[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

balthazar was worried about the impending clash between cass’ Real Official medical knowledge and his average client’s “whatever might work” approach to health care

but for the most part cass is just amazed at the way humans have adapted

most days, as he and balthazar drive off, he can talk for hours about the sheer ingenuity of it all, he’s so impressed

but some days he just gets back in the van like, “JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN MUSH IT UP DOES NOT MAKE IT BABY FOOD”
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

cass doesn’t wear gloves or his hat & scarf combo except in front of balthazar’s clients

they went through all the clothes balthazar had and put together about 3 different outfits for cass, based on the season. it’s the bare minimum of course, since it’s not like cass actually needs clothes to stay clean or warm, but he does need to look sufficiently bundled

combined with his ransacking of balthazar’s goods for anything he can use as medical supplies, there is now a duffel in the van that is exclusively Cass’ Things, and he is very pleased with it
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

although cass is highly adaptable, he naturally has programmed defaults that often conflict with life as balthazar knows it. cass teaches him the phrase “culture clash,” and balthazar loves to hear the details of every one

but if there’s one thing cass can’t really explain, it’s physical contact

like. literally any physical contact

balthazar hadn’t really stopped to think about it, but, when asked, estimates he probably hasn’t touched another person’s skin in about a decade

much of it is just practical; traveling out in the windy, dusty wilderness, he’s always wearing multiple layers, including a shawl and gloves. he deals with some people who wear gas masks 24/7. nobody wants to get particularly close to anybody else, especially with the scarcity of medicine

for someone like him, who doesn’t live in a city, or commune, or some other relatively large, permanent human settlement, there’re really only a couple reasons you would ever be touching another person

1. they’re family (blood or otherwise)

2. you’re going to get laid

cass isn’t family (he doesn’t even have blood), which leaves seduction (highly unlikely)

(”…right?” “right”)

Read more... )
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

at first balthazar gently ribs cass when he uses very specifically human idioms like “i almost had a heart attack.” “you did?”

eventually cass retaliates by putting on his Tutorial Voice instead like, “i almost got a shock sufficient to trigger a serious malfunction, and since you have neither the tools nor the competence to handle a major system error–”

“all RIGHT,”
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

actually you know what was definitely on balthazar’s parents’ list of “lullabies”?

imogen heap’s “hide and seek”

in all seriousness, it’s beautiful and i find it very soothing

but just imagine cass singing balthazar to sleep

“mmm whatcha saaay”
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

one day, balthazar thinks he has an epiphany. he & cass dig out pretty much his entire trailer to get at one, locked metal box all the way in the back

it’s full of handguns

“none of them work, of course,” balthazar explains. “i could sell them like this, but only for chump change, as they say. if they were fixed, on the other hand…”

he nudges the box towards cass, quietly excited. cass just stares at the contents for a long moment and sighs deeply. “theoretically, i could, but…”

“…you need an expansion pack”

“i need a specially authorized expansion pack,” says cass, “and what do your clients need with guns anyways?”

“ha!” balthazar scoffs. “nothing. they couldn’t afford this bounty”

“then…?”

“we’ll have to go bigger. the compounds, the plots, the cities, maybe.” balthazar frowns. “or very near them, at any rate. i can deal from the outside, i’m sure. i have the leverage,” he smirks, patting the box

cass just tilts his head and “hmm”s softly

Read more... )
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

they’re not just headed on balthazar’s usual trade route, of course.

cass doesn’t run on a perpetual motion engine, after all (”oh, i wish,” he sighs wistfully). he’s got plenty of juice, sure, and they nabbed a huge number of the portable power chips from his lab, but he’ll need a proper recharge eventually

luckily, cass is programmed with the locations of similar (and similarly-stocked) labs all across the country

(”except the secret military ones,” he says…then frowns. “how do i even know about those?”)

stopping by there will not only get him a full battery and complete auto-maintenance, but balthazar can stock up on top quality ration kits and other necessities

and have another shower to boot!
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

actually, cass almost walks out when balthazar brings up the subject of rates for his medical services. he’s viscerally disgusted

“i’ve completely misjudged you,” he says caustically. he never thought balthazar was the type to charge people for medical care

leaving balthazar scrambling to explain latter-day economics

“i tried–” he insists, rather frantically, “i tried– when i was young and on my own for the first time, i thought i could endear myself by offering a little extra, free of charge, but do you know what happened?”

cass just glares at him

“they were terrified. they refused, they begged me to take payment for every last thing i gave them, they practically threw themselves at my feet-”

he stops to breathe and glances over cautiously; thankfully, cass is listening (angrily)

“see, there’s just, there’s no such thing as ‘free’,” balthazar tries to slow down. “if you give someone something for free, then that means they owe you, and…and…well, when people come to collect, it’s not always…” he grimaces, “…fair”

“i knew a trader once,” he continues, “she started even younger than me, had the same idea. refused to take back her gifts, and when she made her rounds again a few months later, the whole family was just…gone. they ran.

