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by Orakio of the Domes

I remember that day clearly. It started out like any other, just with systematic checkups of all the basic ecological control plants. As usual, there was nothing to report. I felt so...empty inside, existing like this, day after day. After relaying the results to Zelan, I decided to occupy myself with the task of supervising some worker drones in sector 53-GXY-L.

Even that didn't appeal to me, but it was better than doing nothing at all. I walked slowly, deliberately, in between two undesirable places. The weight of over 300 years of the same thing every day rested upon my shoulders. I could just picture myself as seen through the black-and-white security cameras: a small, lonely figure. But nobody would care.

Of the thousands of AIs stationed in Nurvus, I was probably the only one who was more than a mindless menagerie of overly-complex mechanisms. I didn't realize it at then, but the emptiness within me...I was sad.

Something was different that, day, though. After trudging down a few corridors, a gentle but pressing beeping noise began. I felt my mechanical heart speed up ever so slightly. The beeping went on, signifying that there was a matter of importance to tell me about. I merged my left arm with a console full of blinking lights on the wall, and felt my positronic brain paths whirl. Nurvus had lied undisturbed for almost a millennium. Finally, someone had discovered it; someone biological.

This could only mean bad news. Average townspeople had never stumbled upon this underground power plant, so the chances that the intruder might be a lost child or a stray dog were slim to nil. It took someone ingenious, deviliciously ingenious to decipher the few signs of Nurvus's existence beneath the shifting sand dunes of Motavia.

I turned around, not knowing what to expect. I felt more alone than ever, because most of the AIs in the facility weren't designed for combat. I was somewhat, but not a great fighter at any rate. My internal comm-link told me about an incoming transmission from Zelan. I flipped on my communications channel, and said, "Demi here," It was Wren, of course. I knew that even before I noticed his positronic signature. He was the only one who would be concerned over my welfare in such a scenario.

"Demi," I heard him say. "Is everything alright up there? Zelan has received an intruder alert from your station." He was calm, sophisticated, and seemed almost indifferent. But I knew he wasn't an empathics-capable android. Below that apathetic exterior, he was probably very worried.

"I don't know," I replied truthfully. "Security tells me that the intruder is a single biological organism. How he was able to discover Nurvus...I can't imagine." I continued walking down the corridor, and turned left into a small storage room. It was pitch black inside, and there were no lights to guide me, but with sharpened optical sensors, I could see fine.

I walked over to one of the many metal containers, and opened it. Inside, I saw the reassuring shape of an impacter, a powerful gun that could do fatal damage to humans. I still didn't know what I was up against, but whoever the intruder was, he or she meant business. I left the storage room, weapon in hand, and hurried down the hall.

Near the frontal control panel, I stopped dead in my tracks. Several yards away stood a raven-haired man, a malicious glint in his eyes. He wore a dark cape, red on the inside, and his bodysuit shined dully in the light. He chuckled as soon as he saw me, and I took a defensive stance. "Well, well, well," he began. "One lone robot wants to stop me." He threw his head back and laughed, an inhuman sound.

I clutched my impacter harder, and stated firmly, "Please leave the facilities at this moment. Tampering with Nurvus is a foolish idea, and may result in your death." I tried to sound resolute, but my voice was indeed quivering. The man didn't care about any of my threats. He started walking forward. I pointed my gun at him, and he stopped. "Do not go any further. This is off-limits for all civilians."

At that, he became a little flustered, and his eyes flashed red. "I am no civililan," he said in a voice that made me tremble. "I am Zio, the black magician, and you, small android, have made a terrible mistake!" He raised his hands up towards the ceiling, and a long, red bolt came hurling at me. I fired my impacter, but the moment the energy bolt connected to my head, I knew no more.

*     *     *     *     *

The next waking moments were brief, and confusing. I looked around me, and saw that I was alone in a verdigrised chamber. The walls were lined with tapestries of dark, and oddly horrifying things. My artifical limbs felt so stiff, and I tried to stretch. I found that I was being held in place by a series of ropes.

Try as I might, I could not muster up the energy to snap them. That man...who called himself "Zio" must have done something to me. What was that attack he had used? I had never learned about a technique like it. The ropes were held taut, almost magically. I must have looked pathetic, just hanging there, unable to do anything. Where was I, in the first place?

My internal locational device told me that my coordinates were still within Nurvus, only several stories higher -- above ground. But that was impossible. There was nothing above Nurvus except for sand, and lots of it. It would have taken months to build something complex as this structure, and required the strength of many men. But then again, that was possible. Had I really been unconscious for that long of a time?

I didn't want to think. I ached all over.

Deciding there would be less pain if I put myself in a stasis mode, I went ahead and locked myself in one. In time, I would wake, after I had recharged.

*     *     *     *     *

I was wakened by shuffling sounds yards in front of me. I heard a gasp, and some mumbling amongst my would-be benefactors. "It's Demi!" I tried to turn my head to see who they were, these strange people that knew my name. But I couldn't. I still ached. If these were Zio's minions, they weren't very discreet about their job. What were they here for, anyway?

Perhaps...perhaps they came to rescue me! But who would have sent them? Only Zelan and the Biosystems Lab had sentient controllers. Could Seed or Wren have sent some people to find me? But where would they have found the Palmans willing to do such a job? I heard several slicing sounds, and felt my arm drop lifelessly to my side. Then my other arm went, and a moment later, the ropes no longer bound me.

I lifted my head up, slowly, and found myself staring into the face of a Palman female. At least her features were Palman. Her red hair was of a lovely shade, but her ears! That was extraordinary. She had ears like a cat, or some other animal. Behind her stood a brown-haired woman, twin slashers in her hand. She seemed more mature than the red-haired girl. And there were three more besides them! A blond teenager, around 17, I guess, a man in a white scholars' suit, and a blue-furred Motavian!

This was the strangest rescue team I had ever seen. For a moment, I forgot my pain, and mumbled, "Wh-who are you all?" I didn't know it at then, but for me, it was a dawn.

No longer would I be trapped within the walls of Nurvus, doomed to do my duty until the day I died. It was the dawn of a new age in my life, and for that, I am grateful.

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