KEY: Chapter Two

Borukoshu and Sam_Correct Size.jpg

 

Chapter Two.jpg

The cycle is for Eternity,

 Eternity is the cycle.

The cycle was broken,

And we wept for Eternity.

Extract from the Song of Sorrows

 

A negative Zaprex darted through the city’s clogged metal boulevards. Despite his crippling age, Borukoshu maneuvered expertly around the large rolling machines that transported Black Fuel to the city’s ancient turbines. His visual circuits scanned the reflective, wavering, polychromatic glow of the force-fields, the inky black water sloshing lethargically against them. The secrets that kept the interlinked shields from collapsing under the weight of the sea above had long been lost. Even he, a Zaprex who had survived the eons since the Sinking of the Cities, had forgotten the songs of appliance communication.

Eerie artificial light smoldered a sickly emerald as it blended with yellow clouds of smog hanging over the vast underwater cities of Cal’pash’coo. Surrounded by the toxic sea, towering iridescent skyscrapers dwarfed tiny scurrying forms far below as the homebound crowd swelled in the tight streets.

The constant presence of the rusted, robotic carts chugging down the slug-riddled under-streets had simply become part of the unchanging environment. Those who dwelt above in the glorious tops of the skyscrapers knew naught of the muck and filth of those who were cast below in the foul network of forgotten alleyways and rusted pipelines.

With brittle fingers, Borukoshu tightened his overcoat around his frail form, protecting himself from the toxic world with the thick leather. The air might have been super-heated but acidic droplets from the air-ventilation for the upper-heights would eat through the green protective film over his fragile metal plating. At his age he could not afford the damage to his cybernetics.

It had been sol-cycles since he had bothered with a robotic upgrade of his systems and long ago he had lost the ability to regenerate philepcon liquid, the life-blood of a Zaprex. He was aging as his body dried out; rust from decay was creeping between his gears and circuits. Yet, oddly enough, unlike the endlessly young and beautiful residents of the crystal skyscrapers, he had discovered the wonder of growing old gracefully. In the journey of aging he had found a last, wonderful adventure in unchartered territory, for aging went against the Zaprex philosophy of eternal existence.

His race had been immortal in the eyes of the world, the gods of information and technology, rulers of time and space. Through songs, their supremacy and omniscience had developed: songs that morphed, reformed, and created with the ever-flowing energy of Livila’s magnetic field. They had named it the Data-Stream, the source of all things with a code, which they had cracked and woven into songs to build a vast empire.

Their gift to the aboriginal inhabitants of Livila had been to save the crumbling planet. For centuries, his race had used its technologies to weld together the fragments of the shattered world, and, with their machines, they had linked not only the lands together but also the many races that dwelled there.

Only the Zaprexes could do such a thing.

Once, they had carried the knowledge. Once, they had sustained the manpower, the strength in billions to stretch their resources to such a massive extent. Yet none of them, blinded by their prominence, had foreseen the awakening of deeply buried horror.

Now, they were only a shadow. A slowly rotting core of atheistic tendencies, for none now believed in the existence of other races or the lands beyond their sunken cities. Their society had become self-obsessed in their endless lives. They had forgotten, in their grief, the cycle in which they had once so fundamentally believed.

Sparks flashed through Borukoshu’s body in painful recollection of the reason he had hidden himself from the aristocratic culture far above. He grasped his bag of supplies to his thin chest. He still believed. Never had he forgotten the cycle, because he had been blessed with a gift.

A child.

Of all the things that could have been their civilization’s greatest weakness, it had been the inability to reproduce that had brought their downfall and the ruin of the world they had loved and protected like faithful wardens.

The aged machine skipped as the high-heels of his spectator boots threatened to dip into the holes of the wire meshing over the road. His long ears balanced him and he twisted, turning down a tight alley and barely avoiding the whirling spin of a robotic cart. He tipped his bowler hat to the driver as he glanced back, the exchange customary between dwellers of the under-levels. Words were very rarely spoken; secrets were easier to keep when one minded one’s own business. Borukoshu trotted down the alley, pausing only when a soft buzz vibrated from the hand-device beneath his coat. In the toxic rain he shuffled about, finding the slim hologram pad.

The lenses of his robotic eyes flickered, zooming in on the alert symbol. The flickering blue hologram swelled with pixels, forming numbers running down in a sequence.

The negative Zaprex hissed. His time was running out.

“Never enough time,” he whispered, and scampered up to the porch of a small apartment squeezed between the giant iron foundations of two colossal skyscrapers. He placed his free hand against the metal of the rusted door and watched as an azure glow scanned his biometrics.

He heard the whirring sound of the door’s mechanisms unlocking. The iron slab ground its way open. A rush of frozen air slapped into the aged cyborg and Borukoshu sighed in relief at the tantalizing chill. He scurried indoors, giving the iron door a boot. It swung shut, locking solidly into place to keep the hot, toxic world outside, and to confine within what needed to be kept safe.