“we were children, cass. she was 14, i wasn’t much older, and we scared the living daylights out of grown adults to the point that they abandoned their home rather than find out what we’d take from them.

“they don’t know us, cass. they don’t know what muscle we have behind us or who we really are. they have kids. they’re scared of us.”

“so you’re saying i have to take payment from my patients, for their own sake?” cass sounds bitter, but not angry anymore. he stares helplessly at his hands. “…i don’t know if i can”

balthazar reaches over from the driver’s seat and gently squeezes cass’ shoulder. “i’m sorry. really”
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

at some point, during Maintenance Class, cass mentions offhandedly that some of his appearance settings can be changed on the fly too

like his eye colour, or voice

balthazar laughs. “if you’d told me that straightaway, i’d’ve said your voice was too deep for you”

too late now. you don’t just…change people’s settings

cass shrugs. “if you ever think of something you like-”

“i already like you,” balthazar insists, still chuckling.

actually, he surprises himself saying it so suddenly. he hardly knows cass, doesn’t he? but it’s true

balthazar likes him

(#meanwhile cass rubs his chin thoughtfully like 'but what /would/ i look like with brown eyes?')
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

balthazar is then amused when he wakes up and cass insists he’s “prepared” breakfast

but actually, cass has thoroughly heated the ration kit somehow

and boy does it make a difference. even cass looks stunned at how fast balthazar wolfs it down

“incredible!” balthazar beams at him. “i never imagined just heating it would do that!”

“i was only following the microwave instructions,” murmurs cass, pointing at the packaging and looking perplexed. “you mean you…don’t heat it?”

“i will be happy to answer that question,” says balthazar haughtily, “as soon as you tell me what a ‘microwave’ is”

“…ah. right.”
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

as for “career,” cass is understandably miffed that balthazar referred to his many household talents as “suspicious”

“here,” balthazar hands him a ration kit as part of his explanation, “try this. how do you know so much about whole foods and their preparation if you’ve been eating these all your life?”

“so, what, no one grows vegetables anymore? that’s suspicious.” cass frowns at him

“all right, so, that’s your story? you grew up on one of the farm plots?” balthazar shrugs amiably. “that’s fine, but just remember, you have to stick to that, then”

“why, don’t farm plots also have doctors?” cass does not understand why he can’t have multiple “careers” when humans clearly have multiple needs, and balthazar doesn’t have any good way to explain it to him. he could compare it, for example, to someone his age claiming multiple PhDs

but he doesn’t know what a PhD is

cass suggests he assess each of balthazar’s clients for their most pressing needs and pick a “career” to match, and while it’s not like balthazar would stop him, he strongly advises against making things so complicated

“what if you forgot who’s who?”

cass just smirks. “my memory’s better than yours, don’t worry”


in the end, they hit on the answer while cass is explaining his shoulder compartments as part of balthazar’s “you really ought to know” maintenance classes

basically, he has four “slots” in each shoulder that can hold vials of medication, to be administered via injections by hand…literally

(”er, where exactly in your hand?” “…somewhere,” says cass, staring at his fingers as though he has no idea. balthazar shudders)

but, he explains, the meds take about 12 hours to cure most illnesses

“12 hours??” balthazar splutters

“yes,” cass shrugs apologetically. “as i’m not actually a medical unit, i don’t have access to the really high-grade–”

“no no nono-” balthazar waves his hand frantically. “disappointment was not the emotion i was trying to convey there. 12 hours is incredible! how many doses for each?”

cass looks puzzled. “one…? unless you got sick again?”

they just stare at each other for a long moment in confusion and wonder

“and…how many doses do you usually need nowadays…?” cass is almost afraid to ask

“well, it depends on the medication - provided there is medication - but usually multiple doses over several days…or weeks.”

“days?! weeks?!” cass is horrified. “what happens when it’s epidemic?!”

balthazar shrugs. “some people pray”

it’s a good thing they’re driving, because cass needs to sit down for a while

at any rate, it’s decided; he’s going to be a doctor
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

most importantly, they need a cover for cass before they reach balthazar’s next client. he’s been a solitary creature for the past 15 years; exactly no one is going to believe he just took a liking to someone and is carting them around the country for the fun of it

they’ve broken the issue down into two parts: appearance & career

first up, appearance:

cass looks good. really good. way, way too good for this day and age. too hale, too strong, too smooth, too clean, too well-fed, and not at all stressed about his day-to-day survival

like, sure, balthazar looks pretty good, too. being a salesman, he puts as high a premium as he can on his own appearance, but he ain’t got nothing on cass

still, that’s gotta be the lesser of the two issues, right? “we’ll just have to dust you up a bit,” says balthazar

