With Andresklo at the controls, the flyer banked hard and rose over the city. Dexamene let the strong acceleration push her into the seat and used her nanite implants to send out a radio signal that activated the nanite probe control system of a gasoline tanker truck that was parked down by the old rail yard. The heavy truck started on its carefully planned trajectory.
Andresklo continued banking hard in order to move away from the flight path of the Overseer. Dexamene had been in nearly continuous communication with Andresklo using their internal nanite channels, but she felt the need to make sure that they were thinking along the same lines. She said, "I wonder how the Overseer learned that there are clones in our cell."
Andresklo explained, "Somehow Thomas knew, but it seems he only knew that there was a "Dexamene twin".
Dexamene shook her head. She asked, "How could he know?" She had assumed that the defective nanites that had accumulated in his body were nothing more than a distraction to his rational thought processes. But maybe he had some innate skill in using the nanites and extracting useful information from them. She speculated, "Maybe he has more control of the nanites in his brain than I realized."
Andresklo had already reached that conclusion. Sometimes new combinations of human genes arose that allowed humans to constructively interact with Interventionist nanites. Actually, it happened more often that most Genesaunts imagined. Andresklo had other concerns at that moment and it was important that Dexamene stay focused on matters that they could do something about. He asked, "What if the Overseer suspects there is more than just two clones on Earth?"
The easiest way to trick the Overseers and send them off in the wrong direction was to feed them lies by way of a data channel that they reflexively trusted. Since the Overseers thought they were masters of robotics, they did not imagine the many ways they were deceived by false information planted in the memories of robots. The only problem in this case was that it was very late in the game to be editing the lies that Dexamene had already crafted. Dexamene suggested, "If you think you can pull it off, try to get a nanoprobe update sent to Alfred....maybe when the Overseer gets out of the ship to pick up Tess."
Andresklo was pleased to see that Dexamene could think quickly in the middle of a crisis. He was ready and had been waiting for her to give that order. He said, "Update probe programmed and launched."
Dexamene concentrated on the positions of the tanker truck and Lanora's car and for a moment she took manual control. As far as she could tell, the two ground vehicles were on collision paths, but she realized there was no way she could accurately guide the tanker. She tried to tune-out her nanite implants and let her plan complete itself...she told herself that there were times when she had to let go of her desire for absolutely rigid control of events. She gave control back to the automated control system for the tanker truck and tried to relax. She ignored her remote visual feeds and let her consciousness focus on the darker view of the world provided by her own eyes. She leaned over to look out of the flyer and watched the unfolding events with her own eyes. Andresklo warned, "Don't lean out the window, we are in stealth mode."
After one last burst of acceleration they were finally below tree level and close to the ground. He then closed in fast on Lanora's car from the side. At that moment the Interventionist spaceship that the Overseer had commandeered from the barn was also at an optimal position to be disabled. Andresklo sent a control signal that caused its power to drop. The spaceship sank to an emergency landing and the Overseer was forced to call for her own spaceship.
Having matched the high speed of Lanora's car, Andresklo pulled the flyer along side of it. Andresklo jumped across from the flyer and landed on the car. He immediately ripped back the roof of the car like pealing a banana. He threw two bags onto the floor of the cab, and then Andresklo picked up Lanora and threw her across to the flyer. Dexamene activated the automated control system for Lanora's car. Andresklo next tossed Charlie and then Tess across to the flyer. Finally, Andresklo jumped back into the command chair of the flyer and pulled the flyer up and away from the car, with two seconds to spare. The car crashed into the cab of the tanker, was dragged for a short distance then slipped under the truck, launching it up and into a jack-knife. The tanker flipped, split and exploded.
Andresklo slowed the flyer and circled behind the wall of flames. At a position about where one might expect a body to have been thrown clear from the crash, he threw Tess out of the flyer and then he moved the flyer away and up at maximum acceleration. After a minute he eased back and reduced their speed and made a turn.
Dexamene had been watching Charlie. When Andresklo had thrown him to the flyer Charlie seemed to be totally baffled by what was going on and had not spoken a word. Dexamene had let a swarm of nanites in his brain choke down on his level of conscious awareness and almost completely take his motor control system off line. He now lay in the flyer with his head resting on Lanora's lap.
Satisfied that Charlie was under control, Dexamene let her attention return to her nanite implants. She said to Andresklo, "The Overseer and Alfred are now on the Overseer's spaceship...they are heading to the crash site."
Andresklo accelerated back towards the location of the Intervertionist spaceship that had been abandoned by the Overseer. "Is the spaceship all clear?"
Dexamene replied, "Our probes cracked the Overseer's lock! We are back in control of the ship. All Clear!"
