3 of 4 | Chapter 10

 

Karen had to swallow. I'll get used to that too, I guess, she thought to herself.

“Thank you. I'm here to check the assembly level of the Sumo II,” she said, not trusting that the machine understood her.

“We are on schedule. The aircraft body has been assembled, the drives have been installed, and the installation of the control unit is currently in progress. The G-radius defense weapons are now being subjected to testing,” the robot listed without any hesitation.

“May I observe the tests, please,” Karen requested.

“Certainly. Please, follow me,” it said, and started towards the work area.

Karen walked behind it, but did not feel comfortable at the thought of having to trust a machine. She was following it as it had requested, but why? As she disappeared amongst the colossal machines, she shivered with the feeling that anything could happen to her and no one would be any the wiser.

Her thoughts were interrupted by another phone call.

“Karen Colella,” she quickly responded.

“Hello, sweety, it's your mum. Doesn't your phone show my number anymore?”

“Hi, Mum, I'm sorry, I didn't look. How are you doing?”

“Everything is fine, dear. Are you okay? I can hear some sort of weird background noise.”

“Yes, don't worry. Everything's fine. I'm at work right now. Is there a problem at home?”

“Well, things are not as good as they could be. We've just moved out of the house and now we're looking for a small semi-detached one.”

“Mum! Are you kidding?”

“No, why? We're signing the contract next week, then we'll pay off the bank and we'll be moving into a new place.”

“Why didn't you call me earlier? I could've helped.”

“Oh, darling, don't worry. You know your father, he wouldn't have allowed it anyway. He's as stubborn as a mule.”

“Well, he would've felt less stressed if he had asked me for help,” said Karen.

Around her, the monstrous machines moved with absolute calm and precision, seemingly undisturbed by the conversation. This made Karen start to feel tense.

The robotic production supervisor stopped at the test site and ordered all of the tests to be re-run. A few seconds later, the G-radius tubes moved into place, indicating that they were activated, then test artillery shot test objects into the air. The Sumo II weapons systems lit up and cast gravitational radii towards the nearest objects, then quickly pulled them into the cargo bay of the aircraft.

Karen gasped in amazement and the phone dropped from her hand. She picked it up hurriedly and held it to her ear.

“Karen, what the hell is going on over there?!” her mother asked worriedly.

“Nothing Mum, I just dropped the phone. I have to go, but I'll call you in the evening, okay?”

“Your father wants to talk to you!”

“Mum, I can't now, really!” she shouted, surprised by an object that shot towards her and was stopped by a radius just inches away from her nose. A dull thud echoed in her ears.

“Karen!” Her father was on the phone. “We didn't call you to burden you with our troubles. We would love to visit you sometime and, as your mother and I know how busy you are, we thought of calling to talk over some dates for a visit. What do you say?”

“That's a great idea, Dad,” gasped Karen, flinching as another object hurled itself towards her. “Come whenever you want.”

It seemed that test would last for ever. A series of thuds came from nearby as the radii brought down the objects.

“Phase Two,” boomed the robot suddenly.

“What was that?!” her dad asked.

“Nothing, Dad. I'm at a test run right now and I really need to go,” said Karen.

Phase two made a huge racket as a large number of globular metal forms raced towards the Sumo II in a simulated attack. It took only a few hundredths of a second for all of the spheres to be collected.

“It sounds as if you're in the middle of a battle, darling. That's a hell of a noise!” said Mr Colella.

Karen was now totally out of it. She was not nervous anymore, numbed by the noise and frenetic activity around her, she just let her dad talk on. She waited until the testing was completed, then said goodbye to her parents, thanked the robot for the presentation and walked back to the transport unit and left the factory.

All she wanted to do was to lie down and relax for a little.

 

Report

Commander Murinko appeared Steersman's office early the next morning and delivered his report on the astrophysicist, listing who he was related to and who his co-workers were. In essence, he lived like a scientist and devoted all his time to his profession. He fostered a close relationship with the German-based European Observatory Center. He had been living in São Gonçalo with his wife and two daughters.

“Apart from the facts, what I'm more interested in is what sort of person he is. What does he do in his free time, what are his principles, his beliefs,” said Steersman.

“He actively participates in two organizations that work against the destruction of rainforests. Last year, he was involved in protest activities and when it came to light, he wasn't too popular in political circles. They wanted to replace him, saying that he wasn't fit to be in charge of a scientific institute of such standing, but he was helped by the German Senate and kept his position. The Institute has been constantly deprived of financial aid since then, however.”

“I wonder why hasn't he settled down in Germany? I'm sure he would've received their help and permission.”

“Apparently, he hasn't because of his colleagues. He didn't want to leave them in the lurch,” answered Murinko.

“Hmm. Well, that means he's loyal,” said Steersman.

“Yes, sir, he is,” Murinko agreed, remaining firmly at attention. His posture suggested a tough character, built rock solid with wiry muscles. His skin stretched over his face thinly covering the bones and muscles of his etched cheekbones and jaw. A gaunt man, his carotid artery pulsed when he talked. Murinko had retired from military service two years before (after more than thirty years of service with elite European forces). He had planned thousands of missions, most of which had ended successfully. He was more of a strategist than an ordinary soldier. He could always recognize enemy strategic thinking which meant that he was able to properly prepare his men for any situation on the battle field. Formations under his leadership had the lowest mortality rates in the world.

“All right, we shall listen to Dr Martins,” said Steersman.

 

They know of our existence

Half an hour later, the astrophysicist entered Steersman's office. He was wearing the same white coat he was in the day before. He looked as if he had been on his way home and, acting on a spontaneous impulse, had turned off the highway to the airport and boarded the first flight to Excolopolis; without changing his clothes or booking a hotel, he had simply decided at that very moment to come and tell Steersman what was on his mind.

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 13 | ENERGY WAR
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH