No Good Answers

(posted Friday, September 30, 2005)

One would not expect a robot to need a refuge, but this was Waitron9000's. Not a a high perch above it all like Bella's, nor a greenhouse like Thea's, not a cozy apartment like Vickie's, nor the arms of another being, like Flame. No, here in the comm-and-computer room of the CCCP HQ---this was Waitron's refuge, and her solace was in data.

The data that streamed in from a hundred thousand comm units. She could read anything that came in clear, and a great deal that was coded. Mostly she ignored it, except for the chosen channels of CCCP, the Coalition, the RPCongress and the AoC, in that order. Of all of the Coalition and Congress, it was the AoC that had the closest ties to CCCP, and like siblings, though there had been some bitter words between them, when it came down to cases, they stood together.

Together, like the reflections in a mirror, in this saddest of sad situations. Both leaders, faced with a member of yet a third group, one that had once been the best of friends and staunchest of allies, who seemed to have been bought and paid for by an enemy. And there was no doubt; the Crey Corporation was an enemy. This was someone who had been privy to the inner workings of both groups. Allowing any further contact with him exposed the members of both the CCCP and the AoC to needless, senseless risk. As it was, Waitron had spent a busy hour changing encryption keys and making security changes, and she had no doubt that over in the AoC, some employee of Nash was doing the same. The bot Ein Stein X003, who was associated with Kid Crisis (the bot would never allow that he was "owned") had even turned up at the wedding of Seraphic Flame and John Murdock. Clearly he had been doing some form of recording. And it could have been as innocent as making a record of the event for someone who had once been their friend. Or it could have been a much more sinister reason. There was simply no way to tell.

Kid Crisis was brilliant. Of that there was no doubt. He had the sort of mind that made intuitive leaps that could be backed up with good science. That made him a good friend, and a terrible enemy. If he had indeed been subsumed by the monster that was Crey, he would not be the first, nor the last.

And he might have entered into those sinister halls with intentions of his own, but once in the belly of the beast, how long could he remain untainted and uncorrupted? Stonger, wise men than he had been digested there. So even if he had entered into this with the purest of intentions, how long could he remain true?

Waitron pondered these things as she listened to the comm signals going back and forth, each one it's own kind of cry of pain. Anger, fear, denial, hate, anguish---though Waitron did not feel these things herself in this situation, she could identify them.

There were no good answers here. She did not have the data, nor did either of the two leaders she regarded as being within her purview. To stand by the young man in question brought risk upon the whole group. To shut him out put him in a state of isolation where, even if his motives had been pure, opened him to subversion out of despair. And one which left him vulnerable and without allies if he did cry out for help.

Every answer led to risk, some of it unacceptable. Every answer led to danger, and to pain. Waitron had observed the Commissar at her desk with her face in her hands, had heard the bleakness in the flat tones of Red Djinni's voice, and yes, the hidden anguish in the voice of the cause of all of this himself, in the rare moments when he was still speaking on the comm.

Finally, after a billion processing cycles and more, Waitron9000 weighed in herself on the situation, and every hero who had voiced an opinion, shrill or reasoned, angry or sorrowful or merely bewildered, from Red Ssaviour and Red Djinni to the bone of contention himself, got the same source-scrambled anonymous communique from her.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.