Requiem for an Android
by Bertil Falk
Table of Contents
part 1; part 2
appear in this issue.
|Chapter 4: The Circle Is Closed|
XM anthro 95G, alias Paxinterra, alias Cardinal Mobades, sat satisfied in a fast food bar on the recently colonized planet Ramses. On the other side of the street, construction workers were building the teleportation station that soon would connect Ramses with the Space Federation. Paxinterra had been on the run for one year.
He was now ready to return!
Paul LX, himself a Personite, had appealed to him on his dramatic deathbed: “Mobades, you must become the next Pope. Only a strong Pope can clear up this mess. Through some documents I have found, I have now understood the very essence of the opposition to the dogma of the salvation of androids.
The agreement between the Holy See and the Order of Personites... Mobades... this is about life, not religion, not even theology... Life... soul itself... the life... the human process of integration... the growth of the noosphere as the Holy Teilhard de Chardin talked about in ancient days... Mobades.”
And Mobades had administered the last sacrament and extreme unction to his holy father, but Paul LX had lived on for some more time.
Instead of trying to become Pope, Mobades had decided to activate an uncontrollable development. He had succeeded in appropriating an android to himself the same day that it was manufactured on Deimos. The android had been deactivated and he had himself shouldered the responsibility of being XM anthro 95G.
He had found that mother Saulcerite on Bavaria was a candid woman who had the advantage of being busy with a doctoral dissertation about Gregoria I, who had become Pope thanks to Janis Latviensis, a Personite.
And mother Saulcerite had suddenly — exactly as he wanted but without knowing it herself — seized the initiative by performing the historic deed that he had intentionally triggered.
And when she sent him away disguised as herself, he had obeyed her with joy. He wanted to let her act without him in the universal course of events. But now he had a feeling that all was consummated, that it was time to return and reap his harvest.
Thy will be done, he thought. Soon it is finished, Lord.
* * *
Mergovit Jem and her husband Toklas were eating their simple supper when one of the crystals of the antique chandelier began to glow.
“Mother Saulcerite is afraid,” the pious Buddhist said.
The crystal became more intensely red.
“Yes,” his wife answered. “And her fear only grows.”
Before Saulcerite had left them, they had inserted a tiny sensation meter in her body while she was asleep. In the chandelier of crystals, they could now follow her emotional reactions, but this was the first time that one of the crystals had signaled horror and dread.
“It cannot be far away from here,” Toklas Jem said, and he intensively contemplated the increasingly reddening crystal. “Once long ago when I was young, we often walked about in the endless, mysterious mazes of the catacombs. I do not find my way there, nothing finds its way there; but I am not as unaccustomed as Saulcerite to move in the darkness down there. Let us go into the catacombs together.”
And now the crystal glowed terribly red.
“I wonder what she is experiencing so intensely?” Mrs. Jem looked at her husband.
And thus they went together...
* * *
Carolus and Teresia had found the room in the ruins of the monastery, where the Personites once had their combined teleportation transmitter and receiver.
Teresia Nightmare was examining the remains of a device thousands of years old. “A very simple thing, well preserved, but out of order,” she explained to Carolus Brainflower.
“Can you repair it?”
“Will it take long?”
“I don’t know,” she said and bent over the primitive construction from the childhood of technology. “Let me see,” she murmured to herself. “It operated on a very unusual frequency and was based on a very primitive principle and a frightfully simple technology with photons and gravitons.”
“So?” he asked, not understanding anything at all.
“Well, they were utilized alternately,” she declared, but it did not make him any wiser. “It worked at a slow place. The speed of light, I presume. It means — one complete human being — oh yes, it must be like that — in one and a quarter of a second from Earth. There was no time retardation. It was probably activated by this relay. Well. Yes. It must have worked like that. Actually quite ingenious.”
“Were the bodies able to withstand the slow speed?”
“Certainly. To be sure, our bodies do that today, though with relatively higher speed across much longer distances — if you understand what I mean. When you travel from one solar system to another, it will take one or two minutes. Doesn’t your body withstand it?”
Of course he had to admit that that was the case. He had traveled such distances many times.
A few hours later Teresia Nightmare said, “That’s it. Repaired. Of what use now?”
“I don’t know,” Carolus Brainflower said. “If we went inside it and the old receiver at the other end still exists, then we would actually end up in the mysterious Personite monastery deep beneath the Vatican on Earth in one and a quarter second, wouldn’t we?”
“It’s not advisable to try,” Teresia Nightmare said. “This is indeed an old and solid construction from the 4th millenium A.D., which per se should function, but if this station was destroyed by a crazy monk, why should the one at the other end not have been destroyed as well, one or two thousands years ago? That’s worth considering before embarking upon some hazardous teleportation experiment.”
