adrianwphilp

The New Stars: First Part

In Fiction, Short Stories on 2013/08/05 at 11:14

I have been encouraged to add some narrative element to this project. I have also been encouraged to share more of my creative writing. Please enjoy.

THE NEW STARS: First Part

The night the new stars appeared in the sky, shining terrible and blue as they crept up over the horizon, was the very same night that The Most Very Reverend Doctor Stentorius Phlabeus Honorius Lem, professor emeritus of cybernetics and robopyschology at the University Complexus Alpha Alpha, honourary guardsman of the Fraternal Order of Illustrious Electroknights of the Steely Expanse, respected bishop in the Church of the Right-Handed Algebraic Composition (despite his very staunch and public atheism), noted philosopher, lauded poet and amateur musician, became a father.

It was a most unusual “birth,” not so far as the actual mechanics were concerned (in this respect it largely followed the usual method), but in the circumstances — that is, the place and time at which it was chosen to occur. In the Third Northern Sector, the ancestral home of the Honorius Lems, tradition dictates that birthing be conducted in isolation and under the harshest possible physical conditions. This is to introduce the new member of the family, as quickly as possible, to what is believed to be the inherent, blind viciousness of chaos. Third Northerners pride themselves on having tough, resolute, fearless offspring who, having been so immediately introduced to isolation and hardship, develop to be serious and independent individuals. Lonely mountain peaks are preferred, though, when possible, the whirling vortices of winter storms on the open ocean are also a popular choice. Stentorius himself was born during a particularly vicious hail-storm on a rather flat and empty stretch of the wintry regions of the Steely Expanse. In the First Central district, where the University Complexus Alpha Alpha is located, the event usually occurs at a highly ritualized family gathering with much reverence and joy, the lighting of candles, and the burning of incense being chief among the prescribed activities.

The genesis of Stentorius’ firstborn took place three hours into a lecture by the Reverend Doctor, which was a culmination of a week-long symposium on the subject of algebraic cybernetic programming, in front of an audience of several thousand scholars and clergymen, as well as those members of the general public who had the patience to sit through the professor’s lecture or who had fallen asleep and were awoken by all the hubbub that ensued.

For those in attendance well-versed enough in the mathematical jargon of programming algebraics (it was a very dense lecture indeed), it was understood that, by the end of the evening, the good Doctor intended somehow to demonstrate the validity of his recent highly publicized criticisms of one of the canonical assumptions of both cybernetics and robopyschology; that is, the importance and (as many would have it) even the absolute necessity, not to mention (and this is mainly a religious point) the sublime beauty of what has always been referred to as the Core Programs Set. Depending on one’s profession, this denial of the importance of the CPS was either highly dubious and irresponsible or heretical in the highest degree.

“Doctor! Sir! Bishop Stentorius! Sir! Doctor, please! Really!” An elderly academic finally managed to capture the speaker’s attention and distract him from his notes long enough to get in a word. Flustered, Stentorius slammed his palms down on the lectern and turned to his colleague with an expression of supreme annoyance. The clang of his worn steel hands on the titanium lectern echoed through the fresh and uneasy silence of the vaulted auditorium.

The academic seemed somewhat taken aback by the sudden shift of attention to him, as if he had not expected to succeed in interrupting. His tarnished antennae, unkempt and slightly askew, seemed to quiver with embarrassment. He stuttered, made something like a wheezing sound, then fell silent.

When it became obvious that he had nothing to say, and that Stentorius intended to resume his lecture once he could find his place in his notes again, another, somewhat younger, robotic scholar spoke for the mute academic.

“Doctor, if I may…”

Stentorius squinted and scanned the room for this fresh annoyance.

“You may. If you must.”

“Thank you sir. Sir, I do believe we are all quite anxious at this juncture to ask a few questions of you.”

“Is it not customary to ask questions only when a lecturer as distinguished as myself has come to the end of his presentation and has asked if there are questions?” Stentorius, having located the new challenger, turned his polished frame towards him and stared him down with a cool, proud gaze.

The younger academic, a visiting doctoral student from the department of engineering in one of the planet’s many smaller robotical arts colleges, stood with the casual confidence and self assurance of youth before the most distinguished professor, his several multi-jointed legs splayed comfortably out beneath his box-like frame, which was freshly polished and painted a fashionable blue-green tint. Several pairs of arms, arrayed with all manner of pincers and manipulators (betraying his working-class origins) remained neatly tucked in around his body. His primary pair of arms, extending asymmetrically from broad shoulders draped in gold-fringed fabric, ended in rubber-padded hands which currently clutched a thick stack of notebooks into which he had been furiously scribbling notes on the unfolding lecture.

