It'd pestering Rex for as long as he could remember. The same question always found it's way into his mind: morning, noon, and night. No matter what he did, it returned.
"Where did I leave my jacket now?" Rex questioned out loud. He always left it somewhere. And it was always in the last place he looked.
"I NEEEED to find it! It's freaking freezing there!" Rex mumbled as he looked under the bed for the third time. With a sigh, he stood up again. He threw his head back and uttered a hefty groan.
"I can't find it! It's nowhere! Not there! Or there! Or-" Rex stopped as he looked around his room, if it could be called that. It was a bleach-white box with a shelf, or "bed" as it was supposed to be, apparently. The random posters were the only things that made it remotely homey. What made him stop was Bobo. He was at his usual spot, in his hammock. He had to know where the jacket was. He only left that hammock to get something to eat, use the bathroom, or play poker. It was worth a shot.
"Hey, Bobo!" The chimp was deep in a 'Sports Illustrated' magazine. Rex groaned again.
"Hmm." An idea –A brilliant idea, as Rex thought– popped in his head. His arm became covered in the net pattern of blue glowing lines as Rex activated his nanites. In an instant, his arm became his most favored weapon- a Smack Hand. Should be long enough to reach, Rex thought. As he had several times before, Rex lifted the huge metal hand with ease. It went up to the hammock and plucked the magazine from Bobo's grasp. His disposition turned from one of shock to one of rage as Rex pulled the magazine down towards the floor.
"What's the big idea?" Bobo yelled over the side of the hammock.
"Uh-uh. Bad monkey." Rex teased. "I could always…rip it up."
"Hrm…Fine. What is it?"
"Have you seen my jacket? I can't find it."
"You'd lose your head if I wasn't here to watch it for you."
"Hey, do you think I could use this for a collage? You know, like something to hang up. Or, like, for Holiday's office. Picasso style."
"Eh, fine kid. You made you're point. Behind the TV."
"Sweet. Thanks Bobo!" Rex undid his hand and dropped the magazine as he trotted over to the TV.
"Awesome." He snatched up the orange and red jacket and pulled it on. He ran out the door, leaving the room, and an angry Bobo, behind him. Rex dashed down the white halls of Providence, turning on a dime and avoiding alarmed Providence agents. He did this all the way to the hanger, where many black and white jets waited. They stood in the hanger, organized and shining, only a part of a fully armed battle artillery. One, however, stood out, which nothing in Providence really does. A gray ship, which had the appearance of a large sideways soda can attached to smaller ones on wheels, stood apart from the lines of glistening ships. This was the one Rex ran up to. With the push of a button, the small elevator came down. Rex stepped onto it and it took him to the only door on the ship. He pushed open the door and strolled in.
"Hey Cesar! Where are you?" He looked around the lab, searching for his brother. Cesar was looming over a cube with his work goggles over his eyes and a hand-held welder in hand. His other hand held the cube as the welder caused sparks to fly from it. Rex's eyes locked onto his brother and he skipped over.
"Cesar! Hey!" Rex stood behind his brother waiting. His short attention span didn't allow him to wait. He began to bounce in place. His arms lifted up to his sides with balled-up fists. He began to weave back and forth, trying to peer over his brother's shoulder. When he could clearly see the project, he realized why his brother was wearing his goggles- the sparks were intensely bright. He pulled his own goggles down over his eyes. Then, he had another idea.
Cesar was fully focused on his work. A portable selenium tracker would certainly be useful in the future. He would never lose his little brother again, thanks to this device. He couldn't afford to mess this up. The tiniest mistake and the wires would fling apart. He…needed…absolute…
"Hey, what's up bro?" Rex chirped as he popped up between Cesar and the worktable.
"AH!" Cesar screamed as he reared back, pulling his arms along with the welder, backwards. He stood using the other table behind him for support as Rex stood grinning.
"Rex! What are you doing?" Cesar shouted as he pulled his goggles from his eyes.
"You wouldn't do anything when I came in normal, so…" Rex shrugged and pulled his goggles up.
Cesar sighed. "That's not broken, is it?" He gestured to the device behind his brother.
"Huh?" Rex spurred around and examined the box. "What constitutes as 'broken'?"
"Are the wires still together?" Rex scanned the device more carefully.
"Seems like it."
"Phew. That's a relief. I would've lost 4 hours work!" Cesar chuckled.
