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The opposite of life isn't underground; it's under water.

It was a realization that jolted into Andrew's head the moment his body smashed into the icy water and speared down into the dark depths.  Above him was the world he knew, easily excitable, waves that never stopped dancing, the clouds that never stopped moving, the thick slap of seawater against reef and the mad pitching of the vessel he worked on, the Judith Prosperity.

But under the ocean, the world was a silent, chilly tomb where nothing would be hurried. The Finger of Time rarely penetrated the milimetre-thick barrier that separated water and sky.  

I see you.  Oh, don't tell me you've gone unconscious already.

The ocean lived by its own rules which were based heavily on the principle of Finders Keepers.  Sailors thrown overboard could count on a watery grave.  Andrew grimly recalled a song that said lakes didn't easily give up their dead as he propelled himself towards the young sailor -- a human -- whose limp body was being rolled by the undertow like dough under the hands of a baker.

Yep, you're unconscious.

Andrew hooked one arm around the sailor's chest and began to kick upwards.  The sun lay down a heatless path to follow, and his head broke the surface.  The roar of the ocean hit his ears and he was alive again.

As for the sailor he’d just rescued, that remained to be seen.

--

"How is he?"

"Wet."

Someone took the limp human from his arms, and Andrew shrugged off his rescue harness. The half-drowned sailor was stretched out on the deck.  The early April wind nipped and the ship rolled.  Andrew waited to see if any of the green crew would have the sense to think of hypothermia, but no one brought it up.

"I don't think he's breathing."

"Oh, move." Andrew pushed through the tight ring. "Give me some room here." The crowd diffused a little and Andrew kneeled beside the victim.  His hair was fair, even when sopping wet, and he had a smallish frame with little meat on his bones.  No wonder the cold had overtaken him so quickly.  He probably also had a small aquarium sloshing around in his lungs.  

Andrew cupped his mouth over the boy's and forced air into him.  He only had to repeat the motion twice before his patient coughed.  A pair of brown eyes fluttered open and looked into Andrew's, bewildered at first, then sharpening.  The boy screamed weakly and pushed Andrew away.  He choked on his cry and brought up a great mouthful of seawater.  The sailors cheered and Andrew had to laugh.

"Gotten your second wind yet?  Ready to go back in?"

The young sailor's eyes widened.  "N-no!"

A gust of wind ripped from the northwest and a wave slammed against the yellow side of the Judith Prosperity like a giant's sneeze.  The mist sprayed the sailors, and the young one shivered violently.  Andrew pulled him to his feet and slung his arm around his thin shoulders.  "Come on.  You need some rest."

Below decks smelled musty as usual and vibrated with the motorized heartbeat of the ship. The sounds of the sea, the sounds Andrew knew and loved best.  Bunks jutted out from the dark walls, close together.  Andrew's wet sailor was so taken by convulsions, he didn't move from the edge of one of the lower bunks where he'd been parked.  Andrew knew he was useless, and helped him out of his chilled clothes and wrapped him in a warm dry blanket. One of the crew wordlessly delivered some soup from the galley.

"Soup!" Andrew said cheerfully and handed it to the bundled sailor, who sipped slowly from the bowl and then gulped the rest of the broth rapidly as his insides thawed.  

Andrew watched him.  "It's a big crew we got this time, and I'm not great with names," he said.  "You'll have to tell me yours. I'm Andrew."

The boy sighed contentedly and held his empty bowl on his lap.  "Mako."

"You don't swim like one," Andrew said.

Mako's slushy blood still managed to redden his face. "It was an accident."

"Accidents happen," Andrew agreed, taking out some dry clothes from a locker. "Before I got my sea legs, I was pitched overboard more than once.  Luckily, Reploids can't catch hypothermia, but I still had to be fished out every time it happened.  I was a real hassle.  The Captain swore he would string me up for bait if the sharks could actually digest me."

Mako moved to take the clothes, but locked eyes with Andrew.  "You're a Reploid?"

"I am."

"I would never have guessed."

Andrew heard that a lot.  He was tall and wide-shouldered, handsome with his green eyes and neatly-cut brown hair.  Other than his ageless face, there was little to give away that he was mechanical, not human. Except--

"You still cold, Mako?"

"Hell yes."

"Feel my hand."

Mako slowly reached for the hand he was offered and closed his own around it.  He jerked back a little in surprise. "It's cold, too. And ... something else I can't explain.  Like your bones are harder than mine."

"A human's hand would feel warm," Andrew nodded. "But other than that, I don't much look like an automation.  They build us Reploids a lot more realistically now than they did not too long ago."

Mako gave a mighty sneeze. "Or at least, they used to."

"What do you mean?"

The boy grinned, his brown eyes watery and cold. "When's the last time you've been at a port, Andrew?"

