Chapter 2: The Domino Effect
The domino effect.
One block falls on top of another, which then falls on the next block, and so on.
One event triggers another, eventually causing a chain reaction.
Just as Abstergo Industries – specifically, Hans Regenschirm and Warren Vidic – had turned Freya's life upside down, so too would she pose a long-term impact on someone else's life. In more ways than one, too.
But right now, the 'someone else' in question was blissfully unaware of just how immensely his life would be changed, sleeping like a baby in the house he shared with his big sister and her daughter, and their persocom. He rolled in his bed, drooling slightly off the left corner of his mouth. From the somewhat goofy grin on his face, it was readily apparent that he was having a good dream…
"Rei? You awake yet?"
…at least, he was.
"Sayuri…?" he called out groggily, not yet completely roused from the sleep he had and yet lacked. "What's up, sis?"
"Come outside," came the answer from the doorway, "There's something you might like to see."
Rei didn't understand what was going on, but he went. It wasn't like his sister to play pranks – if anything, he was the less serious of the two of them – so it was probably serious. Still stifling a yawn, he hastily slipped on his sneakers and bounded down the stairs.
Sure enough, he found two women in the street – one with long, black hair and equally dark eyes, the other with shoulder-length blue hair, matching eyes and elven ears – staring down at something that was lying on the ground. When he pulled up beside them…
"This is what Ceres found just now."
Ceres was his sister Sayuri's persocom, serving mainly as house help and as a babysitter of sorts for her infant daughter, Oyuki. When she had time, Ceres herself took it upon herself to help Rei with his school work, too. Despite being a persocom, she had all but become part of their little family.
To Rei, that Ceres was the one who made this discovery was a rather amusing irony, to say the least.
It – rather, she, Rei corrected himself mentally – was also a persocom, one with large, pink and white plastic ears and long, blond hair that reached all the way to her ankles. The white robes she was wearing were stained with dust, dirt and blood, suggesting that she had run away from somewhere, possibly from her previous owners – and, possibly, been forced to take lethal action to defend herself. And the identical bracers she wore on both her wrists were something he had never seen before, on a person or on a persocom.
Just then, a baby began wailing, prompting Ceres to leave the siblings to attend to her charge. When she had gone, Sayuri began to speak.
"Ceres couldn't analyze her, so I told her not to force it," she explained, shrugging her shoulders. "Something about military-grade security software. Makes me wonder just who built her and where she came from."
It was the expression on the persocom's face that caught his attention. Whereas most other persocoms that had entered such a state would have a serene expression on their face, this one wore a pained, anguished look. It was almost as if she was in a state of distress the last time she had been activated – or that it was that distress that had caused her to shut down in the first place. Sayuri's theory was rather unsettling, if not scary.
Finally, she broke the silence, snapping Rei out of his thoughts.
"If you want her, she's yours."
Rei nodded his assent to that arrangement, before going up to the persocom's side and cradling her. His first act was to reach behind the ears, where he knew the switch would be on most persocoms. But even as his hand moved toward that area, she stirred in his arms, scrunching up her face before opening her eyes and gazing at him. He let her take in the inside of the house before speaking again.
"Are you alright? We found you outside, unconscious."
She nodded, slowly, as if not completely understanding the question, or otherwise initially unsure how to respond. "Do you have an owner?"
This must have been a sore point for her, since she frantically shook her head. Rei wondered what this persocom had gone through, to react in such a vehement manner; for a moment, he felt like he was talking to a real girl rather than a persocom.
"Do you have a name?"
She just stared blankly at him. Rei looked at his sister, unsure as to what to ask her next. Sayuri merely smiled and nodded at him in response.
"Wanna stay here?"
This time, the persocom's response was more direct; rather than simply nodding or shaking her head, she leapt up and embraced Rei, leaving him on his back.
"Okay, okay, I get it," he patted her on the back, laughing. "Guess that's a definite yes."
Rei then turned to Ceres, now holding Oyuki in her arms, his new persocom, and his sister. "Take care of her for me, will you? I'll be right upstairs."
He made his way back up to his room, but no sooner had he taken the first step than he felt his new persocom cling closely to his arm. He turned to her, smiling.
"Alright, I get it, you can come too."
As soon as they had entered his room, Rei closed the door and sat down on his bed, his persocom gazing right back at him as she took a seat on the couch. He could tell she was thinking deeply, though what about, he had no idea.
"It's not much," he said, gesturing around him with a smile as he lay down, "But make yourself comfortable here. I'm pretty sure you won't make a mess of things."
He closed his eyes just as she smiled back, causing a warm feeling to creep up his cheeks as he momentarily forgot he was dealing with a persocom. And just before they shut completely, he saw her murmur a single word.
"Hmm?" Rei barely managed to reply, so close was he to falling asleep.
"My name is Freya."
"'Mmkay," he managed before finally drifting off to the dream world.