Author: Richard Wren
Grampa Leg heaved his large, square frame from the floor and trundled across the family room to where the youngster sat. Deep in concerned thought, the child twiddled his long fingers, picking at the rubbery fingertips. Ma watched from the corner of the room while doing her chores. She had almost completed another head. Its blue-tinted eyes looked up, already curious and blinking.
“You okay, Boy?” Grampa sat next to the worried youngster, their bodies apparently identical.
“I guess so, Grampa. It just feels funny, yknow?”
Grampa knew. He had given birth many times. “It may feel strange the first time, Son, but its nature’s way. Afterward, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.”
He draped his long, flexible arm around the first-timer. “Then I’ll have to stop calling you ‘Son’.”
It was true. Afterward, he would have a name – just like Grampa Leg or Aunt Carapace. Ma was different, of course. Ma was special. He looked across to her for reassurance.
She had just connected the new head and was now fastening on some casing plates, holding her creation firmly to stop it wriggling as bits were added. It was always good to watch Ma at work – homely and comforting.
The sudden feeling in his belly brought his thoughts back to immediate issues. “It’s started” he whispered.
Grampa Leg leaned closer to listen. There was a faint hum and sound of sprayed liquids from deep in the guts. “Yep, it’s started. It shouldn’t take long now, Boy.”
From all around the family room, the others waved or nodded their good wishes but no-one came closer. Ma had nearly finished her new youngster and looked around for any more components.
Grampa continued listening. Now the sounds were a series of clicks and whirrs. The rhythmic noises stopped. “I think you’re done. The next bit is going to feel a little strange, but don’t worry.”
As if the warning had been a trigger, there was a sensation that the youngster had never felt before. It was like the front of his abdomen was going to split in half. Then it did.
A section of his front carapace lifted and slid to the side, dripping sticky threads and revealing a deep cavity. Warmth and strange smells drifted out of the unexpected and obscene hole.
“Oh God, this is too weird!”
“Just keep calm.” Without a fuss, Grampa reached into the moist hollow and removed its contents. He held it, still glistening, for the boy to see.
“Congratulations Son. Or should I call you ‘Brains’?”
Taking the newly created memory unit from Grampa Leg, Brains used his other hand to close his newly discovered door. It still felt sensitive as it clicked back into place. “Thanks, Grampa. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Of course you could. Now go on – show it to Ma.”
Feeling happy and relaxed now, Brains accepted the congratulations of the family as he crossed the room to present his firstborn to Ma. She took it with her own personal nod of congratulations, her body also identical to his and to every other family member. Only her function was different.
Glowing, Brains watched as Ma started on a new head to hold his memory unit. Brains’ square body, manipulator arms, and short wheeled legs seemed to shine with happiness in the lights of the family room, as did a small plastic label on his back that evolution had not bothered to remove or change in a thousand years.
“Industrial 3D printer, Intelliprint Corporation 2035.”