June 4th, 2132
“Roger, just take the shot already.” grumbled a man. Dressed in khakis only his grandfather would find fashionable he stood leaning against his golf club with a hand at his hip, a look of utter disdain and boredom as he sneered at the other man readying to tee off. On the far-side of a gently rolling fairway a red flag fluttered in a warm early summer's breeze, stands of oak and elm rattling in the breeze. Not far back on the periphery of the game, a pair of androids stood stoically with the two men's golf bags slung over their shoulders, the two looked identical, down to the narrow silver nose and their smooth, round faces.
“Shut the fuck up, Ron.” grumbled Roger, his throat a deep grating rumble as he shimmied into a slightly different position. He was a larger man, somewhere around ninety. But despite his age he was as spry as a man in his forties. Ron on the other hand was over a century and just as grumpy.
“I have to say,” said Ron, “that it's a wonder anything gets done in the Senate. If you moved as slow as you did at golf then I'm sure there wouldn't have been a law passed in over thirty-years.”
Roger harrumphed indignantly, giving Ron a shooting look.
Ron shrugged, “I know better.”
“Sure you do.” Roger said, punctuated his statement with a grunt as he swung his club and with a delicate smack, launching the golf ball high into the clear summer air. A brisk wind swept across the golf coarse and carried the ball further and towards the left.
Despite being out in what would be called the suburbs, in what was once the country, the golf club's property was surrounded by low, three to five story condominium built of marbled-white brick and high-polished tinted glass. The sailing golf ball was framed in contrast against the neighbor's black glass windows as it made its ascent before being pulled to the left. There was no fear of it coming to a hard crash against any of the windows, a thick enough tree belt demarcated the boundaries between the course itself and the private property of the suave middle and upper-middle glass tenements that lived along the edge. If there needed to be a clearer boundary mark on top of this, a paved foot path snaked alongside a cedar-wood fence that divided the golf course from the backyards of the condo units, and further divided these backyards.
With a muffled distant thump the ball came down in the green and rolled around between hills and slopes delicately hidden in stealthy geometry before coming to a pause just shy of the hole itself.
“What's the matter, your eye didn't read the trajectory right?” Ron cackled, clapping his hands together. Roger had lost his eye decades ago, before pursuing a career in politics. Over his time in office he had replaced the old prosthetic eye he had which gave him his vision back and in its place was a high-tech computer model which helped display information and calculations at the speed and capability of the smart phones of the early 21st century, but with the CPU and components the size of a grain of sand.
“Shut up.” Senator Roger grumbled, raising his club to his shoulders and stepped aside to let his partner go.
Ron and Roger shared a twenty-year history together on Capital Hill in DC. While the two were members of two different branches of the legislatures they were cross-house partners in the Congress and the two supplied each other with intelligence on the intrigues of each other's respective congressional halls, and worked on bills together. Ron had made a bid for the senate, and even pulled several terms there but made the unusual career decision several years back to retreat back to the House of Representatives.
While their professional relationship was functional, their personal one was at times what others would call dysfunctional. On periods of recess they would certainly make time together to play golf, or treat one another to lunches or dinner. But between their families the relationship seemed odd and strained; as if it was set to fall apart at a given moment. But the two old men fed off of each other's mutual competition and rivalry and they knew it; it kept it amiable and interesting.
With a gesture with his hand Ron called over the androids which went about mechanically pinning a tee into the soft earth and placing a ball on its crown. Afterwards it presented him with his golf bag if he wanted a different club. Ron coldly declined, preferring to keep to his current driver and the mechanical servant stepped back to return to his position alongside the other.
Ron didn't take as long to look at his shot and move. In a hundredth of the time he was waiting on his friend to take his shot he took his own and he launched the ball with a loud pop.
With a distant thunk it landed in the green and pounced along until it came to a roll and then dropped down the hole.
“Hole in one!” he cheered.
“I'll take a Oroboris summer lager.” Roger said.
“Yes, I'll just add it to the tab.” Ron laughed.
The two strolled off to along the fairway to finish the hole and move on. The androids followed after the two old men.
“So, have I gotten around to filling you in on Senate intelligence committee findings, yet?” Roger asked as they made their way along.
“No, I don't think you did.” Ron answered him.
“We came out of session last week after hearings concerning the terror attack on Mars Colony B-12.”
“Oh yes, that. What came out of it?”
“We're recommending further sanctions on the African Union, intelligence collected and delivered implicates Mbame Umbutu's hand on the matter.”
“He's been getting feisty.”
“He's a Chinese pet is all. Sources within the African state channels suggest they were planning it in concert with the Chinese Martian Colonization Company to seize American and European assets. We're recommending to the president as a first action to publicly denounce Africa's actions as a neutral power when we make the press release public next week.”
“Poor Bruskowski has a lot on his plate.” Ron lamented, “I'd hate to be a man in power like he. A war in the Pacific, in South America, and in Orbit?”
“Well that's what you get when you insult the States, I guess.” Roger shrugged, “But whatever, as soon as operations are wrapped up on The Moon we'll have the upper hand in the orbital theater and we'll soon take the fight to Peking itself.”
Ron nodded, as the generals had indicated the war would only truly be won in any front when the orbital question was resolved, and that was always a tenuous field. It was abstract and surreal on top it, devoid of the traditional visualizations of how war should or could be fought. A side otherwise believed to be on the upper-hand could suddenly be on the lower and the exact rules and standards of operation of fighting in orbit was still up in the air. There was also the issue of The Stations, but no one yet understood where they were.
As they came up onto the green a sudden stillness fell on them. And if it weren't for a soft crackling from up above it would have been to them as if the breeze simply died down. The two men looked up and scanned the skies above, a few odd VTOL flittered about, but otherwise nothing. The androids heard it too, and began looking up. But unlike the men, they could feel something; deep in their metal bones and sensor relays. An atmospheric disturbance, somewhere high up.
A red light flashed for a split second in the eyes of one of the androids and it jumped in surprise and recoiled back. It looked down and saw a red-light tracing across the earth. It looked up at the sky, The few misty clouds that were there flashed and glowed a bright fluorescent red as a concentrated light was passed through them. The androids' human owners noticed this too and a palpable terrified realization dawned upon them as they watched the sky above.
Invisible, the laser beams converged on a central spot somewhere in the direction of Chicago several counties away. But as they came to touch the luminescence of their light strengthened to form a misty targeting laser on the distant horizon.
“Holy Jesus and Satan in Hell.” gasped Ron, “They're fucking using them!”
There was nothing that could be done as suddenly the very air around the beam seemed to buckle and warp as a great heat shot down and a great column of crimson light shot from the sky so fast it looked as it was exploding from the ground. There was a bright fluorescent flash and burst of light, then the ground shook and rumbled. A loud grumbling and tearing sound washed through the boughs of trees and soon silenced everything.
There was a silent hesitation, then the ground crashed and crunched hard; a tremendous and deafening roar exploded all around. The earth buckled and shook. The soil literally launching itself and throwing the spectators ten feet. A billowing wall of hot pressurized air exploded across the golf coarse ripping up trees and tossing man and machine into the trees. With a wet meaty crack Ron crashed against the trunk of an oak, his back snapped at a sharp angle; breaking it and paralyzing him. Roger went further and landed against one of the androids which had come to be impaled against a branch, he was skewered through the lungs and hung gasping for breath as the air heated to furnace temperature and the world around them went orange and red as the grass and trees combusted.
A new wave of sound came, a great rending scream that wailed seconds later. It obliterated all other noise and triumphed over all other calamity. Electrical screams screeched in the ear of the skewered android who started to push Roger off of him, but the hurricane force winds that pinned him there did not relent, practically gluing the old man to the android. In the infernal heat and light the android watched as its plastic and rubber exterior melted away to the metallic bones and parts underneath. The metal glowed a fierce red but no part of him failed from it.
Roger himself – or by now his corpse – itself began cooking. The skin bubbling and charring as his hair didn't just light on fire, but instantly charred and curled back to his head. Fat and oil bubbled and burst from his cooking flesh and instantly lit on fire in the super-heated air. Roger rapidly carbonized and bits began peeling off.
As soon as it started, so did the wind reverse and suddenly everything was being sucked towards Chicago. The wind whistled and screamed through stripped trees as ashes and embers whipped passed taking with it the crumpled bodies of the androids, Ron, and Roger, the men severely burned and their faces now a twisted mass of charcoal. The android and the fleshy human bodies tumbled across a field of gravel and hot sand that embedded itself in the androids super-heated skeleton and turned to glass. They tumbled and finally rolled into a boiling pond. What remained of Roger and Ron began to boil clean from the bones. In final self defeat, the android that had gone through this without being destroyed went into an emergency, stress-related shut down as its sensory systems overloaded.
January 5th, 2133
Color spun back into the android's vision and he woke to the world side-ways. He lay half buried in gravel and sand, a fine layer of snow had fallen and covered it and the world and his eyes focused and unfocused as they fought between the frozen earth his one half of his head was buried in, and the shallow empty bank of a distant hill. He was unthinking for a minute, internal notifications raced through his head.
Communications established with HOME: null
Communications established with HOME: null
Communications established with HOME: null
Attempting to connect to alternate pathway to HOME
No alternative pathway to HOME found
Ending update sequence
Current date and time: 1/5/2133 – 13:01
The ground was hard and frozen through, much of it melted together. But as the android moved and fought it broke the hardened pack around it and rose out of the earth. Hardened mud and sand and snow falling and sliding off of it as it rose to sit upright, looking around him.
The world was different, gray and blackened. It smoldered and smoked as still burning embers continued to smoke and as ambient heat in still living hot spots melted away the heavy snow that blanketed the desolate landscape. The condominiums that had staked the edge of the golf course were now empty stone shells, the glass melted clean away with the steel, the wood burned up. Not a bird chirped, no finches. There was no sound or sight of life around the android as he gazed in stunned disbelief, in that way androids have come to feel it. It was almost, illogical. What life would destroy life itself?
It turned to look behind itself, and was stunned to find another android sitting squat behind him. Unlike the formally-buried android, this one had some cover over its internal chassis. An armored articulated shell, plated like an old suit of armor from a fairy tale book but so smoothly done in proportion it also looked like a hard shell of a human's own skin, split at the joints for a full range of movement.
Slung against his back was a small rail gun. Proportionally long as the android's height was from hip to hid. An assault model, in that it could be used by an android as a conventional fire-arm, but a mounting required for use by humans. Its dark metal shone in the dim gray winter light and the three magnetic prongs of its barrel were currently silent with inactivity. A whole ammo box, doubtlessly packed with the tungsten charges hung at the armored android's side.
But while he was still plated and covered, it had singed and melted; almost. It was damaged and scarred.
The newcomer looked into the camera eyes of the buried one and asked: “Designation?” its voice electrical.
“Designation is: JDA-4387-B3. Or: Jada. Civilian model. Manufactured by Arti Corp. Worcester Massachusetts, subsidiary of Tachysoft. Currently running OS 3.41.234.”
“Failed to contact home. Previous tries failed. Until Nationet is restored no further attempts can be tried.”
The armored android seemed to consider the information. “Function availability: repair – android.”
“Function is available.”
The anonymous android held out his arm, turning it so the bottom of the wrist faced upright he pointed to a clean hole through the rest and popped off the plate to the wrist. A small bullet and lodged itself in the wrist actuator and lodged itself there. While it didn't look permanently damaged, the distorted projectile – or shrapnel – would certainly prevent it from moving and therefore prevent rotation of the hand.
Jada began work on the problem, removing the lodged bullet and examining the rest of the arm and wrist for additional damage before resealing the case.
“Function history: repair – android.” the armored one requested.
“Unauthorized function. Added by: unknown third party.”
“Function: programming – android.” the armored one asked.
“Function unavailable.” Jada responded.
The armored android considered the response, and stood up. Before he could leave Jada called out to him: “Designation.”
The armored android froze and turned to look back. “Command: denied.”
“Over-ride: Senator Roger Feldman US Senator from Chicago district. Former Navy Colonel. Senate intelligence committee. Security clearance level 4.”
This unglued the armored android, who answered: “KC-140b-Z001-USA1R2.”
“Information: current mission.”
“Current mission: self-determined.”
“Request permission: follow.”
KC-140b-Z001-USA1R2 stood silent for a long moment as the cold wind blew around them. “Permission granted.”
March 5th, 2299
The group was four now. They had learned to take up names. They had learned to speak like regular people. Command code replaced with the nuanced speech used as if they were conversing with their old masters, the two old military androids learning to completely drop the strict regimented communications methods that were integral to their very function, at least at the formal level. Hell, they even learned to ride horses. They were now: Jada, Kacy, Uno, and Ego.
They had come to appear in the time since the cataclysm like their own individuals. They had started to fill their own roles. They formed their own ambitions out of a sense of necessity in traveling the world; first trying to reconstruct then learned the futility of this. Then they tried to find some remnant of the old country, but found nothing. They had walked clear to Washington DC and found the seat of power for the whole of North America was nothing but a watery crater that had been swallowed by the water.
