6 of 7 | Chapter 7

 

Steersman seemed to be unfazed by the professor's seeming reluctance, but he decided to take the opportunity to make a demonstration of the possibilities.

“PG-6 activate, PG-7 activate, PG-8 activate!” The commands came suddenly. Neither the professor nor Karen knew what to make of his unexpected behavior.

A murmuring emanated from somewhere beyond the cozily decorated office, out in the dark recesses. Three large figures, each nearly three meters tall, approached them. They stepped into the light and stood directly behind Steersman.

“PG-6 reporting!” said a distorted voice.

“PG-7 reporting!”

“PG-8 reporting!”

All three robots towered over the dinner table, standing perfectly still. The restaurant staff moved back, unable to conceal their astonishment and fear. None of them felt that they were particularly needed now.

“We have guests, friends,” Steersman said softly, and at his words, the figures took their robes off in one smooth motion. Most of their bodies were covered in a black material of an otherworldly texture that transformed their humanoid forms into something quite frightening. Deep inside their chests, where the heart should have been beating, bright orange orbs fiercely glowed.

The robot in the middle turned his head toward the professor who seemed to jump a little in his chair, as their eyes met.

“Welcome to the ASEC center, Professor. May your stay be memorable,” it rumbled.

“Very kind, I thank you … I think.” The professor forced a small nervous smile.

“Do not worry, Professor! They can appear a little formidable at first. I am almost used to them,” said Karen, with some irony.

“Yes.” The professor paused. “They are very … impressive,” he opined.

“I would like to show you something more,” said Steersman, as he calmly continued his dinner. He looked at the robot standing in the middle and gave a silent release command. Unseen, he launched something with a device that held under the table.

“More?” asked the professor.

Instead of answering, all three robots stirred, each appearing to have noticed something. They all looked intently over Karen's head towards the opposite corner. The guests followed the direction of their gaze, but by the time they had turned it was clear that something was approaching. From the gloom another machine appeared, slowly advancing towards them.

Its stooped posture resembled some sort of squat insect, though its two meter wide stature made it seem rather more intimidating, especially the red transverse stripe that gave its discus-shaped head an unfriendly mien.

“What are you up to, Mr Steersman?” the professor asked, anxiety creeping into his voice, but innate pride forcing him to remain still, though he would much rather have retreated with the catering staff.

“Me? Nothing,” said Steersman nonchalantly, nodding his head in the direction of the ‘unfriendly’ robot.

“Target acquired, obtain target,” blared the machine, casting a red laser light onto Steersman's chest.

None of the robot guards waited for it to get any closer. While the two on each side moved smoothly around the table, the one in the middle flew above them. None of their movements were generated by artificial muscles or hydraulics which made their incredibly rapid movements seem unearthly.

The professor watched spellbound as Steersman took a bite of his meal as the robot flew across the table. Then the machines clashed behind Karen, who ducked her head in reflex. The professor could scarcely believe his eyes.

The guard robots had successfully pinned the attacking machine to the ground with about eight seconds. The vanquished robot became deactivated due to a system failure, thereby ending the battle. Steersman finally swallowed, then put down his fork.

“Professor, if you don't mind, let me just ask you a question. Tell me, what would you consider to be the biggest problem facing our planet today?”

“What do you mean?” the professor asked carefully.

“At present, what do you think the most powerful destructive force is on our planet? If you were able to eliminate one destructive force, one that is capable of destroying all life including our own, but most of all, capable of destroying natural habitats, what should be the first to be remedied?”

Professor Hashimoto considered Steersman's question, frowning.

“This is not an easy question to answer because there is so much pollution, the combined effect of which causes enormous problems. But to answer your question, I would suggest that greenhouse gas emissions would be the largest problem. The burning of fossil fuels places a load on the planet the proportions of which are truly frightening.”

“You said that, to paraphrase perhaps, because of your age it is not worth you changing your established life ….” Steersman paused, leaving the unspoken question hanging in the air.

“I didn't necessarily mean that,” countered the professor. “What I meant was that, at the moment, I do not see a life-changing reason to leave my current place of residence; a cause for which would be worth leaving my current position in which I am able to help the younger generations as much as I can, and trust me, what I mean has nothing to do with financial considerations at all,” he explained politely.

“Your abilities in educating the young are far above my poor admiration and earn my eternal respect. An army of scientists and engineers leaves the university each year, and those who have the best opportunity to find places in research and development companies. What these companies produce makes our lives easier, accelerating and improving our lives and elevating our living standards, whether we need it or not. However, there is other life on this planet besides our own, the support of which not only brings no economic payoff, but also brings no prestige or kudos. The source from which we all originate, to which we owe our very existence, where everything comes from, which feeds us, clothes us, on which we travel and entertain ourselves gains nothing but misery from us.

Man, one of the greatest miracles this planet has yet produced, able to create and give life and—thanks to abilities of the highest degree of existence—able to perform exceptional feats with the power of the spiritual forces within us. Art, sport, music, literature, all of these are the noblest products of our species. They are pure and unselfish, are universal expressions of uniqueness that come from, yet stand out from nature.

And would this be that which characterizes the human race? Hardly. If needed, we roll in our own dirt and scum, justifying it to ourselves when it is in our interests so that later we can get something from the havoc our choices cause. All of this puts our reason for living into question. Professor, the ASEC is committed to restoring the damage caused by humanity and committed to healing Earth.

The demonstration you have just seen, as you probably already suspect, was not about robots. I am sure you could see the potential uses of such technology. The opportunities for its use are unlimited. We have just barely begun to scratch the surface of its possibilities,” Steersman concluded his arguments.

“Yes … from this perspective I know have a better understanding of your motivations. I hope you are serious.”

“He is!” said Karen, backing Steersman up.

“Karen, I've known you for a long time,” said the professor, “and I know that you would only stand by something that you believed in. I believe you, Mr Steersman.” He turned to his host.

“Thank you, Professor,” said Steersman softly.

“Whatever drives these machines, it is certainly not comparable to any known technology.”

“Please, show the professor,” said Steersman, turning to the robot standing close him.

 

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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 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
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