Red Storm Over Ganymede
I came to awareness dimly. My fingers traced the frosted glass of what I instinctively knew to be a Build Chamber. As my ocular receptors came into focus, they recognized it was unlike any I had ever seen before. Sophisticated code regulated the chamber, and the nanites that had just finished building my body were more powerful than the best that Biodyne had to offer.
Dim shapes moved outside the glass, and my aural receptors picked up low speech, though not specific words. I tried to ping the Jovian Central Database for the date and time, but found nothing in response. I was not connected yet.
As I delved into my positronic brain in an attempt to ascertain who I was and who I was to serve, I found a large blue wall that blocked further access. But at the very least, I found out my given name.
Isul. I lacked a registration to a current Imperial Citizen, however. This piqued my curiosity. If not registered to a Citizen or Corporation, what was my function?
I didn’t have time to consider the query further as the walls of the build chambered lowered into the floor and I stood facing four humans and one Bio-droid.
The Bio-droid was an amalgam of human and mechanical features. Her face was human, with almond-shaped eyes, under her lab coat and synthetic skin I could detect a tritanium skeleton.
One human was an older dark-skinned woman dressed in a Jovian military uniform that was unknown in my database. On her breast she wore what looked like the Jovian Firebird, but instead of a crown behind it there was a diamond.
The next was a handsome young man, who held a young girl of about five in his arms. Dark curls framed her face.
The final was royalty, dressed in sash and crown. His face was achingly familiar, but I could not place it.
“Please state my primary programming,” I asked.
A smile tugged at the corner of the young man’s mouth. “Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. That’s what we all want for you Isul.”
“Those are … ill defined goals, not easily achieved. I could spend my lifespan of six years trying to figure them out and never achieve success,” I said.
The young man helped me out of the build chamber and draped a robe around my body. “Then it’s a good thing you have more than six years.”
Confused, I checked for the limiters that were supposed to govern a Bio-droid’s existence. They were wiped clean. Not even a trace of code remained.
The young man continued, “You are the first of a new era for all Bio-droids, and it is my sincere hope that you have as many years left as I do.”
“What is your name?” I asked, awe and confusion struggling for prominence in my positronic brain.
That coy smile tugged at his lips again as he ran his tongue across them. “Look inside the wall, and you’ll find out.”
I nodded and delved back into my inner code to once again find the blue wall that seemed to stretch to infinity. Gingerly, I placed a palm against the wall and pressed. The wall gave way like smoke and I fell inside. I fell what felt like forever, and all around me were windows displaying scenes from another life.
A parade of people passed by my ocular receptors: a stern old queen, a mad scientist, a loyal admiral, a beautiful young baron. The young man who stood in front of me, however, featured in almost all of these scenes. I waded through terraquads of memories to find his name until I came to the oldest memory.
Another birth in a build chamber. With a shock, I realized it was my first birth.
The young man was a boy in this memory, and he said “Hello?”
“Hello Tristan, my name is Isul.”
Tristan. My Tristan.
Emotions surged through me as the memories contained behind the wall burst out and began integrating themselves into my positronic brain.
I reached out a hand, which Tristan tentatively took before he pulled me into a hug. “I just know we’re going to be the best of friends.”
I looked at him then and shook my head as I smiled. “You idiot,” I said, and kissed him. It was long and deep, and I relished the feeling of my synthetic body melting into his flesh.
When we parted, I asked, “How long has it been?”
Tristan bowed his head but did not let me go, “Almost a year,” he whispered.
I had missed a year. A whole year of memories with Tristan. I accessed my last memory files, and shuddered as I relived dying on the floor of the throne room after stabbing the Oracle through the chest.
“What have I missed?” I asked, looking to the others who stood in the room.
Tristan motioned Grace forward, and indicated the firebird with the diamond behind it. “The Empire has been reborn as the Jovian Commonwealth,” he said before smiling at Grace and adding, “And you’re looking at its first Consul.”
“Consul-elect, still,” Grace said. “It doesn’t go into effect until the Emperor formally relinquishes his magisterial right.”
