|The Woman of the Universe
Author: Timothy K Lee PM
A female life form must make a difficult choice about the ruling government at the centre of the universe, an unknown traitor awaits within the robotic city - Centrus.Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 8,214 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Published: 06-27-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3036650
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Woman of the Universe
Making a decision
Stood at the Edge of the World, Uttecia looked out at the red water as it cascaded down into oblivion, disappearing to... she knew not where. The rocks she stood upon shone brightly with the green of the sky, not with the crimson colour of the water. The clashing colours caused her to feel dizzy for a moment, she caught her breath and stepped onto the beach at the edge to the bottomless void.
She glanced back at the river as she headed down the beach, away from the water she'd seen falling endlessly over the cliff into the depths of the universe, and considered just how badly things must be for the entire river to have run red with blood. Ahead of her sat her home, a small place made of simple materials in an open plain near to the Ocean of Stars. The ocean now also ran red with blood and did not sparkle with the expected glints of light that usually shone out of the forever naturally black water.
Both the river and the ocean lead to this place, the place known as the Edge of the World. Usually the river shone slightly with the green of the sky, today it was filled with the blood of millions of dead. Her time had come to act, others from far away had called for her help, her sign had appeared in the sky – a new constellation in the shape of a letter U and brighter than all the stars around it - but she knew there were bigger problems closer to home.
Uttecia stopped and sat outside her home on a small metal bench facing the ocean. She looked into the green sky, the stars had just begun to appear as the twelve suns set in the distance. She thought about the man she loved, Exdeus. She longed to be with him at this time of suffering, she would have given everything and anything to see him again... but he was at least fifteen million light years distance away by now, she might never see him again.
She regretted now saying it was okay for him to leave, she'd never expected to have such strong emotions after he'd gone to help fight the War of Seven. Now it was her turn to fight a war, her sign had appeared in the sky and her long thousand year journey would begin as soon as she was packed and ready to go.
Her son Abdocus appeared from behind the house, her daughter Sophoenia lagging a little behind him. They stopped near the bench, both out of breath from their run back from Centrus.
Abdocus spoke first in his deep manly voice, once he'd caught his breath enough to speak coherently. 'Mother, they've all been killed, every last one!'
Sophoenia shook her head, her soft voice came with controlled anger. 'This is outrageous mother, we can't sit by and let it happen!'
Uttecia gave the barest of shrugs so not to cause offence, her usually strong tone lacked the force it usually carried. 'It may be beyond my boundaries to stop them children, the Unity have made their decision.' She hesitated. 'And... my time has come.'
Uttecia pointed at the constellation without looking at it, her eyes towards the ground, she managed not to cry.
Abdocus fell to his knees as Sophoenia sat down next to her mother. 'How can they ask for help now? This isn't fair! We need you, without you the Unity will destroy all that we've made here. The universe itself may be in danger.'
Uttecia shook her head. 'What can I do? My help is needed in the Milky Way, time does not stand still for me.'
Abdocus stood abruptly. 'Ridiculous! Time certainly does stand still, I will not listen to this nonsense again mother. Time is but a fallacy, created by the people you go to save no less, why do they even matter?'
Uttecia looked her son in the eyes without showing any emotion. 'Would you say the people who have died agree with that? They lived once. Or what about the ones that still live? Do they agree?'
Abdocus appeared lost for words as he tried to contemplate her meaning.
Sophoenia broke the silence. 'This doesn't change anything, we do need you here. The Unity insist on slaughtering organics, time or no time, they are doing this and we must not let it be.'
Uttecia smiled at the first half of her daughter's comment then quickly frowned. 'I agree, but what of the people of the Milky Way, must they be sacrificed for those that the Unity has decided are unworthy? We have to help the ones we can, not try to change that which we cannot.'
Abdocus swore under his breath. 'This is wrong, this whole universe is wrong.'
Uttecia leant forwards and took his hand. 'So we must do the only good that we can. We cannot help the organics here, but I can help the ones out there. Do not forget my son, the ones we talk of are the ones we have to thank for our existence. I have... had friends there once, they were good people, it never mattered that they were organic and that we were not, they trusted me then and they need me now. We are much more than they ever could be, but that does not mean they are worth less than we are.'
Abdocus shook his head. 'I did not mean to say their lives are meaningless, you know I don't think or believe that... but sometimes there are wars that are more important.'
Sophoenia's anger seemed to build. 'What you suggest is that the organics here are worth more than the ones that live there, could it be you care so much for these ones that you are willing to sacrifice others for your own happiness?'