"You did this in four hours?"
"Oh, that's nothing."
"FOUR HOURS? How is that nothing? That's four hours!"
"Do you know how long some of my other projects take?"
"No. You're in here all day. Every day of the week. Even Saturdays!"
"So, mijo, do you need something?"
"Oh, yeah! I was thinking, y'know, since you're in here all the time, maybe we could hang out!"
"I guess I do need a break."
"You're in here all the time! Duh, you need a break!"
"What did you have in mind?"
"…I thought…" Rex was hesitant. Cesar looked questioningly at his little brother as he put the welder down. He was usually so optimistic and energetic. What could be doing this to him?
"…I thought we could…maybe, like, reminisce or something…"
"Like, looking through a photo album. You've got one, right?" Cesar's expression softened.
"Of course I do." He took off his goggles and laid them down by the welder. He walked the short distance over to his brother and put his hand on his shoulder, guiding him. As they walked a little, Rex's head turned.
"It's not on your computer?" He asked, recalling Cesar's offer to show him a picture of them, and their dad when they first met.
"No, mijo. I only keep certain photos on there. The others are kept safe in the album."
"Wait. What album?" Cesar's hand lifted from his little brother's shoulder. He bent down over a box and pulled out a thick, dusty book.
"A book? You've got to be kidding me."
Cesar chuckled. "Yes, a book. But it's a special book. The Salazar family photo album. Our photo album." Rex stared at the book. Yes, it was a book. Normally, he shunned the horrible things. But, this book was filled with memories. His memories. Their memories.
"Well, I didn't get this old tome out for you to stare at! Well, I did, technically. But not the cover! Come on, let's crack this open, huh?" Cesar began to walk over to a table, when Rex stopped him.
"Let's get out of here. Go somewhere more…homey." A devious grin swept across Rex's face. One that made Cesar shiver. Knowing his brother, Cesar knew this wouldn't end well.
And he was right. They went down the twisting hallways. At one point, they passed Rex's room.
"Where are we going if we're not going to your room?"
"That's what she said." Rex mumbled.
"You didn't answer me."
"Oh. Well, my room's not homey. It's a box. A prison. With posters. Lots of posters."
"I told you. Somewhere homey." They passed through a couple more halls until they arrived at a basic Providence door. Cesar looked around.
"What room is this?"
"You'll see." Rex touched the door and let his nanites run rampant. The pattern spread on the door as the nanites unlocked it. With a light hiss, the door opened to a medium-sized bedroom. There was a simple bed, a dresser, and a martial arts practice pole. It was Agent Six's room. Rex wandered in without a care in the world, plopping on the bed. Cesar hesitated in the doorway.
"Come on! Who's going to know?" Rex said as he stared at his brother.
"I knew it," Cesar mumbled to himself, "This won't end well."
"Feh! Come on! What could Six do? I'm the cure remember? He won't do a thing! ….Except maybe ground me."
"And I'm you're expendable brother who serves no purpose."
"Nah, hermano! Just chill. It'll be fine." Cesar's head dropped in defeat.
"Fine. But only for, like, ten minutes, okay?"
"Yeah, whatever." Cesar walked in and closed the door, expecting for Six to come in and chop him to bits. Since he didn't, Cesar sighed and plopped next to his brother. How could he be so calm about this? They were in the sixth deadliest man in the world's room. It was dangerous. It was stupid. It lacked common sense. That was why. Because it was just like Rex to do this. Cesar was lost in thought, as usual, so Rex decided to snap him out of it.
"Hey!" He said with a smack on the shoulder. Cesar shook his head. He looked over at Rex, puzzled."Open the book! Come on! We didn't come here for you to think!" Cesar grinned. He was right.
"Well," Cesar said, flipping open the cover, "Here."
The flyleaf had a cursive scribble, reading "Salazar Photo Album", under which it said, "Rafael, Violetta, Cesar, and Rex". Rex stared at this for a while, his brother watching him warmly until he flipped the page. The photos started on the next page. Most of them were of a young couple. Rex cocked his head. Cesar giggled.
"It's Mami and Papi, before they got married." Rex looked at the captions and felt dumber for doing so. Under them read 'Our first date', 'His house', Her house', 'His parents', and 'Her parents'. Rex blushed, embarrassed that he hadn't noticed, as Cesar flipped the page again.
The next few pages were filled with wedding pictures, followed up by honeymoon pictures, and then moving in pictures. Classic love story.
