Chapter 38:

Isul, Behind the Red Wall

Red Storm Over Ganymede


I crept along the servant’s corridors outside the throne room. Without the antlers that housed most of my scanning equipment I felt as though I had a malfunctioning ocular receptor. Had the antlers still been perched atop my head, it was likely I could have penetrated the field that surrounded the throne room. But as I was, I was going in to hostile territory blind.

Matters were not helped when I considered the fact that I had only the barest compilation of a plan. It was unlike me, to be certain; but after all that had happened, my loss of memories, my loss of body, the one thing I could not lose was Tristan.

Damn my overly developed emotional subprocessor.

The red wall threatened to slam down over my vision again, and I spared long moments to push it back. I needed the rage this time, the power and strength that came from the Other Isul. But it would not do to hurt or accidentally kill Tristan as I tried to rescue him.

I pushed open the door a crack and let my ocular sensor sweep the room. It was crowded with Centurions, several of which stood around the mangled shells of Collective Bio-droids. My metal heart sank as I saw the lifeless eyes of Captain Marduk. Peering further into the room, I saw the Oracle, the Empress Dowager, and Empress Lashell deep in conversation. Tristan sat off to the side on his throne, slumped over the armrest but breathing.

To make sure it was not the clone in here, I zoomed in on Tristan’s face and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the white scar across his bottom lip. But no sooner had I done that then the main doors to the throne room opened, and two royal guards strode in, carrying another unconscious Tristan between them. I briefly wondered what had happened to the clone; he was nearly naked, and my Tristan apparently wore his clothes, so there must have been an altercation between them at some point.

Now came the tricky part. When the Other was in control of my body, my strength was increased tenfold as the limiters built in as safeguards were overridden. But could I access that part of his programming without surrendering full control of my body to him? It was my only option.

I dove into my own code and quickly found the pulsing red wall with every alert notification Winnie could think of slapped across it. Weeks of memories were tied up inside there, alongside my murderous Other.

I tapped the wall, and felt every synthetic muscle fiber in my body tense as the Other took notice. I could see his faint shape, as though through a sheet of comet ice, moving behind the red wall.

“Come to seek me out, interloper?” it asked.

Though every line of code that ran through my positronic brain screamed to run away, to leave this creature to rot, I stood my ground and spoke. “I come to offer you an exchange.”

The Other gave a cruel laugh. “You have nothing I desire aside from control of this body and the means to carry out my primary objective. Something that past experience leads me to believe you would be unwilling to offer.”

“What if I said I would?”

The Other stopped his pacing. “I’m listening.”

“Does it matter which Tristan you kill?” I asked.

The Other’s eyes narrowed. “He must be the next in line for the Jovian throne.”

“What if he’s currently on the throne?” I asked.

The Other shrugged. “It makes little difference. Only that I have been delayed.”

I nodded. “Then look through our eyes.” I zoomed in on my Tristan, on his throne. And then I with every possible safeguard in place to try and stop the Other from guessing the truth, I said, “This is not the Tristan you want, but merely a clone. The true Tristan has just been brought inside. If I allow you fulfill your primary programming against that Tristan, will you allow me to use your power to save the other?”

The Other stopped his pacing and considered my offer for a nanoclik. “It would fulfill my primary programming. I agree.”

I bound the agreement in code. If the Other tried to harm my Tristan, he would lose control of the body. With hesitation, I placed my hand on the red wall, and felt it suck me in as it released the Other. Except this time instead of being fearful of the change, I welcomed it. As I became an observer in my own skin, I felt the limiters on my body lose their hold.

I felt our body tense and stiffen as the Other shot through the doorway. We barreled into the cadre of Centurions surrounding the unconscious form of the clone Tristan, and I relished the feeling of my tritanium bones punching through their inferior metals. My positronic soul sang as I felt the synth-flesh of my hands and arms stripped away.

Laser blasts showered us, but the Other picked up a downed Centurion to use as a body shield before throwing it like a cannonball into a rank of other robots, sending them crashing to the floor in a heap of twisted and broken parts. The bloodlust was overwhelming; without the programmed limiters, my strength was such that I could tear apart Ganymede itself.

The clone Tristan was in my sight, and I suddenly faltered. I couldn’t go through with this murder. Not when the clone wore the face of the boy I loved. I tried all I could to reign in the bloodlust, but the Other took no notice. His hands snapped around the clone’s neck.

Before our hands could twist, pain lanced through my back. I looked down to see the end of a staff exit my chest and slam into the clone. Blood sprayed over my body as I twisted my head to see the livid fury of the Oracle’s face.

I looked back to the clone, who coughed up more blood. His fingers brushed my arm, then went limp as his body slid off the end of the staff and fell to the floor.

All scans indicated that the clone was dead. With that verified, I felt an imperceptible shift in the Other.

“You tried to interfere. To stop me from killing the Prince. You broke our contract,” he said.

“It’s done,” I said. “Now give me back control of my body.”

“This body’s power is wasted on you, interloper. I shall keep it in good stead.”

Before I could reply, the Other was surrounded in a flurry of code and pixels that resolved itself into Winnie’s form. “And you were bound by code to give back this shell when your task was completed.”

A leer tugged at the corner of the Other’s mouth. “But with another Prince Tristan still alive, my task lives.”

“You lying, conniving-” I began before Winnie placed a digital hand on my arm.

“It’s fine, Isul. We’ll leave the body now.”

“But Winnie, we had an agreement,” I blurted out.

She gave me a knowing look. “Know which battles you can win, kiddo.”

I felt the strange sensation of floating as she undid my positronic net from the moorings of my body. When she had packaged all the code that made up “me” she gave a curt nod to the Other, and uploaded us onto the DataNet.

Watching through the cameras of the palace, I saw the Other take full control of my body. The red eyes glowed with menace as it yanked out the Oracle’s staff and threw it like a javelin at my Tristan.

But the projectile never reached Tristan. It was stopped short as it embedded itself into the body of Regina the Fifth, Empress Dowager, as she threw herself in front of Tristan.

Steward McOy