Chapter 1

A/N: Thank you very, very much to my beta Elbly who studied cybernetics at Uni and made sure this was fairly believable (Well, as much as vampires are) as well as readable! If you haven’t read her fic ‘The Souvenir’ then what on earth are you waiting for? Oh right … yeah … read this first then – but be sure to check out Shepherd Eric after m’kay? http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5812221/1/The_Souvenir

Northman Homestead, Bon Temps, Tuesday 28th March

Eric Northman’s routine was the same every day; it had been ever since he moved into his Grandpa’s old farmhouse in Bon Temps one week after his 18th birthday, which was almost six years ago. When Johan Northman was put into a care home as his health started to fail, Eric couldn’t stand the thought of the first home his family knew on their emigration from Germany being lived in by strangers. Peter failed to see Eric’s attachment to the property, but that was the thin end of the wedge between Father and Son. He had always defied his father at every turn and Johan loved him for it, from Eric refusing to follow Peter’s steps into law school and instead taking an interest in mechanics and electronics like his Grandpa, to when Eric refused to marry the daughter of his Father’s business partner and continued to live on his own in that old farmhouse – Johan loved his fire, his determination and Eric loved his Grandpa’s wisdom and the stories of when he was a young man in Europe and his first years in the United States. In turn, Eric knew that he could talk to Johan about anything and everything, the only taboo subject was Johan’s work with Compton Robotics in Shreveport.

Compton Robotics were a leading supplier to the armed forces in the USA but was most renowned as the sole producer of MiPet Service bots, they made millions of dollars a month from the sale of what were essentially robotic sex slaves – Johan never spoke of what he did for the company, or why he left, or why he could afford to never work again despite retiring at the age of 60; most people had to work until they were 80 in this day and age. Eric had an inkling that it was his Grandpa’s disgust at such a juvenile product, at least that’s what Eric hoped.

Unlike his normal Tuesday routine, Eric was dressing in a black suit, Peter’s stressful lifestyle had eventually taken its toll and although Eric had been shunned by his father and cut out of his will, he was determined to be the bigger man and pay his respects at the funeral. He finished his coffee, picked up his keys and pocketed his cell phone, ready to face the people who regarded him as ‘not good enough’. It would be okay, his Grandpa would be there, Eric could do anything with his Grandpa’s support. As he walked to his aging 4th generation Prius, he eyed his workshop and longed to be in there working on his animated sculptures instead of going to a church in Shreveport. Eric sighed and started the car, squirming in his seat as his cell phone buzzed in his pocket.

“Shit!” He pulled out the annoying gadget and answered the call. “Hello, this is Eric Northman.”

“Mr. Northman this is Doctor Cunningham at Monroe General Hospital, we admitted Sophie-Ann LeClerq last night after a car accident. I’m sorry it took so long for us to find your information but I regret to inform you that she died while in surgery.”

Why the hell would Soph give a hospital my information? I went on half a dozen dates with her about seven or eight months ago but…

“Well … that’s a shame, she was a nice girl.”

“It is yes, the good news is that the baby survived.”

“Baby?”

“Yes, a girl, she’s in the infant ICU but we’re sure she’ll pull through.”

“I … look I’m sorry but I don’t know why you’re calling me to tell me this.”

“Well, Miss LeClerq’s brother Andre told us you were her boyfriend and the father of the child.”

“Uh … okay, look, I had no idea she was pregnant and it’s my father’s funeral today but I’ll come over to … I dunno … get DNA tests done … or something?”

“Well that costs money Mr. Northman.”

“I’ve got money, I’ll be there later today should I ask for you?”

“No, you need to ask for Doctor Allan at the infant ICU reception.”

“I will thank you.”

Why do things have to be so fucked up?

He picked up Johan and drove to the funeral in a daze; was it possible that he had gotten Sophie-Ann pregnant one of the few times they had sex? He had never been one for playing happy families and the thought of being a father at this point in his life rattled him. Eric’s art was starting to gain notoriety and he’d been commissioned for a couple of large pieces, those pieces had deadlines, how would he meet them if he had a baby to care for?

