My scifi short story “Intellectual Capital” has become my 14th publication credit.
My scifi short story “Intellectual Capital” has become my 14th publication credit.
Staying awake 24/7 would’ve drained organics. However, Jubal could simply ingest more prana to keep alert. He had plans to read the scans, so he could dream/meditate on them. He consumed the data as if it were nourishment. Then waited until it was nighttime to decode it while his mind played the hymns performed at the panels:
He waited for more but all he got was, <<I want you to make reviewing the journal your priority. After you deliver the language decoder algorithm to the Sachi Asrama.>>
<<Herald will guide you through the process.>> The Dark One said.
Jubal shuddered as another pathway opened up. The mechanoids’ intranet wasn’t telepathy, but was akin to it. At least Herald mind wasn’t as overwhelming as the Dark One’s.
(Present,) Herald said.
<<It’s good to have allies with the mechanoids in the asrama. However, we’ll keep our political maneuverings legal.>>
Then he moved to what he deemed most important. <<The Sachi Sisterhood accepted the third option? >>
<<You are to help me deliver this product to them.>>
<<The algorithm would take too long to transmit with conventional methods. That’s why I waited for you to meditate rather than wait for a communique to reach Herald.>>
(It’s easier to work through proxies than intergalactic communication networks.) Herald said.
<<Oh,>> Jubal had never known this.
(Usually such duties are given to Heralds. In this case, you are acting as the Dark One’s proxy,) Herald explained.
Each position in the Order had its own perques and tools. It was natural that Heralds had their own protocols to follow for their functions.
<<You shall need an external memory device compatible with the asrama’s archival systems.>>
Jubal activated his optics to look at his door panel and called up its room service menu. He scrolled through it and found a holochip.
<<Choose the biggest one you can find and order it. >>
Jubal gasped when he saw it was 100 TB.
<<Don’t process the data. Plug in the holochip and be a conduit. Let it flow through you. I will take care of formatting it.>>
(I’ll guide you through the conduction process,) Herald said.
Jubal disconnected so he could receive the holochip.
The hot-pink servobot Rolanda arrived with the holochip on her tray. Her blue optics twinkled, “You aren’t thinking of engaging in piracy?”
“More like satisfying product delivery requirements.” Jubal sighed, wondering if he told her too much.
She snickered at this and rolled away.
Herald closed the door and inserted the holochip in his mouth. He powered down and went into deep meditation again. The data transmittal process began. His cerebral imaging pictured it as a river of liquid energy with himself on the river’s bank.
His hand reached out to touch it
(Don’t do it,) Herald said.
Herald stood next to him.
(Let it flow. It’s too much to process at once. Let it download in full and then decode it later.)
“I would dive into the river, and immerse myself into completely if I were Meerani of Maruwat,” Herald said.
(Such an action would be an act of bravery or madness.)
“I hope I’m being prudent and sane, not cowardly.” Jubal muttered…
When Jubal had the algorithm on hand, it was time to fulfill the Sachi Asrama’s order. As soon as the holochip was decoded he reactivated himself and took the chip out of his mouth. It was glowing red like some multifaceted ruby and looked to be as precious as a jewel. Though Jubal suspected an organic would think it was an ill omen, he thought it was eye catching. He placed it in a compartment on his person and put on a saffron robe before he went to the asrama’s archive.
It was now past midnight but not dawn yet. He was sure that Rosetta would be at the archive performing her clerical duties. Just about the only time they allowed an android rest was when their owner wanted to conserve energy. Otherwise, they worked without rest and only got time off to refuel themselves. Some owners wouldn’t even perform basic maintenance on their droids. They ran them until they broke down. Rosetta and the asrama’s mechanoids operated on a 24/7 cycle. They had set refueling times and a maintenance schedule they adhered to.
Most Spectrens were active during daylight hours and recharged at night. The only way a Spectren citizen would stay up 24/7 is if they worked half the day and spent the nighttime partying. Some were willing to work a day and night shift if they were ambitious. However, they’d demand better compensation than the asrama’s mechanoids got for their services.
Rosetta was manning the circulation desk when he delivered the holochip. Her optics brightened at the sight of him.
“I’ve got the language decoding algorithm for you,” he said, as he handed the glowing chip across the desk.
“Your people are fast,” Rosetta said.
“We have a distributor nearby,” Jubal said.
He didn’t describe the downloading process over the Collective Consciousness to her. Such things were mysteries in his order. His order had a right to their mysteries if secular corporations had their trade secrets. Besides that wasn’t this algorithm a trademarked product?
“I will have to scan it for malware or viruses before I added it to our databanks,” Rosetta said.
Jubal nodded, “Of course.”
She inserted the chip into a VR simulator separate from the archive’s databanks. It simulated the effects an external device would have on the archive’s systems. Should there be any malware present the simulator may get infected. However, the main system would be protected. Simulators were easy to purge when there was a positive result. Some hackers crafty enough to let their products pass through a VR simulator though. Once they passed the inspection and infect the mainframe.
The thought made Jubal shudder as if he were such a malefactor. The Dark One didn’t reveal all of his secrets to the brothers, but had never given Jubal a reason to mistrust him. It embarrassed Jubal to be so easy to infect with such a suspicious meme.
“Did you know that your decoder algorithm is in high demand on the Shadownet? It’s considered the best unlocker for ransom viruses.”
“Ransom viruses encrypt files. You have to unlock them by paying a ransom with digital currency. Most people just overwrite the data with backups.” Rosetta said. “Your brotherhood’s decoder algorithm unlocks all encrypted files and retrieves corrupted data.”
“I wasn’t aware of that, but it’s no surprise. The Dark One’s known to be a master craftsman at whatever he designs. He constructed the temple. It’s considered Spectre’s greatest piece of architecture,” Jubal said.
There was the sound of heavy footsteps. Rosetta’s optics lit up, “Ram?”
Jubal turned to face a squat security bot. The unfortunate was made for heavy torque. Yet, his construction looked flimsy to Spectren eyes. The bot’s plating was of a mediocre tensile strength. He may have intimidated an organic, but was less than impressive to a mechanoid. He looked like a mechanized cave man with the unfortunate physiology to go with it.
“Now’s not the time, Ram. I have a customer,” Rosetta said.
Ram’s yellow optics looked more like they were sallow than a personal fashion choice. It was as if they’d been white and become faded. He glanced at Jubal and snorted.
“Brother Jubal is a participant in the Multi–Faith Symposium. He’s not a servobot to an organic,” Rosetta sighed.
Ram’s bushy brows came together to form an unbecoming unibrow, “This is Brother Jubal?”
“Yes, Ram, this is Brother Jubal,” Rosetta stated slowly.
Brother Jubal did his best to keep his face plates neutral. Yet, couldn’t help thinking, They skimped on your processors too!
Ram mumbled. “I thought I’d have time to talk to you before Brother Jubal came. I didn’t realize this was him.”
“I already told you I’m not accepting anymore communiques from your master, Ram.“
Ram’s optics turned a bright green, and Rosetta screamed.
Jubal placed his fingers on Ram’s bulging forehead. He sensed the gathering of energy there, “Are you overheating? You’ve got an unhealthy surge going on here.”
“All hail Durjan, the Chaosbringer,” Ram sputtered.
“There’s a strict no proselytizing rule here,” Jubal began.
Ram bared his teeth and laserbeams erupted from his optics. The beam singed Jubal’s paint job and burned a hole in his robe causing an unpleasant stench. “Ram let me take you to the repair bay.”
Ram snarled and his body quaked. Jubal held him down as the tremors passed through Ram’s body. The tremors rose to the point he would’ve been thrashing if Jubal didn’t hold him still. Rosetta gasped as Ram kept saying “All hail, Durjan, the Chaosbringer.” in a loop that became more and more desperate. His body began to glow a sickly green as energy surged in his body. Jubal internal stabilizers grounded the energy.
The tremors stopped. Ram opened his mouth and a foul, noxious black smoke belched out akin to an organic’s vomit. Yet it stopped in midstream before it connected with Jubal’s face. Then it dissipated into the air as if it’d never been. Ram’s eyes became dark and he slumped forward.
“His master must be negligent,” Jubal sniffed. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they were cheap enough to object to him being sent to the tech bay.”
Rosetta shook her head, “Don’t bother sending him there. He opened himself to Durjan and was ridden to the point of exhaustion. He got what he deserved!”
“I thought you were a monk and not a combat model?” she asked.
“I am a monk. What would make you think otherwise?” Jubal asked.
“How else could you contain Ram when he’s throwing one of his fits?” she asked.
“Spectre has the best mechanoid construction standards in the civilized galaxy. Our civilians are sturdier than the military units on other planets. I never had the chance to test it for myself. I guess that was proven today,” Jubal said.
“So I wouldn’t have anything to worry about from this brute if I were a Spectren?”
“He wanted the data,” Rosetta muttered.
“The Leili journal.”
“Its data must be important if it’s worth all this fuss,” Jubal said.
“I will work on it tonight,” Rosetta said…
Jubal arranged for an honorable disposal for Ram. The tech bay considered him unsalvageable and he didn’t want to see the remains scrapped. There was still time for a recharge before the day’s agenda started. Jubal didn’t need sleep, but it’d be good to be freshly charged and alert for the day. He set his internal chronometer for an early start. He’d chosen the option of having a fresh set of saffron robes brought to his room each morning. Rolanda delivered his latest set. Perhaps a true holyman would’ve been content with just one. However, his attire was meant as a sign of respect for the culture that surrounded him. He wasn’t proclaiming himself a holyman.
At least his mechanoid body meant he had no B.O. to worry about. He could still get grimy and liked to be freshly buffed for the day. He didn’t need a fine polish, but wanted to be presentable.
It felt odd coming to a “breakfast” panel when the victuals were geared for organics, but he felt it’d be rude to skip out. The servobots gave him some prana. It wasn’t as developed or as nuanced as the Spectren vintages. However, it was a generous serving in a pretty paisley receptacle.
At least no one objected to his presence, even if special accommodations had to be made for him. Most of the women in the room saw him demonstrate the language decoding algorithm. They were aware he was an attendee of the symposium and not audio/visual equipment.
The women got to eat fresh fruit, granola and yogurt with chai tea. When they were done eating Alli stood up to announce the day’s agenda.
“We have word that we have received the Spectren Linguistics Decoding Algorithm. We have installed it onto our databank. “
All of our available scans have been brought through it. We will upload them to the Multi-Faith Server by this afternoon.”
She paused when a round of claps, cheers and whistles broke out in the room.
Alli smiled and glanced at the smirking Keera.
“Purists will demand we use the algorithm to break the shorthand code to Samskrta. Rosetta says that it can decode the scans straight into Anglo!” Keera spoke up.
“Oh,” there were gasps of delight.
“Everyone who helped us purchase of the algorithm will receive a copy of the translation.”
Aria became so excited she started to flutter her arms as if she were a hummingbird. “I can write my opera based on Meerani of Maruwat’s life.”
“Brother Jubal of Spectre will oversee the translation of the scans.”
Jubal nodded his head at their were polite claps.
A woman jumped up so fast her loose tunic swayed. “Does the journal have a record of Meerani’s hymns? I’d like to add them into my repertoire.”
“There are hymns scattered throughout the text. And, notes about the life events that inspired the lyrics, Lorelei.” Keera said.
“Excellent,” Aria said.
Jubal could barely wait to access the file himself.
The lights dimmed. A wall panel showed various holos that corresponded with the presentation.
“Meerani of Maruwat has inspired a great deal of creative work through the centuries. We look forward to seeing what new works are produced after the journal is made available to the public.”
A timeline showed Meerani’s assumed date of birth to the present time. There were various highlights of her life.
“There are some who say she was merely a legend. That the story of her life got attached to a cycle of songs since there were no written records of her. There were rumors of a faithful handmaid of hers who followed her into exile. This handmaid was said to have written Meerani’s hymns in a notebook that was deposited in a temple. The temple was raided throughout the centuries, and they lost the notebook.”
A picture of the notebook appeared. It was a carefully, hand-folded piece of parchment inside a leather case. The case was wrapped in unbleached cotton. Jubal assumed it was a reproduction though it looked too new to be as old as the journal should be.
“Recently a Gurkan shrine was renovated, and they found some artifacts. The shrine was known to be a one a repurposed Indi temple. They confiscated all the gold or precious jewels for the Gurkans’ coffers. This journal was in the shrine’s archives. The Samskrta writing made them think it was an Indi artifact, so they offered it for repatriation.
Most passed on it when they saw the code. Thinking it was some forgery instead of a proper literary work. They offered us the chance to claim it, and we did so.
Legend has it that the Leili journal is indestructible. People have tried to burn, cut and deface it throughout the ages and it resisted the damage. As you can see from the holo, age has given the pages a certain patina. Yet, the writing is still as crisp and clear as it was when it was first written.”
She showed the journal with open pages. It was an aged, but well-preserved book as if someone had cherished it throughout the ages. It was dusted, its spine and hinges were intact.
“One can almost believe that the foreword of the journal acted as a ward against bad karma for the journal. I will start the reading with it.”
A page came up on the screen, written in a bold, yet femininely rounded, cursive script.
She read its decoded text outloud:
I thought that immortality was a gift when it was first granted to me.
Now I think they are right about you, and you have cursed me, Dark One!
I miss the hopes and dreams of my youth.
The pleasures of life and fame have palled for me.
I grow weary of life itself.
I would never have known what Desire was if it weren’t for you.
Now you’ve grown cold and so have I.
I’m tired of life because you tired of me.
I used to think that all I needed to be happy was to have you in my life.
Mediating on your name induced me into states of rapture.
Maybe it still could, but if you hadn’t withdrawn from me.
People come to see me perform.
I have an admirer who comes to my hut.
He brings me food and does any maintenance work I need.
The only payment he asks for me is my songs.
I’m not sure if he’s your emissary or if I’ve got my own devotee!
Years have gone by and not one word from you!
I think the only reason I keep living is because you want your word to be respected.
There are white streaks in my hair, but my strength is unabated.
I’ve outlived everyone else I’ve known.
Is this immortality nothing more than a small coin you give out to buskers?
Where have you gone, Saanvla?
Have you found someone else? Someone younger?
If only I could transfer my immortality to the words in this book
and allow this frail body to find its rest.
Let these words live on Dark One, but let me go!
Devoted to the Dark One
Copyright © 2019 by Cathy Smith
All rights reserved
The “yes” came by impulse, but Jubal was full of regrets when he walked back to his room. He wished he could take his words back, but his pride stopped him from wanting to look like a coward. He’d lived under the Dark One’s rule for a millennium with no trouble, minding the rules. Now that he was out of the Dark One’s reach he was subject to impulses.
He never thought he was capable of such presumption. At the very least he should’ve asked for a chance to consult the Dark One. All he would’ve needed was to meditate. He would’ve been able to relay a message and receive instructions. Such a thing would’ve never occurred to him inside the Temple walls. However, he was outside the Temple. Not to mention he was in an asrama full of mechanoids whose autonomy was unrecognized. He’d imbibed their subversive meme!
“How many credits do you have?” Andy asked.
Jubal sighed, “Enough to pay my bills on this trip.”
“If you have the means I can take you on a tour of the pilgrimage sites along the way to Maruwat? Or do you want to get to the Sachi Asrama as quick as possible instead of the scenic route?” Andy asked Jubal once he was in the shuttle.
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