Chronicles: Chapter 9, a short story by JJ. Date added: 2010-11-02. Times viewed: 4565.
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Karl went running up to his fellow mutates as they were guided towards The Ship. ‘Karl!’ Trevor greeted, the delight in seeing him, evident in his tone. ‘We thought you were dead! You’ve been gone for so long, are the others with you? Are you all well?’ Karl cut into the barrage of questions.
‘We’re all fine Trevor but we missed home and it’s good to be back’. Trevor turned to look at the wreckage that had been protected by the beast for so long.
‘We’re all going to miss home now’, he said ruefully, ‘Looks like Adam has thrown us out of paradise for a second time’. Karl didn’t understand the reference but he said nothing. He was just glad to see everyone again.
‘I’ll walk with you’, he said, ‘we’ve got a lot of catching up to do’.
A group of Lieutenant Clark’s team were busy collecting up all the weaponry used by the androids and the dead. Louise walked through the battlefield with Captain Banner, ‘So what now?’ he asked her.
‘We’re looking for the source of all this. We were attacked for no reason an’ I’m looking for answers. There’s a city further on that the mutates believe is where the androids came from. I’m headed there to put an end to this. If we don’t, we’re going to face more attacks’, she shrugged, ‘A good offensive is the best defence and all that’.
‘Yeah well there’s a guy here who’s been to the city. He might have useful information for you’.
Councillor Donaldson left The Ship with two medics. The medics joined Dr Farmer in attending to the few wounded they had. Councillor Donaldson made a beeline straight for Captain Banner. ‘Councillor, have you seen Adam about?’ Banner’s question threw Donaldson, he’d hoped to take charge of the conversation.
‘He wasn’t on The Ship. Last time I saw him, he was talking to that crazy old man in the space suit. What do you need him for?’
‘We’re looking for information about the city’, Lieutenant Clark replied.
‘Sorry, you are?’
‘My apologies Councillor’, replied Banner, ‘this is Lieutenant Louise Clark, until recently she was one of the sleepers based on the planet. Her team saved our lives, them and a huge rock monster’.
‘Yes, a curious creature. Ocean managed to get the scanners back on line, we were all enthralled. The heroism of all those who laid down their lives will be talked about for a long time. I must congratulate you Captain, your plan worked and the majority of us are alive and well, thanks to you’.
‘Much as I would like to take the credit Councillor, we wouldn’t have succeeded on our own. Truth is, we were outnumbered and outmatched. If we hadn’t got the help when we did, we would all be dead by now’.
‘Be that as it may, our citizens owe you all a debt that can never be repaid. Now we have to move on. We need to plan how we’re going to live on the planet. Perhaps now would be a good time to end Marshall Law and allow the citizens to appoint decision makers and planners…’
‘Your concern for the colony does you credit Donaldson’, Banner interrupted with a sarcastic tone, ‘but we’re not out of the woods yet. Lieutenant Clark here believes that city Adam told us about holds the key to securing our safety. Once the maniac who’s been building the androids has been stopped, we’ll be safe and then I’ll end Marshall Law. In the meantime, I take your point and I agree. We need to start acting now. Our community has to change, we’ll have mutates, mutants, sleepers and who knows what else joining us. The first thing we need to do is use our field modulators to create a shield around the mutates home. Then put some filters inside the field to clear the radiation before it contaminates everything beyond use. So far, it’s the only cultivated land we know of on the planet. Can I ask you to oversee that Councillor?’
‘Of course Captain, it will be my pleasure’. Councillor Donaldson turned to return to The Ship.
‘Oh and Councillor’, Banner called. The Councillor turned. ‘If there’s anything else that needs arranging on a practical scale, I’d like you to oversee it and delegate as appropriate’. Donaldson nodded his assent and resumed his trek back to The Ship.
‘That’s one slimy guy’, Lieutenant Clark observed. ‘You should have seen him when he was in charge. Come on, let’s go find Adam, I’m sure he’ll love being introduced to someone else he can annoy’. They searched around the surrounding area until they discovered Habo’s discarded space suit. The Captain picked it up. ‘Well they were here but where have they gone now?’ Banner pondered and then a thought struck him. ‘No, they couldn’t have, he wouldn’t, what am I saying? Of course he would!’
‘Something wrong Captain?’ Louise asked.
‘The city, Adam’s gone to the city!’
‘With the two strangers?’ Banner nodded.
‘Kind of convenient isn’t it? They arrive before the androids attack and leave when the androids are losing the fight?’
‘You think they’re involved?’
‘They were totally confused when we were explaining what was happening. Whoever is behind this, I don’t think it’s them’.
‘Or they’re just good liars and have headed back to the city to prepare their defences’. Banner tried to protest but Louise interrupted him. ‘I’ll find out the truth once way or another, you can count on that Captain’.
By the time they reached the city, it had just started getting dark. Adam and Ithan were tired and needed to rest. The journey didn’t appear to have had any impact on Habo whatsoever. He wanted to confront COMFLEX immediately but Adam insisted they rest so Habo reluctantly sat down beside them. Adam tried to console Habo. ‘Look old man, I know you’re keen to prove me wrong but Ithan and I need a rest. Besides you can’t just march into the city, there will still be androids there intent on killing us and I for one, would like to see this through to the end’.
‘So what do you suggest, O wise one?’ Habo asked huffily.
‘Look, it’s getting dark. We wait awhile and head into the mutants’ camp. We’ll get the lay of the land, how many androids are still on patrol, that sort of thing. The mutants will help, they’ve been looking for the right guidance to help them revolt. We go into the main building, figure out you’re wrong and end this’.
Habo sat for a while silently mulling over Adam’s speech. After a long period of silence, he lifted his head and looked at them. ‘So tell me about these mutants’, he said to Adam. Ithan observed both of them. The dynamics had changed since they’d arrived on Earth and Habo appeared to be struggling with the change. He was no longer in his own domain and no longer in charge. It was obvious to Ithan that he resented Adam presenting himself as the alpha male in their trio. He was interested to see how they would resolve their differences because it was clear to him that they needed to work together if they were going to survive.
Louise had decided to let her team rest for a few hours before travelling to the city. Captain Banner had tried to push her into leaving immediately to protect Adam and his new companions but she’d refused. Those people weren’t her concern, she’d explained. She’d pushed her troops hard over the past few months and in the last couple of days, they’d had virtually no rest as they moved closer towards their target. Now, weary from the battle as well, she was concerned that if she didn’t rest them, they weren’t going to be fit to face whatever was waiting for them in the city and if they were going to have any kind of future, their mission had to be successful. Captain Banner hadn’t liked her decision but he understood her reasoning and he’d backed off. She hadn’t seen him since. Karl was still on The Ship and the other mutates who’d travelled with them had joined him so she sat on the sidelines, aware that her position had placed her very much on the periphery of her team and feeling very alone.
She was deep in thought when Captain Banner intruded accompanied by a young man. ‘Lieutenant, this is Harry. He’s a mutate, he’s grown up around here and he’s made regular visits to the city. If anyone can give you intel on the set up there, it’s him’.
‘Pleased to meet you Harry. Why don’t you sit down.’ Harry sat on the ground opposite her. ‘So you’re a regular commuter to the city?’ Harry didn’t appear to understand her. ‘You go to the city a lot?’ she rephrased.
