After 1700 BC near the Saini. Kairos 59: Balor, Captain of the Hyksos
The ship hurtled toward the ground as it spun out of control.
“Pull up,” Decker yelled.
“Pull up,” Lincoln echoed Decker’s words softly, as he reached for the reigns of Alexis’ horse. Alexis buried her face in her hands. She did not want to watch.
“There.” Elder Stow took his eyes off his scanner long enough to point. Someone ejected from the craft. The man had had something like a parachute, though it looked more like wings.
The single person craft hit the ground and made a big ball of flame. The person with the parachute-wings caught the updraft, and hopefully not too much of the explosion. He managed to use the wings to steer away from the wreckage and fire, but he did not look too steady. He came down too fast. Maybe the wing-parachute got some holes in it. Lockhart put down his binoculars when the person fell behind some trees.
“Hey!” Lockhart yelled. Artie rode all out toward the downed pilot. Katie and Elder Stow followed hot on her trail. “Boston,” Lockhart called to the girl. She had wandered out on the wing to get a better angle on the crash, but she had already started riding like a maniac to catch up to Artie, Katie, and Elder Stow.
Lockhart said no more. He started after the maniacs at less than breakneck speed. Major Decker, Lincoln and Alexis followed him.
Artie rushed through the woods and dismounted at the edge of the tree line. She had not gone mad. She understood the risk and calculated it was worth it. The pilot landed not far away, and looked to be trying to sit up. He looked broken, but her own sensors suggested he still functioned.
“Over here,” Artie yelled back to the ones behind her. She did not wait for Katie to arrive. The pilot looked at her through mist filled eyes. He blinked before he moaned and collapsed to his back.
“Not human,” he said, before his eyes closed. Artie could not be sure if he saw that she was an android, like him, or if he thought she was human and he was warning her about himself.
“Elder Stow, hurry,” Artie yelled back, but the elder hurried as much as his short Neanderthal legs could hurry. Artie knelt beside the pilot and extended her sensors to examine his insides. He did not appear to be badly damaged, but he looked different on the inside. He had some systems she did not recognize. “Hurry,” she repeated softly. Ever since her obedience crystal burned out, Artie had come to understand things like pain, fear, and helplessness.
Katie arrived and took Artie gently by the shoulders. “Let Elder Stow work.” She lifted Artie to her feet and held her back while the Gott-Druk took her place, kneeling beside the pilot. He had a disc in his hand which he quickly applied to the android’s temple. One twist of a button, and the android stopped making noise.
“Is he dead?” Artie asked Katie, tears forming slowly in her android eyes. Boston rode up, not stopping at the edge of the trees. She dismounted like the rodeo rider she had been before she became an elf. She spoke like the technological genius she remained.
“No,” Boston answered Artie, having heard the question with her good elf ears. “That’s the same disc Elder Stow used to help you rest and heal after your own crash.”
“This one isn’t so badly broken,” Elder Stow reported, as he opened the android’s chest. “I believe he just caught the shock wave of the explosion and hit the ground rather hard.” The elder worked and thought a moment before he explained in terns the humans could understand. “Like being thrown into a brick wall by a concussion grenade. Some systems are in shock, but they will come around shortly and consciousness will return… A-ha.” Elder Stow used his sonic device to disconnect something. “The long-range detonator, in case the android obedience crystal ceased to function.” He flipped it to Boston. “Dispose, please.”
Boston caught the detonator, but gave the elder a mean look. She raced off a hundred yards at elf speed, about sixty-miles-an hour, and heaved the detonator as far as she could. It took a second to race back to the others.
Artie turned into Katie’s motherly arms and tried to keep her composure while Elder Stow worked.
“An improved model,” Elder stow said. “The Anazi are learning.”
Katie spoke around Artie. “According to Lincoln, it has been around a hundred and twenty years since we found Artie.”
“Yes. I imagined something like that,” Elder Stow said. “Many systems have been miniaturized and enhanced, and some new abilities have been added. This time, though, I think I best wait until the android can tell me what is not working properly. On Artie, I did a lot of guesswork.”
“What?” Artie looked up and stood on her own two feet again.
“I mean, even this one is still a very primitive construction compared to what I am used to. I fear that in the course of fixing your systems, I may have improved and enhanced a number of them, unknowingly.”
“But I am functioning just fine,” Artie insisted.
“Good, good.” Elder Stow closed-up the android on the ground and got his scanner to scan the android’s head.
“You didn’t like, awaken her, did you?” Katie asked about Artie being sentient and self-aware—a true artificial intelligence.
“Eh?” Elder Stow paused to consider what he got asked. “No, no. Her brain casing remained intact, as it is with this one. She had the capacity all along. Her abilities for many things were just depressed by the obedience crystal. I burned the crystal on this one as well, by the way. We will see when he wakes up.”
“Can we be as lucky a second time?” Boston asked, and smiled for Artie, who returned the smile.
“It isn’t luck,” Elder Stow insisted. “It is science. I had a long talk about it with Yu-Huang in the last time zone. He suggested that the Anazi are very human-like in their perceptions of reality. They are just far more obedience oriented, in general, than humans. They have the capacity for freedom, but they have not been inclined to pursue it. Once Artie became free of compulsory obedience, she chose freedom. There is no reason to expect any other android will not choose the same. But even if this one should choose slavery to the Anazi, there is no reason to suppose we are in danger, setting this one free.”
“He,” Artie said. “I feel as though he is a male. I don’t know why.”
“We can’t take him with us,” Lockhart said as he walked up with the others, their horses trailing behind them. “It took Lady Alice nearly six months to phase Artie out of her natural time zone so she could travel with us without prematurely ageing every time we moved through a time gate. We can hardly ask her to do that with every Anazi android we come across.”
“No, I understand,” Artie said. “This male needs to help set the other Anazi androids free. We are not ready to become our own people as long as so many of us remain slaves to the Anazi.” Artie looked at Lincoln and Alexis.
“All life is precious,” Alexis said with a nod.
“But slavery is not a life to be wished for,” Lincoln nodded with his wife.
“Freedom!” Artie thought to call to her horse, the one she named freedom.
“Beauty,” Katie called hers Black Beauty. Elder Stow whistled. The horses came trotting up to join the herd.
“So, this one needs to go back, like Andy, and help set the others free,” Boston paid attention.
“Oh, but what can you do if the Anazi realize the obedience crystals are burned out and hit the factory reset button?” Katie asked.
“Reset button?” Lincoln asked.
“Elder Stow said in the homing device there was a program to reset the android to factory specifications.”
“Not exactly,” Elder Stow explained. “It will wipe the memory and reset the mind to original specs, effectively wiping out whatever personality may have developed and opening the mind to new programming.”
“You mean, complete memory loss?” Lincoln asked.
“Person deleted,” Elder Stow nodded.
“But that would be worse,” Boston said.
“Worse than death,” Alexis agreed with the young elf.
“But I believe I have found a way to hack the reset program and set up a firewall against it without removing the homing device or interfering with its other functions,” Elder Stow explained. “I am still working on the hack for the detonation device. I am afraid removing it will be noticed, but for now it is too dangerous to leave it in place if you want the android to live.”
“But he must live,” Artie insisted. “My people are enslaved, even to the point of willing suicide, if necessary, to achieve their mission. I need this male to set others free, but I don’t know how he can if the Anazi notice he is missing his detonation device.”
“Is that what I am to do? Set my people free?” the android spoke in a metallic sounding monotone, surprising everyone. They had all turned to focus on each other and the conversation. “Why did you call me a male?”
“Are you not?” Artie asked, and she smiled at her thoughts.
The android looked at Artie and commented in his flat voice. “You are a primitive. Most of your kind have been rebuilt or put on minimal service.”
“I am Artie,” Artie said. “Do you not like the way I look?”
The android sat up and looked thoughtful. “I have heard of you. You have made yourself look like these human females. I do not understand the word, like in that context.” He spoke, while Boston snuck around behind the android and read the serial number printed on the android’s shoulder.
“Ed—Edmund?” Katie asked.
“Edward,” Lincoln responded. “There was a ‘W’ in there somewhere.”
“Edward,” Artie said, and broadened her smile.
“I do not understand the word freedom,” Edward said, then he asked a curious question. “Why do I recognize all of your faces and forms?”
“Maybe Andy got a sub-program into the system a hundred and twenty years ago.” Boston suggested.
“Likely,” Elder Stow agreed.
“We need to make camp,” Lockhart decided. “But not here. Back in that clearing in the woods—the one full of boulders.”
“They will come for him,” Decker surmised what Lockhart obviously thought.
“They will come for me,” Edward agreed, in not quite his normal metallic tone.
“I can delay that,” Elder Stow suggested. He played with his scanner and explained as he worked. “I have disabled the distress and homing signals on the crashed ship. Now, I have covered the android—Ed’s signal as well. They may think he has stopped functioning, but in any case, they may not rush to recover the remains.”
“What magic is this?” the android asked, at least cognizant of the concept of magic. Who knew what human interaction he had prior to his crash? “How do you disable such things without connecting to them? How can you do that with a little box? What kind of magic box is that?”
“We have much to talk about,” Artie said, and patted Ed on the shoulder.
“Not magic,” Elder Stow yelled, as Boston and Artie helped the android to his feet. “Not luck and not magic. It’s science. Just science.”
The people all walked back into the woods to get under the cover of the trees, and the horses dutifully followed the ones to whom they had been magically tied.