Like Chicago, like any major urban center and landscape around it Washington DC had been rendered a chasm of tremendous depth. Where the shallow waters of the normal coast around were light and shallow, the impenetrable waters of a vaporized city and the bedrock below was a sheer drop of tremendous depth. As they learned to talk and convey nuance ideas they discovered jokes, and for half a year hung near the edge of Washington and discussed the unlikely possibility of one of them jumping over the edge to seek out the tremendous depths of the unnatural crater that was the DC metro area. They again discussed it when they made it back to Illinois and the Great Lakes area to find the gorge that replaced the Windy City had finally filled with lake water after a near quarter century of being filled with lake water.
They discussed the prospect of diving in again to seek the bottom, then moved on.
Finding the bottom of one of these great water craters was nothing any of them planned to realize, and it became like a meme between them.
After all this failed, they discussed heading west where in old California it was said might be a great haven for androids. But apart from meeting others on the road that talked of it, they found none who seemed to be inclined with ever crossing the great divide of the mid-west to find California, so they stayed. How the rumors and the stories made their way east they never discovered.
But since then, they had begun wandering. Migrating the northern mid-west through summers and winters. They would ride onto a village of men, and sometimes the men would let them through or let them in. Other times they would be chased off. They passed the ruins of cities that had smoldered or those that had just fallen apart, having avoided the smiting wrought by orbital cannon. And then they would find the devastation of those places made by conventional weapons as a follow up in the death throws of America and of the entire world.
Among the forests of Wisconsin they wandered on this day now, one behind the other as they rode down a dirt trail through the trees not much wider than a deer run. South-west of the abandoned ruins of Wausau they may their way through forests that had sprung up across the mid-west as humanity retreated into hiding. They watched helplessly during those days when man succumbed to the diseases and misfortunes that modern life had protected so many from. In those early days when the earth was still scorched they watched on afraid they would see the last of a species. They predicted and bet on their resignation from existence, and the entire race would go extinct. But yet somehow, like so many dark hours before, mankind persisted through it, stabilized itself, and continued living; but to no greater extent than what they were before.
Trotting down along the path, the small group came upon a man curled along the side of the road. His face was dirty and his clothes ragged. He looked up at them with a pale face, and reached out for a crude rusty sword as the horse men neared, their bodies dressed in rough linen cloaks; they looked like highway men.
Kacy was the first to come up to the men. His black horse stopping briskly as the android reigned in on his reigns. Over the already armored hands of Kacy he wore thick buckskin gloves. The android's face was covered in a mask of sheep's wool. The old rail gun he had with him since the cataclysm still hung at his back, but had become dressed in ribbons and modified; the power source tuned down as Kacy ran out of tungsten shot, needing to accommodate for softer rounds without vaporizing them.
He looked like a spectral rider, and to the poor wretch in the mud he was like a reaper come to get him. The rusted sword was raised in defense towards him, and shook in the weak starved hands of the wastrel.
Jada came next. Many of his original outer shell having been melted away during the cataclysm, he now had dressed himself in a wooden mask of a fair-featured youth. But his exposed metalic frame was still flecked with the sparkling diamonds of grains of glass that had embedded into himself. He was like a fair angelic woodland spirit atop his earthy brown charged and long green cloak.
Following him was Uno, a civilian android who rode naked atop a gray mare. His spare spartan appearance was like the spirit of pestilence. But a civilian model, he was harmless as any. He had partnered with Jada and Kacy somewhere in Indiana and let his outer shell simply fall off. His own accouterments were those few possessions the group carried in common in a sack tied around his back, and in the hand-made saddle-bags that hung from his horse's side.
Ego came last, and hung at the fringe of the gathering traffic delay. He wore the armor of the knights that had come to be. He would look perfectly normal, if it were not for the patched hole in the middle of his armor's chest from where he had impaled its former owner with the solid steel lance that hung across his back. Ego had painted the rest of his frame black, and he rode a black horse.
To the man huddled in the weeds and mud along the track's side, these figures terrified him. Yet he could not move. He sputtered and spat weakly as he sat up against a tree truck with his rusty, blunted sword leveled at them. “M-m-Metal m-men...” he stuttered, “B-begone.”
The androids looked down at him undeterred by his empty threat and his failing strength. Kacy turned back at his companions and in a deep voice that echoed with electrical interference asked, “Uno, do we still have the hardtack and extra oats we took from that slain merchant's wagon ten miles back.”
