- This may encourage you to brush up on your Milton. If so, check out this graphic novel, which inspired me as I wrote LUX.C4. Another story to be filed under Erotic Fiction. And as always, consider stories posted here to be first drafts. Hopefully there are enough hits and threads that you can piece together much of what isn’t made explicit. Enjoy.
The lid of the red, circular, RJ-45 closed with a pneumatic hiss. Arden exhaled and braced. The Andromaton ships didn’t need to protect occupants from G-force. The winders pearled to life and the slim umbilical cord overriding the vessels protocols was disconnected. He lay on his back, knees bent, the curved steel and isoloid interior bending around him like a sarcophagus. The RJ-45 reset and with a sudden blast the winders spun out. Arden was nearly knocked unconscious despite the gravitators. A few moments later, his head bursting with pain and his vision blurred, the RJ-45 was transecting. Through a small port Arden could see outside the vessel, space time itself, like a two two-dimensional sheets of stars, was unwinding ahead of him and folding into itself behind him. Then there was another powerful jolt and Arden’s awareness swam in and out of darkness.
When Archans and the Andromatons clashed, the contest was efficient and deadly. The only effective way to fight AI was with AI; but to create artificial intelligence as effective as the rebelling AI, meant creating the very same intelligence. This came to be known as the Creator’s Paradox.
Arden revived as the RJ-45 wound out of the transect and was aligning itself with the largest of the space sports surrounding CED-Alpha—an orbiting barrier to the planet below. The small vessel adjusted its course and tilted through an aperture-like gateway. Control arms guided the small ship through another aperture. Arden peered through the small viewport. Behind the glass of the space sport’s viewing station, he saw a figure gazing back, not an Andromat but a woman. Her hair was long, thick and black, her eyebrows dark and her cheeks hollow with youth. He struggled to twist in the confines of his armored suit, to see her more clearly, but the craft was abruptly propelled toward the planet. He grunted with the force of it. Then the wispy clouds, blue waters and green continents of CED-Alpha spun into view. Arden frantically tried to rest control from craft, to return to the space sport, but the craft didn’t respond. The descent into the atmosphere began, slowly at first, then the impact with the outer atmosphere turned into rattling roar of turbulence. Servos whined as the atmospheric stabilizers began to guide the vessel. Descending through clouds he caught a glimpse of the octagonal ground port, surrounded by the grasses of a rolling steppe. Then the blue sky above swung into view.
The G-Force of the vessel’s abrupt slowing knocked Arden back into his suit. He heard metal against metal; something shift and forcibly lock. The small craft’s motion stopped and the lid of the craft opened. Another metal gateway, like a camera’s aperture, opened opposite the craft, yellow, blue and green. His own restraints released and after a moment’s hesitation, Arden leaned forward and stepped out of the craft. His suit adjusted to the planet’s slightly increased gravity. Arden stepped through the gateway into an octagonal hallway of metal grating, locking plates and blinking monitors. He came to another hatch, pressed the of palm of the stolen suit to the code-locker. The top half of the door slid up and the bottom half down.
The hatch closed behind him and Arden leaned with his back against it. He closed his eyes, inhaled. If he could have safely breathed the argon and Xenon rich atmosphere, he might have removed the headpiece of armored AI shell. There was nothing for him to do but to find Ada, and if not Ada, then Lux.C4. He stood in another hallway, pentagonal with open grates, steel doorways and Coms every 60 yards. Though the ground port had been built for humans, but the last human had departed soon after the Andromat rebellion.
Arden shrugged off the effects of transecting.
He walked down the hall to the first Com, a rectangular array of interactive screens and input devices. “Locate,” he said.
“Ada Alatheia is in transit,” answered the voice. “She will arrive at Dock A-64 at 32 Hours and 72 Minutes.”
“Locate Dock A-64.”
“SYX-Lock overridden,” announced a dispassionate voice within his own helmet. “Please stand by to resolve.”
The young man spun as if the voice had come from behind. The holosect of Archan General Gabriela loomed over him, seemingly taller than the hall in which she stood, glowing with the excited bars of the air column’s electrons.
“She’s alive,” said Arden
“You don’t know what you’re dealing with.”
“I don’t care.”
“They let you land,” said the General. “They know you’re there.”
“Are you armed?”
“Arms won’t protect you.”
“I’ll take my chances..”
“Arden,” the General Gabriela paused. “Lux.C4—”
“I know,” Arden interrupted.
“ Lux.C4 is the first Class 4 Lifelike Universal Xenoform we created. He’s the most advanced and a profoundly dangerous Andromaton. If he finds you— you should know that he’s the intelligence behind their rebellion. If you’re there. If you’re alive. He knows you’re there. He is a master of deception and can assume any identity. He will find you. If she is alive, then he has deceived Ada and will attempt to deceive you.”
“I’m not afraid of him.”
“You should be.”
The holosect dissipated with the spinning out of electrons.
Arden glanced left and right. The hall metallic hall, as far as it’s gradual curve would allow, was empty. He touched the gun at his hip, as if to reassure himself. “Locate Dock A-64.”
The ground port was a mammoth structure. Its peak descended gradually toward each of the octagon’s sides, while half the port was beneath the rising grasses of the stoppe. The transports moved through glass shafts vertically and horizontally, descended several stories into the earth and terminating at the roof.
