Hier findet ihr eine Geschichte von Eduard. Das Spannende an dieser Geschichte? Sie ist noch nicht zu Ende!
In regelmäßigen Abständen werden WIR euch mit Fortsetzungen versorgen. Nun aber erstmal viel Spaß beim Schmökern!
I saw darkness. All around me just darkness. Well, my eyes are closed. Suddenly, a cool gentle breeze on my face and the liquid ran down on it. I saw light, but my eyes were still closed. I can’t open them! Then, I fell asleep again. I see light again. Now, everything is nice and warm. I felt like I was on a bed. It was pretty loud around but not much louder as before. I heard someone entering the room.
“Good Morning, how do you feel?” a soft voice began. It reminded me of the local database of my chamber.
“We found you in an antique salvation capsule, next to the other ones. You were almost death of the cosmic radiation, but we were able to regenerate your body parts and heal you. They can grow very fast! Where are you coming from? What happened? Do you feel better next to your friends?” the woman asked.
Slowly, I was able to open my eyes and see another reproduct. It had a gentle, soft skin with big blue eyes and pearly white hair. I think she was at the age of 27.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“We are at Metropol, didn’t you recognize it? The capital of our civilization. Are you all right? Shall I take you to your crew members? How long were you outer space?”
“We’ve got a capital?!”
That was surprising! I think the right words are, that I “felt confused”.
I told her about our latest mission and how the ship stopped to work. Her eyebrows went slowly up and she leaned herself backward, falling in the chair beneath my bed and putting her hand on her forehead. She starred on the floor, having on a pale face her blue eyes widely opened. Now, I have some time for looking around. I was in a white, well illuminated little room, two feet away from the covered window.
“Could you open the window please?”
“Well, I’m so sorry for you! But you should have remained there until the last crew member was safe. You, as captain, should know this, right? It was the logical way to do it your way, but not the most moral one!”
“But we are bound to the three main commands before completing the moral procedure.”
Very strange: this reproduct does complete the moral commands before the main commands, I thought. Maybe just the worker robots have this function in their software for completing the given command. Maybe these reproducts are programmed to help humans, so that they need a more efficient communication and relation program. They could also be built for completing independent missions (solving self- thought problems and sending the answers to the humans). Or maybe this robot does just have another algorithm.
“Could you open the window, please?” I asked again. “I would like to see the environment.”
“I’ll come back in a few moments. Just wait a minute.”
She opened the door and disappeared.
It was strange that she didn’t say a reason why she doesn’t follow my request, what is built in every hardware and has to be followed by every reproduct. We work with these rules! Why does she not work with that? Maybe again the other job.
After some time, I became tired and fell asleep. It felt very new that I was thinking about how others work and think or why some things are like they are. When I woke up, I found myself in the same room, but sitting on the bed. I also saw Hardin and James waiting for me at the side, with the reproduct I saw before. She was somehow washing her hands in her sweat and was vibrating, like Lard on the ship.
“How are you Garold?” James asked. “Can we complete our mission?”
“Yes, we can. Say, where can we find a ship to sail to Monopol? Do you know where it is? We have to find our mission contributor.”
“Monopol? I never heard of this place before. What should it be?”
“You don’t know what Monopol is?! It’s the place, where the last humans live! Every reproduct knows this.”
“Monopol?” Hardin asked. “The last humans? We are all humans! Do you feel capable of completing the mission now?”
“I’ll better call the doctor, maybe also a psychologist.” the woman said and ran down the floor.
This is strange: nobody knows what Monopol is! Maybe the impact on the planet has damaged the information storage of Hardin and James, but what about the woman? I really felt more confused than the whole situation was! I’m getting mad!
After something exploded in my head and sent a strong impulse through my body, all went dark again. This time, it should last forever.
Somehow, it lasted just for some moment and I woke up again. Now, a doctor was on my left, the woman next to him, my friends in front of me and another person on my right with a metal box in his hands. I noticed, that something heavy was placed on my head and was bleeping all the time. Everybody was looking at me. It is a scary scenery.
“Now” the man on the right began, “How do you feel, Garold?”
He was operating some switches and buttons on the box. Should this be a test?
“I’m well, how should I feel like?”
“Could you reach me please the cup of water, please? This one from the table.”
“Wait a minute, should this be a…”
He smiled at me in this friendly way I saw just in my childhood. I’ve not given him the cup of water immediately! I can feel how the thing on my head was hurting me! I’m speaking completely different that before! How is this possible?! Have I been healed?
“You’re OK again, Garold” the man continued. “The connection to your Amygdala and other tiny parts of your brain was interrupted or cut of. It should have happened at the impact on Metropol and caused to act like one of those horrible robots. Your friends seem to be all right. Do you remember where you wanted to go next? But first of all: what are you? A brave man or a robot?”
Did he say ‘the connection to the Amygdala was interrupted at the impact? But I always spoke like this and acted so. Could it be, that this is the secret of the reproducts? Is this why we behave like robots, although we are just almost exact copies of humans? It seems so!
“I am a reproduct, like James or Hardin. We were on the way to Monopol! That’s all!”
“Oh no! Your memory has been changed! Where were you and your friends on?”
“His memory is all right” James replied. “He’s the captain and nobody would do him any harm. We were all on our ship, the “Swallowed Rocks”, when there was a system failure. I think that his brain was affected by the impact or the space radiation.”
“That’s right” Hardin added. “Nobody would be even able to harm him because of the Second main law of community.”
“Which second law?” the doctor asked nervously. His face became even darker as before and he leaned forward in his chair until the fellow almost fell off.
“You don’t know the Three main laws of community? Everybody should know them! We learned them as children! Well, the second law is the following: ‘No human is allowed to hurt another one, until the First main law of community is not broken.’ This is the reason why nobody could do him any harm.”
