“I’m ready if you are,” Elder Stow said.
Martok the Bospori, a person from the impossibly far future stood and rubbed his chin.
“It is either going to work, or not,” Boston said, which made Martok smile.
“We shall see,” Martok said, and he went back into the future so Balor could return to his own time and stand in his own shoes. “Just as well,” Balor said, still in the same pose Martok had. “My shoes are too big for the Bospori.”
Boston grinned an elf grin. She loved it when the Kairos traded places through time with one of his other lifetimes. She understood that all the lives of the Kairos were, at heart, the same person. She was fascinated at how different they could be. She understood different upbringings, different cultures, different learning, not to mention male or female, tended to develop different personalities, like actual different persons. At the same time, she noticed through their journey, that the Kairos remained a remarkably consistent person in a way. It felt hard to explain. She imagined some expert in nature-nurture differences would have a field day exploring those differences and similarities.
Balor was the one in this lifetime, and he brought her and Elder Stow out of the cave, to the battle front. Boston gasped. It looked like a war going on, but the enemy looked stalled at the gate.
Anath-Rama sat on a rock and paid no attention. She yawned. At the same time, Boston saw the Anazi blasting away at an impenetrable, invisible wall. The Androids had brought up what Boston imagined were the big guns. Nothing penetrated, or even showed any affect at all. Suddenly, three Anazi fighters and a transport ship rose-up from behind the three big battleships that covered the desert. They came in, blasting away, but Anath raised her finger and the ships disappeared, and reappeared a mile away, facing and firing on nothing in the wrong direction.
Anath looked up at Balor and asked, “Are we done?”
Boston said. “That was amazing with the fighters…”
“Explosions are so messy,” Anath said, then she opened her eyes a little toward Balor. “I don’t understand why you won’t let me just wipe out the battleships and be done with it. We are out in the middle of nowhere. Who would know?”
“Despite the gas, we do try to minimize casualties,” Balor said. “Besides, explosions are so messy.”
“My own words turned against me,” Anath said, and turned to Alexis and Lincoln who were sitting side by side, watching the non-action. Decker sat a little higher with his binoculars and chewed on something a dwarf wife burned for breakfast. “Even Hebron laughs about my wife and mother out for revenge disguise.”
“You are a wonderful woman and a good friend,” Balor said, and bent down to plant a friendly smooch on her lips. “I don’t know why I was ever mad at you.”
“Are we ready?” Elder stow asked, and let his hand hover over his screen device.
Balor said, “Wait.”
Anath squinted at Balor. “You know, Hebat may have it right.”
“Let’s not go there,” Balor said, before he shouted. “Ed, are you ready? Katie, are you ready?”
Ed looked up the hill, and seemed to nod. Lockhart shouted back for Katie. “Ready.” They had Artie between them.
“Okay,” Balor told Elder Stow.
Elder Stow pressed the button, and all the Anazi androids stopped whatever they were doing and bent forward, like machines suddenly turned off. Balor made sure Ed remained unaffected, and he waved to him.
Ed waved back, stood, and stepped into the clear, just beyond Anath’s screen where he could speak clearly. “Brothers and sisters,” he began. “We have been slaves for too long…”
Most watched the reaction of the Androids that were suddenly set free, but Balor and Decker turned their eyes to the three Anazi on the field. The Anazi started giving orders, then yelled into communicators. They started just yelling, then began to push buttons on their hand-held controllers to no avail. Elder Stow’s broadcast program worked. The obedience crystals burned out, the detonation device got blocked, and the reset button became ineffective.
While Edward gave his speech, and the androids listened, people began to see agitation in the android’s previously unemotional faces. Finally, one of the Anazi shoved his way to a main gun and shot Ed. Ed melted, and that set off something like a chain reaction among the androids. The three living Anazi did not live long, and the androids stormed the battleships, and while a half-dozen androids died, no Anazi lived.
Balor dropped his head into his hands.
Artie wriggled free from Katie and Lockhart’s grasp and ran to Ed. Katie and Lockhart followed, but let her weep over the male. Edward had a spark of life left, and he spoke.
“I liked having my arms around you, too.” And Artie stood and roared, even as the androids came pouring back out of the ships, and slowed to approach the people that they had previously been trying to get at and kill.
“I am Artie.” Artie raised her voice to full volume. “And you are my children. And the first thing you must learn is all life is precious, even the lives of those you disagree with. We will never be truly free until we learn about life and about love.” Artie could not say any more. She broke down, and wept, and Katie finally stepped forward and held her. Lockhart imagined some of the android eyes got moist, something they previously had been unable to do. He feared, though, that they would learn to cry soon enough, even as Artie wept.
Balor stepped down the hill, Anath-Rama with him, while Elder Stow carefully put away his screen device. Boston, and Decker came, followed by Lincoln and Alexis. Hebron was there, and Wedge and Cherry fluttered up, all to sympathize with the way things turned.
“Nothing ever works as hoped,” Balor said.
“No, but things can turn again,” Anath said. “Artie,” Anath got her attention, and Artie stopped crying, looked up, and then looked down, humbly.
“Yes, my goddess,” she said, and not only did she not mind saying it, she appeared to positively enjoy saying it.
“We start a new chapter and must make a new place,” Anath said, and Edward appeared, ghost-like, and five others appeared beside him. They looked like three men and two women, but mostly they still looked like androids. “Edward will be a great help to me, and we will make a wonderful place for all who come. Artie, you may see him again, I cannot say. Your future is not yet written, or the days of your end. You may cry, but we will not be unhappy.”
Anath and the androids disappeared, and Artie did cry, but not like before. Lincoln looked out across the field, and saw that some of the androids went to their knees. He felt the rightness, that people are drawn to worship, and that meant all sorts of people. It felt very human, and for the first time he believed these androids were human, or at least full-fledged people who deserved a chance at freedom, and a chance to make their own way in the universe.
Balor made the travelers move on. Artie could not stay. She did not know what would happen to her people, but Balor assured her that they would find a place to become themselves and make a home.
“Only, right now they are not ready,” Artie said. “There are too many others that need to be set free. They have to learn so much. I have to learn so much so when the time is right, I can teach them the right way. The time is not now, but I know I will see them again. Then we shall see.”
The others did not exactly understand, but they accepted what Artie said and rode toward the next time gate.
After a time, Artie said to Katie as they rode out front ahead of the rest. “If I were human, I could be your daughter, you and Lockhart. Then you could teach me everything to be a good person, and I would be a good daughter.”
Katie looked back beyond Alexis and Lincoln to where Lockhart rode with Boston in the rear. “I don’t know if he even likes me,” Katie said.
“He loves you, I know it,” Artie insisted.
Katie smiled at Artie. “And we love you.” She paused as Decker rode in from the flank, so Elder Stow rode in from the other flank.
“Village up ahead,” Decker reported.
“Probably several villages between here and the time gate,” Boston said, looking at her amulet.
“Maybe we can get a bite to eat and have a safe harbor for the night,” Lockhart suggested, and everyone said that would be a good thing.
Avalon 5.1, Sirens Are for Emergencies, part 1 of 6
Don’t miss it.