As she would discover much later, I will tell you now that K-2 had been in the tube-like mansion on Planet Nosgo for twenty-five years. Twenty-five years she had served, obeyed, and been enslaved to her own mind in that dismal mansion. Yet she hardly knew Vastrada. She didn’t think badly of her. Surely she was as good of a dictatress as any other would be. She had no reason to think anything different.
She had no reason to think at all, really.
K-2 was in the corridor one day as she stood there without an order. Terrifically bored but unable to move, she was relieved when her signals tracked her name and two claps. Without trying, her legs began to stiffly walk down the corridor. She found herself approaching Vastrada in her glittery blue gowns.
K-2 stood silently as her vision fixed on her mistress’s face.
“K-2490,” Vastrada sounded her sweet, deep voice.
“Affir-mative,” came her hi-tech voice box.
“Follow me, please.” And Vastrada pushed the pass code on the keyboard upon the wall. It had emerged from the wall when she turned. Instantly, the door in the wall slid open. It was her private room.
“Command forbids me,” came the voice box. K-2’s “mind” was instantly infuriated. She had never been able to enter in before. Yet she was programmed to obey, thus she had to hesitate to enter inside? Her curiosity was at its peak—yet she could not move!
Vastrada laughed. “Command revoked.”
K-2 felt something shift in her head.
Her legs advanced forward into the room. It was dark at first. K-2’s legs sensed stairs, and she began to descend. Vastrada came slowly behind her. The stairway curved and it became brighter. Her vision focused on the bright blue lights that abruptly appeared.
It was a laboratory. There were glass cases holding huge machines. There were tables with sheets over contraptions and wires hanging loosely from underneath. The walls were made of thin strips of glass. What startled K-2’s “mind” the most were the models of robots and Arvers along the back wall. In the middle of them all was a giant glass case. Wires that hung inside it were hooked up to a sold white, high-tech machine.
Robots are usually programmed to detect and recognize types of equipment and technology. But K-2, though she had that ability, could not name this new machine.
She long to ask what this all was. She wanted to know what Vastrada did down here. What did this all mean? Her “mind” could only discover question after question that she could not ask. K-2 was forced to plant her metal feet on the tiled ground and not make a sound.
“Do you know what this is, K-2?” Vastrada asked.
She couldn’t answer.
“This is my study,” Vastrada continued without an answer. She paced throughout the room, with bright and proud eyes as she ran her hand along her masterpieces. “Years of my life I have put into it. Long, secluded years of my life all lay in this room. Years of lowliness and endless toil—this is all evidence of my work! Here, in this room K-2, is the future—the future of Altross. I have discovered technology that has not even been thought of. I can make things possible that no one has ever dreamed of. And there is much more to come…” She paused.
If K-2 could wish for any moment to speak, it would have been then. Her “mind” raced, yet her robotic eyes did not shift, nor her voice box give a peep.
Vastrada came back to K-2, bending down to her height (for K-2 was only five and a quarter feet tall). “Do you know why I created you, K-2?”
K-2 wished she could shake her head.
“I created you because I wanted you to work with me,” Vastrada said. “I created you to be a witness to the great things that I, Vastrada of Nosgo, have discovered and will use.” Her sweet smile somehow seemed malicious. “And I have brought you here,” she said, “because my latest discovery and invention has been completed. K-2490…I am going to magnetize you.”
K-2 thought she would fall over. Her mind raced. She would be magnetized? She would become an Arver? She would be like the rest of Nosgo? Was that even practical? She knew many had tried to attempt it, but all had failed—no one knew it was possible. But…could Vastrada magnetize her?
“Now there is one condition,” Vastrada said. “If I am going to magnetize you, you are still to be my servant and my assistant. You are to help me accomplish whatever I desire. But since you cannot answer me, I will only have to assume you agree.”
Vastrada walked to the giant glass case among the Arver and robot models. She turned.
“Come,” she commanded.
K-2’s robot legs did so. K-2 stepped into the glass case. Vastrada hooked the wires to the outlets in her chest and on her hips. There were many to be hooked up on her arms and legs. There was a giant something that was placed on her head. Something turned on. The glass case was shut. K-2 felt a suddenly strong tingling, beginning at her feet. It slowly rose to her ankles and then her legs…All the while, her “mind” somehow became exhausted.
She could hear Vastrada speaking from outside the thin glass case.
“Since I know you are interested and I know you can understand me, let me explain. What is happening to you is called Trans Morphalis. It is turning your metal abdomens, joints, and entire structure into the metal form of an Arver. Magnetization is tricky. You will not attract metal things to yourself—that’s not what “magnetize” means in this sense. But Arvers have only some control over gravity pressure. You will see that when you get out.”
The tingling feeling was now at K-2’s chest. Her bottom half felt so light…and so different…Vastrada continued.
“Once the tingling feeling is past your face, the complicated process with occur. Technicalities with the brain and its components can get very messy. But I’ve fixed all the errors. Magnetization is going to delete your hard drive, destroy it, and instead replace it with an Arver’s brain disk. They are basically the same as far as size and appearance goes. But magnetization will increase your comprehension skills and will broaden your mind even more. They are also not programmed to obey commands and other things like that. Arvers have a mind of their own. I can see its beginning its work right now. It may hurt before you go out, so don’t be alarmed.”
At that moment, something shocked K-2 in the head. She jerked, and for the first time in her “life”, she was shut off.
K-2 awoke on one of the tables outside of the glass case. She felt cold. Her head ached intensely. She longed to put her hand up to it to rub her forehead…
And she did.
K-2 nearly jumped, and in fact she did. And this startled her even more. She could move. She could move by herself! She looked at her hand. She was not silver and drab like a robot. She had gold metal skin now. It wasn’t metal, but it wasn’t human skin. It was as if the metal was under her translucent fair skin, shining through and showing off. She didn’t want to stop moving her arm—she couldn’t believe it! K-2 tried to move her leg and she could!
How long did she lay there moving her arm and leg?—Who knows? This was the first time she had ever moved by herself. She didn’t feel the hard drive disk click. She didn’t hear wires and signals in her head. She didn’t see through robotic vision. Everything was so clear and much brighter. There were no gadgets shining up in the corner of her eyes. Her body—it felt so much lighter. The heavy metal was clinging onto her and weighing her down. The new metal, like Vastrada had warned, did give into the gravity pressure. This meant, of course, it took effort to raise her arm and move around. But this did not bother her in the least. The point was that she could—she could move without command! She was free. Was it true? Was she really an Arver?
Then she noticed Vastrada, a distance beside the table, gazing at her with unmistakable knowledge and interest.