FORTIFICATION: a sci-fi adventure from “The Other Worlds”
Our story begins in Odisiris, a planet within the Andromeda Galaxy and home to the race of superhumans known as Citizens…
My name is Skelos Dorm. I have an aptitude for neuroscience. The Establishment is impressed with my work in neurorobotics. Anything to do with droids and cyborgs is always welcome.
However, they do not have the same enthusiasm when it comes to understanding the Citizen psyche, reading thoughts, interpreting minds. I understand their caution. Many Citizens have plenty to hide. They do not want their indiscretions made known to anyone but their closest allies, myself included.
I do not want you to see my thoughts. I do not want you to know what I truly am. What I am capable of…
Skelos returned to his apprentice. Imbrecas had reassembled the brain and was now poking around one of his encrypted files. Skelos decided that he needed to keep a closer eye on him. His father was Onas Pralyeton, one of the vice-chancellor’s most championed advisers. Onas may have asked his son to spy on him. It stood to reason that any research Skelos conducted would be of a political advantage. Let him poke around all he likes. He won’t find anything. Not in here.
As he approached the prying apprentice, a cyborg leapt from the third floor into the hub. The carbonic metal cyborg was a prototype for the new generation. Someone or something had attempted to deconstruct it. The layer of living tissue that covered it had been stripped away. Its teeth had been removed. Half its skull hung open, revealing part of a human brain, glistening like intestines within. A portion of its chest had been ripped open, exposing metal and tubes sloshing with fluid.
‘Model ZT289 I believe,’ said Skelos, gazing at the fusion of metal, wires, and tubes. The cyborg stood straight, its arms swinging. It stared at Skelos through infra-blue laser eyes. The last time Skelos had seen Model ZT289, they had had quite a pleasant conversation. It had given him a weather report and complimented him on his new lab coat. It appeared to have nothing to say to him today.
Imbrecas’s scream pierced his ears. ‘Never fear Imbrecas,’ said Skelos. ‘This one’s friendly. Give us a moment, and we’ll get him back in his tank.’ He glanced in Imbrecas’s direction and saw his feet poking out from underneath the hologram podium.
‘What’s going on up there?’ Skelos turned his back on the cyborg. He gazed up at the third- floor balcony. He saw no merit in reasoning with a damaged machine. ‘How many more of these models are you going to destroy?’
Several black coats looked over the balcony but did not appear in any hurry to proffer an explanation or a solution.
The cyborg fired a shot. It went over his head. He whirled to see the cyborg’s arm raised. He jumped out of the way as it fired another four shots straight at him.
Skelos had insisted that the prototype’s speed match that of a Citizen’s, which meant it was exceedingly fast. He headed for the hologram podium. He gallantly leapt on top of it in the mistaken belief that the additional height would give him an advantage. The cyborg charged at him. It fired two more shots that blew holes in a paramount viewing screen, igniting it in a plume of flames. The fire alarm sounded with a deafening clang. Skelos bounded from the podium as the cyborg’s clunky metal foot smashed into the side of it. The hologram brain and confidential database shuddered and turned an opaque blur.
Imbrecas scurried from under the podium and sprinted through a set of glass doors and up the nearest stairwell. Skelos attempted to do the same.
‘Automatic emergency lockdown initiated,’ a male voice controller announced into the hub. ‘Exits secured.’
Skelos slammed his hands against the exit doors and then groped his way to a steel pillar. Now this was getting humiliating. He knew how to override the lockdown system. He also knew how to disarm the cyborg. He had the ability to control technology with the power of his mind. But he had an audience. He heard them shouting from the balcony, which meant he would have to do things the laborious way. He seized a small gun, used for stabilising cyborgs, from a holster on the wall. He fired. It hit the cyborg in the chest, splitting apart a bundle of tubes and wires. Sparks and liquids spurted from the open cavity. The prototype staggered to a halt and cranked its weapon-arm.
And then it came at him again…