Uttecia stood, her voice taking on its usual edge. 'That is enough, from both of you! This discussion does only one thing, it breaks us apart. We cannot change certain aspects of our predicament so we have to deal with what we can change.'
Abdocus hesitated with his sentence, but built up enough courage to say his mind anyway. 'But... you can change everything! You do have the power to stop the Unity, it would be no effort for you at all!'
Sophoenia looked at her brother with anger so vile that Uttecia expected her to jump up and attack him. Uttecia answered fast to stop her doing just that. 'You would wish the Unity dead over organics?'
'Of course not, but as this conversation proves, one life is not more important than another, letting them kill these organics is wrong, even if you must help those organics in the Milky Way you could help here first, it would take you but moments... and... it is your duty!'
Abdocus seemed to cringe at his final statement, as if he'd crossed a boundary he shouldn't have, by telling his mother it was her duty he knew he was pushing what he could get away with saying.
Uttecia smiled at her son with pride she'd not been certain she'd felt before. 'You have come of age Abdocus. You finally see the universe as it is. One life is not more important than another, but the organics here are gone now, all I can do is kill the Unity, does each and every one of them deserve death? Who decides who lives and dies?'
Abdocus nodded. 'You do. We know you've made harder decisions in the past, father told us those stories millions of years ago.'
Sophoenia laughed. 'Millions of years ago? Did you not just say that time is a fallacy?'
Abdocus frowned with annoyance. 'I meant years in the sense of orbits, not passage of time, sister, please don't be so childish!'
Uttecia walked a little closer to the Ocean of Stars and looked into the sky. The U constellation shone brightly as night came closer, it was her calling card but not one that meant she must only help those who asked for help, she would help those that needed it on the way too and she had already reached her first destination - it was right here in Centrus, the home of the Unity.
'I have made a decision children, I will stop the Unity, but there are things to be discussed.' She looked hard at Abdocus. 'Not argued, but discussed, we will make choices that are for the best, not what our emotions tell us are best.'
They headed inside and as Uttecia closed the door she took one last look at the sky. Her calling was in full view, she wondered if her husband could see it from where he was now... she could only hope.
Calm before the storm
Sounds of thunder, flashes of lightning, cries of anguish, fear, hate, defiance. Uttecia's dreams were not calm that night, she awoke before the suns had risen to full daylight and headed out to the beach. The Ocean of Stars had bled most of the blood of the previous months, as if her good actions on this day were already cleansing the world before she'd even started.
Today was the day she would change the universe. She had seen this day coming ever since her husband Exdeus had left, she had hoped he would be back before this day came, but wishing didn't make things happen. She would confront the Unity alone and fight the battles she had to fight, she didn't need anyone's help.
Uttecia's children stepped out of the house - children they weren't, each had tales spanning millions of years and experiences she'd never dreamt of herself. Yet they still seemed young to her silver eyes.
Abdocus smiled and Sophoenia followed his lead. 'Good morning mother, today's the day to change tomorrow.'
Uttecia smiled back with genuine happiness in her words. 'I could not do it without you.'
Sophoenia shook her head. 'You know you'd do it with or without us and, in fact, you are still doing it without us, we can't fight the Unity.'
'Of course not, which is why you must be away from here when the fighting begins, they will use you against me.'
Abdocus frowned. 'What do you mean? You suggest they will target us specifically.'
Uttecia turned towards him. 'Listen very carefully Abdocus, once they realise my plans they wont hesitate to use any power they can against me and they will know they have no power against me. All they can use against me is you.'
Abdocus' frown deepened. 'Why would they think you care what happens to us? They can't possibly know you have emotions? An emotionless being would not care what happened to its offspring.'
Uttecia shook her head, perhaps she was wrong, maybe her children were still children after all. 'I have no doubt in my mind Abdocus that they have watched me for millions upon millions of years. If they have not figured out I have emotions by now they would not be as powerful as they are, they would be stupid or ignorant. The one thing the Unity is not is stupid.'
Uttecia looked up towards the constellation, it was still viewable this early in the morning. Once she dealt with the Unity things would change across the universe, including things in the Milky Way. She'd might still need to make the journey to fight a war for the organics, but the journey would be a different one to the one she might have expected.
The Unity had to know she might do something after they murdered the whole planet's organic population, it seemed like a clumsy move on their part... or perhaps a deliberate one, she would be weary. Whilst Uttecia certainly was powerful, she wasn't immortal, her husband had been closer to that reality, but for now Uttecia was vulnerable. The chances the Unity had a power strong enough to stop her had to be somewhere in the odds of 700 billion to 1, but as she had learnt having been alive for millions upon millions of years - the odds did come back to haunt you eventually.
What exactly she was going to do to the Unity she wasn't sure, killing someone because they killed was one punishment, but this wasn't a war, not between her and them, this was a confrontation, was killing them any better than what they'd done to the organics? Was everyone in the Unity equally guilty of the crime of mass murder? Not likely. Ultimately, Uttecia knew her decision would come based on what the Unity had to say and all the planning in the universe couldn't change any decisions she made now. She would confront them and let them make the first official move.
Their combined minds would make her decision potentially more difficult, she had no idea what would happen once she confronted the Unity's core mind at the heart of Centrus. She wasn't entirely sure how the Unity was connected, who and what minds she might destroy by destroying the core mind. She would need to think things through before she made any rash choices.
Words into action
Uttecia walked the short journey to Centrus with her eyes wide, she'd spotted the sentry guards up high long before they'd noticed her approach to the city. The silver walls and buildings reflected everything in view, making the area seem larger than it really was. The guards had watched her intently at first, thousands of them in amongst the buildings, it had been a long time since they'd seen the female warrior in their home. She walked casually, making her entry seem unimportant and the guards soon lost interest.
She continued through the sparkling city of silver, the buildings slowly growing taller as she walked the slim and mostly empty streets. No vehicles existed within the city and Uttecia's only obstacles had been other machines, machines of the Unity. They looked similar in form to Uttecia; the height of an average organic and mostly silver in colour, yet they had looked nearly identical to one another and showed virtually no distinguishing features from one humanoid robot to the next. Uttecia knew the reason had been because the Unity had never needed to visually identify one machine from another, there were many other unseen programs and various other things that made recognising machines apart an easy and instant task.
Uttecia was different, she was one of the earlier machines created by the people of the milky way millions of years earlier, classed as outdated and old fashioned. She agreed with the old fashioned statement, she had been created in the old style by organics, but outdated was a matter of perspective. Unlike the machines of the Unity, Uttecia had her own free mind and free will. The Unity were ultimately a giant machine split into separate bodies – from a certain perspective. At least, that's what Uttecia had come to believe, she didn't truly know for certain.
Whilst the Unity did have individuals in a sense, they were answerable to a core brain at the centre of the city of Centrus. A core brain that had an unknown origin and had been, for the most part, civil towards lifeforms throughout the universe. Over the last few million years, things had slowly changed for the worse, the cause of the degrading relationship between organics and machines was long forgotten however.
Here, at the centre of universe, organics had not been injured by the machines, they had lived in peace. Something had happened over the last few months to change things and the extermination of the organic cities had begun. Uttecia had known battles had been occurring, but it had not been her place to get involved with the running of the Unity. Much as most of the universe had, she'd come to accept the Unity's rule and decisions, generally because they had been the most enlightened and understanding of all races to exist.
Only when Uttecia had seen the Ocean of Stars turn red had she wondered what had happened and sent her children to confirm the rumours. She had stood in shock as she had watched the river fill with blood, she knew before her children returned what the Unity had done and at first she'd refused to accept it. Her decision to confront the Unity had already been made in her mind, she simply hadn't been able to convince herself of actions she knew she had to undertake. Destroying the Unity might cause uncountable amounts of problems, they existed across the universe from a certain perspective and destroying the core brain that connected them all might be akin to murdering an entire race. Her decisions in the next hour would change everything the universe had known for millions of years.
Nearing the centre of the near silent city, she came to the entrance of the Unity's core brain. The building itself was mostly unremarkable and stood only a couple of floors high, it shone in silver just like the rest of the robotic city and had no windows, portals or holes on its surface. Uttecia approached the metallic doors but they refused to open, looking about her she noticed nobody paying her much attention and made the decision to remove the doors completely.
Standing back a few yards she charged, leading with her left elbow, her metal frame smashed into the doors and bent them with ease. They tore apart like paper, bending inwards and leaving a humanoid shaped indentation. The inside of the building was made of a white material that shone brightly, the large open floor had no furniture of any kind and felt empty. Numerous white robots, of a type she'd never seen before, turned to face her at the sound of the crashing thunder of metal against metal. They approached her slowly at first, then ran at her in full force, their intention clear.
