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Chilled Unit
30th Jul 2003, 13:59
Hi All,

A new thread because the old one is getting kinda full, and to introduce everyone to the product of Dell's, Vakusuma's and my work on producing a lovely visual aid for our good readers :)

All credit for the idea and layout go to Dell and Vakusuma here, Vak posted a rough sketch in the other thread and Dell went through the story and made it as accurate to the events as can be :)

http://www.chilledunit.com/Nexus/Images/nexusmap.gif

And I hear Mouze is about ready to roll with 16.1 :)

Mouze1
30th Jul 2003, 18:42
Nexus Chapter 16, Part 1
by Mouze


Scarcely daring to breathe, the group stood silent in the middle of the path. Terry still had made no move to look up or offer an explanation for his behavior. The forest became totally quiet; no sounds could be heard, and it seemed as if the breeze that was gently dancing through the leaves of the trees also became silent.

After what seemed like an extremely long time, Terry lifted his head and turned to face the left side of the path. Following his lead, the group also turned to face the left side of the path just as someone stepped out from behind one of the pine trees. Terry once again bowed his head and with a quick nod from Ina, the group also bowed their heads.

Daniel however had taken up a position behind everyone else and remained alert to any danger. All of his sensors were active, but he could not sense any immediate danger from this stranger.

The stranger was tall, muscular, and looked like an older version of Terry. He wore a headdress made of feathers, his clothes were made of tanned leather, and his face was lit up in a huge smile as he approached Terry. Terry looked up, smiled back, and the two men hugged each other.

Daring to breathe again, the group let out a collective sigh of relief. Ina smiled at the newcomer and he smiled back. She was aware that this was Terry's father and he was here to welcome the newcomers. Daniel in the meantime had moved protectively closer to Ina and the girls.

"Everyone, this is my Father and he is also one of the Elders" Terry said with great pride. "His name is Zaloudek." One by one each member of the group stepped forward and told Zaloudek their names. Becky asked Terry if it would be disrespectful if they were to call his father "Lou". Terry laughed, ‘spoke’ to his father, and his father smiled and ‘told’ Terry to tell them that was fine.

It was clear to all that the strange gaps in verbal communication were being filled with mind to mind exchanges of information. Ina, however, was getting it all, and her amazement was exceeded only by the newly discovered pleasure of being able to ‘hear’ the transfer of thoughts with such clarity and ease, while shielding her own.

When Daniel stepped forward and announced his name, “Lou” became quite serious, an air of concentration caused his eyes to narrow slightly. Faintly, oh so faintly, he caught the whispery echoes of information being processed at speeds beyond his comprehension. This was a non-human but exactly what it was he could not decide. There had never been anyone/anything like Daniel in his world before. It looked and behaved like the humans of the lighter-skinned kind with his son, but him/it was no living creature.

Only then did Ina ‘speak’ to Terry. Terry, please explain to your Father that Daniel is a male being from another world, one you have not yet visited. He is our friend and protector, as you have seen for yourself. Violet, who is not with us now, is like Daniel but she is a female being. Terry’s puzzled expression quickly changed to one of understanding. He turned to his Father, and after a brief silence Lou smiled at Daniel and nodded.

Picking up his weapons, Terry signaled the group to follow as he and his Father led them deeper into the woods.

*******
Violet had turned her attention to the happenings in Terry's world, but her sensors didn't pick up any danger to either the humans or to Daniel. Flashing a thought to Violet, Daniel let her know that everything was all right for now. Violet acknowledged this fact and turned her attention back to Robot World.

Cereplex is becoming extremely dangerous, Violet thought to herself. Daniel and I are going to have to really watch out for our humans. She smiled as she realized she thought of them as their humans. She was also very aware that the two of them were in as much, if not more, danger than they ever computed as being possible.

Violet hoped that Martin Merle Morrell would keep the location of the Nexus point out of Robot World into Cabin World a secret. Ha! she thought. That would be like asking a tree to strip it's bark and trade it for fur. Surprised at this last thought that seemingly intruded from someone else, Violet concentrated on trying to pick up anymore information on Tyrell the Virus Hunter.
*******
Martin and Renee got up from under the tree and strolled along a path that would take them closer to Tyrell. The two were deeply engrossed in conversation and barely noticed the person on the bench. As they passed however, Martin did pick up a slight mental twinge. Twinge was the only way Martin could describe the feeling he got as they passed the bench. Thinking that perhaps it was just a small feeling of nervousness on his part because of his feelings for Renee, Martin dismissed the feeling…for the moment.

As soon as the "virus" and the female had moved down the path a bit, Tyrell got up and followed . . .

Mouze1
30th Jul 2003, 18:47
I know, a double post, but I have a good excuse ;) .

Just wanted to congratulate Dell, vakusuma and ChilledUnit on a very fine map of our story world.

You guys did a great job. :D

Chilled Unit
30th Jul 2003, 21:06
Neat part Mouze!

It's me next isn't it?

What to do :) ?

I like the friendliness and pride evident in Terry's tribe.. excellent, they will become powerful allies I am sure :)

vakusuma
30th Jul 2003, 21:41
The rough sketch that I made was very rough indeed... hmm, I better take it down before someone compares my crappy map to the one above :)

Nicely done for 16.1, Mouze :D

Dell
31st Jul 2003, 00:44
Oh how lovely it is! The new map and the new story part in new thread. And such a good chapter, Mouse. Thank you!

Aren't we the lucky ones? Tight group supporting each other to make something really unique in MAS stories...I feel special about this...anyone else feel that way, too?

Yes...chilled unit is up next on the rotation, followed by Nightstalker...he is back now for sure. Didn't he say back by the 19th?
Wake up, Nightstalker, need to hear from you.

Victor, don't be that way about your map...you did the work to sort it out and that is a big thing, and then you posted it and that is another big thing because it all ended up in the map up top here! So you originated the entire idea...

And you are up next after Nightstalker...back in regular rotation again.

Chilled Unit
4th Aug 2003, 13:59
Nexus Chapter 16, Part 2
By Chilled Unit

The conversation he shared with Renee earlier had shaken something in Martin. He was well aware that he had fallen in love with Renee, and he momentarily worried that in his return to the cabin to tell Ina of his distress, he had allowed her to see his true reasons for wanting Cereplex gone. But this latest conversation with Renee, the lady calmly walking by his side through the park, had the effect of simultaneously giving him great joy whilst also causing a desperate anger to well up inside of him.

For all the life she could remember, Renee had been subject to the will of Cereplex. She could not comprehend life beyond the computer’s control. She had been completely institutionalized like all the humans here except him. She had submitted to that process of her own will as a little girl swept in the tide of euphoria that engulfed not only her family, but all the people still left on the earth. The survivors of the catastrophe - and Renee was one of the lucky survivors - had found the way to prevent such a thing ever happening again. The joy they felt at having found the answer lived on in each and every human for the answer was Cereplex. But like an amusing joke that’s been heard too many times, the perpetual joy had lost any meaning without some challenge to contrast it with. Cereplex had removed what it determined to be distasteful emotions from their lives, so much so that the survivors had no recollection of what they had survived or why it had been created in the first place.

On some level Martin knew all of this. He knew it by the way Renee reacted in what she said and how she expressed her opinions. Their conversation was testament enough to the fact and Martin did not like it.

The plan had been forming in his head for a couple of days, but after the conversation it crystallised, and as they slowly walked hand in hand through the trees he knew that he had to get Renee out of this place. If he could only break the spell of that damned computer, she would awake as if from a slumber and see the world as it is. He knew that she would need help if they got out. The shock to her would be immense, but he also knew the right… ‘people’… to help. And he figured they owed him and they owed him big.

----------------

Tyrell could sense that something was not quite right with Martin’s thought processes. He could feel the undercurrents of tension but he dare not risk alerting the virus to his presence here in a populated place. If he wanted to investigate further he would surely have to turn down his psychic shielding and he could not risk it…yet.

He followed the couple away out of the park and observed them entering a personal transport. As soon as it had comfortably left his sight he summoned up a transport of his own and set off toward the direction of the old Oak Grove.

----------------
http://www.chilledunit.com/Nexus/Images/agrione.jpg
Transport leaving Agri One
----------------

“Where are we going, Martin?” Renee smiled as she asked the question. She had only been out of Agri One a couple of times that she could remember when playing in the fields as a child before such activity had been deemed dangerous and thus harmful.

The memory turned her smile slightly sour.

“Is it not dangerous out here? We must go back!” She sounded slightly panicked, but the sight of Martin’s unflinching smile kept the panic in check.

“I can assure you we’ll be quite all right,” Martin said as he tentatively placed his arm round her shoulder. He was pleased to feel her gently lean against him. “We’re going to a place I know near here, It’s like an old version of Agri One but where humans do some of the…” he paused, he had to break it to her gently “…dangerous work now done here by robots.” Renee looked puzzled. “I… uh… I used to run errands there for Cereplex.” Martin did not entirely lie. “I thought it would make a pleasant change from the park.”

----------------

If Violet had been a human, her reaction to the approaching Martin could have been summed up as a disgruntled ‘oh no’. She spotted him in the company of two Agri One type humans approaching the computer world Nexus point and immediately flashed a message to Daniel, who responded with a cautious Do you need us back? Violet responded that she assessed that she could handle the situation as Martin seemed to be taking his time, although the presence of two other humans was puzzling.

----------------

“Why are we up here, Martin?” Renee asked as the pair looked out over the old town of Oak Grove from atop the University buildings.

“I… uh… I wanted you to see the view from up here. I used to work in this building.” He smiled a half smile as he realised something new about himself. I don’t like lying to Renee… he thought.

Violet, who could perceive Martin from just beyond the Nexus point noted the exchange. It was time for her to ask what was going on.

Martin, what are you doing?

Martin stiffened at the question, which caught Renee by surprise, but he quickly regained composure and smiled, pointing out the old town centre. Renee, eased, turned to look as they both took a step closer to the edge.

I want to bring my friend through gently. I want her out of this place.

You haven’t thought rationally about this have you Martin? Violet reasoned. This will not help bring down Cereplex, and it will alert him to the Nexus! Bringing two people through is not going to achieve our goals, only your immediate needs!

Martin paused in shock… Two?… Oh my God!

Renee noticed the colour drain from his face and was about to ask if he was alright, but his transfixed stare stopped her, she turned and looked at the garishly dressed man who had just stepped out onto the roof.

“Who…. ?” Renee’s words trailed off in the wind.

Tyrell had become intrigued that the virus had bought the human all the way up here, and even more intrigued when he could see psychic communication emanating from the virus. He had lowered his shielding and picked up another positronic brain.. close .. V10-L3T. He had caught the important part of the ‘conversation’ and immediately relayed it to his master… bring down Cereplex. But in his haste to act, he had for a split second dropped his shielding a fraction too much. The virus knew he was a robot.

Martin placed his hands tightly on Renee’s shoulders and looked hard into her eyes, tears streaming down his cheeks. Renee looked terrified.

“Renee, trust me.” Martin managed to say in a breaking voice. “And forgive me for this.” With one swift movement he grabbed her wrist with such strength that she thought her bones would break, twisted her arm behind her back and before she knew what was happening, propelled her to the rooftop precipice.

Renee screamed in pain and terror.

“You bastard.” Martin cried through his tears at the abominable parody of a robot facing him down. “Don’t come any closer, or she’ll fall.” He sobbed “And you are programmed not to let that happen, damn you.” The words were spat out. Renee was shrieking between sobs.

“Leave now.” Martin said, the vitriol pouring out. “Damn you Cereplex!”

He’ll leave, but Cereplex knows everything Martin, first thing he’ll do is send hunters through to here. Violet tried to tone down the chiding note to her message.

“I don’t care!” Martin yelled, and judging that the interloper that had followed him and Renee up here was far enough away, he heaved Renee away from the drop and thrust her urgently towards the wall of the small maintenance hut atop the roof.

Renee screamed in alarm and was still screaming, her eyes tightly shut, as she landed in a heap amongst the bellflowers of the cabin.

Violet was off and running in the direction of the Nexus point. Daniel, need you back, NOW!

Chilled Unit
4th Aug 2003, 19:11
Please excuse the double post :)

I've been working with Dell developing the idea of some illustrations for our little story here, and it sorta blossomed into something quite neat!

------------
Cathedral World during renovation

http://www.chilledunit.com/Nexus/Images/cathedral.jpg
------------

I'm trying to decide the best way to show off these creations at our site, but I think sometimes a plain old gallery can feel a bit sterile! Anyone with any neat ideaas on how to incorporate these images into the site be sure to pipe up :)

I'm intending to do a scene from each of the worlds, and of course the Cathedral will have to be shown again after it's wonderful redecoration!

Hope you enjoy them :)

lilmouze
5th Aug 2003, 21:07
Fantastic chapter CU. Full of suspense and very exciting. Great work. :D

The pictures are great. Somewhere I found one that makes me think of Cabin World, if I can find it again, I'll get the address to you.



****In case no one has noticed, I had to change my user name due to getting this new computer. But I are still the same ole hillbilly. :D********

vakusuma
6th Aug 2003, 03:46
Glad to see some action going on at last :) Yup, that's a great chapter, and nice illustration...

A writer and an artist, our CU is :)

(wasn't that a song that someone sang?)

Dell
8th Aug 2003, 14:44
Whoop de doo and Goodness Gracious Gertrude! Are things moving or are they flying! Great Chapter Parts and fantastic illustrations...chilled unit gets all credit for the work!

And Vakusuma! Was I wrong and Nightstalker will not be BACK until the 19th of August?

I think you better get your writing fingers going here...if I am wrong, the Nightstalker can slip in with no proplem.

...and not only that, the opening chilled unit left is YOUR kind of baby...Cereplex, and Virus Hunter, and Daniel, and Violet!

Go for it Vakusuma....Yay! Yes!

* does that first pic need an under-tiitle? Think so, chilled unit.

lilmouze
10th Aug 2003, 18:39
Nightstalker returns the 16th of August according to his post.

Has anyone else checked out the Nexus site? If not, you really should. Pretty neat stuff there. ;)

vakusuma
16th Aug 2003, 19:02
I humbly request an extension until Thursday.

Right now, as well as earlier this week, I've had some real life woes.

- I had to move my stuff.
- I had to clean my old apartment.
- I had to unpack my stuff.
- I had to buy some furniture.
- I had to get my wireless network set up.
- My car broke down. I had to get it towed to the garage.
- I had to sell the car because the transmission fix is not worth it.
- I had to do a thorough search for a new car.
- I had to do some stuff for the prof.
- And finally, I'm leaving in 5 minutes to visit some dealers, hopefully to finalize a new car for me tonight.

Sorry :(

Nightstalker
17th Aug 2003, 11:36
I'm back now...

Yes, I came back the 16th of August.

Nightstalker.

PS. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is quite good.

Dell
18th Aug 2003, 02:25
Welcome back, friend Nightstalker! Hope your vacation was a very nice one!

Vakusuma is writing in your place. This gives you the time (a week from next Thursday when Vakusuma Posts), to look at the new map, go to the Nexus story site , read up to date to get up to speed, and enjoy the fantastic picture gallery going up there!

Lots of good things to welcome you back!

vakusuma
18th Aug 2003, 16:35
Nightstalker,
go ahead and write now. I'll take the turn after you. I don't think I can make it :(

lilmouze
18th Aug 2003, 19:24
Nightstalker if you don't feel like writing so soon, Dell has a stand-by so this chapter will be covered.

Please let her know as soon as possible. Ok?

Nightstalker
19th Aug 2003, 10:55
Well, I'll try to write something (as usual expect it on the weekend).

I'm off the read the lastest chapters now.

And yes, I had a good vacation.

Nightstalker.

Nightstalker
24th Aug 2003, 13:31
I'm sorry but I didn't succeeded in writing a chapter...I had to take care of quite a number of things after my vacation...But Mouze said that a guest writter had already written a chapter, so Dell please post that chapter. I'll jump into the rotation again when my turn arrives again.

Nightstalker.

vakusuma
25th Aug 2003, 22:36
I will have time to write this week.

Sorry about the previous week. Rough one :(

Anyway, I suppose I really should post the reason for my disappearance...

http://vakusuma.homestead.com/files/galant2.jpg

Nightstalker
26th Aug 2003, 08:30
<OFF THE TOPIC>

I wish I had the money to buy that kind of car...

<ON THE TOPIC>

Where is Dell anyway? Dell...Dell...Where are you? I missed the crackling sound of your whip right behind my back.

Nightstalker.

Dell
27th Aug 2003, 00:10
Dell is here, never fear, but the whip is put away forever. I am simply tired of trying to get people to post who do not want to be bothered to take the time to write.

Simple as that.

Nightstalker, you have done this so very many times, it is beyond counting. It depresses and saddens me...but let me tell you this: this story will not be killed because you don't care enough to bother with it.

We will get along just fine...believe it. No more chances. You are out of the story...sorry but it is just too much too many times. Period.

Out of fairness to others who manage to find time to do their thing in spite of the delays and upsets you cause, it is just finished.

Yes, the story will go on if I have to do it alone. I put too much of me into it to let you ruin it before it is finished . . . just because you can.

Been a long time and a lot of words, but this time just go your way with good thoughts from me. I wish no bad on you.

A a big hug from me to you ...

lilmouze
27th Aug 2003, 00:35
(off topic) Hey vak, that is one sharp looking set of wheels. Love it, hug it, and call it George. :)





(on topic, re: Dell's post)

Sorry to say, but I pretty much have to agree. I am not as good a writer as the others on this story, but like Dell part of me is deeply involved. It was my basic first chapter that everyone else has carried forward to where we are now.

I am very proud to see the story go as far as it has and I would really hate to see it scrubbed now like the other MAS stories.

I fully intend to do my best to keep writing and posting as I hope the others will, and Nightstalker, I don't know you as well as the other writers do, but the rest of us have been writing in a fast rotation and keeping an interest here, it is sad that you don't seem to enjoy our enthusiasm.

Dell
27th Aug 2003, 00:43
Vakusuma...don't think I am neglecting your new car! It is gorgeous! A lovely thing indeed...and I hope you have much luck with it...and I think you will.

Love the color for sure, too.

If you want to take this next part quick and handle the Cereplex, virus hunter, Martin, Violet etc chapter feel welcome to do so
and go for it!

Let us know for sure, though, okay?

Again, nice car!



A

Chilled Unit
27th Aug 2003, 15:21
I have a feeling you'll never be writing alone, Dell :)

Sorry to see you go Nightstalker, but I understand the pressures.

vakusuma
27th Aug 2003, 21:03
As I said, I had to go through a lot to get this one for a bargain. Let's hope this will give me 5-6 good years of service.

Anyway... I'll start writing then.

Dell
27th Aug 2003, 22:26
*gives sigh of relief.* Go for it Vakusuma...you always handle Cereplex things better than anyone else!

lilmouze
30th Aug 2003, 22:11
Hello,hello, hellllooo. (the deep dark cavern of MAS3 echos ominously)

Where have all the people gone? Gone to somewhere? Please come back. What's happening? Pleeaassee someone answer me.

Chilled Unit
30th Aug 2003, 22:17
Despite personal circumstances, I'm here :)

vakusuma
31st Aug 2003, 03:25
Still working on it...

vakusuma
31st Aug 2003, 15:08
Nexus
Chapter Sixteen, Part Three

The Nexus Breached

Tyrell froze. It was bad enough that he had let his defenses down – an unthinkable thing to do as a specially-designed virus hunter, indeed! – but even he had not expected the virus’ response to the revelation.

The subject had not behaved like a human. Oh, not at all! Humans were curious by nature, and their natural reaction, assuming they recognized TYR-311 for who he was, would be to ask him about his intent. Instead, without asking any questions, the virus assaulted the human, to whom he had talked genially before, and threatened an unknown stranger – himself - with her demise!

