— No, no, no! PD2 argued, blocking the exit of the domicile. — Travel outside the sphere is unauthorized! he persisted in a tone that was unusually peevish. But the girl pushed past the chrome figure and he tried one last time. — Evenor! Don’t go! His emotional display was a glitch in the matrix. The drone’s responses were only written code… or were they?
PD’s plea had no effect on the defiant teen. Evenor fired up her fusion soles and was gone. Rushing down the darkened hallway, all she could hear was the sound of her own breathing. Her arms pumped, synchronized with long strides of athletic legs. Two hands, ghostly white, cut the air with mechanical precision. Protruding from the collar was an even whiter neck and head. The trim figure was cloaked in a sleek, black skin making the stark white head and hands appear disembodied in the dark. The suit she wore was made of Nautaleen; a high grade polymer, custom fitted with thousands of nano computers. Pressure gauges printed into the material controlled airflow and body temperature, allowing for peak physical performance. This was an outfit that would have pleased an Olympian.
Fusion propulsion built into the soles of the boots allowed for fluid locomotion. Her feet never touched the ground. Like a skater on black ice, the phantom sailed through vacant corridors — just a blur in the darkness. Illuminated by the narrow beam of a headlamp, the slim figure moved swiftly, tripping sensors in the floor that lit her energetic wake. Gliding over great lengths of the sleek hall, she was alone — except for a mirror twin reflected back in the polished floor — it hung close on her heels, as if trapped in a parallel dimension.
Evenor speaks —
I am not from here, or at least that is what I have been told. My people came from a distant placelong ago. Our mission was simple: find water. We discovered this blue planet; then drove our aeroships into the ocean floor. Beneath the depths and hidden from view, we built a colony to explore this sea, that was so rich with life.
From my underwater laboratory, I collected data on creatures of the deep. Studying these life forms was my focus. Learning this planet’s systems and never disturbing the natural order was our practice. Living in that peaceable kingdom under the waves was the only life I knew. Our world was a nexus of innovation and invention and there we thrived… until the Yedek invasion.
Chapter One – Obsidian
Daylight never penetrated the walls of the glass pyramid that sat on the ocean floor. It appeared deceptively fragile, made from sheets of obsidian that leaned in — like a house of cards with uncertain balance. Lone creatures of the deep slid through beds of high reaching kelp and were mirrored back in the dark glass. The faceted surface of the pyramid sent splintering reflections in every direction. Buried here in the depths, the massive structure was difficult to see. The hidden colony spanned the ocean floor. Long corridors extended like the arms of a giant starfish, half buried in the sand.
Linking the numerous laboratory computations was a solid state matrix — a single brain collecting data on the life of the sea. A quantum laboratory was situated at the base of the pyramid. There a processor created Zero Point energy giving life to the underwater populous without upsetting the planet’s ecology. Below the rolling waves the complex was tucked among the features of the ocean floor with structures designed to mimic the natural surroundings. These structures were no feat of human engineering but built by a team of tireless robotic calismen. These mechanized calismen stood upright on bodies of blue chrome to serve the travelers who now made the ocean their home. In this place, void of sunlight and fresh air, against all odds, life thrived. But now, the scientists had vanished leaving only a skeleton crew behind.
Like a dark flame, she flickered against the dim light of the connector tube. Her suit, embedded with mirrored particles, reflected her surroundings and camouflaged her form. She turned sharply left then right and disappeared into the restricted area. Breaking her stride for only a second, Evenor cleared the security scan. A series of beeps sounded as the glass doors of the elevator slid open. She stepped into the elegant glass shaft and the elevator plummeted in a smooth descent. The first hundred floors whooshed past. The force shook loose strands of white hair that whipped against her forehead. Tall and strong, with a complexion pale as a fish, the girl looked much like the rest of her race. The Arayici were made with wide set grey eyes and long peaked ears. Their expression was one of intelligent serenity
The girl looked out beyond her reflection suspended in the glass where thousands of researchers lived in watertight domes set in orderly patterns. The terra-domes reached out for miles providing housing, gardens and recreation centers. Transparent tunnels connected the domes, allowing for passage between the structures. The compound glowed like a web of light, spun across the abyssal plain. Sapphire blue, violet, and citron lights filled the subterranean maze. The colors played like symphonic chords upon the mind and the frequency of light elevated the brain into higher states of clarity. The Arayici were difficult to read for their faces revealed no emotion. Their race took pride in transcending emotional states as they moved beyond the binary roles associated with
sexual reproduction. By eliminating the sentiments of pair bonding, all mental energy was directed towards gaining higher states of intellect. Genetic engineering allowed for heightened sensory perception and increased brain capacity of each new generation; and
they became masters of their own evolution.
Evenor excelled in all sciences, but chose to focus in a field to complement her father’s work in quantum robotics. From an early age, Evenor was noted for her genius, however, at heart, she was still a girl with little real life experience. A keenly developed intellect had placed her in classes with older students, where she grew overly confident. But brilliance never eluded Evenor, who was most comfortable in the Okul library. Here, the virtual stacks presented a storehouse of riches; the knowledge she sought. Infinite quantities of information were available, and Evenor had nothing but time. Her eidetic memory soaked up an extraordinary wealth of information from the far reaches of the galaxy.
That evening she found the aisles of the Okul quiet. While many students lingered over monitors, Evenor preferred the notion of books. She floated through the library entrance and accessed the archive with a wave of her hand. The doors of the tower slid open revealing a vacant halo-deck. She switched off her locator beacon and went inside.
Evenor liked to be around ancient things. She knew it was not logical but still enjoyed the irrational indulgence. The round walls of the holodeck created a quiet, cove-like atmosphere that
Evenor found comforting. She stood in total darkness, then tapped the band just above her ear. A slender stylus emerged, projecting a stunning prismatic display. The light created an illusion of a lens that hovered like a monocle in front of her left eye. Now the holographic image of the library was complete. The silo appeared in 3D, lined with books on every shelf, as far as her eye could see. Tapping into ancient knowledge made Evenor’s senses come to life. The book with their pages and covers looked so real that Evenor yearned to touch them.
“Paper!” she exclaimed the name of the obsolete artifact and tipped her face upwards. She turned in a circle, slowly taking in the scene. A flash of gold caught her eye. The symbol on the edge of a folio stood out from the other books. Evenor pointed her gaze in the direction of that one book and it slowly backed its way off the uppermost shelf. She concentrated her focus overhead and the precious codex lowered, then hovered at eye level for Evenor to read. It was time-worn. The aged cover was cracked but a geometric design of four crescent moons was crisply embossed in the leather. With just a nod of her head the cover opened and the holographic pages began to turn.
Written upon these pages were symbols from an alphabet that Evenor had never before seen. Hers was a mind that could not resist a puzzle. She looked for patterns among the enigmatic symbols. Evenor deciphered a few words and then a few more. From what she could tell, the book was folklore and spoke of a covenant of venerable women, shield maidens who guided the destiny of man. Evenor grimaced inwardly. Science had replaced all man’s need for magic and prophets. This mythology was a remanent of naive religion from an era long gone. Then her eyes fell upon a gilded page. The reflective surface was carefully incised with the precise measurements of a star chart. Rings of planetary orbits were embossed on the shining page of gold. Evenor wondered at this and made some quick calculations in her head. She found most of the measurements to be accurate. How could this ancient cult have such advanced knowledge of the stars? Evenor read on. A story was told of a secret sisterhood who held the rhythms of the
tides and the movements of the planets. Oracles were they, protectors of sacred mysteries, able to read the signs of the time and effect great change. Evenor blinked. Still, she had a strong curiosity for the arcane and esoteric, and the artwork was undeniably beautiful! Evenor panned the pages of the virtual folio until every detail was pressed upon her mind.
Lost in discovery, she remained in the stacks for hours and never grew tired. But when the lights flickered her concentration broke and the entire hologram dissolved. Evenor thought the power surge was just an anomaly but upon leaving the archives, she found the halls dark and empty. She clicked on her headlamp and took off. Ideas and innovations whirled in her head as she made her way to work. The colony’s laboratories were stacked several hundred floors high, all contained within the pyramid. For it was there that the Arayici searched for a solution; in pursuit of some knowledge that would change the outcome of home world.
Evenor headed to bio-engineering at the base of the pyramid. Her father, dazzled by the caliber of her work, had carved out a workspace for her tucked behind his laboratory.
Her recent success in creating synthetic tissue was only the beginning. She manipulated the structures of carbon and silica, merging them at an atomic level. She coaxed electrical pulses, in the finest of filaments through jellied masses and found she could animate her new life. Her father, impressed as he was, could not even begin to understand where this was going. Yes, Evenor was replicating brain function but this was only of trivial interest.
What she was chasing was the manifestation of consciousness — searching for the cybernetic framework of thought.
Chapter Two – Down
As the elevator dropped, so did the temperature. The girl’s hands became chilled and she rubbed her palms together for warmth. The Nautaleen suit acclimatized the rest of her body, acting like a protective skin. The temperature at these lower floors was well below the level of human comfort. For it was here, in this frigid environment, where the calismen were birthed from pools of liquid metal. Fueled by volcanic shafts, thermionic generators drew energy directly into the base of the pyramid, without affecting the planet’s delicate ecology. There was no waste, no pollution, and no one labored.
Suddenly, the elevator walls burst to life with swirling projections of news bulletins. A talking head delivered updates in a grating tone that cut the air. Against the onslaught of sound, the girl pushed buds into her ears to muffle the irritating news feed. Lids closed over pale grey eyes as she focused on the lyrics of the song. The media blitz continued with a rapid succession of overlapping stories but Evenor traveled into a deep inner state.
“The accelerator has created disruptions in the magnetic field. Core instabilities have commenced an evacuation procedure.” Evenor was familiar with the drill. Her mother held a high ranking position in the accelerator and she was assured to get first hand knowledge of even the most classified situations. Another broadcast broke in, “Security has been compromised. Sensors indicate seismic activity…” She barely heard it. The third screen showed colonists in evacuation pods but the screen pixelated, and froze. Evenor turned up the volume of her music. Her face showed no reaction. Broadcasts tend to exaggerate, she thought. As daughter of two senior scientists, she would hear of any problems directly from her parents. They often warned her of the disparity between the truth and what the media reported.
In the elevator Evenor made the best use of her time. She tapped her headband and the silver stylus again emerged. From the tip of the stylus, the images she recorded in the library were projected onto the virtual monocle lens. The symbols for complex mathematics and star charts from ancient folios were replayed before her in rapid succession. Evenor ignored the newsfeed and instead revisited these puzzling symbols she’d discovered in the library
There was a sudden stop and Evenor looked up. An intense beam of yellow light scanned her from top to toe, before granting her clearance. The seconds dragged by as Evenor was made to stand still. Her thoughts turned again to her parents. She had not seen either of them for two lunons. It was not like them to work so long without checking in. At sixteen, Evenor was old enough to care for herself. Besides, she was never truly alone. PD2, her calisman, was there to meet all her needs. PD2, short for Personal Device 2, was her nanny, tutor, councilor and best friend. His clanky metallic framework was a little out of date but she still relied on him.
The elevator made its final descent and Evenor bit her lip. She frowned after checking her wrist band to see there were still no messages. Her parents often worked late, but surely they would have found her if it was a true emergency. The elevator doors opened onto a darkened hallway. All was eerily quiet. Evenor’s heart beat a little faster as she began to wonder if there was any truth to the broadcasts.
