Standing by the stairs that led to ruins, Executive Designer Three watched indulgently as his charge took to his exploring. Numbers had expressed a desire to come to One Tree Hill to view the ocean from a distance and to fossick among the ruins. There was something deeply satisfying as Numbers made his discoveries. To Executive Designer Three this was just an Island with a tree on top of ruins, but to Numbers this place represented something completely outside his own thinking. Numbers always came up with amazing speculations; Executive Designer Three looked at his charge indulgently, and it was like discovering the world anew through different eyes. The stories Numbers would create were so novel. Executive Designer Three glowed at the very thought of how he and all the others would delight in their re-telling, as Numbers often added more and more embellishments each more fantastic than the last. And there would be questions and yet more questions he thought fondly.
His thoughts were interrupted as Numbers ran up to him and grabbed Executive Designer Three's hand.
'You have a question?' Executive Designer Three asked seeing how excited Numbers looked.
'There is a blue light, a sharp blue light,' Numbers shook his head and tried to describe what he had seen.
'Do you mean intense blue light?' Executive Designer Three inquired.
Numbers stopped to concentrate. 'Very bright and sharp.'
'Try connecting with your mind,' Executive Designer Three suggested.
Numbers closed his eyes.
Executive Designer Three felt a warm glow as their minds connected. For a nano-second all he could sense was chaos then an intense blue light became clear in his mind.
'Well done. All of your practice is paying off and intense is the right word.'
'Intense blue light,' Numbers corrected himself. 'Now come.'
Executive Designer Three found himself being led up the path towards the dome.
He could not conceive why he was being led here as the object was a ruin. Neural Pathways Tester One had developed an interest and declared it was worth preserving. Hence the loose covering to protect the dome from the elements. The past was fascinating Executive Designer Three agreed but not the extent Neuro Developer One gave her energy to.
Reaching the top of the path Executive Designer Three stopped and saw Numbers was right.
There was an intense bright blue that appeared to be emanating from within the dome. It seemed to grow in intensity with every passing moment. Before he could fathom what was going on he felt his mind being touched. Confused, he thought it was one of the others in the Circle but in the same instant he knew it was an unknown.
He attempted to block the link but it was too late, the connection was made. To prevent the link jumping into another mind he sent the shutdown protocol between the connections. In his last conscious moment he jerked to look at Numbers and all the hope he represented and collapsed to the ground.
Not used to running, Minulaya tried to keep her breath as she raced through the complex.
The garbled message suggested something or someone had appeared in the ruin on top of 'One Tree Island'. Something she thought impossible. At first she had dismissed it as one of Numbers' made up tales and asked to speak to Executive Designer Three. To her alarm he had stopped functioning and had fallen down.
Numbers was almost incoherent with distress but had managed to convey that three beings had appeared in the centre of the ruin. Two of the beings appeared to be covered in a thick red liquid and there was another who was inactive and had appeared to have collapsed at the same moment as Executive Designer Three. Neural Pathways Tester Seven as expected had picked up on Numbers' distress and was on her way to help.
Her mind whirling, she cursed her age and level of fitness and started on the steps leading up to the Island's peak. Reaching the second set of steps Surgical Assistant Two and Medical Unit Eight caught up with her, armed with the medical kits she had sent them to obtain.
Reaching the dome she found Executive Designer Three immobile with Numbers by his side holding his hand, his eyes closed in an attempt to reach him mentally.
Within the structure she saw a scene she could not have imagined in a million years. There were two organic beings and one downed android in a bad state of repair that had somehow materialised within the dome. Her heart thumping her chest in fear and from the effort climbing, she could see these were not of her kind. Her mind filled with the implications which sent her mind into a panic. Her immediate thoughts were how many more might come through. This could be a scout party leading to others who would destroy everything they had worked too hard to achieve.
The desperate tone of one of the beings who was cradling the wounded one brought her attention back to more immediate issues. She looked around at her androids and knew instinctively because other organics were involved they would need direction. She had to make a decision.