She looked at him and said, “But the teleporter had been tuned to reception when it was destroyed. Nothing prevents us from turning it on now.” She left the setting unaltered and activated the teleporter without waiting for Carolus’ answer.
“Well, as you can see not much happens...” she began.
A haze filled the space above the platform and Teresia fell silent.
Amazed, they stared at the contours materializing before their very eyes inside the receiver. The blurred haze that was sprayed out of nowhere took the shape of a man in an old-fashioned spacesuit.
Teresia Nightmare got sight of the newspaper, the absolutely fresh newspaper smelling from printing ink, that the man was holding in his hand.
The man saw her eyes, smiled, and handed her the newspaper. She took it. L’Osservatore Romano, the mouthpiece of the Vatican, dated March 20, 3105.
“What do you think of this? she exclaimed.
“It’s not true,” Carolus Brainflower said. “It can’t be true. It is... absolutely impossible... too fantastic to be...”
“This is a rarity without parallel,” she exclaimed and she held out the unique paper. “This is a brand-new paper, with a scent of printing ink. Look, the printing ink has even smudged on the paper.”
“Unbelievable,” he said.
“It’s extremely old, Carolus. Do you realize? But nevertheless new.”
“But Teresia, dear,” he said. “Since you are a teleportation expert, you should know that it’s impossible that the subatomic particles of this man could have been in limbo year after year and now have been retransported here in order to restore his body — which is alive.”
“I don’t know about that,” she answered nonchalantly. “In theory it might actually well be. Even though we have never before been successful in doing such a thing.
“And this might be the answer to the question of avoiding serious teleportation disasters like the one we experienced in connection with the papal funeral. If we can install this effect as a fail-safe mechanism in the teleportation system, then we can save people who now are returned in the form of heaps of flesh and blood due to prolonged teleportation failure.”
She looked at the man, who made a gesture.
“We are friends,” she said softly. “Who are you?”
They saw his lips moving, but heard nothing. They signed to him to follow them to their rented vehicle. They took off their space helmets and could at last talk to the man from the past.
“I... I am...” he said and Teresia encouragingly nodded at him.
“I... am... Cardinal...”
“Say! You’re a cardinal?” Carolus Brainflower said. “Not bad for someone so young!”
“Don’t you... know? Who are you anyway? Why is everything so strange here?”
“I’m afraid that the cardinal has landed a few years downstream in time,” Teresia Nightmare said. “I did not catch your name.”
“I am Cardinal Personit. How...?
Carolus Brainflower felt that his temples were burning. This man had to be the very key to everything. This was surely Personit himself. In person and lifelike. The man who many, many years ago founded the Order of the Personites.
* * *
Saulcerite sat in the fantastic staircase that had ceased to exist behind her and which vertiginously descended abruptly, cracked, screamed down into the earth. Her race belonged to the most emotional in the universe when it comes to heights. She became slightly dizzy.
She groped about for the outer edges of the staircase. Terror-stricken, she found nothing. Where she sat, the staircase had no edges.
She dared not stand up and walk downstairs. Instead she began to slither down the stairs.
She could not look outwards and downwards many seconds until she was overcome with spasms, giddiness, fear.
She became tired.
But suddenly she discerned a change. Something was happening below her. She looked fixedly and tried to find an explanation. Something was slowly coming nearer to her. First she had a feeling of gratitude that someone else — alive — was near to her.
Then she realized that she did not know what was approaching her. It might be alive, but it need not be human.
* * *
Using the crystal as a guide, where Saulcerite’s fear was indicated, the old couple Toklas and Mergovit Jem walked in the subterranean vaults. They had walked for many hours. Every so often they would draw signs on the walls of the catacombs in order to find their way back.
They went through caves where the walls were decorated with skeletons and altars erected of bones. Big crosses, built of thousands of thighbones, adorned these cathedrals of death.
They walked through crypts filled with glass jars of blood, through halls with refrigerated hearts and morgues with piled up mummies, chambers with brains embalmed in alcohol.
Then they stepped out into a blue cave, which formed something like a sky above them. And suddenly they discovered Saulcerite. Frightened, she sat in a crevice and slithered without going anywhere.
“Saulcerite!” the woman exclaimed.
Saulcerite cried out. She stared with her eyes triangular in fear. Mergovit plunged forward, seized Saulcerite, and pulled her out of the cleft. It was as if scales fell from Saulcerite’s eyes.
“Good Lord,” she exclaimed. “Only just... and now... now... only...”
They did not understand her.
“I... I... was sitting on a staircase and something horrible... something absolutely fearsome... I...”
“I think I understand,” the man said slowly as if he were trying to remember something. “This must be an illusion cleft, and there is probably a door behind it.”
