Authors: V J Kavanagh
Tags: #artificial life, #combat, #dystopia, #dystopian, #future earth, #future society, #genetics, #inequality, #military, #robot, #robotics, #sci-fi, #science fiction, #social engineering, #space, #spaceship, #technology, #war
V J KAVANAGH
FLEE THE BONDS
Published 2016 by V J Kavanagh at Smashwords
Copyright © V J Kavanagh 2015
All Rights Reserved
The moral right of the author has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This publication is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locations is entirely coincidental.
ABLE OF CONTENTS
It is 16:46 EDT. One year from today.
The President’s serenity reflected in the windowpane, unmoved by the thunderclaps cracking the doom-laden summer sky. SECSTATE was thankful it was her decision to make and not his.
‘So we build it?’ His damp palm grasped NASA’s report — and its apocalyptic conclusion.
As Julianna turned, a flash of lightening white seared the Oval Office’s humid air. ‘We do George. Although I have a feeling billions will wish we hadn’t.’
20:09 Fri 20:10:2119
Bureau 03-12-01, Provenance, LEO
Backlit viewscreens lined the walls of the austere bureau, their blank displays looking out across an expanse of shadow to an immense crescent shaped black table doused in light.
Recessed within the high ceiling, two parallel lines of twelve spotlights followed the table’s curvature. The inner beams sank into the table’s glossy surface, while each outer beam cast down on a black high backed chair.
Two were occupied.
Both men wore mandarin collared tunics, one of black and indigo, the other silver. To the casual observer their complexions bore the insipid hallmark of Provenance’s permanent crew members, but on closer inspection the spotlight’s glare revealed the unblemished polymer skin of the man uniformed in black, less so his synthetic stubble. He spoke first.
‘Have you read the interrogation transcript?’
‘I have.’ The human raised an eyebrow. ‘Did they survive?’
Crease lines formed at the corners of polymer lips, revealing the glint of ceramic teeth. ‘The wife fared better than the husband, but yes, they survived.’
‘Good, we may yet need them. Which one broke?’
‘Neither, the information came from their other son.’
The human frowned. ‘I thought he’d died years ago.’
‘He did.’ The polymer smile broadened. ‘So they made a new one. Would you like to meet him?’
‘I don’t think that would be wise.’
Polymer coated fingers tapped the keypad shimmering beneath the table’s surface. ‘Do not be concerned Councilman. No one but I knows your identity.’
All around them, viewscreens flickered into a picture of a white tiled room. A bare chested man lay strapped to a surgical chair, his arms raised by extended armrests.
The Councilman leant forward and looked up at the viewscreen opposite. ‘What is that in his chest?’
‘That is the key, or at least half of it. We believe the other dolphin acts as a trigger once it is paired with its twin.’
‘How sentient is he?’
‘Very. Although all moral constraints can be overridden to protect his
The Councilman leant back and rested his clasped hands on the table. ‘When his brother is activated it is us who will require protection, and that Morton is our conundrum. If we kill them now we will never leave orbit.’
‘What do you mean? All we have to do is find the other dolphin and extract the code.’
The Councilman smiled. ‘Being artificial puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to paternal instincts.’ He swivelled to face the black and indigo uniform. ‘Their parents want them both to survive, so they have devised a strategy to accomplish just that. I suspect the dolphins can only be triggered by Stephen Arrowsbury and the only way he will do that is if we find a way of introducing him to his new brother. Far from killing him, you must protect him — at least for now.’
07:08 SAT 21:10:2119
Intra Zone, Wiltshire, England, Sector 2
Entombed in darkness, Steve waited for them to arrive. He knew they’d find him, his executioners always did.
Their incessant humming reverberated through
and their yellow suitcase-like shells clattered against the boat’s hull. He stood in the saloon, his desperation focused on the portholes. Even on tiptoes, his small hands couldn’t reach the shutters.
The humming drew closer; they were inside.
Gliding in and out of the cabins, they stabbed their blades of light into hiding places and filled the boat with their hot metallic exhaust.