First things first, get this funeral over and done with then go and arrange a DNA test. If I’m the baby daddy then … Grandpa, he’ll know what I should do.

“Grandpa, I got a call earlier. Someone I … used to know was in a bad accident and I need to go to the hospital. Is it okay if I just drop you back at Ashwood Court as soon as this is over?”

“Well, I was looking forward to spending some time with you Mein junge but obviously visiting a friend in need is far more important than Backgammon and weak tea.”

“She wasn’t really a friend … well she was friendly, but we weren’t really close. Her brother got in touch with me.”

Johan smiled knowingly and nodded “There’s something you’re not telling me, but I know you will when you’re ready.”

They spent the rest of the journey in companionable silence. Peter Northman’s funeral was arduous. As expected, Eric’s Mother, Stella, barely acknowledged Eric, yet fawned over Johan. As the banished son, Eric wasn’t part of the post-service event and Johan had no interest in a group of people who put money and social status above their own happiness.

Perhaps now that Peter is gone, Mom might actually … I dunno act like my Mom? Nah, too much effort, if it hadn’t been for Nanny Ludwig and Grandpa I’d be seriously maladjusted. Maybe I should call her, just once, extend an olive branch but would it actually be worth it?

He shook those thoughts out of his head, dropped Johan back at Ashwood Court and drove back to Bon Temps to change before making his visit to Monroe General. After a light lunch and swapping his suit for a more comfortable jeans and t-shirt combination, Eric was back in front of his car looking at the work shed.

If I don’t get started on at least one of those pieces tomorrow I’ll be rushing the work. If the work is rushed, it’s substandard, if it’s substandard I don’t get paid – Fuck!

It wasn’t a big deal, Eric had a hefty trust fund left to him by Johan that he’d had access to since his 21st birthday, it wasn’t the money he was truly worried about – it was his reputation as an artist. The drive to Monroe General was short but seemed like hours to Eric, he sluggishly walked to the main reception and was directed to the correct department. His feet were like lead as he approached the reception at Infant ICU, a serious yet friendly girl called Amy broke him out of his stupor.

“Hi can I ask who you’re here to see?”

“Uh … I was told to ask for Dr. Allan.”

“Okay, can I take your name?”

“Eric Northman.”

“Okay Mr. Northman, you just take a seat and I’ll let Dr. Allan know you’re here.”

The waiting area was brightly painted with a large mural of teddy bears on one wall. Eric whiled away some of the time counting how many bears there were exactly – anything to take his mind off of the possibly life-changing test he was about to arrange. A throat cleared next to him that drew his attention away from the bears, when Eric turned towards it he was face to face with a chubby, curly haired woman in a white coat.

“Mr. Northman? I’m Dr. Georgia Allan; I understand you’re here to see your daughter?”

“Well kind of, the baby’s mother stated me as father of the little girl but I had no knowledge of the pregnancy so as you can imagine I’m keen to find out if I actually have any tie to the child.”

“A DNA test, certainly, there shouldn’t be any legal problems.” Dr. Allan seemed fascinated with how Eric looked, it didn’t surprise him, he was a handsome man after all. “But perhaps you should have a look at her?”

“Uh …”

“Eric, thank you for coming.” A male voice appeared behind him.

“Mr. LeClerq! Did you get something to eat?”

So this is Sophie-Ann’s brother? I think I might have met him in a bar one time I was out with Soph, I must have, how else would he know what I looked like?

“Yes, I did. Shall we see how the little one is doing?” Andre swept a hand in front of him. “After you Daddy.”

“Look, Andre, I know Soph told you I was the father but I knew nothing about the pregnancy. Wouldn’t she have called me to let me know?”

“We’ll talk about that later.”

Eric nodded and followed Dr. Allan down a corridor and into a room with six incubators. The Doctor stopped at one near the door and checked the notes on a clipboard that had ‘Baby LeClerq-Northman’ written as the name.

“She was six weeks premature, fortunately for her, her mother had no serious abdominal injuries so she’ll be just fine once her lungs mature a little.”