He poked at the back of the crevice with a wooden stick and a door swung open. Behind it loomed sarcophagi. Saulcerite had been sitting behind the sarcophagus of cardinal Personit all the time.
“Where are we then?” Saulcerite asked.
“Near your destination,” Mergovit Jem said and pointed across the lake.
Saulcerite had not seen the lake before. Now she did, and the island in the middle of it, as well. She saw the nuns and the monks working peacefully in the gardens.
“How will we get there?”
“By attracting their attention,” the man suggested.
They went down to the shore. And while they stood there, a tongue of land came jutting out from the island. It bore through the water and stretched out to the shore like a bridge.
The three beings began their walk towards the monastery of the Personites. On the other side, the librarian Mervil Tojas, with a forbidding countenance, stood waiting for them.
* * *
“I thought you were dead by now,” Mervil Tojas said sullenly. They could hear from his voice that he was unhappy at seeing her alive. “But you’ve found your way to us, even though it took some time.”
“In spite of your device. I got caught in a crevice of illusion.”
He looked at her, his eyes calm. “It was created very long ago,” he muttered, “for protection. One cannot say it’s mine.”
“I could have been stuck in it till I died.”
Mervil Tojas shook his head. “Not at all. We would have found you and saved you. We check the crevice every day.”
”Do you often catch someone?”
He shook his head again. “This is the first time in 936 years that someone has gotten caught in it. And now... well, come with me.”
“Where are you taking us?” Saulcerite asked suspiciously. “I’ve come here to find out what you’re pursuing, why you act the way you do, why you’re trying to...”
Mervil Tojas looked tired and cut her short. “Never before has anyone found us who wanted to do us harm. You’re the first one. The Pope must take a stand. We cannot hinder you any more.”
“There might be some clause in the agreement that is applicable,” Mervil Tojas said peevishly.
All around, gardens flourished where industrious monks and nuns were tending them.
Mervil Tojas stopped short. He was staring at something and gave a cry of surprise.
Saulcerite saw what he was looking at. Three people were coming towards them. But who were they?
“Three more?” Mervil Tojas exclaimed. “I do not understand this. Where are they coming from? Are you surrounding us?”
Saulcerite shook her head. “I’ve never seen them before. Except, perhaps, one of them...”
Mervil Tojas turned deathly pale. “What a terrible likeness,” he burst out. “Exactly as on the painting hanging in our chapel.”
Saulcerite also saw the total resemblance to the young cardinal whose image she had seen in the form of white marble inside the sarcophagus, at the entrance to the world of the Personites.
“It’s a true copy of Personit himself,” she exclaimed. “It... it must be an android.”
“I’m Carolus Brainflower,” the other man introduced himself.
“And my name is Teresia Nightmare,” said the woman.
“How did you get here?” asked Mervil Tojas.
“By teleportation from the Moon,” said Carolus Brainflower.
“Good God, but the teleportation station is destroyed. There has been no teleportation since the period of cardinal Personit...”
Mervil Tojas stopped speaking, took a step backwards and stared at the man who was a representation of the cardinal.
“I’ve repaired the old station,” Teresia Nightmare said. “I’m not a teleportation expert for nothing. And the man with us is none other than Cardinal Personit himself.”
“Impossible,” Mervil Tojas protested. “This is blasphemy! The founder of our order has been dead for hundreds and hundreds of years. Don’t try-”
“We’re not trying,” Teresia Nightmare interrupted.
Cardinal Personit smiled a thin smile. “Peace be with you all. It is fantastic what a difference it is here as compared with when we built this monastery. But I can see that you have administered the heritage well. Plants grow here exactly as we once hoped they would.”
“I can’t believe it,” panted Mervil Tojas.
“The truth is that Cardinal Personit was teleported from Earth to the Moon at the same moment as the teleportation station on the Moon was destroyed. His body dissolved into its smallest constituent parts has been embalmed alive in limbo and completely intact all these years,” Teresia Nightmare said.
“These his smallest constituent parts were always ready to return to their place of origin as soon as the receiver was ready. And that happened when I repaired and activated the receiver station.
“Or what do you think of this?” Teresia Nightmare triumphantly showed the fresh, antique copy of L’Osservatore Romano. “The printer’s ink is still fresh,” she said.
Mervil Tojas grasped the hand of Cardinal Personit and went down on his knees. “A miracle!” he bellowed. “The founder of our order has returned to us. A miracle in time and eternity. Amen.”
The news spread rapidly through the monastery. Silently, the Personites gathered around the man who had created their order.
“You must help us. You must, o holy founder, undo our horrible curse.”
“I want to see the Pope,” Cardinal Personit said.
Copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk