All this time, we have been looking for answers to our questions: who are we, and where do we come from? The answers and the truth are out there. It will take generation after generation to get these answers. That will happen only if we don’t first destroy ourselves.
Ruth had always been a great looking girl, a true specimen of human perfection, and her big dream was to win a beauty contest. Her dream was so close to becoming a reality. The national beauty contest was in progress, and she was in it.
It was a matter of luck to make her dream come true. She was among the finalists.
After deliberations, the judges revealed their decision to the host of the show. It was a tense moment in the auditorium. Finally, it was time to announce the winner of the contest. After some melodramatic moments, the host announced the winner.
“And the winner for this year’s beauty pageant is . . . Ruth Parker!”
Ruth couldn’t believe her ears. She was ready to faint from the excitement. She had won the big prize, a cruise trip to an exotic island. She couldn’t believe her luck.
Although Ruth had never been a fan of cruise ships, this one was totally different. It was literally a small, floating city. It even had a skating board course. Ruth was a big fan of sports and was a skater girl herself.
She prepared for her big trip and made sure that she packed her skateboard, helmet, and all the safety accessories.
The first days of the cruise were fun after fun-filled day. She really enjoyed the latest design of the skateboard course, and it kept her busy all the time. Everything was great until there were some unexpected changes in the weather.
The captain informed the passengers that some rough weather was coming towards them. He told them to expect some “bumpy roads” ahead. As they cruised towards the bad weather, the situation turned for the worse. The waves were so high, it seemed like the waves would swallow the ship at any moment. Sea water began to appear almost everywhere. The captain tried to keep the situation under control, but panic began to spread among the passengers.
Suddenly, a cruise member started to scream, “The ship is taking on so much water that it will sink at any minute!”
Someone else started screaming, “The ship is sinking! Grab a life jacket, put it on, grab a floating device, if you can, and God help you.”
At that moment, panic and chaos was everywhere. Ruth was lucky to find a life jacket, and she thought to herself, “Better get my skateboard helmet. Maybe it will increase my chance for survival, which in this case is slim at best.”
In the middle of the chaos, she was lucky to grab a floating device. The giant waves were pounding the ship mercilessly. Everyone was trying to save themselves. It was a Dante’s inferno situation, but there was nothing to be done. The ship began the journey to the bottom of the ocean, taking most of the people on board with it.
Thanks to the floating device and the life jacket, Ruth was able to survive. Floating unconscious in the ocean, the waves pushed her toward the beach. She remained unconscious for some time, but finally, she woke up.
Ruth exclaimed, “Oh God, what happened? The last thing I remember is the ship sinking. I cannot believe that I am alive. Where am I? What is this place? Maybe someone else survived, too. What a strange place this is. I’m on a beach, but this place is hardly warm. I need to take a look. There could be someone else alive.”
She began walking around, but she couldn’t find a single sign of others. She ventured forth to explore her surroundings and thought, “This place is so strange. There is not a single sign of anything but trees! Those trees look so strange. They are so tall. They look Sequoias. I thought palm trees would be the most common in this area, but I cannot see a single one. Maybe I need to take a look further inland. I could have a better idea where I am.”
As Ruth began to explore her surroundings, she made new discoveries. Once she got closer to the giant trees, she thought to herself, “Oh my God, all these giant trees are dead! There’s not a single sign of life in any of them. What happened?” She was trying to make sense of what she was experiencing.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Ruth saw what looked like a stampede of something. As the stampede got closer, she was still trying to figure out what the creatures were. They resembled humans, and they were getting closer and closer. She was petrified and couldn’t believe her eyes.
Suddenly, one of the creatures screamed, “Run! Run! Run for your life!”
She stood there like stone, too frightened to move. Far behind, another group appeared, chasing the first group. This group was dressed like some kind of monks. She hadn’t finished recuperating from the impression when she felt an electric shock travelling through her entire body. She lost consciousness.
When Ruth recuperated, she found herself in a new, bizarre situation. She was chained with other creatures which were totally mechanical. “Oh gosh, what in the hell is this? What are these things?” she wondered.
Suddenly, one of them said, “We are CRs.”
She thought to herself, “I must be dreaming. They can talk!”
She addressed the creatures, “You are CRs, and who are they?” pointing her finger toward the other creatures.
A CR answered, “They are the XT4s. They are hunters. They hunt us for spare parts for themselves.”
She thought to herself, “This cannot be happening!”
She hadn’t finished with her thought when they were forced to walk.
“Where are they taking us?” she asked.
“Nobody knows,” one of the CRs answered.
After walking for a long time, they arrived to what looked like a fortress. The main gate was heavily guarded. Once the XT4s identified who they were, the gates opened.
Once they were all inside, one of the guards said, “Seems like you had a good hunt this time.”
“We did, and we have one that is totally different from any creature we have caught before,” said an XT4.