Sailing past the laboratories she found nothing stirring. Accustomed to seeing activity, Evenor faltered at the rooms strangely devoid of scientists. In the past she had glimpsed amazing breakthroughs in particle beam technology that manipulated matter into new forms of energy. But now the workshops stood in stillness and the laboratories looked stripped bare.
The elevator doors snapped shut behind her. The force of the departing elevator racing upward, made her white hair stand on end as if magnetized. Evenor jumped into action as if shocked by a starting gun. She raced through the empty hallways with a nervous tension building behind her cool grey eyes. She glided through the glass tunnels offering fantastic views of the deep, until she finally reached the laboratory. Evenor’s countenance began to show a trace of concern. She felt certain she would find her father completely absorbed in his work, unaware the moon had cycled thirty-degrees since he’d last been home. Evenor enjoyed a partnership with her father in which she was regarded as a colleague, a relationship grounded in mutual respect for scientific discovery.
Two hulking figures of shining chrome formed the central pillar of the vast atrium. Linked arm in arm, one giant calismen reached upwards towards the arching ceiling, while the other pointed towards the laboratory entrance, as if to credit his creator. The entryway sparkled with silver and black granite, buffed to an impossible shine. Evenor sensed something was different today. There was a strange smell in the air, more antiseptic than normal. And the silence was not comforting.
She halted at the sight of the forced doors. The glass front theaters were smashed and all the calismen were gone. Broken glass and molten metal flooded the floor. Portions of robotic arms and legs were tossed about. She looked around the room seeing no sign of her father or any living thing.
Evenor gripped the doorframe as her eyes surveyed the ransacked laboratory. Broken glass and crushed components covered the floor. The room, once filled with bubbling aquaria and data banks now lay in wreckage. The sealed assembly line had been broken open and the calismen were missing. Spare pieces of framework and extra limbs swayed on their hangers. From the back of the room, a tapping sound caught her attention. Evenor forced her cold lips to move. She tried to call out and faintly formed one word. — Father? —
Her voice caught in her throat and a sick feeling rose up from her stomach. The tapping sound came again, pulling her attention to the back of the lab. Fear and anger, two emotions new to her, emerged as she moved towards the sound. Occupying center stage stood a huge onyx cube that loomed with heavy omnipotence. The massive computer was almost invisible against the dark walls. It was a solid-state mainframe, pure black and taller than any man — and someone was hidden behind it!
Evenor picked up a weighty piece of metal and brandished it as a weapon, carefully stepping around the broken glass. Pressing her back against the black cube, she edged to the corner keeping sharp watch over her shoulder. The manic tapping started up again. She took a deep breath and rounded the corner. A headless calismen greeted her.
“Oh, Evenor…you frightened me,” PD2 said. Evenor was startled but she relaxed at the sound of the familiar voice.
“I frightened you?!” she said, reacting to his headlessness. The calisman’s voice emanated from a speaker located in his torso. His head was only an aesthetic consideration. Evenor did not wait for an answer. She peppered him with questions.
“What happened here? Where’s Father? And what happened to you? Where are your feet?”
The calismen rolled across the floor on spherical ankle casters. Without the protrusion of feet, he inched closer to the hulking cube. He held out his blue chrome arms and busily tapped out codes with metallic fingertips.
“Time has stopped moving outward, Evenor,” PD2 said, while keeping at his task. But Evenor was not listening, she continued her questioning.
“What? What are you doing? Why are you entering EV-8 codes? And where’s your head?”
PD2 stopped what he was doing. He turned to face Evenor and answered the questions in the order asked. “The Yedek militia arrived at 06 lunons and appropriated equipment including every working calismen. Your parental units have been taken. I dismantled my head and feet so as to appear useless and hid in the closet.”
Evenor took in the entirety of his report as he rolled across the laboratory. “My parents…” her voice quivered, “…taken where?”
“Evenor, hurry! There’s something I must give you and we’re out of time.”