Uno turned, a near perfect 90 degrees at his undressed hip and looked down into his bags, rummaging through them. Eventually he produced a linen pouch and in a high-pitched squeaking voice announced, “I do.”
“Soak it in the horses' water a bit and offer it to the human, could you?”
The man in the road looked up at them flabbergasted. His weapon dropped until the tip touched the ground and his pale gaunt face slackened. Uno dismounted and mixed in the hard pucks of bread into a leather pouch of water and shook it up, walking over to the man and handing it out to him as an offering.
He took it, hesitantly but thankful. He kept his eyes on them as he opened the pouch and dragged his hand through the water, pulling out a soaked through chunk of bread and began tentatively chewing, coughing as he went.
He finished the soggy biscuits, and started downing the contents of the water bag. “Who... are you?” he asked.
“No one.” Kacy answered him.
“You got anymore?” the man along the road side asked.
“If we give the human more, I am sure the stress of taking in so much would kill him.” Uno suddenly piped in, “We should give him a break.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“You could very well expire from eating too much too fast. I have seen this.” the android responded. It didn't make the man feel any better or any less hungry. Though the heavy biscuits and water settling in his stomach numbed the dull empty pain that had rested there for so long. Now he felt the peculiar discomfort of being full.
“What is you name?” Ego suddenly called out from the back, before naming the rest of the group. His voice warbled with a soft strain.
“My name is Simon, Simon Christson.” he said, “Though, I doubt I deserve the Christson name anymore.”
“How so?” Lada asked.
“I... Well it turns out that I am a bastard; probably not even on my own father's. When he passed, my brothers forced me from the family estate and turned me out. They said there's no room in this world for fatherless children and I would be killed if I set foot back home. Their men chased me for two days and nights without giving me rest. I've been wandering since, taking food when I can get it. Though I think I did myself in now, I don't know if anyone even lives around here.”
“You wouldn't have, raiders from the south have been scouring the countryside and carrying off entire villages as slaves. Or many others have been driven east by raiders from the west.”
Simon considered the news, and nodded solemnly. “I see.” he said, “It is fortunate then I have not been found.”
“You're also on an unwalked path.” Kacy pointed out.
“And yet you're riding it.” Simon answered.
“We have nothing to fear from it, no reason to not. It is as any road, no mater how long or mysterious.”
Simon accepted the answer and fell into a profound silence. The androids hovered over him on his horses, some ancient disposition to await at least a dismissal. “Where am I?” Simon asked finally.
“In Wisconsin.” Uno answered.
“What's a Wisconsin?” he asked.
The androids turned and looked at each other in a long silence, wondering between themselves. Lada answered for them: “The Upper Mississippi Country? The Western Superior Country? Chequamegon?”
“Oh...” Simon said in a barren voice, “That's how far north I have gone.”
“Where are you from?”
“From Mill Works.” he answered
A location the androids didn't quiet understand. They sat atop their horses and thought, but came up with nothing.
“It's on the coast of the Big Fresh Water, the Michigan.”
Simon looked baffled, “I don't know this city.”
“It must be Milwaukee.”
“I can't go back though, I will be killed.”
“We understand.” said Lada, “But perhaps you can ride with us for a while.”
“Where are you going?”
April 1st, 2299
The androids and the human moved on, headed west towards the Mississippi. There the androids knew was a town on the mighty river, a crossing over it and passage into the western lands beyond. It was also where one might be left, and where one might rebuild their life. The androids kept Simon on hardtack and water, and he regained his strength. After a time, he was able to show the androids the forage plants on the side of the road and when they stopped to give Simon some rest either one of them could wander into the woods and pick the berries needed to supplement his diet, and help cut the wasting away of the hard bread they had with them.
The trip was slow and arduous, many of the old roads having been erased by time and as whole populations cleared out of the territory. What remained in old Wisconsin had gone to the coast or to the river, or were looted and stolen away to the south as serfs and slaves. Small villages remained, but no where a man could have a life, not without having lived in the deep woods of the north for so long. With each town came new directions to The Cross, La Crosse as it was known once.
But there in the distance of the night, as they came to the final bend of the road was the small glistening coin of torch and lantern light that was The Cross. As they set down for the night and staked their horses a feeling of relief came across Simon, he had survived his abandonment in the wilderness and was coming on civilization. Now was no longer the months of starvation and hard dangerous living in the deep woods, terrified of the roads. His face had filled back out, he had muscle back on his body, his complexion was no longer pale and ghostly. He was far from the danger of his family's land and could live a life renewed. He was anxious, as much as he was terrified of the road ahead. But for the evening, there was the crackle of fire and the prospect of sleep.