Eric looked into the incubator, marvelling at how much it looked like cross between a fishbowl and an aquarium. The tiny person inside was wearing a pink hat and mittens and sleeping soundly, even with the tube in her left nostril, she also greatly resembled Eric when he was a baby – especially her brow and chin, if Eric didn’t know any better he’d swear it was him as an infant. Dr. Allan laid a hand gently on Eric’s arm.

“Mr. Northman? Do you still want the test done?”

“Uh … yes, just to be sure.”

“Do you doubt my sister’s word? Or even your own eyes?” Eric turned to find Andre wearing an expression of disbelief.

“It’s not that Andre, I know Sophie-Ann wasn’t the type of girl to … well not know who the father of her baby would be but … with her not telling me … I’d like to know for definite. Surely you can understand my position here?”

Andre nodded and waited at reception while Eric was swabbed and told by the Doctor he would get the results and the bill in the post within fourteen days. The tiny girl would remain in the hospital for at least another four weeks, Eric went back to look upon her before he went to speak to Andre and even more than the last time he gazed in that little fishbowl, he was sure that the DNA test was merely a formality. He had been doubtful that the baby was his, until the moment he saw her, he had felt a shift in his feelings towards the child at that very second. He felt protective of her, much like a Father should, he also surprised himself by not feeling like the baby was a burden but a blessing. Eric and Andre went to the nearest coffee shop and settled themselves at a table as far away from other patrons as they could.

“Why didn’t Soph tell me, Andre?”

“She seemed scared, kept talking about how much you hated family and that if the tales she’d heard of your Father were anything to go by, you wouldn’t want to have anything to do with her.”

“Well, Peter was never going to win ‘Father of the year’ but I would have supported her, done what I could, I don’t hate my family – I just wanted to live my own life and my parents wanted me to live a life they picked out for me. I wish she had called me at least.”

“She’s gone now.” Andre broke down, his words caught in his throat as he sobbed. “That little girl is all that is left of her.”

“I’m so sorry Andre, Soph was a lovely girl. Is there someone who can help you with the arrangements? It’s a lot for one man Andre.”

“I have friends who are almost as devastated as me; we’ll get through it as a group.” Andre grabbed Eric’s hand in his own two. “Promise me that you’ll care for the baby? I don’t … I don’t know if I can do it – not right now but when it doesn’t … hurt as much I’d like to see her. Be her Uncle.”

“That’s fine; I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

They talked of Sophie-Ann into the late evening; Eric absorbed every detail he could – trying desperately to know the Mother of his child better. Eric programmed Andre’s number into his phone and told him he would see him at Sophie-Ann’s funeral, which was seven days away.

Richwood Memorial Garden, Monroe, Tuesday 4th April

Another funeral, another black suit. Eric ensured his presence was as unobtrusive as he could, which was difficult considering he was over six feet tall, well built and had wheat coloured long hair which stood out against the shoulders of his outfit. He barely remembered meeting any of Sophie-Ann’s friends but they seemed to remember him with the utmost clarity. Andre had had to intervene when a girl called Hadley almost attacked him, screaming about what a bastard Eric was for knocking up her best friend then dropping her like a hot skillet. Andre soon put Hadley right about her accusations and Eric was touched that, for once, someone apart from his Grandpa had actually stood up for him. Again, Eric didn’t stay for any post-service gatherings, he had received the results of the DNA test the day before and was anxious to go to the hospital and see his daughter. His daughter. When he’d visited her on Thursday and Saturday the doubt was still niggling at him but now it was in writing, in a letter in his pocket.

I can’t believe the results came so soon, this time last week I was … annoyed that I might be a Dad and now I’m over the moon. Grandpa’s gonna flip his lid when he finds out where we’re going today!

Johan was waiting outside the complex when Eric pulled up, it wasn’t odd that his Grandson wanted to take him somewhere, but it was odd that Eric was so excited about where they were going. Johan got into the car and was taken aback at the nervous energy emanating from Eric.

“Mein junge, what has you so wound up? The last time I saw you anywhere near this excited was when you finished that miniature replica of the Tyrannosaurus Rex from Jurassic Park 8 when you were 12.”