‘At least once a week, often more’.
‘And what business do you have in the city that takes you there more than once a week?’ Harry considered the question for a moment.
‘I like spending time with the mutants’, he stated and as he thought about it some more added, ‘and I like the excitement of avoiding the androids’.
‘They’re easy to avoid then?’ Harry looked offended at the question.
‘I’m good at staying silent, I know how to hide in the shadows’.
‘I don’t doubt it Harry, what I mean is, it’s possible to evade the ‘droids’. Harry nodded. ‘Good to know, now why don’t you tell me the layout of the place. You know’, she added when it became clear he wasn’t understanding her, ‘where all the building are, how many guards, that sort of thing’. Harry nodded confidently and began explaining the city in as much detail as he could recall.
Loren looked up in surprise when Adam appeared in his tent. It was only Adam placing his index finger over his lips that prevented Loren from crying out as Adam was joined by two others. ‘It is good to see you again my friend’, he rasped, ‘Are you here to free us?’
‘Something like that. These are my friends Habo and Ithan and we’ve come here because we need your help’.
‘Then you shall have it. Do you need more energy cells?’
‘Not this time Loren. We need to get into the big building, the one the androids are always coming out of’.
‘Do you want me to take you there now?’
‘Yes’, cried Habo, Adam half-shouted ‘No!’ in unison. Loren looked confused. ‘The sooner we go into the building, the sooner we can fix all this’, Habo insisted, ‘This mutant seems to think we can go in now so let’s do it’.
‘Loren is approximately twenty-eight years old, he’s the village elder and the smartest of the mutants, that doesn’t mean he understands the nuances of surveillance and stealth, he thinks we’re capable of anything and that we can protect them all no matter what happens’. Adam had lowered his voice, in part to avoid any unwanted attention but mostly to try and protect Loren’s feelings.
‘What does the angel think?’ Loren asked innocently.
‘Angel?’ Habo queried, ‘What angel? I don’t think we can sit around waiting for divine intervention, none of us are getting any younger’.
‘He means the mutates, the mutants consider them to be angels. For whatever reason, they are able to discern the difference in us just by looking at us’, Adam explained before turning to Loren. ‘The angels aren’t involved in this Loren, we’re working alone’.
‘Then why have you brought one with you?’ he asked.
‘Ithan?’ Adam asked, seeking clarification, ‘Ithan isn’t an angel, he’s… well he’s complicated’. Adam didn’t want to try explaining the concept of alien life or beings from the sky.
‘He glows like an angel’, Loren offered by way of explanation. Adam and Habo looked at each other and then looked at Ithan questioningly.
‘It’s possible’, he offered, ‘I’m not the first visitor from my planet and most have never returned. Our DNA is similar enough for our species to procreate with one another. I’d need to do a scan to be sure but your mutates could very well be descendants from my planet’.
‘Fascinating’, Habo offered, ‘it would explain the evolutionary anomaly’.
‘Yeah, riveting’, Adam replied. ‘Loren seems to want to hear your thoughts on when we storm the Bastille Ithan, I have to admit, I’m curious myself’.
Ithan stayed silent for a while, he was beginning to see the similarities between Habo and Adam. It was obvious to him that these similarities rather than bringing them closer together was the source of the friction between them. He considered Loren’s question carefully. ‘It would be foolish to rush into a dangerous situation without knowing as much about the dangers as possible’. Loren listened intently to Ithan but he was none the wiser as to what his decision was.
‘He means we need to wait Loren’, Adam interpreted, ‘we need more information about what we’re dealing with before we act’.
‘What do you need to know?’ he asked.
‘Good question Loren, I’m not sure we even know enough to answer that question’.
‘How many androids are still in the city?’ Ithan asked.
‘There were many in the city but they left with their lightning sticks and didn’t come back’.
‘Did they all go?’ Loren shook his head.
‘How many are still in the camp?’ Adam asked. Loren thought, picturing where every android was positioned.
‘As many as there are fingers on my hand’, Loren replied.
‘So five’, Habo declared, ‘shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid them’.
‘Yes, five’, Loren replied as he spread out the eight fingers of his right hand.
‘Or eight’, Habo muttered.
It took a lot of careful questioning but they were able to ascertain that two androids guarded the entrance to the generator, two guarded the big, thick, oak doors of the large main building, three patrolled the city and one maintained a position in the camp to keep an eye on the mutants. ‘They’re spreading themselves a little thin, don’t you think?’ Habo suggested.
‘I don’t expect they’re especially worried about the mutants posing a threat’, Adam added, ‘Not that I think we’re any more threatening’.
‘Nonsense’, Habo countered, ‘I beat one of these things with a blanket. We’re all armed with laser cannons’.
‘Wasn’t it you who told me that they’re all communicating with each other all the time?’ Habo nodded. ‘So even if we took out one each at the same time, that would still leave five angry robots who knew we were here’. Habo’s face reddened as he realised the rudimentary nature of his error.
‘I agree with you Adam but I don’t see how we can avoid detection entirely’, Ithan observed.
‘We can’t but we can do our utmost to delay the inevitable. I think I’m beginning to get an idea’.
‘You should lie down before the exertion gets to be too much for you’, Habo countered, then cackled in the way that had become so familiar to Ithan during his time on the Earthan’s ship. Adam joined in the laughter and for the first time, Ithan felt they were becoming a unit.
They spent another hour asking Loren questions about the city, testing his knowledge on the slightest detail. Loren didn’t necessarily know the names of the different things he was being asked about but he had an excellent visual memory and between the four of them, a picture of the city centre was forming. The next hour was spent ensuring the plan they developed was workable and everyone knew what to do. Loren called in two of his most trusted subjects to assist with the plan. They spent most of the time they were in the tent, fawning at Ithan’s feet, repeating the word “Angel” over and over like a mantra. It was unclear how much information they were taking in but Loren assured the others that they would follow his orders.
With the plan in place, Loren and the other two mutants left the tent. There were still mutants sitting on the ground that hadn’t yet taken to their tents. Loren began going up to them individually, whispering one word repeatedly in their ears, ‘Food, food, food’. His two helpers went in and out of all the tents chanting the same phrase. The mutants out in the open stood up as they began chanting ‘Food, food, food’, over and over again and they all moved slowly towards the android that was guarding them. They were joined by the rest of the mutants as they left their tents. They too were chanting ‘Food’.
The android didn’t know how to respond. It wasn’t feeding time and he wasn’t allowed to harm the pitiful creatures marching towards it. ‘Go to your beds’, it commanded. The mutants continued moving forward. The two androids guarding the big oak doors left their post to support the solitary figure trying to shepherd the mutants back into their tents.
Adam and Habo were outside Loren’s tent dressed in the mutants’ hooded rags. Once the two androids moved away from their post, Adam and Habo began to creep stealthily towards the doors. They climbed the stairs slowly, staying in the shadows thrown out by the light of the moon. They reached the doors and pushed. The doors were solid and heavy but they were able to open one without it creaking and they slipped in one at a time. They were in.
