I may have diverted from Completely Logical Cameron just a shade in this chapter. I couldn't resist. Bad Eggs allusions ahead. Discrepancies can be assumed to be intentional.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Cameron stared at an egg. She could not extrapolate an adequate reason for the biology teacher to give her a chicken egg and tell her to treat it as a human infant.
"Shocked about the sudden onset of parenthood? Some post-egg laying depression?" Xander asked from behind her in class.
"I don't understand this assignment," she replied in a low voice - her protocols indicated that other students seemed to comprehend the assignment adequately, so she should not provide evidence that she did not.
Xander appeared to find something in what she'd said amusing. "How about you be my partner in parenthood, and I'll try to explain?"
Cameron judged that others were close enough to them to require her basic student behavior protocols. "Thanks so
much. I'm still getting to know people. I would've felt so awkward asking a stranger to be my partner."
"Uh, yeah." Xander was caught off guard but seemed to understand what she had done. "Alright, let's go get our schedule straightened out and we'll go from there."
"Sounds great!" Cameron followed Xander out of class once it let out and he quickly led her to an unused classroom.
Once Xander had secured the door, he scratched his chin. "Okay. How do I put this? The egg isn't really important to the assignment, once you get right down to it, except for one thing. Most of the assignment is just writing down the things you'd do to take care of a baby, without actually having to do 'em."
"Then what is the egg for?"
"The one thing you have to do to make sure you pass the class apart from keep up on the journal, is make sure the egg doesn't break. Protect the egg, pass the class, get it?" Xander gave her a look that indicated hope for her comprehension.Subject: Poultry egg designated to replace human infant.
Mission: Protect egg.
"Protect the egg." Cameron repeated. "I can protect, but I do not have any information in my memory about child-rearing."
"And we have hit a snag. Hm."
While Xander thought, Cameron looked around the room. She saw nothing tangled or caught in the immediate vicinity, nor any indication that anything had been hit.
Xander clapped his hands together once. "I got it. I'll take the egg tonight, and you get a couple books from the library about raising children. Read those tonight before you go do whatever it is you do when you're not with us, and tomorrow we'll switch."
Cameron processed this for a few moments. "This is an acceptable arrangement." She offered the egg to Xander. He took it and nestled it into his backpack.
"Alright, I gotta get to the library. Wanna come?"
"Yes." Cameron followed him to the door and engaged her social interaction processes again. When they stepped out into the hallway, she diverted more blood to her cheeks to generate a blush. "Xander! I can't believe you did that!"
Xander was caught off guard again, but gathered his thoughts quickly. "Must be the excitement of new parenthood. I was out of my head."
Cameron judged the cover story a success by the muffled laughter and knowing looks of the students they passed as they walked to the library.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Overnight, Cameron took ten minutes to absorb three different books focused on the subject of child development. The next day, she proceeded through her school day without incident. She made arrangements to take over possession of the egg after school.
Cameron met her new human contacts at their designated lunch time, purchasing an apple for herself to avoid attracting attention. When she sat down, Buffy and Willow were glaring at Xander, who seemed unable to divert their attention away from him.
"What's wrong?" Cameron asked, her brows pushing together in concern.
The females both turned to look at her. "Do you know what Xander did to your egg baby?" Willow asked angrily.
Cameron looked unblinkingly at Xander, who began to shift uncomfortably at the attention. "What did he do?"
"He hard-boiled it so that it couldn't break." Buffy informed her, pausing to glare at Xander once again.
Cameron glanced over to Buffy and back to Xander again. "Is that all?"
"What do you mean, 'is that all'?" Willow appeared to be outraged. "He-" She dropped her voice to avoid being overheard. "He cheated!"
"I saw no rules regarding the boiling of the eggs." Cameron stated, pausing her infiltration routines.
Xander looked relieved, while Buffy and Willow continued to look outraged. "How can you say that?" Willow asked.
"Several of the books I read about child development talk about 'tough love'. To do things for a child that they may not enjoy, but are ultimately for their continued safety and survival."
"But... humans don't boil their babies," Buffy replied.
