Saturday, August 6, 2011

Science Boss Po-sha

Within an hour of touching down, the crew of Purotach had dispatched the obelisk generator and cleared an area for the game, But there was one person not playing that day. Science Boss Po-sha ranked one level higher than the lowest clans person, but he was a true blooded expert in his field. His work was one driven by a passion that consumed his life. During planet fall he had used every resource at his disposal to gather information and store it. He had sucked the entire ship’s computing power, and brought it to bear on high definition imagery, full spectrum analysis, geographic mapping, a resource data base, environmental and atmospheric cataloguing, and a deep core gravitronic profile. By the time Mastoni had guided the ship down manually, Po-sha had filled a petabyte storage device. There was enough data to sift through for a year but that was irrelevant since he had caught a glimpse of something on the deep core scan.
            He was giddy with excitement as he hastily gather some equipment. Urging his only friend, Metody, a fully functional artificial intelligence, to hurry up. “Grab the excavation unit, flood lights, enviro-suit, Kevlar rope, and food processor; I’ll handle the delicate equipment since your such a klutz and might break something.”
            “That is a most rude statement, well in keeping with your incessant sarcasm towards me,” she said.
            “Save it for after we get back, can’t you tell this is urgent?”
            “Urgency should never make one sacrifice safety; I calculate a seven percent chance of some sort of injury occurring on this expedition.”
            “Lets hope it’s you, now move out while everyone’s busy playing that annoying game, I don’t want any interruptions.”
            The loaded down AI struggled under the weight, even with enhanced piezo tendons and bio-metric muscle groups. Soon they were trekking through the jungle, slicing through dense underbrush with a hand laser. It was tough going and his temper bagan to flare. He would have taken a light craft but resources were scarce and he was always the last to receive help or use of equipment.
            He shoved the laser into Metody’s hand and scolded her. “Take this thing you worthless bucket of bolts, now lead the way and keep your trap shut, I don’t need your witty comebacks.”
            He was bone tired but still he pressed on. The only thing that kept him going was the fact that one foot would still move in front of the other. Even with his AI’s help, it seemed like an eternity. Another hundred yards and they would be there, what he would find he did not know. One final tree crashed down and his instruments told him this was the spot. He set up his small excavator; inputting depth and direction, turned it loose, then fell onto his pack, exhausted but satisfied. The little machine was efficient but it would still be several hours before any results were realized. The shaft behind the machine would be big enough for a man to pass through.
            Finally the excavator emerged, indicating it had reached its destination. This is what he lived for, the thrill of discovering the unknown. The last foot or two would have to be dug by hand. He sent Metody in first with a spotlight and equipment to investigate, and was surprised when he came upon the AI looking down through a perfectly shaped opening that was obviously a window on a huge dome shaped structure.
            This was an advanced civilization, ancient beyond all belief, predating Mandaria most likely. He should have radioed in but he was too excited, too selfish, and nobody cared about him; it was like he didn’t even exist on the ship. Nobody thought he was important, they just wanted to play and fight.
            “Tie the rope off, I’m going first, then you follow me with the equipment. As he progressed down he tried to penetrate the dark with his spotlight but it was no use. Finally he saw a shadow as the floor approached, a good thing as he was almost out of rope. Once down he waited while Metody came down with a crash. Sound didn’t travel and it felt like his hearing was muffled. Tired of fumbling around in the dark he donned a pair of polarized glasses and fire up the photon torch, bringing the surroundings into stark relief. It shone with the intensity of a small sun, illuminating the cavernous hall which appeared to be big enough for thousands of people. It was a circular structure with arched passages leading off in many directions and the domed roof far above.
            “What do you estimate the size of this place,” he asked off handedly as he pulled out his laser drill for a rock sample.
            “Three hundred thirty yards tall by two hundred twenty yards in diameter, exactly.”
            “Here you hold this,” he handed the light off, “I’m going to try and get a sample of this bedrock.” Firing the drill caused a harsh ricochet to glance off the floor. He jumped in surprise, “what the heck is this stuff. He used a small portable microscope to look at the impenetrable substance. It had a fine granitized appearance but it was definitely porous. The entire structure was made of the same material, but he would have to leave that for later
            “Leave one flood light here to tie the hand line off.” It was a high tensile string, unbreakable for the most part. “Lets try that direction,” he pointed to a slightly larger arch way. As they approached, he noticed there were numerous small ledges with openings leading back into hollowed out chambers; too small for a person, it was a mystery that had him puzzled. “Why is this chamber so tall and what are those grottos for?”
