Updated: Feb 15
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Igraine was sitting in the dark with her knees pressed against her chest when somebody pounded on the closet door.
“S-06!” cried an angry man. “We know you are in there. Open this door right this instant.”
“Go away!” cried Igraine.
There was some murmuring on the other side of the door. Then, a woman raised her voice. “Angel. Can I come in?”
Igraine glared at the door. “This is a closet.”
Igraine deactivated her manipulator. “Fine, you can come in.”
She squinted her eyes when the light fell in through the doorway.
Dr. Jenever's face emerged from between the coats. “Hello, Angel.” Groaning, she forced her way inside and sat down beside her. “So,” she gasped, relieved.
“So,” Igraine moped.
Igraine hesitated. “Amber was being stupid.”
“She told me you were having nightmares again,” the doctor remarked.
“Did you find Anwin?”
Igraine’s face contracted.
“She told me you were trying to find her in the middle of the-”
“Anwin is gone, alright!” she snapped with tears in her eyes. “She turned to ash. Just like I will!”
Flabbergasted, Dr. Jenever shook her head. “Why, Angel?”
“Amber didn’t believe we will,” Igraine whispered. “So, I showed her.”
Jenever stroked Igraine’s long red hair. “Oh, Iggy,” she whispered. “You are safe here in Sanctuary. And so is Amber.”
“As long as we stay here.”
“Oh, Iggy… Is that why you left Anwin outside?”
“It’s just a doll!” she snapped.
“Then, why did you go looking for her in the middle of the night?”
Igraine looked away. “I was having a nightmare. That's all.”
“Do you feel bad about Anwin?” asked Dr. Jenever.
Igraine looked at her toes.
Dr. Jenever tried to look in her eyes. “Do you miss her?”
“She’s just a doll…” she whispered.
“Wasn’t she keeping the nightmares away?”
Igraine looked the doctor in the eyes. “Of course not! That’s stupid.”
“I don’t think you mean that.”
Igraine looked down again.
“I understand you- I can imagine you are going through a major transformation right now. You learned the world isn’t a magical place.”
Igraine pretended not to care.
“But you have to believe in certain things,” Jenever continued. “The goodness of people. That there is meaning to life. That Anwin loved you unconditionally.”
Igraine sniffed her nose. “She is just a toy.”
In the lowest levels of Sanctuary, mechanical creatures were skittering past her feet as Igraine was standing amidst S-243’s manufacturing engines. She stared bewildered at the jute doll who was ambling out of the automation jungle. “He..?” Igraine muttered. “C-243, made another one?” she muttered while studying how the doll had been stuck together with thick yarn.
“Indeed,” said Dr. Vermouth. “It has been designated C243-Beta. Or Beta for short.”
Igraine looked into Beta’s button-eyes that appeared to be stapled in place.
Beta, on the other hand, didn’t seem to share Anwin’s curiosity. Instead, she appeared interested in why the three guests had intruded on her home.
Anwin, meanwhile, was running among the columns of drones, trying to grab hold of a brass insect. But her plush hands failed to take hold of their metal legs. But the moment Anwin got a glimpse of Beta, she froze.
The two women watched as the two dolls looked at each other.
Igraine felt uneasy as Anwin’s posture reminded her of a suspicious cat. Even when Beta waved at her, Anwin seemed distrustful of her sister.
Eventually, Anwin got the courage to run up to the other doll and looked her up and down.
“Strange,” mumbled Vermouth. “I expected the two would be more familiar.”
“Is this why you wanted Anwin here?” asked Igraine.
“In part,” said Vermouth. “I’m surprised Alpha seems estranged from this environment.”
Igraine was barely listening. While watching Beta, she noticed movement in the wiring behind her.
A brass louse of sorts crawled from between the cables and walked up to Beta.
“Ah. Beta’s pet,” Vermouth remarked.
“It has a pet?”
The rag doll rushed to pick up the mechanical insect and squeezed it against her chest. Despite her lack of expression, Beta irradiated a sense of joy for her pet.
As Beta was holding the brass louse, Anwin’s gaze was transfixed on the bug, rousing Igraine's suspicion.
“It’s so small,” Igraine remarked. “S-243 made that? It must be at the far end of Tier 4, maybe even Tier 5 technology.”
“Indeed,” Vermouth agreed. “But other than keeping Beta company, it doesn’t seem to do much else.”
Anwin reached out to touch the bug Beta was holding. But the other doll rejected her advance. Before Igraine could discourage her, Anwin suddenly grabbed hold of the bug and tried to pull it from Beta’s hold.
Igraine’s mouth dropped, aghast at Anwin’s behavior. Looking on in disbelief, she watched the toys engage each other in a struggle over the brass louse. “Anwin!” cried Igraine as Beta was protecting her precious pet for Anwin who was trying to lodge it from her hold. “What are you doing? Stop it!” She grabbed Anwin by the neck as Beta had wrapped herself around her pet. “That’s not yours!” Igraine berated Anwin, who was covering her face. “That’s right. You’re bad. A bad doll!”
Vermouth looked at S-243, who was still diligently at work, and then back at Igraine. “Please don’t interfere. They-”
“Non,” interrupted Igraine while clenching a struggling Anwin under her arm.
“But this might be the breakthrough we hoped for.”
“This is a breakthrough, alright! I’m taking her back to our room,” she said while dropping Anwin in the pram, who immediately crawled under the blanket.
“There might be-”
Igraine pointed at Beta hiding behind a column together with her louse. “Are you suggesting we allow this bloodsport to continue?”
“It's to gain a deeper understanding of S-243’s motives.”
The Construct worked diligently while its porcelain features showed no sign of emotion.