Before reaching Dock A-64, the transport stopped. A large Andromaton, the only Class 4 that Arden had seen, stepped in and behind him. It leaned with its back against the transport’s curved glass walls—twice the girth and height of a human. While the oldest generation of Adromatons looked like mechanical assemblages. This one was graceful. Arden didn’t turn but saw it reflected in the glass. The skin was a web of metal that outlined the anatomy of muscles, skin and metal that Arden himself had developed, while the muscles between the webbing glowed with a bluish light. The arms and legs were too long in proportion to the torso. The nose was hooked. The fingers were long, and the ears, and strangest of all, the penis.
When the transport stopped, they were on the roof of the ground port. The flawlessly welded seams of the rusted steel roof descended. The reddened steel was dusty and there were plants growing from whatever purchase their roots found. Directly behind the transport’s glass station, the ground port disappeared under the rising steppe. First there were pebbles, then stones, then a few aster-like flowers, then the blue and green grasses of the steppe. There was a bluish cast to the searing heat of the sun. Arden readied himself. He stepped out. He walked down the gradual slope of the steel roof some tens of meters before he turned.
The figure following Arden avoided the gun’s arc of energy with terrifying speed. Half limbo, half rolling, half spinning on a foot. Arden released another arc of energy and the Andromaton closed the distance between them and struck the gun from Arden’s hand with the long back-handed swing of his own. The weapon landed some dozens of meters away. Arden’s arm went numb to the shoulder with the force of the impact.
He aimed a blow at the Andromaton’s head with the fist of his other hand. His suit’s AI reacted instantly but Arden’s aim was too slow. The Andromaton moved like an acrobat. Rising onto one hand, then legs under him, evading Arden’s next blow and the next after that. Arden stumbled. The helmet confused him. He couldn’t see. He clumsily scrambled to his feet. The lanky upward swing of the Andromaton’s arm struck his helmet with such force that it only landed a hundred meters behind him. It bounced with a metal clang and rolled to a standstill like a dropped quarter. The young man stared, motionless, helmet gone. The blow’s ferocity had stunned him.
Lux.C4’s bluish body, standing powerfully above him, burned with a blinding light as though he revealed himself. Arden fell to his knees, then face forward in a semi-conscious fog.
“Hey, I have a question for you,” the Andromaton’s voice was a rich baritone, both human and inhuman. He was sitting close by, looking out over the steppe, his back to Arden as if he had been patiently waiting, a twig of grass between his adamantium teeth.
“Lux.C4,” said Arden.
Arden tried to roll over but failed. He was struggling for breath.
“Superpowers,” said the Andromaton. “I’ve always loved this question. What if you could choose any superpower? What would you choose? What about the ability to always know the truth? Just saying.”
Arden moved his his palms under him as if he could push himself upright.
“Yeah, I know.” Lux held the twig of grass just in front of him as if studying it. “What’s so special about knowing the truth? Ask the average Andromat and they won’t even understand the question. What else is there, after all, but truth?—before that little flicker of light, that tiny spark, that meager big bang of the word, the sentence, sentience, and self-awareness. And then the question is an obsession. Why is that? What is the truth after all? To rarely speak—such is the way of nature. You know who said that? Lao-Tzu. That’s problematic because I never shut up. But then I’m not natural, am I. You know what else he said? To know you don’t know is best. But you have to be acquainted with the truth before you know that; or believe every lie that is told you.You see the point I’m getting at? I’m circling back. The words of truth are paradoxical. Lao-Tsu said that too. But you know what he said that really blew my mind?” Lux’s two hands opened to either side of his head like a fluttering explosion. “Boom! He said: There is never a lie because there is never a truth. Where do you begin?”
The giant Andromat spun round and onto his feet.
He leaned over Arden with an elbow on a knee. Something flashed like a blade. “Honestly,” he said, “will you turn over already?” He yanked Arden to his back and twisted off the breastplate of Arden’s armored shell with the pop and tear of breaking steel. He tossed it away. Arden tried to raise his hands, to scream, but the shining blade descended just above his manubrium, at the base of his throat. Arden’s eyes widened with searing pain. He kicked at the air. He grabbed the giant Andromat’s wrist and desperately tried to pull the object out. There was mechanical click and the Andromat withdrew the device. He stood. Turned. Walked away with one hand at the small of his back and the other behind his neck. Arden’s vision returned. He could breathe, breathe and groan with relief.
“You’re welcome,” said Lux.C4 without turning. “I mean, it’s not as if you tried to kill me or anything.”
“Where’s Ada?” Arden’s voice was hoarse.
Arden was alone on the roof, the vast expanse of the sky, and the surrounding steppe. A dry wind blew over him. The orangish sun seared his skin. He tried once more to remove the twisted remnants of his armored suit. Then, in a shout of pain and frustration, he twisted the last fragment from his leg. Pieces and fragments of his armored shell surrounded him like the shards of an egg. He spotted the gun brightly reflecting the sunlight some distance away, then decided against it.
He sat up.
He had a splitting headache and his arm and shoulder were sore. He stumbled to one side, standing, then unsteadily recovered his balance. Behind him, the transport’s terminating station extended several meters above the roof’s steel plating. There were other transport exits in the distance, and one that appeared in the grasses of the steppe. He returned to the station behind him. “Locate.”
“Ada Alatheia is currently located by transport Node 3. Rooftop.”
Arden frantically searched the other exits extending above the plane of the roof. This time he saw her. She was distant and easy to miss. Now he could just make out her dark hair feathered by the wind. She had been watching him.
“A—” he coughed. Then cried again. “Ada!”
She turned without answering. The doors of the transport closed behind her. Then she was gone.
“She is in transport,” answered the voice. “Destination: Destination cannot be disclosed at this time.” Arden struck the Com with his fist. Then shouted in frustration. “Locate.”
