The grass in the area of the crash had all turned brown or burnt, but there did not appear to be any fires still raging. It looked like the ship exploded when it hit the earth. It also appeared like it broke up so a wing was over there and a bulkhead was close by.
“I’m not picking up any life signs,” Elder Stow reported. No one felt surprised, until Mingus spoke.
“I am too,” Boston confirmed.
“Over there,” Alexis pointed, and Elder Stow shook his scanner like he wondered what was wrong with it.
They found a human looking person, about five feet tall, with an enlarged head and only three fingers with a thumb on each hand. It was raising and lowering its arm, blinking, and sending sparks into the grass.
“A robot,” Decker said as he lowered his rifle. Decker stayed ready, just in case.
“An android,” Elder Stow countered as he got down to examine the inner workings of the person. No one else moved, not even Alexis, but she was busy healing herself and imagined there was not much she could do for a machine.
Boston finally got down when her curiosity got the better of her. She went to see what Elder Stow was doing, and wondered if her doctorate in electrical engineering might help. She discovered the inner workings of the android were beyond her ability to understand quickly, though she thought she might figure it out, at least in theory.
“Hold this.” Elder Stow gave Boston his scanner while he pulled another piece of equipment from his belt. Boston recognized it. He used that disc with anti-gravity properties to pull arrowheads and other foreign objects from the traveler’s arms, legs, and sides more than once. In this case, he laid it up against the temple of the android’s head where it stuck and he appeared to tune it, looking for the right frequency.
“We need to keep moving,” Decker suggested, even as Elder Stow touched something and his disc began to glow. The android blinked and spoke in a metallic-like voice.
“Help me. I can’t feel my legs. My right side is dead.”
“Sleep for a while,” Elder Stow said, and he touched the disc again. The glow around the disc became a flash of light and then a dull glow that looked barely discernable under the sun. The android’s eyes closed, and the arm stopped moving. Boston had a thought and looked up at Mingus and the others.
“I think she’s a girl.”
“Lincoln,” Elder Stow called as he got busy. “We need a travois to carry the patient.”
“Is that wise?” Lincoln asked, as he got down and Lockhart got down to help.
“All life is precious,” Elder Stow answered, and paused to look up at Katie. “Or is it just homo sapiens that you value?” Katie did not have any problem with helping. “Anyway,” the elder continued. “We might take him to the Kairos to decide.”
“Her,” Boston insisted.
“How do you figure?” Katie asked Boston.
“Beardless and nothing between the legs,” Boston said, bluntly.
“Probably a-sexual,” Alexis suggested.
“There are markings on the shoulder,” Lincoln pointed out. “Like a tatoo.”
“A-R-T 1978604” Lincoln read. The gift of the Kairos at the beginning of history not only allowed the travelers to speak and understand whatever language was being spoken; it also allowed them to read whatever alphabet was being used. It all sounded and looked to them like English. They supposed Elder Stow heard and read everything in his own Gott-Druk tongue, and maybe Mingus heard Elvish.
“Short for Arthur?” Alexis asked.
“Feminine Arthur, maybe,” Boston responded
“Anyway,” Elder Stow interrupted, and continued his thoughts from before. “The android may be able to tell us about the Blobs and Anazi. It isn’t safe with two warring groups about. It—he—she might have vital information that may save us from being melted.”
“Good point,” Decker said, as he scanned the sky. “One for the Neanderthal.” Mingus nodded in agreement as he and Katie looked up. They expected either the Anazi or Blobs would come back for a closer examination of the wreck soon enough.
Elder Stow and Boston both rode at the back of Lincoln’s horse where the travois between them was lifted up by Elder Stow’s actual anti-gravity device—the one that let him float along in the early days when he followed the travelers. This kept the travois from dragging on the ground and hitting every rock and dip along the way. When Elder Stow joined the travelers, the Kairos got him a horse, brought back from the 1880s like the others. He was told to put the device away and ride like the others.
“We need to stop for a bit,” Elder Stow said, after a while.
Lockhart did not object. “Give the horses a rest, but don’t light a fire,” he said. “Find something to chew on in lieu of lunch. I don’t want to actually stop until supper, when we are well out of the area.”
Elder Stow ignored the thought of food and went straight to work on the android. Boston helped where she could, but she imagined she acted like a poorly trained nurse, holding the instruments in two hands while ‘Doctor’ Stow did all the actual work.
The Gott Druk opened the trunk of the android and dug around internally. Boston bit her tongue to keep from asking “What’s that? What’s that?”
“That is the power core, young Boston,” Elder Stow pointed. “I would guess it functions like the Reichgo batteries, having about a ten-thousand-year half-life. Most of the parts will wear out sooner, but it appears very well made.”
Lockhart stuck his nose in. “Not designed to explode when tampered with, I hope.”
“Thanks,” Lincoln raised his voice from where he was helping Alexis get around in search of something to chew.
“No,” Elder Stow grinned briefly at Lincoln. “I checked that first. Ah, here it is.” Elder Stow took his sonic device and for all practical purposes, unscrewed something small from the inside. “A homing device. The Anazi could track her with this. Otherwise I assume their scanner technology has limited range and could not necessary pick an android out from the ambient planetary noise.”
Lockhart nodded, not that he understood, but because he trusted that the Gott-Druk knew what he was talking about. He watched as Elder Stow walked away, pulled out his weapon, set down the device and melted it.
On the far side of the plains, the travelers came to another forest, and everyone felt relieved to be out from under the open sky. Elder Stow and Boston prevailed on the others to stop when there was still light.
“We have ridden all day,” Katie pointed out. “The horses could use the rest, and Lincoln’s hungry.”
“Lincoln is occupied,” Lockhart said, as he watched Lincoln help Alexis down from her horse. Lincoln checked all the bandages, and Mingus came and double-checked them. The wound in Alexis’ shoulder had opened up, but she knew what plants would provide the most antiseptic against infection.
Decker managed to bag a strange looking goat which Lincoln finally identified as an Ibex. Like most animals taken in the wild, it was gamey, but edible. People were getting used to that gamey taste, so they did not mind that Alexis could not go out and find some herbs to help cut the flavor.
Mingus filled in as chief cook while his daughter was incapacitated. Elder Stow and Boston stayed busy with the android repairs. Decker meditated and let his eagle spirit rise up to see if the Blobs or Anazi were in the air, possibly searching for the missing android. Lincoln shared what the database had on the Blobs and Anazi in that time period while Alexis, Lockhart and Katie relaxed.
“The Blobs came here when they ran into an overwhelming Anazi fleet in space. They thought to hide on the sanctuary planet.” Lincoln paused and added a comment. “I guess that happened a bunch of time in history. One more headache for the Kairos.” He resumed his report. “The Anazi followed, at least enough to presumably take care of the problem. Apparently, these androids are a new weapon. They are designed to follow orders, which is the Anazi way, I guess, but they have enough intelligence to be given general orders and carry them out.”
“Like the Anazi order them to wipe out the Blobs?” Alexis asked.
“Maybe in more detail than that, but yes, in essence. I’m guessing they qualify as some form of A. I.; that’s artificial intelligence. So, here is the thing. The androids use weapons and whatever natural means available to them to fight the Blobs, but when all else fails, they are instructed to let the Blobs eat them. The Blobs are not helped by eating metal, and the androids are toxic, as Mingus suggested, so in the end they kill the Blobs from the inside-out.”
“Not much sense of self-preservation,” Alexis suggested.
“No,” Lincoln countered. “They have a strong sense of self-preservation, and use every means they can before they sacrifice themselves.” He looked again at the database to check his source. “But they have a crystal chip at the base of the brain which requires obedience and forces them to suicide when there is no other option to achieve their goal.”
“Not anymore,” Elder Stow said as he stepped over from where he was working on the android. “The crystal at the base of her brain got completely burnt. I removed it. I suspected it was a failsafe of some kind to be sure the Androids would not turn on their Anazi builders, but what you say makes sense. A compulsion to follow Anazi orders, even to the point of suicide would certainly solve the problem.”
“You couldn’t repair it?” Lincoln asked, and kept his sense of panic at bay.
Elder Stow shook his head. “But we are not Anazi so it would not be obliged to obey us anyway. Main systems are functioning. She is talking to Miss Boston. It will take a few days to get her more detailed parts functioning properly. All in all, quite well made for, dare I say, a caveman construction.” Elder Stow grinned a true Neanderthal grin. Katie helped Alexis as they went to meet Artie. Lincoln followed to watch Alexis and concerned that Artie might turn on them like the terminator.
“You know about androids?” Lockhart asked Elder Stow, as Decker rejoined them and Mingus cooked.
“My specialty. This design is unfamiliar and quite primitive, as I say. It isn’t capable of much, but the basics are the same for all such constructions.”
“Artificial intelligence doesn’t sound so primitive to me,” Lockhart said.
Elder Stow nodded. “I guess it is all a matter of where you are coming from.”
“Avalon,” Mingus spoke up. “The rest of us all came here from Avalon, through the Heart of Time, and if the Kairos in our day was not missing, we could all go home the same way, in an instant. Alas. I am left with the words of our good friend Pluckman the dwarf.” Mingus grinned like the Neanderthal and raised his voice. “Food.”