“Kimona”: Chapter One: The Quadrant

Our universe is separated into three galaxies. There is one which grows and supports the humans. They call it “the Milky Way”. It is a strange name for a galaxy. It is spiral shaped, with only one planet within that supports life. The other eight are supposedly impossible to survive upon.

The second consists of four quadrants, each one half the size of the Milky Way itself. It is the biggest galaxy of them all, called Ethilium. With twenty-seven planets, the galaxy is deserted. A massive, mysterious intra-space explosion wiped out all population and existence thousands of years ago. No one ventured there after the ruin, since there was obviously no life, and no means to try and support life there again.

There is a third galaxy, and this is where our story begins.

Altross has only one quadrant, making it the smallest of the three sister Galaxies. There are five planets spread far apart in every direction—Tinacia, Frauk, Nosgo, Perolo, and Aberjan. They all have their own various numbers of moons, as any planet would. In retrospect, it is much like any other average galaxy.

There is a place, however, that is different than any other in the Altross Galaxy. Planet Nosgo is the only planet in the quadrant that has not seen war. Its record of peaceful living is well-known throughout the galaxy. There were wars between Tinacia and Aberjan. There were conflicts about technological advances between Aberjan and Frauk. And Perolo had seen civil wars between its own people.

Nosgo, however, is the only planet that has remained passive. Perhaps it is because of its humble, low-class society. It is a small planet. It has not advanced much in technology, unlike the other planets. It hasn’t changed much from its original beginning. Nosgo is covered in sand and desert, with only small towns scattered around. There are hover jets and droids, but it is pure wasteland.

There are three types of life in human form in the Altross Galaxy. There are the humans (of course), the robots, and…the Arvers.

Here, in Nosgo, is where the Arvers were colonized. Arvers are magnetized. But you might be unfamiliar with this term. In the Altross Galaxy, “magnetization” is different than the Milky Way human’s definition—Arvers are half-robot and half-human. They can talk and act of their own will, but not as quickly and freely as humans do. Hence the term “magnetization”—they have a severe reaction to gravity pressure. Their bodies react to gravity thirty percent more than humans, thus it takes more concentration and effort to even walk. They run on a single battery in their head, which is powered by heat energy. (Most Arvers live on Planet Nosgo because of its hot climate and perpetual heat.) Their brain exists on a hard drive disk inserted below the battery.

Arvers do not reproduce—they are made. They don’t need food and clothing like humans, since their bodies are made of metal and they run on solar-strengthened batteries. The people of Nosgo, many years ago, believed that it would be doing the economy a favor by reducing the amount of resources required for human survival. But only Nosgo and Aberjan believed in this. Other planets opposed the idea, thinking it slavery and purely unjust; many scientists rushed to invent a machine that would transform Arvers into humans. They would “end their slavery” so they said. Years passed, but the technology did not come about. Many gave up. Many Arvers didn’t mind their state. So the matter lay still for many years.

Now, we shall return to Nosgo. There was once a dictatress. Vastrada was her name, and she ruled over the small planet. Her elevated tube-like abode was the most advanced architecture on the entire planet. Since the rest of the buildings were all of ghost towns, Vastrada certainly proved her wealth with her snake-shaped mansion. She herself—tall, slender, dominant nose and thick red hair—became more powerful during her dictatorship. She left the Nosgo senate to deal with the problems and desires of the people. In her dwelling she feasted on luxury, peace, and growing power. She spent many days in her underground private room. No one knew exactly what she did there…but her secret was not kept forever.

This story is not exactly about her. It’s about her robot. Her name was K-2490 (or K-2, for short). She was a shiny silver metal, with spiffy gadgets and buttons on her front, and her round glowing eyes were engrained in her head. She had all the movable parts as a human or Arver—two legs, two arms, a head, and a middle, and yes…feelings.

One thing about robots is something you must know. No matter how the robot is created, programmed, or wired, it has emotions. K-2490 knew sadness, contentment, frustration, and any other kind of emotion that she could not name. But her hardware disk (for that’s all robots really have) could only think so much. Robots cannot express themselves. They must do whatever they were programmed to do. They cannot move at their own free will. They cannot say anything that they themselves want to say. They can only say and do what their hardware disk tells them. You could say whatever you wanted to them—tell them you love and care for them, or anything else that might be appealing—but they would not have the ability to answer you. Robots are beings, in a sense; they are created to serve, obey, work well, and be trapped—trapped between their hardware disk and their actual “mind”.  They cannot speak, move, or anything else out of their own will—they are all trapped.

K-2 was suffering, as all robots do. Robots do not grow up, and nor were they ever born. Once they are created and put to work, life for them continues on and on, until they are destroyed or shut down. So K-2 lived the most horribly dull life. Vastrada used her as a kitchen maid. And a kitchen maid she was.

K-2 had always been a robot, for many years in fact. Can I describe her? I’d go on and on if I could. Unfortunately I don’t know. K-2 hardly knew who she was, for she had never acted by herself. It was always an electric signal from her brain disk and sound waves that triggered her movement and speech. Every day she would mechanically walk with a breakfast tray in her hands, come to Vastrada when she heard her name, clean the sinks and the kitchen floor, and whatever else she was told. At night she would stay awake with nothing to do. She was programmed to sit up through the night, and so she did just that. K-2 was bored out of her mind every night, since robots don’t need sleep. This is when she had time to think.

K-2 always thought about what it would be like to be non-robotic—maybe an actual human or an Arver. Every day she saw Vastrada, the Nosgo senate, and other Arver and human servants in Vastrada’s dwelling. She saw them talk and smile and move. What would it be like, she would think, if everything she thought and wished to do…she could do it all? What would it be like, she would think, to actually have a mind, literally, of her own?

Now, if you assume all robots think like this, you are dreadfully mistaken. Yes, all robots have emotions, but not all of them have “minds” far enough to think of another type of life. But K-2 was different. Vastrada created her, and intended for K-2 to think these things. She never attempted to “love” K-2, or at least she never showed it. Every time K-2 would appear, she would pretend she wasn’t there. Vastrada had always been haughty and self-centered. Why was this?—K-2 would wonder. If Vastrada had indeed created her, why did she not pay any attention to her?

Why did Vastrada create K-2490 this way? Presently, we two and Vastrada are the only ones that know this is true in the first place. The answer is unclear, up to this point anyway.

K-2 never went outside of Vastrada’s dwelling mansion. In fact, she had never even been inside Vastrada’s private room. She had always wondered at what was down there and why Vastrada was so secretive about it. She had been told very long ago she must never enter the room. She was programmed to obey. She had never entered the room. For curiosity’s sake, she had tried once before. It was physically impossible for her hardware. So she did as she was told…every…single…day.

K-2 liked Vastrada, even though the dictatress hardly looked at her. She found her quite beautiful and admirable, as far as she could tell. Vastrada was kind to her, to say the least. Although she might have seemed unpleasant and dominant at times, she had never threatened K-2. (This was not the same for all of her robots. One morning, some years ago, K-2 remembered hearing one of the robots had been shut down and turned into scrap metal. He had wrecked one of the electricity units by mistake the day before and…well, you get the picture. K-2 figured a wire must have come loose in his head, but no robot can help that. She dreaded the status of her wires every day after that).

In a hidden way, Vastrada favored K-2. Or so it seemed. Why? K-2 was trapped inside her own mind, so she could never ask these questions herself. Never even speaking a word in her life, how would she even do it? One question led to a million others…yet she was enslaved to her silence.

~J.L. Cordova


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