Sunday, September 8, 2013
Training for Earth
Usually Ekcolir let Syon do all the cooking, but she had mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the night with Gwen, and he had grown hungry. He put down the bowl of batter he had been preparing, wiped his hands over the scrubber to remove the zucchini remnants and turned just in time to see Syon enter the kitchen.
As always, she looked so fresh and vibrant that he wanted to hold her and confirm that she was real. And then she was in his arms and the world was again in balance. But only for a second.
The memories of what she had told him the previous evening came crushing down on Ekcolir. Today would be his last day at Lendhalen. After this day he would never again see her, hold her, benefit from her guidance.
Holding her tightly he whispered in her ear, "Where have you been? Where is Gwen?"
"I was testing the connection to Klyz. We don't often transmit that far and depending on cosmological conditions the guidance circuits can require adjustments. The feedback circuit is now live."
Ekcolir was none too certain about the safety of teleporting halfway across the galaxy. It seemed magical that today he could be here in Syon's sweet embrace and tomorrow he would be dealing with the hideous Fru'wu. "I missed you. And I made a mess of the kitchen."
"You'll have to take care of yourself on Earth. I've spoiled you."
"Yes. I'll never survive without you. I might as well just stay here..."
She cut him off with a harsh, "No!"
Syon laughed, surprised by her own tension over what must happen this day.
Ekcolir had to admit he would not miss her laugh. He thought: she was one of those people who had never learned to laugh musically. Her laugh was like the grinding of two bricks against each other. Then he remembered what she had said last night and he wondered: is she a person?
Ekcolir preferred not to believe that Syon was a machine. He looked into the back yard and thought about the plans they had made for the garden. All those shattered plans. For a moment he wondered if she would maintain the garden. Would she have a new trainee to break in as soon as Ekcolir teleported out? Ekcolir wondered: how quickly will she forget me?
"How is Gwen taking it?"
"Well, as I expected. I prepared her for this. She'll be fine. We'll have each other while you go off on your great adventure."
"It breaks my heart to leave you two here."
Syon snuggled comfortably against his chest. "I did not make that very clear last night before you pulled me into bed. Your mission to Earth, your entire existence has been carefully planned. Our personal feelings now mean nothing. It is time for you to be on your way."
"I still don't understand. If you are a machine then how did we make Gwen? I watched you swell up and give birth to our daughter."
"I'm a sophisticated machine. Why shouldn't I be able to gestate a baby? Anyhow, we had to test and make sure that it is possible."
"So she is our daughter...biologically, even though you're not biological?"
"My DNA...the DNA of the biological that produced my mind...that DNA code is in the data banks. Anyhow, we knew it would work. I was just selfish. I wanted a piece of you here with me when you are gone. We'll miss you, but don't worry about us. You have so much ahead of you...your life to live. Soon your time here will seem like a dream."
Ekcolir liked to think that he was prepared and confident, but it was unsettling to realize how much effort had gone into the preparations for his mission and how high Syon's expectations were for his success. "Why don't you come with me?"
"My work here is not done. Now, stop distracting me and listen." She slipped out of his arms and finished making his breakfast. Ekcolir watched her swift and efficient movements and tried to believe what she was saying. Watching her move, he had to admit that she seemed to have machine-like perfection in her actions...not a single imperfection.
Syon was saying. "...forget all that. There is one more thing that you need to know about Trysta: she is not of this time, she's not even human."
Ekcolir chuckled nervously, "What does that mean?"
Syon glanced over her shoulder, "She won't talk about this, but she's a time traveler. There's no reason to talk about it and, in fact, you will have no reason or desire to talk about it, but I want you to know." She turned back to her work, cleaning up the mess that Ekcolir had made with the butchered zucchini.
Ekcolir suggested, "I suppose I'll have no reason to even believe it."
"No. No, the day will come when something that Trysta does or says will remind you of today. And then you'll know. You'll know that Trysta is from another time. You'll remember me, now, telling you this and you'll be thankful."
"I'm thankful now. In fact-"
Syon poured the batter into the cook wheel. "Stop right there! Don't distract me with your charms. Save it for Trysta. We've had three years together, but think of the centuries you have before you."
"If she's not human...if your biological origin is not human... then how did we make a beautiful little girl?"
"You were designed for the task. Don't ask questions that you don't really want answers to. Can't you accept that we crafted you for a task, that you have a future of infinite opportunity before you?"
Ekcolir smirked. Syon had tried to explain that he was essentially immortal, that he need never die. He asked, "If I'm immortal then why are you so worried about the teleporter?"
Syon popped open the wheel and set the steaming cake on the table. They sat down, but Syon did not eat. She asked, "Did you hear what I told you last night?"
Ekcolir had an excellent memory. He was unaware that a nanite symbiont in his brain made it essentially impossible for him to forget anything. "I can repeat it all word by word. I just don't believe it."
Syon nodded. "Good. Belief is not important. One day you will know the truth and it will not shock you then because I have warned you now. I'm not biological and eventually you will also cross over into existence as an artificial lifeform. That is the plan. Of course the plan can fail. It would all end today if the teleporter was not correctly aligned."
Ekcolir watched as Syon seemed to slip out of the "now" and disappear in her thoughts. He asked, "How can 'the plan' fail?"
Slowly she came back from her fight of thought and she seemed to struggle with his question. "My plans might have failed. I'm no god. I don't know...but I expected you to be here long before. It's been nice finally having you here, but I had envisioned this all playing out another way, another triangle."
Ekcolir laughed. "I don't know what you're talking about. Triangle?"
Syon stared into his eyes...and she seemed lost in there. "My expectations. I was wrong. I suppose you find no comfort in that, but you asked." It was disturbing for Ekcolir to see her vulnerable and pensive.
For a minute Ekcolir ate and he changed the subject: he asked about the garden. Then he noticed that Syon was not eating and he asked about that. She shrugged. "I've pretended to be a woman, to make your life here a calm and peaceful time for learning. I had a job to do and could not allow myself to get too comfortable with you. Now you are ready to move on. I don't need to keep up the act, eating, working the garden with you...none of that. I moved in here with you after you selected this house. I'll move on when you are gone. You'll soon forget about me. Earth and Trysta will be so much more interesting for you. Just remember: she'll be playing her role, too. As a time traveler there are many things she will not be able to tell you. She does not need to tell you. Just respect her reality."
Ekcolir took hold of Syon's hand. "Trysta...is she a...a real woman?"
Syon squeezed his hand. "She's biological, just like you. You'll like her. Listen, I don't know what the Fru'wu have planned for you at Klyz. The Fru'wu are inordinately proud of their robots. You'll have little difficulty finding the differences between biologicals and their robots. But be warned: the Fru'wu are amateurs. There are other forms of artificial life that could easily trick you into thinking that they are biological."
"As you did, except for your laugh."
"See, you already believe. I could have faked a more human laugh, but I needed you to recognize the truth about me here, on this day. That's how it works. I've given you all the clues that you need. You are ready." She pulled her hand away from his and sat rather primly, looking impatient for him to finish eating.
"I suppose that Trysta, with her dark secrets of time travel, will be as maddening as you when she talks...saying things to me that make no sense."
"Oh, yes! Trysta will remind you of me. Look, I've tried to make this clear. Trysta has traveled in time. She will travel in time. You'll pass on from biological to artificial and she will do so, too. Can't you understand how it is possible for me to know these things?"
Suddenly he did know. He had known, but his conscious mind had not processed it, had not accepted the consequences. As he spoke it the concept became reality: "You...you're Trysta."
"I'm what's left of her. The reflection of her mind."
Ekcolir tried to fit the possibility of time travel into his conceptualization of the universe. "Then you do know...you know my future."
Syon tipped her head in a brief nod of acknowledgement. "I hope I do. But these time loops can shatter. If all goes well..." Syon fell silent. She cleared the table and then took his hand again, pulled him to his feet. "It is time for you to go." They embraced once more.
Ekcolir tried to force from his mind her words, words that seemed to echo and grow louder. 'I've pretended to be a woman...' Somehow he knew that there was still a woman there. But what did it mean to be a woman in a robotic body...for thousands of years? And if this crazy story was true, then it would be his own fate to find out, to one day have his mind transferred into a new artificial body.
Syon broke away and led him by the hand out of the house and to a part of the City that Ekcolir had never visited before. She led him into a dim, strangely humming room. Syon finally released his hand and stepped back. Something snapped and Ekcolir was gone.