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Gift of the Gruldak, Chapter 16: Of Seeds Planted

Updated on May 28, 2016
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Kylyssa Shay is releasing a serialized science fiction novel in single chapter increments that you can read for free only on HubPages.

Circuit-board fetus in a water bubble floating in space, an illustration for Gift of the Gruldak, a serialized science fiction novel you can read online for free at HubPages.
Circuit-board fetus in a water bubble floating in space, an illustration for Gift of the Gruldak, a serialized science fiction novel you can read online for free at HubPages. | Source

The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to persons living or dead is coincidental. All locations, public figures, and products have been used fictitiously.

Kevin has a startling realization as problems on the surface heat up in chapter sixteen, Of Seeds Planted.

Chapter Sixteen, Of Seeds Planted

“It’s a trap!” I shouted, sitting up in the narrow, swaying bed.

“Shhh, Kevin, I know we’re trapped,” Amanda whispered, patting my shoulder awkwardly.

It was dark all around except for the faint green glow strips that prevented stubbed toes in the shelter's power-saving mode. Amanda was in a suspended bed to the right of mine and mine was against a wall to the left of hers.

“You don’t understand, I mean this whole thing, starting before the Trans Matters goons dropped me off in the psych unit,” I said quietly.

“Feelings of paranoia are perfectly justifiable in your situation,” she said in a very motherly tone.

“No, it’s not that. I think I’m being used as bait.”

“Bait for whom?” she asked a shade too maternally. I could almost hear a silent “my dear” at the end of her sentence.

“Look, don’t patronize me. I don’t have time for that. We don’t have time for that,” I snapped.

“I want to know who they’re trying to catch and why you think it’s a trap.”

“Oh, God, I had to get trapped in a panic shelter with a therapist!”

“I’m not a therapist. Anyway, tell me; it could be important.”

“I was trying to figure out which incarnation of Kevin Bob I was when I woke up in TransMatters hands.”

“I’m not a therapist but I’m pretty sure you ought to stop that train right there.”

“No, I was just trying to get things straight and following my path of experiences from then to now when I was recalling the conversations I’d overheard while they had me all drugged up.”

“That is strange,” Amanda said, “and why would they have then dropped you off to the psych unit?”

“They said it was to prevent me from getting treated as a martyr and they did scramble my brains afterwards.”

“Yet why did you remember the conversation?”

“That’s what didn’t seem right somehow. They scrambled my brain and everything else was a queasy blur. Why do I remember that conversation so clearly?”

“You’re right; they could have erased your last forty-eight hours or slightly more if they’d wanted to.”

“I... did not know that. OK, so they wanted me to remember that. Maybe they wanted me to remember an excuse for them to be dropping me off here instead of keeping me permanently or killing me?”

“Either of those options would be far too interesting to the guard,” she said.

“And why did they wait so long to sabotage the links and only sabotage the two high-end ones?”

“OK, stop,” she said, “Everyone needs to hear this.”

She rolled away from me and flowed off her bed to her feet. She began waking the others, speaking in a calm, low voice to each one until he or she understood. I rolled onto my back and stared at the ceiling.

What if I’m wrong, I thought, what if warning people off sabotages the rescue mission? What if people get killed rescuing me? What if I get killed?”

Whatever other doubts I had about my life and what it meant, I wanted it to go on.

Amanda gave me a hand out of my bed which, at first, I didn’t think I’d need. I’m glad I took it out of courtesy or I’d have landed on my keister. As I stood upright, she stowed my bed, apparently to wherever she’d already stowed her own away while I lay clueless in mine beside it.

In mere moments of mumbling and shuffling, the room was hushed, well lit, and focused on me.

Amanda said, “The guard should have gotten through hours and hours ago or the goons should have at least taken off to avoid them. Not only that, there were Butlers gathering in the hallways on level three.”

“When did you...?” I started to ask.

Ryan cut me off with, “There were Butlers gathering?”

“What did you think that thump was that woke you all up a few minutes ago?”

“Butlers wouldn’t have to blast their way in up there, would they?”

“No, but they gave me a few addresses to pass on to Gerund so he could make my deliveries without even damaging the pneumatic tubes between here and there.”

“I thought you said there were no bombs!” I complained, looking toward Kira.

“I made no such promise, Dearie,” Amanda said, patting my hand, “and Gerund certainly didn’t.”

“We sent warning out to Gerund and everybody else outside about eight hours ago,” she continued as if we hadn’t rudely interrupted her, “Kevin has remembered a few things and made some connections that reinforce that decision.”

I was so happy she was talking and I didn’t have to but I desperately wanted to ask what Butlers were and why they were bad.

“Kevin, why don’t you tell them what you told me, only quicker this time, OK?”

I was about to feel chastened by her commentary on my speed when I found myself looking first at one and then another of the people in my audience before looking down at my hands, as if I had invisible cue cards in them. Zuri sat on the very edge of one of the bench chests, licking her lips. Kira sat beside her on the same resin chest, watching my face intently. Georgia sat directly across from me, our knees almost touching, wedged in next to Ryan on a long storage container likely not made to double as furniture. Amanda took my hand then and the words made it past my throat.

“I think I’m bait for a trap set by TransMatters. The memories I still have don’t add up. There was also no good reason to keep any of my mind intact. What they did was just a stalling tactic or something.”

Georgia leaned forward, her head cocked to the side. Ryan read my body language intently, his gaze flowing from hands to lips to eyes. Zuri's eyes were moist and shining dark as she looked up at me. She bit her lip in a gesture that would have diverted the flow of blood away from my head under ideal circumstances. Even Kira looked at me with sad fondness.

I did not like the way any of them were looking at me, with too much hope in their eyes.

"It's a set-up," I said and fell silent.

"You'll have to do better than that, dear," Amanda said to me in a stage whisper.

“We know TransMatters took me from Bob and Kira’s house,” I said, looking at Kira, hoping I wasn’t causing her more pain, “and we know they just let me go. Heck, they delivered me right here.”

“They let me overhear and remember several pat explanations. Uh, I believe I was taken as bait and used to bring out..., " I tripped over the next word, “revolutionaries. To get them clustered together to kill."

She asked, “Wouldn’t that make our side seem more human? Why would they do that?"

"This is a war now," I said, "They know it's on so they're going to try to cut the head off their opposition before it gets too big."

Ryan asked, “Wouldn’t that just bring their activities into the open?”

"Even a tactical nuclear strike could be played off as a malfunction of something we made. Everyone knows that this movement has some of the most talented and intelligent physicists of a generation in it. What kind of weapon couldn't you make if you wanted to?"

Amanda looked guiltily down in the direction of one of her improvised weapons sitting unobtrusively under the suspension bed she'd chosen to sit on.

“You’ve got a point, Mr. Wang,” Georgia said, “Mandy could probably blow up a city block with a handful of gummy bears and a broken screwdriver.”

Amanda blushed and said, “I wouldn’t go that far. Anyway, Kevin’s information makes me feel better about our decision to contact our friends.”

“It’s all kind of vague, though, isn’t it?” Ryan asked.

“It’s all tidbits of evidence pointing in the same direction like a trail of breadcrumbs.”

“What are Butlers?” I interjected.

“Much more than a tidbit,” Georgia said, “Butlers are designed to appear to be non-AI robot servitors and, originally, many of them were.”

Zuri sat cleaning invisible dirt from under her fingernails, trying not to look nervous. She said without looking up, “Butlers have been killing machines for longer than I’ve been alive,” almost in a murmur.

“Anyway, it’s not good news that they showed up,” Ryan said.

“At least they weren’t the Guard,” Georgia said.

“True,” Amanda added, “I expect we’ll be seeing them soon enough after those Butlers made such a racket exploding.”

“Let’s just hope they are on our side when they do,” added Zuri.

“There’s absolutely no legitimate reason for them to break into the hospital complex or to send in assassin squads,” Georgia said, gesturing so vigorously she almost unseated Ryan from his perch beside her.

“The Guard should have been here hours ago,” Kira said, looking tired.

“That’s part of what worries me,” Amanda said, “My link is also down now, as it the shelter’s ground link.”

What can you see in the space around the bubble?
What can you see in the space around the bubble? | Source


Things got a little confusing and desperate about then so my mind went off on a familiar circular trip looking for itself to avoid taking in any new distress. I’m pretty sure I even contributed to the conversation although my memory is mainly of watching Kira braid her hair and pin it up. I wondered if some part of Robert Evan Andrews mind still existed and if that’s why that look of determined uncertainty on her face twisted my heart so painfully. The basic architecture of Bob’s brain still existed inside my head, only the pathways and similar variables had been changed.

Maybe part of Bob’s love still existed on some more primal level?

I seemed to hear mostly Ryan’s and Amanda’s voices as I watched Bob’s widow braiding her tresses with such deliberate precision. But I remember everyone else, including myself, speaking at some point, too. I couldn’t tell you what any of us said.

Amanda was in charge; she spoke in decisive tones. Ryan was keeping everyone calm and helping them come to peace with their situations. Amanda made me feel safe. Ryan made me feel proud. Maybe the feelings Kira stirred in me were my own?

I thought about her as I watched her self-soothing movements from the corner of my eye. I didn’t feel like a long-time husband would feel, did I? I worried about her and I felt bad for her. I wanted to take her in my arms and comfort her, but worried it might be creepy. But I didn’t want her. Not that that even meant anything.

It was a tortuous route to take but it allowed me to almost completely bypass any conscious awareness of our probable near and unpleasant deaths.

I remember agreeing to something heartily and then things snapped into focus again. It was strange to have such a fallible memory.

I must have been looking about uneasily because Amanda looked me in the eye and said, “Did you know that generations of children have sung naughty rhymes about your name?”

Taken off guard I replied, “Uh, no, uh, why?”

“Did you come up with the baby powder before or after this copy was made?”

I cringed at the bald reminder of my duplicate status but then wondered what she was talking about.

“After,” interjected Kira.

“Baby powder?” I asked at the same instant.

Kira smiled a little and said, “After.”

“Anyway, Kevin Wang was a very smart person and very creative, but I’d never have thought he’d lead a revolution.”

“I’m not leading anything!” I wailed.

Somehow, the intense meeting died just about then and the others left as if in rehearsal of a scene they played out every day, leaving me alone in twilight illumination with Amanda.

She wanted to stretch her legs a bit so we walked around the circuit of rooms. The others were variously grabbing snacks or beverages or sacking out in a different place. Some were closer together but others were further apart.

Kira and Zuri had paired off and sat talking in the room at noon orientation to the center hub. On our next circuit that hatch door was closed and we realized their conversation had changed its language. Good for Kira, I thought, nothing wrong with a little end of the world nookie.”

“Maybe they have the right idea,” Amanda said softly, right next to my right ear.

“You’re like a fricking ninja!” I whispered loudly, turning to go back the way we’d come to avoid disturbing the lovers.

Undaunted, she said, “Maybe they have the right idea. We don’t know what’s coming next or when. It might be nice to hold someone.”

I had never before met such a logical and practical woman in my life. The thought of what Kira and Zuri might be doing had already turned my mind from a gloomy pit to randy gutter.

It wasn’t quite enough to turn off the whining, freaked out other parts of my mind but it did turn their volume down a lot. I considered Amanda’s generous offer as we walked to an empty room of our own.

I was uncomfortable with my body and, subjectively speaking, she was old enough to be my grandmother. Then again, eighty-five in 2109 didn’t look like it had in 2054 and neither did I. I still hadn’t learned the irrelevance of things like appearance when it comes to giving pleasure or comfort.

“Just so we’re clear,” she said very seriously, “this is end of the world sex.”

“Living in the moment. I get it,” I said, grinning weakly.

“And should the world not end,” Amanda said, pulling me helplessly along behind her, “we won’t be lovers.”

“What about right now?”

“Right now I love you with all my heart,” she said and shut the hatch door, flicking off the lights.

She pulled me down to a doubled bed arrangement already assembled and latched together. The water storage blocks glowed all around us like God’s own Legos of life as I took her into my arms.

© 2015 Kylyssa Shay

Are the Robotic "Butlers" in the Story the "Military Advisers" of the Future?

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