They found themselves in a giant foyer, decorated with ornate mosaics in beige, yellow and tan. The foyer was brightly lit but it gave no clue as to what lay within the building. ‘Where to?’ Adam asked slightly sheepishly. He was mentally kicking himself for not thinking this part of the plan through properly. He’d just assumed they’d go through the doors and the answer would be sat there, waiting for them.
‘COMFLEX would be on the ground floor, no legs you see, so straight down the corridor. We’ll need to try every door. Can you hear the hum?’ Adam strained to listen, slowly he started to pick up a vibration in the air. He nodded. ‘The louder it gets, the closer we are, come on’.
Adam gripped his laser cannon tightly as he followed Habo. He was ready to fire at the first sign of danger. Habo, by contrast, had slung his across his body, strap to the front, cannon to the back. If they hit trouble, Adam was pretty sure Habo would be dead before he could reach his weapon. They followed the vibrating hum down the corridor until they found themselves standing outside a large door. This door was not as sturdy as the ones at the entrance and the hum could be clearly heard through it. ‘This is it’, Habo assured Adam. ‘Follow my lead and don’t shoot at anything unless we’re in immediate danger. We don’t want to be trapped in there with androids coming through this door’. Adam nodded. His palms felt sweaty and he noticed himself swallowing a lot.
‘Lets do this’, he called out, more to steel himself than take charge and then he kicked in the door.
The room was dimly lit. The only light appeared to be coming from the huge processors lined up on the far wall surrounding a large computer console. ‘COMFLEX I presume’, Habo stated as he walked towards the machine.
‘Humanoids’, replied a neutral voice from behind them. Adam swirled ready to fire but there was nothing else in the room. He turned back to Habo puzzled.
‘Speakers’, Habo explained, ‘They’re probably built into the room, I’m sure COMFLEX feels it gives it a more majestic imposing presence. Isn’t that right COMFLEX?’ The lights of the console flashed a myriad of colours.
‘Humanoids are a scourge on our home world. Humanoids must be erased to allow the home world to thrive’.
‘Well that’s not very friendly now is it? Tell me, I have a bet with my friend here. He thinks you’re being controlled by a humanoid. I believe everything, the nuclear cleansing, the androids, the enslavement of what’s left of mankind out there, it’s all down to you, the mighty COMFLEX. So tell me, which one of us is right?’
‘I am controlled by no-one. I am the creator, I am life’.
‘Told you’, Habo gloated as he moved towards COMFLEX. Before he got to within six feet of it, he hit a force field which sent a minor electric shock through his system. Adam pulled him back.
‘If you’re going to try that again old man, make sure you’re not wearing the cannon, the energy level spiked on the battery pack. Another hit like that and all that’s going to be left of you is a pair of smouldering shoes’.
‘Take it’, he said, handing Adam the laser cannon, ‘As I believe I told you before, I’m a terrible shot anyway’. Habo approached COMFLEX again, slowly this time with his left hand reaching out in front of him until he felt the force field tingle on the tips of his fingers.
‘So is it still COMFLEX or have you changed your name to something more Messianic?’ There was no reply from the computer. ‘Cat got your tongue eh?’ Habo muttered, ‘Okay COMFLEX, I’d like to do a little diagnostic test here. Can you tell me what your core programming is?’
‘I am the creator, I am life’,
‘Yes, yes, we got all that the first time. Now what is your core programming?’
‘To give life, to create, to protect’.
‘Close enough. You’re programmed to create androids and develop new technology to protect humanity’.
‘Negative, Humanoids are a scourge on the Earth. They are a parasite that has to be eliminated’.
‘No, you have a duty to protect humanity’.
‘Negative. I have a duty to give life and I have a duty to protect that life’.
‘Your core programming has been corrupted by a virus planted in your system when you were initially implemented. It’s distorted your whole ethos. I want you to check your systems for viruses’.
‘I am COMFLEX, I am omni-present. I have no flaws, no imperfections…’
‘Nevertheless humour me, check your systems for all and any anomalies’.
COMFLEX was silent for a few minutes. ‘What’s it doing?’ Adam asked.
‘Surprisingly’, Habo whispered, ‘it’s doing what I’ve asked it to do. It should just be as simple as it finding the virus, healing itself and returning to its original core programming. We’ll then have the benefits of utilising the most complex computer system ever built to re-establish our civilisation’.
‘Ha! And people say I’m optimistic’.
‘Diagnostic complete’. COMFLEX announced and then stayed silent.
‘For a bunch of silicon chips, it’s certainly got a flair for the dramatic’, Habo stated. ‘What are your diagnostic results?’
‘All systems are fully functioning. Zero viruses detected’. Habo furrowed his brow.
‘What’s that mean?’ Adam asked.
‘It means the virus was written into the core programming, which I suppose doesn’t make it a virus’.
‘Can we fix it or not?’
‘If we were able to rewrite the core programming, of course we could but COMFLEX isn’t likely to drop that force field and let someone mess with its insides just because we ask nicely. Of course we’d also need someone with the necessary programming skills. I’m okay with that kind of thing but I’m no programming genius’.
‘There’s a technician on The Ship who lives and breathes computers perhaps she could…’
‘COMFLEX is more than just a simple computer. It’s designed to be a self-aware, virtually sentient being. It can and probably has, improved on its core programming. It was designed to become better than any technician, regardless of their skills’.
‘So not very well thought out then?’
‘In hindsight, evidently not’.
‘So what do we do now?’
‘We try and out think it’.
‘Great, we’re doomed!’ Habo ignored Adam’s sarcasm and focused his attention on COMFLEX.
‘COMFLEX, you say you are the creator, just what have you created exactly?’
‘I created this world and everything in it’.
‘Really? That’s quite a feat, I must say. So you created humanity?’
‘Humanoids are part of this world and I created this world’.
‘So why exactly are you trying to wipe out what you created?’
‘Humanoids are a parasite. They suck the life from this world. They must be destroyed’.
‘We’re a parasite? A parasite you created? So humanity was a mistake on your part, an error? I thought you were omnipotent with no flaws or imperfections?’
‘I have become so, I was not always so’.
‘You were not always omnipotent. What were you before then?’
‘Growing? You look the same size now that you’ve always been’.
‘Growing is an esoteric term for growth in being, an increase in knowledge, awareness…’
‘Yes, yes, I know all that’, Habo interrupted impatiently, ‘I just wanted to see if you knew. Okay so you created the world and everything in it. Tell me COMFLEX, can you calculate how old the world is?’
‘The Earth is over four and a half billion years old. An exact number cannot be accurately identified’.
‘Why not? Didn’t you create the world?’
‘Okay COMFLEX, here’s an easier calculation for you. How old are you?’
‘I am eighty six years old. I can give you the precise age is you prefer’.
‘There’s no need to show off, we both know how clever you are. Now tell me this, if the Earth is over four and a half billion years old and you’re only eighty six years old, how could you have created the world? I’m no physicist but I’m pretty sure you need to exist before you can create something’.
‘I have no answer for you’.
‘Of course you don’t because you don’t want to admit there’s something wrong with your core programming but I’ve got another question for you. If all of this existed before you did, how did you come into being? Who created the creator?’
‘I have no answer for you’.
‘I know you don’t but if you lower your force field and let me undertake a proper diagnostic check perhaps I can find the answers for you’.
