Saturday, September 27, 2014


Centurion did not feel proud of himself. He had been created to protect the New Archivist and Lucy. He was a failure. His greatest accomplishment had been stopping a poisoning only slightly too late. And now, he was guarding the New Archivist's quarters while she visited the Fortarian Imperial Library. Apparently, machines like him weren't allowed in such sacred halls.
He heard a cracking sound. What was it? A bomb? Some new cosmic being sauntering in to visit his charge, completely disregarding any mortal robots who might get in the way?
He searched for the source of the noise. He found it scurrying around on four robotic legs.
"Who are you," he asked the strange machine in front of him. He normally would have attacked first and asked questions later, but after Alexander Star he felt nervous about assaulting unknown beings in the New Archivist's quarters.
"I am Noetron."
"Phoenix's machine?"
"Yes. Where is the New Archivist."
"I'm not sure I should tell you."
"It is imperative that I speak with Lucy immediately," Noetron said. He didn't mention that before speaking to her he was going to kidnap her and bring her to Earth where Phoenix could forever destroy the New Archivist.
"You want to talk to Lucy?"
"Yes." Noetron was incapable of impatience. He could repeat himself all day. Besides, he was occupied with plenty of other tasks. Like trying to establish communication with Phoenix so that he could communicate all that he learned pillaging the Archives.
"So, you don't know?"
"I don't know what?"
"Lucy is gone. She died. There is just the New Archivist now."
Noetron was so taken aback, he spent a tenth of a second processing the information. Then, he demanded more. "Give me more details."
Centurion explain how Lucy had been poisoned, and subsequently plunged into molten metal. How the damage had destroyed her brain, and how she couldn't survive without constant access to the New Archivist's powers.
Noetron switched off all extraneous functions. There was no need to make pleasant conversation with this dullard machine. No reason to try to calculate Acme's response to a small spacecraft teleporting away from the Archives. No need to sift through the scientific information gathered in the ancient alien halls. There were only two things that mattered: figuring out had happened to Lucy, and telling Phoenix about it.
Noetron got through to Phoenix first. The mad scientist had created several channels with which to receive information from his machines, but there seemed to have been a great deal of violence in Estveria, and it took time for Phoenix to register the signal.

As soon as I heard from Noetron, I dropped everything. This was more important than mourning Justin King. This was more important than saving Vera. I did what I did best. I thought. I thought with more depth and brainpower and background knowledge than one could expect from ten thousand human brains working in parallel. It took a lot out of me, but within a minute I had deduced what had happened.

Noetron received a response startlingly quickly. He wondered how an essentially human mind could process information so quickly. Perhaps it was the main Noetron, the larger copy Phoenix had kept on Earth, that had done the heavy thinking.
The response included a detailed analysis of everything Noetron had determined about Lucy's brain. It showed that, with ninety-nine point nine four percent confidence, the chain of events Phoenix had witnessed were not consistent with this new information on Lucy's hardware. That suggested the New Archivist was lying. That Lucy was alive and the alien goddess was trying to repress her.
Noetron explained this to the Centurion (as Phoenix had instructed him to do). The science went over the warrior's head (to be fair, it was a little advanced even for Noetron), but the alien machine seemed to get the gist. "I should go confront her," he said.
"Yes," Noetron said. Yes, Noetron thought. As Phoenix had predicted, the robot was going to try to guilt the New Archivist into releasing Lucy. This was more likely to work coming from a familiar shapeshifting face like Centurion's than coming from Noetron, the robotic servant of Lucy's protector.

One thing nobody had accounted for when coming up with this plan was the sheer obstinacy of the Fortarians when it came to letting robots into their Library. "It's important," Centurion said.
"What?" The Fortarian hadn't been paying attention.
"You need to let me in."
"I can't. You're a robot."
"It's a matter of life or death."
"You're a robot."
"This is extremely important."
"I'm confused."
"By what?"
"Aren't you a robot?" Even by Fortarian standards, this particular guard was a bit on the slow side.
Eventually, Centurion left. A minute or so later, a Fortarian showed up. "Can I come in? It's important."
"Can I come in?"
"Oh, sure."
And with that, Centurion was inside.

"Is the alive," Centurion demanded.
The New Archivist turned to look at the intruder. "Who?" She had a feeling she knew the answer.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Those who travel the galaxy preserving truth tend to be bad liars.
"If you take off your diadem, will I find a living talking girl?"
"I... I think I made it clear that she was dead."
Centurion's hand shot forward at incredible speed. He grabbed the diadem.
He was paralyzed before he could pull it off. Power crackled through the New Archivist. "I could melt you into slag. Turn you into plasma."
"Then you would be responsible for taking two lives."
Most people don't like killing. I know I don't. It is really hard to kill someone, and even harder when they are pointing out what you are doing. You know how the villains in movies always sneer at how the heroes don't have the courage to kill them? That's because the bad guys have killed before and they know just how hard it is.
The New Archivist couldn't do it. She couldn't take the Centurion's life in cold blood (or boiling blood, as the case may be). She let him go.
"Give me the diadem," he said. "Let Lucy go."
The New Archivist was wracked with guilt, over trying to kill both Lucy and Centurion. Even with the stabilizing influence of a billion year's of knowledge, she still wasn't in top decision-making mood. So she gave in. She took off the diadem.
This turned out not be a good move. Because Lucy wasn't nearly as capable of fending off a horde of Fortarians trying to steal the New Archives.

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