I haven’t posted in quite awhile. But I saw a movie tonight that blew my mind. This is storytelling. This is filmmaking. This is Chappie. “Chappie” is a movie in theaters right now by Sony and Colombia Pictures, staring Hugh Jackman and Sharlto Copley. Set in South Africa, it involves a company pursing an all-robotic… Continue reading “I Want to Live”
Last chapter for the blog.
When K-2 awoke, she saw a handsome human unhooking her from outside an Arver battery charger. The headpiece she wore to connect the battery was taken from her head and placed by the computer, which was to the left. The man was quite pleased to see her awake. And she was quite pleased to see him, but she did not know why.
He had brown hair, cut finely but not too short. He had gentle eyes and an endearing smile. He wore black, like Ted, only his were casual and custom, not a uniform. The sleeves grew larger as they went down to the hands. A vest covered his front. The black boots were up to his knees. Around his belt were all kinds of gadgets and tools.
“Good morning,” he said, smiling. “Slept well, I hope.”
K-2 watched him with wide-eyed curiosity. She had never seen a human as beautiful as this before—she didn’t know how to react. She swallowed. The new human gazed back, with sudden interest.
“You’re the last Arver.” He turned back to the computer. “It’s a good thing I still keep the charger. I never throw those things away—too risky.”
K-2 still didn’t have the gut to say anything. Her throat was completely dry.
“I believe introductions are in order,” the man said, stepping away from the computer and taking off his leather gloves.
“Copernicus,” he said, extending his hand.
K-2 swallowed, gazing strangely at his hand. What was she supposed to do? Kiss it? She would have loved to. But remaining still, she glanced at his eyes instead. She felt entirely foolish and awkward. And his pleasant smile he gave when he realized the truth made her feel even more so. K-2 felt like an utter failure as he retreated to his computer.
“What do they call you?” he asked, with his attention on the screen.
“Um— K-2490 of…of 6093 L.Y.,” she recited as if the whole number was essential and made her seem more important. Little did she know about human society. (You see, in the robotic world, it was more professional to have a long number. So perhaps K-2 also thought Copernicus would be impressed with her long [measly five-digit] number).
Much to her growing embarrassment, Copernicus laughed. “That’s a mouthful,” he said good-naturedly. “Perhaps I should just call you K-2?” he smiled, (as if he already knew that this was what she was called).
“I—uh—yes,” K-2 stammered, looking down. She had never felt embarrassment before, so it came with full force. These days, every emotion she felt was new, since she had never experienced them before. It was apparent even more so now. She could never understand what she felt and why. In a way, she still felt trapped. Vastrada did not transport the knowledge into her disk, so it was virtually impossible for her to understand. She sighed. Why did she suddenly desire for this man to be close to her again?
“I understand I am to take you to Tinacia,” Copernicus remarked. K-2 jumped at his voice.
“No…no Ted…the Inter-Space…He was leading me to someone who would take me there…a friend of his.”
“I was whom he spoke of,” Copernicus said. “I never liked ‘Nic’.”
“But he said—”
“I know what he said,” Copernicus assured. “He’s the one that likes short names. I never cared for nicknames.”
“No, not that,” K-2 found it harder to speak. “But I mean—you’re the son of Dr. Cornelius Albert Charles—”
“I can say ‘yes’ right there,” Copernicus laughed. K-2 didn’t know what to think.
“I’ve heard so much about your father, and Ted told me so much about you,” she said, her voice mysteriously softening.
“Positive things, I hope?” Copernicus grinned.
“Oh yes,” K-2 smiled. “He said you know everything about technology. He said you knew about Vastrada’s technology and how it worked and he told me—” She stopped and looked around. “Ted!” she cried. “Where is Ted?”
Copernicus’s genial smile faded. “That ship following you in the asteroid chain—”
“It followed you here. They hid for awhile, since Ted had to bring you in here and get you charged. He told me about getting you to Tinacia. (And that’s pretty much all I know about you). We were out on the landing platform, and something blew up the ship…he was too close to it.”
Something in K-2’s chest began to hurt.
“He’s…he’s gone?” She had never felt death before. Copernicus nodded, and she didn’t know how to react.
“He was an old friend of mine, you know—school kids growing up…” he faded out in great reflection. K-2 didn’t say anything. She herself felt guilty. Why had she asked for Ted’s help in the desert? It only led him to his death! Their pursuers killed him when they were really looking for her! Why had Ted saved her?
“Are…” she finally stammered. “Are they still here?”
“Hm?” Copernicus jolted. He was still deep in thought.
“Sorry,” K-2 apologized before she looked idiotic again. “Are the ones who bombed the Inter-Space…still here in Frauk?”