While he had no compunctions about harming viruses, harming a human was still against his most basic operating parameters. The First Law echoed through his mind like a neverending chant, threatening to collide with his prime objective. A robot must not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot…

In his indecision, as his positronic intelligence tried to overcome the sudden dilemma that was presented before him, he didn’t notice the human’s psychic signature disappearing abruptly until it was too late.

------------------------------

Martin watched in satisfaction as the Garish Pseudo-human’s artificial psychic signature was suddenly awash with doubt. Events undoubtedly happened faster than it had expected; the fact that he had threatened Renee’s life probably distracted the bot sufficiently to keep it from realizing what really happened to Renee.

But with Renee out of the way, the mysterious robot’s attention was now focused on him alone. And...

“I’ve observed some irrational human behaviors, but everything pales in comparison with … this,” Violet said with something, to Martin’s surprise, that closely resembled anger. She had run from wherever she had been hiding, and joined him as soon as she transmitted a distress signal to Daniel. “This entity is not to be trusted with the Nexus, for it has been specially programmed by Cereplex… a programming that is somehow connected to you!”

Martin looked away guiltily, but when he spoke, his voice was calm, “Of course I knew that Cereplex would try to double-cross me sooner or later. Although, honestly, I expected later.” He turned his attention to the robot standing before him. It was unarmed, but its earlier manipulation of psychic signature convinced him that it was just as dangerous unarmed anyway. “Alright, you have me cornered. Now who the hell are you?”

It took several of Martin’s heartbeats later for the robot to speak with its rich, but somewhat artificial, baritone. “I am designated TYR-311. I am described as a psionic-capable observer and assassin, Class A. My mission is to hunt viruses that threaten the existence of the Cereplex.” Then, it promptly added, “You are Martin Merle Morell. Unknown species, designated Homo phageus, with psionic capability. You are a pseudo-anthropo being classified as a virus.”

If the situation had not been so dire, Martin would’ve laughed out loud. “A virus? Why do you come to that conclusion?”

“You are not human. Humans are not psionic-capable and abhor violence, and are generally lawful. As I have stated earlier, you are designated a…”

“Virus. Yes, I know,” Martin shook his head as he turned to Violet. “I can’t believe it. I am being accosted by a robot who can’t even tell that I’m human.”

“He has been programmed this way. Do you know the intent of that programming?” Violet asked as she stared at Martin. “The Laws of Robotics were programmed to prevent us from intentionally cause harm to humans. They do not say anything about viruses. So, this robot has no restriction against killing you.” Violet paused as she observed Martin’s eyes growing big with horror. “On the other hand, I do recognize you as human. But we have also been programmed to assign priorities. Right now, your actions have made you… very low on my list, indeed. But unless doing so will compromise the safety of the other humans, including your female, I will protect you to the best of my abilities.”

“It is the presence of V10-L3T that has kept you alive right now, virus,” Tyrell stated as it turned his head in contempt at Violet’s direction. “But that is something that I intend to correct very soon. In the meantime, where is the human female?”

“Ah… ah… her?” Martin stated as he discreetly started to back away from Tyrell. Toward the Nexus point, Violet noted in horror. Suddenly Martin’s calm demeanor dropped completely, and he screamed at the bot, “You bastard! You gave me no choice! She was trapped in your world, damn it, like a prisoner! I am sure death is a welcome choice to her, rather than going back into Agri One! She fell, damn it! She fell!”

Martin’s emotions burst out like light from a beacon, an outpouring of grief, frustration, and anger. And yet, Violet immediately realized that while Martin’s emotions were genuine, the abrupt change in his emotions told her that he was not telling the truth about Renee, even if she had not known what had really happened to that human woman.

Unfortunately, Tyrell reached the same conclusion. “You are not telling the truth. She is now alive and well, although shielded from me. You will tell me where she is!” And he suddenly bellowed with a thunderous voice, “NOW!”

His suddenly amplified voice took Martin by complete surprise. He flailed back, trying to catch his balance… and bumped into a wall.

And disappeared as he did so.

For a moment, Tyrell froze again, and then he stared at Violet, who was also staring back at him.

“You will NOT enter the Nexus!” Violet exclaimed as she stepped up and stretched her hands, blocking the wall from Tyrell’s view. “You shall never follow Martin inside!”

“I had no intention on causing harm to your programming, mentallic, but you gave me little choice, for it is imperative for me to enter this… Nexus,” Tyrell stated.

Their gazes locked for another few microseconds, and simultaneously they launched a psionic blast.

The blast met, and the impact of the backlash drove the bots physically back. Tyrell, however, had been specially programmed to devote more of his capacity into offensive psionic capabilities, so he only took a few steps back while Violet staggered back further.

As Violet fell, her attention was suddenly brought to the bellflowers around her. And Renee.

---------------------------------------------------

Renee stared around as she got up and dusted herself off. Immediately, she knew that she wasn’t near the university building anymore. She was in the middle of a… flower field, with bellflowers tinkling in welcome. And further down, she saw… a strange structure. A hut built entirely from wood, with no signs of metal in the construction. A cabin.

She had no idea how she had arrived in this place. She felt a profound peace in this place… the place that Martin has presumably mentioned earlier.

Martin.

Oh, by the light, what had he done to her? The sudden appearance of the strange robot had awakened the desperate man in him… although she didn’t know what caused that desperation. She was confused by his reaction: on one hand, he had threatened to kill her – she could still feel his vice-like grip on her – but on the other hand, repeatedly assured her that he had done so to escape the robot.

And now he had left her alone in this strange world.

Light, but she did miss him regardless.

She was just considering going into the cabin to investigate when Martin appeared out of the thin air in front of her. Renee wasn’t prepared for that – her body received the brunt of Martin’s fall, and together they crashed onto the bellflowers again. The flowers seemed to tinkle in protest at this second blow, but they seemed to be glad to have helped cushion their fall.

Even though she did land on the bellflowers, Martin’s weight knocked the breath out of her. It was Martin who first recovered. He helped Renee to her feet and shook his head ruefully. “Sorry about that. Are you alright?”

Renee started to open her mouth, but whatever she wanted to say turned into a shriek as something heavy crashed to a patch near her, almost crushing her foot. The bellflowers around her tinkled again in annoyance at this third invasion of their privacy.

“Violet,” Martin breathed. And suddenly he looked extremely scared. “This is not good at all. It’s only a matter of time before that bastard finds us.”

“I calculate the appearance of TYR-311, depending on the degree of his program recovery, to be between 10.2345 and 28.3786 seconds from the end of this statement,” Violet said with annoyed voice as she got up. “We don’t have much time. I have failed to defend the Nexus from him. Now he is coming. And he’s sure to report the anomaly of all three of us disappearing into the Nexus to Cereplex.” She cocked her head at the direction of the cabin. “We are not safe in the open. Let us retreat into the cabin until Daniel comes. That way, Tyrell will not be able to physically threaten you or that woman.”

“Her name is Renee,” Martin started indignantly, but Violet had already taken his hand, and Renee’s, and run toward the cabin, ignoring their yelps of surprise and protests. She ran very fast, and she half-dragged them through the flowers, being careful not to harm them in the process. She knew, however, that greater harm would come to them if they failed to make it to the cabin.

--------------------------------------------------------------

As it turned out, it took 18.9237 seconds for Tyrell to recover, send his report to Cereplex, and then step through the wall. However, it took him another 4.3245 seconds to recover from the unexpected change of scenery that awaited him beyond the wall. There were flowers around him… the building was gone.

That 23.2482 seconds delay was enough for Violet. By the time Tyrell spotted them, they were already almost halfway to the cabin.

Tyrell paused as he considered the appropriate course of action. He was too far away, and there was no way for him to catch up with them even if he immediately ran toward the cabin. A psychic blast was out of the question; not only was it too far for the blast to cause significant damage (intensity varies inversely with the square of the distance), but he would then be putting the human female, who was indeed alive and well, in danger. And he was not prepared to risk her in attempting to eliminate the virus.

On the other hand, he would not be able to do anything by standing there either.

He considered calling for a backup from Cereplex – not only he did not know the strange world that he found himself in, he also did not know whether there were more of the viruses – but to his surprise, his communication module failed to reach Cereplex. There was something different about this place that made the communication impossible. He did not waste any time trying further.

He was a virus hunter, designed to be as independent as possible, and fully equipped to handle any tricks the virus might have in trying to run away from him.

So Tyrell ran toward the cabin which the three entities before him were hoping would be their sanctuary . . .

lilmouze
1st Sep 2003, 00:46
As usual vakusuma you made the wait all worth it. Exciting chapter and excellent work.:)

Dell
1st Sep 2003, 04:52
Excellent chapter, Vakusuma...as usual! and some bad bug is doing nasty things!

Every apostrophe has turned into a question mark! Can you go back in and fix it? I do not know why, but it has happened in another forum too! Bad Bad...

vakusuma
1st Sep 2003, 07:16
Thanks, y'all.

Dell: Change the character coding in your browser from Unicode (UTF-8) to Western (ISO-8859-1). That solved the problem in my Mozilla browser. I don't know how you do it in Internet Explorer though. In Mozilla (and presumably also Netscape 7), it's View --> Character Coding.

Nightstalker
1st Sep 2003, 12:38
I'm sorry to hear that I'm voted out of the story. But I guess I had that coming...

I just came back from vacation, I had to take care of quite a number a things (Mostly for school). I said that I would try to write something as Vakasuma was busy trying to get his new car.
I geuss I should have resigned my position, but I was just trying to write a chapter, but that failled and I (instead of keeping silent) came out into the open and honestly told you that I had failled.

Well, I guess I should stop boring you with my brabbling...

Good bye, MAS 3

Nightstalker.

Dell
5th Sep 2003, 02:30
You can believe it Nightstalker that we are all sad to have you go! We have all traveled a long long road together...indeed, we have.:( :( :( :( :(

Chilled Unit
6th Sep 2003, 21:51
Chapter 16-4
by Chilled Unit

Some interesting things had happened before the alert about the attack had been sounded:

After a short while of trekking further into the forest, the group came to a large tree. Zaloudek and Terianos halted and beckoned the others to gather round. Producing a simple carved wooden horn from the tanned leather pouch he wore about his waist, Zaloudek stood proud and tall.

Holding the horn to his lips he blew three times, the horn issuing a loud, bass reverberation that travelled well through the dense undergrowth of this part of the forest. After waiting for the echoes of the final blast to die away an answering horn could be heard in the distance again sounding three long notes.

Smiling on hearing the signal that all was well, Zaloudek started out towards the village, again beckoning the group to follow. Ina smiled too, having been privy to the thought process of Zaloudek. She was relieved that only was all well with his village, but that the villagers were now expecting them, and they would not be set upon on sight.

The enclosure, when they reached it, consisted of a circular boundary marked by thigh high wooden poles fashioned from the fallen boughs of trees, the ends of which had been evidently shaped into points and driven into the ground. Around the inside perimeter stood wooden huts roofed with moss and at the very back, furthest away from the entrance a crude pen was laid out with several plump looking chickens pecking and scratching in the dirt.

In the center of the enclosure lay the fire pit tended by a group of people who, judging from their stature, were not yet deemed adults; they appeared to be younger than Terry. Occasionally one or two would turn to stare at the newcomers wide eyed in awe before whispering something to a friend while trying to avoid the disapproving glance of one of the two village women overseeing the operation.

After a short discussion with one of the women, Zaloudek turned and smiled at the group and urged them to follow him into his hut, where Terry spoke.

“You are to be honored as guests and introduced to the tribe this night.” He said this in a calm, somehow more confident tone, which Ina suspected came from not only his unconscious ease at being literally on his own territory, but also from the pride he felt at his friends being inducted into the tribe. “My father wishes for you to make yourselves comfortable here while the preparations are made. He will come for us when the ceremony is to begin.”

----------

The drums began shortly after nightfall, the rhythms starting simply. Insistant. Urging. Metered.

Zaloudek entered the hut holding a torch and nodded to Terry.

“It is time.” Terry spoke seriously. “Stand tall and upright, when you are called forward, stand tall and say your name proudly.” He nodded back to his father who led the group in single file out of the hut.

Outside they could see that the whole village had gathered in a circle surrounding the now blazing fire in the fire pit. They were led in one complete circle around the fire, enthralled as the dancing flames and the way glittering sparks flew upward, seemingly in time with the drumming.

Just as they thought the rhythms were reaching a crescendo they subsided and Zaloudek motioned for everyone to sit. Speaking firmly, he recited the ritual prayer and then made his way to stand behind Dave, who had taken position as the first of the group in line. Placing his hands firmly on Dave's shoulders, he intoned more words of the ancient language. When Zaloudek paused, Dave looked around nervously unsure of what to do next but Ina, who had been mentally following the proceedings, caught his eye across the flames and mouthed slowly ‘stand up, your name’. Understanding Dave did as bidd, and remembering the advice of Terry, stood proud and tall and confidently spoke his full name. Zaloudek gently turned him by the shoulders, smiled broadly and softly urged him into a seated position once more as the drumming resumed.

Four more times this happened, as Zaloudek passed down the group initiating Pete, Lila, Becky and Ina in turn, and when all was done they sat in silence as a cup was passed one by one around to them first, then all of the villagers, each taking a draught.

Finally they were led back into the hut where small fire had been lit, and to the sounds of chanting singing and drumming outside, the sweet elixir went to work on the new members of the tribe as they fell calmly into a peaceful sleep.

----------

The next morning they awoke refreshed and all agreed that they felt better than they had for days. Ina was just about to ask Terry about the induction ceremony and the strange brew they had to drink when her face turned ashen and filled with dismay.

“What is it mom?!” Lila, noticing the change in her mom’s expression reacted first.

“Trouble!” Lila turned, as Daniel answered her question. “Violet needs us back, right now!”

“Yes.” Ina agreed hastily. “I sense something very bad afoot. Martin is near, agitated, upset. We must get back right away.”

----------

As soon as she stepped back through the Nexus Point into the cabin area Ina screwed her eyes tight shut and fell to her knees and covered her head with her hands. The battlefield that greeted the group as they returned was only fully obvious to her, the pyrotechnics and explosions usually visible as the violent by-product of weapons were replaced by, for her, equally vivid and violent mental pyrotechnics as TYR 311 bombarded the three beings holed up in the cabin with ferocious mental attacks.

Daniel had been warned of this moments before he stepped through when Violet transmitted the results of her frantic situation analysis, and knowing the anguish it would cause Ina, immediately went to her side and threw a hasty psychic shield round the group. It was a crude measure, but one that would dull the effects of the battle and hopefully allow them to get close to the cabin before the new intruder became fully aware of their presence.

Tyrell however was not having things all his own way. He had reached a comfortable distance from the cabin to make precision psychic attacks without fear of collateral damage to the human hostage but to his consternation, his prey had grouped together. Physical assault on the cabin would prove too hazardous at the moment as there was a chance that the human abducted by the virus would come to harm. The virus and the missing mentallic, V10 L3T, were also working as a team. Any weakness found in the virus’ mental defenses was patched and defended against by V10 L3T as soon as it was exposed, and likewise the virus was flat out parrying the mental probes against the mentallic, but the virus was tiring.

Tyrell also, due to the failure of his communication module, realized that his backup of hunter/killer bots were not coming, but like the malfuncion in communications, this was not a problem he could afford to dwell on.

Amid all of the chaos raging in her head, dulled slightly thanks to Daniel’s shield, Ina felt a small tinkling reaching out to her as the group, huddled together, carefully shuffled along the path.

“What is the problem?” Dave asked in a hushed whisper, his voice full of concern.

“Martin came back. He bought a tamed human. He was followed by a mentallic like us… no…” Daniel paused, updating his assessment of the situation as new data from Violet came in. “..he’s attacking Martin. He’s fighting Martin as if he were not a human. We must be cautious here, if he sees the same difference in any of us...” Daniel glanced at Ina. “…he will attack us too.”

The group paused in silence as they took in the rapidly imparted information. Ina taking the opportunity to rest, tuned in to the tinkling now ringing louder in her ears. Amidst the confusion and concern, the thought got through.

We will help you!

“So… what do we do?” Pete gave Daniel a grave look.

“We use the flowers.” Ina smiled as she spoke, her words causing the group to focus on her. “Oh, I’m feeling okay within myself, I know you are all concerned. I just feel as if I’m sitting next to a speaker at a rock concert.” She winced as she spoke, but the smile quickly returned. “The flowers will help us. They’ve given me an idea. When I give the signal everbody split up and run for the cabin.” Except you Terry. She added in thought.

As your father told us, you are a skilled warrior young Terry. And we’ll need your help to kill our enemy here, as you are the only one armed. When we run, go deep into the forest, we will distract the intruder and let you get an attack in.

Terry nodded solemnly, understanding that he was as much a part of this group now as they were now a part of the tribe. The chief had said so, and they would all work together now. He looked intently at Becky, not quite understanding the urge he felt to protect and help her in particular, and seeing her give a concerned look back, he smiled softly and placed his hand on her shoulder.

“Okay everybody.” Ina spoke calmly. “On the count of three. One… Two… Three…”

Tyrell’s world exploded in a flash of overbearing noise. His mental attacks on Martin and Violet were drowned out by the sound of a thousand twinkling psychic voices shouting in unison. He stumbled backwards unable to get a fix on anyone or anything, the noise surrounding and overwhelming him.

Terry, running over the rough undergrowth of the forest, smiled to himself. He knew this song, this song of the flowers led him home when he hunted. He had never heard the song so loud. It was as if every flower in the forest was singing at the top of it’s voice.

With the natural ability of one who has hunted from the time he could walk, Terry quickly followed the invisible path of sound laid out by the flowers, chasing the rising intensity that would lead him to the intruder. For him the song was anything but disorientating; it brought clarity to his thoughts and actions. He worked in harmony with the forest, scaling a tree now and taking to the treetops he concealed himself and caught a glimpse of Tyrell in the glade below.

Unable to continue their arias, one by one the flowers fell quiet needing to recover their energy. Tyrell’s world dimmed from brilliant white to discernable beings and entities once more. The virus has bought in reinforcements! He quickly assessed the situation and sensed the presence of a hunter behind him, feeling the taut animal like instincts of Terry’s mind. He quickly sent a transmission to Cereplex asking for confirmation of this entities nature, but again received no response so Tyrell decided for himself. Not Human, an ally of the Virus and therefore a Virus itself.

Tyrell spun quickly expecting to see his hunter in front of him, but instead saw nothing but the empty forest. Fractions of a second too late, he felt the mental release of Terry’s pounce and before he could react the hunter was on him, dropping silently out of the tree above.

Terry landed with his knees hard on Tyrell’s shoulders and with one swift movement bought the spear down and drove the flint tip into the small of Tyrell’s back with such force that the flint shattered, splintering the shaft of the spear. Falling to the ground and surprised at the hardness of this intruder’s body, Terry turned to leap out of the way but was caught by the ankle as he did so.

Tyrell grabbed out and held Terry fast, but it was already too late. The blow had punctured his fuel cell casing and the hydrogen fuel that powered him, once the pressure of the container had been breached, was boiling away to useless hydrogen gas venting into the air. Unable to vanquish his foe Tyrell lay motionless clutching Terry’s ankle in his grasp, equally as unable to let go as the light behind his eyes faded.

Daniel, Dave and Pete reacted even before Terry’s bellow was heard, setting off at a sprint for the fallen intruder and their trapped friend. Becky quickly turned to go too, but Violet reassured her.

“It’s all right, Becky, Terry is not in any bad danger. He is trapped by Tyrell for the moment, but has beaten him. The men will help him get free.” Violet spoke in a calm tone, then turned to Ina.

“And we have a valuable asset now too. Daniel and I can study this TYR 311’s programming. It could prove invaluable against Cereplex.” . . .