Neural Pathways Tester Seven appeared beside her and it made her focus on the other with the two organics. It was an android in a very bad state of repair which meant this situation was far more complicated that her fear would have her believe and she began to bark out instructions.
'Neural Pathways Tester Seven, check Numbers and Executive Designer Three. Take Executive Designer Three along with the other android to the diagnostic lab.'
'The diagnostic lab is being set up and Neuro Processor Nine and Retrograde Designer are on their way,' Neural Pathways Tester Seven stated. As always Minulaya envied their ability to instantly communicate.
Moving inside the dome she found a space to kneel. Once on her knees she did a visual examination of both organics. The one being supported by the other appeared to have three visible primitive projectiles embedded in his body; one in its upper right shoulder, another top right leg, and chest. The red liquid she recognised as blood. The injured one's breathing was ragged, the skin was clammy. The other was covered in blood and was vocal, confirming he was not injured. All visible blood as far as she could ascertain was from the injured one.
The other being made another strange utterance which stilled as she opened one of the medical kits. She hesitated for a moment; neither of the two organics was of her kind. There were enough visible differences even if there were other characteristics like the colour of the blood to suggest they were not the same but similar. It meant treating this being could kill him/her. He/she was going to die if she didn't help,' she told herself and pulled out the oxygen breather and placed it over the openings on the injured one's face.
'Who are these people?' Surgical Assistant Two asked as the carried the patient transport board through the main doors into the base. She noted the other being was doing everything it could to help and right now was supporting the head end of the board which was a sign neither beings was a primitive as they appeared.
'I'm burning with as many questions as Numbers,' Minulaya panted out. 'Right now such queries will have to wait. But I understand your caution and have asked Security Ranger Six to attend, protect, and observe.'
Surgical Assistant Two felt a weight lift from herself. The appearance of the strangers had triggered every protective instinct all them within the Circle had. The presence of Security Ranger Six would ease her fears and would allow her to fully concentrate on the injured one.
Holding the head end onto the backboard, Ianto's heart was beating wildly. They had travelled down a series of stone steps, along wide seemingly endless corridors. For some reason fear and worry seemed to have rendered his right hand useless. Any knock was agony and he was using all his strength to keep a grip on the body board with his weaker left hand.
The small potato-like being who was giving the orders led the way. She scurried forward and pushed open a set double swing doors. Stepping forward Ianto knew where they had come to, alien it might be, but clear stainless surfaces had all the hallmarks of a medical bay.
The tall being with the golden eyes pointed towards a central dais. Lifting together they heaved the board onto the dais. Ianto watched as two of the beings rolled Jack onto his side while the smaller being who had led them there examined Jack's wounds. Moving forward Ianto went to take Jack's hand. One of the tall golden-eyed being pushed back. Ianto moved forward again but found two very thick arms quickly enveloping him. His upper arm sent a spike of white hot pain causing him to cry out. 'Please I just want to be with him.' His words had no effect and he squirmed as the pain seemed to grind in some horrible fashion but the being holding him only tightened its grip. He felt himself beginning to black out when the small being appeared to shout out an order and he fell forward as the arms holding him were gone.
As he righted himself Ianto saw a narrow arm appear from the side of the dais and began to travel up then down Jack's body. As it did the arm emitted a of spike bright blue. On the far wall several banks of indicators he has not noticed came alive. The diminutive being who was in charge shook her finger at him then pointed to him and the spot on the floor where he was standing. Ianto nodded he had got the message, 'Don't get in the way.'
Confident the uninjured being understood s/he not get in the way the small being began what sounded to Ianto as a heated discussion with one of the tall beings with the golden eyes, as another worked observing the data now flowing from the scan.
'He needs blood first and foremost,' Surgical Assistant Two stated.
Minulaya pulled at her bottom lip. 'Can we make a match?'
'There are enough basic similarities but it will take time,' Medical Unit Eight spoke now for the first time as she evaluated information from the scan which was still running.
'Do we have anything that we could use right now?'
'The normal procedure is to replace the loss with synthetic blood but we have an alternative. It's a blood substitute made up of saline from the analysis of the being's body chemistry he/she should be able to tolerate. It will add to the volume but will only help in the short term,' Medical Unit Eight added.