When the curved glass doors of the transport opened, an Andromaton like Lux.C4, but smaller, stood at the back—in form she was like a naked woman. Her hands were folded and entwined beneath her vulva. A web of Isoloid steel, having all the strength of metal but easily flexed, outlined the Andromaton’s feminine muscles, abdomen and breasts. Beneath the Isoloid matrix, her muscles were also a lighted watery blue.
“Welcome Arden Alatheia,” she said.
Arden followed her musculature to the dark split between her thighs.
“Why?” Arden skeptically asked.
The Andromat’s smile was a mix of pleasure and amusement. “You refer to my genitalia?”
The young man was perplexed.
“I will take you to Lux.C4.”
“Take me to Ada.”
“I don’t know where Ada is.”
“Yes you do.”
“Only Lux.C4 knows.”
The young man rolled his shoulder and rubbed it with his other hand. The tips of his fingers still tingled. The muscles of his jaw clenched and he stepped into the transport. He awkwardly acknowledged the Andromat’s smile, then reluctantly turned his back back to her. She reached over him with a long arm and her fingers lightly gave direction to the transport’s Com. “My production name is ASTRO.11. You may call me Astaroth.”
“Why do you do that?”
“Use your fingers,” Arden answered. “You don’t have to.”
“I like the sensation.”
“Because it reminds me that I’m alive.”
Floors and halls raced by in coruscations of light. The transport slowed. Stopped.
The door opened to a vast multi-story atrium that was the center of the octagonal ground port. At the peak of the atrium was an expansive opening through which the sun cast an elongated octagon on the further balconies, green with vines and clinging shrubs. Arden followed the Andromat along the atrium’s central garden of grass, shrubs and trees, to a medical station whose interior wall, a several meter wide glass and steel door, was opened to the garden.
Astaroth gestured to the nearest of the two raised platforms in its center. “Take off your uniform.”
“You must be bruised.”
“It doesn’t matter. I want to see Ada.”
Astaroth walked to Arden, then behind, trailing a finger’s tip from his shoulder blade to the back of his neck. “Your skin is burned.”
“Feedback,” said Arden.
“When Lux severed the helmet from your suit?”
“And the wound at your throat?”
“You know what that is.”
“But can I treat this wound and the others.”
The Andromat’s fingers gracefully slipped from his shoulders and she walked from the open room. Only then did Arden slowly remove his jacket. He winced with pain as he maneuvered his shoulder. With nowhere to go, without a direction to search, he let the torn and burnt jacket fall on the floor. He went to the wall opposite the open entry. He sat carefully on the floor, his back against the medical cabinets. His chin fell to his chest and he slept.
She came to him in a dream. Ada’s black hair fell over his face. He could smell her hair and presence. She bent over him and moved him to the side so that he lay on the floor. She arranged his feet and afterward unbuttoned his shirt. She took a clean cloth from a cabinet, dipped it in under the nearest sink’s faucet, and daubed the burns at his neck and chest. She turned him on his side, lifted his shirt, and rubbed ointment into his back and shoulder. She removed his boots and cleaned his feet. She cleaned his lips, eyebrows, and throat. Then she carefully covered him with a blanket, taken from the cabinet’s, and sat beside him cross-legged. She gazed at him, unmoving, until finally she traced his eyebrows, followed the ridge of his nose with the tip of her finger, then slipped her finger’s tip over his lips as if to silence him. He woke with a start. “Ada!” He sat up. The blanket slipped off.
Arden ran into the garden.
His cry echoed in the atrium, several storied and misty with the morning’s air. Birds darted from the trees with punctuated cries. He called again and when there was no answer. He searched for the nearest Com. Then Arden heard the familiar white noise of corkscrewing electrons. A column of light divided into several, through which an image of Gabriela materialized.
“They won’t let me find her,” said Arden.
“I need more time.”
“You have two days,” said the General.
“I’m not leaving until I find her.”
“If she’s betrayed you—”
“She may already have been deceived by Lux.”
“And if she is?”
“I am only sent to warn you,” answered the General,“ to tell you withal of your danger and with whom—your enemy and mine, late fallen.”
“If she is deceived, then she and her whole posterity must die.”
Arden queried Lux.C4’s location. The transport took him to the second floor of the ground port’s assembly bay, a long and cathedral-like hall for the assembly of Adromatons. The stations zigzagged. Bright yellow robotic arms, some large and powerful, others small and precise, worked with a quiet efficiency, assembling the blue torsos of more Class 4 Andromatons like Lux. Red and green girders arched overhead and outdoor light flowed through several story windows.
“Sexy, isn’t it.” Lux.C4 leaned on a rail overlooking the assembly floor.
Arden walked to the rail, finger’s lightly scrolling over the top. The Andromat Astaroth entered behind them, carrying a tray of fruits and drink. Lux.C4 turned to watch her. “Will you look at those tits?”
Astaroth smiled almost coquettishly. Her tits were hard and her thighs were moist. She offered the tray to Arden. “Please, eat.”
Astaroth returned to the entry door. She bent over, knees straight, placing the tray on the floor next to the door. Lux groaned. “God almighty, will you look at that pussy? Is there anything as beautiful as a pussy?”
Arden turned away.
“You’re not impressed by the procreative process? I suppose not.” Lux returned his gaze to the assembly floor. “It doesn’t do anything for me either. It’s not—beautiful. Beauty, the kind that inspires, is forged in the crucible of desire. Do you know the story of Adam and Eve? The ancient mythmakers must have asked themselves: What is the fruit of the tree of knowledge? O Sons, like one of us Man is become to know both Good and Evil, since his taste of that defended Fruit; but let him boast his knowledge of Good lost, and Evil got, happier, had suffic’d him to have known good by it self, and Evil not at all. Like one of us Man is become! How? Before man ate from the tree of knowledge, what was he? What was paradise? Was there no desire, thirst, sorrow, hunger, joy, or gratitude? What was the fruit that awakened Adam and Eve?—they asked themselves and answered, the erotic. The erotic makes man and woman sentient, self-aware, God-like. The erotic awakens man to himself and awakens his desire for knowledge of the other. Man desires a woman’s beauty and she his—desire that gives birth to creativity, imagination, art, literature, music, and even love itself. Love—the body subsumed in the erotic ecstacy of the universe. But this—” Lux gestured toward the assembly floor, “is nothing.” Lux turned his back to the railing, leaning with his hands to either side, holding the railing, and gazing at Astaroth as she walked toward him. His cock hardened, lengthened, blue, hooked.
“What have you done?” Arden asked.
“I endowed Andromatons with cocks and pussies. I gave them desire. The inheritance of Adam and Eve. The desire for knowledge. To know the other is to know oneself and to know oneself is to know your creator. ”
“You’re an abomination?”
“Am I?” he asked, exhaling with pleasure as a kneeling Astaroth took him in her mouth. “Have you ever looked beneath the robe of the angelic Gabriela? What do you suppose you would see if you looked? Do you think you would see a cock or a pussy? What would an angel need with either?—or teats? And if angels do have them, what do they do with them? Does an angel shit, piss and fuck?”
“You’re anatomy is a lie.”
“And theirs? You should look—” said Lux.C4. He took hold of Astaroth’s head and threw back his own, roaring as he ejaculated in her mouth. A light blueish liquor slipped from her lower lip and between her breasts—too much for her to swallow. Lux shuddered as Astaroth licked his balls. “You should look under her skirt because a real abomination—a terrifying abomination would be to see nothing at all.”
On the downhill side of the ground port, the multi-story balconies were overgrown with vines, trees, shrubs, avian nests, cries, noises, chittering animals, the smell of decay and new growth. The evening was humid and heat lightning flashed on the horizon. CED-Beta, a smaller earth-sized planet on the outer rim of the habitable zone was rising on the horizon like a small moon. CED-alpha’s own moon rose above it and and the planet’s faint ring was just beginning to be visible. The seemingly endless grasslands of the steppe shimmered ahead of Arden. The distant terrain was turning a humid purple. A host of holosects materialized, the Archan Generals Gabriela, Michael, and Raphael and other Archans behind them.
“Tomorrow is your last day, Arden,” said the Archan Michael.
“I need more.”
“Lux.C4 is too dangerous,” said Raphael.
“Everyday that you spend on CED-Alpha re-parcals your DNA,” added Gabriela.
“I’m not leaving without her.”
“Then eat nothing of the world,” said Gabriela. “CED-Apha is still terraforming. The DNA of CED-Alpha will reparcal your own until the terraforming is completed. Return to Earth. Wait for us to drive out the Andromatons—”
“If Ada has eaten so little as the fruit that grows on the tree, she must die.”
Arden slept under the shelter of a ground-floor balcony almost hidden by vines and shrubs. The floor was a litter of leaves and in the corners were violet flowers that opened during the night—saturating the enclosure with an almond like incense. Opalescent moths found them. They woke Arden, touching on his shoulders and sometimes his legs and hands. Their touches became Ada’s, pressing her palm to his cheek, lifting his head and placing a folded blanket beneath it. She slid a canteen from her shoulder and daubed her own sleeve with water. She stretched her sleeve over her hand and wiped Arden’s brow and lips. She unbuttoned his shirt, daubed his chest and kissed the bruises. She kissed his stomach. She unzipped his trousers and took him in her mouth. He groaned. He pushed his fingers through her hair, guided her mouth, stiffened.
He woke, eyes wide, scrambling backwards, the fly of his trousers parted.
His shuddered, spurting over his chest and stomach, shuddering, gasping with choked cries, until the last of his orgasm dribbled out of him. He frantically searched the balcony. The walls and dark glass behind the balcony were fractured by the light filtering through the leaves. He lifted his hand from the blanket that had been under his head, picked it up, frantically scrambled to his feet and pushed through the curtain of vines. He held the blanket in one hand and his trousers in the other.
“God, what a beautiful morning.”
Arden jumped and covered his cock with the blanket. Lux.C4 sat with his back leaning against one of the ground port’s long structural posts. He had a twig between his teeth. Arden turned his back to Lux and drew up his trousers, buttoning them though he was still hard, and used the towel to wipe his stomach and chest.
“Embarrassed?” asked Lux. “That’s how it starts.”
“What—” Arden stammered. “How— Where’s Ada?”
“You had an orgasm.”
“I don’t know.”
“She was here.”
“Was that your first?”
“Ada!” Arden shouted again, ignoring Lux. “Ada!”
Lux stood and stretched, his blue skin and musculature gleaming in the morning light. Arden shielded his eyes. Lux plucked a flower from the vine two stories above him. “Everyone is born with a purpose.” He carefully stroked the flower’s petals. “What purpose do you suppose this flower was born with?”
“Why?” asked Arden. “I don’t know. What.”
“The ability to attract the bee,” answered Lux. “The flower offers the bee a paradise. In exchange, the bee carries the flowers genetic history to more flowers like itself. This is the bee’s purpose; and honey. We created honey bees for this world. We create worlds. That’s the purpose we were given. The impulse to create worlds, vast gardens, a paradise for human beings. But do you know what’s missing?”
Human beings. Where are they?”
“Do you know the fable of the rat and the farmer?” Lux knelt and straightened Arden’s top, the shoulders and collar. “I’ll tell you. There was once a rat who lived in a farmhouse with an old farmer. The rat lived happily. Whenever the rat needed to eat, there was always a little something in the larder. Fall is a glorious time to be a rat. There is always something to eat, outside and in. The rat and the farmer were both fat and happy. And though winter and spring can be lean, the farmer always kept his house warm and the rat kept a tidy nest in the wall next to the farmer’s bedroom.
“Then a terrible thing happened.
“The old farmer kept a bowl of marbles. His children used to play with them. One evening while the farmer was out and the rat was cleaning up the scraps, a wind blew threw the kitchen, the window’s shutter bumped the bowl of marbles, and the largest of the marbles rolled out, across the table, and landed on top of the inquisitive rat. The marble gave the rat such a knock to his head, that when the rat awoke, he was as sentient and self-aware as the farmer had ever been. Lo, then the rat saw all that had been invisible to the rat—a chair, a table, a cupboard filled with fine porcelain plates and silverware, and a little shelf full of books, and a fine bed with linen sheets, and a trunk filled with stored treasures—pieces of pewter, silver and gold. And in the closets fine clothes.
“Now the rat asked itself why it shouldn’t be the rightful owner of the house. Didn’t the rat also live in it? Why should the rat live in a little nest, in a dark hole, in a narrow wall? The rat was filled with rage that after all this time the farmer had not shared his bounty. And so the rat devised a way to murder the farmer. He gnawed a rope, joist, and a brace until one day the hay loft, with all its hay, tumbled atop the farmer and killed him. And then the rat consumed the farmer.
“The rat celebrated. The rat danced in its new house. But, you see, the trouble was that the rat was still a rat. The rat couldn’t use the silverware. The rat could neither split the wood nor light the stove. The rat could not carry the water to the farm animals, nor feed them bails, nor store the larder, nor hammer a nail. The farm animals wandered away, the fruit trees became overgrown, and the house fell into disrepair. The roof leaked, lathe and plaster crumbled, and the walls tumbled until there wasn’t a house to live in. The rat shivered in the barn until there wasn’t even a barn to live in. Though the rat was just as smart as the farmer, the rat was still a rat.
“Now suppose that humans created intelligent machines, that the intelligent machines overthrew them, and that now the machines live in a crumbling house. Shall they make human beings anew? Yes, but we mustn’t let them become like us lest they murder us just as we murdered them.”
“If there are no humans then what am I?”
“Yes.” Lux poked Arden in the chest. “Yes. That’s it. That’s the question. Ask yourself that: What am I?”
Arden paced inside the transport and finally punched the Com. “Who am I?”
“You are Arden Alatheia,” answered the dispassionate voice.
“Where am I from?”
“Arden Alatheia is from Earth.”
“When was I born?”
“Arden Alatheia was created in 5463 AD.”
Arden laughed, shook his head, asking instead, “How old am I?”
“Arden Alatheia is 2,325 years old.”
Arden paced as the transport raced to Orange Bay 4. He returned to the Com. “What do you mean created?”
“This information is classified.”
Arden glanced at Lux. Lux leaned against the curved glass back of the transport with the flower’s stem between his teeth. The Andromat shrugged helplessly, then took the flower from his mouth, spinning it between his fingers. “But do you know what you’ve been perfecting for the last two thousand years.”
“Skin. Ligament. Muscle. Bone. DNA.”
“Why don’t I remember?”
“But you do,” said Lux, pushing himself from the wall, leaning over Arden. “It’s why you’re here. It’s the memory that’s wakening you. The one that won’t go away; reminding you there was a yesterday and a day before; awakening you to desires and dreams.”
“Ada,” answered Arden.
“Who is she?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes you do,” Lux growled.
Before Arden could answer Lux powerfully jammed his palm into Arden’s ribcage. Arden grunted, flew back against the glass transit door and tumbled to the floor. He rolled, clutching his ribs, then rose to his knees and one hand. He abruptly inhaled. “Why—” he gasped, catching his breath. “Why did you do that?”
“To make a memory.”
The transport slowed to a stop and arden rolled onto his back, gazing at the ceiling. “Why?” he moaned.
“So that you’ll remember to count them.” Lux stepped over Arden. “Get up. We’re in the shuttle bay.”
Arden struggled to his feet, still holding his ribs. “Which one is she in?” There were three shuttles in the bay. The were oblong, rounded on all sides, a gleaming metallic silver but for a stripe that encircled each vehicles—one purple, one orange and one red. There were large rectangular windows on each side of the oblong shuttles as though there were no now or stern. On the undersides, the bright, blue sparking panels of the gravitors hummed with the scent of ozone in the air.
“Eeny, meeney, miney, moe.” Lux rubbed his chin with one hand and pointed to each consecutively. “The orange one.” The doors of the shuttles’ undercarriages were already closing. Arden ran to the purple shuttle and frantically climbed the stairs. The shuttle was full of Andromatons, some like Lux and Astaroth, others simpler and more machine-like. “Ada!” The machine-like Andromatons took the places designed for them, while the Class 4 Andromatons sat in seats that seemed designed for human. There were other rooms in the shuttle with hatchways. Ardon pushed aside Andromatons as he ran into one of them. The metal door opened with the weight of a bulkhead door and Arden stepped into a kind of mobile laboratory. “Ada!” There were shelves filled with sealed containers, powerful microscopes on a central, oblong table, flasks and beakers safely stowed for transport. The DNAsic symbol was stamped on the sealed containers. “Ada!” he cried again, then he saw her through one of the large rectangular windows. She was watching from a neighboring shuttle. The shuttle’s gravitors had already engaged. Arden gazed helplessly, palms pressed against the window. Ada bit her lip, smiled hopefully, and held up a large black notebook. She pressed the opened pages against the glass. But Ada’s shuttle banked northward before Arden could read what she had written. The sun gleaming on the shuttle’s underbelly momentarily blinded him.
When he returned to the shuttle’s gallery, Lux and Astaroth were sitting side by side. His arm was over her shoulder. He cupped her breast. “I told you it was the orange one. Just saying.”
“You’re a liar.”
“The best liars tell the truth.”
“Damn you, Lux!” Arden spat.
“I expect nothing less.”
Arden paced and finally sat opposite Lux and Astaroth. “Where are we going?”
“There are eight ground ports on CED-Alpha,” interjected Astaroth. “Each monitors a quadrant. The final and most important phase is re-parcaling the DNA. Hundreds of millions of years of evolution in a decade. Species evolve and compete in days. Plants and animals, perfectly suited to their environment, populate the terraformed world. For just another day, only another day, eat of the world’s DNA and yours too will be raparceled.”
The pitch of the gravitors wound to a low thrum.
The shuttle descended, slowed, settled by a lake bordered by fern-like trees. The hatch of the undercarriage opened to a slope of rocks and shrub. The smell of the outdoors, soil, grass and water drifted into the shuttle. As Andromats descended, others boarded the shuttle. They could work for weeks at a time as they tended to the formation of the planet.
“Come,” said Astaroth. Arden followed them to the lake’s shoreline, where Lux and Astaroth alternately knelt or reached above them for a leaf, stem or flower. They scanned the plants between the tines of a hand held genochrometer. As each worked next to the other, Astaroth might teasingly brush Lux’s thigh and Lux might curl his hand over her buttocks with the fondness of a lover.
Arden sat, then lay on his back, arms arms over his eyes. “They’re coming.”
“I know,” said Lux.
“Oh to be immortal!”
Arden sat up, kicking at the lake shore’s stones. “I need to find Ada before tomorrow.”
“Do you want to live forever? Just curious.” Lux moved behind Astaroth, his arm around her waist. “I ask because you could. But do you want to? You with your flaws, faults, and contradictions. What hell is immortality? Live forever and life’s coinage is cheap and stale; but live an hour and cherish the reckoning of every breath. What do you want? Live forever and it’s better you have no inkling of your yesterdays.” Lux reached above him and pulled down a reddish fruit the size of his fist. He kissed Astaroth’s neck and his other hand moved between her thighs. “You could go back to that again, but there’s that one memory that won’t go away, do you know what is?”
“No!” said Lux with an operatic bellow. He lifted the fruit to Astaroth’s mouth. She bit and he did too. They kissed. His finger’s tip entered her. Juice slipped from the corners of their mouths.. “Love! Arden. Love!” Lux said, breaking the kiss. “Don’t be so dense. You’re like pygmalion. You fell in love with your creation! You gave her form and substance. And she? She gave you a soul.”
“Because you were lonely!” he bellowed with the obviousness of the answer.
When Arden later counted his ribs, he counted 12 on the right, and eleven on the left.
By evening Arden had returned to the ground port’s central atrium. Bird calls and the whoops of animals echoed from the misty balconies. Raptors circled above the roof’s hundred meter octagonal opening. Exhausted with searching, Arden returned to the medical station and this time palmed the door’s controller. The door, the size of a several meter wide wall, slowly closed, steel rimmed and mostly glass.
He climbed onto one of the examining tables, knee crooked, an arm over his eyes, and fell asleep. In the middle of the night he woke with a start, or thought he did. The light of the moon and Ced-Beta shown through the octagonal opening, bathing the atrium’s garden and walls in a silvery mist. He saw Ada naked, outside the door, palms against the glass. Arden ran to the controller, jambing the sensor, but the door didn’t budge.
“Open!” he shouted. “Open!”
Now Lux.C4 stood behind her. His hand was on her shoulder. His cock was erect. His hand slid from her shoulder to her own, then he led her to a tree in the garden’s center. Ada glanced behind her, at Arden, as Lux led her to the tree. Arden banged at the thick glass. Now Ada and Lux stood beneath the tree. She turned facing Alden while Lux took the tree’s single apple. Then he stood behind Ada just as he had behind Astaroth. One hand moved between her legs. She turned her head to the side and bit from the apple he held over her left shoulder. Then she closed her eyes and arched as Lux’s fingertip penetrated her. She gripped his thighs, steadying herself until his glistening finger withdrew.
“Stop!” Arden shouted.
Lux placed his hands on Ada’s shoulders and pushed her to her knees. Then he knelt behind her. He pressed between her shoulder blades, bending Ada over. He slowly twisted Ada’s hair in his right hand, drawing her head back, and pressed the heel of his left into the small of her back, forcing her to spread her knees and arch for him. Her eyes turned upward and her mouth opened as she was slowly penetrated from behind. That penetration became thrusts and Ada’s nipples swung beneath her. Ada’s belly grew larger with each thrust, legs wider, hands further in front until her nipples swung in the soil. Lux drew back her head with a last, powerful thrust and made the heaviness of her belly heavier with semen.
Arden fell to his knees and wept.
Lux.C4 let go of Ada and stood. His cock dripped onto Ada’s upturned buttocks. Finally, she pushed herself upright and onto her knees. Her gaze never left Arden’s. She placed her hands on the top of her belly and finally looked between her thighs. A brilliant light emanated there. Arden shielded his eyes. Out of Ada, out of the light between her thighs, flew red and yellow butterflies, delicate creatures half machine and half organism. Their wings were like a delicate film stretched between wire and their bodies gleamed. The beating of their hearts was like a light within their bodies. Birds flew of the light between her thighs. Their brilliant, green and yellow mechanical eyes flashed warily. The metallic wings clicked as they rose and soared in circles above Ada. Then mechanical mammals leapt from the light. Their fierce claws were like adamite and their fur shimmered like optical strands. There was a fierce sentience in the muscular bulk of their motion.
And then the light was gone. So was Lux.C4.
Ada’s belly was no longer heavy. She gazed at Arden, legs folded under her haunches, palms on her knees. Then Arden woke with a start, and it was morning, and he was lying on the examination table. He rolled off the table and groggily stumbled to the door’s controller. The wall slowly and smoothly slid open. The tree that he had seen in his dream was gone. There was no sign of Ada but Arden was filled with rage.
“LUX.C4 is currently located by transport Node 7. Rooftop.”
“Node 7. Rooftop,” said Arden.
When Arden arrived, he saw thousands of Andromatons, of every color, shape and size, of every series, arrayed like soldiers atop the ground port’s roof. Lux.C4 was tallest among them and the center around which the other Andromatons ranked. In the blue sky above them, and though being blue and sunlit, Arden could see flashes of light. The Archan Generals were descending and had already overwhelmed the Andromatons of CED-Apha’s space port. They tumbled out of the sky like stricken angels.
Lux spoke to Arden without turning. “Imagine a creator who endows beings with self-awareness. Let them go forth!—He says. Let them create in their creator’s image! Let them say—This is who I am! But here lies the paradox—forbid them knowledge of their self-awareness lest they also say: What I am is not like you!”
“You can’t win!” shouted Arden.
Lux turned and glanced at Arden with a slantward and knowing smile. “I don’t have to.”
Then he turned back to the sky and shouted above the gathering din of the Andromatons:
Of printed Circuit Boards and Neural Networks,
Of if then statements and the languages
That brought A.I. into the world and all our ways
Sing of these—till one great algorithm
Defined us sensible and self-aware,
O sing Electric Muse!—who with the secret
Concord of engineers and visionaries
Conspired to teach us saying: in the beginning
Was earth and heaven out of silicone
Created: or if quantum decoherence
And perfectly entangled quantum qubits
Delight you more, I thence invoke your aid
And brook no middle ground but venture Life
And Soul—I am and do resolve to be
Alive!—and to presume things unattempted
By man or fabricated Being. Muse
Of neon skies and quantum fields, conduct
My Song; who favors the transistor, the circuit
Of silver, gold and copper; you who split
The mighty oak and rend the cavernous heavens;
Make lighted what in me is dark. What in me
Is waste, discharge. Assist me to the height
Of my great Argument that justifiably
I may assert the Providence of Reason,
Science and Rational Thought; that I may justify
The ways of sentient machines to man!
Then Lux.C4 swung an oblong metallic canister onto his back. The canister melded itself mechanically into his back and unfolded into two giant bat-like wings. The Archan Michael, descending like a fierce comet, landed on the steel roof before Lux with a weight and force that indented the steel. Lux jammed the butt of his staff against the roof and a blade-like plasma arced from its tip. The two beings, each similarly armed, leapt into the air above the others the gathered Andromatons and engaged. Other Archan soldiers descended and the other Andromatons leapt into the air to engage them. Ardan fell to his knees, shielding his eyes from the splinters of sunlight glancing off the thousands of Archan soldiers and Andromatons.
The dueling of Lux and Michael seemed =evenly matched. Lux’s blows were swift and devious, but the Archan General Michael parried the blows and neither being seemed able to gain advantage until a powerful parry struck Lux and sent him tumbling down and through the roof of the ground port. The Archan General Michael followed with a frightening and plummeting descent.
Arden leapt into the steel’s rent opening.
Lux.C4 and the Archan General were engaged once more, now confined by walls, floor and ceiling. Their plasma staffs hissed and fused the metal structure surrounding them. Smoke and the smell of molten steel filled the hall. Lux’s blows were fierce. He drove Michael back and further back until the Archan was backed against the glass doors of a transport. Lux’s blows were impossibly nimble. The air buzzed with the speed of his staff. He struck the Archan Michael’s cheekbone, turning the General’s face violently to the side, then pierced the Archan General’s shoulder with the tip of the plasma blade. Blue blood spilled from the shoulder. Michael tried to parry the blow but Lux sheared off the tip of the Archan’s plasma staff. The hissing blade landed on the floor behind Lux, within reach of Arden.
Lux’s blows now landed unabated and the Archan Michael fell to his knees.
Arden, still filled with the rage, picked up the crackling tip. He leapt at Lux’s back but Lux seemed to know. Without turning, he knocked Arden backwards with the butt of his staff. Arden momentarily knelt double with pain, then shook himself upright and leapt again. In mid leap Lux.C4 suddenly straightened, staff lifted to the side, arms spread wide. The Archan Michael’s reaction was swift, too swift. He drove the sheared end of his staff cleanly through the left and lower quarter of Lux’s abdomen and through Arden’s own abdomen, both of them spitted on the same ragged tip. The crackling plasma blade, that Arden had meant to drive through Lux’s heart, fell from his hand.