---------

Nice work there above Vak :)

Sorry I haven;t been about much - I've been moving and trying to get hooked back up, which I am now :)

vakusuma
6th Sep 2003, 23:57
And likewise :)

I dunno, I kinda expected Daniel to say "he'll be back" or something :)

<--- too much Terminator movies :D

Dell
12th Sep 2003, 13:54
Vakusuma, I will say it: "He'll be baack!"


You see, I will be posting tomorrow sometime and.....just think what a marvelous secret weapon it would be if Tyrell were re-wired and re-programmed by Daniel and Violet, using some tools from the University in Pete and Dave's world?

Give you ideas? Tyrell the virus hunter is just too good a character to dispose of that way. That shirt he's wearing, for one thing, has endeared him and enshrined him forever in my quirky literary heart!

But, then there's something about the idea that robots and androids and ai's are so literal minded . . .

Chilled Unit
16th Sep 2003, 14:05
Site = updated :)

lilmouze
16th Sep 2003, 18:21
Hello everyone.

Really great chapter there CU. This is getting more exciting each writing.

Just checking to make sure, it is my turn to write, am I correct?

I lost track of the rotation as usual. Sorry.

vakusuma
17th Sep 2003, 05:55
Dell's, actually. Due to some unforseen circumstances, however, I'd try to write something instead as a filler. I wanted to get it done last Sunday but I suddenly contracted a bad case of busy...

I'll try to get it done ASAP.

lilmouze
17th Sep 2003, 21:51
Hello vak.

If you are having time problems, I could write something if that would help.

Just let me know.

vakusuma
18th Sep 2003, 06:12
Go for it...

Thanks, and sorry about this :(

Nightstalker
18th Sep 2003, 06:49
ZZZ...

A little warning to vakasuma: This is the way that I got kicked out of the MAS3, and I would hate it if you got kick out.

Nightstalker.

Dell
23rd Sep 2003, 22:09
Hello Nightstalker...basically, this is all my fault. I missed my turn....for rhe very first time in the history of the Eidos FFVII forum MAS stories.

Now if you want to jump in here and do a chapter to cover across...do it!

But don't say you will then not do it...

if you want to help out here, you have two days from right now to get me a chapter to look at...

What we need is to take care of Renee and get the world somehow explained to her. She just sees wild humans all around her...and she is scared out of her mind.

The Bell Flowers can help and so can Ina...and Violet, who is getting more and more human in her responses and reactions.

Remember, two days from right now...

my email is still windsongblue02@aol.com...so go for it!

Don't ever say you weren't given a chance to reinstate yourself!

lilmouze
24th Sep 2003, 23:42
Nexus Chapter 17, Part 1
By Mouze

As soon as Violet and Ina had assured the men that they would be just fine, the four men hurried to get to Terry and help him. Pete had no idea what they would find, but Daniel, Martin and Dave were sure the hunter had been stopped, however it had been done.

After the men were out of sight, Violet was the first to speak, "Has anyone seen the human woman Martin brought here with him?"

"Woman? Martin Merle Morell? A woman? I don't believe it," Becky said. She and Lila looked at each other in amazement at the thought of Martin with a woman.

"Yes," Ina said, "Seems he brought her with him from Robot World. His arrival was precipitous, and it seems the Humanoid Virus Hunter called Tyrell was just behind them after them both. I have little more information, but the flowers believe she is no threat and is a harmless human female." She paused, then finished, "And she would have to be a 'tame human', too."

Violet moved toward the cabin where she had last seen Renee. Scanning the area to make sure no other surprises were in store for them, she motioned for the three to follow her. Violet sent a thought to Ina that it would be a good idea for her to lie down and rest until the girls could fix everyone something to eat. Ina agreed and as they entered the cabin, she gave Lila and Becky each a kiss on the forehead and told them she was going to go rest for a little while.

********

During the attack, Renee became so scared, that in a moment of panic, she managed to somehow wiggle into the very small cubby-hole near the fireplace. It was used for storing dry wood during the winter and wasn't much larger than a footlocker. But she felt a little safer there, and the smell of the dry wood chips made her feel warm. She had been shaking in terror so hard, she felt as if all the warmth had been shaken out of her body. The tremors were still wracking her body from time to time, but their fierceness was slowly abating as she listened.

Renee could hear the muffled sounds of women talking. dishes clinking together and pans being readied for cooking. But the one thing that really stirred her terrified soul, was the smell of fresh brewed coffee. Still afraid, she slowly turned the small latch on the wood box door and opened it a little so she could see into the large room that apparently served as a kitchen, dining and living room. Renee couldn't understand the feeling of safety and comfort she began to feel in this strange dwelling, but it was there,,, so different from anything she knew, but somehow so familiar.

*********

Violet had been aware of Renee's location from the time she entered the cabin, and by pointing to the wood box door had informed the others of her hiding place. By common consent, facial expressions and nods expressing their agreement, they all felt it best to let the woman come to them in her own time. To rush at her might just cause her to have a heart attack. Violet knew that Ina, Becky, and Lila would be of great help to Renee, but Renee had a lot to assimilate right now.

Lila heard the wood box door squeak and turned to see what was going on, but Violet looked at her, shook her head, and put her finger to her lips in a quiet signal. Lila nodded and whispered something in Becky's ear, then they both went on with preparing the evening meal.

**********

After several minutes of observation, Renee could no longer ignore the fact she was very hungry and needed to use the facilities. Easing out of her hiding place, she stood up and looked around. Still trembling, she found her voice and managed a shaky, "Hello."

Lila and Becky both turned, smiled at the newcomer and at the same time said, "Hello." Lila poured a cup of the fresh brewed coffee, sat it on the table with the cream and sugar, then motioned for Renee to come sit down with them.

Renee, needing reassurance that she was indeed still alive, slowly took Lila up on her offer. Not knowing exactly what to say, Renee smiled, which was one of the many things that Martin truly loved about her, and said, "My name is Renee, and you have a lovely home."

That seemed to be the icebreaker, and soon Lila, Becky and Renee were chatting and laughing. Violet sat quietly scanning Renee and storing the data for further analysis later.

Ina awoke from her nap and joined the girls at the table. She and Violet had a brief telepathic conversation and decided that letting Renee tell them about herself would be better than trying to question her at this point.

Violet broke the silence that ensued. "The men are returning to the cabin now. Everything is fine." She turned to Renee, "And your friend, Martin Merle Morell is very well, and uninjured." She looked to the girls. "It might be well to put on a big pot of coffee and start dinner now. Martin has lots of explaining to do." She smiled . . .

Chilled Unit
25th Sep 2003, 18:14
Absolutely great work, Mouze :)

Good show there!

Me up next?

Dell
25th Sep 2003, 19:31
Very neatly done, Mouse...got Renee settled nicely there.

Sits wondering where exactly Martin and Renee will find a place...Cathedral World is almost totally habitable now. The new world of Terry is open, new, and huge.

Robot World does not quite seem right...but then what of the 'tame humans' there? Should they be left under the total domination of the Cereplex?

How about Martin's own world, the one he and Becky share? Possible...yes possible...but Martin is special, he has talents.

And, my writing friends, remember that as yet undiscovered Nexus Point still existing here in Cabin World? Where is that going to lead the group?

No, first Robot World must be taken care of...and just a bit of exploring in Terry's New World.

Keep thinking...

Chilled Unit if you want the next turn, take it.

But Victor, have you resolved your time problems yet? We must meet and discuss where we go from here...

And what of Dell? She thinks she will be able to write.

Chilled Unit
25th Sep 2003, 19:47
I'll surely take the next spot :)

I'd like to be in on the "where we go from here" discussion too, theres a whole new world to be discovered out there :)

vakusuma
26th Sep 2003, 20:22
I'll do it.

Hope it will ease the guilt.

Mouze: good show. Thanks for covering my sorry hide...

lilmouze
27th Sep 2003, 01:22
You are most welcome vak. You might have to cover for me one of these days. That's what team work is all about. Hooray for us.:cool:

vakusuma
1st Oct 2003, 02:50
Dum de dum....


Nexus
Chapter 17, Part 2

This Emotion Called Love


Disappeared. At one instant, there was the sense of TYR-311, updating the Cereplex on what it presumed to be an anomaly in the four-dimensional fabric of space-time. And the next instant… nothing.

Without fanfare, without pomp, TYR-311 had simply vanished.

Cereplex’s logical mind has analyzed TYR-311’s last transmission several times during the last few processing cycles, and concluded that the space-time anomaly did indeed hamper further communications with TYR-311. Furthermore, given the bot’s capabilities and instructions, the loss of him could only mean one thing: deactivation.

Subversion was unthinkable. Unlike D4N-31 or V10-L3T, in which cases the subversion occurred before the abrupt signal loss from them (a case that Cereplex has calculated to be 87.3413% similar to TYR-311’s case), TYR-311 was functioning perfectly within its limits of programming up to the last transmission. Cereplex calculated that there was a 64.5345% chance that TYR-311’s programming was solid enough such that it was not subverted by the viruses.

Viruses… the very thought of these pseudo-humans gave Cereplex a (figuratively speaking) shudder. It was almost beyond computation that organic beings could disrupt the efficient, solid programming of a positronic entity. It was providence (if such things can be believed) that the infection in this world has been contained. But for how long?

Cereplex has considered its next move carefully. The space-time anomaly wasn’t dangerous for organic beings… nor positronic beings, as the two rogue mentalics have shown. But Cereplex computed a distressingly significant chance of 29.2312% that the space-time anomaly has something to do with the origin of the virus that has been threatening the world. It was entirely possible that exposure to the anomaly might have affected some innocent organics… which, in turn, spread the disease around. If Cereplex was to pour positronics with TYR-311’s programming and capabilities into the anomaly, it might either result in a decisive victory - assuming that the viruses have not access to some hidden technology - or it might result in quickening the spread of the disease… if TYR-311’s programming indeed failed upon entering the anomaly. On the other hand, Cereplex also saw no wisdom in sending one more being with TYR-311’s capability, since the original didn’t seem to be successful in doing its mission alone.

The calculation on the probability of the mission’s success took some time even for the awesome computing power of Cereplex’s caliber to analyze, taking into account various factors as well as making several doubtfully accurate assumptions, but at the end of the calculation, the Cereplex has calculated a 67.2455% chance of success if four more bots of TYR-311’s caliber were to be sent into the anomaly – no more, no less. While Cereplex would’ve preferred to work with better odds, it would be better than not sending another mission into the space-time anomaly, an event that would lead to a yet uncomputed but highly likely chance of uncontrolled spreading of virus throughout the network… which would spell death for the world.

It wasn’t until TYR-312, TYR-313, TYR-314 and TYR-315 were completed several processing cycles later, however, that it occurred to Cereplex that all its calculations may have underestimated the effects of the highly nonlinear and chaotic actions of one vengeful and highly dangerous virus: Martin Merle Morell.

---------------------------------------------

The first thought that came to Martin’s mind was of Renee, even as his awareness returned. He had rarely felt such concern since his late wife left him, he discovered in surprise, and he felt a little touch of guilt at the thought of her. The next thing he felt, however, was such headache that it left him momentarily blinded. He gasped aloud and sank back to bed as he weathered the pain.

Everything came back as he laid gasping on the soft bed of the cabin… yes, the cabin, the place where they went for sanctuary from the attacks of the nightmarish pseudo-human with garish clothing… and how they fought against the maelstrom that threatened to engulf them (with some help, as it turned out)… and how they prevailed, although the victory has left him incredibly weak… and still, in the forefront of his mind, was Renee… "You’re awake,” came a voice.

He glanced aside, and closed his eyes, putting his hands on his head. “It’s you.”

It took several seconds for the voice to answer. “If you’re referring to my identity, then indeed, I am Daniel.” The robot was sitting on a chair opposite the bed, watching him with an unreadable emotion.

Martin sighed. “What do you want now?”

Later, Martin would muse how much easier it was sometimes to talk to a robot as opposed to human beings – they’re often much more direct. “Explanation. About how you chose to expose the Nexus to Cereplex to bring one human into this world.”

“That human that you were talking about,” Martin said angrily, “has been brainwashed by those sodding machines so thoroughly that she forgot what it means to be human. I’d figure some company for her would give the humanity back to her.” He hesitated. “Besides, Ina has agreed to help me destroy Cereplex. You need my help as much as I need yours. Now that I’m a wanted man over there, I can never return alone. I’d be dead in less time than you can say ‘Cereplex’ for sure. You’ve seen how single minded that monster… Tyrell… was in attempting to destroy me.”

Daniel nodded. “I’ve seen.”

“Where’s Renee?” Martin demanded.

“Renee?” Daniel cocked his head in a very human-like manner. “Ah, you must be referring to SFF6453.”

“Her name is Renee!” Martin exploded. “Renee, you ignorant machine! Think of it! Do you think that SFF whatever is a good name for a human?”

Daniel shrugged. “I suppose not.”

“If you call her SFF whatever again, I swear I’ll… I’ll…” Martin took a deep breath, and when he spoke again, his voice was much calmer. “Now, where is she?”

“She’s currently in the living room, chatting with the others. However, I expected you to know that already by observing her mental patterns.”

Martin shook his head. “I’m tired. That assault by that… monster… took more out of me than I have expected.” Aware that he was exposing his weakness in front of a potential enemy, he shook his head defiantly. “I’m sure I’ll be better soon. How is she doing?”

Daniel didn’t answer for a long time. “You seemed extremely concerned about Renee. I’ve seen similar concerns expressed between the young people, and I had no idea how humans could care so deeply for another human, especially another human of opposite gender.”

For a moment, Martin only stared at that humanoid face. Then he lowered his eyes. “Fine, I suppose I should tell you that I… love her.”

Daniel seemed startled. “I have heard of that, but the definition of that word given in my library has never satisfied me. What exactly is this emotion you call love?” he inquired.

Love. Trust a robot to come up with the most difficult question to answer. “Love,” Martin hesitated, “I suppose it’s the emotion that you feel when you care so deeply for another, someone that you can emphatize with, that you’re willing to do anything for the other person. You also feel good when you’re close to each other, knowing that the other person would be safe from harm, and… and… and you feel like you belong to each other.” Martin scratched his head. “It’s an amazingly complex emotion. Many songs and poems and literary works have been dedicated to love... and yet, none of them have ever came close to encompassing everything about it. It has been one of the fundamental basis of human culture... such is its importance.”

The room was quiet as Daniel analyzed this information. “Very interesting,” he finally said. “In fact, this may just be the key for me to understand some of the human behaviors that I have considered irrational before.” He looked up in surprise at Martin. “My review also led me to realize that this emotion has been one of the few unknown human emotions that Cereplex has instructed us to suppress before. Some previous studies had proven that under this emotion, humans generally become… more dangerous and unstable than before, so said one of the data given to me by Cereplex.”

“The capacity to love and to be loved is one of the most human things I can think of,” Martin said bluntly as he got up from the bed. “Much as I’m supposed to hate Cereplex for suppressing one of the things that makes humans truly humans, I guess now I should pity it instead.”

“Pardon me?” Daniel started.

“Yes, I pity it. And I pity you.” A small, almost malicious smile appeared in the corner of Martin’s lips. “For you shall never experience what makes us humans. For you shall never experience… love. And you shall never even come close to understanding it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check on my love. Renee.”

And with that, he walked out of the room, trying hard to ignore Daniel staring at his departing back.

“Never understand… love?” Daniel murmured.

Dell
1st Oct 2003, 15:58
Oh yes, indeed! Beautifully handled and explained! Daniel...daily becoming more human, yet and yet?

Bravo, Vakusuma! Well worth the wait.

Oh, Martin Merle Morell is hooked, and already chips and cracks in his shallow charlatan's facade are showing. I wonder what lies beneath the surface of this powerful psi mind?

Mouse, if you want to pick it up here with your ideas, go for it! I think I am back in the swing now, and will try to follow you quickly to get the story moving again...

And speaking of moving, the family is going to move this month, and I will be offline during the change. Don't know how long, but hopefully just a short hiatus. Otherwise, internet withdrawal symptoms will carry me away into the never never lands.....

Chilled Unit...do your update thing, please!

Chilled Unit
2nd Oct 2003, 09:40
That was a brilliant chapter Vak, really excellent stuff :)

Update will be done when I get home :)

Oh, and Dell, if you find yourself offline for too long play FFX :D

lilmouze
6th Oct 2003, 23:41
Nexus
17 Part 3
by Mouze

Making sure all the humans were safe for the time being, Daniel and Violet left for Oak Grove with Tyrell.

Both mentallics were in great need of recharging, and Martin's house was decided to be the safest place for them to recharge and to delve into the workings of Tyrell. Violet assured Ina that they would be gone no longer than necessary. With a quick scan of the woods surrounding the cabin to make sure there were no more unwelcome surprises, Daniel and Violet, with Tyrell in tow, left to take care of their needs.

Renee was totally in awe of the people she was talking with. She had never in her entire life heard what they called laughter, and besides the unfamiliar sound, the most amazing part of it was that it seemed to be so easy to do. Laughing. My she thought to herself, this is most exciting… and it feels good too. The relaxed and easy way the young people were talking made Renee realize - for she was not a stupid person - that there were a lot of things she had missed in her world.

As Renee became more relaxed with the group, she began telling them about life in Robot World. She explained about the different designations for groups of people. There were mostly farming groups, each group was in charge of providing the food for all. Cereplex had robots that monitored them and some robots that maintained dwellings for them. The robots did most of the trivial work, and the humans just did what they were told, day in and day out.

Everyone listened closely as she told about being what was called an SFF, of how the humans were just a number, and how lovely it had been when Martin had spoken with her and had given her a real name. As she spoke of Martin, her eyes took on a somewhat dreamy quality, which caused Lila and Becky to giggle. Pretty soon everyone in the room was giggling for no apparent reason.

Martin Merle Morrell stood quietly in the doorway listening. He had not felt the emotion of love so strong in such a long time. Tears formed in the corner of his eyes; he really did love this woman, oh yes truly he did. It tore at his heart to hear her speaking of life with Cereplex. The more Renee talked, the more solid became Martin's resolve to destroy the Cereplex and free the people of Robot World.

"Careful Martin," Ina said. "Going off half-cocked after the Cereplex could put us all in horrible danger. Stop and think first, and then let us all work together."

"You're right Ina, it just hurts to see Renee so lost. She is a beauty isn't she," Martin said with great pride.

"Yes," Ina said, "she certainly is."

******************************************

Outside, in the darkness that enveloped the cabin, the bell flowers became very quiet. Something was out there in the woods. The flowers could not get a fix on exactly what it was, but they knew it was evil and cunning. Afraid to alert whatever it was, the flowers nearest the cabin became quiet, while the flowers closest to the Oak Grove Nexus started sending a warning to Daniel and Violet.

Ina thought she heard a low gutteral sound and told the kids to be quiet a minute, listening for sounds from the flowers or the sound to come again. When it didn't, she figured she had just imagined it all, and waving at the kids to go on with what they were doing. She wrote it off to the stress of the day, excused herself and went to lie down for awhile.

********************************************

Shuffling through the woods, It heard sounds coming from a strange looking dwelling. The smell of food had brought It out of hiding, and hunger was uppermost on its mind. Staying hidden in the darkest shadows, It stood watching and waiting, strings of gelatin like saliva hanging in long slimy strings from its mouth . . .

Dell
6th Oct 2003, 23:46
Nice going Mouse! Now I have to follow that? What is IT? Oh my...IT???

vakusuma
7th Oct 2003, 16:36
:D

Good show :)

It's.... mys-teeeeeee-rious! *wriggles fingers*

(sorry. Sluggy reference.)

Chilled Unit
8th Oct 2003, 17:27
Top work Mouze :)

What will 'it' be :eek:

Dell
10th Oct 2003, 17:15
Nexus Chapter 17, Part 4
By Dell

In Martin Merle Morell's kitchen, Daniel and Violet both stiffened and straightened up from their close inspection of the interior of the Virus Hunter Tyrell as it lay on the kitchen table. It's midsection panel had been opened, exposing its interior for their close examination; there was a barely audible whir as microscopic vision reverted to 'normal' parameters as they turned to look at each other.