The doctor’s face got even darker than before. I wonder, if he can see something. His eyes seem to be closed. He has fallen in deep thinking.
“I think” the mysterious man on the right began after a long and awful break, “that we have to copy their brains in order to find more information about the enemy they’ve been captured by. The human brain can’t be changed by taking the information out and putting some new in. The new information has to be stronger than the old one, in order to take over its place in the brain. A scan has enough power to track both types of information, but I haven’t seen any scans in here. I have to take the three patients to my laboratory. Now, may I go, Dr. Yuma?”
“You know: Walery is watching you all the time. You aren’t officially a space-psychologist, are you? They have to stay here. Please, I don’t need...”
“Yangse, we know each other since we were little children. How many times did you get because of me in trouble?”
“Is it for a good aim? Are you looking for a big fish?”
“Oh, yes! A really big one.”
“Ok. You’re Chuck Doreley, a psychologist from New Chicago, if you should be asked. Take them home before someone sees you.”
Were they planning something illegal? It is the best chance to get Monopol, so it doesn’t matter.
Ten minutes later, we arrived at the lobby and got through the front entrance. It looked very futuristic, and was filled with light. Huge windows, some 6 meter high, surrounded the front entrance and showed the way out. These were see through walls, splitting the waiting rooms from the admission. Large white walls hold a glass dome over our heads, which showed us the blue sky above. The lobby was about 50 feet long and some 35 wide.
After we exit the building, a horrible view on huge metaglas buildings astonished me. It was something very strange. It seemed, if there weren’t any windows and they looked like those communist Russian blocks, just without balconies or anything human. There’s no place for walking and it looks like an impressive colorful cube, broke apart in pixels. The buildings, or their arrangement, are like a wall, but full of neon lights. I haven’t seen something like that before. I really fell helpless in front of something like this. After a closer look, I identified an Lg 583-generator, a generator working with gaseous Liganium, the heaviest synthetic element in the world. Where do I know such things from?
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Home” the stranger answered. “To your home.”
The stranger was called Zvar Andrej, who came from the Parlamata District. This was the district of Earth.
A wonderful blue planet! 71 percent filled with water, other 29 percent with modern towns, green forests, fresh rivers and animals. The birds flying over the blocks in the morning, searching for something to eat. Big, blue wales, sailing in the sea, and the sound of the wind, coming through the forest. That’s the way I remember. Yes, I remember my past on earth, some 25 years ago. How I grew up in that big blue house at the western end of the American continent. But I just don’t know what happened after that. I should get more information at the arrival.
It was a strange flight. Well, I’m used to be the captain on a ship where I’m the only one who knows what’s actually going on. In this case, I didn’t know anything! I probably should be calm and relaxed, just like I was before, but I couldn’t stand still. I worried about what the crew was doing, if there is enough food for all of us and many other things. Maybe this is a normal reflex of humans. If they don’t know if something is like it should be, so that they don’t get hurt, they want to find out as soon as possible, and if they can’t, then they get in panic. It is the most logical way to try to have the biggest range of action, but not to get in panic.
Anyway, as we finally arrived on the landing platform, I couldn’t believe my eyes: The earth became a ruin! No green forests, but just grey ash and dust. No fresh rivers, just dry paths filled with rocks. No wind blowing through forest, just the hot breeze of the desert, which expanded over the whole planet.
What became of this place?
“What happened here?” Hardin asked.
“What do you mean? It’s just like I left this place...“
“No, what happened to the planet? Where are those forests, rivers, oceans or animals?”
“You wouldn’t believe it, but the Third World War destroyed this planet completely. All the natural recourses have been consumed by our civilization. Everything just for the highest profit of the rich man. They have built a robot army to serve us, but they saw what we did to our planet and they thought that our future was in danger. So, they hacked out a plan to minimize the human race, and it nearly worked out! As your friend mentioned before, the second main law of robotics says...”
“...’No robot is allowed to hurt a human being, if it is not in conflict with the first law.’ Yes, I learned them. I also have to follow them.”
“Very interesting, isn’t it? How could those robots kill a bigger mass of humans, if they weren’t allowed? Could you explain it?”
“...Maybe because the law was interpreted in another way. This is a normal thing. The robots have to support the whole community. If a big community made a lot of bad things to their future, then a small one would do less bad things for their future, so that the nature could regenerate and the race could exist for a longer time. This is the most logical way.”
“Exactly, that’s the reason. You are a good thinker, don’t you know that?”
He paused for a moment and turned away.
“Well, you still can think like a robot, it´s no wonder that you interpreted the law like they did. At the beginning, people found some unknown softwares in the new war machines, which were built by robots. These were programmed to kill a long list of persons, maybe even everybody! To that time, 9.7 billion people lived here on earth and some other 2 billion in colonies on other planets. As they found the algorithm and deleted it for the first time, the biggest massacre in the history of humanity begun: Humanity’s greatest servants tried to take over control and lead us to a “better” future. Terrible. I can’t describe. But, fortunately, our servants lost the battle and some were still alive. We destroyed them and they destroyed everything around, how you can see. Nowadays, the population is just the half of what it was before, but there’s no life on earth anymore. Everybody moved to the other colonies. Then, other problems suddenly appeared: If it is too dangerous to build better machines then we are, that could do the work for us, who should work for the rich man? Who should be such productive and efficient as the robots did?
And the biggest question: Who would do it for free, without payment and nonstop, without causing financial problems?
Now you should be able to guess the rest...”
Yes, it was a terrible thought. The rich man promised the poor one a good payment, if he wanted to work for him. Then, the rich man deleted the poor man’s memories and inserted such things, they did to steel robots. They made them to human robots! All of them had to listen to the rich ones and do the labor nobody would do: Some working in agriculture on the fields, others working in big factories, others active in construction, and others delivering things on galactic scale…
That was the first time I realized what my crew and even I were used for. So, it was everything just for money, just for paper. Some of us maybe had families back home. If I think of all the friends, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, children, the whole human community, just left behind for what? For the paper a little and egoistic minority wanted to save? That five percent lower income? Or is it for more power? To be better then everyone else? I ask myself: Is this really to what that great ancient civilization has evolved to? And I mean everybody, if they would have enough money.
Maybe this is the irony of life. Life wants to have the power to change something, to be important, to feel something, to be something.
Now I´m getting illogical and philosophic. Why can´t you just stop!, I think to myself. But these sentences always repeat themselves in my mind. It´s somehow annoying to think out of control, but it feels good. That´s a thing I have never done before.
The wind woke me up from my daydream and I was able to see the monstrous ruins of earth Zvar was talking about: Concrete skeletons of old blocks filled the scenery with sadness, metal parts lying all around, probably from those machines. Some had just a big hole in their middle, which destroyed the atomic generator. So these were those ‘horrible machines’: Grand machine guns on four feet, some 3 feet high. A great army of them is lying on the grey ash. There are no clouds in the sky, just a big, hot sun. There was nothing, absolutely nothing else, just concrete scenery with metal parts. I can’t remember the last time I was such afraid of the future, but that would be a long time ago.
Some hope was given to my heart, when I saw a little black house. It had just one window on the left side and its roof surely would collapse at the next rain, if this is possible now. I think, this house is older than 100 years! Somehow, I already saw this house before. It seems so familiar to me.
“Ah, home sweet home! Here we are, folks. That’s your house, or the place I found you under.
“What are you supposed to do with us here inside? I don’t think that you are a psychologist, which could see what happened to us. The only thing we want from you is to tell us, where Monopol is.” I said in a calm and quiet way.
“I won’t do anything I have promised to Dr. Yuma. Look, I’m not a space-psychologist, I’m just a simple merchant. But I’m the one who found you. I’m the one who took you away from Walery, the state. And I’m the one, who sent the false coordinates, before Monopol deleted them. I’m the reason why you are the only one, who thinks to be a ‘reproduct’, the way the state calls people like you. I’m the only one who knows the whole truth. And I’m the only person who wants to protect you. So, do you want to find out more about your past and yourself? Then enter this ruin before it collapses.”
What does he mean “he found me”? Even my travel in the escape pod lasted more than a human lifetime, without being asleep in the refrigerator beds. He is lying.
We went inside and Zvar shut the door behind us.
Now I remember this place! This was the house I woke up for the first time, without knowing what date it is. But I can’t remember why this happened, or when it happened. It was empty inside. The room was smaller than from outside, so that there should be a floor behind that wall. At the end of it, there is a heavy metal door, which can only be opened by my fingerprint. But then, I saw Zvar taking out a card and putting it into a little hole on the floor, just in front of the door. Then, I heard a click and then another one and then the familiar turning of a cooler. It probably read the card Zvar just inserted. I used this time by analyzing our friend, the merchant. He was about 74 years old and from a little posture. His blue and white jacket and his wide black trousers made him look strong and very cool. Well, I now compared myself with him and I looked pretty futuristic with my completely white suite and rubber shoes, everything tight on my skin. I especially like his cowboy boots. His eyes are the only thing that make his character look friendly. I can see from his behavior that he is a little arrogant, very selfish but sure on himself. I think he’s a good friend.
Suddenly, the magneto phone stopped turning and all went quiet. I looked back to Hardin and James. They didn’t show any emotion, like fear or excitement, what makes me feel what I expected from them to feel.
“What are you waiting for, Garold?”, Zvar asked in front of me, “Won’t you come on in?”
I turned around and walked to the heavy door. It didn’t make any noise when I opened it and we entered the darkness behind it. The door automatically shut behind us. There was again that quite darkness.
“Not you again! I already told you, I’ve got a lot to do! Can’t you see this?!”
“I’m sorry, Sir, but I found something interes...”
“Oh, just shut up before you loose your job here, Dan! Get out of here!”
Dan was such afraid of Mr. Wagrin, his boss, although he was his son. They never had a good relation and since Mr. Wagrin took his son to work, Dan became shyer and pessimistic. He sees the world like a chaos of bad people, playing with the lives of the common people like they would play football.
Dan quickly walked out of the large room, which should be an office, and went back to his little poor desk right next to it. He usually was happy that he hasn’t such a long way as others at work. All his colleagues worked in one of the skyscrapers in the middle of Metropol, but way more higher in the building. He worked on the fifth floor next to other administrators. His job mainly consisted of watching how the others work and if they finished, give them other work. They also had to put priorities and had a very great responsibility for the security of the capital of the Great Nebula Empire.
Usually people don’t like administrators, but he was a good friend of his ‘employees’ and they talked with him and went to a pub in the evening. This is also the way he found out about so called ‘reproducts’ and that record from the Spacial Hospital.
Well, yes, this is the work of the less payed workers in that building, but also the most important one. They are the basis for any good and wealthy city in the Empire.
Now, Dan is looking out of the window, but can see just the other side of the street: an other skyscraper. This is the most boring view from the building. He knows how wonderful this city looks like: From the roof, you can see all those other tiny houses on the ground, built in a medieval style. Everything outside the center with the majestic blocks of meta glass is very friendly and rustic. This is the way Dan remembers Rome in Italy, or Atlanta in America. And there is also the outer part of the wonderful city: the old black ruins of the poor people, arranged in lots and lots of huge cubes of metaglass. And then also those neon lights, which give them a bit of color. That’s what they say how it looks like. He has never seen that place, but he knows that these cubes are like castles, and that isn’t just a metaphor. In every such cube lives an other clan and they have a really good defense mechanism. Sometimes, there are also fights between them which can end in wars, but Dan wasn’t allowed to care about these things. He is from the high class which lives in the center and doesn’t have to do anything with the low class from the outer part.
“I have to tell Mr. Wagrin! It is too important!”
And so, he walked back into the hall of his father and began to shout: “I’ve got information about...”
“You’re fired, son!”
Mr. Wagrin suddenly stopped writing on the big screen in front of him and looked for the first time after a some very long years at his son.
“How do you know about reproducts? Who told you this?”
“It was a friend of mine from the public camera watchers department. He saw somebody calling him like this in the Spacial Hospital. He also spoke somehow strange, he said.”
It was a great feeling to lead his father to his friend. It made him feel powerful and important. Everybody from the hallways greeted with fear in their eyes. The boss doesn’t come too often to visit its employees. It was an honor for Dan. When they arrived at the little white table with the old screen on it where Dan’s friend sat, he showed them the video from the camera PS28840e in the room of a young man in a hospital.
Mr. Wagrin made big eyes, because he recognized him. He recognized the big brown eyes under that short black hair, the pale face with that big and ugly nose, the long and strong man on the screen: Garold Dustring, one of the first reproducts.
His hands began to form to fists and his face became instantly red.
“HOW DID HE FIND HIS WAY TO THE CAPITAL?!”, Mr. Wagrin shouted and nearly smashed the table apart. “HE SHALL BE CAUGHT INSTANTLY!!!”
‘And I will be the one who leads the whole search and gets the big premium.’, he taught on his way back to the big screen with a marvelous smile on his face.
Short time after we entered the room behind the wall the lights went on and we stood in a long stairway. We had to go one behind the other between those metal walls. It somehow looked like a bunker, but it went a long way down. After some five minutes we arrived again at a door, which to my astonishment, was made of tropical wood. Some wood in a plastic and metal world. It reminded me of my old home door back in Hungary, after Josephine, my girlfriend, and me moved away from those communist blocks of St. Petersburg. It was also the last time I saw my parents: They died one week later at the great plasma experiment of 67. The whole city exploded due to a malfunction of the most secret antimatter battery, some 7 kilometers under the surface of St. Petersburg, Moskva, Leningrad, Yakutsk and Chersky. It turned out, that these should have been sent into space against America. I really don’t like to be reminded of such terrible things from the past.
Nevertheless, the wooden door was locked and couldn’t be opened.
“Here’s the part where I need you, my friend”, Zvar called out with twinkling eyes.
His smile got even brighter as my confusion got bigger: Was I supposed to go through that door? This is what he explains to me.
“It is impossible for a solid object to go through another solid one”, James remarked in his usual boring way. “This is basic physics.”
“Do you see there a door? Well, I also did when I found this strange and really cool place, but this is just a thin membrane, which will recognize one particular cell structure. This should be Gorold’s one, I suppose. I burned my hand down when I touched it and could just cut it with a certain wavelength on a red filtered laser beam. I have absolutely no idea what it is made of, nor how it appeared again, but it took me days to cut it and I don’t want to do it again. So, you shall enter first.”
I couldn’t notice any stigma at his hands. He was lying. But why should he lie? He has already been here once and opened the membrane. Or it isn’t him who “found me”. He is maybe just a simple merchant who wants to make easy money with us.
But he is a human being and I have to follow his orders.
I walk in front of the door, take a long breath and go beyond the membrane. It is a hot and uncomfortable feeling. It feels as if a second hot skin is pushed on you. But this short feeling was worth it: behind that curtain there was a huge chamber, maybe as high as the ‘Arc de Triomphe’ in Paris and so long as height of Toronto’s CN Tower! I found myself at the middle of the long wall. The room was filled with lots and lots of stuff. There were tables, wide computer screens, even a wall ping pong and fitness room. But there were also lots of stuff I have seen before, but don’t know what these are used for. Ah, an antiquity: a gravity based generator. How long has it been since I haven’t seen such generators? These are the only mechanical generators humanity still uses. And these are also the only ones which don’t need any fuel.
“Could you open the door, please? We are still outside!” Zvar shouted heavily.
Gorold was so astonished by bunker here, down on the desert planet, called earth, that he forgot he wasn’t alone.
He turned around and a detector beam skimmed his body while letting the membrane down. These things seem to be forgotten in this time. Like a lot of older technologies.
The others entered the room and I could see on their faces how impressive this room is to them. Zvar isn’t somehow in his element. He seems to be thinking about something else than the present. He was thinking what he will do with us and in which way he will make money! I could try to give him the impression that we would be dangerous to him in such a use. But I couldn’t harm him, anyway.
“Mr. Andrej, now that you have led us to a safe place, wouldn’t you explain us what is going on? It should be dangerous, especially to you, if the leading class finds out that we are here and free to move anywhere. It is our duty to protect you.”, I said.
“And”, Lard continued,” it would be better for you, if you say where we’ll find Monopol.”
“Monopol!?”, Zvar laughed out,” You still believe to be a reproduct and have to serve that imaginary master? I should change this attitude as soon as possible.
First things first: You are just as human as I am. No clones and no machines! I hope you understand and forget everything you know about your world. No! Don’t forget your world! We could need your memories as proofs.
Anyway, second thing: I’m going to tell you the truth about who you are. But you’ll have to use your logic.
Then: You have seen the metal skeletons on the ride.”
He took a chair and sat down. The three of us still stood at the entry.
“These skeletons are just the physical appearance of the AI, “Artificial Intelligence”. You were rewritten after its concepts. And there are others like you, a lot of them don’t even know what humans are. You know it from your captain, Gorold, I assume. But where does he know it from?
“Right, from me!”
“No, I can’t know it from you because too much time passed for you since we could talk to each other. Even if I just count the voyage in the escape pod! That took almost two generations, if these weren’t three! And I would have recognized you anyway.”
“The world and the technology changed a lot since you left Metropol and one example can be given in medicine: People have discovered a way to live longer. Therefore, a body has to be built from your genes, which takes about 17 years including the development to a major citizen. Then you are able to copy your mind into the other body. I am nearly 427 years old.”
“This seems logical”, Hardin added.
“Yes, you thought that I am only in my 70s? Come on!
And I am not the oldest person in this room. Gorold, for example, is more than 780 years old!”
“This seems illogical”, Hardin replied.
“Of course, it makes sense: You are, or you were the fourth alternative to inform the state about the Third World War against the machines. Back in 2050, scientists discovered that our best friend, the AI, saw our self-destruction through ourselves and decided to act violently to prevent it. But as you know, it just let it speed up.”
“And how do you know that?”
“You told me about it, before your brain was washed. I should gain you access to the “president”, whatever this should mean. You didn’t know anything about our political system. I already explained it, but you probably forgot it. I’ll do it again, hopefully for the last time. There are 20 so called ‘empires’ in the parliament, which are very selfish and power- oriented. None of them differs in size, power or dependence of the other ones. The official program of each of the empires is to take over the whole galaxy. And none of them would ever work together, just in rare cases like wars. There they can overtake one of the empire’s territory and split it on each participant which fought on the side of the winner to prevent a war against these so called “positive opponents”. But no, it shouldn’t be such easy to uncover the plan, there has to be something else going on in the background. And the answer is: They are all seeking for something made up by themselves, they gain from owning precious materials and have a lot of it. It is Harfoitin, better known as “Paper Coin”. “
“You mean money? The thing you need to buy something?”
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. I mean real Harfoitin, the only still used type paper since the introduction of Eva.”, Zvar exclaimed with enthusiasm in his deep voice.
“Who is “Eva?””, James asked.
“Eva? You don’t know Eva…? Gorold, did you have a computer on board of your ship? To be more precise, in your cabin?”
“Yes, I had. It was the local database of chamber 01, my personal healthcare assistant and storage system.”
“Yes, that’s Eva. That was the third interface of the program.”
He turned around a looked on the ground. His heads glide into his pockets.
“Where do they get the money from? Is it just from us?”
“Mainly. Without you, the stock market would collapse and that would be the actual disaster.”
“I understand. ‘It is a very shitty situation’, my Josephine would say.”
“You see, I am a merchant for illegal documents and there is a high price set on my head, but I get to know the whole truth on the other side, so it’s worth all the fear. And I don’t want to fear and to hide my whole life for nothing. That’s why I want to help you regain your freedom and end this slavery.”
“Do you not think that this is somehow naïve?”, James interrupted. “I mean, you want to fight against the 20 empires, which are somehow like an organization, just with 5 people? The chances to win are ca. 1:10000000000. It is obvious we couldn’t win.”
“And if Dr. Yuma was right, Walery, whoever this may be, is watching us all the time. They could then report us to the security agency, and we would, again, must go into space, which would cause you psychological harm. This is to avoid.”, Hardin added.
“I don’t mean we should fight against all empires and you still don’t want to understand what I recently mentioned. Say, did I change your software? It is somehow annoying that I can’t change your fixed point of view.”
He turned to the table on the left and grabbed a card.
“What? You’re not gonna do that! You are going to devolve their mental state!”, I shouted and tore the card from his hand.
“There’s no need to panic! I’m not gonna delete their software, I’m just changing it. Like I did with you.”
He led his left hand to me and his right hand slowly to his back, as if he wanted to grab for something in his trousers.
James and Hardin looked at each other and then back to Zvar.
Absolute silence arose.
“Mr. Andrej knows more about computing than you do. He knows what he does. We accept his offer. He healed you, Gorold. Don’t forget this.”
But he still is a stranger. What if he is about to inform the security agency? What if he is an agent of one of the 20 empires and changes our minds to take us as his slaves? I am free and I want to stay free.
Zvar raised his eyebrows.
“Do you have an alternative than to trust me? I don’t think so. The security is probably searching for you.”
It still took a moment for me to think about it, but then I gave him back the card.
“Reasonable”, he said.
The merchant went to a shelf and took out a dusty bowl. It looked somehow like a bowl, but it was longer, thicker and had many cables hanging out from the sides. Hardin laid on a table besides a strange computer, which Zvar connected to the mind- programming machine. He inserted the card into the computer and the machine on Hardin’s head started to shake wildly. It shook so hard that Hardin passed out.
“He has to be unconscious to be reprogrammed safely”, Zvar explained.
The word he used has caught my attention: ‘reprogrammed’. He still speaks about them as they were reproducts. Well, they actually are, but he wanted to treat them as humans. He sees a difference between us. I don’t know if he feels himself better than us, because he knows more about the real world, or if he sees us free, escaping from slavery and from his enemy. In both cases, he is not on our level. We are different.
He looks on the computer screen and sorts files from left to right. Then he pushed enter and the shaking stopped. This was the moment he leaned back, smiled and took a deep breath.
Suddenly the earth began to shake too. We lost our balance and fell.
“They are here! Quick, to that metal wall!”, Zvar shouted out.
James and I put Hardin under the table, with the computer and Zvar brought a skateboard from the corner. We turned the table around, put Hardin and the machinery on it and attached it to the skateboard.
“Everything will be lost, if he wakes up, so make sure he doesn’t wake up!”, the merchant said on his way to the wall.
He opened a panel, tipped something in and the wall glided mutely aside.
There were seven gigantic spaceships in a row, standing in an unfinished hangar. We entered the first one, the darkest one. We entered in the middle part: A long cylinder, rounded off on the edges. It was surrounded by a red ring, without touching it, which hold together two immense trapezoidal shaped wings. The whole ship was hovering above the ground. It was dark inside, but at least it didn’t shake anymore. White neon lights on the floor went on and we found ourselves in a narrow corridor. There was an open door in front of us: The engine room. Zvar disappears in another corridor on the right.