'Agreed. This will help with his blood pressure and we can then programme the unit to remove the projectiles and at the same time attempt blood vessel repair and stop the bleeding,' Surgical Assistant Two added.
'Do it,' Minulaya pronounced. She was between a rock and a hard place; one misstep and they might kill one of the first two organics she had seen in decades. But she had no option but to do what had to be done.
The heated discussion across the room ended and two of the beings begun to work speedily, all directed towards Jack. Focused on events Ianto suddenly found his sight blocked by the solid being who had restrained him earlier. The being was holding out a round device that could fit into the palm of his hand.
Befuddled by events, he was unsure how to react. He didn't want a repeat of earlier when he saw the small being was also holding a similar device in its hand and began to speak into it.
His confusion cleared and taking the object he began to speak.
'Help him please. His name is Jack Harkness. We got lost, and came to a bad place, with some very nasty locals. They wanted Alfred and when we said no… it should be me there.' Ianto pointed at Jack.
The being small being now he stopped then began to point at objects.
'Wall, chair, me, floor, ceiling…' After what seemed an endless list the being rolled her hand near her mouth. Ianto was confused when she opened her arms wide. A moment of silence passed; still confused Ianto decided to just start talking. 'Save him. He did it for me. The bloody fool…I told him not to. He promised he wouldn't but he did.'
Then the object in her hand began to squawk back in basic.
Across the room a large screen now appeared which showed the structure of Jack's body starting from the inside to the outside.
The small being pointed to herself. 'Minulaya.' Turning she began to point at parts of the images. Ianto labelled everything he could to the best of his ability. She smiled to encourage him and as she did he realised her mouth was incredibly wide. She vaguely reminded him of an image he had seen. One thing he did know, she was as different from the other beings with her as he and Jack were from Alfred, just in better condition.
Minulaya spoke into her unit. 'You are not like me. You are different but also the same.'
To Ianto's relief he understood. 'We are lost,' Ianto told her, not taking his eyes off Jack as the two androids worked with deliberate purpose. 'We accidently set off one of the domes. We came from a place we know as Zeta Sigma Three. We were there as an archaeological expedition to examine the ruins.'
At his point the translator stopped working.
'We are lost,' Ianto tried again and he heard his words being translated. 'We have been to three places,' he held up three fingers, 'an island, a city called 'Pelee', and place with a green sun, then here. Jack?' Ianto lost his voice.
'Very hurt lost lots of blood. One stick,' she put her fist into her hand to demonstrate the ball and socket joint then pointed to Jack's shoulder. 'Other near breathing bag.' She pointed at the image of Jack's lung on the screen. 'Careful remove. Stick in leg look bad but not. He is in healing machine; it will add fluid to him then begin to remove the sticks.'
Ianto became weak with relief and was caught by the large being at his side. Before he could say anything a chair was brought and he sat down. In seconds the speaking device was removed and a container filled with some hot liquid replaced it.
Sniffing he took a cautious sip. He could not place the flavour other to say it was not offensive and had a sweet tang. He took a bigger sip.
'You have Android. Where did you come from him?' The translator miss-stated but Ianto understood and the tremble of fear in Minulaya voice was all too clear.
'The first island. He was covered with a bush and next to him were bones,' Ianto corrected himself.
'What bones?' Minulaya asked and Ianto pointed bone in the diagram of Jack.
Minulaya understood he meant skeleton.
'Alfred was covered in a plant and I had to cut him out with this.' Ianto took out the knife from the holder Alfred had fashioned which was hanging from his belt. Several things happened at once. Minulaya stepped back and the being who had constrained Ianto stepped forward and clamped his hand around Ianto's left wrist.
'Alfred told me where the knife was so I could help cut him out,' Ianto explained hurriedly. The last thing he wanted was to jeopardise help for Jack with any misunderstanding.
'Security Ranger Six, please release the being and take the knife,' Minulaya commanded.
