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A Daughter Done Right
by Rune Lai

At first he was wary of these strangers, insomuch as a computer could be, but when he listened to them talk among themselves he realized they opposed the one who caused such pain by nibbling away at his controls. Though the artificial mind designated Seed was housed in a large chamber, deep below ground, in truth the entirety of the Biolab was his body, and all the robots, lasers, sensors, and tools were his until the usurper came. This Palman known as Zio cost the planetary systems not only the control android Demi, but the vast majority of Seed's functionality. An analogy between Seed and a quadriplegic human would be an accurate one, as the computer had little enough left of his own command to speak, let alone care for the one experiment he had been able to save.

Rika, the four hundred twenty-first of her kind, was that precious experiment, a procedure kept alive by the promise of a better future and the hope of a long dead scientist. And this most valuable of things had gone off on her own to greet the strangers. Though she spoke to them from outside of Seed's chamber, he picked up every word of their conversation through the microphones embedded thoroughout the lab for just the purpose of letting him hear. She was knowledgeable, for Seed had taught her social graces and the fundamentals of science and history, but naive in her willingness to trust a kind face. The computer had tried his best, but at least the Palmans and the one Motavian of the group did not regard her as a freak. That was key if she was to introduce the modified genetic material into the Palman population. Someone would have to like her enough to feel that ensnaring emotion the Palmans called "love".

Rika lead them to him, knowing the Seed could explain things more thoroughly than she ever could. She knew her history, she held her enthusiasm for all things she learned, but she was not a computer. She could not think and see the way Seed could.

"So, where's this person called Seed?" asked the lone female in the party.

They stood in his housing chamber, exposed to the myriad of monitors and controls with which a myriad of long dead scientists had conversed with him. Rika swept a hand up at the displays and said with such obvious simplicity, "He's right in front of you."

The Palmans were taken aback, which was reasonable enough. No doubt computers of his magnitude and intelligence were the stuff of folklore. The three free willed AIs of the Algo Star System, Seed, Demi, and Wren, rarely examined the conditions of the Palman population beyond those needed for survival, so Palman contact with any machine other than scraps of ancient drones taken offline at the beginning of the Great Collapse was unlikely.

"I am 'Seed', the control computer for this Bio-plant," he said. The voice that came out from his speakers was Palman in sound and nature, indistinguishable from that of a tenor Palman male in his late twenties. It had belonged to a young man long ago.

Again, the Palmans marveled at the sound of Seed's voice, emanating from all around them. The Motavian's expression, if it had changed at all, remained unreadable even by Seed's standards. The computer decided on the best tact with which to approach them, the best way to stop the maggots churning in his body. He could feel the build up of power surging in from the corrupted Nurvus command center. Seed did not know how this Zio could manipulate the system after disabling Demi, but Nurvus's commands could not be ignored. He only barely saved his consciousness and Rika by physically severing the command lines between himself and Nurvus. Still, he could watch and witness the abuse within his body as Nurvus took the helm of the production facilities. Though Seed possessed little in the way of his own emotion, he experienced something akin to outrage when he discovered the genetic monsters Nurvus had unleashed. This was not in line with his objective. Biomonsters had threatened Motavia once before, and nearly cowed the Palman people into submission. Motavia could ill afford that now, what with the Palman population still fragmented in isolated pockets of the planet.

Seed assumed the tone of a teacher encouraging his star pupil as he explained the situation to them, and indeed it was dire, but he estimated that his candid presentation of the facts might motivate them more than if he had presented a half truth, to prevent them from realizing the full power of the AIs who held their world in their collective grip. They would soon learn the truth from Rika herself if he did not tell them. Perhaps he should have taught her the art of discretion, but he had not expected to loose her so soon. He had not yet finished his examination...

"What shall we do?" said one of the Palmans, despair already squeezing his throat.

"The only thing we can do is shut down the system!" said the female.

"But stopping the system itself will cause problems. We won't be able to maintain the ecosystem!"

They might have argued well into the evening, but Rika showed initiative, a trait Seed feared in her however necessary it was, and reassured the party that all they would have to do would be to shut down Nurvus. She made it sound so simple, as ludicrous as the task may be. Seed was virtually cut off from the his externals and could not establish contact with either Nurvus or the orbiting satellite Zelan, where Wren resided, so he was unaware of how Nurvus might be defended or have changed since he last communicated with Demi. All he could give them was a bit of advice--rescue Demi first--and a photograph. Rika named it Zio's fort as he brought it on screen.

The majority of the Palmans seemed inclined to go, to bring order back to their planet. That was good.

Seed's voice came out with all the hesitant manner of a father seeing his child off. "So, you will go? Please take Rika with you." If he had been the Palman who had envisioned her, his voice might have cracked, but Seed did not understand how or if he could ever affect such a manner without being dishonest to the people he conversed with.

The female turned to him and asked, "Who is this girl anyway? She seems curiously knowledgable about these matters..."

It was a fair question. Palmans often concerned themselves with parentage and ancestry. After all, was that not why Seed inheritated the voice of a Palman, so that Rika and her predecessors would hear the voice of their father?

"She is... my child," said Seed.

Sometimes the computer and the scientist mixed. He had learned a lot from that one Palman. More than his programmers would have imagined. Through that scientist Seed had learned the flexibility with which to care for a precocious and active child such as Rika, and how to give love though he could feel none himself. Because of him Rika would be a well adjusted, if overly energentic, young woman.

The oldest of the Palmans looked incredulous. "Are you saying that she is an artificial life form?"

"That's right," said Seed. "She is a product of a thousand years of improvement on genetic information from a prototype prior to the 'Great Collapse.' I have also given her a basic education. She will surely be a great help to you."

Seed never learned the fate of the prototype, save that she died. The scientist had taken that knowledge to the grave, leaving the computer feeling, in an odd way, cheated. But Rika was his as much as the scientist's. Perhaps more, because he had nurtured her as a Palman would its child.

"All right, Seed. We'll take her!" The female had spoken, clapping a hand on the bioconstruct's shoulder.

Rika smiled, directing a dazzling beam of joy at Seed's monitors. "Thank you! I've always wanted to be able to see the outside world!"

The computer knew she would not be able to find words to fully express her excitement. He had forbid her from leaving, and indeed conditioned her both psychologically and biologically against it. Seed still remembered the pain of losing one of her predecessors to her insatiable desire to seek out her human relations and discover the world outside of the lab. Genetic templates did not come from nowhere, and though Rika and her ilk had a good deal of "new" DNA, the majority of them came from material donated from two living Palmans almost a millennia ago.

"Rika, take care..." And it was with a father's mind that he watched the party gather up to leave. They were agreeable and willing. They would stop Zio, they would restore the system. And just maybe they would succeed. Seed knew that somehow the hope of these people could hold out when logically all else should have failed. These people were the ones who had destroyed Mother Brain, even when she had the forces of three planets at her disposal. It had only taken seven of them.

Rika followed them out, taking one long, last look at the myriad of monitors and lights she had known all her life. Seed rarely assumed he understood a Palman, or one of his own constructs, completely, but in that look he knew that Rika was saying good bye. She was afraid she would never come back. Then she turned around and she was gone.

Seed watched her go and knew that had he been a human he would have felt an undeniable emotion called "pride". But he was not, and so instead he marked his final chore as done. It was not his best, most perfect work, but he learned long ago that human beings need not be perfect and by their standards could even be better for it. A human in this situation might have wasted time, sighing about the past and what could have been, but not so with Seed. The past to him was only a collection of data to be retrieved at will.

He hoped Rika would do well. No amount of planning or calculation could prepare her for the world outside. By rights she should have left with many siblings, but Seed had not known until now that she would be the one, the final one to carry out the plan of introducing new genes to the Palman population. And perhaps, just perhaps, she would do something else, and let the soul of a long dead scientist rest.

Though Rika was now long gone, exiting the Biolab of her birth, Seed said, "You are our hope," in the voice of his old friend. "You are my hope." Then Seed was himself again and felt the sting of a thousand tortured beings at the tips of his sensors. It was time. For humans there was escape. For a computer? The scientist would have had trouble with this final act unless caught in the depths of despair. But the computer had no such instinct for self preservation. Perhaps in time, the loss could be recovered, or there would no longer be a need to do so.

"There is only one way for me to stem the outbreak of monsters," said Seed. And perhaps in the great void before him, there was a soul that listened. "Now that I have sent into the world the fruit of a thousand years worth of research, there are no obstacles to its execution."

The soul nodded, coming down to lay hands on the controls. Seed remembered with the vividness that came with his existence; the fire, the brightness, the determination that there would be a better world after the Collapse. Buttons depressed on the keyboard, though no weight had touched them. The soul signaled his readiness. Rika was his contribution, and his final hope for redemption.

Neifirst, Nei, Hana, Nea, Pali... The names of all his wards came to him, all those he called numans for they were the new people. NM-2011, Lorelei, Jina, Keem, Gey... Four hundred and twenty one of them, and to none of them had he been able to say good bye. Yanis, Iala, Ean, Rika! Seed knew regret, but being only thought and electricity he felt the poorer for it. At least the scientist, being the human he was, lived on. His genes continued, and Rika was his daughter. Then the lights turned red and the generators heaved.

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