Inspired by “The Amber Monolith”
Batu climbed the hill, the obsidian glared in the scorching heat overhead. Crumbling bits of ancient brick turned to gravel with each step under the massive weight of it’s foot. At the top, Batu could see the old ruins of a human city that the old carvings talked about. The city sprawled endlessly into a cavern in the side of the mountain. Even after all these eons, the machines at the gateway of the city still thrummed with power. Rings orbited the devices, spinning with unearthly precision. Inorganic material was of no interest to these Numenéra… or so it seemed. Many charred bodies laid before the entrance, reduced to blackened bone. Batu rattled its body to dislodge the amber sand which had ingrained itself between the cracks in its rocky body. Ze had been roaming the land for years trying to find a good place to settle down and start a new family. The cluster underneath zirs arm had started to obtain enough mass and personality to fracture off on it’s own. Ze had named it Koeshi, a word his tribe used to describe a certain type of pebble found in the southern wastelands.
The legends told that Diruk were not of this world, they were Visitants who had arrived during a previous era. Batu’s tribe avoided most humans just as their ancestors had. There were many stories of when humans hunted Diruk to harvest their bodies for valuable metals and gems. Like the loss of sensation after having your fingers cut off one by one, Diruk resented the humans which wore parts of them around their necks as pendants and jewelry.
The Numenera would protect them for quite some time from those who would seek to harm them, and the ruins were sure to contain more devices which would enrich their new lives. The air swirled with musky dust as the crumbling ceiling continued to erode with the desert wind. Batu scoured the ruins of the forgotten people, lifting the rubble of collapsed buildings in search of any suitable rocks. Stone which was similar enough to be consumed. Koeshi was going to need more mass and tough, rigid material in order to survive in this desolate area. With the two of them, they would be able to rebuild the tribe that Batu had lost a few years back.
The cavern city grew dark as the day wore on and the sister suns made their way down. It did not matter for Batu, who could see perfectly fine in the darkest of nights. Koeshi wiggled and squirmed as ze could no longer make out the shapes that passed the two of them. Only the contact of Batu and reassuring stroking of Batu’s steam fissure calmed Koeshi enough to not panic.
“You need not fear little one… I will always be here to protect you.”
Batu’s voice was coarse and sounded as if it was filtered through gravel, much like the body from which it came.
“I know that you are frightened… that we have lost many in our journey… but you… you and I will rebuild our tribe… I will never let them take you… Yavet would never forgive me for allowing you to be taken… ze sacrificed zirself for you. Yav knew you were special.”
Obsidian wasn’t always an easy resource to come by in the Ninth World. Fortunately, synth had many similar qualities and could serve as a substitute for Koeshi and it was plentiful in the ruined cavern city. Soon Koeshi would have enough mass to venture off of Batu and start a new chapter of prosperity.
The echoing cries of animals filled the cavern from the entrance. The Numenera Sentries rang out in a high pitched whine as bright neon light flickered and shot across the darkened stone sky. Batu grabbed a slab of collapsed wall as ze made zirs way towards the entrance. A flock of winged creatures hazardously dove towards the entrance. Their color full blue eyes called out in fear as they tried to make their way into the cavern. One by one they fell as the sentries shot them down. As Batu looked out over the mountainside below them, he saw countless creatures running away in panic… A red cloud rose on the horizon, beyond the mountains to the east.. Someone moving across the dry plains? Certainly something big if that was the case. Perhaps a herd. Perhaps a pack of raiders.
Koeshi whined as the colorful creatures fell at Batu’s feet. While Batu had no patients for humankind, ze still respected other life forms. There must be something causing these animals to flee the area… if there was something dangerous in this area, it concerned their future in this region. It was frustrating to have traveled across countless lands, to find this apparent utopia and have it be threatened on day one. Batu charged down the mountainscape, building momentum as he approached the base of the valley. The amber sands and mountainside gave way as the furious Diruk leaped down, causing the gravel and sand to cascade down. Koeshi had never seen Batu so filled with rage since they left their ancestral home years ago.
The cloud loomed larger. No herd. No creature at all–a dust storm.
Batu knew that ze would not be able to make back to the cavern by the time the storm overtook the valley. Down in the crevice of the valley, there was little shelter. Ze quickly moved to a nearby coursing river which was many feet deep. This would provide ample shelter as long as Batu held them to the bottom and made sure the river didn’t sweep them away. Getting out of the river would prove difficult as they weren’t naturally gifted swimmers on a count of their weight and body compositions. “Water…?Water?Water!?! No no no” Koeshi complained as they made their way towards the stream. They had been through dust storms together before.
The torrential cone of onrushing red engulfed the valley and bore down upon the Diruk like a ravenous monster. Through the tint of the river, a sight caught Batu’s attention. It jogged an old memory from when Batu was just a few clusters on the shoulder of Oska, in the days of the old tribe. Fear.
Batu’s panicked voice resonated through the cold waters that rushed over them.
There was nowhere to hide. Not from the wind. The rapid waters of the river were their only choice.In the past Batu had managed to stand against the ravages of sandstorms even as it started to erode zirs stony body. The iron wind was something different altogether. It was its own sort of monster. It didn’t just erode stone, it actually altered it. within this monstrous storm lived particles crafted by humans, far too tiny for a man or creature to see. It was unsure whether or not this was a creature at all or a machine. The only thing that could truly be told was that it was a terrifying and destructive force to be reckoned with.
The water started to explode in a multitude of fashions as the wind swept across the coursing river. The wind scorched the earth as the surrounding hillsides turned to glass. The local wildlife struggled to get away before getting consumed by the red cloud and irreversibly transformed. New appendages sprouted in alien locations. Flesh turned to steel as their bodies violently thrashed upon the ground. Tendrils appeared from their backs in flurries.
For the first time since Yavet’s death, Batu was truly afraid. With their deaths, the old tribe would be deceased. No, ze could not let that happen. Batu could not break zirs promise to Yav that ze made so many years ago.
“Koeshi… you have grown to be quite big over the past year, and I am proud of the Diruk you have become.” Batu laid a hand over Koeshi, grasping zirs body. “You have taught me so many things Batu. How are we going to escape this?”
Zirs voice trembled in uncertainty as the river started to heat and evaporate around them.“My body is too big, and I will not be able to escape this… It was foolish of me to have charged down the mountainside like I did… I just was so happy to have finally found a perfect place to rebuild the tribe, and this storm it just… pushed me. Yavet would be ashamed of me.”
Batu’s grip strengthened around Koeshi. It always seemed to calm Koeshi to be held like this.
The water steamed over Batu’s body as it started to boil into a flash of pressured steam. Sand fell from his lower body as the wind devoured the stone.
“It was not your fault! You have always done the right thing for us… Yavet would be so proud of the Diruk you have become. You have always given me someone to aspire to be. Don’t talk like that!”
Batu’s body shifted as a section of it collapsed. “It is not safe here for you my little pebble…” Koeshi could now see the full extent of the damage which had started to spread across zirs body.“It is not safe for you either! We need to run! We need to get out of here! I need you!”
The crystals across their bodies pulsed in waves of purple and blue.
“I… can’t fail Yav… I…”A fissure began to form as the mineral deposit between the two of them began to fracture. Batu held up Koeshi to the sky. Ze knew that the winds would harm Koeshi, but as his torso began to crumble ze knew that it was the only way he would have enough leverage and strength. “Batu?…
Don’t do this! Please… I… I can’t survive out there without you. I can’t be alone… I… I love you…”
With a tremendous force of will, Batu snapped zirs arm forward. The force dislocating and shattering the connection from zirs body. “Yavet and I will watch over you from the crystals in the sky.
I have no purpose without you… I love you so much Koeshi.”
Time froze as ze watched as Batu crumbled and disappeared under the thrashing wave of the Iron Wind. The cloud pulsed in a spectrum as the large crystal on Batu’s back glowed in a magnificent explosion of color.
The water downstream swept Koeshi’s small body away through the valley as ze desperately tried to make his way to the shore, frantically calling out to Batu.
Koeshi knew Batu was gone… as he was met with only the silence of the river.
Reyers and I have done it. We have made true artificial intelligence. After years of researching the Numenera around our crumbling city. After finding and fixing the many medic droids to gain the parts necessary to experiment we’ve done it. The world can’t know about it yet. We’ve remained referring to him by his product name: OLLO.
With this success we hope to create a better life for those in our city with droids capable of their own judgement to treat the surroundings around them with sincere respect and give them empathy for the people and creatures they are caring for.
My heart is currently pounding in my chest with excitement. Reyers has little Ollo powered down right now to thoroughly clean his internal hardware.