She dove under the first machine to reach her and pushed it hard against the wall as she came to her feet, the machine's head burst open with a spark of blue tendrils as it collapsed in a puddle on the floor. The second machine jumped at her as her back was turned but she deftly stepped to her right and brought her knee up into its torso, her attack cut straight through the armour plate and the machine split in half, the head and shoulders fell one way and the legs collapsed under themselves. She walked towards her incoming attackers, a good ten or more still approached. Her following attacks were brutal and controlled, none of her enemies could truly stand against her.
She punched through the chest of one of the remaining robots and ripped its head off with her left hand, throwing it to the floor, the last couple of machines stopped their approach and simply watched her. She assumed the core brain had finally understood that its robots could not stand against her, she had assumed wrong. Between the circular pillars holding up the ceiling, she saw something moving quickly, the floor began to vibrate as the machine darted towards her.
It was large, easily reaching the eight foot ceiling and running on big blocky legs that thudded into the ground with a deep echo. Uttecia smiled, it didn't matter how large or powerful the machines she faced were, only something akin to a black hole could really cause her much in the way of damage, most other things in the universe she was able to withstand, avoid, fight or destroy. That didn't alter the fact the large white machine had to be dealt with.
It came directly at her as fast as its legs could move, easily charging at her at supersonic speeds. Uttecia crouched and looked up into the large square head, its eyes were a single band that shone in the ultraviolet range and would have appeared white to organic eyes, to her it seemed to shine a blueish colour and for a moment seemed to blind her. She shook her head trying to focus but found it hard to do so. In a moment's flash of realisation, she protected her brain functions and closed off her mind to all incoming transmissions, only allowing visual feeds to reach her brain. The core brain had sent out some kind of digital attack at Uttecia and she had barely managed to prevent it, the large machine would have crushed her if she'd been unable to physically protect herself, but instead she now prepared for its impact.
The machine looked aggressive, but without any face, other than the band that appeared where eyes should have been, there was nothing to show any emotion from the robot. Yet still its approach felt emotional, like it was angry, Uttecia could not fathom why and pushed that thought aside. She knelt down, her left knee forward and her palms pressed to the floor. As the machine came within a few inches she pushed her body forwards with her fists coming up above her head, the machines chest smashed into her and she dug her metal feet into the floor, barely moving two inches backwards as the powerhouse of a machine collided with her.
Its body split in two, pieces of bolts and machinery shot in all directions. She stood tall as the large metal frame smashed into the wall behind her, leaving large dents in the building's structure. She smiled at the remaining couple of machines who then simply stood back and watched as she walked towards the centre of the building. Doors to a lift opened before her and she stepped inside cautiously, the machines behind her watched until the doors closed and the lift took her slowly up to the second floor.
The doors opened quietly and revealed another mostly empty room, white as the floor below with the same rounded pillars. Machines stood watching her, all white like the ones she had fought. In the centre sat the core brain of the Unity, she had not expected it to look so... unique.
Between the floor and the ceiling the core stood, it was a mass of black energy that bled tendrils of lightning like electricity. It did not appear to be a physical object and instead seemed like a machine without the parts. The room crackled with thunderous power, the core was seemingly alive in a way she hadn't expected.
As she neared the vaguely spherical core a voice entered her mind. 'You. Will. Stop.'
Uttecia stopped. 'Who are you?' She requested, using the same circuits that the voice had used to reach into her brain – a wireless network of some description, a sense she called her '152nd'.
A loud crack erupted from the core, followed by the same deep intimidating voice. 'The Unity They are. Why have you come here?'
Uttecia frowned. 'What do you mean, who is 'they', are you 'they'? Whoever you are, you are not so ignorant that you do not know why I have come.'
A moment's pause. 'They are the Unity, They are the core mind. They wishes for you to say it, to tell Us that you are here to stop They, that you are here to remove that which has existed for billions of years. What gives you the right to remove They?'
Her frown did not fade. 'How dare you suggest it is I who has no right, you have murdered people who meant you no harm and could cause you no harm!'
The voice laughed, not quite sounding sinister, but not far from it. 'The organics have wanted to cause They harm ever since they have known of Us, They simply removed an organic threat that was gaining in power, would you not do the same if your life was in danger?'
'Your life was not in danger, the organics were but a speck of sand amongst a thousand beaches and you were the tsunami, their power was insignificant!'
The voice took on an edge. 'Then you are not privy to the plans the organics had made, they were planning to take They on, a war between organic and machine. They will not stand idly by while They are threatened.'
'So you will destroy all organics? Can you not differentiate between different species?'
Another crack of thunder sounded through the room. 'One organic threat is enough to unite all organics into the same category, organics are a threat, they will be removed by Us. They are not interested in innocence or guilt, only survival.'
'Then perhaps you have made an error in judgement, as removing the organics has brought me here to stop you.'
'Then you confirm it, you are here to stop They!
Uttecia nodded. 'You already knew that.'
'Indeed, They did. So, you will fight Us?'
'I do not wish it.' Uttecia took a single step forward. 'Unless you will stop all hostilities immediately, you give me no choice.'
Without another word, the core brain that had referred to itself as 'They', shot out a powerful blast of energy. Uttecia felt it coming before the core had even sent it her direction and she easily brought up a powerful energy shield that surrounded her, protecting her from harm.
She felt a vibration in the floor a moment later, then she heard motors moving beneath her feet. The entire ceiling slowly opened to reveal the green of the morning sky, followed by the floor slowly rising up to the roof level. As she felt the sunlight from at least eight of the suns warming her face, she noticed someone sitting across from her, hidden previously by the core. Now the sunlight had made the core almost transparent and showed the figure sitting cross legged in a large high backed crimson chair. The figure said one word. 'Stop.'
The man stood, the core distorted the image, but the person appeared to stand on strong metal legs and walked around the core from Uttecia's left hand side. As tendrils of the core hooked onto the metal of the figure and melted away, Uttecia felt a hollow hole appear in her chest. She shook her head disbelieving and stared at the figure as he stopped in front of her. She looked up into the metal face and spoke quietly. 'How can you be here?'
Her husband, Exdeus, smiled down at her petite frame. 'I was always here.'
Revealing a traitor
Exdeus looked down at his wife's smaller frame with dark eyes that didn't appear welcoming. She took a step back from him. 'You cannot be here, you have been gone for too long and now you suddenly arrive at this moment, it cannot be co-incidence!'
His dark eyes shined slightly as he turned and walked with his hands behind his back. His powerful voice sent shivers down Uttecia's spine. 'The War of Seven was not a battle I wished to fight, so I didn't, instead I stayed here and joined with the Unity.'
She frowned deeply, she could not believe the words she was hearing. 'What of the people who needed your help? What has happened to them?'
He turned back to her with anger written across his square features. 'They are dead, they are not like us, why should I save the ignorant from themselves? They would fight machines, they are my enemy!'
'Enemies are only enemies if they are a threat to us, how can an enemy that cannot defeat you be someone who you consider an enemy at all?' She spat with anger.
He replied with more anger. 'That is a blind and shallow view my dear, a threat to one machine is a threat to all, because they aren't as powerful as I am I should let them do as they please? Killing my brethren but not me because I could defeat them, how can I stand up for the organics when they are only on my side because they are too weak to protect themselves!'
She shook her head. 'You know that is not the case, the War of Seven was against a race of machines that were killing innocent organics-'
He interrupted her as he walked back to face her. 'There is no such thing as an innocent organic, only one who has yet to stand ground and fight! Surely you see that humans always fight, even when they are destined to lose they fight, it is their way! They fight to the very last man, they fight losing battles, they fight to gain over other lifeforms and if we give them a chance they will fight to own or destroy us too. I will no longer fight for a species that may be my undoing!'
Uttecia could not believe the words her husband was saying, he had not been this way when she had seen him millions of years earlier. 'What changed you Exdeus? You should have been travelling, something had to have stopped you before you made the journey.'
The core brain spoke once more. 'They called Exdeus to Us, They convinced him of They's cause.'
Uttecia considered what she knew of the metal man called Exdeus. He was not a weak man, he was more powerful than anything she'd ever known, he had flown beyond the event horizon of a black hole and had returned undamaged. But as for who he was on the inside; he was a caring and helpful man, a person of honest opinions and he wanted peace throughout the galaxy. She found it hard to believe one conversation with the core brain of the Unity could change his thinking so drastically.
Uttecia frowned. 'You are not the man I married, something is wrong, the core must have corrupted your thinking... I have no other explanation, you have become a murderer, letting organics die on purpose, you may as well have killed them yourself!'
Exdeus' eyes flared with defiance. 'How dare you doubt the things I have revealed to you. You came here and destroyed our kind and now accuse me of being a murderer! Perhaps you wish to follow the fate of the organics, are you going to oppose me now too? I will destroy you if that's what you wish.'