            “The only logical answer is an aviary for birds.”
            The AI’s answer shocked him, some kind of indoor bird sanctuary. “Okay, let’s move out.” As they proceeded, the hallway was obviously for aesthetic purposes, with large columns lining each side, littered with random shelves and terraces leading to grottos. Finally, at the end were two massive doors, partially opened, but it would take a crane to move their foot thick bulk.
            “Metody, try taking a sample of that,” he pointed to something behind the crack of the door that could be collected.        
            “Looks like dirt to me,” she said. She scratched at the substance to no avail. “I am unable to comply. The substance will not break free.
            He really needed to download some personality traits into her bios, he just hadn’t found any that suited him. “Did you notice there’s no dust or debris, like it was swept clean.” He fished in his pack and took out a butane fire stick; lighting a piece of scrap from his pocket, he blew it out and watched the smoke drift lazily back the way they had come. “Look there’s a draft in the access tunnel.”
            “No,” she said. “If you asked me these questions in the first place, we could save a lot of time. There is a constant air flow exiting down a side corridor we passed in the atrium. I also noticed bioluminescent chemicals etched into the rock, and I have to warn you that there is an eighteen percent probability that something bad could happen to you.”
            “Thank you very much, you reluctant bucket of bolts, were moving on.” As he passed through the door he noticed finely engineered pipes going to the massive hinges, a sign of technology. He knew Metody recorded everything so he kept quiet. On the other side they entered another cavernous space far vaster than the last. The photon torch reflected dimly off the ceiling, showing roots and hanging vines long dead in this abandoned place. When he narrowed the beam it wouldn’t reach the opposite wall of the open space stretching out before him. “What’s the dis..”
            “The focused range of this beam is five miles, infrared scan shows a similar wall at around twice that distance.”
            An open expanse over a hundred square miles; it began to dawn on him, this may not be a buried ruin, rather a hidden city built under ground to avoid detection from stellar neighbors. “Is there anything on this plain or is it just a wasteland?”
            “There is one small outcrop in the center of the plain.”
            “Any signs of life?”
            “Let’s eat here, then we make haste for the outcrop.” Hot tomato soup mix came out of the tiny food processor, along with a chunk of bread. “Ouch, that’s hot,” he spilled some on the ground and light erupted all around them, the ceiling clearly visible with it’s cracked patchwork and now more grottos in the ceiling too. Then, slowly it faded.
            “What was that?”
            “It appears the light source for this particular city is operated by a bioluminescent water to hydrogen cold fusion process unknown to clan technology. Without the bed rock strata of the building, there would be no reaction.” Metody rambled on, “That would explain the passages and gutter system around the edge of the great plain, but where is the source?”
            His mind began to formulate an idea. “All right save it for later, lets move out, and give me some bottled water.” They pressed on across the vast plain of nothingness. Was this truly an abandon city, or were they missing something. Abruptly they halted at the end of the hand line.
            “Okay, drop all non essential gear and tie off that line, your going to carry me.” He took out a bottle of water. “Record this.” The ground exploded into a brilliant glow, but in the surface were lines and patterns, what looked like directional guide markers and distinctly, a path or street. “I knew it! Did you get that? They would flood this with water and the whole city would light up, oh my maker, they lived down here, this was their city.”
            “Who’s city?” Metody asked innocently.
            “I don’t know, you idiot!”
            “If you say so. I don’t see the importance of this, there is no one here now.”
            “Are you sure? Lets get going.” The AI made great time and within half an hour they arrived at the spire protruding from the plain.
            “Put me down,” he noticed it was built on a raised landing about two feet high. “This would keep water off the marker, let’s take a closer look.”
            They climbed up on the platform and inspected the solid spire that rose about three stories high. As they circled around it, Metody let out a warning, “Watch your step.” There, flat in the floor was a circular stair case descending downward. He shivered, feeling the weight of his journey pressing down on him; a slight panic stirred in his stomach. The raised platform would keep the water out of this passage. They had been gone from the ship over five hours; would they come looking for him? Had Purotach been dispatched on a new mission closer to Earth? Would they leave him behind? His desire for discovery welled up and he pushed his fear aside. “Were going down.”
            “Sir, that raises the danger level to twenty seven percent. I highly advise we return to the ship immediately.”
            “Your objection is noted, now come on.” He began descending the perfectly curved stair case. Along the outside wall was a small trough, probably for water to flow, but it also served as a handrail. The slight upward rush of air was satisfying in the confined space, where only one person had room to pass another. Finally 275 stairs later they leveled off into a small square chamber. Upon entering he froze in his tracks, consumed by the wonder of what he beheld.
            Before him were three door openings each covered with a swirling curtain of green and blue mist. A low hum spoke of power flowing across the entrances as the substance shimmered and shifted in random patterns. He fell to his knees, shocked by the implication of what he had found.
            “Metody, I’ll take that report I know your dying to give me.”
            “Thank you, sir. Analysis of openings unknown. Probability of death, fifty two percent. I am unable to proceed beyond this point, you have reached the mortality threshold.”
            “Give me a best guess as to what’s behind there.”
            “It could be a force field for protection of the entrance, a warp tunnel, a dimensional shift, or time delineation portal all of which are hypothetical in nature except the first.”
            He knew she was poised to stop him if he tried to go through. Instead he pulled out his micro torch and threw it at the door. It passed through with out a sound and disappeared. “All right, we’ll head back, but first I need to rest.” He started taking off his pack, “Give me a hand with this,” he pretended to struggle. Once free of the pack he shoved it at her, dove through the opening, and disappeared.
            Inside Metody’s main processor, innumerable neuron paths had been biologically grown, then transmuted with ceramic superconductor to permanently form her high efficiency brain. The limiting factor right now in her decision making process were the virtual personalities that were frozen in conflict. She searched back to the very first byte of information ever downloaded and began there. Deep inside was one packet she had isolated, unable to logically apply it to her existence. Humans were able to make decisions based on some unknown factors and qualities; if she could understand this, she could take action. ‘What would Science boss Po-sha do?’ She ran this thought repeatedly; a thousand, a million, a billion times, and within seconds she had the answer. It swam up from that hidden core she didn’t understand.
            Bursting through the force field, she found herself traveling down a tunnel, free falling into a hole where lights, colors, and galaxies wheeled around with the speed of an electron circling its nucleus of fat protons. They sounded like a swarm of angry bees on a honey rampage, everything accelerated into a blurry haze of distorted light and she lost all sense of time. Then she was on the ground, adjusting her retinas against the blazing suns that beat down on her. Scanning her surroundings, she was on a ledge cut into the face of a cliff. The architecture was faultless, sporting ornate statues, and pillars carved intricately with alien symbols. As she stepped to the railing, a new definition of immense was added to her personality. Far below a massive city stretched out for hundreds of miles in all directions, as far as the eye could see. Gardens and parks were interspersed with small bodies of water, as well as busy streets and congested walkways. There were massive dome shaped coliseums, sky scrapers, open air markets and housing complexes with transportation hubs connecting them all. There was a cacophony of movement and color while to her right, thousands of birds and larger flying creatures circled above the city or nested in the cliff. To her left was a spire towering over a mile in the sky with rivers for streets and giant ships anchored at its base. Not a square inch of space was wasted and she estimated the population at two billion. Focusing in she could see children playing on beautiful lawns, everything perfectly manicured and in order. Statistically this must be the same race that lived in the underground city but it was obvious from the three suns she was in a different part of space. She referenced their positions to identify her location later.
            She scanned the area for Po-sha and noticed one of the birds coming closer. It spotted her, then disappeared and reappeared much closer. Now she could clearly see it was a flying dragon weighing about a fifty pounds. She broke into a full run, calculating it’s trajectory. Po-sha was gazing out at the city unaware. Too late she cried out; the mighty little dragon appeared just as it slammed into Po-sha, razor sharp teeth sinking deeply into the jugular. His head snapped back and Metody knew it was over. With a few shakes it ripped his throat out and she could tell from the way the head flopped around like a rag doll that his neck was broke. She rushed the horn headed beast but it disappeared, making a dimensional shift somewhere else. She grabbed the lifeless body and ran with every ounce of energy to the portal, turning to see if there was pursuit. Obviously they could sense she wasn’t a biological entity and left her alone. Running back to the ship, Po-sha’s body beat a rhythmic cadence against her back, with the blood soaked head hanging by a few sturdy tendons. If she could feel sorrow, this would have been the time; but for now she was just alone. 


  1. Hey Chris,

    Interesting story. I don't think Po-sha enjoyed it much though.

    So is this for an assignment, or for the love of writing, or both?

  2. this is a chapter in my book i wrote but haven't published yet. it introduces the robots in the story.