“No,” Copernicus answered. “I shot them down.”
“Shot them down?!” K-2 gaped, inwardly impressed.
“But they won’t be off our tail for long. That ship had a tracking device on it. If it was indeed from Vastrada, she’ll know that her ship is down and where it fell. She’ll send another one as soon as she gets a chance.”
“We’ll have to leave then,” K-2 announced. “I must get to Planet Tinacia! Emperor Conogo must be warned of Vastrada’s misdeeds before she becomes utterly violent and out of control.”
Copernicus smiled. “Did you rehearse that, or do you always talk like that?”
K-2 felt a smile creep up unexpectedly. Did he notice? She thought he had, but she didn’t like to think of it.
“I…I was programmed like that I suppose…”
“I meant no harm,” Copernicus assured in a pleasingly low voice. “You’re right at any rate. My spaceship is undergoing maintenance at the moment. I’m afraid it will not be done for several days—a fortnight at the least.”
“There is no way to have it done sooner?” K-2 entreated. Her face had fallen. To her gut-splitting surprise and delight, he came close to her again and his hands fell on her shoulders. At first she couldn’t breathe.
“I will keep you safely here. We’ll be out of here in no time. If Vastrada does follow you, it will take them at least a week to get here.” He gazed into her eyes.
“Here,” he said. “Let me unhook these wires for you.”
Again, K-2’s awkwardness reached its peak. She could have undone the wires for herself and stepped out of the charging cubical.
“Besides,” Copernicus said as he bent down to unhook her feet. “I’ve always been fascinated with Arvers. And I don’t usually get company. I don’t know anything about you.” He rose, putting the wires aside. “And I should very much like to.”
K-2 smiled, for the first time realizing that she could.
The first day, then, on the Inter-Space, was moderately uneventful.
K-2 seemed to be the only passenger. Ted had told her that since the only ones that use the Inter-Space was the humans, (since the robots had masters to serve), business was not what it once was. This, however, did not seem to dampen his bright spirit. Ted acted more like a flight attendant than a pilot. Autopilot, he had said, was fully capable of arriving safely to Frauk.
K-2 had asked if there was some sort of charger on board, for she could feel her battery wearing down. There was not.
“But this is a public transportation unit,” K-2 was puzzled. “You do not have chargers for the Arvers that are on board?”
“Up till this point, Arvers were extinct,” Ted explained. “I can turn the ‘eat up on board. Maybe that’ll help it.”
“Its natural heat—not air-conditioned,” K-2 replied sullenly. Ted sighed.
“Well, we’ll get to Frauk as soon as we can. We’ll find you a charger. You feelin’ tired?”
“A little bit…” K-2 admitted. Now that she thought about it, her eyelids were quite heavy. “Maybe I—yes, I am.”
“That’s one of the symptoms, I hear,” Ted remarked. “My friend’ll have one on ‘is ship. We should be more than ‘alfway there.”
K-2 exhaled a nervous sigh. It was a little chilly in the cabin, so she shivered. It was so nice to be able and feel and react to everything she did. It was so nice to be able to actually do the things her “mind” wanted her to. It was so nice to actually be alive. But then she thought of those millions of Arvers that no longer had that privilege. Her memory of the bartender, when he did not answer her question—he truly wanted to answer her. His “mind” was screaming out for help, wanting to answer her; he was forced to ignore her questions. But he had given her so much information already. Why did Vastrada program their minds to tell only certain things? Every fact would count…
If she thought about it too much, her head would begin to hurt. She turned back to Ted, who still sat in front of her.
“Who are you taking me to?” she inquired.
“A good friend of mine,” Ted replied pleasantly. “I’ve known ‘im pretty much all my life. ‘E’s the son of one of the greatest astronomers of our time—”
“And who would that be?” K-2 asked sheepishly.
“Cornelius Albert Charles Galilei de Lunar.”
“It’s his son?” K-2 gaped. “I hope his son’s name is not as long as that.”
Ted laughed. “Of course not!—good ol’ Nic always went by the shor’est name ‘e could. But you’ve ‘eard of ‘is dad?”
“Of course I’ve heard of him—who hasn’t?” she said excitedly.
Even she knew who this man was. Cornelius de Lunar was the famous astronomer who discovered the two other galaxies apart from Altross. Along with that, he studied their forms, way of change, and their inhabitants. Everything that everyone in Altross knew about the other Galaxies came from Dr. de Lunar. He was a couple thousand years old now. Humans in the Altross Galaxy live longer than those, say, in the Milky Way. Their planetary orbits revolve around a massive star they call the “Sun”. The Sun is so huge and bright, that the human’s life spans are shrinking intensively. Cornelius de Lunar was the oldest man in the Galaxy. K-2 was surprised and relieved he was still alive. She had always admired him.
