Requiem for an Android
by Bertil Falk
Table of Contents
part 1; part 2
Chapter 2, part 2
appear in this issue.
Chapter 2: Being Chased
part 1 of 2
Personit, a cardinal in the 32nd century A.D. Birth name: Björn Andersson, a nationalistic Scandinavian who advocated that the Scandinavian states should take no part in the World Federation and ought to have a right to planets of their own. Embraced Christianity after a tumultuous adolescence as a religiously indifferent nationalist but rapidly made a glorious clerical career without precedent in the history of the converts and almost became Pope. However, his foremost adversary, Dane Fellini, was elected instead and is known in ecclesiastical history as Cassius III.
After the papal election, Personit abandoned public life and spent three years as a hermit near the crater Tycho on the Moon, very near the laboratory of Captain Future and the Futuremen and not far from their famous mausoleum. At the time of his return to Rome, he received permission from Cassius III to found the Order of the Personites. Its number of members was from the very beginning limited to 99 individuals.
The order was accorded the privilege of building a monastery deep under the Vatican in direct connection with the ancient catacombs. In the course of the centuries, papal tombs have enclosed the monastery. However, its exact location is unknown.
After his sudden death at the age of 39, Personit is supposed to have been buried in a sarcophagus quite near the sepulchre of his rival, Cassius III. As to his life under the Vatican, only scant items have been preserved. He gathered 98 women and men, who had to submit to very strict monastic rules while living in the subterranean monastery, rules that only the Pope and the members of the order know.
The relationship to the Pope was regularized by the agreement arrived at between Personit and Cassius III. According to the agreement, the Pope is not permitted to visit the monastery in the catacombs. According to that same agreement, the Personites shall always be represented among the cardinals. If a Personite is elected Pope, her or his membership in the order is discontinued immediately.
Like most other orders, the Personites accept novices. It is said the Mass of the Order is conducted in the now obsolete Scandinavian tongue, the native language of Cardinal Personit.
Many of the discoveries that led to the creation of androids were made by the Personites. The symbol of the Order is a crucifix submerged in a test tube on which the chemical formula for water — H2O — is affixed.
”Is this all you have?” Mother Saulcerite asked.
“That’s all,” the librarian of the library of Bavaria said. “But wait a moment...”
The librarian went over to another borrower. Saulcerite looked at the papers that the librarian had just read. Her eyes fell on a note that had been attached to the document. She was startled to see the memorandum: “Whenever a borrower asks for information about the Order of the Personites, the librarian concerned must report to the Inquisition.”
The Inquisition? It had experienced a renascence but then had been banned again. The note was also archaic. But there was an addition of later date: “After the dissolution of the Inquisition, reports about borrowers taking an interest in the Order of the Personites should be conveyed to the Vatican.”
“Conveyed?” Saulcerite had no doubt that the reports were intended for the secret monastery under the Vatican. There was something about the Order of the Personites that some people at all costs wanted to prevent from being made public. How could she explain her interest in the Order of the Personites?
The uneasiness that the strange coincidences had aroused in Saulcerite lately burst forth like a sickness. And now she was to be reported because she had shown interest in this secretive order, which sponged — she gave a start at the sudden, nearly blasphemous thought — upon the Church.
How could she explain why she had inquired into the history of the Personites? The answer was obvious. Since Saulcerite carried out research concerning the female Pope Gregoria I, she had a reason to know about the cardinal of that order, the cardinal who was supposed to have worked for the election of Gregoria I as the first official female Pope of the Catholic Church. The name of that cardinal was Janis Latviensis.
Saulcerite immediately decided to counter-attack and throw the crafty potentates of the Order of the Personites off the track. When the librarian returned, Saulcerite said, “As you know, I’m working on a thesis about Gregoria I. I know that Janis Latviensis, a Personite, was her foremost advocate. I want to know more about this, but I can’t find anything in these documents.”
“I might get more material,” the librarian said and there was no concern in his voice. He returned the documents to the box for ancient files. Saulcerite noted that he did not even look at the attachment. He would not report her.
But as soon as she left the library, the librarian took measures.
One hour later she was asked to hear a confession. When Saulcerite entered the church, the person in question was already inside the confessional. She caught a glimpse of a face behind the old-fashioned pattern of latticework.
“My confession is terrible,” a voice said on the other side. “I can’t sin.”
“Original sin makes us all sinners,” Saulcerite said calmly.
“Do I have any original sin?”
“You’re an android?” Saulcerite exclaimed.
“Yes. I’m Paxinterra.”
“Oh, if only I could do something for you. But I can’t.”
“We’ve been given the capacity to think, to experience joy and sorrow, and to wish; but not to sin. Or are we given that capacity as well?”
“An android has never committed a crime,” Saulcerite said. “Is it common that androids are religious?”
“They say that it has happened before. But I don’t know anything about that.”
“Have you ever asked another android?”
“Have you ever thought of asking?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Could it be some kind of manufacturing defect?” Saulcerite asked impulsively.
“Paxinterra, do you mind undergoing an examination of your psyche?”
Psyche? If an android was soulless, could it then have a psyche? Saulcerite wondered.
“Not at all,” Paxinterra replied.
“Then come with me.”
They left the church and walked towards the Department of Android Technology in Bavaria City. On the way, Saulcerite said, “You go in and mention only that you feel funny and that you believe in God. Ask if something is wrong with you. Do you understand? But don’t tell them that I know.”
“Go to Leonard Priff in the diagnostics division of the Department of Android Technology.”
Saulcerite left Paxinterra and hurried by another route to meet with Leonard Priff.
“Hi there, Leonard,” she said. “You’ve not been to church for some time.”
“Hrrrmm...” the man said. “It’s quite a time since... Pressed for time.”
“Much to do?”
“Well... yes, the number of androids and old robots people want to have repaired is increasing now that all souvenir hunters rush from one planet to the other to get hold of really old specimens, which they repair and sell to collectors all over the universe.”
Inwardly, Saulcerite grimaced. “What’s generally wrong with the androids you get?”
“Well, malfunctioning inhibition-locking devices and similar things.”
“Then what do you do?”
“I do a fast analysis of the android and, if I find that something is wrong, I return it to the manufacturer.”
“Interesting. I would like to see you doing it.”
“At least two or three cases will be here within the next hour.”
“Who would report things of this kind?”
“Mostly they do it themselves. If they’re not aware of their illness, so to speak, the problem is sometimes reported by another android. It’s not very common that beings of natural flesh and blood report, but it does happen.”
On the wall, a screen was turned on. Paxinterra was announced.
“There, we have our first case,” said Leonard Priff.
Paxinterra entered. Saulcerite was on tenterhooks at the prospect of what was going to happen.
“Welcome,” said Leonard Priff. “What’s the matter here?”
“I’m unusual, to say the least.”
“In what way?”
“I’m religious. I believe in God.”
Leonard Priff laughed. “I think we’ll set that right. Did you hear that, Mother? The funniest faults can arise.”
Saulcerite did not consider it funny and asked, “Is it a common... fault? To believe in God?”
Priff did not notice the undertone. “ I can’t say it’s common. A billion faults of different descriptions might occur. The faults are rarely exactly the same. Once I had a specimen that worked on an asteroid without atmosphere. The android suffered from a severe suffocation neurosis. It was a specially manufactured specimen of a kind that does not breathe. By mistake it had been programmed with simulated respiration.
“Now let me enter the word religion, like that, yes... But WHAT THE RED-HOT FUSEHECK IS THIS?” Leonard Priff looked almost panic-stricken.
“What is it?” Saulcerite demanded and her granular skin had waves of goosebumps.
“Religion is labeled a top priority warning!” Leonard Priff exclaimed.
“What does that mean?” Saulcerite felt that this really strengthened her case.
“It means that I’m saddled with an emergency case. And that might imply...” Leonard Priff cut short his sentence and ran his eye over Paxinterra before continuing. “This one must be shut down immediately. It has to be reported and sent away.”