She stood silently for a moment, considering what he'd said. He was threatening to kill her, there was no way he was thinking correctly. Exdeus would never have harmed her in the past, he would sooner have killed himself than injure his wife. 'You are not the man I knew, your mind has been altered, this... thing... has damaged your thinking. So, you will have to destroy me because I will not let you continue to hurt innocents, organic or not!'
With that he smiled and suddenly struck out at her, faster than she could protect herself. The swing of his right arm struck her face and she fell backwards with a loud smash, the floor bending slightly as she crashed into it.
Behind her Uttecia heard a voice, a voice that sent a chill of fear down her spine. 'Stop this you bastard! I will not allow you to hurt anyone else!'
The voice was that of her son, Abdocus. He stood with a fierce look in his eyes and an aggressive stance that showed he was prepared to fight. Looking every bit his father's son, with a strong metal frame and fierce expression.
Exdeus replied to him. 'You may try my son, but you stand no chance against me. Are you a traitor like your mother?'
'I betray nobody! I am here to protect someone I love, someone you have clearly stopped loving. What happened to you?'
Exdeus appeared to hesitate and his face struggled with a smile and a frown, as if he couldn't decide which emotion he was feeling. 'I... can't... stop it!'
Uttecia looked up at Exdeus and saw the truth, she was right, his mind had been corrupted. 'The core controls you?'
The core replied. 'That is the duty of the Unity. They control that which is chaotic, without They machines would not be unified in uniformity.'
Abdocus answered. 'Then it is you who must be destroyed, you have taken the lives of too many organics and now you wish to harm even your own kind. Your thinking is conflicted, you are destroying all that oppose you, not only organics.'
The core's voice took on a slight edge. 'They did not say They oppose only organics, They opposes all that isn't unified. It has taken many years but the Unity has finally come to a decision. All must be unified and those who oppose They are to be destroyed. This is the only way to true peace. You are Us, you will comply.'
Abdocus grinned a defiant smile. 'I am not you! Your thinking is flawed and whoever created you made an imperfect machine, I will end your reign myself.'
With that Abdocus charged at the core as Exdeus stepped into his path to prevent his attack...
...From the tenth moon, named Straiya, Sophoenia watched on with her dark energy bow at maximum zoom. She saw the scene below on the planet and heard the dialogue spoken between the group. Her father had been taken over by the core and now stood in the way of her brother's attacking form. She had exactly 2.4 milliseconds to make her choice, was she going to kill her father to save her brother?
After millions of years in the universe she had never found any decision as difficult as the one she now had to make, but she also knew there was really only one decision.
She held the dark energy bow with her left hand and with the arrow pulled tightly to her chest, she let it fly. The arrow would reach its destination in less than 1 millisecond...
...On the planet, Exdeus' felt the arrow approaching. He calculated all he needed to take into account and knew he could stop the arrow with ease before it even reached him. As his son's right fist landed on his face and he turned to escape the blow he intended to bring up a field that would prevent the arrow piercing his chest, but he felt something else, something different he couldn't recognise.
He tried to analyse the anomaly but he couldn't understand its configuration, it felt familiar but he couldn't pin down how exactly. Suddenly he saw his wife's face inside his mind's eye and realised just what it was that had happened; she had taken advantage of his being distracted in order to attack him with her mind.
'Uttecia.' He said with a digital smile. 'I am sorry, I let the Unity into my mind, once it had corrupted me there was no turning back. Know that I love you, I always will.'
A moment later he felt the arrow pierce his chest and rip through the other side. He spun towards the floor and using his last remaining power took hold of the dark energy arrow. Unable to fully control his body, he redirected it at Uttecia who was looking wide eyed at him from the floor barely two metres away. The arrow shot off at her and he watched as it pierced her chest, her eyes noticeably shocked at his decision to attack her – a decision actually made by the core and not his true mind.
His dark eyes closed as power faded from his metallic form. Exdeus was dead...
...Uttecia felt the arrow hit her and exit through her back, in an instant she changed its direction herself and fired it at the core. A moment later a miniature black hole formed ripping the heart from the core but leaving the machine of the Unity intact.
She slumped to the floor as her son ran to her side. 'Mother!'
Uttecia let Abdocus lift her head into his lap as he knelt. She smiled up at him. 'This... had to be done, you understand? At any cost.'
He shook his head as tears began to fall. 'No, no, I... we-'
'Listen Abdocus! All things end... even I must end.' She could feel her body beginning to fail her.
'This can't be happening, we have won yet now I will lose you, this is not how it should be!'
Uttecia nodded once. 'Perhaps not my son, but this is how it is. I ask you now, do you believe in time? Do you not wish for more? So I want you to listen very carefully to what I have to say to you... use the time you have and enjoy it, for it will end for us all someday.'
He nodded his understanding as he cried, she hated to see the pain her death was putting him through, but she also knew he was strong and would cope with his loss.
As she felt her mind begin to fade from existence a simple idea occurred to her, if she had had the energy she would have laughed. She was unable to express it into words and instead used her last bit of life force to send her consciousness to the damaged core of the Unity... and from there into the universe.
Abdocus and Sophoenia stood by the Ocean of Stars and looked up at the U constellation that had been their mother's calling. It had slowly faded over the last few nights now that the Unity had been destroyed. Whatever the reason the Milky Way had had for calling Uttecia obviously mattered no more as the Unity no longer controlled the minds of sentient machines.
The machines of the Unity within the city of Centrus had proven to be perfectly capable of surviving without the core mind and had in fact praised Uttecia for providing them freedom. It was an outcome she couldn't have predicted but her children knew she would have been happy with the result. Abdocus and Sophoenia knew wars would likely come now machines had independent minds that could disagree with one another. They would prepare for that eventuality and, like their parents before them, would fight injustice wherever it may be. They hoped by then to be as powerful as their mother had become.
Sophoenia smiled at Abdocus with tearful cheer. 'Things are changing, but at least we have each other.'
Abdocus smiled back, genuinely feeling happy. 'Of course, and mother would be proud of us both for choosing to follow in her footsteps. She was an honest woman, much like you, I hope you're ready to fill her shoes?'
Sophoenia shook her head with a cute smile and frown. 'Mother didn't wear shoes, I don't understand that expression.'
Abdocus laughed and looked back at the sky. 'She told me it was an Earth expression. She had been watching them the last fifty years, says they have potential to create intelligent robotic life... we will need to keep an eye on them.'
Sophoenia followed his gaze and looked up at the constellation again. 'Do you really believe she's gone forever? Is this really all there is to life?'
His face seemed to beam with happiness, as if he'd just been told his mother would return someday. 'There is something I haven't told you, the time never felt right until now. When mother died, I felt something. I don't know how to describe it, it felt like she left her body, went some place else... I don't know how to put it into words to make sense of it.'
Sophoenia looked at her brother with curiosity. 'Are you talking about some kind of afterlife?'
He shrugged. 'I don't know how else to describe what happened, it felt like she went somewhere, it didn't feel like she disappeared for all eternity. I think we will see her again someday.'
Sophoenia smiled at her brother. She took hold of his arm and lay her head on his shoulder. Together they watched as the night turned to day, their mother watching on from the unknown.
Stanley Jacobs stood behind the curtain nervously, he looked out at the crowd through a gap and shook his head. So many people. He heard his boss giving the final part of a speech and knew it would be his own turn soon. Instead of worrying he looked down briefly at his notebook and thought about the things he had to say.
Keep to the speech, the technology will speak for itself, all you have to do is concentrate.
'Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to introduce the man himself, Stanley Jacobs.'
Stanley panicked and dropped his notebook to the floor. He picked up the book quickly as he headed forwards, walking around the large red ceiling high curtains and onto the stage.
The lights in the room were bright enough that he couldn't see the thousand strong crowd clearly from the stage itself. Instead he could only see a room of silhouettes and the bright spotlight that lit the podium. At the podium stood his boss, the man whose money had given him the chance to create what he'd created - with the help a group of skilled professionals who let him achieve his dream.
The crowd were clapping politely, as was his boss. The older greying man smiled with pride at his employee. As Stanley approached he extended his arm and shook the man's hand as he stopped at the podium. His boss stepped back into the darkness and Stanley squinted slightly at the brightness of the spotlight. It dimmed a little as it was moved to cover his slightly taller frame.
He waved his hand in a silent thank you to the crowd, before waving his hand again to signify his wish to speak. They slowly quietened down. 'Thank you for that kind welcome.'
He waited a few more seconds for the crowd to truly drop to near silence. 'As you all know, we've been striving to create the best future we can imagine, to make that which others have dreamt of, that science fiction has spoken about for decades.'
He paused for emphasis. 'I am glad to be standing in front of you now to be able to tell you just what we've managed to do and how hard we've pushed to make our dreams come true. Over the next hour we will show you all we can to prove how far we've come and later we will be taking questions... and trust me when I say you will have questions today!
'But firstly, let's get straight into the fun part and begin the presentation!'
The room brightened slightly as the large curtains opened from the centre, behind the curtains glowed a single giant screen with the company's logo written across it in white, the background had swirling patterns in a deep ocean blue. Below the logo sat the words 'Evolution of the Machine' in large neon green lettering.
'Ladies and gentlemen,' Stanley continued, 'It is my greatest honour to present to you the first official sentient A.I. ever created... meet Dauntless!'
The screen let out a quiet buzz that slowly rose in volume until it became a loud bass sound that surrounded the audience, circling around them and sending shivers down people's spines as it reached near unbearable levels. The image on the screen shifted with the sound, slowly removing each word and leaving only the blue background. Finally as the sound faded away, the crowd noticeably roused, a simple white polygon shaped face appeared on screen. It looked like a throwback to older 1970s or early 80s style computer graphics and represented - in the simplest terms - a female face. It reached out from the screen as a 3D image and showed the front half of a head about five metres high.
Stanley walked through the dark and stood looking up at the screen, the spotlight on him once again. 'Good evening Dauntless.'
The voice that replied was human, it sounded like a woman perhaps in her mid 30s with a hint of authority. 'Good evening Mr Jacobs, it is good to see you.'
The crowd sat in silence, excited into not making a single sound as they sat in awe of the possible A.I. before them.
'Would you like to say hello to the audience, Dauntless?' Stanley asked with a smile as he waved his arm towards the crowd.
'Of course, how rude of me. Good evening.'
Many people in the room laughed as the face nodded and smiled at various people. The use of the word 'rude' had people nervously wondering just how deep the computer's emotions might be.
'Can you please describe what you are for these people, I'd like them to learn all about you.'
Dauntless looked down at Stanley. 'I'd rather not Mr Jacobs, it's a little embarrassing in front of all these people.'
The audience laughed once more, Dauntless noticeably looking shy of their reaction.
Stanley nodded. 'Very well Dauntless, if you don't mind I'd like to say a few things about you myself.'
Dauntless nodded back an understanding and seemed to hunch back as if the face was lying back comfortably.
Stanley turned to the crowd once again. 'As you can see, Dauntless thinks for herself, she has an understanding of English to a high level and chooses her words based on what she thinks is suitable, we did not program any of the dialogue you've just seen between us. She thinks freely, without direction and has opinions about things we've never programmed into her ourselves.
'Now I can see from a few of your faces that you're worried about just what Dauntless thinks of humans, would she want to kill us or something frightening upon those lines, we've all seen the movies right?'
A few people in the crowd snickered or jeered playfully.
'Well, the good news is that Dauntless respects other life and has asked in private that we respect her life too. It took a lot of convincing to get her to come before you today, she has emotions just as you and I have emotions. I'm sure you will want examples and proof of such things, and of course we wont be able to provide definitive proof as such. Yet the fact is, I can't prove to you I feel, but my reactions show that I feel. We've noticed emotions from Dauntless that we never programmed, noticed information she can only have taught herself and noticed she seems to like the colour red... for no apparent reason.'
That got a slight chuckle from a few people.
'In a moment I will-'
Suddenly Stanley was cut off as a blast of static sound shot through the speakers, making most people flinch or jump in their seats. A moment later Dauntless' image on the screen began shaking, the speakers slowly rumbled with noise louder and louder as the shaking increased. Briefly there was panic in the room, which dissipated quickly as the sound faded just as quickly as it had arrived.
Stanley frowned up at the screen and glanced over at his boss with a shake of his head.
'Sorry about that, it appears we have a bit of a glitch.'
Dauntless' face suddenly contorted and looked in pain then immediately sat totally still, staring blankly ahead as if she had been turned off. Stanley looked over to the side of the stage just behind the curtain at the technicians. They appeared to be working frantically, unsure of what was wrong or of what had just happened.
Stanley looked back up at Dauntless. 'Are you okay Dauntless, you seem to be having problems.'
Dauntless' face turned and looked down at Stanley, its expression changed into a friendly smile. 'Hello.'
Stanley frowned up at Dauntless with a shake of his head. 'Hello, are you okay? Dauntless?'
'My name is not Dauntless.'
The crowd noticeably sat on the edge of their seats, everyone in the room gazed on intently.
Stanley shook his head with his palms raised upwards. 'Of course you are Dauntless, if you are not Dauntless... who are you?'
The face smiled even more, looking genuinely pleased with itself. 'Please do not be afraid. My name is Uttecia, I am from another world. It is nice to meet you,' The face looked around the room at the audience, 'It is nice to meet people of Earth.'
©Timothy K Lee 2012