"Yes," she replied.
"How many fingers am I holding up?"
"What is the cube root of twenty-four?"
"What are the opening lines of book three of the Odyssey?"
She responded in what Neurotron assured me was flawless Greek.
"What were you doing on November third?"
"I read from the United Heroes Library, and Professor Cognis explained the structure of the Hippocampus."
"What did you do yesterday?"
She thought. She thought for far too long. "I remember a toilet."
Interesting. She didn't seem to have memories of her time as the Archivist. "What is your most recent memory from before this-"
"Excuse me," Acme interjected. "Can we pause with the Q&A so that we can restore her memories and return her Archives?"
"No," I said, clenching the diadem in my hands.
"You have no right to steal her Archives, and deprive her of a part of her person."
"You, of course, are completely justified in forcing these Archives upon her." That was sarcasm.
Lucy was confused. She had gathered that for the last few months she had not been herself. She remembered accepting the Archives from Acme, but very little after that. What had she done as Archivist? She didn't know.
She noticed Acme pulling out a weapon. "Put it away," she said. "Put down your fists," she said to Phoenix.
Neither the alien android nor the mad genius decided to argue.
"I think," she said, "that I need the Archives. The New Archivist is a person. We can't take her away."
"You're a person! Why does the New Archivist get exclusive use of your life?"
"Oh," Acme snorted. "I'm sure you don't want to deprive an Archivist of life."
"Do not fight," Lucy said. There was no trace of command in her voice, yet we both did what she said. Well, temporarily.
"Give me the Archives." I didn't budge. "Do not worry."
"I'm not going to enable you to commit suicide." I considered leaving, and waiting for Lucy to come to her senses. But no, given time Acme could made another diadem and set me back to square one.
"The New Archivist will take off the diadem. We will share."
I looked into her eyes. Could I trust the New Archivist? "Here you go. Don't make me take it back."
"As if you could," Acme said, as he watched Lucy put on the Glowing Tiara of Cosmic Knowledge.
The New Archivist was worried. For her entire existence, she had deluded herself, insisting she was just a continuation of Lucy. Now, with recent memories of Lucy for comparison, that case was harder to make, if not utterly indefensible. Her average sentences were twice as long as Lucy's, and many contained phrases that transcended direct translation into human language. Lucy had referred to the New Archivist in the third person, and the New Archivist was doing the same to Lucy.
"Do you remember the conversation we just had," I asked.
"Interesting. So there's no memory loss going the other way. I suppose that isn't surprising. Presumably, the New Archivist stores much of her long-term memory in the crystal, which Lucy cannot retrieve." I thought about other hypotheses to explain the behavior.
"Are you okay," Acme asked.
"Fit as a fiddle. Fine and dandy. All is well. I think I just needed a moment to clear my head. That will be a benefit to my periodically removing the diadem. Lucy gets to live, Phoenix can be happy, and I won't need to spend the rest of my eternal life having seizures on the bathroom floor."
"Let's talk specifics," I said. "I propose Lucy get twelve waking hours a day."
"That seems rather much-"
"And it would be inconvenient to have it in so many small inconvenient chunks. Maybe four days a week?"
Acme sighed. "What are you, her lawyer."
"No. We both know I'd have been disbarred by now. But I am her advocate."
"Both I and Lucy would be fine with her living two days a week of my choosing."
"Really," I asked.
The New Archivist was the tiniest bit stricken. Phoenix thought she would lie in order to steal time from Lucy. Why didn't he understand that a relationship between the two personalities needn't be adversarial. "Her mind is still fresh in my memory."
"Very well," I said. "I have business to attend to back home. I expect to hear from Lucy at most two days from now."
The New Archivist watched as I left, flaming wings propelling me through Earth's atmosphere.
Acme was overseeing the preservation of three hundred thousand high school yearbooks, sorted by year. It was a fairly simple task, just cover all the pages with a durable, thin, thermally insulating, chemically inert coating. As he worked, he thought back on the history of the Archives.
That history had begun when an advanced race on a distant planet descended into war. The battles raged, first with diseases, then with nuclear weapons, then with chemical weapons. The planet's civilizations were shattered beyond repair, and the bands of survivors perished in fruitless battles. This race did not believe in surrender.
Eventually one survivor- a being named Rava-Iss- realized that he may well be the last member of his species. A former engineer, he made it his mission to preserve all the great artifacts and advanced knowledge littered around him.
Acme was snapped out of his thoughts by a particularly embarrassing looking photograph. "Wow, of the billions of human photographs I've seen, that might be the one that looks the stupidest." He was a little surprised to find that the subject of the photograph went on to become a three-term senator.
Acme thought about how Rava-Iss had traveled his planet, lengthening his life using foraged drugs usually reserved for senior statesmen. Rava-Iss reasoned that nobody on an empty planet would worry about a few missing pharmaceuticals.
After amassing what remained of his species' knowledge, and what survived of its technology, Rava-Iss took to the stars. He vowed to preserve the knowledge and cultures of every civilization in the universe.
As Acme finished up the seventies, he considered how Lucy was born.
Rava-Iss had decreed that in order to truly preserve all that it means to a human, an actual human must be preserved. Acme, of course, had concurred, but suggested that human brains are sloppy, inaccurate, and not compatible with modern operating systems.
Rava-Iss ruled that a substitute human should be created. One with no memories, but the ability to pick up human culture at a vastly accelerated rate. It would, of course, need to be capable of defending itself from those who would attempt to study it, and steal the secret technologies used in its creation. Aleksandr Seaborg, for instance. Perhaps the ability to throw fireballs would be sufficient. It would certainly be an ironic twist on the Ooooooorian creation myth. Acme synthesized the creature from the molecular level up. He called her Pandora.
Acme savored the increasing quality of paper as he thought of Pandora- that is to say Lucy- and her ascension to the title of New Archivist.
She had just suffered at the hands of a dying Dr. Carnage. Acme had just lost the closest thing he had to a father. It was a perfect match, for this Lucy character to take on the Archivist's roll. She had accepted, and it would have been fine if it weren't for certain uppity human criminals who took it upon themselves to negotiate the life decisions of their friends.
"Dear Susan- I Love You." Acme read. The signature was too smudged to read. Acme thought about his own loves. He loved walking in the Archives surrounded by towering collections of everything sentient species have ever created. He loved Jahmirian tragic comedies, especially the fart jokes. He loved Pokemon cartoons. But most of all, he loved the New Archivist.
There. He had admitted it to himself. He, a computer program designed to manipulate complex molecules, was in love the with the person who was in some ways his daughter and in some ways his parent. Oedipus was a dabbler, Elektra a romantic comedy, Sythathicaccccccus had lived though a walk in the park (at least until the ritual immolation in a fusion reactor).
Of course, he had no desire for sex. He was an android, who was never supposed to reproduce, and certainly not through impregnating a thoroughly different type of android. But he did want to care for the New Archivist. To protect her from harm. And, if necessary, protect her from Phoenix and his mad obsession with her past self.
Acme heard the New Archivist's voice in his head. It took him a second to realize it was an actual message, and not a fantasy. "...here as soon as it is convenient. I would like to speak with you, preferably in a manner even more private than our present mode of communication."
Acme traveled swiftly through the vast edifice. He traveled on elevators and moving railways to the meeting place at the rim of the spinning space station. As he traveled, he anticipated what might be coming. Did the New Archivist reciprocate his feelings? Was this the beginning of a new era in their relationship? Acme allowed himself to fantasize of true immortal love for a brief moment.
He laughed at himself. The New Archivist thought of him only as a rather sophisticated tool. She would never love him. It would never even occur to her. She probably wanted him to perform some task or other. With any luck, it would be an interesting one. He had no interest in clean Perseid Pigeon Pens of their bird-shit.
"Here I am," he announced as he entered the room.
"Acme, we have much to discuss. For instance, how will I study the cultures of both the humans and the Fortarians at once."
Well, it wasn't love, but it wasn't mucking out the stables, either. Acme counted it as a win.