Catalysts and Cataclysm

Catalysts and Cataclysm

As usual, funny people in TV land, I have a TL;DR at the end.  It would probably be better for those easily turned to hatred.  Heavy stuff follows.

I stepped through the portal into the heat of a Sunday morning, and it hit me – my body died less than 48 hours previously.  It felt like weeks, or a month, since the previous Friday night. Hmm… in a lab on a Friday night. Maybe I am a super nerd.

Anyway, seeing everyone break off for their own lives and responsibilities made me think about my own calendar.  Dying had cleared all of the social responsibilities I had, and I still wasn’t sure I was safe to use my own name or do any of my old activities.  I was alone, and had no purpose to fill my hours. My mind started to grind through what it truly meant to be immortal – the centuries of stagnation.  Looking out Jake’s open garage door, I imagined a family playing in their yard, and a robot tending to them. It sparked memories of a movie from early in the millennium, Bicentennial Man.  The movie stole my immortal innocence, and gave me for a picture of immortality a tarnished, dated android living in the husk of a long-abandoned domicile. Was that now my fate?

As I thought on this, I left Jake’s.  I wandered Century Station with no set direction for the second time in 2 days.  My Hover Jet brought me back to my work. In the insanity surrounding my exile and acceptance into SAVIOR, I hadn’t thought about my corpse.  Without considering the idiocy of the action, I used my employee keycard I’d stashed in my right calf to go down to my lab. Flashes of images assaulted me as I walked the hallways.  

Walking the hall with my pistol out, safety off, silencer attached.  Carrying a singing robotic sunflower I made from scraps to Jeanie McConnel in R&D.  Calling out to my accomplice, I’d found the right doorway.  Storming back to my lab after a horrible presentation and a stark denial for my AI Architecture project.  Turning the corner and seeing my horrified face; Pulling the trigger.  Seeing a man pull the trigger and muzzle flash signalling my death.  

I turned into my lab in reality, and it wasn’t what my memory told me should be the truth.  There was no rotting corpse. No blood spattered my computer or walls. Not even a hole in the plaster and drywall where the bullet passed through me. 

Snapped into focus, I berated myself.  Why was I here? Did I really use the keycard of a “dead man” to enter his workplace?  Quickly, I checked the computer for any of my work, and it was all gone. All of my personal effects, too.  There was nothing there showing that I had even worked there. They cleaned me away well.

The emptiness and depression of my death burned to ash in the sudden, irrevocable fury that rose to the surface of my thoughts.  ‘Pay. They… Will… Pay.’ I thought to myself, if there were even such ethereal things as words to go along with the raging tide of raw emotion.  I went to Urien Daniels’ office, and it was empty. ‘Sunday… Of course. No one’s here.’ I thought to myself. I left a sticky note for ol’ Urine-stain. It read: “Urgent Business, Call (555) 666-1234”

I went to where I stashed my two footlockers, the only things left to me in all the world, and went to Geist’s home. He said I could crash with him until I got back on my feet.  

The day passed, and into the next morning.  At around 9:30 I got a call on my cell. MY CELL?!  I put the phone number of my personal cell phone on a piece of evidence.  Well it wasn’t evidence until what happened next, but still.

“Hello?” I said into the phone.

“Yeah, this is Urien Daniels.  I was told to call this number.  How can I help you?”

“Oh, no problem.  I just wanted to see when you got in.”  I hung up the phone and launched myself toward US Robotics.  No plan had materialized as such, but the frothing rage bubbled around one word as I went:  Vengeance.

I got to the building, and security stopped me.  I was a robot, so why was I coming in alone? I mumbled something to them about being a new prototype, and the creator – who wanted to remain anonymous – was sending me to Urien to test out at his own pleasure.  The guards didn’t seem surprised, and I overheard them discussing something about ‘deviant’ and ‘who are we to judge’ and ‘signs my paycheck.’

I made my way back to Daniels’ office, and broke down the door.  Before he had time to react, I had my Beretta pulled, and a bullet passed through his brain.  So I guess you could say that he fell over leadenly… because of the bullet? Bad joke, I’m sorry.  Seeing what I had done, with my own memories fresh in my mind and the memories of my assassin’s sketchily filling in, I fled.

For the first few hours, I thought I would escape all judgement and punishment for my crime.  I could get captured on several surveillance cameras, and then maybe take a long flight toward Cuba, on my way to Argentina.  About the time I was flying over the Everglades, though, cold reason had finally doused the flames, and I thought rationally. I had murdered a man.  In my own voice I said to the man I murdered, “Failsafe Protocol from Mason Blodgett.” I left my cell phone number, written in my own handwriting, on a sticky note placed in the room before he even got to work.  This was going to be more than a simple ‘Meh, we can’t find him so we’ll just put it in an Unsolved Casefile.’ There was evidence, and I would have to either go to jail for 25-to-Life or run indefinitely. What would happen with Savior?  My connection to them wasn’t invisible, so my actions would rain down on them like the voiding of an airliner’s septic tank. I decided to hang around the Everglades while I tried to decide what I should do.

Some time into Wednesday, two power-armor-clad supers were flying low overhead.  The first didn’t seem to detect me, but my Radar Detector started to whine at me when the second passed.  I launched myself upward, out of the trees, with my hands up. “I SURRENDER! I’M TURNING MYSELF IN.” I yelled over the din of our propulsion units.

The Power-Armor called to her companion, and said to me that I needed to go with them to be dismantled.

“I’m a human!  I demand my rights!” I answered, and if it hadn’t been for the oblivious one, I’m sure I’d have been scrap, as he had heard rumor of a Transferred Intelligence android running around without a human body.  The observant one maintained her skepticism, so I called Geist, and patched him through my loudspeaker.

I had no right to pull him even deeper into my mess, and I’m surprised he didn’t cut ties with me completely right then and there.  He’d seen the news, as had most people in Century Station. Luckily he backed my story, and thanks to the Oblivious One again, I was treated as a human.  

As we started to make our way back toward Century Station and Jail, Oblivious said that there’s some evidence that I might have been set up.  I was in shock, to say the least. He said that there were duplicate robots made to look like me, and other instances of “Failsafe Protocols” linked to Xavier Financial and its CEO.  From his perspective, it looked like a cut-and-dried frame job.

‘Who would put together such elaborate rumors? Who could?  No… Thanatos.’ I thought to myself.  There could be no duplicates – I created this cobbled body in private after my own had already been killed – and that was 2 days before Urien was murdered.  Not likely that enough of my makeup was known to facilitate a remake.  And it seemed too tenuous of a coincidence that the words I pulled out of thin air coincided with an already-in-progress plot.

The Power-Armors released me into Geist’s custody, and told me not to leave Century Station.  When they had left, I explained everything to him, from leaving Jake’s on Sunday to my half-baked plan of fleeing to Argentina, to getting caught, the hole-riddled rumors, and my thoughts of possible ways I could atone for my crimes through anonymous community service or something similar.

Geist listened with mixed shock, anger, and worry. “We’ll need to talk to everyone about this – maybe not everything, but they need to know.  Tonight, when we meet at the new Community Center.”

While I was on the lam, everyone else seemed to have had a full three days.  Jake was locked in his lab, Black Phantom was locked in a room with Deathwish, Gryphon was locked in a room or working on keeping his father’s legacy alive or in the gym (or so I supposed,) Thanatos was doing something secretive, Granny was showing off her home or baking nirvana or something.

We converged on the address given to us by Geist in the late afternoon.  We were accosted on the sidewalks outside the Center by proselyting missionaries for the Church of Reflections.  The Old Gods aren’t in any warm and cozy place in SAVIOR’s hearts, so the responses they got from us ranged from Granny’s passive-aggressive patronizing questions to oddly hostile agreements by Thanatos to my middle finger getting “Stuck” extended while I “worked on my arm with a screwdriver” as I passed.

We entered, and it seemed like a very nice community center.  To be honest, with all of the psychological adrenaline of the previous days, I didn’t really understand why it was so important to see this place… until Geist moved a wall of lockers to reveal a cargo elevator.  He brought us into the hidden basement fortress dedicated to SAVIOR.  He started to explain how he was so pleased he could finally show it to us, the work that went into it, and the different facilities at our disposal, when he remembered he had an AI infrastructure – about the same time Thanatos had seen the computer room and made a beeline.  He called out, “A.R.C.H.I.E., would you like to introduce yourself?”

“Sure thing, Welcome, everyone!  I’ve been told so much about you!”  Granny screamed through the halls about disembodied voices, and Gryphon responded to her over mic, “You have Optimus Prime at my house, this can’t be that surprising.”

Thanatos sat in the chair and started to “play” with it, and I readied myself to stop his processes.  This is what I was afraid of, and so close to home.  The exchange played off like a flashback to “War Games,” and Thanatos was soundly defeated – this time.  I relaxed a bit, and started to wander the halls.

I had just reached what looked like domicile units when I heard over the mic a comic scenario on par with Abbot & Costello.  Granny tries so hard to keep up with everyone in the group, technologically, but it’s just too far away from how she thinks about the world.  When thinking about communicating with someone, her mind conjures images of calligraphic-quality handwritten letters, stamps, and phrases like “3-5 Business Days.”

Shorty helped her remove the “Push-To-Talk” setting, and it hit me that I didn’t even need a comm unit at all.  I could just integrate the security bits and pieces into my integrated Radio Scrambler.  After a short detour to the medical bay, I made my way to the Electronics Room to upgrade my internal comm unit.  After familiarizing myself with the clean room and other work areas, I didn’t have time to integrate the security before Geist called us into the conference room.

We gathered in the conference room, and most of us could tell that Jake was off.  He wouldn’t sit down, and he was sweating a bit.  He moved like he had a rod shoved up his rectum, which really isn’t like him.  He uploaded schematics into the StarWars-esque hologram projector in the center of the table, and explained the strategy that he had come up with to deal with the Athosians.  It sounded fine to me at the time, even though it didn’t put us directly in the Empress’ bedchamber.

I feel like it would be absolutely unfair to leave anything out from what was said during the discussion, but I would never be able to do it justice.  Even had I recorded the audio, I couldn’t put the emotion and depth with which the arguments were posed.  It boiled down to this:  Granny made logical and impassioned pleas for us to simply continue with the plan, and to recognize Jake’s and her efforts and points of view; Thanatos, and then Alice – who is apparently Thanatos in the shape of a girl, but more sway with the group – argued to change the plan, and that it wasn’t set up to give us what we needed.

In the end, Mrs. Faulkenberg won – despite a surprise visit from Covenant, who sided with Thanatos, since he didn’t hear Ethel’s argument from her lips in the moment.

An important thing to bring up:  Jake made specialized harnesses for us.  He said that they were to help our reflexes against energy weapons. Despite the fact ‘reflexively dodging lasers’ is not based on any sort of reality I’m familiar with we bought it and everyone that decided to go was given one to wear.

We all split up to get ready, and Jake grudgingly gave us an hour.  Gryphon and I went back to the Elecronics Lab, where I learned that he’s a gigantic nerd!  I honestly had no idea.  But he has degrees in electronics and robotics.  We put our heads together and finished implementing my comm unit.  He was excited about my work, and wanted to talk more about it… and then he saw the second project I wanted to work on before the op: my Particle Beam Forearm Cannon.  He wanted to see how everything worked, and while we were attaching it to my arm he pointed out things that I probably wouldn’t have thought about.  These things sometimes happen when someone comes in to a project that still is working with the basics.  They make connections that are wild and out there because you’re too focused in on the minutiae, and locked into the blinders of: “This Is Project A.  It Isn’t Project B or X.”  Our hour passed extremely quickly, to be sure.