Jallark turned the knob on what they referred to as “The Great Log.” With a whirr of the electronic mechanisms inside the thin metal tablet the glowing silver screen faded to black. He rose from his seat and made his way to the iron table that Reyers had Ollo laid over. Reyers and himself had been working on this so long it made his stomach turn in nervous excitement. Reyers was cleaning a crystalline disk roughly the size of a fifty cent piece.
“This damn thing keeps getting so dusty, we really should look into a more stable power source next. The refractory is close enough to the air the dust gets into it.”
“Perhaps a better sealing system would be an effective fix. It would be quick. As far as I know this method creates the most ongoing power.” Reyers raised the disk to the light and then delicately slid it into the droids back snapping it into place. He slid the back of the droid closed and then looked to Jallark.
“You ready to test this thing?” Jallark asked adjusting the sleeves on his black coat. The stitched symbol of The Order of Truth shifting on his shoulder.
“Ollo. And yes, let’s power it back up,” Jallark helped sit Ollo up on the table. Its metal legs dangling over the side and large monitor of a head slumped forward. Reyers pushed the button at the base of Ollo’s head. A slight hum coming from his abdomen.
“It’ll take a moment to power up again, I seriously think that that disk needs to be traded out. It doesn’t work as effectively as it should,” Reyers stands next to Jallark crossing his arms his jaw clenched in frustration. “The other type of glass that we’ve found native here doesn’t allow the refraction effect at all or melts, but these crystals are so testy. Any speck of dirt, any break, any wear at all and they slow down.” He rubs the stubble on his chin in irritation. “Maybe we–”
“We’ll think of something Rey,” Jallark says placing his hand on Reyers shoulder, “This is a huge moment for us. Let’s worry about it later.”
Reyers smiles and places his hand over top Jallark’s. “I’m sorry, I suppose I’m just stressed.”
“Stress: pressure or tension exerted on a material object.”
Jallark and Reyers looked to Ollo. His monitor sitting up straight a dim blue background on the screen with light blue letters drifting across the screen. After the text box flashes a couple of times the light colored letters transitioned to a simple face with two dots for eyes, two lines for eyebrows, and a line for a mouth.
“Or you more likely meant the secondary definition: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. As a physician I must ask are you frequently under stress? It can cause many problems to both your physical and mental health.”
Jallark and Reyers look at each other with excitement. Ollo is powered and operational. Now it was a matter of whether or not they had truly found the key to artificial intelligence.
Ollo has yet to work as we had hoped. We’ve run many tests and have yet to find conclusive evidence that it has abandoned the automated responses. When put in similar circumstances as other medic droids Ollo has reacted the same way. Reyers and I are under the assumption there is currently a bug in the code that is blocking more impulsive lively behavior. We are still having difficulties finding another method to divert the power. We’ve found a type of metal to use and will be testing it further once it is properly cut. If no progress comes from this we may have to send out to the high ranking Aeon Priests to help us in our endeavor. I still see hope in getting this to work and making Ollo into a long lasting physician with empathies and stronger understandings of his actions.
Jallark sighed turning the knob on the Great Log again. He stared at his face as the screen faded to black. He forced a smile on his defeated face. It’s been weeks since they tried reactivating Ollo with the system. He was feeling more downtrodden with each unsuccessful test. Perhaps they really hadn’t quite grasped what makes one more “human.”
He cleared his throat and rose from his seat his long dark coat falling around his legs. He began walking down the hallway to the testing room. Reyers was making final adjustments to the new thin metal piece they found to try and fix the power converter. Reyers was sporting a face of irritated determination. He was going to get Ollo to work. With one last sliver of metal shaved off the side he slid it into Ollo’s back. He looked up to Jallark in the doorway.
“The new piece fits. Are we ready to test it out?”
“Ready as we’ll ever be,” Jallark shrugged. “Perhaps we got too far ahead of ourselves getting our hopes up.” Reyers smirked as he slid Ollo’s back shut. He approached Jallark and placed his hands on his shoulders.
“We’re going to get this, and when we do we’re going to change the world. We’re going to fix our city. Once we get Ollo running the rest will come easy.”
“And I know,” Reyers squeezed Jallark’s shoulders tightly. “Keep your chin up. You’re usually the optimist here.” Jallark cracked a smile.
“Fine. Let’s test our baby.” Reyers nodded and walked over to a machine that took up the entire far wall. It was covered in a multitude of dials and screens most of which neither had figured out what they did. The ones they knew were able to read and display some of the available functions of the droids and their diagnostics. Reyers pulled a thick black cable from the wall with what appeared to be a small collection of frayed wires at the end. As soon as the wires came within an inch of Ollo the branched out glowing bright blue and stuck themselves all over Ollo’s back and up around the neck to the base of its head. The screens against the wall flashing with different numbers and bar displays ready to register.
“We’re ready to go.”
Jallark turned on Ollo. This time it was immediate. Lights on Ollo’s monitor of a head immediately started to glow. Its eyes animating to look as though they were blinking.
“Greetings. I am Ollo. How may I be of assistance?”
Jallark looked to Reyers, his face saying that this wasn’t working. Reyers shrugged and approached Ollo.
“Hello, Ollo we have a task for you. We’d like you to sort out,” He pulls up a small wooden bucket filled with rocks, “These rocks. We need them sorted by both color and texture.”
“I’m happy to help.” Ollo took the bucket and started laying them out sorting them as he was told. Jallark pulled Reyers off to the side.
“What do you think?”
“Well,” Reyers looked over to Ollo studying a pink rock that sparkled, “at least the new refractory is working right?”
A loud sparking sound came from Ollo as electricity started arching around him. The arches travelling quickly down the cable line to the main machine. Reyers quickly grabbed Jallark and dove away from the machine expecting a large blast. Instead the sparks fizzled out and the machine made a loud droning sound as it powered itself down.
Reyers stood up brushing off the dust on his coat. He extends his hand down to Jallark.
“Anytime,” Reyers looks around the room inspecting any damages.
What’s going on?
In my hand.
This room…these men…
“Umm…Excuse me but what am I doing with this rock?” Ollo’s voice eeped out, the inflections sounding more natural and human. Jallark and Reyers looked over to Ollo stunned.
Reyers shifted his gaze from Ollo to Jallark. “I thought he would have fried,” he whispered in amazement. He turned to the mechanism and tried rebooting the lightly scorched machine against the wall.
“What am I doing here?” Ollo asked again feeling. Feeling what? Fright? Confusion? Impulses were firing where they hadn’t before. The rock in his hand he felt it. Not in the way previous where the exact weight was documented with a partnered sensory program that detected the slightest of particle displacement. He felt it. But why? Why a rock?
Jallark brought himself out of the shock by clearing his throat. “Hello Ollo, my name is Jallark and this is my partner Reyers. We’ve been looking forward to meeting you. We have been working to get you here for a long time, son.”
The machine against the wall whined into power. The screen quickly filling with Ollo’s data.
“Impossible,” Reyers muttered.
“Why am I here?” Ollo asked again. Clenching the little dark green rock in his hand. The jagged edges digging into the prosthetic skin.
“Hold that thought please,” Jallark whipped around to Reyers, “what’s going on? What’s impossible?”
“Look,” Reyers points to the diagnostic screen, “the processor is broken. It’s completely offline. Ollo shouldn’t even be moving right now. And look here. The empathy register is on a dangerous level.”
“That means we’ve done it!” Reyers exclaims wrapping up Jallark into a tight hug.
Ollo was still sitting at the table listening in. I am broken? He thought. A sinking feeling washed over him and a simultaneous twinge in his joints. Sadness? Nervousness? These were things Ollo had yet to understand. It set the little rock down on the table with a light clink and he started tapping his index fingers against one another the metal in them tinking with each tap. He lowered his head in a sullen fashion. Why would they want someone that is broken?
Jallark still wrapped in Reyers arms heard the small taps of the droid and peered over Reyers shoulder. He gently pulled away and studied Ollo.
“Are you alright little fellow?” he asked with the concerned look of a father to a child. Ollo continued tapping his fingers.
“I am broken, Jallark?” Ollo asked, his voice faded and registering sadness.
Jallark looked to Reyers not sure what to tell the droid. Reyers sighed and approached Ollo taking its hands to stop the nervous tapping and kneeling beside it.
“From what we understand, yes. A part of your system is broken. But I think breaking that piece of you is what had ultimately fixed you,” he smiled looking up to Ollo.
“Isn’t the piece, the processor as you said, important for my functions?”
“Well for some mechanisms in the Ninth world. But you no longer require it. If you did we wouldn’t be having this discussion now would we?”
Relief washed over Ollo’s body. I am broken. But I also am not.
Jallark stood next to Reyers now. “In a way everyone and everything is both broken and not in this world. Ollo, we’re very happy to have you in it.”
With that Ollo looked to Jallark and smiled.
Ollo has been wonderful the last two months. He has helped us find and rework powerful Numenera. He has a great personality and seems to actually be enjoying the world we live in. Reyers and I however have heard the Convergence may have heard of our, for lack of a better word, child. We thought we were careful enough on our outings. Hopefully these rumors are false.
In any case going along the side of caution we have set in a program for Ollo in case it is discovered. Ollo knows so much about the Numenera, and there is one in particular I truly worry about. Reyers and I were able to hide it safely but due to the delicate nature of the item I will leave it out.
I hope to never need to use the fail safe on Ollo.
Ollo awoke under a tree. It was alone. It was a dark and starless night. The breeze was rustling the branches above.
Where am I?
How did I get here?
Ollo tried accessing his memories for before this and ended up crashing. The power quickly shutting down to a black screen. After a few minutes Ollo rebooted, and before its face appeared a message: Administrative Access Required.
Ollo quickly sat back up, the feeling of anxiety crashing over its body. The droid began tapping its fingers rapidly. Impulses firing off on its body. I can’t access my memories.
Ollo stands up and begins to walk. To where though? What does it matter now? The droid kept walking and walking until it came across a small town. The houses were nicely painted and the shutters were elaborately built. The sun was rising behind Ollo as it was entering nervously. Its thick metal feet pushing the soft dirt into the ground releasing small puffs of dust to the air. Ollo slowly became more at ease when his scans started detecting biological lifeforms within the houses all around.
A bright red flash appeared on the corner of its screen stating that power sources were low. Ollo remembered someone saying that a piece of its converter was broken. Was this a memory? Ollo also remembered that as backup it had a solar powered battery. All it needed to do was get into a spot that was well lit by the sun. Lucky that the sun is rising now. Ollo thought. Starting to relax. The tapping started to slow and then stop as its tensions left. I take care of people, I fix them. I will be welcomed into this little village. The droid thought looking up to the sky a small smile displaying on its screen.
The center of town was wide and circular with a stone fountain in the center. The fountain appeared to have not been operational in years but whatever it spewed out left the intricate stonework stained a deep purple. As the sun brightened the sky Ollo looked about wondering what type of people inhabited such a place. There wasn’t much protection from the sun aside from the few trees outside of the village, no nearby water source as far as Ollo could tell, and aside from the human lifeforms in the homes no other signs of flora or fauna.
Ollo sat at the edge of the fountain continuing to ponder about the inhabitants both nervous and excited. It shifted its shoulder plates off to the sides revealing the small solar panels beneath. A circular icon appearing in its vision with a small bar below it indicating how much power had gathered thus far.
Roughly an hour into its thinking and charging it heard the sound of a people from behind. It turned seeing people start coming out of their homes. A man with a large mustache and coveralls with his little girl with a long sleeved red dress and a matching bow in her long brown hair. He slid a gas mask over his head then helped the girl with hers. A woman who appeared to be in her twenties whose hair is silvered and disheveled wearing odd goggles wrapped up in a green shawl appeared from her doorway. She attached a small rebreathing device to the spectacles. Ollo jumped to the sound of laughing as three little boys ran past him chasing after one another. Triplets it appeared all with fiery orange hair. It was hard to tell for sure though under the masks they wore, similar to the father and daughter. Ollo’s face displayed a smile. They all seemed friendly and its charge with all the direct sunlight was already almost completed.
Ollo stood as more and more people appeared. Some of which were venders with small folding stalls Ollo assumed they put up and took down every night. Ollo admired how the sun lit up the village so brightly. PLINK!
Ollo felt the blunt force of a small rock hitting the back of its head. It turned to see the three boys that were chasing each other around earlier.
“Eh metal head what are you doin’ ‘ere?” The boy on the right sneered bouncing another pebble in his hand.
“Oh hello children, I am Ollo a medical droi-” Ollo was interrupted by another small pebble bouncing off of his screen.
“We don’t care. We’re askin’ cause we don’t want yer kind here,” the boy on the left said shoving his hands in his pockets.
“We don’t want you to git hurt metal head. If you stick ‘round ‘ere that’s what yull git,” the middle boy said putting his fist in his hand and making a punching motion.
“Ye better believe we’re nicer ‘an them adults. We’re at least givin ya fair warnin metal head,” The boy on the right said.
“But you all look so friendly. I can be of great assistance,” Ollo said his index fingers starting to tap nervously. “I don’t have anyone else to turn to, or anywhere else to go.”
“Well that’s too bad. Cause you ain’t stayin’ here,” The middle boy said raising his left arm and pulling what appeared to be some sort of light beam sending a bolt of light to Ollo’s head. The impact made Ollo tumble back against the well. The top left corner of its glass screen had cracked sending spider lines streaking out in multiple directions. Ollo’s face now displaying pain and sadness, something that was felt deeply. The sensation felt heavy.
“I ain’t playin’ bot. Now git up and get the hell outta here,” the boy said pulling back the string again aiming toward Ollo’s screen. He was a mere foot away now. The impact of the next blow may go all the way through. Ollo looked up to the boy feeling defeated on the ground. What was the point? I have nothing. No one or no where to call my own. What does it matter?
“Pidwell stop it!” The little girl in the red dress yelled running toward the scene.
“Stay out of it Zivia. We gotta protect the village. You know what these metal monsters did. You know why our folks hate ‘em so much,” Pidwell said still holding the thread steady and aimed at Ollo.
“But this one is so sweet and only the size of a person. It couldn’t hurt anyone,” Zivia said placing her hands on her hips. “Could you?” She asked turning to the droid.
“No little miss. I am Ollo a medical droid. I am incapable of hurting anyone. It’s not in my programming,” Ollo replied still on the ground.
“See,” She says helping Ollo back onto its feet. The boys grumbled beneath their masks.
“You’re too trusting Zivia. It’s gonna be your head,” The boy on the left responded. She made a hand gesture to the boy.
“I’m telling!” The boy yelled running away, his brothers close behind.
“I ain’t scared!” Zivia yelled back. She wrapped her slender arm through Ollo’s. “I’ll get you to my papa and he’ll lead you out of town. I’d show you myself but papa says it’s dangerous.”
“Indeed. Is your father a nice man?”
“Well I think so til I gotta go to bed.”
“What is wrong with that?”
“The sky’s real pretty at night round here. It turns all sorts of colors I hadn’t ever seen before and way way up there are sparkles that shine from high up in the sky.
“That is a valid reason to stay up late. There is much beauty in the world that needs to be explored. But your father is right you need your rest. Your body needs a minimum of 7 hours of sleep right now.”
“Well sleep is stupid,” Zivia grumbled kicking at the soft brown dirt as she walked.
“Sleep is incapable of thought,” Ollo replied, “It is highly necessary though. It helps your body grow and helps with healing. It has even been proven that lack of sleep causes cognitive issues.”
“Cognitive: the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.” Ollo replied the letters ticking away across the screen.
“What are those?” Zivia asked concerned looking at the droid’s screen.
“What?” Ollo asked. Zivia hesitantly pointed her finger to the screen the letters appeared. “Oh these! These are words. People made up little pictographs or pictures to indicate a sound related to speech. Each one is a word that you say.”
“There are pictures that mean words?” Zivia asked looking up to Ollo in amazement. “Show me more! What does…” She looked around thinking, “What does papa look like?”
Flashed up on the screen in large light blue letters. This made Zivia giggle. “That’s weird. What does Zivia look like?”
Traded places with Papa. Zivia was amazed and started copying the letters in the dirt. “I ain’t ever seen words before. Only heard em.” She said smiling up at Ollo. Ollo’s screen blinked and transitioned back to his smiling face. “We need to get to Papa. I don’t want a word maker to get hurt.” She brushed off the dirt on her hands and grabbed Ollo by the arm quickly leading it to her home. When they got there her papa was digging a hole of some sort on the side of the house.
“Papa, this is Ollo. He needs help outta town.” Her father looked up toward her then his face shifted to Ollo.
“Greetings,” Ollo raised his hand to wave.
“Aight. We better make this quick. We spend too long the whole council will get after ‘im. You know how they feel about metal heads.”
“I know papa but this one’s special. He’s a word maker!”
“A physician actually,” Ollo interjected.
“Whatever it is we need to get going,” he said sticking the shovel into the dust. He walked past them brushing off the dust on his hands. “Zivia ya need ta stay put. Ya hear?”
“No buts. You could get hurt really hurt like mama,” Zivia stared down at her feet and her shoulders slunk.
“Sir as a sign of gratitude for you helping me, I’d be more than happy to help your wife.” Zivia’s father stopped and his head drooped. He then turned to Ollo with a small sigh.
