Epilogue: Welcome to the Machine

From the Story Arc: Volgograd on the Adams

Previous Story in the Arc: Jumping Jack Flash by Krasniy Oktyabr (Friday, September 02, 2005)

(posted Friday, September 02, 2005)

Unit K stood slackly, gazing up at a strange device hanging from the ceiling of a dilapidated warehouse. Where the warehouse was, exactly, Unit K didn't know. Not that it mattered. Unit K was in presence of the King. For that alone, Unit K felt...honor? Content? Such emotions were only vestigal in His subjects. Only the King knew them truly and fully.

As Unit K stared, a brain floated in a nearby tank, with two eyes made comically large by the glass and preserving fluid staring at Unit K. There was a silence over the entire building, save for the moving gears of minions going about their duties for the Court. Indeed, what use was there for talking when there was Mind? Unit K was about to find out.

"Do you know what that is?" came a tinny yet dominating voice from a speaker near the brain jar.

Unit K merely shook its head. As far as visual data could ascertain, it was nothing more than a ring of metal, with a bipedal mannequin form strung in its center. No other information was available. Mind could not determine any purpose. Mind didn't need to, it was no concern.

"That, Unit K, is a reminder," the King intoned. " A reminder of what was lost. And what can be overcome."

Unit K turned its head to regard the King. A bubbling chuckle came from the speaker.

"Speak," it ordered.

Unit K had never utilized the speech modulator before, and was unsure what would happen now.

"A symbol..." Unit K responded. The voice was flat, electronic. Not really knowing what to expect, Unit K could not be disappointed by it.

"Yes, Unit K. A symbol," the King replied. "There was an organic, many years ago, named DaVinci. He drew what is now called Vitruvian Man, a drawing of the proportions of the perfect human body. But I'll have you know, Unit K, there is no such thing. Organics are weak, easily destroyed."

Unit K looked down from the hanging figure onto itself. Much of what Unit K could process visually was organic. The right arm was strong metal, and the hands--Unit K held them palmward to its visual receptors, one of which was still organic--they were merely coated in metal. Add to that the vocal modulator, and much of Unit K was still organic, still...

"Weak..." Unit K muttered, but not out of hearing of its sovereign.

"Ah, but I have made you stronger," the King answered. "And I have done so with a purpose. Yes, organics are weak, weaker than metal. But yet... there are organics that cling to that life tenaciously. Seek to prolong it, and make it stronger, to strive for that perfection. You, Unit K, you will go out and meet these organics. Interact with them, and study them. Bring data into Mind as to why they persist these foolish notions. You and your brethren must learn."

"Learn..." Unit K said, processing this word. There was much to learn, yes. But much, it seemed, Unit K already knew. And this was troubling.

Unit K said, "My King, Unit K has determined presence of AI in conflict with Mind. All purges remain unsuccessful in eliminating unknown AI."

Even as Unit K spoke these words, there was pain...an ache inside its cranial cavity, as if something wanted to get out.

The Clockwork King said nothing for awhile. Unit K could never determine the presence of the King in Mind, it was just assumed that He was there as they all were. The tank bubbled silently, and moments passed. As did the ache. Cursory scans revealed no trace of conflicting AI. It might return, but that was of no concern to Mind.

Unit K gazed back at the Vitruvian.

"My King," Unit K said after awhile, "Primary directive has been entered into Mind. Unit K will serve the King."

Unit K strode out from the King's court, the drones making way silently for their superior. Once outside, the blinding sun shone down on Unit K, temporarily incapacitating his organic visual receptor. No matter, the superior receptor compensated instantly. There was no time for such distractions.

Unit K has a duty to perform, firmly in Mind.