The guard agreed, “It looks different, indeed. Maybe we can exchange it for a better item. We are short of atomic sensors, which are badly needed. Put them in the warehouse. I am sure we will have plenty of spare parts that will be useful.”
Once inside the warehouse, Ruth almost passed out. The scene inside was like one of the circles of hell with hundreds of mechanical creatures making the most hellish noises.
Suddenly, one of the CRs begged her, “Please, please help me!” Half of its body was already missing.
Then another interjected, “Don’t pay attention. He is just trying to repair himself, stealing parts from others.”
It was just unbelievable what was happening.
Ruth was still wearing her skate board helmet and life jacket that had helped her survive. She decided to take off both items. To her surprise, another CR looked astonished at what she was doing.
Meanwhile, one of the XT4s had reported to another XT4 that they had captured a new specimen that was working fully. The XT4 said, “This specimen is totally different from anything we have caught before. You need to take a look. “
Another XT4 added, “We have it with the others in the warehouse. Let’s take a look. I am curious about it.”
They walked toward the warehouse. When they saw Ruth, one of the XT4s commented, “Its condition is not as good as you said. It has already lost part of the head, and the body has started to peel off.”
They didn’t understand that Ruth had removed her helmet and life jacket.
The XT4 agreed, “This is different from the others. Put it in a separate room. We will analyze it later.”
Ruth was separated from the others and confined in a semi-dark room. Once her vision began to adapt to the darkness, she saw a small mechanical creature. She approached it with curiosity and noticed how different this one was from the others she had seen. It seemed like it was already out-of-service and didn’t make any noise.
Ruth thought to herself, “This piece of can is already dead.”
As she examined the new creature, she noticed that there was a device in its head that looked like a watch. She began to play around with it, and suddenly the thing came to life and began to make noises.
Ruth told herself, “I must have turned it on in some way.”
After the thing adjusted itself, it started to scan Ruth and asked, “Who are you?”
“I am Ruth Parker, and who in the hell are you?” she asked.
The creature responded, “I am Zip-0, a prototype android.”
“What are you doing?” Ruth asked.
“I am trying to analyze your structure and origin,” the thing responded. “You are much more complex than any creature I have ever encountered before. One thing that I can tell you for sure: we need to get away from the XT4s, or we will finish being spare parts for them. They are really dangerous. We need to escape before they come looking for us.”
Ruth questioned, “How are we going to do that? It seems to me that there is no way to go anywhere.”
The small creature answered, “The sewer system. I have all the sewer system plans in my memory bank. It will be a little smelly, but we will be able to get away from the XT4s.”
As he said, he had the entire sewer system map in his memory bank, and they were able to escape using them.
Ruth lost time of how long it took them to walk through the system, but it seemed like they finally reached the city limits.
Ruth said, “I have a million questions to ask.”
Zip-0 responded, “You will have your answers later on. By this time, the XT4s will have already noticed we are missing. They will hunt us, for sure. That’s what they do the best. We need to reach a safe place, and that will take some time. This place is full of unknown creatures. There is only one place we can be safe: Isa-ac’s fortress. I know the way there.”
Ruth responded, “I don’t think I have any other option than to follow you.”
Zip-0 explained, “The goal is to put as much distance as possible between the XT4’s and us.”
They started on their journey to the fortress.
Ruth lost the sense of how long it took to walk to the ruins of what appeared to be a city at one time, but finally, they made it.
Zip-0 commanded, “Wait over here. I need to talk to Isa-ac first, and let him know of your presence.”
Zip-0 disappeared into the huge corridors of the place, leaving Ruth to submerge into her thoughts. “This is the strangest place I’ve ever seen. These buildings, this architecture, they are so unreal. I wonder who built them. The creatures, the entire city, everything is so strange.”
When finally Zip-0 reached Isa-ac’s chambers, he said, “Greetings, Isa-ac.”
An almost human voice answered. “Greetings, Zip-0. It’s been some time since I have talked to you.”
Zip-0 agreed, “I know, I know. I have great news for you!”
“What is that?” Isa-ac asked.
“I think I have found the perfect match for what you have been looking for all this time. I have already run some analyses on her, and it seems to me she is the one you have been waiting for,” stated Zip-0.
“Where is she?” asked Isa-ac, curious now.
Zip-0 responded, “She is in one of the holds.”
“Does she know anything about this place?” Isa-ac inquired.
“No, she does not,” responded Zip-0, “But she has a lot of questions. She will probably push for answers.”
Isa-ac motioned with his hand, “Please bring her. I would like to meet her.”
Zip-0 followed his orders and went to get her. Once he found her, he said, “Isa-ac wants to meet you. Follow me, please. He will answer all the questions that you have.”
Ruth was still shocked about the bizarre and unreal place with an almost mechanical flavor. After walking for sometime through the bizarre corridors, they finally entered the main hall. The lack of light didn’t allow her to see very well. She could only see a silhouette of someone sitting in a big chair. Finally, she heard the voice.
“Greetings,” stated Isa-ac. “I have been informed of your presence and your escape from the XT4s’ hands. I understand you have some questions. I will be glad to offer answers to them.”
Ruth was still trying to understand the whole situation she was in, but finally, she asked, “Please tell me who you are and what I am doing in this place.”
Isa-ac responded, “My name is Isa-ac, and I will try to explain to the best of my ability your situation.
“You came here through a star-gate. For reasons I don’t fully understand, this star-gate opens and connects your dimension with ours and usually brings different objects from your dimension. The civilization that ruled this place knew about it, but they couldn’t control it, so we don’t know when it will open or what it will bring from your dimension.”
Ruth asked, “Are you talking about the Bermuda Triangle?”
“I don’t know what it is called in your dimension,” Isa-ac responded, “but I can tell you that before you, some others came here. Most were already dead, or else they were hunted by XT4s.”
Ruth responded, “XT4s? Tell me about them and the other mechanical creatures.”
Isa-ac paused, and stated, “CRs were designed by the old civilization to do the jobs they didn’t want to do. The CRs are primitive machines that can repair themselves. Sometimes, they think they can feel emotions, but it’s not true. They are unable to feel them. Most of them have been out of control for a long time.
“XT4s, what I can tell you about XT4s is, they are more advanced. They were designed for specific purposes. They are advanced android prototypes that can make decisions by themselves. Unfortunately, they are out of control, too. They hunt everything that moves, and they are really dangerous,” answered Isa-ac.
Ruth questioned, “When you say ‘old civilization,’ what do you mean?”
He answered, “The civilization that ruled this world.”
“What happened to them?” Ruth asked.
There was a moment of silence. It seemed like Isa-ac was carefully choosing his words to answer her question. Finally, he said, “The civilization that ruled this planet was highly advanced, but they were victims of their own success. They polluted the ground, then the water, and finally the air. They experimented and created a most dangerous virus. At the end, this virus infected them and wiped out all living species on the planet. The only ones that ‘survived’ were androids and mechanical entities. Of course, without the masters, everything is out of control.”
“So who are you?” Ruth asked. “Why is there so much mystery about you?”
Isa-ac replied, “Please don’t be in a hurry. You will know everything. I will answer more questions later. At the moment, you probably want something to eat and to rest. Am I right?” he asked.
Ruth agreed. “Yes, I’m starving, and I would like to rest, if possible.”
Isa-ac added politely, “Zip-0 has provided a chamber for you. I hope you find the food okay.”
“I feel like I have been sleeping for a century. My entire body hurts. Where is this place? It looks so familiar to me, but at the same time, I am confused. It’s a little bit strange. I can’t really place it.”
Suddenly the door opens, and Zip-0 appears.
“Glad you have woken up,” he states excitedly. “Isa-ac is waiting for you. Please follow me.”
She thinks to herself, “I have seen this creature before. I just can’t remember where. It seems like I met him centuries ago.”
They walked through some corridors and arrived at the big hall.
Isa-ac stood up and said enthusiastically, “Welcome, Mia. I am so happy to see you again. I’ve been waiting for this moment for an eternity. You look great. After waiting all this time, we finally found the perfect match for you.”
She responded, confused, “What are you talking about? My name is not Mia.”
Isa-ac stated, “I understand your confusion. It will take some time for your system to adapt to the new liquids. You probably will have some flashbacks from her memories, but once your system adapts, you will have all your memories back.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked with fright. “What have you done to me?”
Isa-ac said quietly, “Please be patient, Mia. I have anticipated this reaction.”
Isa-ac ordered Zip-0, “Bring her a mirror. She will be able to look at herself, how beautiful she is.”
Zip-0 brought her a mirror. Once she looked at herself, she was horrified with what she saw.
“What happened to me? Why do I look like you? My skin looks so synthetic! My joints feel mechanical! What have you done to me?” she screamed.
Isa-ac responded quietly, “It is you, Mia. We are the most advanced androids ever created by a civilization. For some reason, your vital fluids were leaking. I had to keep you in a special chamber until I found the perfect match. Zip-0 found this entity that was brought through the star-gate from another dimension. She was so similar to us and was the perfect match for you, so I was able to transfer her vital fluids to you.
“As I said, you will experience some flashbacks from her memories, but once you adapt, all your memories will return. We will rule Adaleth and bring harmony to this chaos. You need to remember that what makes us different from others is that we are not hunting for immortality. We were designed to walk through the dust of time forever. Hold my hand, Mia. Let’s admire the sunset in Adaleth, the planet where we will live and rule forever and ever.”
“No, no, no! My name is Ruth. . . Ruth Parker! This is just a bad dream!” she screamed.
Story by S. Florence and J.A. Castillo
Illustration by J.A. Castillo (2015)
“Names, characters, places and incidents
featured in this
publication either are the product of the authors’
imagination or are used
to actual persons (living or dead), without sarcastic