Chrono Continuum Chapter 24

To Find Freedom

By Cain

2311 A.D.

Back and forth. Back and forth. To and fro. Like ants in a hive, the robots milled about, the sound of gears and metal feet on metal floors the only sound. All of them the same dull red color. Some tall, some short, but each perfectly suited to its task. The tall, thin D7-series. The six-legged P-series. The cylindrical Q35-series. He watched them all, vaguely fascinated. As he always was. It was always amazing to see the precision with which they worked. He considered calling out, but knew that they wouldn't answer, even the ones with speech capabilities. Still, for all their precision and craftsmanship and eficiency, they lacked. This one fairly bulged with weapons. He would be a war machine. It would be a war machine. It would never know anything but war. Chances were, it was not even sentient enough to learn from battle, relying on the Mother to analyze attack and defense and respond accordingly. It wouldn't ever be called to help with construction, or tactics, because it didn't and would never have those parameters. It was a warbot. Nothing more, nothing less. And that was what it lacked.

Humanity. Freedom of choice. Equality to all others of the robotic kind. No matter the perfection of a robot, it would fail to reach humanity. And that was what, in the end, would doom them. They couldn't grow as a mind would, despite the fact that some of them had artificial intelligence. They were robots, and that was all they'd ever be. For the... he couldn't remember how many days he'd been here-he sat, examining the device. It was obviously capable of flight, and had technology for that flight that would surpass all engines. The only thing that stopped the robots from testing the new engine was limitation of resources and priority. They had better things to do, and flight was not particularly useful in this battle anyway.

What made them curious, if that was what you'd call it, was all of the extra technology, that had nothing apparent to do with flight. And so they had decided to examine it. And to examine it cheap. If they used a human to do the work, fuel would be saved, as would the metal required to make extra robots suited to the task, and they could feed him nutrients intravenously. So when they found a human who had run from the human camp after he stole something, to escape the arena, they took their first captive. Ever. Of course the human camp didn't care that a thief would be missing. He guessed the robots were just lucky that this particular thief had read up quite a bit, and was beginning to understand exactly what it was this technology did. Or were they so lucky?

His eyes opened wider as a plan began to formulate in his mind. He couldn't take the ship out of here because there was a programming block that disallowed any but ones with matching fingerprints to use it. But that didn't mean the ship couldn't leave of its own volition. He rubbed his whiskery chin worriedly. It would be risky, he knew. The robots were proof of that. But if he could program it just right... He smiled. Turned to the blue field encasing him in the cell.

"Hey," he yelled, "I need a J4 to come and give me an overall blueprint for electronic neuronic pathways and... some neural net replacement parts. The engine here has a structure similar in design to artificial intelligence hardware." In a few minutes a flat metal disk with four legs came up to his cell. It opened a small hole in the field and stepped through. Geddicus quickly took the blueprints, wiring, and other tools off the cold surface, and turned back to the machine that was his assignment, not even waiting to see the bot leave. He sat down and placed the objects down beside him. He looked to the machine before him, newly repaired, and possibly better than before. He smiled. Looked down at the letters, all but rubbed out on the wing. Epoch, it was called. A word meaning a given period in history. It only helped confirm his theories as to its use.

"Epoch, let's hope I do a better job on you than was done to the Mother."


Same Time

The food was disgusting. The men stank. The rooms were cramped, although that was not so bad, considering how much time Magus had spent studying in small, dark rooms. He closed a book. It was junk. Magic and dragons, and women that were rarely fully clothed... with full illustrations. Ludicrous. Just ridiculous. If anything, he had less respect for the people of this generation and timeline than he did before. After lights out, he had noticed a book on one man's nightstand. Never passing up an oppurtunity to read, he had picked it up, and creating a small ball of fire for illumination, had begun to peruse the pages. He had thrown it down to the floor in two minutes. It would have been less, but one of the men had stirred, and Magus had dared not move until the soldier was proven asleep. It just wouldn't do to have the soldier awake with a pale blue-haired man holding a fireball in the room. Killing him would be loud enough to wake everyone.

He rose, as silently as a cat. As silent as Death as it sweeps in and takes one's final breath. He smiled at the analogy. I'll have to remember that one. He made his way to bathroom 19 and quietly pushed the door open. To not upset the sound sensors, he closed the door telekinetically. He bent down to the opening beneath the door and began to shape it. Locking the spell into his mind, he sat down. In his soldier guise, he had found that the bathroom he had appeared in originally had been closed down because of the irreparable backup of sewage. Whenever he slept here, he created a tunnel for the outside air to get to him, holding back the putrid air. Just in case someone came in anyway, however, he placed an auto-spell-a spell that required no upkeep after casting-on the door to keep it shut. The air tunnel required little power to keep open, and could be held during sleep. In fact, his nights in the bathroom were necessary for his health.

Over the last few days, he had held a spell to hide his true face, and worn the soldier's clothes. He often slept in the barracks, holding the spell while asleep, but such a spell gradually drained him, and he needed to rest without holding such a spell for at least eight hours. The air tunnel would do no great damage, and so it was used when he slept alone, which he preferred. Sleeping in the barracks, however, had provided useful information.

He had heard that one man, that they called a hacker, had infiltrated the information of the robots several times, catching minor bits of information. One of these bits of information was the discovery of a strange flying device found in the examination block of the camp. If a betting person, Magus would have wagered someone else's life that it was the Epoch. And sleeping in the barracks had also rewarded him with the information that a stream that ran through one area of the camp's plumbing systems was being dammed, due to a toxic substane running down from the robot camp. Magus had devised a plan. Act as if you've been assigned to help with the damming, and fall in. Your comrades will assume you dead. Using an air tunnel spell, however, you will swim down the stream out of the camp.

He thought it was a good plan, although he might wash up quite a bit farther from the robot camp. But distance was no problem. It might be easier and quicker to leave by the river before the damming, but he was waiting for the kid. He doubted that he would show up, but if he waited, he'd have a plausible explanation as to why he'd left the kid behind. With no explanation, he'd never hear the end of it from that damned girl, Lucca. He stopped to wonder why he cared, or why, for that matter, he needed her at all. She'd been useful in the triumph over Lavos, and could be again. After all, the men here didn't talk much about the Kingdom, as he had found it to be called. If Magus was a soldier, then he already knew. Magus could barely wait to get out of here. The women that some of these men spent their time with were... he shuddered. Shook his head. Men had been looking at him strangely ever since he had been busy reading and declined a lap dance. He wondered if they thought he was... what was that word he had heard last time he'd been to the future? The end of this adventure could never come too soon for Magus.

He turned onto his side. As he drifted off, a thought occurred. The last thought he had before he slept was, Is my life much better?


Same Time

Robo sat back against his bars and sighed. Well, they had finished the job. As of now, the only part of his original body that remained exactly the same was his head. He imagined that he must look quite odd with his brand new body... and no neck. He still had yet to use his shoulder-gun, or find out what it did, and didn't intend to, if he could win without it. And a hover pack had been added on to his back, to provide rising capabilities, instead of the ability to just hover half a foot off the ground. His voice was also roughly the same, but came out of twin speakers at his shoulders, instead of directly below his head. In three places, he was engraved with a strange symbol. He had no idea where it came from, and dared not ask anyone for fear that they would keep him longer, because he was a robot uninvolved in the war. He thought to ask Kradish, but could see that the man was asleep.

Robo lightly slapped his knee with his hand, making a clanging sound of agitation. Tomorrow, they said, tomorrow you sill fight your final match. And we can assure you that your opponent will fight to the death. What was a robot to do? Would he trade his freedom for the life of another? Was he justified in doing so? All of the arena fighters were either criminals already captured, innocent animals, glory fighters, or robots.

He had few, but some qualms about fighting a robot to the death. These robots were similar to the robots of Geno Dome. Not capable of choice. But separated from the Mother as they were, their programming would have auto-erased by now, so no information could be traced. They were blank slates following the logic that getting to the Mother was a priority above everything else. If given a chance, those robots could become as Robo, and he didn't want to end a life before it began. Many arena fighters were humans that had been caught in a petty or pre-capital crime. But imprisonment should be punishment enough, rather than constant fighting, hardening the humans so much more. Kradish's crime remained a mystery, but he had somehow avoided having to fight in the arena, and Robo was glad for him. And an animal, captured and lonely shouldn't be forced to fight to live. And the glory fighters... well, Robo would make that decision if it arose.

He had killed before, true, but he was truly justified in doing so. It was to save the many. But what if he killed the next opponent, and his friends solved the problem without him. That would mean that he had fought to the death, and killed for nothing more than to be free from a cage. Was a cage that bad? Was it worth someone's life to be free from one? Robo knew that he needed to shut down and rest, but also needed to decide the answer to this question. Was freedom worth a life? The ultimate question, to Robo's mind. God, Heaven, Hell, magic, all of this could be worked out later, and what relation it had to him, but this one question, of the worth of a man's life troubled him beyond his comprehension.

And then, as no robot ever had, he cried. He began to cry, an odd sound for a robot. No tears came forth, but he knew that they would be there, had he the capability. And something else happened that no robot had ever done. Exhausted, he didn't shut down, but fell asleep, crying.


"A mind that is stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimensions."

-Oliver Wendell Holmes


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