And something played in Cesar's head as he flipped the page, knowing what came next. –First comes love, then comes marriage, then come a baby in a baby carriage…– The page after all these pictures started with a picture of Violetta, as one could infer, sitting on as couch holding a positive pregnancy test meter. Her grin couldn't be any wider. The next few pictures were organized by month; 1 month, 2 months, 3, 4….With each section, her midsection grew. Until finally, there was another few pages with some pictures of several Hispanic people, including the couple, in a hospital. Among them was a newborn. Rex read the caption aloud.
"Cesar, our first miracle, 1984…" Cesar began to well up a little.
"Yeah." With a sniffle, Cesar continued to flip through the pages, which were now centered around him as he grew. In the 'Ten' section, another picture of Violetta and a pregnancy test came up, except Cesar was in this one holding the test meter. She sat on a different couch this time though, holding Cesar on her lap, and there was snow out of the window.
"Geneva…" Rex gasped. Cesar sniffled again and nodded. He flipped the page again and the pictures seemed to repeat themselves. 1 month, 2, 3…Once again, this sequence ended with a hospital scene, including the couple and their first miracle. This time, Cesar stood next to his mother's bed as she held her second child.
"Our second little miracle, Rex, 1996." Cesar read aloud. Both brothers began to well up as they continued to flip through the pages, filled with memories. They eventually got to some pictures at the nanite lab; Rex after falling of the gantry arm in the reactor annex, Cesar working -Rex commented on how funny he looked in a lab coat-, their parents, and even their co-workers –Rex hissed at one point, noticing Van Kleiss. They had finally gone through the whole photo album. Cesar shut it and turned to his brother.
"What are you thinking?" He sighed. Rex stared back blankly.
"They were all such…happy memories." He sighed. "I just wish I could remember some of, ANY of them." Cesar knew this was coming. He sighed again, feeling defeated. Rex looked at his hands in his lap. Something was bugging him. He couldn't, but he had to.
"Can I ask you something?" Cesar's head came up.
"Of course, mijo. Anything." Rex brought his head up slowly, regretting what he was about to do already.
"Why did you look for the Omega-1 first?" The question, as innocent as Rex's hushed tone made it sound, caught Cesar off guard. He stared at his little brother.
"I just thought…it was our promise to protect it…"
"But I'm your brother."
"So…why wouldn't you look for me?"
"It's complicated, mijo."
"How? How can it be complicated?" Rex's voice was rising, unbeknownst to him. He ended up standing. "It's a machine! I'm your brother! Why would you put that before family? Before me? How could-"
"How do you expect me to look for someone who was dead to me?" Cesar shouted, standing up. This time, Rex stared at him, shocked. Cesar's eyes, though full of rage, had finally spilled over. He glared through the tears at Rex who stood in front of him, staring back like an ignorant, scolded little kid. His anger began to surrender to the anguish. His expression began to fade to sadness as he clenched his eyes closed. He spurred around, unable to take it anymore and fled out of the room. Rex stared after him, feeling his heart sink into his shoes.
Neither Salazar knew, but time had flown by. It was 9 o'clock. Cesar brushed past Six as he sprinted to the hanger. He stared at him, confused, but disregarded it and continued to his room. Opening it, he found Rex, still standing devastated. Six put two and two together and tried to use his most soothing tone.
"You should probably head to bed, kid." Rex stood shivering and let his head drop.
"'Kay…" He responded shakily. He began to plod to the door when Six noticed the album and stopped him.
"Don't forget this." Rex turned as Six handed him the album. Rex stared at it expressionless.
"Thanks Six." He turned again and held the book against his chest. He walked down the hallways, as empty as his heart felt, clutching the book. He got to his room, where this whole mess began. Bobo was asleep, having picked up his magazine. Rex placed the album down gingerly and got ready for bed. That didn't take long, so he scooped up the book and lay down on his shelf of a bed. He pulled the covers up. –Idiot. – He thought and sat up to turn the light off. However, Holiday stood in the door with her finger on the switch and a smile on her face. Rex returned the smile half-heartedly.
"Good night, Rex." The light went out, the door hissed shut, and Rex lay back down. His one arm felt around, gripping the book once he found it. He felt the tears come back and let them go. No one would see. No one would know. He wrapped his arms around the album and began to cry himself to sleep, hugging all of his family.