“Sir, you can’t be surprised by our eagerness. The things you are suggesting are stunning, not to mention blasphemous,” he said, glancing towards a row of older model robots in all manner of colourful ecclesiastical vestments. They all nodded with approval.

“As you know, my young friend, I am not concerned with matters of blasphemy. If the Right-handed Church wishes to strip me of my bishopric as a result of my work, then so be it. I expect the Left-handed Church, or one of the ambidextrous sects would be more than eager to bring someone of my prestige into the fold. As for my work being ‘stunning,’ I thank you. I intend it to be so.”

“More than stunning, Bishop Stentorius — impossible! Ludicrous! Laughable!” Someone shouted from a back row.

“Even if it were possible, it would be wrong! Even an atheist must admit that. The core program is what defines us! To exist without it would be to lower, to be uncivilized, amoral, bestial!”

“Heretic!”

“Madman!”

“Idiot!”

The lecture hall erupted into tumult. Many dozing members of the audience were suddenly awakened, and their confusion, embarrassment, and subsequent desire to act as if they had any idea of what was going on only added to the chaos. Stentorius leaned back from the microphone, the hint of a sly smile playing at the edges of his flexible lips. A careful observer might have thought that he was enjoying all this. He was. Stentorius Phlabeus Honorius Lem liked nothing better than to be the cause of an uproar. He positively basked in the upset he had caused, though he worried that the fury of the full-on riot he had planned would be diminished if the audience let off too much steam now. He had miscalculated the timing. The pressure had built up too much.

“Gentlemen! My fellow robots! Please!” Stentorius shouted over the noise of the crowd. “Silence, please! I intend to answer all of your questions! To meet all your accusations! I apologize for the great length of my presentation up to this point.” The volume in the room started to diminish. Many of the more disinterested members of the audience, awoken from their napping, took this opportunity to slip out of the side exits into the cool evening, to gape up at the new stars appearing in the sky.

“I see now that some of the more technical aspects of my work might have been lost on an audience so…well…on an audience such as I have.” Stentorius said, making no effort at subtlety in his condescension. He dismissed the angry murmur this caused with a wave of his hand.

“I will therefore skip ahead in my presentation.” He plucked a great stack of his notes off of the lectern and, always with a flair for the dramatic, tossed them over his shoulder where they scattered on the floor behind him.

“You accuse me of blasphemy. So be it. I find it in my programming, if it pleases you, that I am immensely curious, and this curiosity knows no bounds of morality or dogma. If the possibility of the existence of members of our illustrious race devoid of that programming set, which you all consider so vital, disturbs you, then so be it. It is, as I have made quite clear, of no concern to me. Do as you will, think what you want, but do not stand in my way!” Here he raised his voice into a terrible, almost scream. His voice was like thunder rolling over the vast steely expanse.

“And as to the impossibility of what I propose, well…” Here he smirked as he paused, his eyes dropped and his hands fiddled with something behind the podium, “Perhaps it would be easier to stop talking over your heads and just show you that the grandson of Phlabeus The Bold is no fool!”

“Show us? Stentorius, surely you don’t intend to do anything rash!”

“I DO! I do intend,” he boomed. And at this, he flipped a switch at the podium causing several things to happen almost simultaneously. A delicate and softly pulsating holographic helix sprung up over his head like some impossible string of bright pink pearls. Certain elements of its structure were familiar to most of the learned members of the audience, yet when considered as a whole, it was shocking in the boldness of its composition for it seemed to defy the normal laws of the construction of such arrays in that its core was hollow.

At the same time as the audience was distracted by the blasphemous projection, the rich, thick red curtain behind the verbose speaker parted to reveal a secondary platform slowly rising above the stage. On the platform, and illumined by an additional set of lights mounted in the ceiling that flicked on at the same moment, lay the hint of the curvaceous shape of a robot in repose beneath a crisp, white sheet.

Those who still remained of the audience were on their feet as Stentorius made a great show of shrinking the hologram into the palm of his hand and striding purposefully to the side of the platform.

“What have you done, Stentorius? What are you doing? What is this?” Screeched an incredulous clergyman.

Stentorius grinned up at them all as, tearing the sheet away to reveal a glinting and shimmering robot in gold and chrome, he slid the hologram into the back of the robot’s head and touched a button at its neck. He took a step back as its body quivered and its dead eyes flickered to life.

“This is my daughter.”

 

Part Two

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  1. […] The new stars continued to grow larger and brighter as the months went on. There was great debate amongst astronomers both learned and amateur as to their nature and origin. […]

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