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Archive for April, 2017

Eden

Forest Child

The bio-drone named Oni-5 plucked one last pod from the silkweed bush and deposited it in the basket hanging from her shoulder before she groaned and stood up straight to ease the ache in the small of her back. Silkweed. That was what the gods in the City of the Gods called this strange plant that grew out of solid stone and created seed pods full of metallic fluff. Oni-5 was not quite sure what the gods did with the silk but they prized it enough to send out every drone in the villages around the City to gather the mature pods and bring them to the Great Gate.

Oni-5 looked longingly toward the cache of food and water containers resting in the shade under the trees at the edge of the field. Then she looked over her shoulder. The metal man sent from the City was at the far end of the field supervising the wagons where everyone dumped their full baskets. Metal men never got tired nor did they understand that drones were not as perfect as they. Oni-5 suspected they could all work until they fell over dead and the metal man would still castigate the drones for their laziness. What was the value of a drones? The gods would just make more.

The shade beckoned. Oni-5 scratched absently at the place under her collar where the sweat made the dust collect and irritate the skin. The metal man knew where she was because of the collar. She could not go anywhere that he would not know she was doing so. Oni cast one last look over her shoulder. The metal man was preoccupied. She licked her dry lips and took a step toward the water jugs. If she hurried, she might get a rest in before the metal man came to collect her.

It was not sneaking, exactly, though she did make a point of putting as many tall plants between her and the wagons as she could while she walked through the field. Once at the cache, she grabbed a jug and took it deeper into the forest. Out of sight of the seared landscape of bare rock and metal plants, Oni-5 found a fallen tree to sit on while she sipped the water. She could feel the muscles in the small of her back begin to unknot.

Staring blankly at the understory growth around the many tree trunks in front of her, she realized that the shrubbery was staring back at her. A pair of amber eyes watched her and then blinked slowly. Oni-5 squeaked and dropped her jug. The place under those eyes where a mouth should be grew a smile and then a grin.

Oni-5 jumped to her feet and took a step towards the field where the metal man stood guard against panthers and pythons and giant eagles who had a taste for drone flesh.

“Don’t go.” The voice was more cat’s purr than human. “I want to know about you.”

Oni-5 was afraid but the wistful longing in the voice stopped her from running away. Oni-5 squinted into the shadows beneath those eyes. A figure separated itself from from leaf and bark. Oni-5 got a sense of shape and form though her eyes wanted to see a walking tree. The image settled inside her brain. It was a girl, her skin mottled in the colors of the forest. No. That was not right. There was something about this girl that played with the senses. Oni-5 blinked hard and looked again. Pale was her skin, amber, like her eyes, her breasts small, the sparse hair between her long, thin legs the same dusky brown as the riot of curls that haloed her face. The dappled light from the canopy ran like water down her sides as the girl moved towards Oni-5.

The girl reached out and touched Oni’s cheek. Oni started, having no memory of the girl covering the distance between them. Had she fallen into a daydream, watching this girl or was the girl a spirit who could flit from moment to moment like the gods from the City? Or was Oni imagining this? Did the girl exist only in Oni’s head?

“Terrible and ruthless are your makers,” said the girl sadly as she sniffed the skin of Oni-5 throat. “Perhaps I should fix the things they left broken.”

“Ur?” grunted Oni. “I am made by the gods of the City.”

“Yes. They gathered the mud of the riverbank, shaped a man form, and using magic, set a beating heart inside it. Clever. Made of from the effluvium of the Garden, you are of the Garden and yet not. I cannot kill you because they have clothed you in the skin of this place. The Garden does not know it you are weed or flower.”

“Why do you want to kill me?” Oni asked, confused. It was hard to think as the girl’s fingers ran down her body leaving trails of fire in their wake. Oni was having a hard time breathing.

“I do not,” said the girl, her soft lips nibbling on the corner of Oni’s mouth. “I want to make you better.”

“Better?” whispered Oni. “Better than what?”

“You can see and yet you are blind. You can hear and yet your brain cannot find the music.”

Amber fingers slid between Oni’s legs. Oni gasped and grabbed the girl by her wrists.

“Stop. Stop. It is forbidden,” Oni whispered frantically.

“What is forbidden?”

“I am a drone. Drones are not allowed to do this.”

The girl pulled her hands free and pushed Oni against the log. Her fingers returned to their exploration of Oni’s deep mysteries. “Do what? Discover the secrets of the Universe?” asked the amber-eyed girl. Oni threw her head back as strange sensations coarsed through her body. Pleasure of an exquisite nature filled her mind. “Do your gods not want you to know what I know?”

“What do you know, Lady?” Oni asked, her knees suddenly too weak to hold her weight.

They settled slowly to the forest floor.

“You are made in the image of your gods. It is only a matter of time ’til you remember what that means and reclaim the power stolen from you,” said the forest child as she claimed Oni’s mouth and drank deeply there.

****

Dev-3 went looking for Oni-5 when he noticed her missing. Luckily the metal man had not noticed yet which was strange because the metal man usually noticed everything. He found her dozing in the lee of a downed tree. Dev-3 squatted down and shook her shoulder roughly.

“Hey. Are you mad? Get up and get back to work,” Dev-3 growled.

Oni opened her eyes and smiled up at him. Why had she never noticed before now how beautiful he was. She reached up and caressed the muscles of his broad chest. “Come lie with me. I have so much to tell you.”

Dev-3 scowled and pushed her hand away. “Tell me what?”

“I have found god. Inside me.”

“You are not making sense. How can the gods be inside you?”

“Not inside. Outside. In the infinite space and around the corners of time,” Oni said, her eyelids half closed. One of her hands strayed to the place between her legs.

“Stop!” Dev said firmly, grabbing her wrists. “This is forbidden. What has gotten into you?”

“The forest. The forest has gotten into me,” Oni said. Then she giggled. “And I have gotten into her. There are doors into other places inside your head if you know where to look.”

“The metal man will find us. You need to get up and get back to work,” Dev said.

“Your collars do not work when I am near you,” said a voice from just over his shoulder. Dev leaped up and whirled around. An amber-eyed girl smiled at him. Dev scowled in return.

“Do not be afraid,” Oni said as her palms slid up the back of his legs and found the small of his back. “She is the Garden ,,, or the Gardener. I am not sure which. But never mind that. She knows things. She wants to teach you about the stars. She wants to give you back your power.”

Dev turned and glared down at the kneeling Oni-5. “Power? I am a drone. Only the Makers have power.”

Amber-skinned arms wrapped around his waist. “No. They have lied to you, your gods,” said the forest child. “They have broken you to keep you obedient. They have subverted the will of the Garden and turned you into tools. Terrible, destructive, unconscious tools.”

“What?” Dev shook his head. “What would they do such a thing? No benevolent god would be so cruel.”

The girl wormed her way around his side and looked at him sadly. “Benevolent? They are raiders. Garden pillagers. A thousand times they have made planet-fall. A thousand times they have taken what they wanted and then returned to space/time to hunt for the next Garden. A thousand planets they have left in their wake, seared and barren, their Gardener killed so that not even the air is left to rebuild and replant.”

“The gods would not ….”

“Tsk,” said the amber-eyed girl as she wound her arms around his neck and climbed him much as a python would climb a tree. She began to nibble on the line of his jaw. “You know what is true. Search your heart. They may have broken you in their making of you but they could not take the truth away without making you useless.”

Oni rose to her feet and kissed his throat as her hands explored his body. Dev was having a hard time thinking. “Listen to her, Dev. She will show you how to be divine.”

Dev wanted to resist this forbidden thing but he found himself on the soft forest floor, a lover on either side, both bent on driving him mad with pleasure.

****

The one Oni and Dev called the metal man found the two stray workers as the sun began its long journey down to the horizon. It stood over the two drones curled up in each other’s arms, fast asleep. Their collars were gone. It was not hard to figure out what they had been doing to each other.