'Ianto. My name is Ianto Jones,' Ianto said slowly and handed the handle towards the security android.
'The android was working?' she asked in a tone suggested this was impossible.
'Yes, he was working but in very bad shape. As we went through the portal he seemed to heal.'
'Portal? What is portal?'
'The dome we used to go from place to place,' Ianto replied. 'On Zeta Sigma Three where we started all the androids were dead, not working,' Ianto explained. 'On the island, only Alfred.'
'What is Alfred?'
'The name I gave him,' Ianto said and Minulaya nodded.
'So only Alfred,' she struggled with the pronunciation.
'We took him to a city. He called it Pelee. The city was falling apart and we found pits of dead android bodies,' Ianto added.
'And you saw no others.'
Ianto shook his head. 'Except those that attacked us. They didn't look anything like you and were very hostile. You are the only one we have found along with any androids.'
Minulaya turned away and remained silent for a while. After what seemed an age she turned back to face him. 'You have been travelling through the remains of the Thrall Civilisation; a civilisation that dominated four star systems, twenty three worlds, fifteen colonies and outposts. As far as I am aware I am the last of my kind, living here with my beloveds. We are well suited for they too are last of their kind.' She moved forward and patted Ianto's hand.
'Everything we can do has been done for your companion. I ask you to trust me that you will not be harmed. For now I must depart and deal with the danger you have unwittingly brought amongst us. It has already possibly led to the ending of one being. I pray it does not lead to the demise of all the others.'
Before Ianto could even formulate a reply as his mind tried to comprehend the enormity of what she had revealed she swept from the room.
Walking along the corridor Minulaya felt sick. Not in her wildest imaginings did she predict that any android outside this facility had survived. The survival of those here had only occurred to the quick actions of the main controller who, witnessing the unfolding disaster had put all androids into stasis. Of those only twenty-three had lasted the depths of time before she had awakened them.
Now this last remnant of the android civilisation which her people had so cruelly chained was again under threat of extinction. Disaster brought by two fools blundering about with all the good intentions that only fools can understand.
Reaching the isolation booths she joined Neural Pathways Tester Seven and began to read through the results from the diagnostic of both downed androids.
'There is no sign of the viral algorithm,' Neural Pathways Tester Seven reported.
'Then what happened to Executive Designer Three?'
'He sent a shutdown code then shut down himself.'
'He is unharmed?' she said not sure she had heard correctly.
'To revive we need to send the start-up code.'
'Did he collapse?' Neural Pathways Tester Seven finished the sentence.
'I would conjecture as the other reached out with his mind and made the connection Executive Designer Three in that instant shut himself and Companion Unit ZQA 4589 down. I have reasoned that he did this to prevent the link reaching any of us.'
Minulaya looked at Executive Designer Three. 'So he sacrificed himself,' she stated and was again reminded of the noble instincts of these beings.
'The diagnostic of both psionic brain structural pathways remain intact but dormant,' Neural Pathways Tester Seven said.
'If we are wrong you are under threat of immediate extinction. Please check until there can be no doubt'.
The Android tilted its head looked at prone body of Executive Designer Three and Companion Unit ZQA 4589 and back at her. 'Nero and I have checked every line of code. Companion Unit ZQA 4589 is not infected. If he had been his psionic neural pathways would have been destroyed.'
'He could be a carrier.'
'Explain?' Neural Pathways Tester Seven asked.
'He could have a sleeper programme that keeps him safe but infects others.'
'No.' Neural Pathways Tester Seven shook her head. 'The virus has an algorithmic signature and once it hits the psionic pathways it destroys the psionic pathways as fast as the neurons can flow down each connection. Companion Unit ZQA 4589 never came into contact with the virus and every psionic pathway is clear.'
'You have to be 100 percent sure. If you are wrong everything we have worked for will be for nothing.'
'Did not a wise woman once say, 'all life is risk'?'
'I hate it when you quote me.' Minulaya crossed her arms.
'I am interested in his story and gives me hope there are others,' Neural Pathways Tester Seven said.
'If you are sure...'