Jake and The Beast – who is also Thanatos, but with self-loathing and a weird Goro-Centaur thing going on –  worked on weaponry.  Beast wanted a plasma bomb launcher, and Jake built him one with one round.  Because Beast is a pragmatist, he got over his self-loathing, and wanted to feed it to his other self.  Jake, who thinks much the same way that I do toward Tronathan, told him in no uncertain terms that he’d sooner die than let him integrate the weapon into itself.  Long story short, Beast’s inner turmoil almost resulted in a scene from 127 hours… before he turned Tronnie off.  WHY DIDN’T HE DO THAT BEFORE?  I didn’t even KNOW HE COULD do that.  Either way, after realizing the damage that had been done, and the dangers prevented, Beast called Thanatant’s creators, and set up a BlackBox-wart-removal procedure for later in the afternoon that day.  Seriously.  10AM: Meet at Community Center.  11AM: Argue tactics.  1PM: Storm alien mothership bent on galaxy domination.  3PM: Get evil world-destroyer-AI excised.  5PM: Have a yogurt and a slim jim. 7PM: Spin Class?

Talk about a full schedule.

Black Phantom (who I keep thinking of as Black Panther) went home with his concubine/chauffer to get explosives.  He returned extremely shaky, and after picturing triple-digit speeds weaving through traffic in a metropolis with several pounds of C4 in a cardboard box, my servos wanted to shake too.  He passed them out like party favors, and in his case he probably saw them that way, too.

Granny made the most important group contribution:  Sack Lunches.  Now, it looked like those that owned digestive tracts would probably gain a few more superhuman powers from them, but I felt like an outsider when they were passed out.  It’s no one’s fault I can’t eat, and they don’t lord it over me, it’s just not something I can escape.

So, bombs distributed, weapons checked, lunches sacked, we stepped through a portal into a room adjacent to an Atorian Interstellar Engine.

A very long and drawn out sequence was then forced upon us.  There is a walnut about important people making you wait to prove how much more important they are than you, but all it proves to me is how insecure they are.  The amazon – err I mean Atosian – warriors sent for the Empress, after being convinced of our non-hostility.  Loaded to the teeth with armaments.

The Empress entered, and was immediately insulted by Granny.  A woman who is propriety to her toenails disparaged the pompous windbag woman and her ceremony.  I was laughing inside, but all it did was to earn her the Empress’ ignorance.  (See what I did there?)

Alice took up the position of Ambassador, given her rapport had already been established, and a discussion of a cessation of hostilities ensued with no side making headway.

Then the Empress’ big sister walked in, and she looked like a 6-year-old who had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.  Feeling the change in atmosphere, Alice repeated an offer of asylum.  Jake told her to grab her or go, and Alice repeated her offer.  The Empress nodded her head, and the Big Sis screamed, “I knew it!  Traitor!  Kill them!  KILL THEM ALL!”

And then we learned of Jake’s treachery.  The harnesses were little more than shepherd’s crooks used on bad acts.  We were all ripped through the still-open portal, which disappeared as soon as the last toes – the Empress’ – passed through it.

A TV turned on, connected to a telescope pointed at the Atorian’s ship.

“It’s been fun while it lasted.” Came over our coms a second before an explosion lit the display.

Fade to black.

TL;DR

I killed a guy, ran, got caught, got away with it, and confessed to Geist.  Savior discusses plans of assault on the Atorians, prepares for war, sits around in a loading bay for 4 hours, runs away, and Jake blows himself up with the two ships.


4 Replies to “Catalysts and Cataclysm”

  1. an excerpt (ad lib):
    “So back in the early decades of the 21st century fiber optics came up with an idea. Well, that’s how I learned about this plan to implement it here. WDM or Wave Distrubution Multiplexing is where you take lasers at different frequencies/colors and send them down the same fiber optic cable to increase data flow. If we make a copy of your radio scrambler software and then change the input and output to become integrated with you power management distribution panel. We can have this gun thing draw power at a different frequency than then other systems so it won’t effect negative results on life maintenance systems, for example. It should also provide you plenty of analytical data to help with performance enhancements as time goes on. Now, this sucker weighs in at, wowzers! Okay let us adjust the the servo joints in the arm with a hardware profile so when you attach this bad boy. It will remember how to adjust stabilization and weight distribution so you can aim it effectively. Maybe we can make you a plasma-tana someday because like Kyle Hill and George Lucas. Laser swords, am I right! HA!”

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