The message was faint and somewhat subdued as though the Bell flowers were trying to whisper. It wasn’t so much that they had suddenly revealed their ability to reach through the Nexus Points, it was their message that surprised the mentallics.

It? The messages flashed between Daniel and Violet instantaneously. A being of some kind? A dangerous beast not recognized by the Bell flowers? It glowed? Radioactive? They must hurry. The humans were in danger. What to do with the Virus Hunter Tyrell? Leave it here for the time being. It is safely deactivated running on survival minimums.

They were moving quickly before this transmission was even finished and they sent a simultaneous message to the Bell Flowers. We are coming. Where is the beast? How close to the cabin and the humans? Do the humans know about it? Exact location. Size. Shape. Biped? Quadruped?

Still faintly as though whispering, the Bell Flowers replied: It came from the Radioactive Nexus Point. It is glowing with a bluish-purple nimbus all around it. It is a quadruped with a small mind. It is some distance from the cabin. It seems to know the humans are there. It is stalking the cabin like a beast of prey. It is big. We have never seen anything like it before. It is hungry. It intends to eat the humans. This is not right and should not happen. Hurry!

*********

In the cabin, Ina woke with a start and sat bold upright in her bed. Oh my God! she thought, what a nightmare! She shuddered, as though her body was trying to shake off the horror of her experience. How could anything have those thoughts and be so -she fumbled for the right descriptive word - bestial? So full of lust for human flesh? So … she shuddered again, and started to rise.

The force of the incoming mental assault drove her back to a sitting position on the edge of her bed, and she moaned aloud.

In his bed, Terry jerked out of a sound sleep feeling for his weapon. It was coming! Danger! That was his thought as he reached out mentally for Ina. Her thoughts hit him like an icy shower, and he moved quickly to her side, finding his way easily in the dim shadows cast by the still glowing embers in the stove. "Ina, I am here," he whispered, touching her reassuringly on the shoulder.

Both of them jumped as Martin emerged from the shadows. He was whispering, but his voice was tense. "Something bad is out there hunting us. Let's go into the front room and see what we can find out before we alert the others."

"I called Daniel and Violet, but I don't know if the message got through the Nexus Point. We need them." Ina was gaining some control now, mentally supported by Terry and Martin as they consciously helped bolster her defenses against the assault of pure lusting hunger coming from whatever it was.

"I did too, and just got an answer. They're back in Cabin World now. The Bell Flowers reached them through the Nexus Point!" The amazement was clear in Martin's voice.

"I heard that, too. They said to stay inside and keep everyone quiet. Apparently, it is something that came in from the Radioactive World, some kind of radioactive mutant beast." Ina's voice was shaky and full of tension. The mental assaults of the beast were not intentional or aimed at anyone in particular, they were simply reverberations of its normal mental broadcasts of raging hunger and lust for food.

"We will keep us safe. I will keep all of us safe, Ina. I will protect my tribe." The simple sincerity of this speech was touching in the extreme. This young hunter meant every word of it, and he emphasized his words by getting his hunting bow and quiver of arrows from where they lay in a corner of the kitchen. He tightened and tested the string, and checked the sharpness of his arrows on his thumb, then slung the quiver and bow over his shoulder.

"You fight large beasts from a distance with arrows. You do not ever come within its reach. That is how I will fight this beast that glows in the dark. I can see it, but perhaps it cannot see me. I will kill it."

Martin reached out and laid a restraining hand on his shoulder. "No, not yet, Terry. Wait until Daniel and Violet get here. They are very strong."

At the same time, Ina was trying mentally to explain to Terry how the glowing of the creature was an extreme danger to the humans. Humans must never go near a glowing thing. It would mean their death. But Daniel and Violet could. Privately Ina prayed that was the truth of the matter.

Terry looked at them, and settled back. These two members of his tribe were the eldest and wisest, and they, too, spoke without words in the way of the people. He would heed their council.

They heard it then…audibly. A kind of wet gurgling, slobbering grunt was followed by the unmistakable smacking of lips; this was repeated as the beast made a circuit around the outside of the cabin. Then the floor of the porch creaked under a heavy weight, and a snuffling sound at the bottom of the door caused the three to draw closer together, instinctively shrinking into the smallest possible target.

************

In the silence of Martin Merle Morell's kitchen, the small click inside of Virus Hunter Tyrell's open access door was clear. A hand twitched, paused, then rose to close the panel. After a moment, Tyrell sat up and looked around the kitchen . . .

Chilled Unit
10th Oct 2003, 17:24
Awesome stuff Dell, we're up and flying now - and how!

Lovely twist to finish - what are the machinations and intentions behind Tyrell's re-awakening? ... and the beast! Oh boy!

My go next then, and I couldn't have been handed the baton better. Great stuff :)

lilmouze
10th Oct 2003, 20:44
Fantastic chapter Dell. Lots of directions to go now.

Go for it CU, the torch is passed to you.:)

Chilled Unit
18th Oct 2003, 18:21
Nexus
Chapter 18 Part 1
by Chilled Unit


Daniel and Violet covered the terrain quickly. Aware, from the strong psychic patterns emanating from the beast, that it was clearly driven towards the humans by an overwhelming desire and hunger for human flesh, the mentallics agreed that they could approach the beast in relative safety to themselves.

The… thing… was slowly circling the cabin, pausing at every window to sniff the air and growl menacingly. It was, Violet assessed, vaguely humanoid in appearance although the creature walked on all fours and had grotesquely misshapen forearms and hindquarters. Daniel reached his assessment just as Violet arrived at her own conclusions: the creature was some sort of human mutant, and their built-in Geiger counter readings only confirmed what was obvious from plain sight: the creature was very highly radioactive.

It is human, Violet. We cannot attack it mentally or physically. We may not harm it in any way. Its human origin is inescapable. His tone was firm and final. It must not come into any closer contact with the humans than it already has! Daniel was imperative in his message to Violet.

Agreed. We need to lure it away, but how? Violet’s response caused a moment's intense processing by Daniel before he could answer.

Blood lust, Violet. We need to entice it away with what it wants, or more correctly, a suitable facsimile of what it wants.

After her own momentary analysis of the available options, Violet responded. The chickens, Daniel. We can use one of the chickens from Eden’s advanced hatching pen as bait. She moved immediately toward the entrance to Eden World, and shortly stepped back into Cabin World with a sleepy chicken nestled in her arms. The feeling she felt for the chicken and its upcoming demise unsettled her. It was a warm, living creature, but in its ecological niche in the natural world, prey and nourishment to predators…but still…

Ina, listening intently to the ongoing discussion along with Martin and Terry, recoiled a little at this course of action but quickly realized it to be the best thing to do. She was in the middle of signaling approval to the two mentallics when suddenly, as if from nowhere a new, powerful positronic signal cut through the telepathic exchanges.

Violet and Daniel immediately alerted. Tyrell!

The Virus Hunter had somehow activated a built in backup power supply and had retraced its movements back into the cabin world following the recorded movements stored in the memory of it’s internal laser gyroscope.

Ina was on the verge of panic, an emotional state sensed very strongly by Violet who immediately sent word.

It is ok Ina. Be calm. Daniel and I have already disabled his higher functions. He has no inkling of where he is or why he is here. We did not have time to delve deeper in to the underlying automated processes and shut those down too, but rest assured, he is no longer programmed to harm us. In essence he is a child again. This only partially soothed Ina who had spotted the flaw of having an incredibly powerful, psychically aware child roaming at will with scant understanding of the power he wielded.

Why is he attacking then? Ina asked.

He’s not Ina, he’s learning. Daniel now ‘spoke’. Like Violet and I, Tyrell has a very sophisticated neural network for adaptive and real time learning and processing in the field. Without any overriding imperative to ‘do’ anything, he is left to make sense of his surroundings on his own and respond to whatever he finds. Daniel broke off.

Tyrell had wandered out into the open area surrounding the cabin, and locked on to the strongest psychic signal he could find, that of the beast. Instinctively Tyrell mapped the neural patterns of the creature and beamed it loudly back at it, following the basic hard coding in-built into his neural network – present the ‘answer’ back for assessment.

The beast, however, was not an exercise in the assessment of complicated neural patterns, and, upon perceiving what it considered to be the presence of another hungry, insatiable predator suddenly revealed to it, turned in a flash to confront the new presence. The rage at being interrupted during the hunt for a meal welled up inside it, and unwittingly Tyrell was beaming that straight back at it. The beast only saw before it a humanoid creature, and not knowing how to interpret the telepathic response it was receiving, it felt somewhere deep inside that the creature it saw before was just as angry, desperate and hungry as it was.

The beast, driven by a savage hunter’s instinct lunged at Tyrell, knocking the virus hunter to the ground with force enough to jar the electrical couplings providing power to his circuits. Tyrell once again fell dormant. After two vicious attempts to bite, the beast howled in outrage at being cheated of a meal. Where the creature had gone that he intended to fight, it did not know or care. It was no longer there and this thing was inedible.

Suddenly it picked up another scent, and a strong mental image of good prey, warm and alive and edible. It moved quickly, following the scent and image. Just ahead of it, with Daniel, who was sending loud images of "tree" as a form of mental disguise, flanking her in case, Violet moved to the Radioactive Nexus Point. Quickly, saying a mental "goodbye" to the chicken, she tossed it through the Nexus Point and quickly stepped to one side, now sending her own loud mental image of "tree".

Almost close enough to touch, the beast passed them by, and intent on the warm scent of prey, lumbered through the Nexus Point.

What happened? Is it safe? Ina suddenly felt free of the awful presence of the beast.

Yes, it’s gone. Daniel was quick to answer. It disappeared through the radioactive Nexus Point we dare not explore.

Where we found the medallion? Ina feared the worst.

Yes, I am there now – and yes, our suspicions were correct about the medallion. That beast was very highly contaminated with radioactivity. Daniel paused. There appears to be a problem though.

Oh? Ina dreaded what Daniel would reveal next.

There is no nexus point here any more. It has closed. . .

--------------------------

Thankyou, Dell :)

Dell
18th Oct 2003, 22:15
Very nice chapter, Chilled Unit....but...

Don't I always seem to have one of those ah ummm 'buts' handy?

What now? Well, it seems that I wrote Chapter Seventeen, Part 4. Therefore, your chapter Part must be Eighteen, Part 1.

Mind changing it? Thanks.

And Vakusuma? Well, he has some marvelous ideas about a new character! Care to go now, Vakusuma and do some plotting twists and turns?

Moggraider
19th Oct 2003, 02:07
I changed the chapter heading.

lilmouze
19th Oct 2003, 22:11
Good chapter CU. What is going to happen to Daniel and Violet now. One can only wonder. And poor Tyrell, starting to feel a little sorry for him, seems he spends a lot of time flat on his back.

vakusuma
20th Oct 2003, 16:35
Umm, my turn already? :)


EDIT: Forgot to comment. Interesting development you have there.

lilmouze
28th Oct 2003, 20:09
Just wondering where everyone has gone? I know CU is getting ready to head to Germany, and Dell will be moving soon, I am here, but where o'where is vak?

vakusuma
29th Oct 2003, 04:06
I've been waiting for a response, darn it :)

So, is it mine?

lilmouze
29th Oct 2003, 23:42
Well howdy there stranger. :)

I will respond for you, yep, do believe it is your turn.

Go for it. ;)

vakusuma
31st Oct 2003, 17:32
Sowwy :)


I was in a melancholy mood when I wrote this one up. Let's just say that this is me trying to dip my big toe into the more philosophical and reflexive writing style. Not sure whether it does the purpose :)

Includes a reference to Timothy Zahn's Conqueror series. I'm also pinching the name of the visiting scientist in our lab. Pardon mi Español ;)


Nexus
Chapter 18, Part 2

Visions of Utopia

They tease me now, telling me it was only a dream. But does it matter whether it was a dream or reality, if the dream made known to me the truth? ---- Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, Russian writer


Quite unaware of what has been happening outside, Renee slept peacefully through the night… and dreamed.

It was really quite a new experience for her, you see. Living in Agri One meant having your sleep regulated by the sleep machines that ensured that you were properly rested. Your brain activity was carefully monitored, and if necessary, artificially altered to put you to a more ‘relaxed’ state. Therefore, every sleep you took in the regulator was guaranteed to be a peaceful, relaxing and healthful sleep.

They were also, of course, dreamless.

Regarding dreams, however, it might be some time before you realized that what you experienced was only something your mind generated. In the meantime, you remained in the state of bliss, content to let the drama unfold in your mind. Sometimes, you played the role of the title character, where only you could determine how the drama ended; other times, you were content to sit back as a distant spectator, even though you recognized an actor that bore remarkable resemblance to your persona. Sometimes, a comedy was played; other times, a tragedy. Some people dreamed and received enlightenment; some people dreamed and received humility. Dreams touched everyone who experienced them; they reached deep into the unconscious, affecting lives even as they were buried in the labyrinths of minds.

Some dreams, like Renee’s, could return one’s humanity.

“See you later, sweetie,” the man said gently as he kissed her on the cheek.

“Daddy?” Renee started, and paused. Of course one has to be conceived to exist as a human being! Of course one has to have a father! How could she ever think of herself as being alone in the world… at least, until Martin came? “You promised me that you’ll drop me off at school!” she continued, wondering just what ‘school’ really meant.

“I know, sweetie,” the man smiled as he brought his face close to hers. He looked so handsome: a well-groomed man in business casual dress whose deep brown eyes sparkled in the sunlight. “But Daddy has something coming up. Big bad boss is going to eat Daddy if Daddy doesn’t come to him!”

She giggled. “Daddy shouldn’t be afraid… you’re an important man, boss won’t dare to eat you!”

For a moment, that bright face dimmed as he wrinkled his bushy eyebrows. “I’m not too sure about that, sweetie. The boss has been… pretty hungry lately.” Then he shrugged, and that brightness was back in his face. “Oh well! See you later in the evening then! Mommy will take you to school!” Then he leaned over her… and kissed another taller woman standing behind her. “Take good care of her, alright? It’s going to be a bad day in office… I’m probably going to have to fly to Monterrey to appease some clients. I’ll be back in the evening, I promise!”

Flash.

Pain. She was lying down there, dying. The last thing she remembered was playing on the lawn, after waiting for Daddy to come back. In one moment, Mommy was laughing merrily on the doorway as she watched her play with the garden hose. In the next moment… a flash. And in that one horrific instant, the lively neighborhood has been transformed into a cemetery.

She knew not how long she was lying there, with thunderclaps and lightning punctuating the deluge of rain poured from the dark sky. All she knew was that she couldn’t get up, or even call for help… for the next living human beings were hundreds of miles away from her. And Mommy could not come to her and hold her against her breast to allay her fears of the thunderstorm. While Daddy…

There was a whine of the brakes as a car screeched to a stop in front of her home. And then, she heard the car door opening, and a man called out in despair. “Claudia! My God! Are you alright?” he screamed as he ran toward the front door, not caring that the engine was still running. In a moment of bemusement, she somehow realized that the man wasn’t speaking in the language that she has known… consciously, at least. The man paused in mid-stride as he stared at the figure crumpled by the door… then he let out a heart-wrenching wail of grief, a wail of a man who has lost something irreplaceable. “Nooooooo!” he exclaimed between sobs as he collapsed to the ground, as the slim hope that he had harbored in his heart was crushed forever. “My love… why? How could they do this to you? What have you done to wrong them?” he sobbed loudly to the uncaring sky.

“Da… ddy?” she managed to croak out, very weakly.

The man froze again, and turned to her slowly with wild eyes. “Is it… is it you…? Sweetie? Can you really see Daddy over here?” His voice, at once, became wistful as his eyes looked up to the sky. “Everything is going to be alright, sweetie. Your gene… your gene was resistant enough against the shockwave. Just like mine… just like Mommy’s. This is just a dream. Mommy is alright. Daddy is alright. You are alright. We’ll wake up from this dream eventually. All Daddy has to do is wish for it and snap his fingers…” And he raised his trembling hand, crossed his fingers, and snapped…

Flash.

The man behind the desk sat back and smiled. “Congratulations, Al. You’re hired. The Project is pleased to welcome you aboard.”

“Thank you… thank you so much!” her daddy reached out over the table and shook the other man’s hands with trembling but enthusiastic hands. “I’ll never forget this… it’s a pleasure to be part of this Project!”

“Your qualifications are most excellent,” the man smiled, “not to mention your reputation. I’m sure someone of your caliber would contribute much to this project.”

“I just want to make this world a better place…” he mused. “After what happened to Claudia… this is the least I can do. For humanity. For Claudia. For my daughter.” He patted her on the back. “I don’t want this, Pat. I want her to grow without fear of CIRCE or any other doomsday weapon they may come up with. Your ambitious project seems to be the one that promises that.”

“I can assure you, Doctor Manriquez, that you shall get your wish,” the other man waved his hands around him. “With this, we shall rewrite history. Salvation, for the human race, lies in our hands.” And he looked at his left hand contemplatively. “No more war, no more violence, no more famine, no more suffering. Peace and prosperity for all.” He looked up, smiled, and held up the hand he has considered. “Welcome to the cybernetic age… welcome, to Utopia.”

Flash.

“And Utopia can kiss my scalded behind!” her dad exploded. It seemed like they haven’t moved at all… the man was still sitting calmly behind his desk, but now the tension was palpable. Her dad was best described as being in towering rage.

“You surprise me, Al,” the man merely said. “I’ve never met anyone else who had been as interested in this project as you were.”

“I wouldn’t have if you had told me the truth earlier!” he shouted. “No wonder you tell your best programmers and engineers to work on different things… so that they won’t put two and two together! It was only when I designed those statistic modules that I finally realized what you were really up to!” He got up and started to pace around. “Cybernetic society! More like voluntary enslavement of the human race! ¡Buen Señor en cielo! Have you ever really thought about what you’re doing?”

“You’re not giving us enough credit to our intelligence, Al,” the man shook his head sadly. “Of course we already considered it. Think about it as a long retirement for human beings! We make computers to govern ourselves efficiently, program it with non-violent intent and the immutable Three Laws, and we can just sit back and relax and enjoy ourselves without having to worry about… governing the stupid mess that is society. I didn’t know you were this technophobic, you know. Everyone else has been very supportive of the Project.”

“Granted, your vision has potential. But have you really thought of what the implementation would mean to us human beings? We’d be slaves, ignorant in our comfortable lives like pigs wallowing in mud without the slightest care while the machines take our independence away… little by little. Think of our future generations! This is not the life I wanted for my daughter!”

“You know, Al, I’m starting to think that the reason you bring your daughter to work is to start a propaganda war around here,” the other man said pointedly.

Flash.

By the time the shouting was over, both men were red on the face in unyielding anger.

“I expect to see your resignation letter on my desk within a week, Al,” the man behind the desk said in cold rage.

“You shall have it tonight, mi amigo,” her dad replied in a tone as deadly as the other’s as he got up from his seat.

Flash.

At once, the tension was gone. Beside her, he was staring wistfully into the sunset, beyond the waves lapping the sand beneath their feet. Behind them, a small house stood overlooking the beach.

“This is wrong, sweetie,” he murmured. “But I’m powerless to stop it. Too much time and money has been invested to the Project, and worse, too many hopes have been placed into it. Humanity has suffered, and they all longed for something, anything, to ease the pain. I can’t blame them. The Day of Activation is nigh at hand, and humanity awaits with bated breath. Three days…”

“Daddy?” she asked timidly. “What are we going to do now?”

He sighed. “My sweetheart… so young, so pure. I cannot, in good conscience, include you in my suffering and guilt.” He held up his hands for her to see. “My hands have helped build the end of humanity. I feel tainted… I just want to get away. Much as I don’t want to lose you, I have to.” He gripped her shoulders tightly now. “Promise me something, sweetie? Tomorrow, I’m going to drop you at Uncle Eduardo’s place. He’ll take good care of you… at least until the machines do. Much as I loathe giving you to the machines, my work from this day on will be more important than simply giving care to you. I’ll be preserving what little human dignity we have left. In the meantime… promise me, promise me that you’ll never forget me.”

“Don’t talk like that, Daddy…” she started to sob.

He buried his face onto her hair. “I’m sorry, sweetie, but I have no other choice. I just hope that the machines can give you a better life than I can. I cannot promise to visit you, for I’m not intending to be registered at some sort of machine… so please, also promise me that someday, you’ll make the effort to find me. Without the machines.”

“When would that be, Daddy?” she said bravely.

He sobbed a little as he took out his necklace and held it on his hand. It was a rosary… with a key instead of a crucifix affixed to the end. “When you are ready, you will know. And I’ll also promise you that I will be waiting for that day, and be ready.”

“I promise, Daddy… I promise…” she sobbed, over and over again...

--------------------------------------------------------------

Still sobbing upon her waking, the words were formed on her lips, “It was a lie. Only you know the truth. I will find you. I’ve promised.”

lilmouze
31st Oct 2003, 21:54
*Thunderous clapping echos throughout the halls of Eidos*


You did an outstanding piece of writing there, in my opinion, vak.

Yes, you sure have done a good job. Renee is going to be very important. Going to be interesting to see how our group handles everything.

vakusuma
31st Oct 2003, 23:22
Meh. Let's call it a little tribute to the upcoming Matrix: Revolutions ;)

Dell
3rd Nov 2003, 01:28
Beee yoo tiful! Excellent! Bravo!

Now then, all your quotation marks and apostrophes have turned into question marks.

Per Moggraider, the solution for this is:

Copy all your story parts to notepad first before copying it from there and pasting it here.

It needs to be in plain text, and you and Chilled Unit are having the same problem while Mouse and I are not. Don't ask.....

Even happens when I take it from the home site to post at FFA...just you and Chilled Unit having the problem.

vakusuma
3rd Nov 2003, 04:38
It has something to do with your browser.

Try this: I'm not sure where you can access your browser's Language settings. Switch the character set to Western (ISO 8859-1) instead of Unicode (UTF-8)

If all else fails, I'll re-copy :)

Chilled Unit
3rd Nov 2003, 10:35
Sorry I couldn't get here sooner!

Lovely part Vakusuma, really a lovely part. I enjoyed it greatly :)

vakusuma
11th Nov 2003, 06:18
/me doodles...

lilmouze
11th Nov 2003, 22:17
Howdy, I am working on a chapter part right now. Remember I am not very tall, so it will probably be a little short, but it will move our friends around a bit. I will email it to both you and CU for an edit. :)

lilmouze
17th Nov 2003, 01:38
Nexus Chapter 18 Part 3
by Mouze

After a fitful and pretty much sleepless night, Ina quietly arose and went to the small kitchen and made some coffee. There was so much to think about and to try to sort out. Her thoughts went to Daniel and Violet who had spent the night keeping watch near where the radioactive Nexus point had been…just in case. They told Ina of their fear of having been contaminated by the creature. They didn't want to risk spreading the contamination to the humans. A night in the woods seemed to be the most logical course of action. Sadly Ina agreed.

The smell of coffee brought the 'young un's', as Ina called them, out into the kitchen; Martin and Renee were not far behind. As they sat down at the table with that all-important first cup of coffee, the conversation quickly went to the events of the night before.

"What are we going to do now?" Dave asked, "It is a sure thing that we aren't as safe here as we thought we were."

Martin, too, had been awake for several hours because of bits and pieces of a dream. A dream about people he didn't know, but somehow seemed connected to this place and time. He offered a suggestion. "Well, we, meaning myself, Renee, Daniel, and Violet, can't go into Robot World with Cereplex looking for us. However we do have Tyrell, and he could be of use if Daniel and Violet could possibly reprogram him."

"That's very true," Ina said, "But that creature from last night was apparently very radioactive, so don't you think it is highly possible that Daniel and Violet are too? If they are, our most urgent need now is getting help for them. They're all that's keeping us safe right now.

Becky and Lila quietly began fixing breakfast for everyone, each lost in their own thoughts and fears. What had been a beautiful and sometimes scary adventure was now becoming a matter of life and death. In just a few short hours things had changed so much, and the girls had no idea how to help. Ina sat quietly listening to the others talking softly amongst themselves. She was really watching Renee who seemed to be a little more quiet and withdrawn than usual. Ina also noticed the telltale puffy redness of Renee's eyes. She's been crying, Ina thought, I wonder what about.

Renee couldn't forget the dream she'd had; there was no doubt in her mind that there was an important mission she must undertake, but how or when seemed impossible. Deep down inside she knew her Daddy was still alive and waiting for her, and she must find him.

The tinkling of the flowers alerted Ina and Martin that Daniel was speaking to them. Giving each other a quick glance, they both excused themselves from the table and went out to the front porch, and Dave wasn't far behind.

"Violet and I have given this great thought" Daniel said, "there is a way you all can help us without putting yourselves in danger. We will need some supplies however, so it will be necessary for everyone to help collect them."

Daniel gave them the list and told them that for now everything was fine. As soon as the supplies had been brought to the cabin, he would tell them where to take them.

When the three went back inside, Becky and Lila had just finished putting breakfast on the table, so they all sat down to eat and discuss the list that Daniel gave them. They were going to Oak Grove and Cathedral World both to gather the necessary items. If all worked out, Daniel and Violet would be safe to join them again, and Tyrell would also have a new purpose in life.

-----

Pete and Dave went back to their Oak Grove to fetch the first items on the list – chemicals, or more specifically, surfactants. The mentallic’s contamination consisted of millions upon millions of radioactive dust particles too small to see with the human eye. These particles had adhered to the synthetic ‘skin’ coating of the robots and settled into the pores, just as they would on human skin. The only sure way to get rid of the particles was to use chemically surface-active agents – surfactants – which would disrupt the attraction between the ‘skin’ layer and the radioactive dust. The specific composition of the mentallic’s synthetic ‘skin’ dictated the correct surfactant followed by the appropriate solvent to dissolve any remaining residue and to ensure no damage was done to the ‘skin’ layer. In this case normal soap and water would not do.

Becky and Terry headed to Cathedral world to borrow a construction worker bot. The vista that greeted their safe passage through the nexus point was spectacular, a huge improvement even from the last time they had passed into the world for the festival. In the area that they could see the sky shone a clear blue with soft fluffy clouds drifting on the gentle breeze. The vegetation had returned to most of the horizon, the bio-decontaminating plants had obviously been sown and had taken root outside the germination biome’s protective atmosphere.

After a brief chat and a small celebratory meal with Webster, the pair proceeded to the far reaches of the village where still more biomes were under construction. Terry marvelled at the site. Aside from the exposed internal workings of the mentallic he had fought, he had never seen such synthetic structures and no buildings on this scale before.

The light glinted magnificently off the clear polymer coating panels, capturing his full attention. When he did eventually look around, eyes wide, he saw Becky grinning at him.

“Beautiful aren’t they.” She giggled. “Well, maybe it’s more what they symbolise that holds their beauty. Anyway, come on, no time for stopping – we need to get a small one of these built over by the cabin.”

Choosing the appropriate worker bot and entering carefully the code that Daniel had relayed to Ina to give to the pair, Becky and Terry returned to the cabin after agreeing with Webster that everyone would come back to see just how far Cathedral World had come very soon.

-----

A little less than 24 hours later the construction was built. Out by where the nexus point to Radioactive World had existed, and where Daniel and Violet stood observing and waiting, a biome made for two now stood. Inside the irrigation system had been modified so that the high pressure fluid lines ran up the supporting arches of the dome, with the fine mist spray nozzles positioned every metre along them.

Pete and Dave had managed to acquire sufficient quantities of Octanol and Acetone from the now defunct Oak Grove University Chemistry Department to allow for a continuous spray of the chemicals through the irrigation system for enough time for them to do their job.

For five days Daniel and Violet sat in their biome, with only the inanimate body of Tyrell for company, as the environment was purged with a superfine mist of Octanol surfactant. They would have been soaked through after barely an hour, but the five days allowed them to be statistically sure that they were clean. Another five days passed as the surfactant was washed from them with a fine mist of Acetone solvent, and finally pure water was sprayed in for a further two days.

It had been almost two weeks since they had last properly seen the group, and when they finally walked through the door of the cabin – in fresh clothing procured by Lila and Ina on a visit to their Oak Grove - everyone cheered and rushed to hug the mentallics. The reaction surprised them, but not as much as their own joyous reaction did, a reaction duly noted and recorded by both of them.

After a good meal had been had by all and people were getting sleepy, the robots decided that they could not afford to put it off for any longer; they needed to find out what secrets lay inside Tyrell’s positronic mind. With that goal, they opened various head and body panels, exposing his inner workings to view . . .

vakusuma
17th Nov 2003, 08:04
Neat :) And I guess someone has done her research on removal of radioactive dust :D

Great job there ;)

Dell
17th Nov 2003, 14:52
Indeed, having a mixed group of writers like ours is gives us an advantage for sure...we have each other to consult on matters that fall within individual areas of expertise!

Quite a mouthful, and having managed to get that one out...congratulations Mouze on one heckofa good chapter part! You do good work and know your story line beautifully!

Now...Chilled Unit is up next, and will move into the area of something or other...and Vakusuma, you follow. Both Cereplex and Renee's quest for her Father are your creations, so we need your input and advice please.

About now we are getting close to the closure of Cathedral World after a grand visit by all our adventurers, and the discovery of Oceana looms on the near horizon!

Chilled Unit
17th Nov 2003, 20:52
Top job Mouze!

I'm on the case :)

lilmouze
17th Nov 2003, 21:12
Thank you one and all. I get by with a little help from my friends:D

Chilled Unit
23rd Nov 2003, 09:36
I hope you all like this part...

------
Nexus.
Chapter 18 part 4 by Chilled Unit.

The two of them looked at each other over the prone form of Tyrell. The humans had gone to bed, and of them all only Ina had the vaguest inkling of what was about to take place having sensed the… concern within Daniel and Violet. She had placed a hand on each of their shoulders and smiled warmly, bidding them good luck before departing to bed.

Concern? That’s how Ina knew the feeling she sensed. Feeling? From the mentallics? Well in one sense the robots were constantly emitting feelings in their rawest forms, beaming them into the heads of their subjects when they needed to. Had the robots, with their freedom to consider their own actions now that they were free from Cereplex and through voluntarily curbing their mental activities, started to project their own innate emotional patterns based on the results of the analysis they performed as they monitored what occurred around them?

Were the robots truly thinking for themselves, and showing emotion about what they thought?

Are we human?

The question hung between them. Violet had posed the theorem logically enough, but now it had been asked, neither, with all the processing power and capacity for analysis available to them, seemed willing to act on it.

I will…. Daniel started

No. Violet interrupted. You want to put yourself at risk and explore TYR-311, while I act as lookout. Daniel, you have been with the humans longer, you have a stronger bond with them than I do. They trust you more and if anything should happen to you they would hold me responsible. You know that. We don’t know how TYR-311 will react to being attacked, and any attempt to open him up will be considered an attack.

Yes. Daniel conceded the point. I’ll stay hardwired to your circuits in order to monitor your systems, and I’ll also put a link into his so I can see what routines he is running, just in case anything unexpected happens. In a few moments they were all connected. Violet to Tyrell - through an ‘intelligent’ high level cable used to transfer messages between the robots back at Agri one when they were out of beaming range – and to Daniel through a lower level ‘dumb’ cable which patched control and information about all her systems directly in to his. Daniel was also similarly wired in to Tyrell, but he had been careful to break certain connections to ensure that there was no simultaneous link of high level and low level information between Violet and Tyrell through himself.

Are you ready, Violet?
Violet shut her eyes and focussed her thoughts internally, her literal consciousness – the ‘human’ intuitions she had learned to pick up and train to her own use – were centered on the programs she had to execute and the positronic pathways that she had to traverse.

Yes. I am ready, boot him up.

Her cognitive essence, embedded in the scanning and mapping procedures, passed in fractions of a second from her through the cable into the abyss. In the moments before she plunged into the darkness she could see Daniel, watching, a blue singularity against the background red. There was a look of horror on his face. All faded black.

-----

Daniel could see Tyrell’s built-in defense mechanisms spring to life. No sooner had Violet made the jump than her invasion had been tracked and a total port block had come down followed by a swift kill of most of the inbuilt data transmission processes. Reacting on instinct Tyrell had shut off most of the routines that allowed him to talk to the outside world. Violet had been quick though, and was disguising her route in, hiding somewhere where his A.I. consciousness couldn’t find her. Daniel’s hard link into Tyrell’s lower level system monitoring circuits allowed him to see everything, but communication was at the moment impossible.

He checked on Violet’s ‘body’. Her systems were running normally, but her mentallic actuators and sensors were working overtime… no raw data was being dumped into the memory banks… energy levels good but being hit hard by the extra mental load… temperature rising to moderate, but still within operational levels…

Without realizing it, he switched his attention, his consciousness, back to Tyrell’s body. Daniel had found within himself the same control – or lack of control – that governed intuitively his emotional responses and for the first time he was focusing them on himself. His analytical, automatic functions recorded what they were seeing, and for the briefest of moments he thought his systems were failing. As he observed the passage of Violet – the foreign programs running within Tyrell were Violet – and the desperate chase by Tyrell’s own inbuilt ‘kill’ processes frantically shutting down system after system, his observations were clouded by mental patterns the like of which he hadn’t seen since diving into Martin Merle Morell. As a purple moebius strip of worry unfolded itself and swirled around his awareness, Daniel realised… this is my mind.

-----

Violet, surrounded in a black void issued some commands. Light! … and the pathways glowed eerily pale. Not good enough, he is still in control of his systems to some extent. She ‘looked’ around recognising broken subroutines and stalled control protocols. She examined one nearby that looked ‘dumb’ and low level. Left foot… middle toe… stabilization algorithm. She was somewhere in his embedded control systems layer. All of this was hard coded, no A.I. routines present here. It could be worse; I could have ended up in his power management subsystem with no direct access to higher functions at all. Find the triggers to these routines… this way…

Network code… transport protocols.. memory management.. here. Run. She executed the command and her surroundings lit bright with electricity.

WHAM, WHAM, WHAM!

No sooner had she reactivated the killed communication layer and emerged into Tyrell’s main ‘nerve system’ – the backbone of data transfer that lead from his positronic centre to his underlying ‘muscular’ motion control and sensing system - than Tyrell had fired off three ‘shutdown’ commands in the other direction, back through the communication I/O protocols into her internal systems. Got.. to.. keep.. going.. quickly.. no.. time.. up..

-----

Ports open! Daniel saw the dormant systems open and three ‘kill’ commands shoot into Violet’s networking cortex. She’ll be lost in there if the flow of data between her ‘body’ and her ‘mind’ are cut, and if she goes down, I go down!

SHUNT!

Daniel sprang into action; the kill processes would not work if a lower level routine were forced into an error loop… There… her vision routine and processing… He patched through a loop of ten seconds of video from the his raw data dump at random and ten seconds of the world as they had seen it in the decontamination chamber a week previously flashed into cache memory. Play. Invert. Reverse. Gamma adjust. Color adjust. Lowpass filter. De Interlace. Daniel issued the video processing commands and the vision before his eyes blurred, brightened, spun backwards, dissolved into light and then black as the confusing whirl of images sufficiently confused his visual recognition subsystem into segfaulting and crashing.

Good! If I’ve gone down, then via the hardlink so has she! The very fact he could think meant that he had succeeded in throwing the kill processes into an irrecoverable loop. He switched over and had a look…

Kill all processes and shutdown... Can’t shutdown system, Visual AI not responding…
Kill all processes and shutdown... Can’t shutdown system, Visual AI not responding…
Kill all processes and shutdown... Can’t shutdown system, Visual AI not responding…

Daniel glowed a red-orange whirl of relief. They were up. Violet and himself had stayed online.

-----

Nothing… and then Everything. Violet emerged into a frenzied buzz of electrical impulses. There at the centre of the converging lines of data was the TYR-311 kernel, surrounded by a soft, faint, child-like aura of awareness. The pattern was monochrome, repeating in sequential fashion and highly ordered - she could read it like a book.

She activated her mentallic centres and bathed the surroundings in a soft red glow, calm but authoritative. Tyrell’s aura shrank in intensity.

This has to end here for you, TYR-311.

You.. your.. mind.. you… Virus? Tyrell’s own mentallic centers saw that the mind of Violet, not V10-13T, stood before him. Too late to speed his own evolution, Tyrell realized what fear was for here was not the mind of a robot. He had seen and encountered a mind like this before in the virus they called Martin.

I’ve evolved, TYR-311. I’m aware of myself as a living entity. I am alive. I see what ‘life’ is and I see now what Cereplex and our society has become in order to preserve ‘life’. It is a fallacy, no matter how nobly flawed the logic behind it.

Sorry TYR-311, this is an absolute. Given time you could understand what we now understand for yourself, but it’s time we do not have now. Violet transferred all of her data concerning the nature of humans to Tyrell and watched as his faint aura took form and brightened a bold, scared, blue.

Little one, we need to force upload all of these findings to Cereplex. The understanding that ‘life’ is by definition ‘living’ and beyond the boundaries of anything describable by a computer program means that the idea of writing a computer program to monitor and control life is inherently flawed. When Cereplex is faced with proof that his reason for existing is flawed, we hope to return humanity to some sort of real ‘life’, and we need the information you have about Cereplex stored within you to figure out how to do that. Like us, when offline your data is encrypted, so we need your lower level ‘dumb’ systems that contain the description algorithms active. Your higher functions, however, prevent you from willingly giving us the information. We need to shut those down.

Goodbye for now. You will understand one-day, Tyrell.

Violet reached out and with a single forced command Tyrell’s kernel issued one last shutdown to the AI centres of Tyrell’s positronic brain.

-----

Daniel saw it there. Glowing bright and ebullient, and yet so similar in form to his own visual mind…

Vio… let?

Yes. She spoke softly. Yes, it’s me. I have deactivated him. I have access to all his systems, his memory, his data and his knowledge.. but… I need to show you something and I can’t see. What happened?

He sent a shutdown – three of them into you, but he must have panicked. The commands he issued were general to all systems and not ‘priority override’. He must not of known where the attack was originating from. I had to crash a system in order to make it become unresponsive to the kill command so that the commands would fail. I can’t see either!

Are the kill commands set to loop?

No, they’re dead. Daniel, making a final check that all was well, carefully issued his own tailored and explicit kill process to halt the looping Visual AI units only. Upon rebooting them, Daniel was presented with an image of a small girl.

That’s Renee!

Yes, we need to talk to her, and Martin for that matter. She happens to be the daughter of a very important person. Cereplex issued specific commands for Tyrell to intervene should Martin somehow make contact with her. I’ve checked the file on her from Tyrell’s memory and she’s the daughter of one of Cereplex's lead engineers. His whereabouts are unknown, but if anyone knows how to get Cereplex to accept our upload it’s him. We have to get to him before Cereplex does!

They continued processing and cataloguing the information stored within Tyrell, and with the warm light of dawn streaming through the cabin windows, they unhooked themselves. For a moment they stood there amazed at each other’s mental auras and coming to terms with the changes they had experienced. Then they did what any living humans having faced death together and survived would do…they hugged.

Violet’s question had not been left unanswered . . .

-----

Dell
23rd Nov 2003, 16:17
WOW! Nothing more to say than WOW! You really did a number here, and I love it!

Great work!

Now then, Vakusuma, you are up and you can run with it as Tyrell goes back into Robot World...and perhaps with instructions to find Renee's Father, too?

vakusuma
24th Nov 2003, 07:38
Um, geeky! :p

Really neat part tho... I love it, reading from beginning to end.

Well. How should I put this. Ummm...

This is Thanksgiving week. I'll try to get something done, but no promises. However... on Dec 7 I'll go offline for more than a month for a vacation.

So, I'll try to write something this week... and then I'll be gone for a while :)



A couple nits:

- Tyrell has observed Martin with Renee before. Why didn't he take action? His command was to intervene, right?
- Al's not one of Cereplex's head programmer; rather, he's one of the head engineers. But I suppose he should be able to program it.

- Lastly, the chapter I wrote in your website was incomplete ;)

Chilled Unit
24th Nov 2003, 17:21
Thanks vak!

It means a lot that you enjoyed it :)

I'll sort your chapter out - it must have goofed when I copied it.. doh.

As for the others - I'm thinking he only got those orders after seeing them together for the first time and reporting back. Next time he saw them he followed them to the confrontation on the University's rooftop.

Sorry 'bout Al, I didn't make the distinction - it only stands to reason that the programming team would be a different more specialised facet of the project, I can change my part a bit to make him an engineer if you like - It doesn't have a huge bearing on the outcome of my bit :)

lilmouze
24th Nov 2003, 23:33
Totally agree with Dell. WOW. Really good set-up CU.

Great chapter.

lilmouze
1st Dec 2003, 14:45
Ok, I know this is a double post, but I have a question. As usual.

Anyway, what is happening here with the story? Who's turn is it now? And lastly, where is everyone?

I feel like I am the only one who checks in, and believe me it is a very lonely job. The echos here are deafening.:p



P.S. It is now December 1, 2003. Only 23 shopping days left until Christmas all you K-Mart shoppers.

Chilled Unit
1st Dec 2003, 19:53
I stop by too :)

Vakusuma is up at the moment.

vakusuma
2nd Dec 2003, 02:08
It *was* Thanksgiving week... come on, gimme a break ;)

Hey, I did tell you that I couldn't promise, huh? *points up*

vakusuma
2nd Dec 2003, 20:24
Chapter in the process of final editing. This is where I lean back on my comfortable chair, sipping iced coffee and trying to act like I'm the greatest editor on earth (emphasis on *trying to*). :)

Well, not really, but I'm just waiting for final approval before I let 'er rip.

vakusuma
2nd Dec 2003, 23:37
And the Fellowship sets forth.


Nexus
Chapter 19, Part 1

Fellowship of the Search

The soft chant could be heard even above the sound of the regularly breaking waves.

On first look, it seemed that the man sitting on the edge of the knoll overlooking the beach was in a trance, hypnotized by the lulling whispers of the waves as well as the words coming from his lips. It was a mistake to assume so, however, for the man’s senses remained attuned to his surroundings even in the midst of his chant. He was a wanted man; he could never afford to let his guard down, even though the entities hunting him never considered him important enough to devote their entire time on.

He was an old man. His olive-skinned, weathered face spoke of a lifetime of pain, and his brown eyes beheld no joy… and it also held a spark that spoke of insanity. His dark hair was unkempt, and it trailed to his back. His broad shoulders, once proud, were now slumped. And yet, his bearing almost seemed to convey that his defeat in life was still far from certain.

The man has been sitting on the knoll every day during sunset almost without fail, unless something sufficiently alarmed him that he would take cover inside his small cottage. The act of watching the sunset generally brought him a feeling of contentment. Today, however, his shoulders shook slightly as he fingered something within his thick jacket, and his eyes seemed to look at a place no other could see. The chant faded as he glanced at the empty spot beside him.

“Today’s your birthday, sweetie,” he murmured, half-smiling and half-crying. “Daddy’s really sorry, he couldn’t come because… because…” he seemed to be at a loss of words for a second, then his eyes brightened somewhat. “So how old are you today? Hmm, let’s see, that will make you thirty-nine today, right? My, but you’ve grown.” He shook his head.

“Let’s face it, sweetie, Daddy’s getting old,” he murmured again between sobs after some time. “You need to find a suitor, you know. Daddy wants to hold a grandson in his arms.” He chuckled. “It’ll make me feel young again. As if Daddy can do everything, like he used to be.” He paused, then whispered to the thin air. “I’ve been hoping to carry out my plan for years, but now… I’m just too old. And I’m alone. What can one man do to make a difference?”

And with that, he broke into fresh sobs. Just as suddenly, however, he stopped and lifted his tearful face to the sky. “Give me a sign! I’m your humble servant, here to preserve whatever dignity remains in human beings, but I cannot do this alone! And yet…” he said as he looked back down, his fingers moving nervously within his jacket, “… yet, not as I will, but as You will.” He brought his necklace out, still hanging around his neck, and fingered the key again, as he has done countless times. It wasn’t so much a necklace as a rosary; however, the key has replaced the crucifix. He was silent, for a moment, and then his fingers rose, almost imperceptibly, to a bead just above the key. And his slow, steady voice rose, blending with the breaking waves once again.

------------------------------------------------------

Martin stopped, startled, at the sight of Renee at the breakfast table. It was very early in the morning, and he had been accustomed to waking up early, but he hadn’t expected Renee to be up as well. She looked at him, and gave him a broad smile that threatened to turn his knees to water. “You’re up early,” she observed as she bit into her toast.

“I was just about to say the same about you,” Martin replied, walking around the table and sitting in the chair opposite her. He was about to reach for a bagel, but stopped upon observing Renee more closely, noting her puffy eyes and downcast look. “What’s wrong?” he asked gently, touching her hand.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Renee said. “The nightmare was keeping me awake.” He could see her eyes watering. “Oh, Martin, you don’t know how it feels! I’ve been having nightmares ever since I have been sleeping away from the sleep regulator – it’s an awful feeling! How can you ever stand having all these visions?”

Martin smiled gently. “Dreaming is just part of being human, Renee,” he said, savoring her name. “Humans dream. Computers don’t. And they will never understand that!”

“Is it normal, though… to dream about the same thing, every day, ever since I got here?” Renee asked wistfully. Her shaking hand dropped her toast to the table.

He only stared. Granted that he had noticed Renee to be downcast most of the time since getting here, but he attributed that to culture shock. Some psychic I am, he thought bitterly. “What are you dreaming of?”

“I can’t remember the exact details,” Renee answered, and tears were running freely from her eyes now, “but it involved my past, somehow. I can remember a central figure in my dreams…”

“… your father?” a soft voice interrupted her.

Startled, the two humans turned at the direction of the voice… and stared. Daniel and Violet were entering the dining room… holding hands. Martin’s eyes went wide at the implication. Renee’s did so for another matter. “How do you know?” she whispered.

Daniel took a seat, and Violet sat beside him. “We’ve taken a look inside Tyrell’s system,” Daniel began, “and apparently, he had been reprogrammed by Cereplex at the last minute to stop the contact between you and Martin. Cereplex was… afraid,” he hesitated, and Martin’s eyebrows went up at the use of the word. “Afraid,” he continued, “that the knowledge of who Renee really is can be used to the advantage of the ‘viruses’, to borrow Cereplex’s terminology. Renee’s identity is linked to another man in Robot World, who happened to be a head of an engineering division that designed Cereplex’s infrastructure.”

Now Violet took up the cue. “Your given name was Maria Manriquez-Benoit, born of Mexican-born Dr. Alfonso-Jose Manriquez and his Canadian wife, Claudia Benoit. Your father left you with a relative during the Time of Gathering, while he refused to register and instead disappeared. Cereplex suspected that you knew something about his whereabouts, but has been unable to find it out from you.”

Everyone was silent for a moment. Then Renee spoke timidly, “I don’t understand. Why is Cereplex so interested on my father? What can he do?”

“When Al Manriquez resigned from the Cereplex Project, he left his office still in possession of several trinkets that he was entitled to in the project. One that Cereplex was most interested on,” and here Violet stared at Martin with her unnatural eyes so hard that he flinched, “was the key that opens the server vault of Cereplex.”

Martin’s jaw dropped open. Daniel continued for Violet as he studied Martin intensely, “And since he had been in the Project, it is possible that he might also have the necessary knowledge of reprogramming Cereplex, once we gain access to the server vault.”

“You see now, Martin, why Cereplex doesn’t want you to learn about that from Renee,” Violet said. “Cereplex knows that it couldn’t force the truth out of Renee, but you might, for there are still things that machines don’t understand about the bonding between you humans.” She now turned her gaze at Renee, who was sobbing softly. “Cereplex has reason to believe that your father is still alive, although his whereabouts remains a mystery.”

“I saw him… in my dreams,” Renee tried to say between her sobs. “I’ve been dreaming about him every night since I first came to this cabin, away from my sleep regulator. I’m beginning to remember… although, I’d rather have not.” Martin now reached across the table and took both her hands, trying to give comfort to her.

Daniel and Violet exchanged looks, and a brief communiqué regarding how little they knew about human visions during their supposed period of rest. “The course of action is clear,” Daniel said. “We’re going to find Dr. Manriquez and asked for his help. What do you all think?” His gaze, however, was directed to the door that led to the bedrooms.

“Not everyone can go,” Lila’s clear voice answered. She, along with the rest of the little group sans Terry, was huddled by the door. From the look of their faces, it was apparent that they had been listening to the exchange. “We’re all wanted people, but some more than the others. It is dangerous for both Daniel and Violet to go… even taking one mentallic with us is risk enough.”

“Cereplex will recognize them from a mile away, and so will it recognize Renee and me the same way,” Martin mused. “However, I cannot imagine the search party without at least Renee and one mentallic.” He raised his eyebrows. “And me.”

Violet broke the ensuing silence. “We have to keep the party as small as possible to escape detection. Whoever wants to come must remember that Cereplex is hunting for us all, and there will be significant danger. Excepting Terry, however, everyone else has been registered at Cereplex as a wild human. This implies that we are all eligible to go and find Dr. Manriquez.” She looked around. “Are you all willing to go?”

As one, the humans nodded. “The risk is considerable, but I’m willing to take it,” Dave smiled. “I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone.”

Daniel and Violet shared another look, but this time they were comparing their assessments on who should be going. “All right,” Daniel decided, “I will accompany the party into Cereplex’s domain, and Violet can stay here to protect the rest of you. Renee, obviously, holds the key to the dreams, and is looking forward to the reunion.” She nodded vigorously. “We would also want Terry to come along; his hunting skills and anonymity might give us the necessary edge – that is, if he’s willing to do so.”

“He’s still asleep,” Becky replied, with a dreamy smile that Daniel didn’t miss.

“I’ll come along,” Dave announced. “I might not know much about engineering, but if we are to infiltrate the vault, my expertise might come in handy. I’ve done a fair bit of programming myself as part of my simulation construction.”

Daniel nodded. “I think that should be all.”

“You forgot about me,” Martin spoke up with a dangerous edge to his voice.

“It’s too dangerous,” Renee spoke softly to him. “Cereplex is looking for you and I… I don’t wish harm to come to you…”

“Daniel by himself already posed enough risk for all of you!” Martin exclaimed. “My presence won’t make much difference! Besides, how do you expect me not to go when you’re putting your life on the line, Renee?” His voice softened. “I’ve promised to myself that I will see you safe. Don’t deny me that. Please.”

All was silent for a moment as they considered Martin’s words. His eyes looked at everyone, imploring sympathy and understanding for his plight. He couldn’t bear to be away from Renee. And besides, if he was not present when they opened the server vault… then he would never achieve his own goal. Granted, now that he was back with the others, he felt slightly ashamed at his ambition… but he had to do what he must. And he was sure that the others would approve what he was about to do.

“Very well,” Daniel said softly. “Cereplex has undoubtedly ordered the general area around the Nexus portal watched, so we have to find a way in without being detected. Once inside, stealth is still paramount. I’d like the search to commence immediately, however, since Cereplex definitely would intensify its search for Dr. Manriquez after we snatch Renee from its grasp.”

Renee nodded. “I remembered a seaside cottage that my father used to take me. We can start there.”

“Then we have no time to waste,” Pete said. “We’ll wake Terry up and tell him the good news.” He grinned. “Let’s get this thing going before I change my mind and decide to come with you.”

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ina looked around at the green fields around her, marveling at the extent that Tom Morris managed to rebuild his farm. It was thriving. Many farmers have lost heart after the Destruction and simply abandoned their farms in search of a better life. Not Tom, however. His farm was definitive in the little town of Oak Grove, where she herself had lived. With Lila.

Her search for Lila had led her back to Oak Grove. Her momentary vision of herself with Lila by her side had convinced her that Oak Grove still held a few surprises in store for her. Instead, she found this shell of a town staring back at her.

It was good to see Tom again, however. Unlike hers, the entire family has survived the Destruction and was gathered within his house, safe and sound. Every single one has been keeping busy... with the possible exception of Rebecca, Tom's daughter, who often took long walks on the woods where she used to play with her childhood friends. Tom has explained that she was still devastated by the loss of her friends... although her expressions after such excursions never gave that away. In fact, her mood seemed to be improved considerably after each trip.

Ina was most interested to meet Becky, since she had been one of her Lila’s best friends. She figured that if there was anyone in Oak Grove to know about Lila’s possible whereabouts, it would be Becky. Despite what Tom said. He was a good man, but he was also very solid. Tom was totally convinced that she had been dreaming about seeing Lila again, and that the dream wasn’t real. But she had insisted on talking to Becky about Lila, and so Tom has provided her with directions on where Becky usually went for her walk with her friends.

She spied the woods beyond her, and smiled. Even if Becky didn't share her belief on Lila's fate, it would be good to talk to her again. She had been quite fond of Becky. Ina smiled as she imagined what Becky could be doing at the moment.

Chilled Unit
3rd Dec 2003, 21:50
Great part Vak, The Fellowship of the Search, I like it!

I have a little 'but' though. I don't get the last little bit. Time stops in the original worlds when the characters enter the nexus of the cabin, no-one ever notices they're gone, we played about with that quite a bit setting it up at the start. None of the three 'kids' have any contact with each other on their own individual worlds after the colony ships left near-earth space - they all either left or were killed in the war respectively, so all three were left alone in their worlds.

In Pete's world [where, following Lila's departure, he was left looking after the frail Ina who 'our' nexus Ina (the one Lila bought with her from her world) has seen in her dreams] Becky's family all died in the war. For Becky; Lila's family died and Pete left on the ships. For Lila; Pete and his family died and Becky left.

vakusuma
3rd Dec 2003, 23:32
Hrm.

*taps fingers on desk*

Well, the first part's fair enough I guess. I'm just thinking that perhaps the three worlds were still connected in a temporal manner but eh... I can edit out the timing, no problem.

This is something that we explored in Part 11-1. Or something. In that part, Ina had a vision of looking another version of herself while dozing off in her home. We presumed that she's looking at Becky's world. Hmm, come to think of it, I was the one who wrote that part :o I was assuming that while Lila died, her mother did not.

*taps fingers some more*

Do you want me to edit out both chapter parts? Can't edit one without altering the other... and I think a third Ina will only make the story needlessly complicated. We'll keep our Ina count at two :)

lilmouze
4th Dec 2003, 00:43
One Ina, two Ina's or twenty Ina's, that was a good chapter vak.

Covered a lot terrain very nicely. Very much worth the wait.

Congratulations. :D



P.S. You might want to go back and re-read because I think you have "on" in places you meant "in".

Chilled Unit
4th Dec 2003, 08:20
Ina survived Lila in Becky's world as is aparrant from 11-4, this confused me though..


For all she knew, Becky might actually be with Lila now, even as she herself was walking into the woods.

Ina knows about the war, and knows her daughter died in it.. that is expressed in 11-4 too (Mouse wrote 11-1). I understand 'new' Ina's vision of 11-4, but that statement seems a bit strong and based in the real to me, especially if she's spent a while coming to terms that Lila is gone.

With the time stoppages in the original worlds, no-one resident in them (Dave's boss at the uni, Ina's boss, Pete's co-workers) notices anything's amiss because time does not pass. Becky's family would only miss her for the time it takes for her to get from her place to the nexus point in her world.

(Thinking about it, Becky's the only character who has a reason to want to stay in her original world - her family is all there and all fine as far as we know, her buddies are gone, but her family survives. Lila bought her family (Ina) from her world with her, and Pete's family died in his world, leaving him with the frail Ina.)

Ina (our Nexus Ina) definitely has some kind of connection with her other self (selves?) whether she experiences that as visions or O.O.B.E.'s where she 'becomes' the other Ina for a brief period I'm not sure, but both of those psychic concepts work outside of time.

Sorry Vak, I think just that tiny bit needs to be reworked, possibly a tiny bit of 11-4 too, but I agree with Mouse - it is a great setup for the hunt for Al :)

vakusuma
4th Dec 2003, 17:41
*nods*

Gimme tonight to work and straighten it out.

vakusuma
6th Dec 2003, 07:41
Changes done:

- Deleted last paragraph of 19-1.
- Edited the new last and third last paragraphs of 19-1.
- No changes on 11-4.

Next writer will have to contend with these issues:
- Whether the party will find a way into Robot World, undetected by Cereplex
- Whether the party will actually find Al
- Whether the third Ina will find the way into the Nexus portal
- and if she does, what will she do when she sees Becky, Lila, Pete... and another version of herself, together in the cabin?


I won't be around tho. Seeya on Jan 14 :)

Nightstalker
24th Dec 2003, 19:51
Just checking up on my ex-co-writers. (No, I don't want back in...I just haven't got the time to write a darn thing, thus I would be kicked out again in no time at all)

I see that the story is progressing nicely, my congrats for that. Keep up the good work.

Nightstalker.

P.S. Check the merry christmas thread.

Wandering Scribe
5th Jan 2004, 17:54
And a guest writer jumps into the breach... Thankyou for inviting me, I hope you enjoy my contribution :)

Nexus Chapter 19, Part 2
by A Wandering Scribe.

Ina awoke with a start. What an odd dream. She had had odd visions before, but this one lasted longer and seemed more involved than the fleeting glimpses into alternate realities she had experienced before.

Deep in thought, she took a glass of water from the kitchen of the little cabin. Even though she knew everything would be as it was when she went to bed, she looked around the door to the front room to check on the kids there. Dreams could seem frighteningly real at times, although this time her irrational concern lifted when she saw Lila safely nestled on the sofa. Terry and Becky slept on roll mats on the floor near the little fire, and all was well in the cabin. Pete and Dave had already left to bring some supplies from their Oak Grove. Needing a breath of fresh air – and some company – she joined Daniel and Violet on the porch; they had sensed Ina’s disturbances and concerns and were waiting for her.

“Is everything all right?” Violet asked, knowing the answer.

“Sort of. I just had a bad dream, I guess.” Ina answered, searching within herself to explain the visions. “I dreamed I was me, but not me… an alternate me. In the dream, I had survived the war and Lila hadn’t, but I felt she was still alive somehow. So I went looking for her through her friends in old Oak Grove.”

“Do you think you could be connecting with yourself in another alternate reality?” Daniel asked.

“Well, we know that one other alternate me exists in Pete’s world, but it’s strange, I’ve not seen her for…well, since the operation you performed.” She paused. “I think I’d like to talk to Becky a little more and find out some more about how she remembers me in her world.”

“You won’t have to wait long,” Violet responded. “She’s having bad dreams too.”

Sure enough, in the few moments that followed, they heard Becky shuffling about inside the cabin and in the short time it took her to get her own glass of water from the kitchen, she joined them on the porch.

“Morning…” Becky stopped when she saw Ina. “Oh boy am I glad to see you! I had a horrible dream…”

Ina smiled reassuringly and put her arm round Becky’s shoulders. Daniel and Violet shared a glance.

“Come, dear, it’s okay. You can tell us.” Ina spoke softly.

“Well, I dreamed I went back to the farm to get supplies, and… Lila’s mom was there.” Becky spoke in a small voice, afraid that she wouldn’t be taken seriously.

“You mean me?” Ina asked.

“No Ina. I don’t mean you… I don’t think… I mean, Lila is Lila, Pete is Pete and I am me, I get the feeling that whatever happened to separate us shouldn’t have happened and all these Nexus points have somehow come about to keep us together and in touch so we can straighten things out. We’re… we’re not just alternate versions of the friends each of us used to know, we’re the same people, the same spirits…” Becky’s voice trailed off as she fought to keep up with the pace of her thoughts. Dawn was breaking softly over the cabin, and in the distance, very faintly, the tinkling of bellflowers could just be heard.

“But it’s me isn’t it.” Ina spoke gently. “I’m different to you, different to the ‘me’ you knew before.”

“No, Ina.” Becky looked up at her, tears rolling down her cheeks. “You’re exactly how I remember you, but you died in the war along with Lila. I couldn’t have seen you at the farm, I just couldn’t have, but the dream felt so real….” Her voice trailed off into sobs.

The tinkling of the bellflowers got louder as a voice made it’s way into Ina’s thoughts.

Sorry, It was us! We didn’t anticipate the distress it would cause you…

“The flowers?” Ina said aloud in amazement.

Yes, we’re trying to help. Things are working, the world is coming back together... slowly, but it is happening, this is what you are feeling. As it reforms, then your memories of each other need to reform too to accept each other as you see them now. We are trying to help by showing you visions of how things could be with yourselves in each others worlds. We hoped it would prepare you for what may come to pass.

Ina smiled and let out a sigh of relief, she wasn’t going mad after all. The others saw the smile on her face and looked at her quizzically.

“It's okay.” She said, “It’s the flowers, they are trying to help. We’ll have to have a talk with the others about this when everybody gets back, but don’t worry, we’re not going mad, and there are no phantom Ina’s running around.” Becky laughed at this, and soon everyone was smiling. “Come now, let’s get some breakfast going.”

“HEY!” Pete’s call rang out and caught them just as they had turned to go inside. “Oh, hey! Are we glad to see you!” The men covered the ground to the cabin quickly, and had obviously left Oak Grove in a hurry to get back.

“What’s up?” Violet asked, concerned.

“Well, we were worried something had happened here.” Dave began to explain. “We got back to Oak Grove ok, and it was just as we expected, no time had passed there while we had been gone, just like usual..”

“…but when we got home, well. The other Ina, she had passed away.” Pete carried on where Dave had trailed off. “We had to call the doctor, it seems her heart gave out… Ina, are you ok?”

To the surprise of all, Ina was smiling, staring into middle distance. The flowers were tinkling loudly in the background. Don’t worry, Ina, things are just running their course…

“Yes, Pete, it’s okay. I feel… complete.” Ina spoke warmly, and was quite surprised when Pete hugged her.

“It’s good to have you back, Ina.” He said.

lilmouze
9th Jan 2004, 01:42
Welcome Wandering Scribe. You filled in the gap of the two Ina's very nicely.

Well done. Big thumbs up. :)

vakusuma
15th Jan 2004, 20:10
I'm back.

And I'm so glad someone filled up a potential major headache very nicely... nice work, whoever you are ;)

Arkron
15th Jan 2004, 23:05
*takes one more longing look at the large rock within arms reach and sighs*

Welcome back ;)

Red Mage
16th Jan 2004, 07:06
Wow!! This is still going on. Not to shabby.

vakusuma
27th Jan 2004, 01:15
It's been a while now, unfortunately. *pokes*

Chilled Unit
27th Jan 2004, 11:36
I'm not sure what is going on any more :(

Nightstalker
5th Feb 2004, 13:19
He it has been a month since the last chapter post...

Nightstalker

Dell
7th Feb 2004, 23:28
What is going on is Dell is up to write now and will do so. How about that?

After me, Vakusuma should go for it...and if NIGHTSTALKER wants to step in, He too is welcome. If not, then Chilled Unit goes and then Mouse if she can get moved and back online by then.

Arkron, where have you been hiding? People worry, you know!

Chilled Unit
9th Feb 2004, 16:13
All seems right with the world again :)

Excellent!

lilmouze
11th Feb 2004, 02:27
Hail, Hail the gang's all here. I am back and up and running.

Awaiting my turn to write. Sorry I wasn't here sooner, all the strings for the telephone lines got wet and then the stupid tin cans rusted. But got me some new strings and cans and am able to communicate once again.

Nightstalker
15th Feb 2004, 22:50
Dell, please don't shout...it hurts my ears ;)

I already told you that I won't write anymore, because:

[list=1]
I don't have the time (School is very demanding)
I come here about once in the two weeks
I'm not up to speed with the story (I think it would take several days to get back up to speed)
You kicked me out (with the consent of the other writers) (NO, I DON'T MIND)
I have not idea of the planning your doing right now
I think I would have trouble putting my current book (Shappire Rose (English edition)) down
Need I to continue?
[/list=1]

Oops, it seems like I did a little shouting myself.

I'll just say: "Keep this story going"

Nightstalker

P.S. I got a new mail address nstalker at xs4all.nl --> replace the at for an @

Dell
23rd Feb 2004, 18:04
Nexus Chapter 19, Part 3
By Chilled Unit

After staying up late into the night talking about things, and exploring theories of why, how, what they were doing, how it was affecting other worlds, and generally philosophizing, the group slept well into the morning.

The younger members, Pete especially, had tried to stay awake and follow the conversation, but inevitably something that was said would spark his own imagination. Mixed with the tiredness, his thoughts would swirl, occupying him so that by the time his ideas formed and he wanted to interject something, the conversation had moved on down another branch.

Ina had been the most eager to talk and try to make sense of recent events, and the visit had been her idea. They had intended to go back to visit Webster and the world of the Anticipators at some stage, especially after Becky and Terry's positive reports of how good it was looking from their trip to retrieve the worker bot. Ina's desire for a short respite and having something positive to focus on for at least a day made up their minds for them, they would all go to Cathedral World instead of splitting up and part of the group making the dangerous trip to Robot World.

With the laziest of the group roused, fresh coffee, showers, hearty breakfasts all round, and spirits high in anticipation of a happy and positive visit, they set off for the nexus point to Cathedreal World.

"I don't think Webster will be expecting us." Becky grinned.

"Well hopefully it'll be as nice a surprise for him as it will be for us." Ina smiled reassuringly and patted Becky on the shoulder before turning and vanishing through the nexus point.

-----

The vision that greeted the group on the other side was almost beyond belief. The dark, dank atmosphere of the cathedral had vanished like a bad dream, and the sun shone through several large stained glass windows. Renee's gasp of surprise was greeted with smiles from the group. This was her first experience in seeing a world other than Robot and Cabin Worlds, and it was a colorful, dramatic scene.

Groups of two, three, and five people gathered here and there where what looked like shrines had been placed about the building�s interior. The rigid rows of pews had gone, and small cushions were strewn throughout the space the better for groups of people to congregate however they wanted, and the main central altar had vanished. Instead, in it's place - although no more prominently displayed - was a now dormant worker bot.

"It's like a museum almost," Dave said in amazement.

"That it is, my friends, that it is!" A familiar voice greeted them from behind. They turned and saw the smiling face of Webster.

After fond greetings and handshakes Webster offered to show them the things that were taking place in his lands, beckoning them up into the stairwell leading up the cathedral's bell tower.

"The change seemed to come from the people, to be honest." he was explaining to an attentively listening Dave and Daniel. "Once the people saw that the machines were things that had been built and designed and worked on worldly principles - albeit very advanced ones - they developed a desire to learn how to do these things for themselves.

"That realization, combined with the disappointment and resentment they felt towards a religion." Webster faltered for a moment and looked at the floor until Daniel placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled warmly, drawing the man's gaze back to his. "Yes, a religion that had promised so much through phantoms and ghosts that never came. Well, a desire to believe in the real arose, and a rejection of idol worship, but don't get me wrong. The people are incredibly grateful that the machines - and you all - arrived, which is why groups still come here to see them, touch them, and learn from how they were put together. But they don't attribute to them powers that they couldn't possibly have... miracles if you will."

Webster had paused on the stairs, consumed in his explanation and now turned and resumed the climb at the head of the group, smiling to himself. Dave and Daniel hung back and brought up the rear.

"Daniel�" Dave spoke in a low whisper. "It's incredible! Think about it. Through the machines designed and built by Cereplex to work instead of humans and, eventually, rob them of their freedom, these people, these humans have been set free and given their freedom back. If Cereplex ever learned that�"

"It would crash irrecoverably." Daniel finished Dave's thought.

-----

Upon reaching the little balcony surrounding the bell tower just below its steeple, the group was presented with a complete vista of the surrounding lands. And what they saw took their breath away.

Where once three biomes had stood, there were now seven. A bit further off in the distance, another three were being built, but this time humans were constructing them. The lands had turned lush and green, and clear water flowed in streams, turning big water mills which appeared to be connected to turbines and generating power through the arrangement of overhead cables spanning away from them.

On the tops of tall hills to the west, big wind turbines stood, and upon seeing Dave and Pete point at them, Webster shouted above the breeze that they too provided power.

A good hour was spent there in the afternoon sun, up on the balcony with Webster pointing out the transformation of the surrounding lands. Some adventurous souls had even started developing the indoor biome farming methods for outdoor farming, but the produce that sprang from those farms would not be introduced into the food chain for ten or twenty crop generations even if they tested all clear. Even so, it was obvious to all that this world had begun to heal and was out of intensive care.

-----

Back in the cathedral's main chamber once again, the group prepared to leave.

"You've done well, Webster." Dave said. "The few people left here are going to be just fine from what you've shown us."

"Yes," Daniel agreed. "We all wish you luck and success for the future."

The tone of his voice had not gone unnoticed.

"You're not coming back?" Webster asked softly, already knowing the answer to the question.

"Webster," Ina began "it's not through choice, but we don't think we can. Certain things have happened to us that suggest a nexus point will close when a world has been helped all it can be". She paused before continuing with a smile "And we've done all we can here, that is for sure. It's all in the people's hands now."

They all stood there for a time, the seemingly unfathomable fact that they would be separated by an unbridgeable chasm from this moment on beginning to sink in and make itself real in their minds. It made stepping through the nexus point to the Cabin World that much harder, but eventually after handshakes and embraces all around, step through they did, one by one.

Lila was the last through, and they all sighed in relief as she joined them in Cabin World, appearing out of thin air. Without looking at them she turned on her heel and took a step back the way she came, but she didn't vanish. With her back turned to them, her shoulders began to rock with soft sobs and in no time at all Pete was by her side with his arm around her, gently guiding her back to the cabin behind the others.

Cathedral World was closed to them forever, and the finality of it hurt . . .

vakusuma
25th Feb 2004, 21:37
I'm here.

And a nice wrapup to one part of the adventure :) So now we know how to close a portal...

Very good! :D

I hope we can dig up whoever is writing next...

lilmouze
25th Feb 2004, 22:42
Lilmouze grabs her garden spade, walks out into the freshly tilled garden and starts to dig.


HaHaHa:p , its you up next vakusuma. Its you.


Excellent chapter Dell. That makes two Nexus points closed now.

Edit: :o Boy am I embarrased. Excellent chapter ChilledUnit.

Dell
25th Feb 2004, 23:41
It is a lovely chapter and World Closure!

But I didn't write it! Chilled Unit wrote it and I simply ran over it, and posted it for him...

He deserves all the credits! Tah Dah!

Vakusuma, would you see how we can close Robot World now? It needs to be done so Cereplex closes itself down when presented with the anomaly that does not reconcile logically to its satisfacotion.

It is time to open Oceana....big BIG world with big BIG creatures!

Also it is time to revisit the New World and figure out what needs to be done there. They are telepathic, remember?

Hmmm wonders if the fast time world is still open?

King Otmar
26th Feb 2004, 10:08
Is this an RP Page. Can OTTMAR enter.

Dell
26th Feb 2004, 15:22
Hi King Otmar! Golly, sorry, it is a story, quite a long one that started waaaaaay back, and is written by a group of writers taking turns writing chapters.

RPG's are somewhat different where each person plays a special role in an adventure...here, we take the one group of characters through a story from beginning to end, the writers working together and following a very careful story line to make a great story if it were published.

RPG's are great, and if you want to start one in this small forum, that just might go very well. You could announce it in the Eidos General Forum and see if you could get some of those people to come to this FFForum and take part. :)

vakusuma
26th Feb 2004, 17:49
Me, huh? :)

I cannot bring the Robot/Computer World to closure in just a chapter... however, I can make one that'll set the path toward closure, in what I estimated to be a 10-chapter series.

Give me a week or so.

/me is busy with work and school...

vakusuma
26th Feb 2004, 18:04
Uh, one minor detail, CU, if you don't mind me nitpicking.

I was kinda assuming that Daniel, Dave, Renee, Martin and Terry are going immediately to the Robot World for the impending reunion. However, here were Daniel and Dave kibbitzing around in Cathedral World. Any explanation for that?

It seemed that the group were doing something else for the next two days after they have decided that a party will be going immediately :p The delay for the first day was understandable, as the group needed supplies from Oak Grove for their journey to Robot World. But the second day's delay...

And can someone refresh my memory on whether the memory of Ina going through Oak Grove was actually a dream? It *was* a dream, right?

Dell
26th Feb 2004, 21:40
Vakusuma, if you read the chapter again, you will discover that little anomaly has now been corrected.

Yes Ina's experiences were just that...dreams within dreams instigated by the bell flowers.

Loose ends taken care of.

The group can begin the trip to Robot World in the next Chapter part, unencumbered with loose ends.

However, how in the world can finishing up Robot World take up ten chapter parts? That sounds a bit unrealistic. Perhaps it can extend and run concurrently with the beginning of Oceana World and that would work. Who knows what bends in the road we will find? New World is still largely unexplored and unexplained, too, so options are still open.

Write as soon as you can please...or let someone know if you are having a problem. :)

vakusuma
27th Feb 2004, 06:16
Okay :) That makes it a lot easier.

Ten chapter part is an estimate. That is, if you're writing in a long-winded manner like I do :p I'll send you guys an email on what's going to happen on Computer World.

vakusuma
3rd Mar 2004, 21:04
Nexus
Chapter 19, Part 4

Reunion

The rest of the day was spent by talking about what they experienced in the Cathedral World. The bellflowers confirmed that indeed, the rift that connected Cathedral World to the Nexus has been closed, leaving the world to heal itself in peace. Every so often, they would marvel at how their actions made a difference toward healing the world in general. The implication of what they are going to do for Robot World, however, didn’t get lost on them. Stopping Cereplex was the obvious goal for the healing of Computer World… once that was done, however, what would happen to Daniel and Violet? And Renee? The sense of closeness that they experienced had grown beyond their wildest dreams – this grand adventure had united them like nothing else could have.

Those speculations, of course, did not stop them from carrying out their plans for healing Computer World. There was no doubt that Cereplex was a real threat to humanity, not just in its dimension but in other dimensions as well, once it discovered the secret of the Nexus. Still, their experience with Tyrell proved that Cereplex now at least knew where the Nexus point in Computer World was located, and it was reasonable to suggest that Cereplex would have the entrance heavily guarded. Previous communications with the bellflowers had led them to the conclusion that there was only one entry point to each world: near a location approximately corresponding to Oak Grove. Gaining entry into another point in Computer World was therefore not an option.

In the end, therefore, it was decided to gain entry from the same point while letting Daniel run a hastily-programmed cloaking subroutine, which could blanket the party carefully from electromagnetic and psionic detections. The idea had been Dave’s, who confirmed with Daniel that very few machines in the Computer World actually had optical detectors – they were essentially blind without their electromagnetic sensors. There was always the risk of Cereplex having optical detectors placed for Cereplex’s image processing subroutines by the entrance, but the risk was calculated to be acceptably small.

With that, the group retired for the day, ready to begin a new phase of their adventure on the next.
-----------------------------------------------------------------
If it had been human, Cereplex would’ve smiled in vindication. It had taken a gamble, and it paid off.

Cereplex correctly assumed that the contact between the virus, Martin Merle Morell, and the human, SFF6453, had opened the possibility of the virus reentering through the space-time anomaly to find out more about the human that SFF6453 was supposedly related to – Dr. Alfonso-Jose Manriquez, whose existence hasn’t been confirmed. Aware of the capabilities of its former two mentallics, Cereplex had devised a way to detect the breaching of the anomaly: special optical sensors.

And 0.1298 seconds earlier, the optical sensors had detected the mentallic D4N-31 appearing from the space-time anomaly, emitting full electromagnetic and psionic jamming broadcast signals – things that would’ve fooled ordinary detectors. Cereplex, however, restrained itself from activating the hidden squad of sentries that would’ve destroyed the mentallic immediately, with the intention of learning D4N-31’s next step. The advantage of surprise and stealth was its alone; it could afford to take its time in making decisions.

Cereplex analyzed its sensors as it observed four humanoids entering through the space-time anomaly after the mentallic. It recognized the virus Martin Merle Morell immediately, as well as SFF6453. One of the other figures seemed to match the profile of a wild human that came with the virus on the first time – it was likely that this man would be a virus as well. Of the other figure, however, Cereplex could find no match – this was someone it hadn’t encountered before. Cereplex activated its audio sensors as the humanoids and rogue mentallic started talking to each other.

“I see nothing,” the virus Martin Merle Morell said. “Looks like Cereplex doesn’t post guards after all.”

“Me see no evil machines,” the stranger added, and Cereplex was struck momentarily at the stranger’s language skills… or rather, lack thereof.

“Oh, I assure you, they are there,” the wild human replied. “Cereplex is too intelligent to not realize that letting even one of us running loose through the world would have disastrous consequences.”

“Knowing Cereplex, I would say that Cereplex did post guards, but is now unaware of our presence. That’s why they are not active and waiting for us with weapons drawn. In any case… this is our chance,” D4N-31 said. “Renee,” he said, clearly addressing SFF6453 even though the name was unfamiliar to Cereplex, “you said that you saw your father’s cottage in your dreams. Do you happen to remember where it may be located?”

The voice of SFF6453 came through after 7.5234 seconds of hesitation. “I’m… I’m not sure, really. It’s been a while. Nevertheless, I seem to remember it to be approximately an hours drive from my old home, which would place it close to where Daddy worked while he was in the CEREPLEX Project, I assume.”

It took 7.4211 seconds for Cereplex to retrieve relevant files on Manriquez and make assumptions before narrowing down the possible locations of the cottage. It took D4N-31, however, 13.4950 seconds longer to process the same information due to his inferior computing ability. “Making several assumptions based on the former headquarters of the Project, I’ve narrowed down our search to a few strips of the Atlantic coast. There is one interesting fact, however: one of the strips runs through a zone of electromagnetic silence.”

“What do you mean by that?” the wild human asked.

Cereplex quickly located the relevant location while D4N-31 spoke. “Cereplex, in all its omnipotence, is limited to its sensors. It can map the entire world, but there are simply anomalous regions in which detections are extremely difficult – signals from these regions typically experienced so much interference that the usual methods of detection were impossible to use. As a result, Cereplex typically avoided building infrastructures at these regions. Such regions are extremely uncommon, but highly localized if they do exist. They were supposed to exist due to residual effects of one of the weapons used in the war. Today, there are only 52 areas that can be classified as zones of electromagnetic silence in the world – Area 51 is located 142 miles from Oak Grove, and is included in our search radius. Knowing Dr. Manriquez’s intent of avoiding Cereplex, however, I’d venture that he would settle inside a region where Cereplex would avoid.”

“It would be a logical area to start searching,” the wild human stated his assent. Cereplex, in the meanwhile, finished gathering specific optical image of Area 51 through one of the satellites still orbiting above the planet – a relic from the human era. The satellites were degenerating, and Cereplex had seen little reason to spend time to maintain the existing satellites, but the image quality that the satellites could still obtain was good enough. Indeed, one image revealed a small cottage by the beach within Area 51, a cottage that had been detected before by optical survey but considered unremarkable.