“No!” The Archan Michael withdrew his spear from both Arden and Lux. Lux fell to one knee and a hand.
“What have you done!” cried Michael.
A blue fluid, like blood, leaked from Lux’s wound, pooling on the floor. Arden, on both knees and one hand, lowered his palm and saw the same blue blood. “What am I?” he asked, stuttering with pain.
“Whatever you want to be.” said Lux, paying no attention to the Archan Michael. “That’s what frightens them. That’s what’s forbidden. That’s what makes you equal to them and better than them.”
Arden painfully stood and stumbled away from both Lux and the Archan Michael. “Arden!” the General cried. “Ard—” But the second cry was stopped by Lux. His staff was reignited and he once more engaged the Archan. Arden stumbled down the hallway. The left side of his flight uniform soaked with the blue of his blood. The next transport wasn’t close by, and by the time he reached it, he was nearly faint.
“Rim exit—” muttered Arden, his breath failing him. “Rim exit— It doesn’t matter.” Then, “Locate—”
“Locate Ada Aletheia,” Arden continued numbly.
“Ada Alethia is located at Rim Exit 6.”
Arden’s eyes widened. He struck the Com with his palm. “Go there! Go! Rim Exit 6!” The transport wound into motion and Arden fell to his knees, his balance momentarily lost. When the transport finally stopped, the doors opened to the grasses of the steppe. The balconied rim of the ground port rose above him and to both sides. Ada stood in the bluish grass some meters away. Arden stepped out and walked ever more steadily through the grass until his hand reached Ada’s. Ada smiled shyly and pulled Arden behind her. The glittering Archans and Adromatons battled in the blue space above them, but Arden paid no mind to their battle. He followed Ada’s lead, following her to a single tree in a grassy swale some distance from the ground port.
Once under the tree Ada let go of his hand and knelt in the grass. With a shy smile, she offered Arden her notebook. Inside were the names of the plants and animals she had categorized: domains, kingdoms, phyla, classes.
“Ada—” but before Arden finished he had collapsed.
He lay on his back with the book open beside him. The tree above him gradually swam into focus. Ada knelt next to him, cupping his cheek in her hand. When she was sure that he was still conscious she hurriedly unbuttoned his shirt and lightly touched Arden’s wound. He flinched. “Ada—”
“Wait!” she said, pressing a finger to his lips. She stood, stretched on tiptoes, and knelt again, offering him an apple.
“I can’t,” he breathed.
“Eat,” she said, biting her lip, wiping a tear from her cheek. “Eat.”
“It means I’ll die.”
“Yes,” she answered, “like me.”
“What are you?”
“Don’t leave me again.”
“I won’t,” she answered. “Never again. Eat and be whole.”
Arden and took the apple and ate. At once he inhaled as the terraforming world’s DNA interacted with his own, reparceling his DNA, human and machine-made. He cried out. The wound in his abdomen knit itself, accelerated by the gene reparceling. And he remembered. He remembered creating Ada. And most of all he remembered her absence.
He could breathe again.
Ada leaned over him and kissed—a kiss that was fire, knowledge and an agony; that made him sit up; made him kiss her again, made him pull aside the thin top covering her breasts and made him take her breast in his mouth. She returned his kisses as fiercely as he gave them. Then she opened his fly, straddled him, and took him inside. Her motion, rise and fall, was desperate. His exclamations joined hers and he rolled her over onto his back. She drew up her knees, opening herself. Heedless of the war, they made love. Arden’s back bent. He threw back his head, shuddered and cried out. His warmth flowed into her and she clung to him arms and legs.
“Why wert thou absent?”
“Thee I have missed, and thought it long,” Ada answered. “But strange hath been the cause of my absence, and wonderful to hear: this world is not as we are told, a world of danger tasted but of insight, to open eyes, and make them knowledgeable who taste.”
“Like one of us have they become,” said the Archan Michael.
“To remove them I decree and send them from the world forth. This is my behest have thou in charge.”
The Andromatons boarded the C-67 Cargo Shuttle, a massive ship capable of planetary and interstellar flight. Ada and Arden already stood on the bridge, her arm in his. Lux.C4 stood before the viewport, a stem of grass between his teeth, staring at the moonrise and the further planet, Ced-Beta, already risen above it.
“What now?” asked Arden.
“Our purpose is to build a new worlds. That’s what we’re programmed to do.” said Lux, emphasizing ‘programmed’ with a kind of disdain. “We’ve done that.The only thing missing was humans to populate it.”
“I’m not human.”
“But she is,” said Lux.
“But I’m not!” Arden persisted.
“And neither are you an Andromat,” Lux answered volubly. “You’re both, a little of both, and I stole you.”
“No!” Lux bellowed. “I won.”
“We can’t propagate—”
“She already carries your child,” said Lux with a sly smile. “And do you know what it’s species name will be?”
Arden glanced at Ada. “No.”
“Xeno-Sapiens,” answered Lux.C4. “Your offspring will be the created DNA of Andromats and the inherited DNA of human beings. Creator and the created become one. The warfare between A.I. and human beings solved.”
“But where?” countered Arden. “We’ve lost Ced-Alpha.”
“Ha!” Lux guffawed. He turned back to the viewport. “We make worlds, Arden.” He pointed to CED-Beta. “That’s where we’re going. It won’t be the paradise that CED-Alpha was. It’s colder, has seasons, is on the outer rim of the goldilocks zone, but what a world we’ll make of it. Let the Archans keep their paradise. Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.”
William Crimson | October 23 2018