“I am so glad to see you, Evenor. I was terribly concerned.” PD2’s display of emotions was only an algorithm, an artful program written by her father, but it was convincing.
“But why didn’t you beep me? Tell me where my parents are!”
“The Yedek militia is tracking all communications searching for you. I thought it was best that you remained at large. It was beneficial that you switched off your locator beacon.”
Evenor’s blank face did not betray any frustration but she was certain he was not telling her all. She spotted PD2’s head across the floor.
“Oh!” she called out and instinctively ran to pick it up.
“Evenor, I do appreciate the sentiment but that is not important right now,” he said trying to discourage her from reconnecting his head. “Evenor, that is really not important,” he said again. “Evenor, I have something to explain to you,” he said as she snapped wires back into sockets. It upset Evenor to see her friend so compromised, but it did not bother PD2 in the least. “Evenor, I have information — an important message for you,” he said, his head still not centered.
“From my father…where is he?” she asked again with less patience. “Evenor, we have much to do and very little time.”
“Tell me where they are!” she argued.
“Your parents are — they are gone,” PD2 said.
“What do you mean ‘gone’? They left without me?” Evenor thought of the broadcasts. It was no exaggeration. Was it true after all?
“I am afraid the Yedek militia has usurped power.” PD continued. “Your mother tried to warn you before she was… removed from the quantum lab.”
“Removed to where…?” Evenor was already devising a rescue plan.
“No, Evenor,” PD2 added, “She is no longer with us.” Evenor felt her legs go numb. She started to sink to the ground but her caliman held her up. “Evenor, I am sorry to deliver to you such upsetting news in this manner, but we don’t have much time.”
She did not know which was worse — her parents in danger or abandoning her? And they couldn’t have contacted her — for she had turned off her locator! Evenor raged against the terrible feeling. She should not have stayed in the library all night. It was all her own fault. as her mind tried to sort the turmoil of her otherwise peaceful life.
“Evenor. Listen to me. Your father left a message.”
Evenor turned. Her face was cast in the blue light as the vizi screen at the center of the robot’s torso. A recording, at first slow and monotone began to play.
“Star date 027. 51. 03 — Evenor.” Her father’s voice seemed rushed. His face formed in blocks as the pixels aligned to make an image on the screen.
“Daughter,” he said, leveling his voice, although Evenor could hear the chaos erupting all around him. “This is a terrible day in our history, and I am sorry that I cannot be with you. I have a very important task to ask of you. You must follow this request with no questions, as your survival depends upon it. Please do not try to find your mother or me. Our fates are sealed. It is imperative that you survive. I do not have much time left to explain. Please find a way to forgive us.”
The screen lost resolution.
“Oh no!” Evenor touched the flickering panel and the image of her father’s face reformed.
“You must understand, the Yedek will confiscate our research, mine as well as yours. I destroyed all the prototypes I could find. This technology is too dangerous for them to have! I did all I could but I know you must have kept samples. Evenor, they will be looking for you because of what you know. You must not let your research fall into their hands.”
The next part of the message was garbled. The sound cut out then came back.
“You must… the recording was terribly muffled. Evenor could not make out his words. It
was unclear. Did he say, ‘retrieve or destroy’ the remaining samples?
“Please, Evenor, do this now.”
The recording ended abruptly. Evenor looked blankly around the room. Her aquarium was smashed to pieces. Shards of glass, sea plants, and sand were strewn about the floor. She stepped in a puddle that held the body of her test subject. The tender creature was reduced to a gelatinous mass that had been trodden underfoot. She reached down and turned the arthropod over, retrieving a blue opalescent egg from its nesting center. This sample had been missed by the looters. Evenor eyes widened with admiration as she looked the opalescent mass that seemed to glimmered back with internal light.
The living network of dense ganglia formed over the soft mass that hardened in her hand, creating its own protective shell. This new life form; a hybridized organa-silicate being that Evenor created — this living thing could generate voltaic current and store huge quantities of information — and could GROW!— It was a self sustaining, living computer!
PD2 rolled back across the room to the massive cube where he tapped in the final codes of the evacuation sequence.
“Evenor! I am afraid the situation has escalated. Yedek soldiers have breached the perimeter. Come with me.” PD2 said, ushering her to an inner compartment which he then sealed. This was the laboratory’s inner sanctum. He clicked on a light over a work table where hot soldering drills and heat presses still smoldered. A sudden burst of gold illuminated the dark.
Laid out, with wings spread wide, was a golden robotic falcon.
“Evenor, you are familiar with surveillance drones. Well, this falcon model 741 is of a
similar design.” PD2 pointed to the shining bird on the table. Evenor was slow to follow. Her eyes passed around the room as if still searching for her father. “Evenor, make no mistake. This drone is not standard issue. Your father and I, together we developed a retractable frame.”
“You did what?” Evenor was puzzled. “PD…” she started but he interrupted.
“PD…ah, PD3, I call him. He has been made especially for you. He is not just a security drone, Evenor, as you can see, this model has been built of auricalcum!” he said excitedly displaying his masterpiece. “This rare and precious metal is as strong as steel but has incredible flexibility.” Evenor starred. She had only seen the smallest quantities of this golden metal due to its rarity. The falcon drone was covered in thousands of tiny metallic feathers made of the precious element. “Auricalcum, as you know, has a zero oxidation state and tensile strength beyond compare. PD3 has been programmed to receive my entire data bank!” At the sound of his name the robotic bird sat up at attention and looked around. “Your father has already downloaded the program and it is all in here.” PD2 tried to hold Evenor’s attention, showing her a tiny computer chip resting on his finger tip. “We adapted the mechanical falcon body specifically for this mission.”
“Mission?” Evenor was confused. She did not like being confused. Evenor was familiar with these drones. They were deployable in any atmosphere and could soar through air, water, or space. Still, she was not impressed.
“A security drone? How is this important?” Her voice grew in volume. “Where’s father?” she yelled and fear surfaced.
PD2 gathered the remaining data chips and quickly inserted them into a wing-side port of the bird’s body. He lifted a wing showing how the bird’s metal framework could expand and contract. He proudly demonstrated the robot’s ability to change form, taking on a variety of sizes condensing down to the size of a small canary then expanding back into a full grown hawk.
“And so light weight!” he beamed. “Auricalcim as you know, when stretched to 5 qualms actually ‘gains’ tensile strength!” PD2 said with pride. He grinned but the effect was positively ghoulish with his misaligned head. PD2, went on. He was completely enamored with his invention.
“The system allows for an external hologram to change the color and texture — he can camouflage in an array of environments.”
“PD,” Evenor began, but the calisman cut her off.
“PD3…call him PD3,” he said, compressing the bird in his palm. “See how he can conveniently be stored in this inert state!”
He closed his mechanical fingers and in one smooth action closed the drone into a compact, golden sphere. The body collapsed and the bird could be secreted away into a pocket. He held up his masterful creation for Evenor to admire, but her focus was elsewhere. In the background the digital read out of the countdown continued.
“Now Evenor, these three notes, and these three alone, will open the bird.” They were the first three notes to her father’s favorite concerto. PD2 whistled three notes and the bird burst back into three dimensional form.
“His operating system has been condensed not just to hold all my data, but to hold the complete library.” He motioned toward the super computer.
“That’s impossible,” Evenor said with a raised eyebrow.
“No longer impossible,” PD responded, as he continued marveling at his creation. “It was your research, Evenor, with carbon silicon fusion led the way. Your father and I built upon your work, taking it to the next logical level.” PD2 continued.
“What are you saying?” Evenor asked, glancing at the digital countdown in the background.
“I ran diagnostics, evaluated the current software, dumped the core memory into the mainframe and began a detailed analysis of its construction. The result was…”
“… A positronic brain!” Evenor finished his sentence. “This bird has a positronic brain?”
“Yes, using the unresolved electron resistance across the neuro filaments, I made filament links into the cortex. I know that was your concept, Evenor.” he applauded her. “It was all very confidential. I am sorry you were not told.”
Suddenly awash with emotion, Evenor felt her world crumbling. Her father had kept secrets from her — and built upon her research, and now she was expected to destroy her work. Evenor again panned the room.
“Evenor, you’re not paying attention? I shan’t be able to repeat any of this.” “Yes,” she answered but her eyes searched through the wreck of the lab.
“You try it now,” PD2 said. He closed the bird up into a golden orb and held it in his palm. Evenor whistled the three notes and the bird sprang back into his full form. Evenor stared blankly at the bird who cocked his head in acknowledgement of his new master.
Chapter 4 – Message in a Robot
“I have designed a storage receptacle to protect your research,” a familiar voice said. It was not her trusted calismen who spoke but the falcon drone. The bird spoke with the same voice of PD2. He waved his golden wings hovering at her side, to reveal a hatch in his rear panel.
Evenor opened her palm. This was the last existing bit of her precious work — years and years of research that had led to this one success. It was no bigger than a hen’s egg.
“Place it here,” the falcon drone said.
Just then the footfall of Yedek boots drummed in the distance. Soldiers filled the corridor outside the entry. Evenor quickly placed the mass inside the bird and the door snapped shut.
“Now — the rest of the message from your father.” PD2, said rolling across the floor.
“I don’t want the message. I want to know where they’ve taken him!” Evenor insisted, still hoping to find him.
“Oh, Evenor, you do need to hear this,” the calisman answered flatly.