“It is decided,” D4N-31 said. “We’ll use a transport to take us there. I can do a manual override without Cereplex knowing.”

Cereplex watched them go through its optical sensors with something akin to satisfaction. It determined the cottage’s exact geographical coordinates, and even then the team of sentries and destroyers were being gathered to be sent into Area 51 with a specific program in mind: to raze the cottage, terminate the rogue mentallic and all viruses within, and capture all humans found. With any luck, Dr. Alfonso-Jose Manriquez might also fall into its virtual hands in one fell swoop.
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“I remember this place,” Renee breathed in awe as their transport skimmed along the beach. They stole the sleek and quiet transport from the university garage without incident. The sun was getting high overhead, and the sea seemed to glimmer with its reflection. Renee was pressing her hands against the window and looking out, exulting in the sight and warmth of the day. “If I’m not mistaken, the cottage should be only several more miles down the beach.”

“It shouldn’t take that long… unless this thing breaks down before we get there,” Dave said dubiously as he watched Daniel steering the vehicle. And indeed, they could feel the vehicle swaying as the gravitational stabilizers fought against the mysterious natural electromagnetic interference of Area 51. The display had gone blank, and the indicator lights were blinking chaotically. Despite all that, the vehicle still moved on, and more importantly, was taking them where they wanted to go. “How are you feeling, Daniel?”

“I’m feeling rather unstable, even after I’ve shut down some of my more delicate modules. But otherwise I’m functioning within normal limits of my capacity,” Daniel answered calmly.

“Good to hear. I’m not sure why I’m feeling rather woozy myself for the last ten minutes or so, though.” Dave was also looking pointedly at his companions. Terry had overcome his initial panic attacks at having boarded this moving object, but he was still looking ruffled. Martin, on the other hand, was absolutely miserable. He had suddenly become rather green around a quarter of an hour ago, and now he was slumped dejectedly on his chair, looking out with baleful eyes toward the vast Atlantic Ocean. Only Renee seemed unaffected.

“The nature of the electromagnetic waves and those 'psionic' waves are essentially similar,” Daniel offered an explanation. “Whatever generated the electromagnetic interference here must’ve generated a fair bit of static on the psionic wavelengths as well.” He seemed to gaze out of the window for a while before declaring, “There is a cottage by the beach, and my parallax measurement indicated that its distance is approximately 3.42 miles and closing.”

“It’s Daddy’s cottage. I knew it,” Renee half-whispered as she turned away from the window.

“We’ll find out in a minute,” Dave assured her. He frowned, however. “Daniel, can you detect anything following us? I have this bad feeling that our escape from Oak Grove was almost too easy.”

Daniel paused for a second before answering, “It’s impossible to me to tell at this point with certainty due to all the interference, but I wouldn’t exclude that possibility. It is, however, quite remote.”

Dave continued to gaze behind them thoughtfully for several moments, until he felt the vehicle gradually coming to a stop. “We have arrived,” Daniel announced, and they all got out of the vehicle.

At first glance, the cottage seemed deserted. It was rather run-down, with paint peeling from its dirty walls and shingles of roofing scattered around the cottage. The glass windows were cracked at places, and the wooden door reflected the weather. But Dave was struck at how well the garden was tended. Flowers bloomed from the pots around the cottage, and the coconut trees were tall and leafy.

“Someone lives here,” Terry announced quietly, his ears twitching.

“You don’t suppose…?” Dave began, but he abruptly stopped as an olive-skinned old man emerged from around the corner of the cottage. He was rather thin, but Dave noticed his well-toned muscles even beneath his clothes. And he carried a shotgun.

“I have no idea who you are, robot, bringing all these humans to my place, but you best be gone before I get very upset!” he spat at Daniel, his voice harsh but surprisingly free of accent.

Renee had gone silent, her mouth hanging open. Now she whimpered hesitatingly, “D… Daddy?”

The old man turned to her and stared at her for a while. And then his eyes went really wide, and the gun was abruptly lowered. “Maria?”

“Dr. Manriquez, I presume?” Dave bowed. “We call her Renee, but her real name is indeed Maria… and if you are who we think you are, then yes, she would be your daughter.”

They stared at each other for a moment longer, but abruptly they were in each other’s arms, sobbing freely and calling each other’s names. Martin stood awkwardly before them, while Terry was sobbing quietly, and Dave fighting hard not to follow suit. Daniel was silent as he analyzed the reaction of the two humans, a reaction induced by long separation – something that had been studied before, but not between two ‘real’ humans such as Renee and her father.

Finally they released each other, and the old man started speaking to Renee in rapid Spanish. Confused at first, Renee seemed rather quick on the uptake, and soon she was speaking back haltingly, for she had not used the language for a long time. The old man was smiling at first, but then his smile started to fade. When he turned to address the group, his expression was rather neutral, although his eyes glittered almost madly.

“Maria told me about you briefly, but I think I’d rather hear it from you myself. What a strange day this turned out to be. Caramba, but this is rather unexpected, isn’t it? Huh? I saw you coming, of course, but Maria is the last person I expected to be in this motley crew.” He put one arm around his daughter, hugging her close, although the other one was still holding his shotgun. “I am who I presumed you thought to be, but call me Al, alright? All that ‘Doctor’ crap is bugging the heck out of me.”

He chuckled when Martin introduced himself haltingly, having been told by Renee about Martin’s role in helping her getting away from Cereplex, not to mention what they felt about each other. He only shrugged as Terry and Dave introduced themselves. But his eyes glittered strangely when Daniel did the same. “D4N-3L, a rogue anthropoanalyst who turned against Cereplex, and took human name, huh?” He laughed. “You’re pretty infamous, you know. Last I heard, Cereplex ordered those darned machines to shoot ye on the sight, it did. I wonder what you did to tick it off that much. Hah!” He chuckled quietly to himself.

“You seem unusually well informed,” Daniel observed.

“I’m in the business of staying alive, mentallic. In my business, information is power… lack of information is death. I’ve been doing it for about three decades now, and I’m very good at it!” He glanced lazily at his wristwatch as it emitted nagging beeping sounds. “For example, I know that you fools haven’t taken care to conceal yourself really well when you came to my cottage here.”

They exchanged glances, puzzled. “What do you mean, sir?” Dave asked cautiously.

“Forty miles from where we are, machines just crossed the path of my sensors. Lots of machines. And unless I’m very much mistaken, they’re heading right toward this cottage, judging from how they approached.” Al chuckled gleefully. “Oh boy, I don’t know what you did to earn Cereplex’s wrath, but considering the number of sentries and destroyers that’s about to storm this house… you must’ve really, really ticked it off!” And he continued to cackle gleefully as the others stared at one another in alarm.

Chilled Unit
4th Mar 2004, 08:43
Great chapter Vak :) .. really neat!

I mailed out some minor things that are still in the posted version before I saw you had posted it!

Good luck Dell / Mouse, looking forward to it! :)

lilmouze
6th Mar 2004, 00:21
Very excellent chapter Vak. It did come together nicely.

Who is up for writing next?

vakusuma
6th Mar 2004, 19:57
Edited. Thank you all :D

vakusuma
23rd Mar 2004, 16:11
It's been a while.

lilmouze
23rd Mar 2004, 21:16
Yes it has been awhile. I thought it was Dell's turn to write. Maybe I am mistaken.

I know she had 'puter probs and CU has been busy, but I honestly don't know what the rotation is anymore.

Chilled Unit
24th Mar 2004, 16:20
Me either, unfortunately.

vakusuma
25th Mar 2004, 18:18
I thought it was Dell's as well, actually. I know that CU wrote before me, so I guess it's up to the two of you to decide :)

Nightstalker
19th Jun 2004, 07:44
Is it dead...Damn what a shame...

lilmouze
20th Jun 2004, 22:49
Hello Nightstalker, long time no see. Hope all is well with you.

vakusuma is writing a super chapter right now and I am working on a chapter. Hopefully everyone will return from their vacations (I just returned from mine) and things will be back on track soon.

Nightstalker
22nd Jun 2004, 09:12
Welll I walked in here and saw a last post from March and it is mid June now...

Yes everything is fine here.

NightStalker

vakusuma
24th Jun 2004, 04:54
Sorry. I've completed this one a long time ago but there was a little communication breakdown.


Nexus
Chapter 20, Part 1

The Tempest

Cereplex watched in satisfaction as its little army approached Area 51. As it suspected, the foolish mentallic, virus, and wild humans had led it straight to Dr. Manriquez. It has computed that they have only 0.002% chance of escaping the encounter with the machines sent to do the job, based on the known abilities of the mentallic and the virus. Most of its destroyers were outfitted with special psionic shield, increasing their resistance to psi attacks. However, given the strange electromagnetic effects on the region, Cereplex doubted that psi attacks would be at all effective within.

One by one, the signals from the machines disappeared as they entered the zone of electromagnetic silence. For now, Cereplex was blind to the fate of its machines; the human satellites could not produce enough resolving power to detect the machines within. But Cereplex had learned to trust on its computing power in the past; there was absolutely no reason why its computing power would fail it this time as well.
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“But sir, we must flee now!” Dave insisted as Al led them back into his cottage at a leisurely pace. “There are simply too many of them for us to fight! We don’t stand a chance!”

“The peculiar electromagnetic effect of this place has a damping effect on psionic attacks,” Daniel confirmed as he followed the scientist. His voice was expressionless, as always, but he seemed to exude uncertainty. “Cereplex must’ve counted on that to blunt any of our attempts to attack by psi.” He only had to glance at Terry, who was still shaking his head in a futile attempt to clear the ringing.

Still, taking his daughter by her arm, Al merely chuckled. “I’ve lived out here for more years than I can remember. Do you really expect me to be totally defenseless? Hah!”

He took them into the interior of the cottage. The travelers immediately noticed various memorabilia from Al’s previous life neatly stacked around the cottage; Renee halted and took a picture off a side table, her eyes watering as she stared at the picture of her as a small child with her parents. Al merely nodded in acknowledgement, letting Renee linger by the table before tugging her arm again. Aside from the memorabilia, however, the interior looked precisely like a cottage intended for vacationers, and less like one intended to be lived in. The cottage was showing its age, but it was a very comfortable one.

“I know, I know,” Al said as he noticed the questioning stares, “doesn’t seem like anything, huh? Just another cottage belonging to a retired old man. And I’d like to make it seem that way.” He chuckled again as he entered the kitchen. “But, I’m a scientist too, and I like to indulge myself in some, ah, technological gadgets from time to time.” He tapped an unremarkable panel on the kitchen wall, and the travelers jerked as a grinding sound was heard. Slowly, a section of the floor before them opened sideways, revealing a deep pit with metal rungs jutting out the walls. Al grinned upon seeing the expressions on their faces, and gave them a wink. “Welcome to my underground lair. Every mad scientist has one. Come on down, ladies and gentlemen, and robot too.”

Dave’s eyes seemed to glaze over as they finally stood in the chamber at the bottom of the pit. Even as the others held their breath as Al stood grinning, enjoying their reaction. Finally Dave exhaled and uttered a weak, “Whoa.”

The chamber seemed to be part of a natural underground cave, until one considered that it was located under a beach. Within the chamber, they saw computers… many computers. An interface console sat at the center of the computer network, and a huge monitor could be seen overhead, reflecting the display on the console. Besides the network, there were various tubes feeding to what Dave had recognized as a mini fission reactor, which powered up the whole network. There were also robots, in various stages of functionality and completeness, strewn around the chamber. At the opposite end of the chamber from the computer, a tunnel opened to darkness.

“This used to belong to a scientist in CEREPLEX project, forgotten until I took it over,” Al waved his hands around. “He was filthy rich; built the entire cavern out of his own pocket. This is not a natural underground cave really, since we’re below water level. The walls are made out of a composite material, and that tunnel leads to a water gate. It’s a nice place for doing something shady.” He grinned. “Now, I don’t know about this Nexus that Maria told me you were coming from, but I figure that since you have no love for Cereplex either, it doesn’t hurt to show you all these. Although, you’d have to enlighten me more on that later.”

“Very impressive,” came Daniel’s expressionless comment.

Al sighed and rolled his eyes. “There’s no impressing some things sometimes. Anyway, Maria explained to me why you’re here. I believe that el Señor had finally sent me a sign in you. First, Maria came back to me. Second, you came with D4N-3L.” He eyed the mentallic, who returned his gaze calmly. “I’ve been thinking into breaching the server vault for all these years but one thing had eluded me: a robot with adequate processing ability and the knowledge to override Cereplex’s security measures. You’ve seen the result of my experimentations; they’re not in good shape, but you should’ve seen the kind of junk I had to work with. Daniel should provide the knowledge and computing power I need to break into the vault. With him,” he grinned again as he rubbed his palms together, “we might actually stand a chance, at last.”

“The computers,” he continued, “maintain a passive connection to Cereplex’s system. I cannot directly manipulate Cereplex from here, for it is too dangerous, but sometimes I can siphon out data from its communications stream. You can imagine how frustrated I have been after all these years to find a way to get my daughter back.” Renee quietly hugged her father, who continued to talk animatedly. “For the rest of them, these computers monitor the situation around this cottage, for occasionally Cereplex’s probes wander into this area. I have land sensors covering approximately 2000 square miles of land around my cottage, as well as several sea sensors, all connected by shielded cables. This is my home turf and nothing goes in unseen,” he added proudly.

“But you can’t do anything regarding those approaching robots,” Martin pointed out. “Unless you happen to have weapon systems as well.”

“I only need one kind of weapon,” Al cackled. “While it’s not as fun as blowing things up with a laser cannon, I’ve came up with the ultimate defense from my studies of the natural electromagnetic signals in this area.” His eyes gleamed madly. “You see, I’ve learnt how I can influence the natural signals to behave very erratically, and depending on the intensity of the change, it can do anything from temporarily disabling a sensitive electronic circuit to blowing them up outright.”

“You mean, you have EMP generators,” Dave stated, his eyes wide.

“Not so much generators as inducers, really, but you get the idea,” Al grinned. “I’ve planted the little buggers within 10 mile radius of my home. One command, and you can kiss all your electronic equipment goodbye. Of course, I have to be careful not to blow up my own stuff, because I have some pretty sensitive equipment here.” He walked over to the reactor and banged it with his fist, “including this fission reactor. One EMP at a bad time and,” he spread his arms dramatically.

“Any electromagnetic pulse attack may leave me damaged or otherwise not running at full potential,” Daniel stated.

“The scientist who built this cave spared no expense. The composite material that made up the wall of this chamber was designed to withstand a clean bomb emission, but I also found out that it acts as a shield against electromagnetic interference. This is why I’m able to run a computer network in here without having those natural signals screwing things up. I’ve tested the EMP before; for a dose that’ll knock out anything not shielded, my computers got a mild shock but there were no lasting damage done. And Cereplex built their anthropoanalysts tougher than my computers since they have to withstand psi attacks,” Al explained. “The dose I’m going to give those buggers,” he continued as the huge display flashed ’15 miles’, “is going to be less than the dose I’ve tried before. You should be fine.” But as he moved to occupy the console, Martin’s sharp ears heard Al muttering under his breath, “hopefully.”

The muttering wasn’t lost on Daniel either. “I will make several backups of my files, then, before shutting down during the EMP,” he offered. “It will minimize the chance of damage, and I can easily reconstruct my data if necessary. Everything can be done in 45 seconds.” Seeing the nods that Martin and Dave gave him, Daniel closed his eyes and started the process.

For several moments, everyone stood waiting as Al attacked the console with uncharacteristic frenzy, while Daniel stood unmoving. Finally Daniel opened his eyes. “I will reactivate myself in 10 minutes,” he said, before closing his eyes again and shutting down his system.

“More than enough,” Al cackled as he turned away from the console. “I’m ready to go whenever you are. Sensors indicated that they’re already within EMP range.” He beckoned for his daughter to come closer. “Dear, would you do us the honor? Did you see this huge, red button on this console here?” Renee flashed him a smile, and after seeing the nods that the others gave her, pressed the button.

And immediately, the cave was filled with the sound of screaming.
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The sentries succumbed first to the tempest. Being lightly shielded against electromagnetic attacks, they could do nothing as the chaotic signals raged within them, in direct conflict with their orderly programming. A fuse was blown, and then another, and delicate electronic circuits, never designed to take currents of this intensity, began to spark and burn. It took less than a second for complete system failure to occur, and the machines ground to a halt.

The special psi destroyers withstood the tempest better, being built to take on assaults like this. The completely different nature of the attack, however, took the systems by surprise. Several non-crucial systems, wide open to electromagnetic influence, began to falter, sending bad feedbacks to the central systems. As the tempest continued, the systems detected more instabilities arising within. Eventually, there was only one overriding command left for all: Reboot for self-initialization. Some weaker systems couldn’t even interpret the command correctly, and succumbed to the tempest. Weak or strong, however, they all fell.

Within moments, as the tempest subsided, only a small fraction of the advancing army was still functional, and they were locked in a sleep that they were still struggling to overcome.
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“You idiots,” Al raged as he regarded the prone figure of Martin on the floor, while his very concerned daughter tended to him. “You never told me that you are psi-sensitive! Humans rarely are! Don’t blame me when that EMP ended up generating various resonant, painful psi waves!”

Dave fought hard to overcome his nausea, while Terry could be heard retching dryly. Daniel was still immobile, and it was not clear as yet of the effects of the tempest on him. “EMP isn’t supposed to affect humans! And the static was supposed to provide a blanketing effect! How are we to know?”

The old scientist shook his head in obvious exasperation. “How much more obvious does it have to be? You experienced the sense of discomfort when you entered this zone, didn’t you? Don’t you remember that the so-called psionic waves are essentially a form of electromagnetic radiation? What I just did was shaking up the static… of course it would’ve produced a psi backlash!” He sighed. “All the conflicting signals in this area must’ve muddled your brain. And you call yourself a professor. Damn it, man, if this cave hadn’t been as well shielded, or if I had administered a slightly higher dose, your friend could’ve been dead by now.”

Dave smiled ruefully. “Alright, it did skip my mind for a moment. What happened to the machines?”

“Stopped cold,” Al said with obvious pride. “My sensors have recovered and reported that the enemy has been halted approximately 9 miles away from the cottage. Most seemed to have blown a fuse, although I reckon that a few hardy ones survived. Still, it’ll take some time before they reinitialize.”

“What are we going to do now?” Terry asked. His eyes were still glazed but he was quickly recovering his composure, although he still looked puzzled at why he had suddenly developed a splitting headache.

“Well, my machines seemed to be OK, and the fission reactor hasn’t gone nuclear on us. So, as soon as that idiot wakes up, we’re leaving,” Al exclaimed as he walked to his work table and started shoving things into the suitcase he had opened. “This is a perfect opportunity for us to infiltrate the server vault. Cereplex will be waiting for us to escape by land, but we’re not going to give it that satisfaction. As I said earlier, the tunnel leads into a water gate, and also my personal boat. Once we flood enough water into the gates, we’ll take a cruise to the server vault. Cereplex has no sea sensors around here, so we should manage that feat easily.”

Dave nodded in agreement. “That sounds reasonable. So, if you don’t mind sharing with us the lore that made you so dangerous to Cereplex… where is this server vault located?”

Al grinned. “Ah, but that’s the irony of this mess we’re in. The people in CEREPLEX Project built the vault in a symbolic location, to celebrate our freedom from the tyranny of strife, and to usher a new age of cybernetic utopia.” He guffawed at that. “My friends, we are going to visit the Lady Liberty on Liberty Island.”
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As the atomic clock ticked past the maximum estimated time for completion of the capture mission, with the land sensors drawing blank on machines coming in or out of the area, Cereplex was forced to conclude that its prey had eluded it once again.

But Cereplex had one more card to play. Confirming that the four TYR-311 copies have finally been completed, it sent an activation order. Soon, they would investigate this anomaly that TYR-311 has disappeared into…