The Uncanny Penny

Chapter 6 (Final)

In RWBY's dorm, Penny sat in a chair in the corner of the room, with her hands on her lap and facing forward, her eyes remaining shut and her expression neutral. It bothered Ruby to see Penny that way. Even though Penny couldn't feel a thing, she looked miserable sitting in that chair.

"It just...it doesn't feel right," said Ruby.

"Where else can we possibly put her?" asked Weiss. "It's not like we have a fifth bed lying around."

"Hold on," said Ruby. Ruby went to her bed, grabbed her dog pillow and one of her bed sheets. She lifted up Penny and laid her on the desk next to their door. She placed the pillow under Penny's head and covered her body up to her neck with her bed sheet.

"There," said Ruby. "She at least deserves that much."

"You know, she actually looks better that way," said Yang.

"It's kind of like she's at peace," said Blake.

"Even though it's taking up the valuable space of our desk, I have to agree," said Weiss. "Nick had better show up soon."

"You don't think he tricked us did you?" asked Ruby.

"Honestly, I don't know," said Weiss. "It did seem like he tricked you just so he wouldn't be killed himself."

"I'm sure he meant what he said," said Yang.

#

The next morning, the news reported about the stolen dust being found by the destroyed hangar and was being sent back to the vault. The police still had no clue who was responsible for the robbery, and nobody outside of Team RWBY would know about Cadet's involvement. Meanwhile, Schnee announced they would be cutting ties with Cadet Security, claiming that the robbery of the last two vaults had pushed them to seek other companies. Cadet refused to comment on the matter.

Penny remained in Team RWBY's dorm while they went to their classes. Ruby could hardly concentrate in any of them. The only thing she can think about was Penny, lying there in their room like she was in a coma. It was hard for Ruby to even get to sleep, having to look at Penny laying there lifeless on their desk. Penny had sacrificed her life to save Ruby and her friends. Ruby's only hope of ever seeing Penny back to normal was for Nick to keep his promise.

It had been three days since the fight at the hangar. Nick had still not arrived, leading Ruby to believe that she was tricked all along. Ruby was worried about what to do with Penny, and called for a meeting with her team in their dorm to discuss what to do.

"Well we certainly can't just keep her here," said Weiss. "At some point I'd like to have our desk back."

"Give it more time," said Yang. "Maybe it just takes a while for Nick to get repaired."

"And if Nick still doesn't show up?" asked Weiss.

"We'll probably have to bury her," said Blake. The others were surprised at Blake's suggestion.

"Bury her?" said Ruby.

"I'm sorry Ruby, but if Nick never shows up, Penny is essentially dead. At least if we bury her she'll have a proper sendoff than most broken machines."

Ruby buried her face in her hands and took a couple of deep breaths. She then got up and walked over to Penny and held Penny's hand.

"I'll give him one more week," said Ruby. "If he still doesn't show up then...we'll bury Penny."

Yang walked over and hugged Ruby. "I'm sorry sis."

Blake went over and hugged Ruby as well. Even Weiss went over to hug Ruby, eventually forming one big group hug.

#

Every passing day was like torment to Ruby. It was getting to the point where Ruby thought about just burying Penny now to get it over with, but her team had convinced her to keep going for the whole week before taking action.

The weekend had arrived and Team RWBY were hoping to sleep in, but were awakened by somebody knocking at their door. Annoyed at having another early wake-up call, Yang woke up nearly burning with rage.

"That's it!" said Yang. Realizing Yang was going to do something she would definitely regret, Ruby quickly got up and stopped Yang from reaching the door.

"I'll answer it," said Ruby. Ruby answered the door, and was surprised to see who it was, now fully-repaired and carrying a large suitcase with him.

"Looks like I care after all," said Nick. "May I come in?"

"Of course," said Ruby. Weiss and Blake woke up and were surprised yet happy to see Nick as well. Yang was still somewhat annoyed by being woken up so early.

"Good morning everyone," said Nick. "I'm sorry to have taken so long to get here. My repairs took quite some time and my company...well, I'd rather not go into detail about it."

"I'm just glad you came like you promised," said Ruby.

"Could you not have done it so early?" said Yang while yawning.

"Was this a bad time?" asked Nick.

"Ignore her, she's just being grumpy," said Ruby. "So what's in the suitcase?"

"Everything I'll need to fix Penny," said Nick.

Nick put down the suitcase and unzipped it. Inside the suitcase was a laptop, cables, spare parts, and a ton of other tools.

"Are you going to have enough room to fix her?" asked Ruby.

"This space isn't optimal, but it will do," said Nick. He took out his laptop and began to set it up on the table next to Penny.

"So how exactly do you plan to fix Penny?" asked Yang.

"First I'll have to run a diagnostic check to make sure what exactly is broken and needs to be replaced. Once I get a detailed analysis, I can begin replacing the necessary parts and enter the programming software. Barring any interruptions, it should take two days at most."

"And nobody at Cadet is going to be suspicious about this?" asked Blake.

"Cadet Security has enough problems going on right now," said Nick.

"What do you mean?"

"For one thing, Professor Gainsboro has been fired."

Team RWBY were shocked by that announcement. Nick went on to explain what happened.

"Our President found out about Gainsboro's transactions with Roman Torchwick amongst other illegal activities. Gainsboro was fired and a halt was ordered on the building of any more Self-Sufficient Huntsman Automatons for now. Thankfully they decided to fully repair me before then."

"So where is the professor now?" asked Ruby.

"I do not know, and I do not care. I've been re-programmed to strictly ignore everything to do with Gainsboro. As for the company itself, with our ties with Schnee cut, the company's future is looking bleak unless they either convince Schnee to take them back or some other corporation makes a deal with us, but with the rumors spreading of our involvement with the dust robberies, that isn't likely to happen."

"So then what will happen to you if Cadet goes under?"

"I've already calculated my next plan of action for nearly every possible scenario that may occur. I'll be just fine. Anyway, it's time I started work on Penny."

Nick began to remove Penny's clothes. Even though Penny's body resembled a mannequin, Ruby looked away out of instinct. Nick pressed two fingers against each side of Penny's neck, causing Penny's head to slightly pop up. Once Nick removed Penny's head from her body, Ruby suddenly walked out of the room. Yang went to check on Ruby.

"What's wrong sis?" asked Yang.

"I can't look at her like this," said Ruby. "I need to get away for a while."

Ruby decided to go to the library and catch up on her studies. She stayed in the library nearly all day, not wanting to go back to her dorm until she needed to.

By the time she came back, Penny's limbs were laid out across the desk. Her left arm was opened up and wired to the laptop Nick was furiously typing on. Ruby decided to look at Nick's laptop to see what exactly he was doing. All she saw was lines of text and schematics she had no idea how to read. She almost wanted to ask Nick what anything on the screen meant, but would likely get an answer she didn't understand.

"So...how's it coming along?" asked Ruby.

"I've decided to check Penny's torso and limbs before moving on to her head," said Nick. "Any damage done to them can be easily fixed, while her head contains all the key parts of her system and will require careful handling."

"That's good, I guess."

Nick continued working on Penny even into the late hours of the night. It was getting to the point where Team RWBY couldn't get to sleep because of the constant clacking of Nick at his keyboard. Ruby got out of bed to talk to Nick.

"Nick," said Ruby, "think you can take a break for the night so we can get some sleep?"

"I apologize," said Nick, immediately stopping his work at Ruby's request. "I did not mean to cause a disturbance. I am simply trying to get things done as quickly as possible."

"Take a break for now. You can continue in the morning."

"Although I do not require breaks, if that is what you want, so be it."

Nick put his laptop into sleep mode and got up from the desk. He decided he would sit in the corner and rest until Team RWBY were awakened so he can continue his work. As he was heading towards the corner of their room, he noticed a doll sitting by their window. The doll had a green dress and orange hair with a pink bow. Nick picked up the doll and looked at it, feeling something familiar about the doll.

"Where did you acquire this doll?" asked Nick.

"Oh, that?" said Ruby. "That was the doll Penny won at the carnival. It looked so much like her she called it Penny junior."

"Now that I think about it, the doll bares many similarities to Penny. However, I do not believe the term junior is used for feminine names."

"I know, but Penny liked the name, so why not?"

"Do you mind if I hold on to this doll?"

"Go ahead."

Ruby got back under her sheets and tried going back to sleep. Nick took the doll and sat in his corner. Instead of resting his systems, he stared at the doll and started to reminisce in his mind of all the time he spent with Penny. He remembered the days when they trained together in simulated battles; the nightly conversations they would have about the outside world; the times when Penny would try to convince Nick to come along with her and explore the city.

Remembering all those moments was causing Nick to clench tightly onto the doll. The more he remembered about Penny, the tighter his grip. Then without even knowing why, he suddenly felt like throwing the doll as hard as he could against the wall on the opposite side of the room. Team RWBY were suddenly awakened by a loud thumping noise. They got up to see Nick had thrown the doll into the wall.

"The hell was that?" said an irate Yang.

"I apologize," said Nick. "For some reason looking at that doll had brought up memories of my interactions with Penny. We used to interact with each other every night. Penny would always talk about her experiences and her personal thoughts. I never cared deeply about those interactions, but now after lacking such interactions for a period of time...I can't explain it."

Ruby got out of bed and sat by Nick against the wall.

"Because you do care," said Ruby. "You miss being able to talk to her, just like us."

"Ruby, I would like to ask you a question. Do you hate me?"

"Hate you? Why would you think I hate you?"

"Technically speaking, I am the one responsible for causing Penny to malfunction."

"No Nick, I don't hate you."

"I don't understand. Why is it you do not hate me?"

"It's called forgiveness Nick. You may have done the wrong thing then, but you're trying to make amends for it now. That's why I don't hate you."

"Thank you for your forgiveness, and again, I apologize for waking you all. I will remain quiet for the rest of the night."

Ruby got back into bed and went back to sleep with everyone else. Nick sat in the corner and closed his eyes. Not being able to sleep or dream, he decided to play back in his mind all of his interactions with Penny. He especially played the happier moments multiple times.

#

The next morning, Team RWBY got dressed and headed down to the cafeteria for breakfast while Nick continued working on Penny. They sat with Team JNPR and chatted as they normally did.

"Say Ruby," said Pyrrha, "I've been meaning to ask. What happened to Penny? We haven't seen her since the carnival."

"She went back home," said Ruby.

"Did she say when she'll be visiting again?"

"I don't think she'll be back for a while."

"Is it because your date went bad?" asked Nora. Everyone else at the table looked at Nora and wanted to scream at Nora for bringing that up, knowing it was too sensitive of a subject for Ruby.

"It has nothing to do with that," said Ruby calmly. "She's just...really busy."

"Really busy with what?" asked Nora.

"I think that's enough questions about Penny," said Pyrrha.

"Enough questions? But I just asked-"

Nora noticed Ren signaling her to stop talking. That's when she realized what she was doing and stopped asking Ruby about Penny. The eight of them went back to their normal conversation until Ruby suddenly got a message on her scroll. She took out scroll and found out she got a message from Nick. It read "I need you to come back urgently."

"I have to go," said Ruby, immediately getting up and running back to her dorm. The rest of Team RWBY decided to follow her.

Team RWBY arrived at their dorm together. They saw Nick sitting in front of his laptop with his hands intertwined in front of his face. By this time he had begun working on Penny's head, which was cut opened and had various parts inside removed and laid out across the desk.

"What's going on?" asked Ruby.

"I'm afraid to inform you that the damage done to Penny's system was worse than I calculated," said Nick. Team RWBY didn't like where this was going. Ruby was already starting to fear the worst.

"Are you saying you can't fix her?" asked Ruby.

"It's not that she can't be fixed. However, I have discovered that her memory drives have suffered severe damage due to her overheating. The damage was too great to repair them, and will therefore have to be replaced."

"What does that mean?"

"She'll contain her original programming, but all her memories will be wiped clean. It will be as if you've never met."

Ruby didn't know how to react. She was relieved that Penny wasn't going to die as she feared, but at the same time, Penny was essentially going to wake up with a permanent case of amnesia.

"So she won't remember the dance...or the carnival...or the feelings she had for me," said Ruby.

"I'm sorry Ruby, but this is the best I can do," said Nick.

"Are you sure there isn't something you can do?" asked Yang. "Don't you have like a backup of all her memories somewhere?"

"I'm afraid that data has been kept under severe wraps. Not even I can access that data without risking my own permanent termination."

While Ruby was wondering how to feel, Yang knew exactly how she felt. She went over to Nick, grabbed him by the collar and yanked him out of his chair.

"Then it's a risk you're just going to have to take!" said Yang.

"If that is you what you wish, I will-"

"It's okay," said Ruby.

"Okay?" said Yang. "But Ruby-"

"It'll be better this way," said Ruby, drying a tear from her eye. "Penny won't have to remember the pain I put her through. We can start over. I can treat her like a real friend from the start."

Yang turned around and placed her hands on Ruby's shoulders. "Are you sure about this?"

"I'm sure," said Ruby.

"Understood," said Nick. "I'll begin installing the memory drives and transfer the programming."

Later that day, as Team RWBY went out into the city, Ruby decided to stay behind to watch Nick work on reprogramming Penny. Nick would explain what he was doing from time to time, and Ruby would usually reply with a "wow" or "okay," even if she didn't understand what Nick was exactly doing.

Sensing Ruby's lack of understanding, Nick decided to start a different conversation while continuing to work on Penny.

"Ruby," said Nick, "have you ever heard of the uncanny valley?"

"Where is that?" asked Ruby.

"It's not a location; it's a theory. The uncanny valley is a theory that a human can grow attached to a robot that displays human feelings despite being artificial intelligence. However, at some point the human will grow to detest a robot when they realize that a robot's seemingly realistic feelings are indeed not real; simply programmed that way. I believe that at some point you and Penny had reached this uncanny valley."

"We did," said Ruby. "I rejected her love for me because she was an android. Looking back I feel so stupid for what I've done."

"You should not feel stupid Ruby. You simply experienced what all humans do at one point in interacting with artificial intelligence. If anything, you should be proud of yourself. Despite falling into this valley, you and Penny eventually pulled out to continue being close friends. Besides, all you did was simply state the truth. I do not fully understand the concept of love, but I would query that denying the truth of one's reality is not a positive factor."