"The egg is an inaccurate simulacrum of a human baby and the rules of the assignment do not prohibit taking steps to keep the egg from breaking," Cameron responded. She then resumed her infiltration programming and smiled sweetly at Xander. "Good thinking, Xander."
Cameron did not understand why the girls looked so incensed, nor why Xander had an expression conveying smugness. She would have to study this further.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Cameron sat on the floor in her empty apartment, her infant simulation sitting in front of her in a wooden box lined with padding. A book was held in her hands.
"Xander Junior, the books state that it is good to begin reading to children before they are able to speak," she informed it solemnly. "This encourages an inclination to read on their own once intellectual and physical development has sufficiently developed to do so." She held up the book. "This is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by L. Frank Baum. This book is a favorite of someone that will become one of the most important people in the world one day. It stands to reason that if this book was part of his development, then it should be part of yours."
Having informed Xander Junior why this was important, she opened the book and began to read. She changed the voices to match those of the actors and actresses in the 1939 film adaptation of the book.
Cameron had just gotten to Dorothy's initial arrival in the land of Oz, when Xander Junior did something unexplained. The egg twitched in place.
Cameron could recall no information in the assignment details that said the eggs would do this. "Xander Junior, please remain calm. I must read to you now," she stated firmly.
Xander Junior was not listening. It was still jerking slightly, until a piece of the shell began to crack.
"No, Xander Junior. You must stay in the egg. It will protect you." The books indicated that if the child continued to display defiance, she would have to discipline it in order to maintain authority.
But this threat did not sway the baby-egg. Xander Junior began to shed his shell and reach for her with vaguely arachnid looking limbs.
"There will be no more reading tonight, Xander Junior," she scolded. "You will stay in your room and think about what you've done." She picked up the newly hatched Xander Junior and returned him to his box, after removing the padding, before moving the box into one of the unused bedrooms in the apartment.
Human children were problematic, even when they were chicken eggs.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Cameron walked into the library the next day, where Buffy, Willow, Cordelia and Xander were looking at something that looked very much like what Xander Junior did when he shed his egg.
"Xander. There's a problem with our baby."
All four of them looked at her with varying expressions of shock on their face. Cameron pulled the box from her bag and removed Xander Junior, who was still squirming to get free.
"Is this part of the assignment?" she asked.
Buffy snatched up a pair of scissors. "It's really not."
She looked at Xander. "There was nothing in the rules indicating that this should not happen."
Xander shook his head while keeping his distance from Xander Junior. "It's an unwritten rule of these kinds of assignments that the eggs aren't supposed to hatch."
"Much less turn into some creepy scorpion with tentacles," Buffy added.
"Ah. A custom, then." She looked at Xander Junior. "I'm sorry, but you have violated the parameters of the assignment. I hope you understand." Cameron flexed her fingers and neatly bisected Xander Junior.
She looked at the others, to discover they were staring at her.
"The books say you are supposed to talk to children when they're still in their infancy," she explained.
Buffy, Willow and Cordelia looked disturbed. Xander looked as if he were refraining from laughing. "If there are two of these, it stands to reason that there should be more. Should we go look for them?" Cameron asked.
Willow shook her head. "We were going to dissect this one and find out what we could about it. Might take us a while. If you have something else you need to do, we can call you when we're done."
Cameron considered this. "Is this how your missions normally work?"
Xander shrugged. "Big mystery, sudden death or deaths, mind-numbing research... all we're missing is the five minutes of sheer terror. Yep, sounds about right," he agreed.
"Very well. I must go perform one of my own missions. If you need help, call." She looked at Xander. "If you need to talk later, you may talk to me about it. Parents that lose a child often experience crippling depression. I would not want that to happen to you." Cameron reached out and squeezed Xander's hand. "I am here for you."
As she left the library, she wondered why they were all staring at her as if she'd said something inappropriate. She'd have to start keeping a count of inappropriate things that she said so she could avoid doing the same in the future.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Cameron never received another phone call. Later, when she found out that the eggs were really the offspring of a creature that was dwelling in the school basement, she concluded that the creature was not a good parent. It had sent its young to perform illegal actions for its own purpose. If it were not already dead, she would consider contacting child protective services.