Igraine walked up to it and looked at its current creation. “It's making a transmitter,” she said. “You’re welcome.”
“I’ll take Anwin to my room now,” said Igraine, turning the pram around.
“You are grounding an automaton?”
“I think I will,” said Igraine, walking out of the foundry.
Vermouth walked after her into the hall way. “Don’t forget I expect a progress report In two days!”
“Should I bring a practice dummy for Anwin to demonstrate her combat prowess?”
While Anwin was hiding under the blanket, Igraine marched back to her room. “Alright, there you go,” she sneered, dropping Anwin in her pen.
The moment the doll hit the floor, she crawled under the bed pillow like a scared cat and stayed there.
“Good. Think about what you’ve done,” Igraine said. But looking at the bulge in the cushion made her wonder if Anwin was even aware of her wrongdoing. Then she noticed the tennis ball. With her manipulator, she pulled the ball into the palm of her hand. “No ball for a day.” When there was no reaction from the sulking doll, Igraine tapped her fingers on the pen's fence. “Anwin. I am going to the gym. You think about what you’ve done,” she said pedantically and grabbed her gym bag. But when she left the room, she doubted Anwin even cared.
When Igraine returned an hour later, Anwin still hadn’t emerged from hiding. Even when she turned on the wavecaster and tuned it to Anwin’s favorite music program, there was no reaction.
Even though Igraine was still upset with her, she felt hurt at Anwin shunning her like this. But she was also incredibly disappointed with her ward’s behavior. The doll lacked nothing, all things considered.
That night, as Igraine was preparing to sleep, she looked at the pen and sighed. “Anwin? You want to come to bed?” she asked, but there was no movement. She frowned her lips. “Have it your way.” But as she lay in bed, she missed something cuddling up against her. Something to hold. She thought of Marter, her lover who she left in Arkology. It made her want to go to Arkology and reluctant at the same time. Being with him was wonderful, and leaving him hurt her. Eventually, she reached for opium to help her sleep.
The next morning, the extension cord was leading up to the pillow.
When Igraine pulled the pillow away with her manipulator, Anwin was lying flat on her belly, plugged into the socket to recharge. “Good morning, Anwin.”
The doll peered over her shoulder and then quickly looked away.
“Still Angry? You cannot take other people’s toys!” Igraine said sternly. “You understand me, Anwin?”
The doll looked to the side.
“Look at me, Anwin.”
Sluggishly, she looked up.
“Are you sorry?”
The doll gave a single nod.
“No, rise to your feet and repeat it.”
Reluctantly, the doll straightened herself and nodded her head again, looking at the floor. Then, when Igraine held the tennis ball, the doll perked up immediately.
“I hope you learned your lesson,” said Igraine. When she dropped the ball, Anwin raced after it. Smiling, Igraine watched as the doll chased her favorite toy through the pen. But her smile faded when she saw all the stains on Anwin’s fur and clothes. Especially her feet were all stained leaving traces on the floor. “Ah, non,” she groaned when she found the stains on the pram’s sheets and put her hands on her sides. “Well, Anwin. Time for your final punishment. I’m going to clean you.”
Anwin wanted to hide beneath her pillow again, but Igraine used her manipulator to grab hold of her. The doll flailed her arms as Igraine floated her out of the pen and into the wagon. “That’s right, you, dirty gremlin. I’m taking you to the washing room.”
Laying naked on the soapy table, Anwin was trying to pull herself free as Igraine was scrubbing the stains on her feet.
“Calm down. If you want this to be over, you better lay still,” Igraine berated the doll. “It’s all soaked in,” she grumbled as she tried to squeeze the dirt from the doll's fabric. “You need shoes,” she muttered. “Alright, come here.” Anwin was trying to shield herself as Igraine was scrubbing her face. “You are just making this harder on yourself.” Squeezing the stuffed doll, Igraine could feel the automaton concealed within, reminding her of Anwin’s true nature. “There. It's done,” she said, putting her friend on the dry ironing board.
Anwin was jumping up and down on her soggy feet as Igraine reached for some clean clothes. “Put on your gown, Anwin.”
As Anwin was struggling to put on her dress, Igraine rubbed the doll’s dress on a washboard. “One of these days, I’m going to figure out how I can make you wash your own clothes,” she said.
But Anwin wasn’t listening. The doll was leaving wet footprints on the board’s covers as she was gleefully stamping her feet.
“That will have to do,” Igraine said when inspecting the dress. “Back into the pram.” As Anwin jumped into the carriage, Igraine stretched her sore fingers. “Let’s go to the lobby. It’s time for tea anyway.”
Back into the common area, Igraine dropped herself on a buttoned-leather couch. Gasping and exasperated, she watched Anwin’s running from one side of the pram to the other. She closed her eyes, thinking the tea could wait.
Igraine straightened herself. “Dr. Drambuie?”
Anwin was rocking the pram as the doctor looked at her. “Hmm, what smells of lavender?” asked Drambuie, delighted. “Is that you, little lady?” Anwin was rolling on her back as he tickled her. “You haven’t looked this clean in a long time. How is your mission going, Associate?”
She breathed through her nose. “I got mad at her yesterday,” she admitted.
“For getting dirty?”
“Among other things,” she said. “She tends to take things that aren’t hers.”
“Ow. Well, children this age often assume the world revolves around them.”
“What do you suggest?” asked Igraine.
“Well, it depends. Was it something she desired?”
Igraine looked at Anwin, who was fishing for more attention. “Well, yes?” she said, petting Anwin’s head.
“Maybe, you can satisfy it?”
When Igraine lifted Anwin to her chest, the doll pressed herself to her bosom. “I’ll think of something,” she said and sniffed in the scent of lavender. “But first, I’m going to find her some shoes.”
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