Chapter XII: Welcome to Oasis Springs

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“Calista? Calista, can you hear us?” I asked, looking down at Ruby’s latest advancement lying still on the operating table in our laboratory. I turned to my wife. “She isn’t responsive, are you sure the operation was successful?” Even though I knew Calista was a machine with artificial intelligence, I still hated to think of losing her. She felt more human to me than plumbot and our whole family had become attached to her.

“Give her another minute. Her vitals are slowly gaining strength,” she answered, looking intently at the beeping monitor mounted on the wall over where Calista lay still. I noticed Ruby looked worn out and had one hand resting on her growing belly. She was going to need to lie down for a good long while after this. Ruby had been on so much medication before she became pregnant that she’d become dependent on most of it to function but she couldn’t stay on her medications while pregnant for the baby’s health. I’d had to take her off of them. Ruby wasn’t adjusting well. She was still going through withdrawals and suffering from chronic migraines and cold sweats. It broke my heart to see her like that but we’d both agreed our baby was the most important thing to be concerned for.

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“Seb… ast… ian…” came a faint mumble from the plumbot-turned-woman on the table. It was shocking hearing her “human” voice for the first time. I was so used to the robotic drone she used to have but she sounded just like one of us. I smiled. We hadn’t lost her. The operation had been a success.

“Hey Calista, how do you feel?” I asked her.

“Mmm… strange. Fuzzy. Dizzy?” she answered almost like another question. She looked disoriented. I helped her move to a sitting position.

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“That is normal,” Ruby answered briskly. “It should subside within twenty-four hours. Are you experiencing any pain?” she asked.

“I… I don’t think so, no…” Calista answered. “But you are. You have a headache.” she commented. “The baby in your belly is restless because of it.” I could tell by the look on Ruby’s face that this was a shock to both of us; we hadn’t intended to give Calista such heightened empathy.

“I’m fine for the moment, Calista,” Ruby attempted to brush it off but she still looked unsettled by this unpredicted result of her experimental operation. I cleared my throat.

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“Why don’t we get her some clothes? She can’t walk around naked,” I pointed out. “She’ll probably fit into some of your things until we can buy her clothes of her own.”

“I’ve always been naked before,” Calista said, puzzled. I chuckled. Well I guess there were some things she’d have to get used to.

“You looked like a plumbot before so no one minded. You look human now. I guarantee if you walk out of this lab the way you are now, people are going to take issue. You need clothes.”

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Once Calista was feeling more stable, we got her some clothes and let her leave the lab. She was just like the old Calista except more… well, more like us, I guess. She felt like a real person, she talked and acted like a real person, she cried real tears when she was upset; it was hard to believe that on the inside, Calista was still all machine. She was still skilled at everything she tried, too. In addition to being amazing at fixing and upgrading and cooking and cleaning, she started her own little garden patch in the yard and even helped us look after our plant specimens in the lab. All in all, Ruby’s experiment to make her plumbots seem more human was a complete and total success; the only error seemed to be Calista’s strange sixth sense and heightened empathy. I asked her once if she was going to save all her research and apply it to the plumbots in the hospitals.

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“No,” she stated firmly.

“No?”

“I’m going to destroy my research. My curiosity about whether I could create a human-plumbot hybrid has been satiated. Calista will be the only plumbot of her kind.”

“But why?” I asked her, incredulous. It wasn’t like Ruby to give up right at the peak of a big breakthrough.

“Because I know better than most people the damage science can do to living things when taken too far,” she told me gravely. “Calista, for all intents and purposes, is alive. She is a person and people should not be used as science experiments. If the world became aware of what I’ve done with Calista… the damage would be catastrophic and most likely irreversible. I’m satisfied with what I have achieved. Lives don’t need to be destroyed for the sake of my own selfish desires.”

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And that was that. I didn’t question her further about it. I understood her reasons for not wanting to go any further with her project and I respected her decision to let Calista be the last plumbot she worked on. Maybe that was part of the reason we moved to Oasis Springs in the first place; a fresh start. A new beginning for all of us and a chance to leave behind what we were finished with.

Yep, that’s right. The Sword family’s no longer in Starlight Shores. I sold the house, the resort and all our business investments, packed up the kids and our stuff and relocated to a remote area of the desert. There were a few different reasons for the move; the biggest one being our growing concern for Hope’s safety. She wasn’t going to stay small enough to hide away in a dark room forever. It was going to get harder to keep her a secret, especially with our family’s fame and being in the thick of the city. Ruby and I both thought that moving out to the middle of the desert would help keep Hope away from prying eyes. Another reason was how famous we were; I was just tired of being followed around by paparazzi everywhere I went. I was tired of seeing my family’s faces all over every magazine on the rack in the checkout lines at the grocery store. I was tired of being seen as a celebrity by my patients instead of as their doctor. I was tired of still getting asked about Nikki on the street all the time even though that part of my life is long over. I was tired of having every fight I had with my son get publicized on TMZ as if it was the world’s business. I was just tired of all of it. I grew up with it and I thought it was fun as a teenager, but I’m older now and I’ve outgrown the need to be in the spotlight all the time. I was hoping the move out here would give Leander and I a quiet environment to work out our issues and give Ruby and I the space and privacy we want to bring our new baby into.

The only thing I was really sad about leaving behind in Starlight Shores was my sisters, but as it turned out, I didn’t need to miss them for long…

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