“Where?” Saulcerite asked.
“To the strangest place I could possibly think of.”
“Well? And that is?”
“Your own employer, Mother Saulcerite. The Vatican. More precisely, I must send it to the librarian of the Vatican Library. The directive was issued in the year 2095 and renewed with special instructions in 3150.”
The same year that the Inquisition was banned a second time, Saulcerite thought.
“This one has to be shut off,” Leonard Priff repeated, “and it must be sent to — well, the Vatican. I’m sorry, old boy, but you must be turned off.”
What now happened, neither Leonard Priff nor Mother Saulcerite expected.
“I refuse,” Paxinterra said.
“Impossible,” Leonard Priff groaned. “An android can’t refuse in a connection like this, unless...”
“Unless what?” Saulcerite demanded.
“Unless this is much more serious than I thought,” Leonard Priff replied grimly.
“Yes, I refuse,” Paxinterra repeated, and before they could respond, it escaped from the room. They saw it flying away over Bavaria City.
“Dammit,” Leonard Priff cried out. “That specimen is dangerous. It seems to have a will of its own.”
* * *
Three hours later, Mother Saulcerite was summoned to the Vatican by order of the librarian of the Vatican Library, Mervil Tojas, D.D. He had been appointed by the Order of the Personites to hold the position according to the agreement drawn up and concluded between Cassius III and cardinal Personit.
The notice contained a veiled threat. Mervil Tojas expected that Mother Saulcerite immediately and without delay would hurry to the Vatican. She should carry along all her belongings, since new assignments possibly awaited her, and she might well consider her commission on Bavaria completed.
Mother Saulcerite rapidly arrived at a decision. She understood that the Order of the Personites was powerful and that it methodically utilized that power to carry out something — or perhaps prevent something? — that did not fit the pattern and structure of the Catholic Church. Therefore she sent a message to the Vatican, stating that she would arrive within a few hours.
Paxinterra waited for her in the vestry. “What can I do?” the android said.
Since the android had actually asked her to take charge, Saulcerite decided to do so. “You must change your appearance to look like me,” she said rapidly. “You will wear my official dress.”
“Yes,” Paxinterra said.
“After that you’ll let yourself be teleported as far away out into the universe as possible. To the last of the outposts of the Federation, to the last teleport station, somewhere far, very far away...”
“There you’ll embark on a nuclear-powered space rocket — the only means of transportation that remains — and travel as far away into outer space as you possibly can. Accordingly, you must join a pioneer expedition expanding the limits of the Federation into the darkness of eternity.
“And when you have thrown everyone off the track as far as I’m concerned, then you must change your identity over and over again, so that you get lost in the multitude of beings in the universe.”
“And what about you?”
“I will fight those who are behind this.”
* * *
Ten minutes later, Paxinterra was on its way out towards the farthest limits of civilization. By way of an apparently endless chain of teleport stations, Paxinterra leaped from system to system while constantly changing his appearance. At the same time, a rocketflame took her place in the teleport queue in Bavaria City; destination: Earth.
She sang a hit song about flowery love:
nice lovely costly boundless pretty flaring
kiss present and a ruby blushing jolly
oh gorgeously and sweetness buzzingly
voluptuousness and rosebud’s flower-block
green grandly splendid endless lover caring
all ugh, but blood red crochet pattern folly
perceiving lantern — shining light! — off course
love’s caravanic loves and out of space
thus pecks the pecker, wagtail breeds and fence
in pirouette flamingo minuet
in sprinkling song timorous magpie startling
gets ready skylark dazzingly whoever
disguising origin with castanets
and thunder flashes earthquake rain and pain
This rather simple song was number three on the Starhit Parade, sung by the popular reptile choir of 10,000 Galtrism beings that procured its musical message for extrasensory transmission.
And the rocketflame who sang it arrived at Earth, where she intended to call on a person in whom she had confidence: Bishop Leonida Brown.
* * *
Copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk