A draft wafts through the open Build Room window, shivering the dusty curtain and slightly revealing half of a medium-sized piece of machinery hidden in the dimly lit corners of the room. Near and with his back to the window, a young professor in his early 30s stands slanted over a tabletop, where rests a vast array of blueprints, small tools and bits, in addition to a round-white-dome-like shape unnaturally glowing under the overhanging lamp.
Laboring tirelessly on the unseen object in front of him, the professor nervously and profusely sweats over his work, beads dripping across his workstation like rain. A forceful gale returns from the open window, curtains shuddering violently from the outside gusts of wind. In the corner of the room, blinking colorfully into a sudden and unnatural life, all on its very own, the machine once hidden in the corner of the room burst into ready existence with a shuddering whelp.
The professor whirls to face the noise, eyes aglow in wonder, gazing at the machine somewhat still hidden within the depths of the flowing curtain folds. It stands just before the open window, camera lenses gazing softly up into the starlit distance of the cosmos, as if scanning all of that brilliant endlessness with ease. The robot seems to carry an unnatural (or artificial) sense of existence; a personality, mentally notes the professor. It is, after all, the very first of its kind, the most prominent addition to the line of in-home robotics, called Kuri, which unfortunately fell into obscurity due to a limited production line. While the initial machine had made so much of a buzz in the connotations of AI and technology itself, the cloned additions later modeled after it and added to its highly intelligent interface never actually took off the ground.
Sophisticated gestual mechanics whirl as the medium-sized machine turns to face its self-spoken creator. "Dr. Aldin?" Its voice sounds raspy with emotion, disconnected and aged as it tries to speak,"...where...where did I come from?"
The professor could only smile in jubilation, thinking to himself, it finally works, in picking up the dome shape from his desk. He sets the headpiece back in place over the bot's skull, before kneeling in front of it, smiling in uncontrolled enthusiasm, as he begins to reveal its history. "It'z not zo much where, my dear friend, but how..."
Voyaging for Answers
Seven months prior to the aforementioned events, the starship Kuri was sent into the closest reaches of outer space, where an unidentified object (UO) has appeared. The birthplace of this large black disk is unknown, which is reason for there journey alone. The following event was recorded and retransmitted from Kuri's internal data logs:
A mechanical, always present yet nearly never heard low beep resounded through the galley and all across the ship. It sounded every now and then, just a simple almost monotonous beeping that stood as an alert for the crew's life support system and control mechanisms. In moments like these, where the unknown annals of space were ever present, it was a crucial sound, for if ringing any swifter, the entire crew could be in extreme danger. The bulking mass of the ship's computer interface and main operational systems, called Kuri, looked like a gaudy technological rock wall of blinking nodes and lights, random knobs, and many more buttons.
Gean Winthrop, taking slow and elongated sips from a floating pouch of water near his nose, peered at the light-up detailing all over the wall, ensuring the ship's major systems and mainframe were in order before hitting the receiver by his ear.
"Systems seem all good." Gean leaned to the right and gazed around Kuri's on-board computer system to look out the porthole window, where a space-suited figure was slowly moving about as if underwater. "How is it out there?"
A static return of feedback sent the com system into a bit of disruption, until the voice of Liam James whisked into Gean's ears. "...It's cold. And lonely."
"Well, quit your moaning and get back in here. Kuri's fine... At least, I think she is."
Liam scoffed. "False alarms never turn out to be just false alarms." There was a slight pause here, static-filled, until Liam's voice returned. "I think I see it out there."
Gean had turned back to the wall of mechanics. "Get back inside, LJ. You shouldn't be any closer to that thing than necessary. Seal the lock, and make sure the robotics engineer isn't having a fit, too."
Liam scoffed in his ear again. "He's still building that pair-able robot thing..." Static disrupted the conversation for only a slight second, until Liam's voice returned, "At least we're seeing something spectacular."
Gean said, "An unidentified object floating in space is not something I'd consider a sight that's 'spectacular,' Liam. But, you Americans do love your murderous vices."
He smiled to himself and looked to find his pouch of water floating by the top of his head, to which he sighed. He watched Liam jump and levitate his way from the outer hull of the craft, where the on-board mechanics and computational systems were mostly held, and swam his way back to the air lock.
"Gean, Liam—it's Kyira." The mission control freak, Gean thought to himself as he heard her voice, and then he added, what now? "We have a problem with Dr. Aldin Preshnovk," she said. "Meet me in the conference room."
Gean sighed again, gazing up to the floating bag of water still levitating overhead and said, "Roger."
Into the Beyond
"We've got a problem."
Kyira wasn't the kind of person to give out any measures lightly. If she saw anything bad, maybe even felt something iffy, she'd say it. And, more often than not, she was right. The crew sat in a circle separated by a table. The all-white conference room (like all rooms on the ship) gave their little meeting somewhat of an angelic feel, but there were no angels amongst them.
"What's the issue, Kyira? The ship's working fine and the navigation has all been taken care of by Liam, so just know it might be funky and mes—"
Liam cut in, "Don't say I did a bad job, Gean, you Brits think you're—"
"ENOUGH!" Kyria's voice boomed, or more slashed the comical antics between the two crew members with the power of a bullwhip. "Where's Dr. Preshnovk?"
Liam and Gean both looked at each other, then back around the room. "Isn't he... I thought he was com—"
"He's not on the ship," Kyira said haughtily. "I checked myself."
Gean smiled slightly, sort of thinking this a joke. "You got to be kidding, where else could he have gone?" He raised his hands as if the thought was absurd to begin with.
"Uhm." This came from Liam. "I...I think I may know where he is."
Liam was facing and pointing toward the conference room porthole, where rested an almost endless black abyss but for a small sliver of the ship's body present in the foreground. That's where movement could be seen by the three remaining crew still onboard the Kuri spaceship. It looked almost as if their much-needed engineer and computers specialist, Dr. Aldin Preshnovk, was attaching something to the ship.
"What the... heck is he doing?" Kyira asked, mouth wide open. She reached for the coms near her earlobe, but stopped.
Gean nodded. "No chance he's wearing his communications right now."
"Is that... is he attaching the robot to the spaceship?"
Gean's chin lowered into his chest as he gripped the bridge of his nose between his fingers. "I know what he's doing," he said in an almost emotionless whisper.
The two fellow crew members looked at him, eyes growing wide.
"How far away from the object are we?" Liam asked, but the question was useless. The unidentified object in question, the very thing they were sent there to examine in the first place, could be seen hovering not mere football fields away from them; a crude, all-black mechanical thing that seemed to almost live.
"Get to your stations!" Kyira bellowed. "NOW!"
This command came far too late. A blinding, almost murderously bright light blazed into life from the unknown object off in the distance. A shine like something...like a begotten celestial being driven forth from unknown parallels in time and space. As if the ripple of existence had been crushed, and all that was had no sooner become nothing for a mere second, until it was gone. The object, the light, the unheard-of-yet-still-present sound seemed to ring and ring, but the ordeal had caused calamity. And, for the crew of the Kuri, the following events must lead them home.
Or else they face the ebon black for an infinite eternity.
Returning from the Abyss
A shutter, low rumbling (the softest and most feint of its kind) sent the gargantuan spacecraft into a slight tremble. If not for them being within an endless, soundless vacuum, the thrusters could have been heard jettisoning powerfully from the rear. Hastened by delays and internal alarms, the crew of the Kuri space vessel scrambled unawares across the internal shafts towards their various duties without even a moment’s hesitation. All but one, of course.
"Guys," Kyira's voice rang aloud in Gean's ear, "Did anyone see what happened to Dr. Aldin?"
"Nope," came Liam's response. "Is he..."
"Still out there," Gean whispered into the mic. He stared out the nearest porthole, from which he could see most of the damage that had ripped across the vessel.
Floating about, as if he were a remote piece of ice rock, Dr. Aldin looked more like a human balloon than he did a real-life human engineer. The attached tether moved slightly, drawing him in and out over the massive ship's body like a whip, which made Gean suddenly realize the worst of their current predicament.
"Kyira, I think we have a bigger issue here."
Her voice came back hard and strained as she worked on the main computers. "No, I think I've found something bigger."
"Is the ship moving?" This came from Liam. He was already in one of the sealing chambers and was preparing to don his spacesuit when Gean suddenly appeared.
"Need a hand?"
"Is the ship actually moving?" He asked again as Gean went to work fastening Liam's suit and checking for any looseness.
"Yes," the former whispered. "We're slowly falling back into Earth's orbit...I assume due to that detonation or whatever it was..."
Gean's voice trailed off as he finished helping Liam into his suit. The ladder said nothing, only shook his head in dismay and compressed the helmet over his head on his own. Gean could see something in his eyes; a bit of fear mixed with confusion.
"What happened?" Liam's voice was bombastic from within the spacesuit. "I mean... what was that?"
"I don't know. I don't think we'll ever know."
"If you're going to save the engineer, now would be the time!" Kyira boomed into their earpieces.
Gean merely nodded back to Liam, who closed his eyes and let out a breath. The former lightly levitated out of the chamber and sealed the door behind him. A soft blue glow enveloped the room, which soon become completely filled in white foam that dispersed from the ceiling. Once the room's level of pressure was distributed, the space-door activated and Liam shoved off into the always-night-black abyss of the cosmos.
"I'm getting some strange readings here," Kyira's voice boomed in return. "Gean, you better get back to Chamber 1."
"Guys," Liam hesitantly began. "Something's coming toward me."
"Wait," Gean responded suddenly, "Where did the object go?" He gazed out the nearest porthole window, watching as they slowly descend toward earth. Liam floated closer and closer to the rag doll that was Dr. Aldin, who was still tethered to the ship, buoyantly swaying back and forth in the slowest of motions as if in open water.