“Unless you can raise the dead doc, there’s no helpin her now,” he replied carrying onward. Ollo’s body tensed. It felt horrible. Bringing up the deceased around those that were close is one of the most painful discussions listed in the programming and not one to be tossed out blatantly. Ollo didn’t mean to. Could it have really known? Ollo’s anxiety started to kick in his fingers starting to tap away again.
“I’m gonna miss you Ollo. I hope I’ll get to see words again and learn what they all look like,” Zivia said her tone changing sounding more happy.
“I too will miss you, Zivia. I will remember you.” Ollo said pointing to the back of its head. It then turned away and followed her father out of the village.
Zivia’s father dropped Ollo off about a half mile off from the village. “This is as far as I take you Ollo. I hope the travel wasn’t too nerve wracking,” he said looking to Ollo’s clinking fingers.
“Oh don’t mind me. Just a nervous habit. I truly must thank you again for your generosity it has meant a lot.”
“Welp I just don’t think all you metal types are bad is all. Back in the day I worked on some numenera types like you. A lot smaller though. From what I get you guys only do what you’re told to do with yer parts. I ain’t scared of a normal doc why be scared of a metal one?” He said extending his hand to Ollo, “It’s Peares by the way.”
“Thank you Peares. I will remember you and Zivia fondly.” Ollo replied shaking his hand. Peares nodded his head and turned back toward the village. Ollo continuing down the road. Peares had told it that a more metal friendly city was about two days journey out. Ollo started to walk. Alone again.
Would it actually remember them it started to think to itself. It couldn’t access the memories from when it first woke up. Is that part of the memory possibly corrupted? Damaged? There was no way for it to really know. Being alone made it incredibly nervous. Ollo couldn’t save itself if an attack ensued. Why was it here? Why was it alone? Who had made it? It paused at that last thought. Fathers. I had fathers. Like Zivia I too had parents. But I…I don’t remember their faces. I don’t remember their names.
The thought burned in its mind. Thinking too much about the past would bring up warnings very briefly about accessibility before threatening to shut it down. Ollo would get agitated having to stop itself from trying to delve deeper into its memory bank. Instead it tried focusing on its surroundings. The bright blue sky, the sun’s rays heating the metal on its back, the soft shift of sand under its feet.
Ollo had been walking for hours following this road. Still no sign of other creatures of any sort. Its regular scan proved that. This world has felt so lonely so far. Unwelcoming and unsafe for a single person to handle alone. That’s when it hears the rustling of a bush on the side of the dirt road. Just out of range of its scan. Ollo paused a moment. Another rustle came from the opposite side of the road. Ollo’s mind started to flash through all of the potential scenarios making the bot’s body tense. Ollo took a couple hesitant steps forward.
“Greetings?” its voice coming out at a low volume. A group of abhumans jump out from the sides of the road screaming and hollering running toward the droid. Ollo felt a quick impulse burst through its body and sent it running the opposite direction. Its arm felt warm when coding started scrolling past its vision on its left.
Defensive Program Initiate. It said on the left. Ollo’s left arm opened up and a small targeting system appeared on the screen. What in the world is this? Ollo thought to itself, immediately the programming responded with directions on how to use the hardware. It pointed its arm back toward the small pack and tightened its fist. A scalpel came shooting out of the small opening and flew toward the abhumans scratching one across the arm. Ollo felt a little more confident.
“Stay away or you’ll get hurt!” Ollo yelled back to the abhumans. To which they replied by hurling a large rock against his back. The metal backing dented and it knocked it to the ground. The scalpel launcher shut itself and bright red warning lights flashed before Ollo’s eyes.
ad·vent/’adˌvent/noun-the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.
It had been months since Koeshi had been separated from Batu. The Ninth World wasn’t always a forgiving place, but through perseverance and some new obtained abilities ze was able to keep going.
Since the Iron Wind stole Batu away from Koeshi ze hadn’t felt like anything had changed. It was almost as if ze could see time flowing around everything. A fluid like silver mercury flowing like a river, pushing and directing everyone. The problem was that most individuals didn’t see this flow… They didn’t feel how this invisible form pushed at them, influencing their decisions and actions. As they tried to fight againsts the stream, it wore their bodies down, both mentally and physically. This continued until they finally decided to slumber under the guise of the moon. Koeshi just sat back and observed all of this from the distance. The stream washed over Koeshi, but didn’t affect the young Diruk. It seemed as though it completely ignored the movements of Koeshi, taking the easiest path possible.