"Oh...well..." Andrew pinched his chin.  "Ages and ages.  I never feel quite right when I step off the ship, so if I have any business, I do it quickly and get back on."

"You don't socialize?  Go to pubs, talk to people?"

"Can't remember the last time I did."

Mako looked at him hard and shifted his blanket before setting his empty bowl on the floor.  "Next time they want some people to work on the docks, we're both signing up. After work, we'll take a look around town.  There's some stuff going on that you need to see."

"Like what?"

"Like you know what."

"No, I don't."

Mako started to retaliate, but his words faltered and dropped like dead birds. He shifted his gaze to the floor again.  Andrew looked at him for a few seconds, the organs of the ship purring under his feet. He turned to go back up on deck.  

Mako said, "They can take away your gifts as quickly as they give them to you, Andrew."

Andrew swung around again, his arms crossed over his chest.  "Who?"

"Us."

The Reploid stared at Mako, his mouth slightly ajar. He thought about the shivering, dog-eyed man trying to take anything away from him with that that lanky body of his that the cold ate up so quickly.  Andrew smiled slowly and brought down his arms.  "Are you sure it's a good idea to threaten me?  I like quick, murderous fights, not drawn-out grudges."

The boy shook his head fiercely. "You idiot, don't talk like that!" he hissed, looking up fearfully at the stairs behind Andrew. "Don't you understand me?  Or are you just in denial? Last week, when we pulled into that small port town -- Kings' Quay, I think it was called?  You stayed on board as usual, and the Captain heard me call him a whore's bastard behind his back the day before, so I was denied permission to go ashore." Mako gave a fierce little grin at the memory. "Whore's bastard. That was good.

"Anyway, I remember watching you when the time came to shove off again, and you were arranging some boxes near the gangplank as the sailors got back on, talking.  I was further away than you were, but even I could pick up some of what they were saying.  I remember Thomas in particular." Mako deepened his voice into a surprisingly good imitation of the burly crewmember: "'The poor bugger, authorities took him away.  All he did was raise his arms to protect his head when that little rat tried to smash a chair over 'im. I tried to vouch for the good guy, I seen the whole fight, the human started it.  I try to tell it to the police, but they took the Reploid away, told me that was the law. Reploid can't make any sort of a threatening gesture t'wards a human. 'But he was defending hisself' I says. They just ignore me and drag him out the door.  Poor little fellow. Didn't look like he could hurt nobody. He looked like a toy.'"

Andrew looked Mako in the eyes and his fingers twitched a little.

"You heard every word of it," Mako said cooly. "You looked at Thomas, you heard his whole conversation.  Then you just went back to work. There's a problem out there, Andrew. Things are changing fast, very fast. Your race is in trouble."

"It's ... " Andrew shook his head steadily.  "It's a lot of exaggeration.  I heard the story, yeah, but that Reploid must've hit that human or something, and Thomas didn't see. It's a law that has to be enforced because Reploids are so much stronger, and if anyone breaks it, it's their lookout."

"Then how come you never leave the ship?"

"I told you why.  I never have a reason."

"Now you do.  I'm inviting you to work with me, have a drink with me."
Was looking through some old files, and here's something from Planet 2003: A fanfic I began writing about Andrew from the Mega Man Zero series. 

Andrew is, in my opinion, one of the Mega Man series' most interesting characters. He worked closely with humans, fell in love with and married a human woman (a chain of strange events this 'fic is supposed to outline), and seemingly watched the world change over from the Mega Man X era to the darker Mega Man Zero years. Nearly everything he says in the Zero games is interesting, but unfortunately, he doesn't say a lot. Probably because everyone in the Resistance tells him to shut up and stop rambling. "We've heard your stories over and over," they snort.

It's OK, Andrew. I like listening to you.

This fanfic is obvs not finished, though I do have major intentions of finishing it. Again, what I've got here is from 2003 and is therefore as rough as that one side of the cheese grater that shreds your knuckles to the bone if you make one wrong move with a boiled egg. I even double-spaced after periods. Oh God. Kids, don't double-space after periods.

I fixed a few things, then eventually gave up. I hope you like this anyway!
:iconjetzero:
JetZero Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2013
Aha, so this is the little trinket you were referring to me over FB! :D I had not one inclination this came out of you. Why did you hold this back from the world for so long? It's a lot of fun, like the rest of the stuff you write.

Anyhow, thank you for the heads up and directing me here to check this out. Always a pleasure to read one of your works, even if it is ten years old.

Oh, one more thing, a question really: Why no double space after a period? I was taught in high school English class to double space after a period. I mean, you don't see me doing that now, but that's because I've gotten lazy as spoiled beans over the years, but I've always felt I should be double spacing after a period. Is that an old retired rule now, or what's the deal with that? I really like that rule, makes separating sentences easier to catch when reading.
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October 24, 2013
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