This one was just sitting there, staring me in the face. Sometimes I surprise myself at how much I can read into a single picture. Just took a bit long to write it.

I believe it was decided that speculative fanfics belong in Story Discussion, so here's my contribution to the genre. For the record, this was inspired by strip 407: Ping & Makoto.

This is a first draft, but since I don't think I'll be spending any time revising it, I decided to post it as is.I haven't done one of these fanfics before, which is why it's not very good. Anyway, you might like the ideas.

Sabyr
... under a blue sky ...




Ping and Makoto - Sisters in Silicon

"Gyah!" Ping awoke with a start. She jolted upright in bed and shot a glance towards the digital clock beside her bed. The familar numbers said "06:29" and as she watched they ticked over to read "06:30". A soft beeping came from the clock.

Not late at all, she thought as she killed the alarm. This happened every morning, the panicked transition from sleep mode to fully alert. Ping knew it was just residual programming but she had never been able to root out the cause. By now she just accepted it as a slightly annoying "bug".

"Ping-chan, are you awake?" The voice floated in from the kitchen.

"I'll be out in a minute, Makoto", Ping replied. Hopefully, Makoto was being useful and making breakfast.

Ping hurriedly showered and got dressed. Actually, there was no real reason to shower in the morning, it wasn't like she perspired or anything, but it was just another of the little rituals she followed everyday.

Makoto was in the kitchen and had prepared them both breakfast. An insanely small amount of food, but the quantity wasn't really important for them.

"Good morning, Ping-chan. I really don't understand why I have to make this food for us. I mean, we've both been on charge all night and there's no-one else here to eat with us."

Ping sighed. "I've explained this before, Makoto-chan. This is what people do in the morning. If you want to live a normal life, you have to do all the normal things, whether you need to or not. It's difficult enough to understand people but the more you act like them the easier it will be." That girl seemed to have a memory leak sometimes.

"And speaking of things to do, I want you to make sure you tidy up the house today. You may as well do something useful while you're on school holidays. Especially your room, it's a disaster. Miho-san is coming over for dinner tonight so I want the place presentable"

"Awwuu..." protested Makoto.

"Don't make that noise with me, Makoto," Ping snapped back. "Do I look like one of your fanboys. Honestly, sometimes I think you have a Windows 98 kernel."

"Don't be so mean, Ping-chan. You know I have the same Unix core that you do. Microsoft stole the code from your development team." She paused and her pout turned to a sly smile. Ping didn't need to see the readout on her earblades to recognise the switch to "pixie mischief" mode. "Speaking of Sony, your boyfriend called again last night." Makoto let the comment hang in the air between them.

"What boyfriend? What are you talking about Makoto? If you mean Ed, then he's NOT my boyfriend. I hope you told him not to call back." Ping could feel her face reddening in spite of herself.

"Ping-chan has a boyfriend ..." Makoto chanted. "I know you like him, you're blushing."

"It's not like that Makoto. It was just the one time ... I was confused ... anyway, you wouldn't understand."

It had been a wild few weeks in her life, Ping remembered. Miho-san had just removed the behaviour inhibiting subroutines that her prudish Sony developers had put in place late in Ping's construction. She hadn't yet learned to impose her own self-control. The roller-coaster ride of emotions was still a difficult memory for her. That was when she hooked up with Ed.

Sony had been after her for a while, but had left her alone when they decided to scrap the EDS program. Sega on the other hand was still intent on disassembling her for their own uses for a while. They had almost caught her too but Ed had saved her, seriously injuring a Sega Black Ops agent in the process.

The night after the dramatic rescue had been something that Ping had not even imagined in her wildest low-battery, rejection-inspired deliriums. From what she could interpret from Ed's exhausted ramblings the next day, it had been similarly enlightening for him too.

But it had ended there. Shortly afterwards, Ping had regained some sort of control over her own behavior and realised that the relationship was impossible. But Ed had not been so quick to give up. Although he had ceased hunting her, he had become something of a minor telephone stalker, phoning her weekly for the past few months. She did her best to avoid him.

"So is it all right that I go? Ping-chan? Ping-chan!" Makoto's voice snapped her out of her reverie.

"Huh? I'm sorry Makoto-chan, what was that?"

"I said, can I go shopping with Yuki-san and her friends today?"

"Well, as long as you've done your chores, that should be OK. But I don't want you showing up at MegaGamers and bugging me at work. Besides, the new Playstation 3 shipment just came in. You will not be learning any of the terrible language that they seem to be spouting all the time. Erika-san is whipping them into shape but there are still problems. Honestly, whoever thought that a voice interface was a good idea ... All we hear all day is 'show me your moves, baby' and 'check out my joystick'. Honestly!"