"I guess," said Ruby, not quite reassured by Nick's explanation. "I still feel guilty about it though."

Nick suddenly stopped what he was doing and turned to Ruby.

"Do not feel guilty about what you've done," said Nick. "You did what you did because you are human. It was simply a natural emotional response; something that us androids are not capable of ever producing. Most of us anyway." Nick turned to stare at Penny, or rather the parts that made up Penny lying about across the desk. "It's a shame Cadet no longer sees value in the emotions program they gave Penny. I believe Penny was truly an evolution in artificial intelligence. Had my company came up with other uses outside of just mere combat, we could have been on the cusp of the biggest breakthrough in technology. But now for all they care, Penny is dead; a scrapped project never to be spoken of again."

Nick went back on his laptop to continue his work. Hearing Nick's speech made Ruby feel somewhat better. She got up and placed a hand on Nick's shoulder. "Thanks Nick."

#

Taking another break for the night, Nick went right back to work the next day to finish up everything he needed to do. Nearing completion, Team RWBY decided to stay in to witness Penny be brought back to life, or rather get reborn since she would be starting all over. Ruby was especially anxious to see Penny wake up any moment now. Penny was now reattached save for her head, as Nick was putting in the final pieces of hardware back into her board. Once he inserted the final piece, he went into his set of tools and pulled out the replacement synthetic skin.

"Now I just need to cover these incisions and she'll look good as new," said Nick, applying the skin around the cut he made around Penny's head.

"And once her head is back on she'll be alive again?" asked Ruby.

"She will take a few minutes to fully boot up, but yes, she will be alive again."

After applying the synthetic skin, Nick placed Penny's head back onto her body, then placed her clothes back on. He attached a cable from the back of Penny's head to his laptop, and began to input the final commands to begin the boot up process.

"There," said Nick. "Now we just wait a few minutes for her to awaken."

Team RWBY gathered around Penny, waiting for her to open her eyes. While they looked over Penny, Nick packed everything in his suitcase and was about to head out the door.

"My work is done here," said Nick. "Farewell Team RWBY."

Team RWBY turned to Nick, surprised that was he suddenly leaving.

"You're leaving?" said Ruby. "You're not even going to greet her?"

"She'll have no memory of me," said Nick, "and I wish for it to remain that way. I was the one who robbed her of her previous life. I do not deserve to be a part of her new one."

"But she's your sister!" said Yang.

"Correction: We are not blood related. Despite our relationship, we never were brother and sister."

"Before you go, can you answer some questions for me?" asked Ruby.

"Quickly please," said Nick.

"Well, since Penny is essentially starting over without any memory and can't go back to Cadet, what exactly can she do?"

"What Penny does with her life is entirely up to her now," said Nick, "and to an extent the friends and family she surrounds herself with."

"And what if Cadet finds out she's alive? Will they come after her?"

"I would query that is a possibility. Should the company discover Penny's existence and go after her, it will be up to Penny and her friends to protect her."

"But what-"

"I'm afraid I'm out of time. Goodbye Team RWBY. Please take good care of Penny for me."

Nick opened the door and walked out. Ruby turned back to see Penny still asleep. Ruby suddenly had a thought. She turned to the table where Penny junior was, grabbed the doll and ran out the door to catch up with Nick.

"Nick, wait!" said Ruby. Nick stopped and turned to face Ruby.

"Is something wrong?" asked Nick.

"I want you to have this," said Ruby, handing Penny junior over to Nick. Nick was surprised by Ruby's gift.

"You want me to have Penny's doll?"

"Think of it as a gift to remember Penny by."

"Thank you Ruby," said Nick, placing the doll in his suitcase.

"Also, I take back what I said about you being a soulless...you know. You've got a soul after all."

"Correction: An android is not capable of containing a soul," said Nick, then he smiled. "But I appreciate your gesture in believing so."

Nick and Ruby gave each other one final wave goodbye, then Nick turned and left. As Ruby was watching Nick leave, Yang came running down the hall.

"Ruby, come quick!" said Yang. "Penny's waking up!"

Ruby and Yang ran back to their dorm. Penny had woken up, got off the desk and was now standing in their room. Team RWBY were smiling to see Penny back on her feet, with Ruby having the widest smile of the group. Penny turned to face Team RWBY and waved to everyone.

"Salutations!" said Penny in her typical cheery tone. "My name is Penny. It's a pleasure to meet you!"

"Hi Penny," said Ruby. "I'm your friend Ruby. This is Weiss, Blake, and Yang."

"What did you say?" asked Penny, turning towards Ruby. "You said friend. Are you really my friend?"

Ruby smiled and hugged Penny.

"One of your best."

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