“But…his son?” K-2 asked.
“The reason I’m takin’ y’ ta Nic is because ‘e’s an expert on robotic and Arveric technology. Built ‘is own ship, so I ‘ear. ‘E knows everythin’ about Vastrada. Though he doesn’t like ‘er, ‘e studies ‘er research. ‘E hopes one day to use ‘er own technology against ‘er. A lot of people are countin’ on ‘im, ya know. Can’t say he enjoys the pressure. But ‘is dad sure is proud of ‘im. ‘E’s pretty much the smartest guy I know. ‘E takes it from ‘is dad, y’ know—always studyin’ and research and whateve’ else goes inta’ that. ‘E’s quite the bore…” Ted chuckled. “But ‘e’s a good kid.”
“So he knows about batteries and brain disks,” K-2 slightly smirked. “What use will that be to me?”
“One, not a lot of people can be trusted these days. Vastrada has hypnotized some in the past, and no one would doubt she is doin’ it again. And Nic knows a lot about Arvers, and y’d have reason to trust ‘im. ‘E’ll see y’ safely ta’ Tinacia.”
“But why him?” K-2 persisted. “I don’t understand—”
The ship instantly jerked and turned on its side. Ted and K-2 fell to the wall. The computers in the engine room were going crazy. Noises erupted all around the ship. Glass shattered and metal clanked as the ship slowly turned upward again. Ted was trying with all his might to stand up. As soon as gravity let him he spun into the pilot seat.
“What was that?” she whispered, when everything stood still again.
It happened again. She fell back. K-2 found her unstable footing. Her head swirled. She finally felt the beginning effect of her Exhaustion. She walked as quickly as she could to the seat next to Ted. The ship was hit again, and again. It jerked almost out of control. K-2 collapsed into the passenger seat. They were heading into asteroids.
“What hit us?” she cried.
“I dunno,” Ted yelled over the noise. “But—”
The warning noise came from the screen blow. Ted glanced back, gaping.
“There’s someone on our trail,” he yelled. “And they’ve got a hell of a ship.”
The guns came out of the ship behind them, and Ted spun the controls and the Inter-Space whirred under the huge asteroid. Their pursuers flew at their tail. Vigorously slanting over and under the cluster of asteroids in their way, K-2 nearly screamed as they brushed the side of one.
The spaceship behind them was bigger and shinier. K-2 glanced in the review mirror of the ship: it had NOSGO printed on it with a snake engraved at the end. She could not see the driver since the window was black.
“It’s one of those bounty ‘unter ships!” Ted exclaimed.
“It’s from Nosgo!” K-2 shouted. “They are coming for me!”
“Well let’s ‘ope they get tired!” he said mordantly.
“Can you not go to light speed?” K-2 urged.
“Are y’ nuts—asteroids’d kill us in the first five seconds!”
The ship tossed and spun on its side. The two of them struggled to stay strapped in, and Ted grabbed the control as hard as he could. K-2 began to get nauseous—a feeling she could not recognize. She still heard the guns and the speed of the ship behind them.
A shot hit one of the wings. They swerved but kept going. The edge of the asteroid belt was just ahead. Then laser guns sounded behind them. K-2 saw their misfired shots land on the asteroids just beside them. K-2 felt even more fatigued. Her battery was dying out. With no battery charger or alternative power source to help it last longer…she could hardly sit up in the chair.
“Is it at top speed?” K-2 cried, as another asteroid exploded.
“No I’d thought I’d go slower! Of COURSE I’m goin’ at top speed!” Ted shouted. “We’re almost there—hang on!”
The Inter-Space spun in circles as it dodged the laser bullets. K-2’s vision blurred as they reached the edge of the asteroid belt. Another shot hit them as they left the cluster.
“Initializing light-speed and…”
With a click and a pause, K-2 fell out of her seat. Collapsing onto the ground, she lay there as the ship accelerated to light speed. K-2 slowly closed her eyes—she didn’t have the strength to keep them open. “K-2!” from Ted was the only thing she could hear. Her ears were weakening. Suddenly, she couldn’t sense anything, and she jerked and fell face down, her eyes staring blankly at the floor.
K-2 couldn’t look at them long enough. The sparkles in the black space before her…they were so beautiful. How come she had never heard of them? Why, in all her “life”, had she never been introduced to stars?
The same man came back to the room she was in. K-2 just then noticed where she was. There were black leather seats with a table in the middle with cup holders. There were small windows lined up around them. In front of her was the passageway that led to the front of the ship. She glanced up.
“Why aren’t you driving the ship?” she asked in slight shock.
“Autopilot knows where it’s goin’,” he replied with a smile. “You want somethin’ to drink?”
K-2 hesitated. Drink? She had never done it. All she had needed as a robot was oil, and Arver’s only needed that and a battery charger. Wait, she thought, if this man had offered her a drink, that must mean that he thought it normal. And that meant…
“Are…are you a human?” K-2 inquired, her eyes widening by the second.
He laughed nervously, and then stopped. “ ‘Course I’m’a ‘uman. Wha’ else d’ya think I’d—” he stopped. “You’re—you’re not?”
K-2 shook her head. “You couldn’t tell? I have a circuit board for a face.”
“Well I just though’ it was a costume or somethin’,” he replied. “Y’ need ‘elp with it, that’s for sure.” K-2 bowed her head. Was it that funny to look at?
“What are y’?” he asked.
“I’m an Arver,” K-2 replied.
The man stopped. His short blonde hair stood on the back of his neck. “But…but that’s impossible,” he stammered. “They’re all gone.”
“I’ve been forgotten,” K-2 explained calmly. “The dictatress of Nosgo transformed me. I was a robot before. I…I thought humans were extremely rare in Altross.”
“You’re not kiddin’?” he cracked a smile. “Good god, everyone knows about you! She wouldn’t quit talkin’ about y’. Humans ‘r all over the Galaxy. Its Arvers that are rare. Nosgo was the only place they lived.”
“But…” K-2 was confused. “That means—”
“Vastrada turned ‘em all to robots,” the man finished.
“You already know?”
“Of course—everyone knows. Vastrada invented machines and whatever else she’s got in that lab of ‘ers—some of it no one’s even though’ of befor’. You were ‘er ‘oh so precious’ experiment.” He said with some awe.
“Wha’ was your numba’?” the man asked. “K….4…”
“K-2490,” she recited. “But—K-2, if you don’t mind. What’s yours?—your name, I mean, not your number.” K-2 added.
“Ted,” he stated bluntly. “Ted Orbitron.”
K-2 smiled. She had never seen or even met a human before—with the exception of her mistress.
“So,” Ted evoked. “I assume you’re going to Frauk just to get away from Vastrada.”
“No,” K-2 objected. “I have to get to Emperor Conogo. He must do something about her. If she is not stopped she will be out of control.”
“Isn’t she already?” Ted asked, perplexed. “What could Conogo do?”
K-2 couldn’t reply directly. “I—well—he has to do something about her! I’m traveling there myself to advocate it!”
“Big words there, K-2,” Ted smiled.
“I will get to Planet Tinacia,” K-2 finished firmly.
“And I’m not gonna argue with ya. I don’t disagree that she’s gotta be stopped,” Ted assured her. “Somehow, though, I don’t think you understand wha’ you’re dealing with…”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you know wha’ she’s done?” Ted asked.
“Is she still alive?” K-2 asked. “Really, though…not some spirit?”
“She’s real all righ’!” Ted rejoined, “as real as I am talkin’ to ya. You don’t know wha’ she is now?”
K-2 hesitated. She…was not a human? She shook her head.
Ted leaned closer to her as if he was afraid of being overheard. “She’s used ‘er own technology to develop somethin’ she made only for ‘erself.”
“She’s made ‘erself a magician,” Ted almost whispered. “A witch is wha’ she is. She used ‘er power and technology to make ‘er sup’a’natural.”
“She’s made herself an enchantress?” K-2 inquired.
“But…but what about the Nosgo senate? It ruled Nosgo under her, practically—are they not doing anything about it?”
Ted, again, looked at her as if he hadn’t heard of such a thing as a “Nosgo senate”. “Vastrada killed them all years ago,” he responded. “She’s tyrannical now.”
K-2 didn’t say anything for a while. Vastrada, then, was free to do whatever she wished. She didn’t have to ask permission from any senate.
“She has not conquered any other planet?” K-2 confirmed. Puzzled, she thought aloud. “That is why she has not died—because she made herself immortal. But then…why has she not made herself Empress of the Galaxy? There’s no one to stop her—she could very well take over another planet. Is Emperor Conogo still weakening?”
“’Course he is—much more than befor’,” Ted answered.
“Why has he not done anything, then?” K-2 insisted. “While she is not the ruler of any other planet…what better time would there be to conquer her?”
“I don’t think y’ understand,” Ted said nervously. “Now just because she isn’t doin’ anything reckless, doesn’t mean she isn’t doin’ anythin’ now.”
“What else could she be working on?” K-2 questioned, not expecting a good enough answer. And she did not receive one, for Ted remained silent for a while. At length, he spoke ever so softly.