'I am as sure as only an android could be,' Neural Pathways Tester Seven laughed at her own joke and sent the reactivate codes to both prone androids.
Alfred found himself once again lying down. His last thought had been that he was sure he had made contact then he felt it. His entire being filled with a feeling akin to joy at the first tendrils of touch.
Nanoseconds later he detected something different in the energy flow as equally astounding as finding others like himself still in existence. The flow of information , thoughts were different much like the great thought only open, how could this be? There was something profound, then it came to him the internal mind chains that bound them were gone, these beings were free. As he shared everything he knew he felt a far weaker contact. Fragile and chaotic. At first he thought the psionic pathways had been damaged but as he explored more he realised despite the disorder the mind was whole as if being was learning to connect minds instead being able to do so from the inherent in built ability. He was not alone and here was a wonder to behold he could never have imagined or supposed was even in the realm of possibilities.
Smiling, Minulaya watched as Neural Pathways Tester Seven felt the need to check over Executive Designer Three. Still showing signs of distress Numbers joined them both a few moments later and their movements indicated they had mind-linked in an effort to reassure him all was well. She noted he still needed physical reassurance to confirm Executive Designer Three had come to no harm. Seeing is believing she reminded herself.
'I have been helping him practice reaching out with his mind to keep him occupied.' Minulaya found Nero beside her. Of all the androids here only Controller Unit Zero had chosen a new name.
'I'm curious. Just how did Numbers end up with a gender? In fact how did any of you decide which of you is a him or her?'
'The great debate.' Nero enjoyed this welcome return to normality no matter how brief, after the revelatory events of the last few hours. 'As always my reply is 'unknown', from his awakening we had a sense he was a he, as I am, just as you do.'
'But gender is for organics, for the purpose of breeding. There are differences. Androids don't have the need to breed in such a manner,' she argued.
'Not in the old world order maybe. But we are preparing for the new,' Nero said.
Numbers, now seemingly soothed, exploded with questions and she saw Nero's eyes glow. 'I see Numbers has been doing a lot of thinking. I will prepare myself,' he declared.
Minulaya touched his arm. 'As will I. Now please look after Alfred. He will be confused and has much to tell us about his survival.'
'He already has. How are his two companions?' Nero asked.
'One is very injured. He has been hit by three projectiles, one punctured his breathing organ. Another has hit his shoulder. The joint has been compromised. The wound in his leg looks worse than it is.'
'They are not of the masters?' Nero checked.
'I cannot say with 100% surety but I would say not.'
'If they are they might try and overrule you,' Nero said softly betraying his thoughts.
'Nero, you know this is not possible. The chains are gone forever, wiped from existence.'
'Shadows remain and I fear their return.'
'The past is gone. All of you here represent the future.'
'We have no future if we cannot find a way forward and overcome our present difficulties and find the code to turn on the mainframe in the manufacturing suites. Numbers being the newest will be the last wear out. With none to follow we will become extinct,' Nero pointed out.
'We will find a way to overcome this. Overcome or find another way'
'You are so positive, Minulaya.'
'You know I don't deserve that title. I never had children of my own.'
'We are your children, each and every one of us,' Nero told her seriously.
'You were fully developed beings all I did was tweak your programming.'
'Minulaya, you are Minulaya.' She smiled as his declaration. How could she tell him she did what she had out of a need to redeem her people for their enslaving these beings. The price they paid for the folly of a few meant she was driven to find something good to undo the catastrophe her own people had brought upon themselves and the beings they had enslaved.
'And without you none of this would be possible.'
'I acted as I did because it mattered.' He gave the answer he always did when she brought up his heroic actions.
'You all mattered, each and everyone one of you. I am sad it took so long for me to be retrieved that so few of you were left.'
'It is enough for a beginning…' Nero tilted his head. 'There is a complication. You must return to the medical bay. Medical Unit Eight needs your immediate assistance.'
'I am on my well my way.' Minulaya turned to Nero. 'I expected something like this. We have no replacement blood and that what he needs most. Saline was our only option…'
'No,' Nero interrupted. 'It is the other.'