“We’re going to visit someone very special to me. She’s … well, you’ll see when we get there!”

“She? Would this be the friendly girl you used to know from last week?”

“Kind of.”

Johan was confused and he loved it! Eric would always keep him on his toes no matter how many parts of his body failed, no matter how shaky his hands were, no matter if he couldn’t cook or clean for himself anymore, Eric never made him feel like an old man. When Eric parked next to the maternity wing of the hospital, Johan had an idea of what this mystery woman meant to his Grandson. He helped Johan out of the car and they walked into the infant ICU straight to his daughter’s room. Dr. Allan was there at another sick baby’s fishbowl but turned around when she heard the door open.

“Mr. Northman! Good to see you again. Baby girl is doing very well, getting stronger every day.”

“I got the results this morning, she’s mine! Grandpa, I’d like to introduce you to my daughter.” Eric handed the letter to the Doctor and smiled at Johan.

“Eric she’s so tiny. What’s her name?”

“Name? Oh! Well … I’ve always liked the name Pamela. Pamela LeClerq Northman.”

Dr. Allan picked up the chart and changed the word ‘baby’ to ‘Pamela’. “There! Now we’re cookin’ with Gas Mr. Northman. She’s still poorly but it’s been proven that skin to skin contact can help them get stronger, faster.”

“Oh! How do I do that?”

“Take off your shirt and sit on that chair there.”

Eric nodded and stripped off his t-shirt, sitting down with a huge grin. He was getting to hold his Pamela. Johan chucked at Eric’s enthusiasm, he had to admit he was fairly giddy himself, a great-grandfather! Wonders would never cease! Pamela was placed on Eric’s chest and his large hands held her in place, she was so tiny his hands dwarfed her, her little head nestled above his heart, Eric felt something wet slide down his cheek. Johan saw the tear on Eric’s face and wondered so many things.

“Eric, there are so many questions. Where is Pamela’s mother? Why didn’t you tell us you were to be a Father? How is it you’ve changed your mind about having a child? You’ve always been a loner Eric, and so obsessed with your work, how are you going to find time see her?”

“Pamela’s Mom, Sophie-Ann, was killed in a car crash. I had no idea she was pregnant until the hospital called to tell me she was gone. I wasn’t sure if she was mine until I saw her, the test was just to make sure. I never wanted to be a Dad, not now anyway, but when I saw her it was just amazing.”

“So if her Mom is dead, who will care for her? You?”

“I guess so, I hadn’t thought that far ahead to be honest but there’s plenty of space at my house and I work from home so …”

“A baby is a lot of work Eric; you can’t do both without help. Did Sophie-Ann have any relatives that could share the responsibility with you?”

“She has a brother but he’s … Andre is in no state to care for a baby but when he is he’ll be welcome in Pamela’s life.”

“I see.” Johan sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose and thought to himself:

I had hoped that I’d never have to reveal my work but Eric is in need, it will be okay, no-one will ever need to know. They will be safe; Compton was convinced I’d destroyed her.

“Eric you’ll need someone to help you care for Pamela, you know nothing of babies. Your Mother would be as much use as an ashtray on a motorcycle, Nanny Ludwig is dead as is your Father, I am unable to care for myself properly never mind a young one. When we are done visiting with our beautiful girl, it is time for me to tell you of my work, of the reasons I left the company and also why we have never wanted for money.”

Eric took a sharp breath, why on earth would his ability to care for his daughter bring on this need to speak of things that his Grandfather had never spoken of before? An hour passed before Dr. Allan came back into the room to put Pamela back in her fishbowl, Eric had enjoyed the closeness to his little girl and hoped that in her tiny baby brain, she recognised him as her flesh and blood and would be comforted by his presence. It was hard for him to tear himself away from his Pam, but the prospect of hearing how Johan’s work was somehow connected to Eric being a single Father was intriguing. They drove back to Ashwood Court and after helping his Grandpa get seated at the kitchen table and offering him refreshments; Eric was keen to find out what Johan had to tell him.

“Mein junge, do you remember what I told you about the farmhouse when I was packed off to live here?”

“That the rose garden was a memorial to Grandma Adele and that we should always keep it alive.”

“Yes, your Gran loved that garden.”Johan sighed and took a sip of his tea. “I also told you that the attic held secrets that I would tell you about when the time came. Now is that time. When Adele and I emigrated here our future was full of hope, I had a well paid job at Compton Robotics and three weeks after buying the house we discovered we were expecting our first child. Everything was going so well, my work had been noticed by Thomas Compton and I was being given more complex projects, Adele was blooming … she was so excited about being a mother. I wish she had lived to help guide Peter, my work, my obsession with it was probably what caused him to be so cold to his own flesh and blood.”

“Grandpa, you never told me how Gran died. I know it was when Father was a baby but …”

“A complication during childbirth, after delivering Peter, her womb collapsed. They tried all night to fix her but she lost so much blood, her body just gave up fighting, she died in the helicopter while being airlifted to a specialist unit in Shreveport.”

“Oh … that’s awful but you had Nanny Ludwig right? She wasn’t big on hugs but she kept me right.”

“Yes I did but she couldn’t be a mother to Peter, many men in my position would have searched for another woman, another wife … but I couldn’t bring myself to even attempt it – it seemed too much like trying to replace the irreplaceable. So I did what I did best – I pitched a very controversial idea to Thomas Compton for a new project and he accepted, we worked together trying to perfect my idea but over time I realised that Compton and I had very different ideas about the outcome of the project. My prototype for that project, along with all of my notes, are in the attic. It’s time for you to see what I’ve been hiding, go home, go up to the attic and call me tomorrow to tell me what you think.”

“Okay but what is it?”

“I’ll let you make up your own mind over what it is; right now you will go and look over my project. I’ll hear from you tomorrow.”

“Sure but …”

“No ‘buts’ Eric, I will tell you more after you’ve seen everything.”

“Alrighty Grandpa but if I find a nuclear arsenal up there I won’t be happy!”

They both laughed; Johan at the thought of what Eric may assume when he found his work and Eric at the very real possibility that his Grandpa really did have something very dangerous in the house he had been living in. Eric knew that Johan kept his work top secret, the advances in technology since the start of the 21st century had been phenomenal and as such, those who invented played their cards very close to their chests. Compton Robotics, despite being best known for MiPet, did a lot of work for armed forces around the world … but what use would a weapon be in his new role with Pam?

Eric raced home; not that he was one for keeping to the speed limits on a normal day but he knowingly flouted them in his mission to find out what the hell Grandpa had left through that hatch in the upper hall ceiling. Parking the car next to the workshop, he flew through the back door and upstairs, grabbing the pole with the hook on the end and pulling the hatch open. Once the ladders were steady, he climbed them as fast as he dared and poked his head through the square hole. All he could see was dusty boxes, a couple of large trunks – also at least an inch deep in dust, the attic was just full of stuff, how was he supposed to work out what it was Grandpa was talking about?

Okay, systematic process of elimination. He said that the prototype and his notes were up here, so anything that doesn’t look like a book, binder, thumb drive or invention can get put to one side.

The first few boxes were full of ornaments, framed pictures and other mementoes, then Eric came across a large container full of box files, he put that to one side and carried on through the collection of belongings that filled the space. After 3 hours of digging Eric had found five boxes that might be full of Johan’s work and only had the two trunks left to look through. One was old and battered from many years of being moved from place to place and Eric wondered if this trunk was used when his Grandparents came to the USA, upon opening it he discovered it was full of women’s clothes – therefore useless. The second trunk was partially covered with a dustsheet, when it was removed Eric could see something printed just above the centre latch.

s00k-E? Sounds like an invention if ever I heard one! When Eric lifted the lid he thought it was full of more clothes but then he saw a blonde wig. Oh no, please tell me he doesn’t have a MiPet. That would just be too gross.

Eric grabbed onto the wig and pulled, praying it was just a wig and not attached to anything. His prayers were not answered as the resistance he met told him that something fairly heavy was attached to the blonde curls. He put both hands in the trunk and wiggled them underneath, lifting out the pile of clothes and wig and setting it down on the dusty floor of the attic. It had arms, legs, joints exactly where they should be on a human … or a MiPet. Taking a deep breath, Eric straightened out the limbs and moved the hair away from the robot’s face. He was surprised to find that the robot was dressed fairly conservatively in an old-fashioned sundress, the female face was pretty but not stunning, and he could see that the body underneath the sundress was not as grossly exaggerated as the MiPet’s usually were. This robot looked … like a normal girl, not the overly large breasted and skinny waisted sex toys that Compton Robotics were known for.

This isn’t every man’s supposed fantasy … this is just a regular woman. Grandpa said it was a prototype; he left Compton Robotics when I was 7 and the MiPet didn’t get released until I was 15. It’s possible that this is actually a prototype for a MiPet, which would mean that since it was Grandpa’s idea, he could sue them for billions of dollars but … why doesn’t he? What am I missing here?

Closing the lid on the trunk, Eric looked at the print again, s00k-E … was that the project title? Was it the model number of the robot? He sat the robot on the trunk and went to the boxes he’d put aside. The box files were full of notes on the mechanics, circuits of the robot – that part was complete so unless there was a hardware issue, he could skip those. He decided the best place to start might be with the thumb drives, taking one last look at the robot; Eric went downstairs to fire up his computer. He thought about the styling of the robot, if it were a real girl, he would possibly be attracted to her. The blonde hair, the defined cheekbones, full pink lips, slender neck and from what he saw of the trunk of the machine ‘she’ had above average breast size, an hourglass figure with rounded hips.

He thought about the one and only time he’d seen a MiPet up close, his friend from college had a party – guys only, Eric had thought that they’d perhaps hired a stripper but when he got there he found that four of them had purchased a MiPet, it was … hideous, for lack of a better description. The face was designed to look heavily made up, dark red lips, false eyelashes, the body was practically deformed with overly large breasts and what had to be a 20” waist flowing into 36” hips, it was basically a life-sized Barbie on a porn overdose but considering the function of the machine and the rate of sales – it obviously pushed a lot of guys buttons, just not Eric’s. He sat and watched the 2030 remake of ‘The Matrix’ and drank beer with Chow while the others took turns with the bot.

The first half-dozen thumb drives were full of schematics drawn up on what looked to be the old CAD system, pretty much a digital record of the contents of the box files. Some others were full of video diaries, Eric got a pad and pen and made notes of the dates so he could try to find the first entry, it took him a couple of hours but he got there in the end. Just as he was about to click on the first video diary entry his stomach growled.

9pm? Fuck! If I’m gonna even try to understand this stuff I’d better get some food in me!

He put together a quick sandwich, poured himself a cup of coffee and sat back down at the computer, pressing play on the video file as he took the first bite.

“This is entry one in the video diary of Johan Northman, over the course of this project I will be making daily entries to record my progress on my Series 00 kinderbetreuung – Ehefrau AKA s00k-E or Sookie to give the machine a more ‘human’ moniker.”

Eric’s German was sketchy at best but that’s what internet translators were for, he vaguely recognised ‘ehefrau’ he knew it was something to do with women and the ‘kinderbetreuung’ was something to do with children … children … women … robot. Child Care – Wife robot.

Holy shit! Grandpa tried to make himself a new, artificial wife!

That was the moment Eric realised what Grandpa had hidden in the attic was dangerous, making a sex-bot was a fairly simple process, but making a wife would be complicated, costly and a lot harder to sell no matter how sophisticated a machine it was. The thought that after Adele’s passing, that his Grandpa had gone to the extreme of creating a robot wife rather than sully her memories with another woman shocked him. Had he done it for himself or for Peter? If his plan was to create a ‘Mother’ for Peter, it failed miserably, in fact in his endeavours to give Peter the Mother that he lost – Johan alienated his own son, turning him into a cold man with little to no affection for his own child.

Eric watched the diary, his Grandpa as a young man explaining the different circuits, the materials used to make the skin and hair seem more realistic. He stayed up until 4am watching entry after entry until his eyes could no longer stay open. He fell asleep at his desk with his face in the empty plate his sandwich had been on.

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