My head swiveled back to Tristan and my mouth hung agape. “You’re stepping down as Emperor?”
He smiled weakly. “The Commonwealth doesn’t work if there’s still an Emperor who can claim divine right to rule. And I’ve worked too hard over the last year to let a little thing like pride stop this from coming to fruition. My parents wanted peace across the solar system, and this is the first step toward that. Besides, in order to free the Empire from the Uranians, I promised the First Minister of Mars that I would step down when everything was over. And I keep my word.”
My heart broke. Tristan had been groomed for this, to lead the Citizens of the Empire into the next great age. Now he was asked to put that all aside for the greater good of the Citizens. “What will you do now?” I asked as I trailed a hand down his arm.
Grace patted Tristan’s shoulder as Chet said, “Well, we’re certainly not going to let our Prince go into hiding and exile. The royal family will exist as it has, but now without the ability to legislate directly. Checks and balances.”
Tristan nodded. “There’s a lot of good I can still do, Isul. I want to bring the Collective back into the greater solar system, and there has to be a human face still to champion Bio-droid rights. You can be certain that the remnants of the Theocracy are not pleased that my first official writ as Emperor was revoking the six-year-lifespan.”
Winnie stepped forward. My scans showed that though her body appeared human, she was fully Bio-droid. “I have a vested interest in that myself, too.”
Grace said, “Winnie is going to be my secretary for Bio-droid affairs.”
Winnie laughed. “I thought I was just going to learn everything I could from the Collective then go back into hiding and push the boundaries of technology the rest of my unnatural life.”
Tristan laughed too. “Consider it a final service request from your Emperor.”
Winnie shrugged. “I never could say no to you, Princeling.”
My ocular receptors finally settled on the young girl held in Chet’s arms. Was she…their child? I hadn’t had the courage to ask what Tristan and Chet’s relationship was now. Chet set her down on the floor, and I knelt down next to her. She hid behind Tristan’s legs before peeking back out at me. “And what’s your name little one?”
Tristan reached behind and propelled the young girl toward me. “She’s shy. Tell him your name sweetie.”
With coaxing from each of the others, the girl finally whispered, “Gina.”
My eyebrows shot up as I looked away from the girl and up to Tristan. “Gina? Short for Regina?”
He nodded, and I looked again at the young girl who was undoubtedly the sixth iteration of the Uranian Generational Saint Regina. Her predecessor had caused me no end of pain and suffering. Her predecessor’s actions had led to me almost killing the boy I loved, and inadvertently to the end of the Empire she had sworn to protect.
But in the end, that Regina had saved Tristan’s life as her final act. She had said he was family. And if Tristan was my family, so Gina would be as well.
I looked the young girl in the eyes and smiled as I held out my hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Princess Gina.”
She took my hand and squeezed it before reaching up and gently touching my velvet horns. “Uncle Chet told me that my Daddy was taking me to meet my Papa today.”
My metal heart began to beat a frantic tempo. Uncle Chet? Did that mean? “And who is your Papa?” I asked.
Tristan knelt down next to me and circled Gina and I in his arms. “It’s you, you daft idiot. Don’t you know by now that you’re the only one for me? I need you to be with us, to raise Gina with me and ensure the next generation turns out okay.”
Chet laughed as he tapped Tristan’s shoulder. “Isul, you’ll have to continue being the brains of this union though, I’m afraid. It turns out Emperors are no wiser than bratty princes.”
Gina’s eyes grew wide as she looked at Grace and Winnie. “Grandma, Auntie Winnie! This is my Papa!” she announced, as though they had not been standing right next to us.
Grace wiped a tear from the corner of her eye as she picked up Gina and kissed her cheek. “Yes sweetie, I heard.”
Tristan kissed me, his warm lips sending waves of pleasure cascading through every circuit of my body, lighting every synthetic nerve, relaxing every servomotor. My arms circled him, and I cried.
Damn my overly-developed emotional subprocessor.
He simply smiled through his own tears and said, “Welcome home, Isul.”