One of them entered the saloon, its beam of malevolence shone in Steve’s face and its saucer of an eye pierced his soul. They knew he’d killed his twin brother, and they’d come to punish him.
The Prefect hovered closer, its weapons port slid open and the stub of a plasma cannon protruded from its yellow carcass.
Steve gritted his teeth and raised his wooden sword.
* * * *
He opened his eyes. A curved teak ceiling and peach mood lighting affirmed reality. The grip on his shoulder eased, replaced by a soothing caress.
Penny’s eyes smiled, ‘Are you okay?’
Twisting onto his side, Steve stroked curly strands of auburn hair from her cheek, ‘Fine, too much cheese probably.’
‘You always say that.’ She slid a warm hand over his shoulder and pulled him towards her. A muffled bark resounded along the passageway.
Steve rolled his eyes. ‘Doesn’t that mutt ever sleep?’
‘He loves you too.’ Penny pecked his cheek, ‘It’s time for his walk.’
‘What?’ Steve slumped back, lifted his left wrist, and rotated the Mutable Personal System’s selector dial. Blue ticker text scrolled across a white background,
07:10:52 SAT 21.10.2119 > SR 07:42 > SS 18:05 > W-11-NW > TPL-8 > TPH-15 > P-0%.
‘It’s still dark.’
Penny snuggled into his shoulder. ‘Digby’s not scared.’
Steve plucked the MCD from the bedside cabinet and tapped its screen. Silky music drifted in.
He tapped again and watched the ceiling panels separate into a broad skylight of cloudless sapphire and starry diamonds. The prospect of a sunny day brought a smile.
A glowing disc appeared, moving west to east. Steve’s smile died, his thoughts consumed by an entity idolised by a select few, loathed by everyone else. Provenance.
His grandparents had often told him of the excitement in 2017 when America, Russia and China had dissolved the procrastinating UN and formed the ARC Council. The Council's first decree had been the declassification of all research, allowing technology to advance twenty years overnight and the design phase of humanity’s salvation to begin.
Cocooned from reality, the excitement had continued into Steve’s childhood. For his and Matt’s seventh birthday, their parents had given them a scale model of the twelve-kilometre diameter and two-kilometre high Provenance. They’d completed it in three weeks, sixty-two years and fifteen weeks less than it took for the actual ship. It was the last model he and Matt had built.
He’d have to wait eleven more years before Provenance left orbit with Continuity, the one million survivors of the human race.
If they ever manage to start the engines.
The disc passed out of view, leaving only the fading stars.
Steve’s reason for not leaving with Continuity lay beside him. After Provenance’s departure, he hoped he and Penny would have thirty happy years together before another glowing object appeared.
The comet Colossus wouldn’t fade. It would grow brighter, larger, until it filled the sky and consumed the thoughts of everyone left behind. Colossus had a nucleus the size of Arizona and it would impact Earth at 11:14GMT on Wednesday the 18th of May 2168. Nothing living would survive.
He glanced down. Penny’s eyes had closed, her breathing slow and rhythmic. They both led secret lives, but it was his job to know about hers and prevent her from discovering his. He was an Advocate in Continuity Security, sworn to defend Continuity against the Resistance. Although he’d often wondered what it was he defended.
He eased out of bed and responded to her murmur, ‘I’m going for a run.’
‘Don’t forget Digby.’
‘Chance would be a fine thing.’
Steve changed and followed the passageway aft. His MPS vibrated; he lifted his wrist and blinked at an olive skinned face, squatting on a bull’s neck and capped by a sheen of slicked-back hair. ‘Morning Jas.’
Jason squinted, ‘Can we switch to the viewer, you look like you’re in a closet.’
‘I’m in the passageway; and no, Penny’s here.’
‘Oh, Stevie, another sleepover with your janitress? When you gonna tell her you’re one of the bad guys?’
Steve sighed. Jason was the only other person in CONSEC who knew Penny wasn’t Steve’s cleaner. ‘So why are you up so early?’
‘Just got in. You missed a good night.’ Jason’s face filled the screen. ‘Remember you said last time you were in town, you thought you were tailed.’
‘The red duffle coat you said was paranoia.’