From the upper room of his poky home, a harmonious, sweeping voice lifted in a tantalizing song. He could feel the melody down in the core of his soul. The song was just as familiar as the home he had built. He dropped his bag and slung his hat onto a rack. With a spark his antennaee sprung free, uncurling into the iron-rich air.

It was a rather stagnated dwelling, clean and neat as all Zaprexes characteristically desired a residence to be, but he had tried his best to give it a comfortable homey atmosphere. The floor was cobbled stone, but at least he had found a rug to cover the acid-damaged granite. The upper-floor was made entirely of metal, a frame welded together and fitted into the high domed ceiling to make the additional room.

“Semyueru! Tadaima![1]” Borukoshu called out sharply, voice scratching through his aged metal voice-box.

The singing stopped. There was a loud thump from upstairs that caused his ears to twitch backward as he opened a slot in the wall and shelved his overcoat within. The humming of an anti-gravity drive filled the small abode. Borukoshu twisted on his heels as the tiny hatchling[2] appeared over the upstairs balcony of the sleeping quarters, leaning over the rickety iron railing. A brilliant smile lit up like a gasoline bulb between cheeks still rosy with red blood that had yet to fully integrate into the cybernetic philepcon liquid.

“Biri!” The voice chimed out like a clanging bell.

Borukoshu chuckled at the affectionate abbreviation of his name. Semyueru’s phonological processing had yet to be fully programmed. Hopefully in time—time Borukoshu knew he did not have—Semyueru would grow out of his stuttering. Yet, for now, it was nice to be fondly dubbed a peculiar version of his name, for with it came the memory of his ancient cycle-companion who had suffered the same development issues as their child.

Hazanin.

The aged cyborg dashed aside the tangential thoughts. He had no time to think of Hazanin and the distant past.

Okaerinasai![3] Biri!” Semyueru squawked. He was pixie-sized, as delicate and beautiful as ever a hatchling could be. There was nothing unnaturally striking about the child; his cheeks might have been rounded, his hair a darker shade of raven, but overall he retained the lean humanoid form of a small cyborg, with green liquid skin covering still-forming metal plating. Large round eyes, like bright neon orbs sunk deep in pits of space-black, sparkled with inquisitive glee. The child’s antennae bobbed about freely.

Borukoshu felt his liquid lungs swell, the fleshy appliances inhaling far easier at the sight of the wonderful juvenile tearing down the spiral stairs with arms held high in exuberance.

“Careful down the stairs, Semyueru,” Borukoshu chided, dusting off his brown robe. “Your gown will get hooked in your anti-gravity and you’ll roll all the way down.” He bent; his hip replacement popped, but he ignored the sharp pain and gathered the bag from the floor.

Semyueru’s little form whizzed past, his home-spun gown a blur of blue, his voice a raw mechanical squeal as he skipped and looped through the air in a dance.

Out of millions of Zaprexes who had once lived, their declining society had produced one minute hope; this perfect little fairy was the only hatchling to emerge in centuries. Borukoshu touched a hand to his slender waist, recalling the months he had spent jailed up in his abode bearing the egg that had held his precious gift. Even if no one but he knew that his tiny hatchling existed, at least the Zaprexes had a legacy that would live on to save them.

A fusion child: neither a negative nor a positive Zaprex but both combined. It was a terrible burden for such a tiny creature. The sheer existence of a fusion hatchling went against the principles of the Assembly. No matter how shambled their society had become one ancient belief had been fed into the hard-drives of all Zaprexes; a hatchling would bring the fall of their safe cities.

And oddly enough, this one bleeding concept was the only one that had any truth to it and for this reason he had left the lavish palaces of the upper-levels to protect the only hope of the world—the product of his own programming, his egg, his hatchling, his little Semyueru.

Borukoshu hauled his bag to the main-room table, punching the cooling unit with the toe of his shoe as he passed. With a heave he dumped the contents of his trip to the upper-levels onto the iron table and pulled out the bottles of cold glucose liquid.

His weakened form tipped as he was hit roughly by the speeding Semyueru buzzing around in the air. He chuckled. It was always the same; Semyueru’s smile never seemed to fade. Though it was a joyful sight to witness, his heart never ceased breaking from the overwhelming emotions his cybernetic mind was not programmed for.

His time was running out.

The day of disaster was coming.

“Guess…guess what I..I…learnt…t’day!” Semyueru clutched his elder’s robe, fingers playing with the beads that weighted the fabric.

Picking out two bowls from the bench top Borukoshu flicked the lenses of his eyes downward at the child as he poured the glucose into the bowls.

The child’s eyes were enlarged by giant holographic glasses upon the tip of his nose. The spectacles glittered with moving cryptograms, still scanning data.

“What did you learn today, ne[4]?”

“The land of Pennadot…you…you know…the land with the Star-Kings! It…it once had de…dense gravity but the…the…the Zaprexes came and used machines to change it!”