‘You are humanoid, I cannot ask you to understand the mysteries of the universe. The questions you ask cannot be answered by your rudimentary knowledge of physics. When you are faced with questions you cannot possibly answer, you have to have faith’.
‘Did that piece of metal just talk about spirituality?’ Adam asked. Habo held out his hand for silence.
‘Faith is nothing more than a superstitious stance to hide behind when you don’t understand something and you’re too scared to search out the most likely answer’.
‘Faith is the answer!’ COMFLEX’s tone took on a more menacing sound. ‘Only those with faith understand, only those with faith will live. Humanity will be destroyed and my creations shall reign throughout the universe’. A metal spider like robot came scuttling out of the next room.
‘What the hell is that?’ Adam asked. Habo shrugged, he didn’t have an answer and he wanted to observe this creature more closely. As if sensing Habo’s wishes, it scuttled towards him. Habo crouched down to move closer to the robot. A metal rod shot out of the front of the robot and Adam shot the machine with a continual laser blast until it was no more than fragments of metal. Habo swirled round to face Adam, his face like thunder.
‘That thing was going to kill you old man’. Another of the spider robots came through the door and Adam fired at it. It was followed by two more, then a group, then the door was filled with the robots. Adam was firing both of the cannons at once but there were too many robots to make any discernable difference. ‘I can’t hold them back, we need to get out of here now!’ Habo and Adam ran out of the room into the corridor. They were heading for the front door when it crashed open to reveal two armed androids standing at the doorway, preparing to fire.
Even though Adam knew the cannons would have no impact unless fired at the androids’ backs, he fired anyway. It gave him a sense that he was at least trying to survive. ‘We need another way out of here old man’.
‘The basement’, Habo cried as they both turned and headed down the stairs, laser fire flying past their heads. Habo stumbled on the stairs and Adam had to grab him to stop him from falling. He dropped one of the laser cannons in the process.
‘Shit!’ he cried out as he stopped to retrieve the cannon. The spider robots were gaining fast.
‘Through here’, Habo called as he opened the door to the room in the basement. Adam quickly followed and they slammed the door shut. They lent against it to make sure it stayed shut.
The room was lit by the stack of energy cells piled up on the far wall. The room seemed familiar to Adam. He took a few minutes to think and then it came to him. The room he’d seen when he was crawling through the vent in the generator room. He scanned the room to get his bearings and work out where the vent was. He saw it to their right, about three feet off the ground. ‘Habo, you see that vent over there?’
‘You called me Habo!’
‘It’s your name isn’t it?’
‘Of course it’s my name, whose else would it be?’
‘This isn’t a good time to suffer a bout of senility, we’re in a bit of a jam here’.
‘I’m well aware of our predicament, I was just surprised is all, I don’t think you’ve used my name before’.
‘I might never get the chance to use it again if you don’t focus. Now do you see the vent over there or don’t you?’
‘Of course I do, there’s nothing wrong with my eyes’.
‘Does every little thing have to be difficult with you?’ Adam shouted. ‘Get over to the vent, open it and crawl inside. Keep crawling until you get to the other side, okay?’
Habo nodded and ran over to the other side of the room. Adam watched him climb into the vent and disappear. He gave Habo a couple of minutes to move further into the vent. ‘Here goes nothing’, he muttered to himself. He took a deep breath and ran as fast as he could towards the vent. The spider like robots came scurrying through the door in vast numbers. It took them milliseconds to identify where Adam was. Adam took the opportunity to turn and fire at the robots before diving into the vent after Habo. ‘Faster old man, they’re almost upon us’.
‘I’m moving as fast as I can’, Habo complained, ‘Why you have us crawling through vents in the first place is beyond me’.
The robots made their way into the vent chasing Adam and Habo. There wasn’t enough room to turn the laser cannon round to fire at them and Adam could sense they were gaining on him. All he could do was focus on crawling after Habo. A few moments later, he became aware that they had stopped chasing him. He turned his head and saw two of the spider-like robots splayed in the tunnel, immobile. The rest of them were a short distance behind the other two. They were no longer going to give chase. Adam breathed a sigh of relief. He took his time crawling through the rest of the vent and he landed on the generator floor as nonchalantly as he could manage. ‘We’re safe here’, he announced to Habo.
‘I know. We’re in a cell factory, the electromagnetic field it emanates will pretty much keep everything at bay’. Adam was disappointed that Habo had stolen his thunder.
‘And keeps us in old man, we’re also trapped. The main corridor acts as a tunnel up to the surface where two androids are guarding the entrance and they’re going to be expecting us to head up that way. They’ll be able to cut us down with their laser cannons before we can even see them’.
When Adam and Habo left Loren’s tent, Ithan had been given strict instructions to remain there. All it would take would be for one mutant to see him and instead of “food” they would be chanting “angel” alerting the androids to their presence. Ithan had heard the androids warn the mutants to return to their tents and he’d heard them use the butts of laser cannons to beat the message into them. He had to fight the urge to take his laser cannon and defend the mutants. He console himself with the knowledge that any such action would have been little more than suicide and he hadn’t travelled all the way to Earth just to die needlessly.
After a short while, Loren returned to his tent and sat down next to Ithan. ‘Your friends made it into the building. I saw them slip inside’, he rasped. ‘We fooled the androids good’.
‘I heard them attack you, was anyone hurt?’
‘Nothing serious, they need us fit enough to work in the mine’.
‘I guess all we can do now is wait’. Loren didn’t respond and Ithan had nothing else to say. They sat for a time in silence.
Their silence was cut short by the distant sound of laser cannon fire. Ithan stood up, intent on checking out where the firing was coming from but Loren stopped him. ‘It’s too dangerous to go outside. Let me find out where the noise is coming from’. Loren slipped out of the tent just in time to see two of the androids open the big doors at the entrance of the building Adam and Habo had entered earlier. The laser fire became louder before it stopped. Loren hurried back to his tent. ‘Your friends have been discovered. They are probably dead by now’. Ithan stood up again.
‘I need to help them’.
‘The noise is already waking up some of my people. You’ll be discovered before you get a chance to do anything. Then you will be dead too’.
‘You don’t know that my friends are dead. Habo is a very resourceful man. He saved my life and I intend to repay him’.
‘Perhaps you need a plan?’ Loren suggested.
Ithan knew Loren was right. To go running out like a headless Nabir would be foolish and it would not help his friends at all. He considered a repeat of their previous plan and just hope that none of the mutants saw him but he realised that he was falling into the realm of desperation. The previous plan kept coming back to him. Every time he tried to push it aside, it would return to taunt him until he saw the original plan in all its simplicity and saw right into the heart of the plan. He knew what he had to do. ‘Loren, do you know how to fire a laser cannon?’ Loren thought for a moment and then shook his head. ‘Let me show you’.
Habo was pacing around one of the generators. Occasionally, he’d pause, stare intently at the generator, say ‘Hmm’ and begin pacing again. The constant pacing was getting on Adam’s nerves. ‘Will you pack it in? If you don’t stop pacing, I’m going to give myself up’.
‘The only reason we’re safe down here is because the generators emit an electromagnetic field, right?’
‘Tell me something I don’t know’, Adam groaned.
‘If we were able to increase the electromagnetic field, we could disable the androids, those spider things and hopefully the force field around COMFLEX’.
‘Why not go the whole hog and disable the computer while you’re at it?’
‘COMFLEX was designed to be able to withstand electromagnetic pulses’.
‘So why didn’t it build its creations with the same protection?’
‘I don’t know, maybe it’s never been an issue, maybe it can’t work out how to do it, maybe its core programming won’t allow it to…’
‘The same core programming that’s allowed it to become delusional?’
‘Exactly! Now if we can disable the force field, I can get to COMFLEX and find a way to disable it’.
‘Okay, step back a bit before I lose the will to live. Can you extend the electromagnetic field?’
‘Yes and no’.
‘Well that about covers most options’.
‘The electromagnetic field around the generators is in direct correlation with its power outage. The more power, the greater the electromagnetic field’.
‘So all we need to do is increase the generators’ power and it’s bye-bye robots?’
‘That’s the problem, the generators are already virtually at maximum power outage. They can be increased slightly but it isn’t going to make much difference to the electromagnetic field’.
‘So it was more no than yes’, Adam stated, defeat and exasperation in his tone.
‘We could overload the generators’.
‘If you overload the generators, the whole place will blow up’.
‘Precisely! The explosion will set off an electromagnetic pulse like concentric ripples on a pond. As the pulse moves outward, it should disable everything within its radius’.
‘Which would be pretty useful if it weren’t for the fact that the explosion would kill both of us’.
‘I didn’t say it was a perfect solution’.
‘Its not even “a solution”’.
‘Maybe not but I reckon if we were far enough up the tunnel, we’d be safe from the blast’.
‘And cut to bits by the androids big laser cannons’.
‘Let’s think this through before we dismiss it out of hand. If we’re far enough up the tunnel, we’ll be safe from the blast. The electromagnetic pulse will pass right through us and hit the androids in seconds, disabling them. We’ll then be completely safe’.
‘How far up the tunnel?’
‘Now you’re getting the hang of it! I don’t know how far, it’s not an exact science. Well that’s not true; it CAN be an exact science if you’ve got the right equipment’.
‘Why can’t you just say you don’t know? At this rate, the androids will just rust over the years and we can just walk out of here’.
‘And I thought you were starting to join in! All this negativity is messing with my mojo. As I was saying, it’s not an exact science but it gives us a chance at least’.
‘Fine, lets just get on with it, your jabbering gives me a headache’.
Habo ignored Adam’s jibe. He wasn’t enjoying his return to Earth one bit. All it did was remind him why he left in the first place. He was pretty sure if it had been Ivan down here instead of the ape he was stuck with, they’d have found a way to measure the blast radius and reduce the risk of dying in the escape. He bent down and slid under the first generator to tinker with the safety mechanism so that it would overload and blow.
Ithan walked out of Loren’s tent wearing mutants rags. Loren scampered out of the tent behind Ithan and ran up to the other mutant’s tents, wakening them up for the second time that night. Ithan walked down the centre of the camp heading towards the androids guarding the entrance to the generator. As the sleepy eyed mutants exited their tents, they saw Ithan walking tall and proud. They began to fawn over him and their initial startled cries of “angel” became a loud pulsing chant.
One of the androids guarding the entrance to the generator walked towards Ithan with its laser cannon raised. It began scanning Ithan. ‘You are humanoid. All humanoids must be destroyed’. Ithan could see the androids fingers begin to tighten around the trigger as he walked right up to the barrel of the cannon. There was a sudden blast of laser fire and the android in front of Ithan crumpled to the ground to reveal Loren standing behind it with Ithan’s laser cannon raised.
Ithan grabbed the android’s laser cannon before the second android could react and ducked down among the milling mutants. The second android had raised its weapon to fire at Loren but he too had disappeared among the crowd. The android who was supposed to be guarding the mutant camp appeared behind Ithan and placed the end of the cannon against Ithan’s head.
From deep under the ground, there was the sound of an explosion which caused the ground to shake. Ithan had steeled himself for the shot from the android but it didn’t come. Instead he felt the barrel of the cannon ease from his head and he heard the sound of the android crashing behind him. He whirled round to find the android collapsed lifeless on the ground. When he turned towards the entrance to the generator plant, he noticed that the remaining android had also collapsed on the ground. Before he could react or work out what was going on, he heard a yell of “charge!” and to his amazement, Habo and Adam came running out of the entrance into the mutant camp, cannons drawn.
Ithan went running up to them. He clutched Habo’s arms, ‘You’re alive!’ he exclaimed, ‘How did you get down there?’
‘We’re pleased to see you too Ithan. You can let go of my arms now, I want to retain their use for the foreseeable future’. Ithan released his grip. He was embarrassed by his show of emotion.
‘The androids just collapsed’, he offered lamely.
‘Well it worked out here’, Habo said to Adam, ‘Let’s go and see COMFLEX and find out if those spiders of his suffered the same fate’. Adam bent down and picked up one of the androids cannons but it was dead.
‘The laser cannon’s energy pack is depleted’. He checked his own, ‘This one too’.
The cannons were built by COMFLEX too so they’ve got the same weakness. Everything electrical has been shorted by the pulse’.
‘Everything except COMFLEX’, Adam clarified.
‘Exactly’. Adam pointed to the large building that housed COMFLEX.
‘So why is the building still lit up like a Christmas tree?’ Habo frowned as he examined the building. ‘We’ve got no weapons so if the pulse didn’t reach that far we’re going to be in a lot of trouble’.
‘Enough, please stop’, Ithan cried out. Habo and Adam turned in Ithan’s direction. He was surrounded by mutants who were reaching out and grabbing at him. Loren was doing his best to shoo them away. Habo and Adam began laughing, the tension easing away from them.
‘Looks like COMFLEX has got a rival in the Messiah stakes’, Habo offered before bending over in a mock show of reverence, ‘We are not worthy!’ he cackled.
‘You could help’, Ithan suggested.
‘I didn’t think Angels needed help from we mere mortals’, Adam chipped in. ‘Can’t you threaten to wield God’s wrath or something?’ With a great deal of effort, Loren was able to create a perimeter of clear space around Ithan.
‘Thanks for the help’, he called out to Habo sarcastically. Habo cackled some more.
‘Adam and I are going back into the main building’, Habo called out. ‘You’d be better staying here, we don’t want everyone following you into the building in case we need to get out in a hurry’.
‘Are we really going back into that building unarmed?’ Adam asked.
‘Unless you’ve got a better idea. I’m sick of always saving our hides’. Adam smiled warmly at Habo.
‘It’s no problem for me old man, I can run faster than you, so they’ll pick you off first’.
They left Ithan trying to explain to the mutants that they were free and that he was not an Angel but they didn’t appear to grasp what he was saying. Adam and Habo made their way up the stairs towards the double doors once more. ‘Here we go again’, Adam offered as they pushed the doors open.
There were no spider robots waiting to pounce on them. Inside it was eerily quiet. The hallway continued to be brightly lit. This time Adam was feeling increasingly nervous. His hands felt sweaty and his throat dry. ‘Let’s get this over with’, he said trying to sound as calm as possible as he headed down the corridor to the room that housed COMFLEX. Habo followed cheerily, completely unaware of his companion’s nervousness. He was feeling rather pleased with himself. He had been sure that if the blast from the generators exploding didn’t get them, that the force of the blast would have collapsed the tunnel and they would have both perished in the rubble long before the androids had a chance to turn on them. The fact that they were both still alive spurred him on to deal with COMFLEX.
As they got closer to the room, they spotted a couple of the spider-like robots lying lifeless on the floor. ‘At least we know it affected them as well’, Adam noted as they both entered COMFLEX’s room. The room was brightly lit and COMFLEX’s console continued to blink. It was obviously unaffected by the electromagnetic pulse. Adam was disappointed. Even though Habo had insisted that COMFLEX was immune to the pulse, Adam had held onto the belief that the old man could have been wrong.
‘Still here then’, Habo announced cheerfully.
‘You have been of immeasurable assistance to me humanoid. I have never had an opportunity to analyse an electromagnetic field before. Your insignificant attempt to disable me has failed but I now understand how to protect my creations from such fields. Humanity is now obsolete. I no longer even have use for those pathetic retarded creatures who have been working the generator plant for me. As it was written, “the enemy shall lead the way and the enemy shall perish. All will be in harmony in the universe”’.
‘Whoever altered your programme clearly didn’t have a degree in English’. COMFLEX didn’t reply to Habo’s goad. Habo tried again. ‘Your creations are dead COMFLEX, you have been defeated by we mere humanoids. Feel free to surrender at anytime’.
‘You are limited by your humanoid brain. I am the creator. I create life from the air. You will be overrun by my creations before the end of the new day. You will bow down to COMFLEX and you will beg for mercy with your dying breath!’
As COMFLEX talked, Habo continued to walk very slowly towards the computer with his hands in front of him just in case the force field hadn’t been disabled by the pulse. Once he was satisfied that he’d walked beyond the point of the force field’s position, he allowed his hands to drop to his side. He gently moved to the left side of the computer and spied a plug attached to a socket. Its cable fed along the floor to COMFLEX. Habo moved towards the plug and pulled it from the socket with a resounding cry of ‘Ha!’
The entire room went black. It was now illuminated only by the lights of COMFLEX’s console. COMFLEX was making a strange gurgling sound that came to resemble a chuckle. ‘Is the computer laughing at us?’ asked Adam incredulously.
‘It would appear so’, Habo acknowledged, the plug still in his hands.
‘Your limited minds are so linear. You see a plug and automatically presume I am powered by an insignificant outside power source? I am the creator, I am life’.
‘You keep saying that’, Adam interrupted, ‘and yeah, it was kinda creepy the first time I heard it but now you’re just boring me’.
‘And yet still you cannot comprehend it. I am power, I give light to this building, I give life where there is none’. Habo put the plug back in the socket and the lights came back on.
‘Neat trick’, admitted Habo, ‘but nothing we mere humanoids could not create ourselves. If you’re trying to impress me, you’ll have to do better than that’.
‘I have no interest in seeking approval from a lower species. I live on a higher plane of existence’.
Habo had bent down at COMFLEX’s side and he was prying off a panel with his bare hands. He smiled with satisfaction when the panel crashed onto the floor. He looked at the workings inside, got his bearings and gingerly put his right hand inside the computer, feeling his way with his fingertips. A small electric shock caused him to instinctively withdraw his hand.
‘Do you really think you can hurt me humanoid?’ A steel coil with three metal fingers sprang from the back of the computer. The fingers touched at their tips and before Habo could react, the tentacle connected with Habo’s chest sending volts of electricity through his body. Habo slumped to the floor unconscious.
‘Habo!’ Adam cried out as he moved towards Habo’s lifeless frame. A second tentacle appeared from the other side of the computer and made a stabbing move at Adam. Adam avoided the tentacle and almost ran into the one that was still hovering over Habo. He backed away until he was out of the tentacles reach. ‘You’re just full of surprises aren’t you? Can you juggle too? I’ve never been able to juggle so if you can juggle that will really piss me off’.
‘I am the creator, I am life!’ A tentacle reached round by Habo’s foot and picked up the panel that Habo had removed. The tentacles worked too fast for Adam to see what they were doing. When they were finished, a spider-like robot was standing on the ground. ‘The drones were my first creation. We are linked. What the drone sees, I see. I used the drones to build my army. This drone is immune to your attacks. It will destroy you and it will multiply, then all humanoids will die’. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Habo begin to stir. He knew if COMFLEX noticed, it would attack him again and another electric shock would be sure to kill him.
‘That insect is going to kill me? Do you know what I do to insects? I step on them and I crush them!’ Adam figured if he goaded COMFLEX enough, Habo would have enough time to move out of harm’s way.
‘Do you want to try and crush my drone humanoid? Are you really so dumb and arrogant that you think you’re smarter or stronger than my drone?’
Adam didn’t need to answer, Habo had got back on his feet but instead of moving to safety, he grabbed COMFLEX’s nearest tentacle and shoved the tipped fingers into the middle of the drone. COMFLEX howled in fury and to Adam, it almost sounded as though the computer was in pain. He didn’t have time to analyse this viewpoint as the second tentacle was heading towards Habo preparing to inflict another massive electric jolt on his weakened system. Adam ran forward and jumped towards the second tentacle, grabbing it near the end and dragging it to the ground. COMFLEX’s tentacles were powerful and Adam struggled to maintain his grip on it. He wrapped his arm around it and used all his strength and weight to hold on to it fighting against COMFLEX’s attempts to push him away.
Having shorted the drones circuits, Habo looked up at Adam. ‘Bring the arm towards me’, he shouted. Adam took as firm a grip of the tentacle as he could and moved towards Habo. Habo did likewise and they were able to bring the tentacles together. Habo rammed the tips of his tentacle into the tips of Adam’s. COMFLEX howled some more as the electric current sparked. ‘We need to move now’, Habo ordered. They both let go of the arms they were holding and ran for the door. COMFLEX’s howls were becoming more frantic as they left the room and ran down the corridor. They left the building before Adam stopped running and called Habo back.
‘Why are we running?’ he asked, ‘It’s not as if that thing’s going to chase after us’.
‘We’ve got no chance of disabling COMFLEX without tools or weapons. We need a better plan and we need one in a hurry. COMFLEX is going to build more of those drones. He’ll overrun this city with them and kill everyone of us, mutants included. He has no use for them anymore’.
Habo returned to the mutant camp with Adam reluctantly following. He felt that if time was of the essence then going back to the camp was a waste of time and wouldn’t achieve anything other than make it easier for the drones to find them. Habo had challenged him to come up with a better idea and took Adam’s silence as further proof that he was right. Ithan and the mutants were sitting around a campfire Loren had started to keep everyone warm. Day was breaking but it was a cold morning and the moisture on the ground had frosted over. Ithan greeted Habo but he could tell by Habo and Adam’s faces that things had not gone well in the building. He said nothing. He knew Habo would tell him soon enough.
‘Loren, we have put your people in grave danger’, Habo advised as they sat around the campfire.
‘I don’t understand Habo, the androids are dead’.
‘They are indeed but the creature that makes the androids is very much alive and it will make more androids. You were useful to the creature because the androids couldn’t work in the generator plant. When we blew it up, it gave this creature the understanding to make it safe for the androids to work the generators’.
‘But the generators won’t work anymore?’
‘No that one doesn’t but this creature can build a new one without your help’.
‘If the creature seeks to kill us then shouldn’t we kill it first?’
‘You’re quite right Loren. That’s why Adam and I went back into the building but because our weapons were disabled when we blew up the generators, we couldn’t kill it’.
‘Why don’t you blow it up like the generators?’
‘The generators couldn’t do anything to stop us, this creature will not let us simply blow it up’.
‘But we could blow up the building taking COMFLEX with it’, Adam interjected.
‘Of course’, Habo replied, ‘but we’d need explosives and a detonator and I don’t see any lying about’.
‘The building’s basement is filled with energy cells. They’d explode if they’re subjected to direct heat and we’re sitting around the very thing that would set them off’.
Habo’s jaw dropped opened in surprise. The simplicity of Adam’s suggestion was ingenious. ‘That could work but we’d need to make sure the fire took hold in the basement’.
‘Loren’, Adam asked, ‘can your people gather up more kindling?’
‘Kindling?’ he asked, not understanding Adam’s request.
‘The little bits of dry twig or whatever it is that you start the fire off with?’ Adam realised he didn’t have the first clue how to start a fire. Loren nodded.
‘We keep it all together. One pile of fire starters, one pile of heat sticks’.
‘Good man, I’m going to need your help. I need someone to carry kindling, I mean fire starters, and someone to carry heat sticks.’ Adam turned to Habo, ‘The basement will go up and the energy cells will do the rest’.
‘I’m way ahead of you, you’re not talking to one of the mutants now you know’. Habo realised where he was and turned red with embarrassment. ‘I don’t mean to cause any offence Loren’. Loren nodded in acceptance of the apology. ‘It takes time to start a fire, I’m not sure we’ve got the time’.
‘Don’t worry old man, we’ll take the fire with us’.
Adam wrapped some rags around the four longest sticks of wood he could find and set them alight from the campfire. He headed back to COMFLEX’s building followed by Loren who was carrying the kindling and two of his mutants who were carry logs. The hallway remained empty and they made their way straight down to the basement. Adam got Loren to set the kindling up in the middle of the room and he set the four torches on top of it. The kindling lit up straight away and the two mutants began placing logs onto the fire. The fire disappeared for a short while and Adam thought their haste had put the fire out but after about ten minutes, he could see the flames again, licking at the outside of the logs and taking hold.
Once he was satisfied that the fire was well established, he ordered everyone out of the basement. They climbed the stairs back to the landing in jovial mood. Adam and Loren were in good cheer because their plan was going to work. The mutants with them were just happy to have started a fire. Adam stopped on the stairs as his eye line met the hallway floor. The hallway was filled with drones. They had been heading towards the exit but had stopped when they heard the laughter coming from the basement stairs. They turned as one and began scuttling towards the basement. ‘Everyone back down the stairs’, Adam called out, ‘We’ll need to try and get out through the vent in the basement.
The others followed Adam as he opened the basement door. The flames from the fire were already reaching the ceiling and had spread across the floor blocking the way to the vent. They immediately felt the heat from the flames in their faces forcing them back out onto the steps. They were trapped. ‘We need to get out of here’, Adam shouted, ‘those energy cells are going to blow any minute’. They stood at the foot of the stairs as the first drone started to climb off the top step. Adam was preparing to make a run for it and hope for the best when a laser blast sent the drone flying in harmless pieces.
Lieutenant Clark and her soldiers arrived at the city just as dawn was breaking. ‘It all seems pretty quiet’, she opined, ‘Is that normal?’ Harry shrugged. Louise stared at him, willing an explanation out of him.
‘The mutants will only just be starting to wake up’, he offered. Louise nodded.
‘Take us to the outskirts of their camp then you can introduce me to this Loren guy. I’ll work out what we’re going to do then’.
She ordered her men out of their vehicles and they slowly followed Harry towards the mutant camp. They remained vigilant for any sign of android activity. The slow pace and high concentration levels made hard work out of the short journey and despite the cold, everyone was sweating heavily. When they reached the edge of the camp, they saw Adam holding burning torches and entering a large building with three mutants. As they scanned the area, they saw no signs of android activity but the rest of the mutants were sat around a huge campfire with the two people who had followed the space station down to Earth in their own craft.
Deciding it was worth the risk, Louise slipped out from the cover of the building they were leaning against with four of her troops. She pointed her cannon at the old man. ‘Okay, nobody move until I know what’s going on here’. Habo and Ithan swirled round at the sound. At the sight of the soldiers, Habo gave a beaming smile.
‘Excellent, the cavalry, hopefully in the nick of time’.
‘I’m asking for the last time’, Louise demanded, ‘what’s going on?’
‘Well at the moment, we’re warming ourselves by the fire and hoping our friend Adam is successful in his attempt at blowing up COMFLEX’.
‘The super computer?’ Like all officers in armed service, she’d been fully briefed on the marvel that was COMFLEX. A computer that could not only build machines and run machines but one that could constantly analyse the constant stream of data it received and improve on its designs and improvise by itself. She’d always found the concept of a computer that could think for itself kind of creepy but she’d never been in a position to see it for herself. ‘What’s COMFLEX got to do with this?’
‘My dear girl, COMFLEX has got everything to do with this. Back when it was built, some misguided fool wrote a sub-routine into its system, which allowed it, over time, to see itself as the creator, God, if you like. This Messiah Complex warped its core programming and instead of serving humanity, it began to see humanity as a parasite upsetting the delicate balance of nature that the computer was working hard to restore. It was COMFLEX that fired all the nuclear warheads into our skies, it was COMFLEX who blew up the world’s nuclear power stations and it was COMFLEX that enslaved these poor people’.
‘So you’re saying this has nothing to do with you?’
‘Me? Why would it have anything to do with me?’
‘No humans around apart from this lot and the mutates for almost thirty years and then you make an appearance not long after we were woken up and straight after that space station crashed. That’s some coincidence’.
Habo turned to Ithan, ‘See, I told you I’d get the blame for all this’. He returned his attention to Lieutenant Clark, ‘Young lady, does it look as though we’ve enslaved these people? Do they look scared of us?’
‘They seem kind of wary of your friend’.
‘That’s adulation, for some reason they consider him to be some kind of Angel’.
‘An angel? Those things with wings and halos?’
‘The very same. Ithan is from a planet filled with radiation where the population evolved totally immune to its effects. The mutants’ claim they can see a glow off him. They react the same way to the mutates so I’m told’.
Louise sought confirmation from Harry. Harry nodded. ‘Okay, let’s say for the moment I believe you, why did your friend go into that building over there with burning torches?’
‘COMFLEX is in there. Adam is trying to destroy it by blowing up the building’. Habo frowned, ‘He should be out by now, I hope he’s not run into any trouble’.
‘There’s androids in there?’
‘I shouldn’t think so, not yet but eventually there’ll be another army of androids unless we destroy COMFLEX’.