"Don't you see that?" Liam asked.
"Gean!" Kyira screamed into his ears, "Get back here now!"
"What's the problem?"
"Computers are malfunc—"
The next few events occurred so swiftly and remarkably organic that Gean couldn't exactly comprehend them as accurately as before. He felt the thrusters kick in. He saw the silver gleam of an unknown object from outside moving swiftly toward Liam. And then, the ship moved so hard in place that he was rocketed forward, bashing his face on an overhanging bulkhead before he was lights out like that of an imploding star...
"Rise and szhine," came the hard Prussian voice of Dr. Aldin Preshnovk as Gean's eyes cracked ajar. When he had finally opened them completely, and had broken through an immense pain flaming on his forehead, he realized he was laid out on one of the pull-out cots near the computer mainframe in Chamber 1. Kyira was leaning up against a nearby wall, concernedly beaming at him as he rose out of bed.
"I'm going to stop you right zere, Gean. You zee, he'z still in shock, Kyira."
She nodded. Gean said, "Where...where's Liam."
"You need to rest," Kyira said simply. She looked at Preshnovk. "Where's the robot?"
Gean looked confusedly from her to the doctor. "It'z zafe," Preshnovk whispered.
"Where the heck is Liam?"
"He zafe, too, Gean. Sit back. Calm yourself."
"Well, I can't. Where is he?"
"I'm right here, hotshot." Liam appeared almost miraculously from the forward hull. In tow behind him was a small, medium-sized droid of some kind, eyes aglow in a fiery awareness. It strode forward, moving like a self-actualized being.
"Good morning, sir." Once again, its eyes roved in an unnatural radiance as if all-knowing and ever-aware. "May I check your vitals please?"
Hesitantly, Gean lifted his arm and gave the little bot his hand. It took the smallest blood sample from his index finger before looking back at Dr. Preshnovk. "He has a mild concussion, sir. Nothing too drastic."
The doctor nodded. "You see, Gean. Everyzing is fine."
"...but, what happened?"
"He saved me—us, I mean." Liam raised his shoulders in somewhat of confusion. "This little guy brought both me and the doc back into the ship on his freaking back. Didn't you, lil bud?"
The bot made a noise like that of joy and raised one little arm into the sky. "Right, I did! I also righted the ship's forward and rear thrusters. We are back on track, Mr. Liam, sir."
"Back on track, to where?" Kyira said. Her voice seemed void of emotion. She was on pins and needles, probably beyond annoyed with Preshnovk (among other things), but most of all irritated that she let the ship down, or simply failed the mission. "And, since we're on the topic, where the heck did the UO go?"
"Home," the little bot told her in response. "To answer both your questions, ma'am."
Every human looked down at the robot with a face of absolute surprise. "What?" They spoke in unison.
"We are headed home, like the obelisk, or 'unidentified object' as you say," it said.
"What...what was it?" Gean asked.
The robot moved toward the nearest porthole window, next to where Kyira still leaned with her arms crossed. "From the beyond, Mr. Gean. It was and is life itself. What do you think gave birth to me? Or, even you?"
They all looked to Aldin, as if he were the one to blame for this, though he merely shook his head and gestured toward the robot. "Ze bot came to right after the event."
"What?" Gean looked more mortified than anything else.
Kyira pushed off the wall and shook her head. "None of this makes any sense, Aldin. Explain."
"After I connected zee bot to Kuri's exterior mainframe, and once the 'obelisk's' flash took place, zis little guy kicked into life."
"You mean to tell me—"
"Yez, Gean. Yez. It iz of unknown sentience 'from beyond,' as itzelf says."
"Correct," the robot added.
"Once we're back on Earth, I'm going to patten the technology and formulate a way to get Kuri all over. Imagine it, a home robot, so sophisticated and advanced it can know just how to both entertain you and save your life, if need be."
"You're forgetting something," Kyira cut in. "How do you expect to bring all of them to life? This was an accident, Aldin. An accident that may not have meant to even happen. We may have altered space-time itself, for all we know!" She looked out the porthole, biting her thumbnail in distress. "This...this isn't good."
"No," said Dr. Preshnovk, "It'z easy. It will take some time, probably longer than even producing that massive a line of robots, but I'm sure I can reverse engineer them all to work across one zystematic channel. Like a network."
"Powered by what?" Liam asked, gazing down at the droid by his feet. It looked back up to him, like a cute little puppy would. "Love?"
"Maybe. Or, the zun, perhaps? Starz, after all, are immense forms of bottled-up energy," Preshnovk went on, "If what had happened today is evidence enough, Kuri could potentially zave the entire world from the possibility of harm and boredom."
"You're naming it, now?"
He looked over at Kyira, then down at the robot, who seemed to gaze back at him like a son would look at his father. "Yez," the doctor spoke aloud. "Kuri. . ."
About the Creator
A cosmic adventurer rendering wayward letters into infinite lengths of conception and prose, like quantum streams of pneumatic information
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