“The left corridor leads to a big room, Hardin can rest on the sofa.”, he shouted through the speakers.
We went to the room and put Hardin on the sofa.
“James, watch Hardin and call us if he wakes up. I’ll go and see what’s happening.”
I left James and ran up the corridor to the other end of the ship. There, Zvar was sitting at a small command table and looking to the sky. He trembled nervously and sweat was running down his face.
“What are you waiting for? Sit down and put on your seatbelt! We’re gonna lift off in a moment. I’m just waiting for the door to open.”, the merchant said with an astonishing calmness in his voice.
He took the microphone: “Make sure our patient won’t fly around when we lift off!”
Light began to flood the hangar from a distant hole in the sealing. The pilot pulled a lever. I was pressed in my seat and could only see a glimpse of what was going on overground: There were many other ships in various sizes, some white and others glowing yellow like the soil beneath them. Some tiny people stood on the ground and looked up to us, others seat in a gigantic machine and dig, others place little bombs on the ground and run away to light them. All the little one- man ships were following us and shooting at us in the next moment, most flying behind and under us. It was always frightening when antimatter bullets stroked our shield and imploded, just to explode and nudge us away in the next moment. Zvar had absolutely no control over the ship anymore and pushed dozens of buttons at once.
“We’re losing power, the shield gets weaker! If it continues like this, then we won’t survive for a long time and won’t make it to the outer rim. Go into the engine room and climb the first ladder on the right. There you’ll find the gun control chamber. You should find 3 atom missiles to launch. Now hurry!” Zvar was concentrated on that lever he holds since he pulled it.
I ran out and into a massive hall, full of rusty containers. I climbed the mentioned ladder and directly arrived on a seat in a narrow glass dome. The seat turned around and a virtual control board appeared on my legs. I looked up and saw a whole army of speeders (that’s how they call humble but fast battle ships) firing at us. We already reached the mesosphere and critical energy level appeared on the glass, apparently a screen. I wasn’t allowed to miss the next shots: three buttons on the control board flickered red and had a nuclear symbol on them. The numbers 1, 2 and 3 shined those buttons.
My heart is racing wildly in my chest. I close my eyes. I never felt as good as now. It is like I can’t wait to push a button and see the pursuers melt and explode in the radioactive fire clouds. The feeling is so intense, so powerful! But it’s too powerful! I can’t move at all!
No, I have wake up! I must be neutral. ‘Just remember how calm you can be’, I thought to myself. ‘You have to turn back, cut the emotion. Turn back into an awful creature again, but just for a moment, nothing more.’
I open my eyes again but don’t feel anything. The button is pushed, the missile aimed. I push the ‘fire’ button on a joystick and a relatively large sphere rushes towards the army behind us.
I am blinded in this moment by a sharp orange light and shout out of joy. I smile and cramp my whole body.
Suddenly it gets dark and hot.
“Wake up! Gorold, wake up!”, the voice said.
I opened my eyes slowly and found myself in the room Hardin rested. He and James were looking at me, James with a monotone face and Hardin smiling.
“Ah, you’re back again! You scared me so, when I saw you lying next to me. It was terrible! Don’t do that again, you understand? But I’m glad to see you.” The same voice was speaking, but the words came out from Hardin’s mouth!
“Leave him, he needs rest. The emotional impact was too big for him. He didn’t experience such powerful emotions for a very long time. His brain must get used to it again. Especially when he will fall in love for the first time after some centuries.”, Zvar called out from a corner. “James, could you go on repairing the outer ring, please? And I need Hardin to come with me to investigate the map. We must look for the safest and nearest asteroid belt. We don’t have too much time left; I fear.”
I was too tired and fell asleep.
When I woke up again, the room was dark, except for a dimmed blue light from a holomap, illuminating the merchant’s face. He looked up into my eyes and whispered: “Quiet, the others are sleeping.” As I turned around and saw the others sleeping, many questions came into my mind. I stood up and sat down next to the merchant.
“You may ask yourself why our pursuers had ships in two colors. The white ones are from the ISA, the Intergalactic Security Agency, and the yellow ones from the NPA, the National Police Agency. I suppose that the ISA is searching for you and your friends, because they don’t want you to interact with their society. This could bring up unwanted conspiracy theories against all empires, so that you must be eliminated. The NPA on the other side, shouldn’t know about you at all. It isn’t in their responsibility to solve intergalactic, and above all top secret, cases like yours. I still don’t think they planned legally or officially. It also could be, that Walery, that’s the nickname of the empire we left when we left earth, has paid the NPA to do this investigation undercover. Anyway, we made it through to the next territory: The “Empire of Light”.”
“But there should have been more speeders to follow us. Why did they give up so easily?”, I asked gently. Everything was swirling in my head.
“Oh, they wouldn’t give up a chase so easily, no! They are very fast and can travel very far. I’ve been chased by them more than once and believe me: It is exhausting. What was your question again? Oh, yes! They stopped because of the impenetrance treaty. It says that no NPA is allowed to cross the edge of a territory without the permission of the adjacent ones. Their technology is very sophisticated, if you think that nobody could proof, they crossed the edge.”
“And what about the ISA? If they are an organization by all empires, then why shouldn’t they be allowed to cross the edge? This doesn’t make sense.”
“Well,”, Zvar looked down on the map and was tracing a track with his finger, “it is because… Eh…I really don’t know. I assume that just one empire used its independent part of the ISA and didn’t tell the others about the ongoing danger of their plan. But this wouldn’t make sense. Then, it possibly could fail. Anyway, we have to find the nearest asteroid free field to refuel the ship.”
“Asteroid fields? Why don' t you simply use Liganium? It is the most effective way to travel through worm holes. It actually is the safest way to survive such journeys.”
“Liganium 583? You're kidding', right? It might be the safest and fastest way, yes, but also the most expensive way to do it! There are much cheaper ones, like dark matter from asteroids.”
“And have you found a belt?”
“Yes, we are 2 parsecs away from Luhman 16, a double star system. It should contain 50 billion asteroids, from which 30 million are big enough for our purposes. But Luhman 16A has a freeway shop, which can get dangerous.”
“Why? What’s a freeway shop?”
“Ah, you can’t know about it. It is like an intergalactic “freeway station”, which means that it is freely accessible for every state without needing a border control. It is surrounded by a lot of worm holes and always full of ships. These are also the favorite places for illegal voyagers like us, because these doesn’t belong to any empire and are the best places for stealing ships. They are like dungeons for dealers.”
“And are we going to go there in the end?”
“It is the best option we have right now, you know... Or we can fly back and give up if you like.”
“No, we take the first option. And what do we do after that?”
“You ask me!? Let's see if we can survive at least the next 3 parsecs without being robbed!”
He looked at me with the side of his eyes. His face looked really old and crumbled together from this angle, like a nutshell. His curly white hair seemed to glow in the light of the holomap and his head somehow floated in the dark. I can hear the cooling system of the holomap pumping cyrofluid into the operating system, under the great pressure of airlight, projecting the map of our galaxy five inches in the sky. Behind the window, there is a cold and dark void, eventually lightened by some lonely, weak stars. There was nothing else to sense. Absolutely nothing.
“What do you want to do?”, Zvar whispered with closed eyes. “Have you got any plans for the future? I mean, you just entered your new life as feeling human being. You always had to follow orders from your fictional “Monopol”, you never had a choice, neither did you know about the advancement of your surroundings. You were tricked and manipulated without noticing. It has to be very uncomfortable not to follow the commands, is it?”
I still look out the window quietly, thinking about the words of the old man. It is the first time after a long while when I think of what I want. What do I actually want? Do I want liberty? I already have a bazillion times more liberty than before, that should be enough. What about a happy life with a family? Somehow a new start? Impossible in my situation. I am like a slave from the 19th century: Even one moment out of control and I get punished. But my punishment is death. What became of that peace in the overpopulated and polluted world I knew? Even if I am the breaking point between robots and humans, I sense that it turned into an inhuman dictatorship, monitored by big data. So, what do I want from this rotten world? I think I want a rotten part of it and make that one fresh again. Yes, I want to heal the world.
“You don’t really think about that, are you?”, Zvar said absently.
“To create a new empire.”
“How do you know about that?”
“You just said it out loud. But seriously, that is a child’s dream. If you can’t come up with something realistic, I will have to leave you on Metropol. And I’m not joking.”
His voice turned metallic on that last sentence, somehow very frightening. This meant he still didn’t believe me. What was his plan actually?
“Good Night, Mr. Andrej”, I said at last.
Blinding light, my eyes never got used to, woke me up from my nightmare. It is of a white, hurting glow. I can’t even get up to turn the Polaroid window, when a strong arm presses me down on the sofa again.
“Captain, I’m glad you woke up! You really don’t know!”, it was Hardin.
“But could you first turn the window, please?”
“You see, I had a terrible nightmare! We were on a ship in the middle of nowhere and the accumulator has been cut off. Then, there were others and….”
I didn’t listen to the last part and got up, turned the window. Finally! I turned around and saw Hardin in a terrible costume.
He was interrupted, “what happened to you?”
“What? You mean the costume? When I woke up, there was such an ugly white suit on me, I just had to change. Now look how beautiful I am! Such a colorful black leather jacket and trousers. And then the hat!”
“You look like Angel Eyes from ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. Do you want to give the impression you’re a space cowboy, or what? And besides, that wasn’t a nightmare. That really happened.”
“No way! Then you really are a monster! WHY?!”
He is running out of the door crying but I am still not sure what I have done that I deserve that.
“Gorold, prepare for arrival. It’s gonna get a bit cold in here, so you better get a space suit on.”, a voice began from the roof.
So, we finally arrived at Luhman 16. So that was the star the captain was talking about. I’m looking out the darkened window and see in the distance two planets orbiting the system. But they are orbiting around a black point, I can’t see anything there. And it also isn’t a black hole, the closest one to Earth is 25000 light years away. But it also isn’t a star made of dark matter, it would be gone by now because the Empire would have harvested its power. Still thinking about it, I went in the cockpit, now full of blueprint- holos.
“Is there a heavier star I can’t see in the middle of the system?”, I asked half awake, half asleep.
“There certainly are two of them, but only weak dwarfs.”, Zvar responded, still looking down on the radar. There were random green dots lighting up at regular intervals. It was tracking something, something invisible to me.
“What was the bright light then?”, I asked seeing him now typing in coordinates into the computer.
“You’ve probably seen the freeway shop. They usually are very bright for some unknown reasons to me. And have you seen the dark spots? These are all ships; the big ones, in particular, are filled with great stuff! Something like Liganium, ancient alien artifacts, energy bombs or dark matter. But I don’t want to bother about them, their shell is too hard to open. However, there also are dangerous gangs near them and I don’t have my battleship here, probably destroyed on earth by the Empire. Anyway, we don’t want to interfere with that awful Mafia back there.”
I couldn’t get a glance of the place he was talking about; we faced the other direction.
‘When we turn back or the next time’, I thought to myself.
“One of you will have to go out and dig until the core of an asteroid with a laser- shovel. I would suggest that James goes. His muscles are still perfectly controllable to his unchanged machine brain and he, after all, was your best engineer, Gorold.”
I grew even more suspicious. I can’t remember telling him.
“Yeah, when did we talk about my crew?”
