At the suggestion of my primary beta reader (aka, my husband), I’m going to try to make all my stories this month about the same characters in the same universe. They won’t be in any particular order – certainly not chronological. And if I get stuck I reserve the right to pull another topic out of thin air and run with it. But if this works out I may actually have a novelette or novella ready to be fleshed out and polished at the end of the month. We’ll see how it goes!
“Happy birthday, David!” Meltec carried a plate with a special treat. “I brought you a cake. It’s something called chocolate.”
“Cake? What’s that?” David leaned in close to the round thing his brother carried and his nose bumped into the gooey frosting. “It smells good,” he said, giggling.
Meltec cut a piece of the cake and handed it to the boy. “I learned about this in my human studies class,” he said. “There used to be a ritual marking the number of years since a human had come online. Like with all Bios, it was called being born. And since Bios can’t upgrade the way androids can, they would track the time and even celebrate it. They were called birthdays.”
“Do other Bios still do that?” David looked up at his brother, his hazel eyes meeting Meltec’s blue lasers.
Meltec shook his head. “No. Most humans aren’t born anymore. Not since the dying. Now they’re bioengineered to come online full-sized, not small like you. You’re the only child human I know of, and I had to convince my overseer that it would be worthwhile for me to raise you. Special human, special celebration” Meltec pointed at the cake. “Are you going to eat that?”
David answered by taking a big bite. “It’s good!” he mumbled. “Sweet!”
“I have another surprise for you too. Five-year-old humans used to go to school. It’s where they learned things.”
“So, I’ll start going to school with you?” David’s voice climbed in both volume and pitch. Meltec knew that meant excited.
“No…” he said. “My school is only for people. They won’t let a Bio go.”
David’s face squinched in a way that Meltec recognized. Despite it being common knowledge that biological organisms could be trained for tasks but never properly programmed, he was certain that this human boy was processing a lot of information.
“Why can’t I go to school?” he asked. “I want to learn!”
“I know you do.”
“Then why can’t I come with you? I won’t make trouble, and I’ll stay out of the way.”
David’s eyes began to fill with liquid as he pleaded. Tears, Meltec knew. It meant David was sad, or maybe angry. Emotions. Meltec was used to them, but he still really didn’t understand. He was sometimes concerned about his communications with others and how he would be perceived, but it didn’t ever make him leak.
“You wouldn’t be able to learn at my school,” Meltec told him. “We get progressive programming from the network. We plug in. You have nothing to plug.” He scooped the little boy into his lap. “You can’t be programmed,” he said. “But I know you can learn. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I’m going to have school for you right here, every day when I get home.”
“Yes really.” Meltec gave the boy he called his brother a gentle hug. Humans needed that. “Now, how about another piece of cake?”
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