“I don’t know.” He paused. “But I still don’t think y’ understand ‘oo she is now…”
“Why not?” K-2 straightened up.
“You’ve been asleep for a century, K-2—Vastrada’s done a lot since you fell asleep.”
“Yes, along with turning Nosgo into a robotic nightmare!” K-2 added. “And I didn’t fall asleep—I was shut off.”
“Alrigh’, Alrigh’, so you weren’t asleep,” Ted said calmly. Before he could say another word, K-2 interjected again.
“I am not sure if I want to know everything Vastrada has done. I have seen enough to know she must be stopped. If the Emperor cannot help me…I don’t know who can.”
Ted seemed to give up. “I wish you’d let me tell y’ a little more befor’ ya’ go divin’ inta’ this,” he said, apparently concerned. “I’ll help ya’, since it’s my life along with everyone else’s. But y’ still won’t let me tell y’ what I think she’s doin’?”
“No,” K-2 answered.
“I’ll get y’ to Frauk,” Ted announced, rising and shaking his head. “And I also know someone ther’ who can ‘elp you.”
K-2 dashed stiffly out of the bar, with robots laughing at her weird way of walking. They knew what she was, K-2 thought, and she knew that inside, they really weren’t laughing. They were suffering.
K-2 stopped in the middle of the sandy main street. There were no Arvers around her…no droids, no aliens. There were just robots. This was all Vastrada’s plan. Her next step was the world—the Galaxy. She couldn’t stay here. But where would she go? She was hardly able to walk like an Arver and hardly blend into average society, but she had to get away from Nosgo.
If Vastrada discovered that K-2 was alive and here in the town, who knows what she would do to her? K-2 was no longer for her. Why would “the empress” treat her as if nothing had happened? But where was K-2 going to go?
Her mind raced as she stared down the dusty streets, with robots crossing every which-way with blank expressions. One by one, they all stopped and stared at her. K-2 could only gaze in awe and shock—they here all enslaved and hypnotized.
A name hit her in the head: Conogo. She must find Emperor Conogo. He was still alive, and he was still on Planet Tinacia. With sudden urgency, she knew he had to be found and warned. Maybe he could stop her. Surely she had not conquered any other planet or civilization…no, surely not.
Abruptly, the whispers entered her head again. Help us, they said. Please help us. Do something. Save us.
K-2 set off down the dusty plain. She had to get away from there. The whisper was frightening her. Robots, she overheard, were already talking about the strange girl standing in the middle of town square. Instantly, she spun around when she heard a robotic cry.
“Stop. Her. She is leaving. The town. Stop her. Stop her.”
Then a whole group of robots appeared out of nowhere, stalking her like zombies with their arms out in front.
“Why can’t I leave town?” she asked in fright to the one who had spoken.
“Empress. Vastrada. Commands that no one. Leaves the town’s premises. Must destroy.” A missile shooter came up out of his metal arm.
They all got closer as K-2 backed away.
The whispers came back, even louder now. Help us—please, help us.
K-2 realized: the whispers were from the “minds” of the robots. She still had half a robotic “mind”, (and robots are capable of limited telepathy between their kind). The robots were programmed to stop her from leaving town…but the voices inside cried for help. The whispers were faint and desperate. They stalked toward her with red glowing eyes and loaded missiles. But behind all that was something much different.
K-2 gaped with frightened eyes. “I will bring help,” she stuttered. “I…I will help you.”
The robots came nearer. The corner of K-2’s eye saw a hover jet-ski by the side of the wooden planks of the sidewalks. As stiffly as she always did, she hastened to the jet as the noises rang behind her.
“Stop. Stop,” they said.
K-2 jumped onto the jet. It hovered above the ground. She squeezed the accelerator on the handle with her metal hand. With a great gust of wind behind her, she sped off into the desert. The yells and robotic cries were behind her. Were they programmed to tell Vastrada if one had left the town? She hoped not.
She traveled on it seemed for hours. The flat, dry ground turned into heaps and mountains of sizzling sand. K-2 sped on. It was a few minutes out of the town’s premises that she realized how hot it was. She had senses, now, and she could feel the sting on her skin from the desert heat. The wind against her face was thick and stifling. Squinting ahead she could see nothing but mounds and miles of desiccated sand. It blew behind her as the jet exhaust emitted from the engine. It blew in her face and K-2 brushed it out. The desert was becoming hotter by the moment. As she rode into and during the night, the heat wore off, but the humidity did not.
Their whispers still hung dauntingly in her “mind”.
The hover jet-ski held out surprisingly well by the morning, but she could tell it was losing fuel. It wasn’t going as fast as it was before. K-2 also felt fatigued. Her battery was only halfway charged—she could feel it. For a hundred years it had not been used, yet it was active now. Yes, Arver batteries are powered by heat, but only so much. Heat-energy is what gives it additional power, but a charger is needed to keep it active in the first place. But K-2 had no charger. She only hoped for one before her battery ran out. But where? She didn’t even know how she was getting to Tinacia, and much less where she would find a battery charger.
The stretches sand had turned into flat plains of sand and rock. Hundreds of huge rock formations grew from the durable ground. K-2 was so caught up in her thoughts about her battery that she didn’t realize that she had flown right into the maze.
Crying out, she dodged the boulders in her way. This way and that she leaned with her hover jet, her handlebars moving violently from left to right. The side of the jet hit the corner of a rock. The jet swerved and K-2 looked back as she saw the rock fall, making a terrific noise. Her eyes returned in front of her and she failed to dodge the rock not a hundred feet away.
The jet smacked the rock and it fell to the rocky ground. K-2 landed on her face, unable to get up at first. The jet spun out of control, and it exploded—parts flying everywhere, inflamed.
It was quiet. K-2 slowly got up. She saw the hopeless, useless hover jet scattered around her. She glanced ahead at the miles of sand and rock she saw. Breathing heavily, she looked up at the blue sky. She was away from her hometown, yes, but now she was lost in the desert. Without a battery charger, she would not survive. She couldn’t turn back, and she didn’t have the motivation to continue onward.
A flash of metal and dust zoomed past her. K-2 spun around. It slowly backed up.
It was a miniature spaceship. Out of the sliding door came…someone with her structure. He was dressed in black with orange streaks across his chest. His sleeves fell over his hands. An orange diadem was wrapped around his head. Seeing K-2 alone in the dust would have confused anyone. But he smirked.
“You from ‘round ‘ere?” he inquired.
“I…yes? No. I—” K-2 had never spoken at her own will to anyone but Vastrada. She didn’t exactly know how to do it. But she didn’t need to answer.
“Wha’re you doin’ out ‘ere in the middle of the desert?” he smiled. “Scarab ‘unting?”
“No!” K-2 objected. “I’m going to the planet Tinacia!”
“Planet Tinacia?” the man laughed. “You were plannin’ on walkin’?”
“I…” she stopped. K-2 couldn’t help but smile at her awkwardness. “I kind of need a lift.”
“Well, we only travel to Nosgo, Frauk, and Aberjan,” the man stated.
“The Inter-Space,” the man declared. “You’ve neva’ ‘eard of it? Transportation across the Galaxy—we’re gonna broaden our services to all Five planets soon’a or lata’. It’s our bi-weekly trip to Nosgo today.”
“Bi-weekly?” K-2 asked. She couldn’t think of what would have happened if she had been in the desert at the wrong time.
“Y’ don’t just go zippin’ around like you do in ‘ologram shows,” the guy laughed. “This is real life we ‘ave ‘ere. Frauk alone is ‘alf a light year away. Y’ can’t get there all in one day.”
“Oh.” K-2 looked back. She saw dark clouds and a sudden blue light. She spun around.
“Can you get me to Frauk?” she said urgently. (She knew it was one of the closest planets to Tinacia).
“Well—well sure I can get y’ to Frauk,” the man smirked.
“Then let’s go now!” K-2 said. She boarded the ship without hesitation.
“Hey now!” the man yelled. “Wha’ about my stop at the town ‘round there?” He pointed towards the dark clouds.
“No one is going to leave that town,” K-2 cried. “Get on! Take me now!”
“Alrigh’ keep your disk in,” the man said, hurrying up the ramp.
K-2 glanced desperately towards the blue lightning that flashed in the distance. The door closed and she dashed to the window. With a sudden jolt, the ship lifted from Nosgo’s surface. She was gone—away from Nosgo. She had never ventured this far in her “life”. Did Vastrada know she was going? Was she looking for her?
With a great force, K-2 fell over. The ship had blasted from Nosgo’s atmosphere. The next time she gazed out the window was the first time she witnessed the stars.
How she awoke, and when her “mind” actually began to reboot, no one really knows, not even K-2. I personally think that Vastrada had given her too much of a “mind of her own”. And I think it was her own mind realizing that it did not have to rely on a silly disk that was slightly smaller than the palm of my hand.
But whatever the case may be, the fact stands: K-2 awoke. And she instantly remembered everything. Her “mind” knew exactly how much time had passed. She saw the brain disk beside her and deduced everything that had happened. It was as if it had been a half-hour nap. Squinting in the dark, she looked down at her hand. No, she was not invisible anymore. She listened for sounds outside. She couldn’t hear anything. Being in the same place she was before, was everything outside of the box still there?
With great courage, and sudden shock of the return of gravity pressure, she slowly lifted the lid of the box. The utility closet was open but unguarded. K-2 glanced around. Everything looked the same. Pushing open the door a little more, she stopped. The laboratory was dark and unoccupied. K-2 felt her battery speed as she hastened up the steps.
She could not move as quickly as she would have liked because of her magnetization. K-2 tried as hard as she could not to make much noise with her metal feet against the steps.
Opening the door, K-2 found the corridor completely changed. There was no longer a large widow for the tube-like hallway. Instead it was dark, with only bluish lights running along the edge of the thin-carpeted floorboards. Muffled intercoms from invisible speakers echoed through the dark hall and clashed with the hum of the AC vent. K-2 dashed behind a wall, there were robots walking or rolling down the hall. But they were not the same as she remembered. They were new, or newer. They looked different and more advanced. Their silver heads and gadgets were extremely high-tech compared to K-2’s old self.
The robots passed, and K-2 came out. Where was Vastrada? She had been human, so had she died? It had been a hundred years, after all. Was there someone new as ruler of Nosgo?
K-2 remembered a secret exit on the bottom floor of Vastrada’s mansion. If it was still there, she could escape unnoticed. The elevator was hard to get to because of countless robots stalking the halls. Where did they all come from?—K-2 thought. Why were there so many?
Struggling to steadily walk as fast as she could, K-2 exited the elevator and entered the dusty wasteland of a planet that she had never known. Dust and sand blew as she reached the open. The blaring heat made her head feel warm and active. Up ahead was a worn out town. Huts with dusty roofs were scattered here and there. K-2 had never been outside before. She took it in as quickly as she could manage.
Then she noticed it. There were no Arvers.
At first there were one or two robots. But no—the whole town was filled with them. Hundreds and hundreds of robots walked or rolled every which way. K-2 faltered back. This is what Vastrada was talking about. Everyone was now a robot. They went about their daily lives, inwardly suffering but unable to do anything about it. They could never move out of their own will. Vastrada’s technology had turned them into subservient machines.
Was all of Nosgo like this? K-2 would have been surprised if it wasn’t. That had been Vastrada’s intention. Then she stopped. If Nosgo was filled with hopeless machines, then Vastrada was still alive…
All at once the sky was dark. The robots stopped as all their heads gazed at the sky. K-2 watch the dark clouds spin above them all. Blue lightning flashed to the clouds…coming from where? K-2 hid herself before Vastrada could notice her.
It was a hologram. But K-2 saw her all too clearly. She was clad in blue, sparkling robes that covered her feet and fell behind her. She wore a crown of gold and sapphires. Her face was pale and her eyes were dark and power-hungry. Her staff was wrapped in gold with a sapphire jewel at the top. A viper encircled it. The lightning spewed from the giant jewel. The lightning thrashed against the dark clouds, as the robots turned to the massive image of Vastrada. They bowed to her.
K-2 paused, watching this dreadful scene. Vastrada was forcing the former-Arvers to bow to her. Was this her first step to universal domination? It had been one hundred years—was she already the dominant Empress of Altross?
The robots continued to bow in worship and respect. The hologram of Vastrada looked on with satisfaction and pride. Her malicious smile pierced K-2’s eyes. Suddenly, it was gone. The sky lightened. And the robots all continued their normal day through the town square, as if nothing had happened.
The sand was hard to walk on, for she had never done it before. Approaching the middle of the main street, K-2 stiffly paced towards one of the open bars. Inside, every robot stared at her. Some sat at the tables around the room. A few sat on the barstools at the counter. K-2 stopped and looked around, as every robot stood still.
“Hey. Metal-Brain,” said one of them in the robotic tone. “Forgot. To buy. A cape. With that. Costume? Ha. Ha. Ha.” And there was a round of “Ha. Ha. Ha”s around the room. They were programed to forget the Arvers and what they looked like.
They have personality, K-2 realized. Vastrada transformed them without removing some aspects of personality…as if they were still average townspeople.
K-2 stalked up to the counter while some “Ha. Ha.”s were heard because of her stiff walking. The bartender was before her by the time she reached the counter. K-2 spoke cautiously.
“Do you work here?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered (at least, she thought it was a “he”). “Robotic droid of. 6172 Light Years. Number. FO-C713.”
“Have you always been a robot?”
“Were you once an Arver?”
“Have you always been subject to Vastrada?”
“Empress. Vastrada,” was the answer. “We have always. Been her loyal. Subjects.”
Suddenly K-2 heard a whisper inside her “head”. Help me. She stared at the bartender but his expression was blank…of course. Where did she hear it from? She heard it again: Help me.
K-2 paused here. Aloud, he had answered the way he was programmed to answer. The whisper made her realize: inside, the former Arver longed to tell her the truth. And luckily for him, K-2 was not going to give up so easily. If she could only choose the right wording, she thought, she might be able to get the answer she needed.
“Empress Vastrada?” she questioned.
“She is the ruler of. The Galaxy,” he recited, “—Creator of all energy. She is the source of power. We need. To survive.”
“Who is Emperor Conogo?” K-2 asked. She heard something click in his head.
“Conogo Stardipper.—the Emperor. of the Altross. Galaxy. He dwells. On Planet. Tinacia and maintains. Peace. Throughout. Galaxy.”
“Is he still alive?” K-2 inquired, striving to remain calm.
“Born. In Light Year 4796. He still lives.”
“Is he still Emperor?” K-2 nearly cried.
“Peace Giver. Of the Five Planets. Still. Reigns,” the robot’s head tilted.
K-2 finally relaxed. She wondered if this bartender would answer her one last question—one that might just be answered.
“Your empress—the Empress of Nosgo…”
“Creator. Of all energy. She is the source of power. We need—”
“Yes yes,” K-2 interrupted. “You bowed to her.” She pointed, “out there.”
“Each day. She comes and we. Worship her might work,” the robot mechanically explained. “Each day. We go. And bow at her feet.”
“It was a picture, though,” K-2 breathed harder.
“Citizens. Must not question. The great might—”
“But was it a hologram?” K-2 interjected. “Is Vastrada—”
“Is she still alive?” K-2 was gasped. “Does she rule Nosgo by spirit, or was that really her, just in a hologram?”
The robot stared blankly. Help me. There it was again. Please, help me—all of us.
“IS VASTRADA ALIVE?” K-2 exclaimed.
More silence came between them. Abruptly, K-2 heard a click.
“Order. Up. Number. 19.” And he rolled away.
K-2 awoke in the same glass case. The realistic Manicheans scared her to death when she first noticed them. She felt the same—yes, she could still move freely. The laboratory was dark, and she didn’t have any clue where Vastrada had gone. Was she hiding? Was she waiting for her to wake up?
Her brain disk had not been tampered with (if it had, she would have had the last hour of her memory erased, but she remembered everything perfectly). She did notice her battery was hooked up to the charger beside her. She was being held down by metal clamps, holding her legs and arms down.
One thing raced through her head—she had to escape. She could not be Vastrada’s puppet. But if she ever left the laboratory, where would she go? She didn’t have time to think about that. Time was running short.
Arvers have one hundred and fifty times more strength than the average human. Vastrada must have forgotten this, because K-2 easily pushed through the metal clamps that held her down. Stepping out of the glass case, she glanced around violently. The only sound was the buzz of the florescent light in the room next door. Carefully, and as quietly as she could, she placed her metal foot onto the tile. The quiet sound seemed hair-raising in the noiseless laboratory.
Another trait of an Arver is the ability to disappear. It usually takes years before a young Arver can master this entirely. Vastrada, however, had previously inserted K-2’s knowledge to speak. At the same time, she had given her the understanding necessary to disappear. And K-2 did so.
She gently clamped her feet onto the tile as she advanced. A noise made her jump. Forgetting she was invisible she fell to the ground as quietly as she could. There was no one there. Instantly getting to her feet again, she sauntered to the stairway. (She would have gone faster, but the gravity was heavier on the battery when there was no light in the room).
The door opened at the top of the stairway. Vastrada and an Arver servant were approaching the stairs. K-2 spotted a utility closet to her right. The closet held mops and brooms. She was very quiet as Vastrada and the Arver approached the laboratory. Silently, she backed into the closet.
“Her battery is charged,” Vastrada said as they descended the stairs. “I need you to figure out her password to her disk without destroying her.”
“But that may take hours, madam!” the servant said.
“For your own good, I think you should make it take less time.”
K-2 spotted a large box in the back of the closet. She lifted off the lid with all her might. It was empty. It was stripped with red velvet. She deemed it the perfect place to hide. Indeed, soon afterwards, she heard Vastrada scream.
“Where is she? Find her! Find her—do not let her escape! Find her and bring her to me!” she screeched.
K-2 slipped into the massive box, pulling the lid over her head. She shifted for a more comfortable position. Suddenly her head hit the side of the box. K-2 abruptly jumped, jerked, and her head fell forward, staring blankly into the dark. Her brain disk fell beside her.
There she was: alone, hidden, invisible, with no one to reboot her back to consciousness. No light could charge her battery. She stayed there. For one hundred years her “mind” slept. For one hundred years, she was forgotten.