The vizi screen on PD2 chest lit up and Evenor’s father appeared. His strong jaw trembled and there was tension in his voice.
“I am so sorry, dear child. This was never supposed to happen.” His voice softened to a whisper. “It is with great pain that I make this message. You must understand how terrible it is that we cannot be there for you. You must…” he paused as his eyes welled. “You must make this part of the journey on your own.” Her father turned his head towards the commotion in the lab. “Please, do this Evenor — do this for your mother and me. Follow PD’s instructions. You must evacuate the compound.”
Evenor looked stunned. She raised her hand as if she could block out the words. Her father had prepared her for such an emergency but this moment was never supposed to actually happen. Evenor flinched and her ear twitched. She reached towards the vizi screen, as if she could hold onto her father. At that instant, an explosion of lasers ricocheted through the adjoining hallway and the screen went dark.
“Evenor, we have to move!” She struggled to comprehend her present situation. It was unbelievable. Her parents were gone, just like that. “Evenor!” PD2 said, his tone growing sharper. She stalled. “Now, Evenor!” PD2 pressed a button and a small panel opened in the wall. “ You two wait here. I will lead the soldiers away then you and the drone make your escape down the corridor. Active fleeing is your only choice,” PD2 said.
“What about you?” she pleaded. “You’re coming too?!”
“No. I am sorry, Evenor. I cannot go with you,” PD2 said with real remorse. This was too
much even for Evenor’s brave heart, but she bore the heavy disappointment. PD2 motioned back to the bird. “This drone has my data, all our memories, everything.” His crooked jaw moved to form a smile.
“Evenor, I will stay with you for the duration,” the bird said, trying to offer comfort. The drone flapped its wings and alighted upon PD2’s shoulder. The bird stared at Evenor and winked his
eyes. “His operating system is an exact replica of mine! It will be like I am coming along with you! Just in a new body,” PD2 said emphatically. As the seconds ticked by, a dull awareness washed over Evenor. She could not move. Her eyes stung as the words rang in her ears.
“Evenor, this is not a drill!” PD2 reminded her, his voice sharpened with authority.
Evenor stared out at the sea. Her reflection appeared ghostly in the glass. Then, with some effort, she shifted her mental state. She gave her companion one last long look before she turned to go. Taser fire shot across the room. PD2 leapt into the air, shielding Evenor from the stunning blow. PD2’s electronics short circuited and his internal lights flicked. There was a crackle and a snap as plumes of smoke curled up from his chest. But he got up, his head dangled at a sickening angle, hanging on by just one wire.
“Go Evenor, go!” he yelled as he charged into the fray, shielding her from a clash of xenon emitters. PD2 picked up a piece of sharp metal and held it high overhead, ran at the soldiers. Weapons fired and the falcon dove across the room. He spread his wings to cover Evenor.
On the other side of the laboratory the massive cube, the central brain of the compound, slid across the floor. A square egress in the pyramid’s sloped wall opened and water rushed in, flooding the laboratory. Against the oncoming flood, the cube turned end over end, gaining speed as it traveled through the ocean until it finally burst free from the water — then from the atmosphere— launching into outer space.
Chapter 5 – Harbor
Along the water’s edge Cord walked bare foot. In the stark early light his bland garments blended with the colors of the sand. He wasn’t spying, exactly. He only slipped out of the morning prayer service to keep an eye on Yedek activity. Cold water lapped at his feet. The outgoing tide had revealed a mass of seaweed tangled with circuitry. Cord’s eyes glinted with
delight. Among the flotsam and jetsam he saw a silver box. With hands, tanned and calloused from years of outdoor work, he reached to unearth the treasure.
Cord smiled as he brushed away the sand and tugged at the corroded wires. He could hack it with some rudimentary fittings and with a little luck, and get the radio working again. The Yedek often dumped trash into the sea. Whatever washed up was a prize for the taking. Cord leaned in close examining the radio. At that very moment there was a great tearing sound, as if the sky itself was being ripped in two. Cord looked up just in time to see a black cube, massive it was, rise up from the waves. The cube hurdled end over end then shot up into the heavens. Cord blinked. It was gone. He shook his head and kept walking.
Far from Evenor’s underwater, Cord labored under a hot sun, fishing and farming. His Kabile was several hundred in number, happy on the small island continent tat gave them sustenance. Their simple but contented lives were guided by ancient rituals and music. But in the pre-dawn hours when few creatures stirred, the Kabile rose to utter prayers by candlelight. They worked the earth by day and read signs in the sky by night.
The Kabile had a vague awareness of other beings living under the water. The underworld fell into an almost mythological status. Pragmatic farmers were too busy to give it much thought but Cord was among those few who stayed out late at night, gazing at the light upon the water. He was curious and sensed that all the light was radiating up from under the sea.