had the cure in their reach, an absolute cure for him, and now…the cure was here, but his son was not. His family was dead.
He'd heard that when bad news is delivered, truly devastating news, it's like every single detail of that moment was cemented in one's memory. Looking back on this day, Light would only have a very general recollection of abruptly turning and leaving the hospital room once more. The unit wasn't alone, it wouldn't be upset if he was gone. Everything seemed muffled and his mind was in a daze. It was like his wife all over again. He barely saw where he was going, he barely heard anything around him. His mind was whirling, and the only thing he could cling to was his destination: his office, and the solitude it promised.
The...thing...hadn't chased after him, although it had reached in the direction of his back before drawing back the hand, giving up. It had let Dr. Williamson take it back to bed and tuck it in, with a lollipop. It drew the covers over its head itself, later. It curled into a ball and cried for a long time. It slept, concealed under there, until the nurse came in to wake it in the morning.