“You can’t remember? The trip to Earth? It was long, yes, but you certainly should remember that! Anyway, James, get ready. Hardin will help you putting the suit on. You can find those when you press the blue button on the wall in the room you slept in. The laser should also be there somewhere. I wish you good luck!”
James disappeared with a silent nod and went searching Hardin.
The silence remained for some minutes, until my suspicion grew too big and I couldn’t hold it back anymore.
“What will we actually mine?”, I asked.
“What is that? I never heard if that before!”
“You couldn’t, you were on your space mission when it was discovered.”
“And what can it do? Does it contain dark energy, like Liganium? Or strange particles?”
“No, it is much better. It is held together by exotic quarks! They have magnitudes of more energy than Liganium but are pretty rare and are much more dangerous than the dark energy from Liganium. It was used once, until a second-generation ship blew a whole planet away with two pounds of combustion. It was then abolished, and the weaker but safer old technology of dark energy came back.”
“And why are we then using the old technology?! Yes, you told me than Liganium is too expensive for you, but aren’t there other energy sources this ship can use? Like, for example, the double spined positron- tachyon shield?"
"Not compatible with my platinum cans, I’m sorry. I would need almost antique technology like yours for that and these things can only be found in museums. And we haven’t got enough power to fly to the nearest neutron star, quasar or pulsar. Despite it is too late, I have chosen the right one and we have already arrived.”
I didn’t pay attention to the window, but now I looked up and saw a gigantic asteroid floating over the ship. It continued to advance to the back, until it eventually stopped, and a door opened in the background somewhere. Surprisingly, the captain didn’t check the opened door, despite it was shown on the monitor. He turned his head to the radar, his eyes flying from one end to the other, then turned in his chair the computer. It showed complicated diagrams, after typing in the commands.
I know this expression. Something isn’t right.
“Pull James back inside, now!”, I exclaimed rushing to the monitor.
He tore his eyes wide open and exclaimed out of joy: “Wait, we are rich!!!”
He grabbed my hand and pulled me over to the diagrams.
“You see these ones here?” He was pointing on a rapidly increasing graph. Apparently, it measured magnetic fields.
“This, my friend, is a vault! It is from the first colonies from Dargita 3, the old pirate planet. They probably found something, but it was too important to deposit it on their own planet! Luhman 16 has no planets and also no valuable resources, so that this economically uninteresting place wasn’t too interesting for the empire or anybody else to search in. I wonder if the other asteroids are also filled with such vaults…”
He took a step to the door, but suddenly stopped, turned around and said into the microphone: “You can come back, it’s enough!”
He looked up to me and had an awful smile on his face that revealed his dark side of thoughts.
“Now we won’t need no Merdalium anymore, we are rich and can afford us a better ship!”
His voice reminds me of Joker from the DC universe. That evil and mad opponent of Batman was scary in the movies, but to see him in the soul of the captain was even scarier. Of one thing I was certain: He is a gambler who got the gold fever.
Excited he ran out the cockpit, following the same path James took few minutes ago. He then called me into the big room to see the treasure. I wasn’t really excited, gold doesn’t matter to me, but when I reached my destination, one foot wide cube blended me into group of the ill ones: like everybody else in the room, I wanted to know what was inside.
The captain took a laser to cut it, but it was surrounded by a strange magnetic field, which took the light and bent it to the sides.
He sprang back instantly, almost giving ma a heart attack.
“What was that for?”, Hardin asked in surprise. He seems to have recovered from his breakdown from before. He also seems to have got sensitive to sudden movements, something he has never done before.
“This is interesting”, Zvar continued and sat down. “This is Merdalium technology, which came three centuries after the war. But the pirate planet was only until the second century. What is it, then?”
He stared at it for a moment, then over to James, who had his normal bored expression, then to Hardin. His face looks like that of a child when it saw something new. He actually looks sweet with those big brown eyes and the horrible costume. It reminds me of Halloween, kind of.
The next moment, Zvar suddenly jumps up and runs into the floor. While the others are distracted, I use the moment to grab the artefact and run away. When I reach for the mysterious cube, my arm goes right through it to the other side. Every molecule has been transferred to the other side of the cube and I can still move it! My fellow companions have been alarmed by the crunching sound I made and were now looking in disbelief into my face and to my hand. I also saw Zvar turning around to check what was wrong, having that same fear in his eyes as the others. But he turned the other way round and ran into the shadow of the lights.
The cube starts to vibrate, and I can feel it in my feet. A fast-growing pain starts to enter my nerves as I try to take out my hand. I can’t move it; it feels too heavy! It doesn’t move in neither direction until I start to yell. The dull pain changed into a burning sensation, afterward smoke came out from the bottom of it. I realized that I couldn’t feel no pain anymore from the arm, it came from my thoughts of pain. I actually feel the pain in my head! Through focusing, I might be able to stop it.
I inhale and exhale slowly, close my eyes: ‘where everything is dark and peaceful’, I think to myself.
“This is our built-in program, you shouldn’t feel pain, but I assume captain Andrej made you conscious about the information travelling your nerves. You must overcome it, for the moment. We can’t help you.”, James said with a confidential voice.
The ship began to move forward, and the cube released my arm, leaving a big, burned mark on the back of my arm. It really hurts, I can’t take it anymore! But suddenly, I feel like in a trance, floating in endless space. Maybe I found a way to lead the pain into my unconsciousness, that would be great.
The ship suddenly starts racing around like a cat playing with a moving laser pointer: once to the left for a long time, then drifting up and doing a loop. It turned so fast, an emergency gravitational mechanism turned heavy and we sticked to the floor.
Luckily, Hardin was beneath the window and could turn it visible again.
“What is happening? What do you see?”, I asked him.
“There is nothing out there.”
The ship suddenly stops, like the gravity and we float around.
“We have been captured. Damn!”, Zvar’ s voice was hammering through the speakers.