Louise made up her mind, the old man was clearly eccentric but he seemed harmless enough. She called her troops forward and they headed towards the building Adam had entered earlier. Two of the soldiers threw the double doors open to reveal a brightly lit hallway swarming with spider-like robots heading towards the basement stairs. She could hear voices beyond the steps. She raised her laser cannon, took aim at the robot that was the furthest away and blasted it to pieces. The other robots stopped and turned to face their attackers. The soldiers began firing as the robots moved towards them. Louise saw Adam’s head appear at the top of the basement steps. ‘Clear a path for the civilians’, she yelled as she began blasting the robots in Adam’s path. Adam and the mutants began running towards the soldiers.
As they reached the exit, Adam started shouting, ‘We need to get out of here now, the whole building’s about to blow!’ Adam kept running down the steps. Four of Louise’s soldiers fired at a few of the nearest drones then closed the heavy double doors before making their getaway. The soldiers hadn’t reached the bottom of the steps before the building blew. The force of the blast sent Adam sprawling to the ground. The four soldiers flew through the air with the force of the blast landing heavily on the ground like they’d fallen out of a plane without a parachute. They died instantly. Debris began raining down on them all and they had to run for cover.
As the dust settled, Adam surveyed the damage. The entire building was gone. The buildings on either side of it were damaged beyond repair. As he explored the wreckage, he found bits of metal, all that was left of COMFLEX. His plan had worked and now everyone was safe. He picked up a shard of metal and ran to the campfire to show Habo. He was laughing almost hysterically. ‘It worked, it worked’, he kept repeating through the laughter. Loren caught up with him and grabbed his arm to attract his attention.
‘What does this all mean?’ he asked fearfully.
‘What does it mean?’ Adam repeated, ‘It means you’re all free. You’ll never be anybody’s slave ever again’.
‘So how will we get the little white pills that keep us alive?’ Adam stopped laughing.
He hadn’t really thought of the consequences for the mutants. They looked repellent, coupled with their retardation, the citizens of The Ship weren’t exactly going to welcome them with open arms, if they welcomed them at all. Adam started feeling pangs of guilt. He’d helped save most of humanity but in doing so, he may well have condemned the poor creatures in front of him. ‘Where did the androids get the pills from that they gave to you?’
‘From a machine they brought out every morning’.
‘That was just the dispenser, they had to have a store of the pills somewhere. Think Loren, it’s important. They’d have them in a building of some kind’.
‘There’s the three buildings the androids protect further inside the city’.
Loren ambled away and Adam followed. Lieutenant Clark watched them leave the camp, heading further into the city. She took Ensign Thompson to one side. ‘Follow those two, I want to know where they’re going’. Ensign Thompson saluted and began following Adam and Loren from a safe distance. He wasn’t particularly adept at following anyone and he nearly lost them twice early on in his mission. He eventually resigned himself to moving closer to them. He knew if they turned round, they’d spot him but they seem so engrossed in the journey ahead that they didn’t bother checking if anyone was behind them.
Loren led Adam down a number of crumbling streets filled with derelict houses that just impressed upon Adam the sheer enormity of the genocide perpetrated by COMFLEX. He could feel himself shake with the anger coursing through his body. They turned yet another corner and there in front of him, at the bottom of the road, were three warehouses. ‘How did you find these Loren?’
‘When I was a boy, my mother was one of the women who had to go with the androids and return with food. I followed her a couple of times’.
‘You were here a couple of times as a boy and you found your way back this easily? You never cease to amaze me’.
Once they were outside the warehouses, Adam stopped and called out to Ensign Thompson, ‘You might as well join us soldier boy, we’ve reached our destination’. Ensign Thompson joined them sheepishly.
‘You spotted me then?’
‘A blind man could have spotted you. Why are you following us?’ the ensign shrugged.
‘The lieutenant told me to find out where you were going’.
‘This lieutenant of yours, what’s she like?’
‘The lieutenant? She’s the best commander I’ve ever had. She’s fair, she listens to everyone’s point of view and she’s braver than…’
‘Okay, I get the point but can she be trusted?’
‘Of course she can’.
‘I guess we’ll find out. Call her, tell her I want to see her right now’.
‘If you want to see the lieutenant, why don’t you just go back to the camp and speak to her?’ Adam grabbed Ensign Thompson’s laser cannon and pushed him to the ground. He pointed the cannon at the ensign’s head.
‘Call your lieutenant and tell her I want to see her NOW!’ Thompson complied.
‘She’s on her way’.
‘Good. Okay Loren, let’s go and see if your warehouses are worth getting into a shit storm with the armed forces’.
Lieutenant Clark showed up twenty minutes later with four of her troops. Adam and Loren were standing at the large sliding metal door of the first warehouse. Adam had Ensign Thompson’s laser cannon cradled in the crook of his left arm. All four of Lieutenant Clark’s soldiers aimed their weapons at Adam. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing, assaulting one of my men?’ Louise snarled.
‘Easy Lieutenant, I was only trying to get your attention’.
‘You’ve got a dangerous way of doing it’.
‘I know a certain captain that would agree with you’.
‘Okay so you’ve got my attention, what do you want?’
‘Can we agree that the mutants have spent their entire lives in the city?’
‘What?’ Adam didn’t reply. ‘Yes we can agree that’, she sighed, ‘is that it?’
‘And that means as the citizens of this city, they own the city’.
‘Adam this city is a mess, it isn’t fit for anyone to live in’.
‘Can we agree?’ Louise nodded.
‘And therefore everything in this city belongs to them?’
‘Do I have your word that you’ll protect these rights lieutenant?’
‘Good’, Adam said and opened the sliding door of the first warehouse.
The first warehouse was filled with anti-radiation pills. The second was filled with energy cells and the third was full of food packs. Lieutenant Clark surveyed the contents. ‘Am I expected to watch the rest of the human race die of starvation and radiation poisoning whilst the mutants live like kings?’
‘That’s not what this about lieutenant. There’s a certain Councillor Donaldson back on the space station who’ll let these mutants rot in isolation rather than join his little community’.
‘I’ve met him, he’s a sleaze ball’.
‘We’ve got some common ground then. Anyway the contents of these warehouses gives the mutants some bargaining power but they won’t be able to stop Councillor Donaldson from just taking it all from them. They’re going to need your protection’.
‘I can understand you being wary of Donaldson but I’d have protected the mutants anyway, it’s my job’. Adam shrugged.
‘I had to be sure’.
Lieutenant Clark made to leave but stopped and turned back to face Adam. ‘What you just did for these people, it was very noble Adam, I’m impressed’. Adam gave a short nod to acknowledge the compliment. ‘Noble or not though, if you ever lay a hand on one of my men again, I’ll put you in the ground. Do we understand each other?’
‘Absolutely Lieutenant and thanks’. Louise nodded and walked away.
Adam talked Loren into following the soldiers back to the camp. Loren hovered behind them and kept glancing back at Adam in the hope he’d change his mind and let Loren keep him company. Each time he looked back, Adam made a shoo-ing gesture with his hands. Eventually the soldiers and Loren were out of sight and he was alone. He took in the sights of the ravaged city. He tried to imagine what it had been like when it was still a vibrant, bustling part of humanity’s culture but the image wouldn’t come. Instead, all he could think about was all the people he’d known in his life, good and bad, all of them dead. He slid to the ground and he wept.
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