“that’s not going to work,” cass point-blank answers him

“what, why not?”

cass just sort of sighs and starts reciting. “for your health and safety, i have an automated sanitation system that will remove any dirt or bacteria on contact”

balthazar isn’t sure what to say, so cass just scrapes some dirt right off the ground in front of them

“here, watch this,” and then smears it all across his face

there’s a beat

and then a soft hissing sound as it all just…sloughs right off, so perfectly

it’s impressive, just…

“isn’t there an override?” balthazar asks. there’s always an override…right?

but cass just shakes his head. “i mean, there are temporary overrides, for specific occasions. say we were repainting your house, you could set a timed override for paint, and so on. but not dirt. this is just disgusting”

he shrugs. “do you…have any makeup? there’s an override for that”

balthazar groans, rubbing his forehead. “well, i did”

for now, it looks like they’ll have to make do with a fugly hat & scarf combo and hope for the best
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

balthazar tries to get to know cass/help him cope/bridge the gap by chatting with him about Before. after all, he feels pretty well informed; he grew up with two sets of grandparents from Before

but when he actually tries to pick a conversation topic, all his knowledge feels so…fragmented, just bits and pieces. instead, he ends up offering cass some of the portable music players he’s found but hasn’t been able to sell. he tells cass he keeps these ones up front cause they have some of the lullabies his parents sang to him

so cass plugs them in (to himself) for a listen and has a little laugh bc none of them were actually intended to be lullabies; they’re mostly pop ballads

for his own part, cass has no idea why balthazar told him he didn’t have a home; he lives in his van, therefore it’s his home, and it’s cass’ job to make it homelier

like, say, with a pet/small business mascot

balthazar really had not realized how many animals were still lurking around, given that he can’t, say, rummage through nooks and crannies lined with broken glass, or heft huge, heavy pieces of debris out of the way to check on the local feral cat colo–

“WAIT NO THAT’S A SKUNK”

“with the proper care, skunks make playful and affectionate companions,” says cass, cradling it tenderly. “although, in fairness, they generally have their scent glands removed.”

“PLEASE PUT THE SKUNK BACK PLEASE”

look, balthazar explains later, i believe you that cats or skunks or that pig you found the one time would make an adorable pet/mascot, but not living in a van. that’s no life for them, even i know that

it’s no life for a human either, cass points out

or an android, balthazar adds.

but we chose this, yes, i know it’s different. cass moves on very quickly to the next part of the conversation, but balthazar wonders, not for the first time, is it not just as wrong to be dragging cass around the country like this? shouldn’t he have a proper home, too?
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

Calthazar AU | Android (1.6k expanded intro)

    ↳ (a post-apocalyptic au) Balthazar, a traveling trader, meets Cass, a high-tech remnant from the world Before.



Balthazar is a traveling trader, basically a general store in a hovervan, on a yearly route back and forth across the country. He avoids the remaining cities, playing it safe by dealing mainly with the bunker folk and small family groups that dot the new wastelands, and preferring to salvage his own goods rather than deal with other traders.

His real specialty is lockhacking, finding secure and relatively untouched places to gather from. One day, he breaks into a pristine underground laboratory that, at first glance, is full of people.

Just…rows upon rows of all kinds of people, apparently in some kind of suspended animation. At first thoroughly horrifying, on closer inspection, all of the people are plugged into their pods via small outlets in their necks.

Balthazar knows about robots. His Nana, a survivor from Before, told him all about them, including the supposed government-sponsored line of androids that never actually materialised, nicknamed “guardian angels” for the surveillance equipment they were rumoured to have.

If the story is true, if this is government property, Balthazar figures, it’s probably a treasure trove, not even counting the robots.

It’s also a bit of a labyrinth, so Balthazar sets about hacking what seems to be the main computer terminal, hoping for a map and, even better, some passcodes.

The terminal, however, launches a quick-start activation program, and not for itself. Balthazar backpedals like there’s no tomorrow, and is about to congratulate himself on his reflexes when he catches sight of the other person (and almost has a heart attack, just for good measure).

Read more... )

[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

balthazar calling cass “attractive”

“my facial features were selected by an algorithm designed to be friendly and pleasant to look at,” says cass, rather proudly

balthazar slowly lowers his drink like, “that is such a sinister-sounding explanation for such beautiful eyelashes”

“why, thank you”
[identity profile] theamazingdalet.livejournal.com

first order of business is balthazar giving cass his (only!!) spare clothes. cass holds up the trenchcoat like, “this is a nice blanket”

“it’s just a coat, isn’t it?”

“it’s a blanket with built-in portability features,” cass corrects him

“was that…a joke?”

cass just smiles at him

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