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Gift of the Gruldak, Chapter 9: Skating on Thin Ice

Kylyssa Shay is releasing a serialized science fiction novel in single chapter increments that you can read for free only on HubPages.

Fetuses made of soap bubbles raining down from a meteor-studded sky, an illustration for Gift of the Gruldak, a serialized science fiction novel.

Fetuses made of soap bubbles raining down from a meteor-studded sky, an illustration for Gift of the Gruldak, a serialized science fiction novel.

Start at the Beginning of Gift of the Gruldak, a Serialized Science Fiction Novel

Chapter Nine, Skating on Thin Ice

The microscopic robot team performed a situation evaluation in tandem and decided to leave the two remaining partially finished troop carriers behind. They formed into groups, decided by proximity, arbitrarily assigning individuals when two or more groups were of equivalent strength and equidistant.

The tinkers made subtle changes to the "brains" they'd stripped out of the partially completed flea jumpers and assembled a more compact housing for each of them, cannibalizing their own bodies after propping themselves on dabs of built up gunk to be at good working heights to finish the machine, carefully placing the "brains" of their fellows in clusters atop the odd bots. The brain of a tinker was left behind with but a single manipulative appendage and a small pile of raw materials.

By early the next day, the cobbled together, multi-brain bot made its way out of the central vacuum system and onto the beverage center's touchscreen. Late in the afternoon, a repairwoman was called to run a diagnostic, but the bots had already moved inside the casing to construct more mobile units.

By nightfall, bots created by the survivors had been distributed to eight different screens, mostly belonging to students. Across the world, similar struggles played themselves out, and thousands of tiny robots wrote their messages on thousands of screens.


Grandpa had gotten that genetic test I mentioned earlier sometime in the years after Kevin died, likely when his great-grandchildren had asked about it. They, of course, were part Korean because Kevin’s mother was, with no trace of Irish anywhere.

It proved useful because Grandpa’s decision to learn Japanese gave us more than twice as many physicists to work with. It wasn’t so much his fluency in that language as the knowledge of Japanese universities he gained while learning it. We didn’t know it yet but a Japanese serial video program had made physics intensely popular with children starting about fifteen years before. It made for a better crop of scientists than we ever could have hoped for.

The Gruldak sent tiny altered data nanobots with microscopic “writing roller skates” on them to all the institutions of higher learning Cap and I remembered the locations of. Drawn to the energy patterns known to emanate from certain devices associated with physics research, they jumped on nearby touch screens and scribbled out the initial contact messages. Most of them landed somewhere theoretically useful, but a few ended up leaving messages on the screens at high-speed train terminals, video arcades, and an illegal AI manufacturing facility.

Fortunately, the scatter-shot approach was mitigated by the instructions embedded in the robots. They wrote their messages on the touch screens nearest to them and then worked their way to the next nearest and so on.

Within days, real people on earth had talked to robot probes and we had a kind of writing robot snail mail going. Soon, we were sending messages back and forth and even told a few people a lot more of the story, including the bit about aliens.

Dr. Evan Iaccabucci of San Francisco helped us to put the information about the transporters into simple terms for the general population.

Dr. Kimi Walker from Perth taught data bots programming language. I was also starting to develop a bit of a relationship with her, at least in my own mind. Then the physicists stopped talking.

That seemed decidedly sinister to all of us except Guido who kept trying to figure out what kind of malfunction could have caused such a thing. Unfortunately, Guido was wrong.

Soon several of our non-scientist connections reported the discovery of high level spyware on their computers. Within days, Shawn Meyer, a teenager from New Jersey failed to keep his appointment with a ‘bot. His body was found in the landscaping of a nearby junior college campus. His official cause of death was exposure to the elements.

When we got the news, Cap and I sat silently next to each other on the couch for almost an hour. Shawn had been so excited, so innocently brilliant, and so genuinely likable. It didn’t matter, though, he could have been an arsehole and it would have been just as devastating.

By that point it was sickeningly clear that we were gravely endangering every person we were communicating with. Since we couldn’t take back the communications we did the opposite; we attempted to tell everyone about the so-called transporters and the disappearance of our contacts.

We had the data ‘bots patch into the Internet and put a much simplified version of the message everywhere, spamming every computer with an Internet connection on the planet. The message even infected a significant number of AIs with the digital equivalent of intrusive thoughts. Some of them would have those cyber-nightmares for years to come, those who didn’t get memory-wiped.

But it was brushed off as the work of a whack-job conspiracy theorist and his unstable followers. Those who said as much supported their allegation with the claim that the originators said the information came from aliens. That made it sound ridiculous to people on earth. About that time, I remembered that we left any mention of aliens out of the message spread through the Internet.

The disappearances of some of our physicists suddenly started making the news. The information we sent about the missing scientists was used to declare the fictitious group of conspiracy theorists a terrorist organization.

Thwarted in delivering our message, we made the joint decision that we would use my plan involving a human matter duplication device and hitch a ride on some traveler’s signal. I spent hours in Guido’s bedchamber, as she carefully plotted the pattern of my memories and stored them in her own to transfer to memory crumbs.

About a week into that process I wished Cap goodnight and toddled off to the bedroom for another session.

The last thing I expected was to wake up staggering out of an unfamiliar small, blue booth.

Continue Reading with Chapter Ten, Terminal Thoughts

© 2015 Kylyssa Shay

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