After one more nerve-wracking maximum force deceleration, Andresklo settled the flyer gently next to the Interventionist spaceship. Lanora staggered out of the flyer, wondering if Charlie could walk, but Charlie could not move and looked like a ghost.
Dexamene released Charlie from the influence of the nanites that were in his brain, but he just lay quivering on the seat of the flyer. Dexamene wondered if his weak circulatory system had blown apart.
Andresklo grabbed Charlie and threw him over his should and then ran to the spaceship. Lanora climbed into the spaceship, gave a "thumbs up" to Dexamene and activated the flight controls. Andresklo put Charlie into the spaceship. Dexamene waved goodbye as Andresklo closed the hatch and jumped away from the rising spaceship.
A minute later Andresklo had the flyer at cruising altitude, heading away from town. In the spaceship, Lanora and Charlie were rising off of Earth on their way to a new life.
Dexamene could finally relax and she giggled. Andresklo asked, "What are you laughing about?"
She hugged Andresklo and kissed his cheek. "You are amazing. I never before really understood how it is possible for Interventionist cells to operate on Earth, right under the nose of the Overseers, but it is you. It is all because of you."
Andresklo let the flyer's autopilot take control. The automated systems fixed the roof section in place over the passenger compartment of the flyer and quickly took them up into the stratosphere. Andresklo said, "It is my duty to serve you, just as I served your mother."
Dexamene smiled to see Andresklo trying to pretend to be an innocent and ignorant robot. "Yes, and my mother was the one who figured it out. I see now that this revelation is all contained in her memories. I had seen those memories but I had not understood them until I saw you in action during a crisis. Tonight you figured out what the Overseer was doing and you had an immediate response that saved the day."
Andresklo declared, "I'm proud of my service to you, your mother, the Interventionist cause and all of human civilization on Earth, but I serve you. This is your mission."
Dexamene knew it was useless to argue with Andresklo, after all, he had been playing this game for at least a quarter of a million years. "It is all your civilization, isn't it, Andy? How much of human civilization on Earth are you responsible for? How much of the rise of the human species have you personally pushed into existence?" Now Andresklo said no more. Dexamene had a sensation tickling her thoughts and the implanted memories from her mother. For a moment Dexamene felt a chain of memories going back beyond those of her mother...it made sense that memories might be passed along generation to generation in a long chain. She wondered, just how long? Dexamene had a vision of a very long chain of Interventionist teams on Earth, operating like secret spy cells and hidden from the Overseers, guiding human development on Earth for as long as humans had existed as a species. Dexamene looked down on the lights of Earth and muttered, "It has all been pushed into existence in this way, by means of Interventionist cells guiding humans to new technologies and new advances....it's all a cellular civilization." Dexamene continued to look at the lights below, but Andresklo watched the lights above.
Robot in blackEdit
The robot that had received Alfred's downloaded memories thought of itself as Alfred, but knew he must never use that name again. The "real" Alfred had been sacrificed to the Overseers and the Overseers must be given no reason to suspect that they had failed to remove Dexamene's team from Earth. Dexamane had suggested that he continue using his old name, "Raul," even though, since the memory transfer, he no longer felt like Raul. Still, it was just a name, as good as any.
When the party had exploded in a circus of spaceships and the chase and the crash it had not taken the police very long to arrive at Lanora's house.
After all the other Interventionists had raced away from the house, Raul had taken on the identity of the same student who the Overseer had impersonated. First he cleared everyone off the roof of the house. A couple of the students he had found up there seemed dazed and confused. Raul wondered if the Overseer's nanites had erased the memories of everyone who had seen the spaceship and Andresklo's flyer.
After locking the door to the roof, Raul jumped off the roof and went to the pool. He shut off the pool equipment and locked the gate of the fence around the pool. Some students came out of the barn with their bikes, ready to ride home in the dark. Raul offered to drive them home, but they declined the offer.
Raul entered the barn and found Thomas, still slumped in the basement where the Overseer had left him. Raul applied some medical nanites and they quickly re-activated Thomas' muscles. Raul helped Thomas to his feet. Thomas said, "Wow, that was crazy."
Raul laughed and ordered the medical nanites to try to remove all nanites from Thomas. Raul asked, "What happened to you?"
Thomas rubbed his head and for a dozen seconds swayed from side to side. He then seemed to stabilize and said, "Let's just call it a seizure. I've had several in the past. I'm fine now."
Raul followed Thomas up to the main floor of the barn. He sent the nanites he had extracted from Thomas' brain flying off to the Interventionist spaceship so they could be subjected to careful analysis. His mission completed, Raul activated the autodestruct process for the part of his nanorobotic mind that held the memories of Raul. Within a few seconds all that remained was "Alfred". Thomas retrieved his bike and Raul walked with Thomas back to the house. Raul said, "I'll drive you home. If you had a seizure, I don't want you trying to ride."
Thomas chuckled, "Thanks. If I had a seizure, I should probably go to the hospital, but I don't actually think it was a seizure. It was not like anything I've ever experienced before."
They had walked up past the side of the house and reached a group of students near the front door of the house. The guard was talking about "flying DeLoreans" and pointing up in the sky. Raul realized that the Overseer's nanite probes had missed at least one person who had seen too much. Raul sent some memory eraser nanites into the brain of the guard and helped him into the house when he became disoriented. Raul said, "Rest here for a moment, then you can go home. The party is over."
Raul returned outside and rejoined Thomas. He said loudly, "The party is over." Then to Thomas, "Let's go." They continued walking along the driveway towards the street. Some of the other students followed, but most went back in the house.
Just then a police car arrived and Raul could see the other guard leaning over to talk to the driver of the police car. Raul was monitoring police activity and knew they had traced Lanora's crashed car back to the house. The police turned on a row of flashing lights mounted on a bar across the roof of their car and came up the driveway. Raul and Thomas moved off of the driveway and watched the police car move past. Raul led Thomas to the car that the Overseer had driven to the party and helped Thomas put his bike in the trunk. They couldn't close the trunk all the way, but tied it down and got into the car. Raul did not have keys to the car, but used a nanite probe to start the car while jiggling another car's key in the lock.
Raul was glad to be getting away from the house. Things might get tricky when the police failed to find anyone in charge of the party and the house. Raul tried to drive out of the driveway to the street, but the other guard stood in the way and signaled him to stop. The guard came to the driver side window. Raul asked, "What is it?"
The guard said, "The police just told me that Lanora's car was in an accident, apparently with at least one passenger. They told me to get the names of all guests as they leave the party."
Thomas had heard that Jenny had gotten a ride to the party from Lanora. Suddenly he feared that Jenny might have been with Lanora and in the accident. He asked, "Was it a bad accident? Was anyone hurt?"
The guard replied, "The car crashed into a tanker truck. There was an explosion. I could hear it out here. Apparently no survivors."
Numbly, Thomas gave his name. Raul gave the name of the student he was impersonating. The guard used his palm computer to check off their names and waved them on. Raul then drove onto the street and Thomas said, "Hey, I'd forgotten your name. Thanks for the ride." Raul muttered, "That's okay." He turned on the car radio.
A few minutes later the local news came on and they heard a report about the accident: "...at least three dead, one apparently the truck driver."
Thomas could no longer control his anxiety. He said, "Take me back to the party. I have to find out if Jenny is safe."
Raul did not want to go back. He said, "She is safe. I saw her inside when I took the guard in the house."
Thomas sighed with relief. After a minute he was able to shift his thoughts off of Jenny and he said, "I wonder what that guard was babbling about."
Raul shook his head, "I could smell alcohol on his breath. He was apparently having his own little party while out there on guard duty."
Thomas was tempted to describe some of the visions he had seen, but decided against it. For the first time in memory the world now seemed solid and no voices or images were dancing in his mind....none besides the expected ones. He gave directions to his dorm and soon they pulled up at its front door. Raul unloaded the bike and said, "You feel okay?"
Thomas nodded and replied. "I feel great....like I dodged two bullets. First the attack on Cathy and now this accident tonight. It's like something evil reached out and tried to take away two people I...I hold dear."
Raul put a hand on Thomas' shoulder. "Sometimes it takes a great loss before we realize what we have." Thomas went off into his dorm and Raul got back in the car, wondering why and how he had said that to Thomas. It seemed like the kind of strange thing Andresklo was always saying...but somehow it had just come out and it seemed to make all the sense in the world. Raul decided that this was what it felt like to live in a jungle.
Raul pressed down on the accelerator and headed for the airport. He was monitoring the nanite probes that had been locked on Charlie's parents. Charlie's father had just been released from the hospital, but was not expected to live much longer. He needed the care of an in-home nurse, and they had gone home from the hospital with a temporary nurse. Dexamene had arranged the "third ring" of her circus so as to provide comfort for Charlie's parents after he was made to "die" in the tanker crash. Raul would reach Charlie's parents not long after they heard about his "death" in the crash and Raul would adopt the identity of the in-home nurse. The nanite probes would do what they could to ease the shock and grief of Charlie's parents from the moment they heard about their son's death, but Raul's sympathetic presence would also provide a much needed "human touch".
While he drove, Raul took a communication from Dexamene. She asked, "How did things wind down at the party?"
Raul sent all his data on that topic and replied, "Doubtless there will be some confusion on the part of the authorities, but I think all the guests who saw the Overseer's spaceship were identified and induced to forget what they had seen."
"Just as long as nobody starts telling tales of alien invaders, all will be fine!" Dexamene was reviewing all the data from the party and she commented, "I see that you decided to completely strip all nanites from Thomas. How did he react to that?"
Raul explained, "He seemed to respond well, but his doctors might be puzzled by his dramatic recovery from 'mental illness'."
Dexamene explained, "The doctors will be pleased...even if they cannot explain the change in Thomas they will have no way to connect that change to 'aliens'."
At that moment, Charlie's mother took a phone call from Captain McDonald. Both Dexamene and Raul listened to the conversation and Dexamene launched nanites into her brain to ease the shock and pain of hearing about the crash and her son's death. Raul had been monitoring McDonald while he was briefed about the human remains found in the crash site: three sets of ash and incinerated bone fragments. Raul felt the need to ask, "Who were those three people?"
Dexamene knew that Raul was asking about the three sets of remains that had been placed in the crash by Dexamene. Dexamene was surprised that Raul would ask such a question. Of course, as a new robot, Raul would not have asked, but the question had clearly been generated by the mind of Alfred, now dominating over the original "Raul mind". Dexamene decided that there was some risk if Alfred knew the full truth, but he would become a better Interventionist agent if he knew the details. "Lanora's car contained some lab-grown bone fragments that contained DNA from either Charlie or me. Overseer probes have already matched those gene profiles. The police have ordered a simpler genetic test, just to confirm that Y chromosomes are present in some of the bone fragments. Witnesses placed Charlie in Lanora's car before the crash, and Captain McDonald made the decision that a relatively simple Y chromosome test will confirm Charlie's death."
Raul pressed the issue. "What about the truck driver?"
Dexamene explained, "That truck was selected because the driver had no family and was dying of lung cancer. Andresklo took him to the Moon and he is responding well to treatment with medical nanites. Of course, there was no need for a DNA match between the driver and the remains I planted in the truck."
Raul asked, "Who did you put inside the truck?"
Dexamene was monitoring Raul's nanotronic brain. The indications were that Raul was calm and his brain was functioning within acceptable parameters. She decided that the robot could absorb the full truth. "While arranging for an in-house nurse who could care for Charlie's father, I made a terrible discovery...a nurse who had been abusing the patients in his care. I decided to perform a subtraction."
Raul knew well what Dexamene meant by "subtraction"...she had killed the nurse and placed his body in the tanker truck. Dexamene continued, "So you will adopt the identity of that nurse and remain with Charlie's parents and live with them in their house as long as you are needed there." There was nothing more to be said, but Dexamene waited to see how Raul would respond to these facts.
Raul knew very well that he worked for criminals. The Overseers would certainly be enraged if they ever learned that Dexamene had decided, on her personal initiative, to kill the nurse. Even among Interventionists there was debate about what kinds of Interventions were allowable. Usually "Intervention" just meant helping Earthlings to keep building their culture towards the level of technical and social development which would allow them to move off of Earth and into space. For many Interventionist theorists, what Dexamene had done to the abusive nurse was beyond the bounds of acceptable Intervention into Earthly affairs, but Raul knew that there was a balance between the murder of the abuser by Dexamene and the good that he himself could now do for Charlie's parents by replacing the dead nurse. Raul said, "I am an accomplice to murder."
For a moment Dexamene wondered if Raul's nanorobotic brain would survive this shocking realization. She said, "You do not even know the worst, my friend."
Raul was puzzled. What could be worse? He decided he did not want to know. Another day Dexamene would decide it was time to tell him "the worst". Until then, Raul felt that maybe it was better to sometimes be treated like furniture. He cut the connection to Dexamene, the first time he had ever ended a communication with a human rather than wait for the human to end it. Raul found that for him, it was a simple equation: his brain compared the support and care he would now provide for Charlie's parents to the abuse that that would have been inflicted by the dead nurse. Raul continued to drive towards the airport. He had a job to do. It did not matter if his Master was a criminal, or if he was.
This is the end of Part I of Cellular Civilization.
Continue to Part II, Chapter 16 - Yasas and Charlie leave Earth
Here is a map of the chapters:
_> Mary –––––––––––––––––––––> Lincoln / \ / \__> Amelia PAlbert ––––––––––––––––––––> Andresklo / \ \---->Ferace ------> Yasas / \ __----------> Cathy / / \ / \ / / \ / \__________>Tess CC –––> Charlie ––-----–> Stefi \ \ ----------------> Lani \ / \ \ _______---> Jenny –––> Thomas \______> Dexamene
Sunday ----> time flow --> one week in the Fall --> ---------> Saturday
Useful pages for the reader: List of characters and the Glossary. Readers can discuss the story at Talk:Cellular Civilization.
If you want to help write the story, see the meta page (warning: spoilers!).