NE342 knew in his circuits that something was wrong. He had passed through the village hundreds of times, and while he was always greeted warmly the humans had never acted like this. He asked one what was going on and she insisted nothing was, but as always – even when he wanted to remain blissfully ignorant – his software detected the lie. They didn't appear to be worried, it felt more as if there was a joke he hadn't been told - maybe a 'kick me' sign on his back. Several of the villagers ran off, looking over their shoulders. Strange indeed.
"Enny!" The familiar voice distracted him from his musings - he recognized it as an older human named Kevin, but when he turned the person approaching was too young.
"Drake? Is that you? You've grown so much! How are you? How is Kevin?"
"Dad is old and cranky, but fine. Honor us by staying at our house tonight! My aunt even has some scrap metal squirreled away that you can use to patch up that hole." Drake gestured to the small cut that NE342 had sustained falling from a high ledge. "Oh, that? I got that from a rampaging dinosaur, cloned by a mad scientist. I'll tell you after dinner - at your house, of course." Drake laughed and ran off to tell his family.
The tale went over well, and as he watched the family NE342 felt immeasurably old. He had wandered through the ruins of vast cities and through countless small villages, but this family was his home. He wanted only to stay, live with them, help to build and farm. His self-awareness and personality had grown over the years, but he knew it would never grow so much that he would be able to stay in one place. He rested his hand once more on the leather pouch Drake's grandfather had made for him – it seemed so light to carry such a burden.
NE342 stood to help put the children to bed, but Drake took him by the arm and led him to the green. The entire village was gathered, watching him, with the current Elder wearing ceremonial robes. NE342 was confused and nervous for the first time in as long as he could remember - no rituals should have been taking place at this time of year. There was a woman next to the elder, but it took him a moment to recognize her.
"Drake, is that your sister? She's all grown up! Is that a baby she's holding?" Drake smiled and gestured for him to be quiet. They reached the Elder, who paused a moment before speaking.
"Enny. You have visited us many times since the fall of our ancestors, and we always view your arrival as a blessing. I know that you try to stay with us for several days before asking what you must, but today the village wishes you to ask it immediately."
NE342 was stunned. They knew he would have to move on once he asked, why would they do this? Had he done something wrong? Feeling scared and alone, NE342 asked his question.
"Is this 7334 West Comet Avenue, the residence of one John Lee?"
"Enny, this evening we have held a naming ceremony. This is now indeed the village of 7334 West Comet Avenue." Grinning from ear to ear, Drake's sister stepped forward and presented her baby. "And this... is John Lee." The entire village seemed to hold their breath.
The world swimming with shock and emotion, NE342 fumbled at his pouch. "I... I have a delivery for you!"