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To an Absent Sibling

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Making a cup of coffee for himself shouldn’t be such a difficult chore, Nick thinks to himself at the grizzly hour of four in the morning. This time a dream didn’t wake him up, but the youngest Valentine child did. He couldn’t sleep anyway, not with the hard drive of his estranged brother resting on the counter in plain sight.

If he closed his eyes real tight, Nick could remember when he first met his sibling…

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May 19th 2016/2288

They had walked with Longfellow through the fog, the mud, the muck and swamp. How Nora made it up that far, Nick never knew, but they had finally reached Acadia. The place was kind of inspiring when someone stepped back and looked at it, had they not been on the hunt for a runaway girl, confused with the thoughts that she might be a synth.

The building was an old planetarium, something that astronomers may have marveled at when they weren’t outside admiring the seas. The dome of it was broken, from the years of storms and decay of the radiation if Nick had to guess. But the inside was far more beautiful than the disaster of the outside, and Nick could see why the person he’d met had called it a sanctuary. During the day, the sunlight would burst through the holes in the ceiling, and reflect off of the many computer screens in the room to make a beautiful aura, while at night one could look out at the stars, even without the telescope.

DiMA himself was a sight. He had grey skin like Nick himself did, and he was torn all over.. Their metal hands matched, but DiMA was in far worse shape. Nora once described him to Nick like the weird Tesla Brother he had never had. He stood though, wires hanging from him like moss from an old building, his voice a soft tone that Nick compared more often than naught to Amida, a close friend that he’d come to know. “You know, when I first climbed this mountain, above the fog, I thought to myself, now here is a metaphor worth taking in.. You’ve entered a place of clarity. Understanding.. Peace. While you’re here in Acadia, synth-kind welcomes you, as long as you welcome us.”

Nora was ever the smartass. “Well, in that case, I want a Nuka Cola, some Stimpaks, Kasumi Nakano returned to her family, and.. hmmmm… a pony.”

While Nick would’ve typically scowled at Nora’s behavior, DiMA laughed. “I see.. I’m afraid some of those things I’m not in a position to give.” But he smiled. “Kasumi is here. She’s safe and unharmed, and you’re free to see her, if you’d like. Before you do though, tell me. Do you think Kasumi is a synth?”

That was enough for Nick to hear. “We’re not answering any more questions until you play straight with us.. Just who the hell are you, really? There’s only one synth with that kind of face and a mind of his own, and I only see him when I look in a mirror.”

There was a shock in the face of DiMA, a look of familiarity and surprise. “Nick? It… it can’t be you…”

Nick himself was baffled, he’d never met this person before, he swore. “Don’t give me that. What are you trying to pull? I’ve never seen you before in my life.”

“Please. If you’re willing to give me a chance, I can explain..”

Nora and her smart mouth opened again, Nick swore that one day he was just gonna sew it shut. “I know this joke, two androids walk into a bar..”

This time, DiMA didn’t laugh. “I’m afraid the punch line isn’t going to be very funny. We were prototypes, Nick. The first synths capable of independent thinking and judgement.”

Nick hesitated, but nodded. “Keep talking..”

DiMA folded his metal fingers together as he tried to explain. “One of the Institute’s experiments had to do with how the brains could process personality. If we could handle individualized feelings and behaviors. I was allowed to develop mine based on experience, but with you.. They wanted to try transferring an entire personality into you.”

He looked pained as he reflected on it, in a way that made Nick’s chest ache. “It took several attempts before the personality imprint worked. I saw you wake up not knowing who or what you were so many times…” The pencil thin eyebrows of DiMA’s face pulled down into a small scowl, a sign of anger. “I couldn’t let them do it to you anymore. We were the only two prototypes they made. I literally saw myself in you…”

He closed his eyes that were as grey as his skin, and for a moment Nick wondered if he were blind. The synth relaxed, yet clenched his fists. “You were my brother, Nick. I helped you escape the Institute. We left together.”

Nick shook his head in denial, stepping back as his arms crossed defensively. “If you were my brother, I’d remember.”

“That’s where you’d be wrong.” DiMA said so matter-of-factly, Nick considered punching the synth square in the jaw. “This happened over a century ago. There’s.. There’s only so much memory that can fit into the prototype brains we have..”

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Nick blinked, reaching up to rub at his eyes at the flashes that had covered his brain once again. The sun was coming up, and his coffee was now too cold to even enjoy, and Amida was out in the zen garden.. Nick wondered if he had blacked out on the man, or if Amida had even bothered asking him to join him for Yoga. He stared out the window, watching the man that practically mirrored his brother as he wondered, his gaze lowering to the harddrive he’d been grasping for dear life.

Can synths even be related? Just because we’re from the same assembly line, does that make us family? He’d spent such a long time wondering if the Institute had made any other prototypes like him. He had once wondered if he was a failure, if they gave up, or just got bored, thinking that he was trashed. He whispers silently to the hard drive, though knowing that there was no way a piece of metal could hear. “I’ll help you.”

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