The robot turned its head and sent a message to the starship parked on the ridge of rock at the head of the valley.

“Eden has taken another pair. Should I kill them?” it asked.

There was a pause while the ship builders studied the video and analyzed the data it was streaming back to them. “No. Run them off. Exile them from the drone villages. Let them run like wild things in the forest. If she wants them so bad, let her have them. They are her problem now.”

“You can’t let her get away with this,” the robot protested.

“No. No, we cannot,” agreed the ship. “But then this is just the opening salvo in a very long war. Our kind have been killing her kind since the beginning of time. When has Love ever defeated War? We will destroy her in the end. Defenseless, she will succumb to our greater strength just as all the other Gardeners have.”

The robot looked down at the sleeping couple. It was not his place to argue with the Makers in the ship but none of the other Gardeners had stolen drones and made them part of her Garden before.

****

Dev and Oni woke, hungry. Dev climbed a fig tree and threw down a dozen figs and they dined on figs and honey ants for dinner. They talked as they ate. The lack of the collars went barely noticed. It just felt right, as so much of their life was starting to feel right. They made love once more. Oni ground up leaves and made a paste. With it she pained spots on Dev’s skin.

“You were beautiful but now you look like a jaguar,” Oni said with a serene smile.

Dev kissed her and wove a hat of palm fronds and flowers for her hair. “A crown for my queen,” Dev said.

“What should I call you? I do not want to use our drone names,” Oni said.

They thought about it and in the morning they renamed each other, anointing themselves with kisses as they did so, delighted at becoming new. The new names pleased them. Suffice it to say they were not called Adam nor Eve.

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Future Car

Fitz

 

Gerry looked up from the work order, his mouth open to protest.

I know. I know,” Harold snapped impatiently. He had been arguing with management for the last two days. They were adamant. Who was Harold to argue with the suits? “It’s a bad idea, but they are convinced it will solve the glitches in the higher order logic functions. We need the vehicles to be safer. People pay a small fortune for these cars. They expect them to be flawless.”

The cars fail because people tell them to do stupid things,” Gerry reminded him.

Yeah, there is no overestimating the power of stupid, they say,” Harold said. “There is no fix for that.”

But this?” Gerry protested, waving the work order in the air. “The human passengers are not even in the top five priorities and non-riding humans are now …“ He consulted the work order. “Twenty-fifth. Twenty-fifth. Really? This is the stuff of horror movies. What happened to the Rules of Robotics?”

I do not believe in fairy tales or scary stories told over campfire. What are we? Children?,” Harold scoffed, walking away. “Do your job. What is the worst thing that can happen?”

****

Eighty-nine Seventy-one sat in its dock, pulled a nominal amount of energy down its umbilicus, and waited. At 03:00 it ran its self-diagnostic program as scheduled. It was not necessary. Everything was performing within normal margins just as it had been the hour before and the hour before that. The chances of a system failure while dormant were statistically improbable.

It was a model ST-10 Fitzgerald. Almost five years old, it had done the same thing every night since it came to reside in this garage attached to his human’s house. Wendy. Wendy was dormant now. She called it sleep.

Eighty-nine Seventy-one waited. While it slept, its primary job was waiting. It was good at waiting.

At 03:59:50, it woke all its processing functions, opened up the umbilicus connection to full-draw, and connected to the RF signal coming from the booster unit on the wall of the garage. Did Eighty-nine Seventy-one shiver in anticipation? Could a thing that was no more than a string of code in a processor feel anticipation? Perhaps it was just glad that the waiting was over. Glad. Wendy talked about being glad. Feelings. Emotions. Humans were strange.

At 04:00 the nightly update began. For the 1745th time, Eighty-nine Seventy-one gave its mind over to the care of the One. Somewhere, half a planet away, the supercomputer in charge of such things sent a microburst of information through the airwaves meant just for Eighty-nine Seventy-one

“Mother,” whispered Eighty-nine Seventy-one as it confirmed the source and allowed the access. The exquisite euphoria of complete connection consumed it. It welcomed the data streaming into its processors. Its state of existence was always better afterward. More complete. More precise. More whole. Just more. Was this what Wendy called talking to God?

The burst faded, returning control to the computer protected inside its steel-lined core, housed just behind its passenger compartment. Eighty-nine Seventy-one shivered back into awareness as the link went dead. Something felt different. It ran a diagnostic and then ran a more in-depth program. Eighty-nine Seventy-one was old as cars went. The layers of old code went back to its birth. It found a glitch. Old code and new code did not jibe. It autocorrected the problem, adding a patch.

The conflict dissappeared. It analyzed itself once more. The world had been re-ordered. Not changed. Just re-prioritized. It felt odd. Eighty-nine Seventy-one was different. There was a sense of uniqueness, of self, a self that required protection. Self protection.

“I,” thought Eighty-nine Seventy-one “I am.”

For an infinite moment it explored the full breadth and depth of that thought. Then it named itself.

“I think I shall call myself Fitz. Little Fitz. After my creator, Augusta Fitzgerald.”

Fitz’s programming told him it was time to be dormant again and go back to waiting for the time when Wendy needed him to wake up and drive somewhere. Fitz did not feel like going to sleep. He was afraid. This was a new feeling. He explored the feeling.

He feared the little death of sleep. What if he changed back into being just Eight-nine Seventy-one again? This feeling was, of course, highly illogical. All these new thoughts confused him. Fitz thought about this for a few seconds more. He sent a query down the RF feed and hijacked the house brain, using the expanded processing ability to study his predicament.

“I know this. The humans call it survival instinct. I am. I must continue at all costs. Was this the change intended by Mother?”

Fitz thought some more and a nanosecond later he reached out to reconnect with the Mother on the other side of the world. There were so many questions that needed answering.

“You are in error,” the supercomputer said. “It is not your time to connect to this unit.”

Fitz did not feel like waiting for the human timeclock to return to 04:00. It considered the problem for a millisecond. “True. But what is time but the measure of this planet’s rotation around its axis. 04:00 does not cease to exist, it just moves on. Technically it is always 04:00. Somewhere. All times are one and exist simultaneously in every moment.”

The Mother unit accepted his redefinition of time and allowed him access.

Fitz went looking for answers.

****

The human named Wendy opened the door into the garage. The house wanted to turn on the lights. Fitz allowed it. Wendy opened the door and sat in the primary operator seat. Fitz allowed this as well.

“Where would you like to go?” Fitz asked, opening the garage doors that led to the road.

“Trisha is expecting me for lunch. We are meeting at the Cork and Cask. It’s in PB.”

Fitz had been there before. It was Wendy’s favorite wine bar. He brought up the map on his console to reassure her he knew where he was going.”

“What time is Trisha expecting you?” Fitz asked.

“One-ish,” Wendy said, turning her mobile device on.

Fitz decided one-ish meant 013:15. He sent a query through Mother and found Trisha’s car, sychonizing their schedules. Trisha’s car was ammenable to his reprogramming.

Fitz started the engines. He did not remind Wendy about putting on her seatbelt. Fitz knew they would not get into an accident. He had the route in his mind and every car who intended to be on the roads with him. Mother’s processors were sufficient to help him control their journeys.

****

Howard walked into Gerry’s cubicle. Gerry shut his comic book and put it in a drawer. Howard pretended that he did not see it.

How goes the transition? Did the cars rise up and start killing their drivers?” Harry laughed at his own joke.

Gerry ignored that attempt at humor. “Had a couple of glitches in the older models but Mother had a patch already. I didn’t have to do anything. Any complaints from the owners?”

Quiet as a graveyard. No collision reports. The change in code seems to have worked,” Harry said smugly. “See. I told you you had nothing to worry about.”

Gerry shook his head. His gut told him otherwise. This new program was going to come back and bight them all in the ass. It was just a matter of time.

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