“So,” he asked, “How did the world... come to this?” he asked pensively. He was nakedly afraid of the question. He knew these metal men had seen the end of the world. He also knew the ways men felt after a hard battle where they watched their fellow men die; even if they had to do the killing. If the androids were as complex as man, then it was safe in his mind to feel nervous and wary at how they might answer him.
The androids were for a time quiet, not quite eager to answer the question themselves. They looked up at one another, their metal faces glimmering in the fire light.
“Man got greedy, forgot what they were to each other.” Lada told him finally, “It was we believe them coming to not needing one another.”
Simon looked up at him, bidding him to continue. Lada gave a long electrical sigh and continued on, “The nations of the world, they had grown vast and self sufficient. Each one could tackle great problems on their own with so little effort. There were only a handful of great things that each nation owned in common, but these became weapons against one another as a whole as they gained supremacy. There are topics here that you may not understand, I am afraid.”
“Try me.” Simon demanded, “And if I don't know, then I do not know.”
Lada looked around him at his other companions. Uno picked up the ball, “There was a network of fortresses above the clouds, the very sky itself, in a place called Orbit. These fortresses were built to defend Earth from the very threats of the heavens themselves. They were great guns, great cannons poised to scan outward for anything that might endanger Earth. All nations were said to control them at once, until the fortresses turned around, and fired on Earth, carving many of its cities into the great pits.”
“How could castles turn?” he asked.
“They just could.” Uno explained, “In Orbit, there is no anchor on which anything was built and they could be turned and moved at will like ships on the sea. They were in a state of permanent flight.”
“Like a bird?”
“More than a bird.”
Simon chewed on this metaphor. “What else were there?”
“Man had colonies on worlds other than our own.”
“As in across the sea?”
“No, beyond orbit. On whole other planets. These were officially held in common, but became whole other fronts in a great conflict.”
Simon's deeply strained expression hinted at him not understanding. Uno realized there would need to be much more said about the subject to make him understand. One he knew with the hour they would not have much time to make him fully comprehend. “But that is enough on that.” Uno said dismissively.
“So there are other people, such as myself elsewhere?” Simon asked excitedly.
“Beyond this world?” Uno asked, seeking explanation. Simon nodded. “Possibly.” the android continued, “It is very hard to say. The final cataclysm destroyed our means to communicate with them. I do not know of even a way to look out and search them out. But on this world itself: it's very likely, if you were to build a ship and sail across the ocean.” he looked about the forest, leading Simon to look about.
“There are many trees, so then it might be possible?” he understood the challenge set before him.
“I do not know if anyone can do that now.” said Uno, “But the materials are here. Much more so than to head to head beyond the sky itself.”
“So then, assuming man still live out there, then they are like angles, like spirits in the sky?” he asked.
Uno thought about it. But Lada cut in quick, “Yes.” he said.
“Fascinating!” Simon said with awed astonishment. “But then, if we had done so much: why destroy it all.”
“Man came to hate each other.” Ego suddenly interjected. It had been a long time since he spoke and it made everyone jump. “As Lada said, they came to rely only on themselves, self-sufficient in many ways. With no reason to rely on one another they came to despise and be jealous of each other. They had pride in themselves, great continental pride!”
Ego visibly shook as he raised his armored hands to look into them, “I don't know what happened. I haven't worked it out. There were so many factors!” he groaned, “The irrationality of it all, they cured every disease but not violence!”
Simon sat in stunned silence. An Ego chewed over one more thought before he slipped back into his dull brooding quiet, “Perhaps they forgot something along the way.”
Tomorrow, they passed into The Cross, and Simon went back out into the world.
Illinois, west of the ruins of Chicago
April 2nd, 2407. Present Day
The androids were back here again, another trip passing through from the southern Mississippi. Kacy on a white, spotted horse and in heavy, crudely hammered iron. Lada, on a pale brown horse and a white blaze, cloaked in leather. Uno on a stubborn mule with a black cross, purchased from a trader in Texas, and Ego on a black charger. They came upon an open field, and looking out a village was burning, its embers falling in a smoldering snowfall on a bleak freshly plowed field that had not taken seed. A fresh snowfall had come down and now mingled with the ask, in the fading sunlight it all glowed orange in the inferno.