Progress went slowly back at Hunter base – the repair bay and the mechanics shop were overwhelmed with the sheer amount of bodies both incomplete and complete – and the amount of artifacts still pouring in from the remains of the Robot Master Compound was enough to drive any of the managers into conniptions. Most of it was being boxed up upon arrival for later analysis, with the labs full to overflowing. The techs were stressed, the scientists were stressed bundles of excitement, and the mechanics were swearing profusely as they manhandled the incoming artifacts into a manageable workload.
The raised ambient stress levels didn’t help the pressure in Central Surgery at all, with the incredibly delicate process they were about to do. Not that it was affecting the Head (and only) Surgeon Nidae any bit – that reploid was as calm and unaffected as ever. As far as anyone could tell with his unusual face. The only thing that seemed to greatly interest him besides the upcoming process was that his patient’s conscious sibling was going to witness the surgery. He was quite looking forward to conversing with the ancient robot.
At the back of the room, the doors to the ICU slid open soundlessly as the derma-sealed and sanitized nurses wheeled the patient in on a hovertable. In light of his incredibly fragile state, it had been decided to take out the secondary surgical table and simply put the hovertable in its place. The less the old body was moved, the better.
The new body was already in place, prepped and ready for use with the default hair length already rooted into the cranial skin waiting to be sealed over the open skull plates – for this, the transfer would be held directly between the central CPUs rather than either body’s remote terminal access. Nidae flexed the delicate fingers of his lower hands, testing the multitude of branching digits and prepping the nanowire manufacture systems in his abdomen. He gave both bodies a long, considering look. It would take some retrofitting to bring the new one up to spec for the old body’s particular weapon styles, but that could easily be done after his patient had settled in.
Unlocking his major arms, Nidae walked over to the window overlooking the surgical bay to await the other part of this operation, who apparently was just arriving. Mentally he brought up the records already taken on this ‘Cut Man’, reviewing the extensive damage age had wrought on the ancient robot’s systems. The plaid lap blanket was a tasteful way to conceal the extensive life support systems – Nidae would have to praise Zydeco, his head assistant, later for thinking of it.
Meanwhile, he had a pleasant little puzzle on his hands as to why this Cut Man had such an odd expression. Perhaps it was about Nidae’s own, rather alien design – he had been designed for the job, not styled after any living species, and hermetically sealed to protect the nanowire generators inside his body. Quite leisurely, Nidae reached out and tapped on the interoffice comm. “Greetings, I am Surgeon Nidae, and I will be operating on the patient. Do you have any questions, Mister . . . “
A small twitch of the left eye – it was truly remarkable how expressive this old model was! Such subtle nuances to a simple expression of . . . yes, that was shocked disbelief all right. Nidae would have smiled, if he had a mouth. As it was, he simply gave Cut Man his most pleasant expression as he waited for a response. What he got was a little unexpected. “You . . . you are not putting my brother in a girl’s body!”
Signas was really and truly doing his best to ignore the growling noises rising from his trash basket as he listened to the ongoing conversation between this ‘Plant’ and Doctor Cain – at the good doctor’s insistence they’d routed the signals between Hunter HQ and the ‘Robot Masters’ to his office. Something about Signas having the best chairs to sit in. In a remote, intellectual way, the discussion of soil ph balance, fertilizers, and shade factors was absolutely fascinating. He’d never suspected so many technical details were involved with the simple thing of getting a tree to grow. As far as he’d known, they just grew, and if the area wasn’t a good one, the tree grew poorly or not at all. Hadn’t really had any reason to think about it one way or the other, honestly.
It was in the middle of a semi-fascinating discussion about the difficulty of transplanting African violets that the growling from his wastebasket turned into a pleading, whimpering whine. A single glance inside made him shudder – Douglas’s creation was trying to give him pleading puppy eyes.
A soft laugh caught his attention, yanking Signas from his horrified contemplation of Douglas’s toy and causing his thoughts to tumble over themselves for a split second. Plant was smiling at Cain over the holographic relay . . . really, quite lovely . . . and saying something he didn’t immediately catch. “-very flattering that you think so. Thank you, Doctor Cain. But in truth I’m not set to be either – Da finally took in my request at my last body upgrade.”
The smile on the display grew sorrowful. “The last one before he died.”
“Ah, yes, the elusive Doctor Wily . . . I’m sorry, but he’s truly just a name in history nowadays, and Doctor Light is barely more than that, except for his status as X’s Creator.” Cain shifted in his seat, resettling his hands on his cane. After a moment’s thought, he snatched and dropped one of the older reports into the wastebasket, where it was promptly pounced upon and consumed. “Much better. Now, where were we, my dear? Transplanting violets, I think - would you happen to have some in your garden?”
Nidae blinked once, a lower hand’s finger rising to tap his ‘chin’. “This Elec is male then? Oh dear . . . This could be problematic. The only blank template body immediately on hand is the incomplete one for you. Zydeco-” Nidae turned to his assistant, who was standing off to one side, rocking and hopping on her heels as she waited. “- do be a dear and get me the list of incomplete bodies we have prepped.”
Through the speaker grill, Cut’s voice came in both clearly and clearly irritated. “Then give him mine!"
"Your situation is too unstable to withstand the time needed to create a new body." Nidae reprimanded gently, all four sets of hands delicately folded together below the level of his eyes as he gazed up at the undeniably ancient robot.
"How in the world could you mistake him for a girl?” Glancing between the conscious patient and the unconscious one, Nidae had to speak his mind. “The mask, for one – the design is reminiscent of many worn by fantasy superheroines. . . . he also has unusually wide hips and narrow shoulders in comparison with today’s masculine models, quite frankly.”
“Doctor Light had a hand in his design – in all of us first ones, from Protoman to Guts.” Cut’s tone was clearly sour. As was his expression, when Nidae took a glance.
“Indeed . . . could you tell me which one picked the permanent lavender eyeshadow?” Nidae briefly curled his lower fingers below his eyes as Cut Man glared down into the surgical theater. “Just curious.”
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