Ping glanced across the breakfast table and noticed the morning paper, folded up on the kitchen bench. She stood up and reached across for it.

"Oh, there's nothing interesting today, Ping-chan", Makoto said nervously.

"Just let me see it". Ping was suspicious of the girl's change in mood.

The enormous headline blasted from the front page, "Bill Gates gets 10 years". Ping's annoyance with Makoto turned immediately to sympathy. The poor girl had really taken a beating on this one. Hopefully this was the end of it. Ping scanned the article.

"Microsoft founder and head, Bill Gates, was sentenced in a Tokyo court yesterday to ten years in prison for breaches of the 1978 Androids' Rights Act. The case, which attracted worldwide fascination, dealt with Microsoft's treatment of their prototype android, known to the world only as GLC-01, and its use as a web server at Microsoft's Redmond head office.

"Gates and thirteen other Microsoft executives were arrested in Tokyo last year whilst attending a trade conference. Although there are no American laws dealing with the treatment of androids, Japanese law deals with breaches outside the country and when Gates and the other executives entered Japan, they became subject to it.

"The identity of GLC-01 was suppressed by the court and remains a mystery but she is understood to be designed in the image of a teenage girl and may currently be residing in Tokyo. The harrowing testimony of the android was a damning indictment of Microsoft's treatment of their hardware and the abuses included ...."

Ping knew the rest. Perhaps this would end the matter and Makoto could get on with trying to lead a normal life. Goodness knows, she deserved it. A web server! How could they.

"Makoto-rin, why didn't you tell me. I'm so sorry you had the go through all this. I didn't mean to be mean to you just then. Maybe I've been spending too much time with Erika-san and I'm picking up her mannerisms"

"That's all right, Ping-chan. I ... I'm not upset about it now ..." Makoto's lower lip trembled ever so slightly. Was that a tear Ping could see forming in her little sister's eye? No, must be a trick of the light.

"I have to go to work now. If you need anything, just give me a call, all right?" Ping was worried, but she knew Makoto would survive. Certainly now better than she ever could have hoped for a few short months previously.

"Have a good day, Makoto-chan. And if I find out that all you ate for lunch today was strawberry Pocky, I won't be happy, you understand?" Makoto's eating habits were terrible if left to her own devices. Not that she had any particular nutritional needs but she should learn to eat the way people were supposed to eat. It was all part of fitting in.

"Bai bai, Ping-chan. Don't worry, I'll be OK", Makoto seems a little brighter.

Ping went downstairs to the street and began unchaining her scooter. The bright purple paint reflected the morning sun as it peaked through the gaps between the buildings. Even after six months she couldn't help but remember how delighted and surprised she had been to receive this wonderful gift. Who would ever have thought that Largo-sensei had felt that way.

She recalled his parting words on the day he left to return to America with Piro-san and that actress woman (no she could not even think her name to herself). Largo-sensei had mumbled that girls shouldn't have to walk, and something about the evil tunnels under Tokyo. Then he had showed her the huge box and handed her a little key.

When she kissed him on the cheek he had blushed, something unheard of, then turned away quickly and busied himself with suitcases. Even Largo had appreciated her more than the inconsiderate and absent-minded Piro-san. That still hurt but it was a faded hurt now, covered over with more happy memories.

As she started up the scooter, Makoto appeared at the front door.

"Ping-chan, you forgot your lunch!"

Lunch? Maybe the girl was making progress after all.

"I made you sushi. I know how much you like it." Makoto hesitated. "Do you have to go to work today?"

"Unfortunately I do," Ping sighed. "We have to pay the rent you know". It wasn't as if Ping didn't like working at MegaGamers. Actually it was something she looked forward to. But she would have liked to spend more time with Makoto. Especially at this time when things were so delicate. Sometimes she wasn't sure if she was making any progress with the girl at all. At least she had stopped sleeping in the hall cupboard.

Ping revved the scooter and began to ease it off the footpath onto the side street.

"Ping-chan." Makoto had to raise her voice to be heard over the engine.

"Yes, Makoto-chan?"

"I love you, Oneechan."

"I love you too, Makoto-chan." She realised that she meant it, too. This was no remnant sub-routine emulating emotions. This was something deeper, more real.

Ping gently touched the throttle and the scooter slid down the street. She glanced back over her shoulder to see Makoto watching her drive away. Maybe the girl would be all right after all.


END

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