Grace led Yuri into the ship. Once the bay had been sealed and re-pressurised, she took her helmet off.
“Normally, we’d give you a tour of the ship right away,” Grace said. “But since I was put in charge of showing you around, I’d like to get the business portion out of the way first.”
“Business portion?” Yuri asked.
Grace nodded. “Everyone who boards has to have a check-up. For the rest of us, that meant going to the Medical bay. In your case, it means going to Engineering. I won’t lie. It will take longer than a normal exam. Just because I’m not super familiar with your construction yet. It may even take into the early hours of the morning.”
“I understand,” Yuri said. “I will comply.”
They were all leaving. First Farah and Grace left, Baron following them. Allison was next, cracking jokes as she walked away forever. Ophelia and Lucy were next. Ophelia spared a moment to look back and shake her head. He tried to follow, but his legs wouldn’t move. Kat left next. Finally, even Paul left him. He shouted, his voice making no sound. He wanted to cry out. Even Paul… Paul…
Leon woke up in a cold sweat. His arm was stretched out above him. Just a dream. He looked over at Paul’s side of the bed. It was empty. The book he’d brought had a bookmark put into it and had been left on the stand. He smelled something cooking. He took some time to wash his face and hands before investigating.
Paul was in their kitchenette, working diligently.
“Watcha making?” Leon asked.
“Apple pancakes,” Paul answered. “They’ll be ready in just a moment. The apple is almost tender.”
Leon sat down and tried to banish the unease from his mind. Paul wouldn’t leave him. Ophelia wouldn’t kick him off of the ship. Why even have a dream like that? It was so ridiculous. He faintly registered a plate being set in front of him.
“Looks good,” he said. “We still have orange juice?”
“A bit,” Paul answered. “I would suggest a strong breakfast tea, though. The tastes pair better.”
“Well, I’m sure you’re right,” Leon said, rising. “But I want OJ.”
“Is something wrong?” Paul asked. “You look a bit… off.”
Leon froze for a split second. “Nothing at all,” he stated. “What could be wrong?”
Before Paul could press him, the communicator went off. Paul, get your ass to Engineering.
“I wonder what that’s about,” Paul muttered. “She didn’t sound hurt.”
“Maybe she finally hit Allison with a wrench,” Leon said.”Was bound to happen eventually.”
“I don’t think so,” Paul said. “She didn’t sound that concerned. More excited.” He shrugged. “Guess I’ll find out when I get there.”
“I’ll refrigerate your brekkie for you,” Leon offered. “Be sure to eat up when you get back.”
Paul hurried over to Engineering. Yuri was sitting with her hands in her lap. Her back was opened up and Grace was working inside it. She looked up at Paul and beckoned him over.
“If you need help with the android you may want to ask someone else,” Paul stated.
“It’s not that,” Grace said. “Come here and look at this. It’s a readout of Yuri’s internal systems. Remind you of anything?”
Paul carefully perused the readout, looking a second time to be sure. “It has a digestive system,” he observed. “These systems are also similar to the human cardiovascular system. Professor Crozier took a lot of trouble to make it not only look human, well mostly, but be able to pass for human.”
“Pardon me, Doctor Paul Albrecht,” Yuri said.”But I have a request.”
“A request?” Paul asked. “What is it?”
“Please cease referring to me as ‘it’,” Yuri said. “I am female and would like to have feminine pronouns used.”
“Fascinating, “Paul said. He turned to Yuri. “I’m sorry about that. I didn’t think an android would have a gender identity.”
“It is understandable,” Yuri stated. “All records that I have access to indicate that my brother and I are unique in that regard.”
“Do you need to eat?” Paul asked.
“Negative,” Yuri answered. “I am, however, capable of doing so. My systems will then convert the materials I ingest into power. It is an inefficient way of gathering energy. But it is more satisfying.”
“Why is that?” Grace asked.
“The taste of food stuffs can be most pleasant,” Yuri answered.
“I… she has a sense of taste,” Paul muttered, “Interesting.”
“Isn’t it!” Grace exclaimed. “she’s a super sophisticated piece of technology. Indistinguishable from a human unless you open her up. And her internal systems are designed to replicate most of what humans can do. She breathes and eats. She even has a pulse.”
Paul glanced at Yuri. “May I?”
“You may,” Yuri answered.
Paul picked up her wrist and felt for a pulse. “She does!” he declared. “You can even see the veins if you look closely. But why go to all that trouble? Especially when you’re going to give her hair and eyes that readily mark her as inhuman.”
“That’s the million credit question,” Grace said.
“It is not difficult,” Yuri said. “Father wanted us to be able to integrate into human society. It was not his intent for us to always remain in the confines of the base, but to find our own paths. It was his belief that being capable of engaging in human activities would be essential. He did not, however, wish us to be too similar to humans. It was his concern that we would be mistaken for covert operatives. Therefore, he gave us certain visual cues that would distinctly mark us.”
“Smart dude,” Grace observed. “Well, I think the examination is over. You systems are all functioning well. I’ll take you on the tour now and tonight Baron will throw a welcome party for you.”
“That is not necessary,” Yuri stated. “I am happy simply to be included.”
“It’s our custom,” Grace said. “Consider it a fun learning experience.”
“I understand,” Yuri said. “Thank you very much.”