Borukoshu raised his eyebrows, scooped the child up with one arm, and hooked him onto his bony hip. “I’m guessing you finished the data-pad on gravity-wells then, ne.”

Hai[5]! Hai! Is that dinner?”

“Correct assumption; this is indeed dinner. Did you learn anything else today?”

He considered it one of his main purposes in life to keep Semyueru’s mind filled with data from the long-forgotten archives. There was no telling when the hatchling would need to call upon information to solve a problem, and there would be many problems to solve.

Semyueru blinked, the soft click of his eyelids breaking the silence. “In our database there is information on only ten lands. Why are there so few?”

Borukoshu carried the child over to the small table, set him down in a high-chair, and placed the bowl in front of him. “Others could exist; our data-base has been corrupted over time, but ten is a nice, logical number.” With crippled fingers Borukoshu traced lines upon the table, drawing a holographic map. “Each land is connected by a border—”

“The tectonic plates, I know that…and they…are…falling apart because Livila…lacks a gravitational pull of her own. She is a half-planet and is collapsing into space. Our cities…will fall into the underworld soon… because the Black Sea within…which… we reside… is connected to a border…that has been breaking…a…a…apart.”

Borukoshu gave a sad nod, passing the child a spoon. “Hai, this world is dying…”

The hatchling’s attention was like the switch of a circuit, suddenly centered entirely upon a building rumble in the distance. Semyueru’s long ears twitched rearward. His face lit up as their abode’s dim blue lights fizzed. Through the air a shattering crack echoed as thunder vibrated the iron scaffolding.

“Smog, smog, smog storm! Yay!” With a spark of energy, Semyueru flew from his chair, around the spiral staircase, and up to the second floor with a high-pitched squeal.

Borukoshu laughed softly and scrubbed a hand through his graying hair.

“Guess dinner can wait…” He sighed, pouring his bowl of liquid into a mug and carrying it carefully up the stairs. As he reached the upper-level he noted Semyueru typing a code into a holographic screen over a crystal console. Shelves of data-pads lined the walls of the room, many of which he had saved from ruin on his trips to the upper-levels where the care of history was non-existent.

Semyueru darted away from the hologram and back toward Borukoshu, giving a whirl of delight as he clutched his guardian in glee.

The metal-encased ceiling folded back slowly, the iron blinds rolling away to reveal clear shield-glass and the sight of the expansive network of the glowing upper-levels experiencing the dimming of lights at night-fall.

“I love smog storms!” Semyueru let out a giggled shriek as thunder jolted the foundations of their small home.

Borukoshu snuggled into the cherished embrace, holding Semyueru tightly as lightning danced in the pollution far above and acidic rain clawed at the glass.

A sharp, blinding crack of lightning lit up the dimness and a roll of thunder vibrated the glass and walls to make the world sing. Semyueru bared his fangs, grinning in wonder at the results of the destroyed environmental systems of their cities.

“Biri? Why…why do each of the…lands…have…a…song?” Semyueru whispered. Innocently he looked up at the negative-parent to whom he clung.

Borukoshu settled himself into a swinging anti-gravity chair, Semyueru upon his lap, and brushed the child’s mop of hair aside from his holographic glasses. “The songs of each land speak of their individual splendor.” The elder held out his hand.

Semyueru grasped it with his tinier fingers and the spark between their green skins lit their faces with the passing of energy.

“Each land is unique. Just,” the aged cyborg poked Semyueru’s nose in play, “as each race is unique and each person is unique. Things are not the same twice. Once you understand this you will move mountains, my ko[6].”

“But when…I sing the songs, Biri, something…weird…happens!”

“Your voice is special, Semyueru. Someday…you will understand.”

The negative Zaprex gave a heavy sigh. “I’ve had a long day, how about… you sing me my favorite song, ne?”

Semyueru nodded, his antennae bobbing back and forth, and with an energetic spring he leapt into the air to spin through the emerald glow emanating from the sickly, drab world outside. Borukoshu settled back in exhaustion, loosening each tight metal limb into the weightlessness of the anti-gravity chair.

In the pocket of his robe he felt his hand-device vibrate in alert. Time was running out.

Borukoshu took a deep gulp from his mug. In the background, the song Semyueru sung as he danced in the air soothed the loneliness his soul felt. He studied the lines of the lightning, running in vectors through the yellow smog. They reminded him of the data-ways his people had once networked across the lands above.

Tomorrow’s dawn would be his last.

Time was running out.

The day of disaster was coming.

He sipped his drink in contentment, and smiled.

 


 

[1] I’m back! (home)

[2] Zaprex offspring of the equivalent of approximately ten Human years

[3] Welcome home!

[4] Usually found at the end of a sentence, and similar in meaning to ending an English sentence with “ , yes?”

[5] Yes

[6] child

 

Key: Book One of Chronicles of the Children on Amazon Kindle and Illustrated Paperback

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