This feeling of exclusion made zir feel even more alone than before. Koeshi knew that ze was from a different time and place. The ancient ones of the Diruk tribes spoke of home. The Ninth World was not home, but no one really remembered exactly where they came from… Some of them would talk about the sprawling geothermic world where minerals were abundant and the Diruk lived in peace. The Ninth World wasn’t made for Diruk. For the most part, they can survive in this world, but it is not made for them and it isn’t always comfortable. That is not even considering the fact that human and human like creatures actively hunt them as some sort of profitable gain.
Some rumor that the Diruk home was destroyed, and that those who live in the Ninth World are the only ones left. Why would those still living in this utopia abandon those lost to the Ninth World? Koeshi tried not to think too deeply about such thing. The tribe would often argue long about it, but after a while it would just fluster zir.
The path back to the cavernous city was difficult for Koeshi to traverse. The small obsidian rocks that rolled under zir wasn’t really adequate for climbing up hillsides. Luckily, ze had been practicing for many weeks to fling zirself using the rocks as leverage. All it took was a good thrust to get up most cliff faces and zirs spike appendage could often dig deep enough to stop zir from rolling backwards. Even though it felt like only yesterday, Koeshi longed to be by Batu’s side again. Although, he was just a crystal in the sky now, ze knew that being by Batu’s crystals again would bring zir great comfort. As the Black Riage valley started to narrow, ze could see that unfortunate spot where Batu had deceased. Lying in a heaping pile were the remains of the Diruk which had brought Koeshi into the Ninth World.
There was something wrong though…
Batu’s body had been….
Some Diruk believed that the crystals that grew on some of their bodies, were the physical manifestation of their souls, their personalities, and their memories.
The orifices where Batu’s crystals once protruded, had been smashed to rubble and the crystals pried from zirs lifeless body. After all that had happened, this was the way that Batu would be remembered. A show piece for a wealthy human… no doubt. Koeshi would not be able to live with that kind of legacy. After many hours of deliberation… ze thought that… perhaps ze could bend back the waves that flowed over him… to see who had taken what little left of Batu there was… and absorb the crystals into zirself to guard Batu’s legacy.
Never before had Koeshi pushed this hard against the silvery stream that covered everything. Like trying to push back an ocean, Koeshi shivered and quaked as the force overcame zir. The force was agonizing, and small shards of obsidian splintered and flew from zirs body. Though, the thought of giving up was prevalent in zirs mind. It was not an option. Just as Batu had given zirself to Koeshi, and refused to see zir get consumed by the Iron Wind, so did Koeshi refuse to abandon Batu. The flow of time reversed and Koeshi simply observed. Ze could only focus on zirs body not imploding under the colossal pressure that pulled at the fabric of reality. One could only imagined the unimaginable terrors that this would cause to organic flesh. Just… a little… further…Consciousness was fleeting… Only death awaited one foolish enough to continue the onslaught…There!Jackal like creatures came from the hills. Their horns and hooves looked like those of some sort of wildebeest… yet… their bodies were dull pink and fleshy like that of humans.
These must have been the abhumans which Batu spoke of… it seemed only fitting that they would be the thieves which assaulted zirs corpse. The Iron Wind was known for leaving precious resources in it’s wake… as well as ferocious and hideous monstrosities. The abhumans cautiously approached Batu’s smoldering mound. It did not take long though before their caution was thrown aside with the sight of the glowing crystal which beamed radiant light and slowly spun in it’s socket like a monolith of the Steadfast. The first of them was set on fire as it madly tried grabbing at it. This was Batu’s soul… This was the furious passion that lived inside!
The ambition of the Diruk, the brilliance of home!Koeshi knew that it had to be true! The abhumans began to psychotically thrash their spikes and picks down at the crystal as their companion ran to the hillside, eventually collapsing and dying. Their chilling screams of excitement echoed like a haunting pulse as they eventually freed the Batu crystal from it’s socket. Not only did Koeshi have to watch as Batu valiantly sacrificed zirself for zir, but now… ze had to watch as it happened all over again… powerless as zirs loved one became target practice for these creature’s synth tools. Any sort of stress would surely cause Koeshi to slip from the stream and come crashing back into the current. Only a little bit longer… must see where Batu is now… Just through the next few ravines.
It is my turn to save you Batu. For Yavet.