Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. Eureka and associated characters are owned by Universal Studios. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
An It's Eureka, Daria story.
A Walk in the Woods
Between gulps of coffee while she quickly paced back and forth in the kitchen, Helen Morgendorffer said over her cell phone, "Dr. Blake, I am already dealing with thirty-seven lawsuits caused by Beverly Barlowe spouting off confidential psychiatric information over the town's public address system last week. Yes, we are working on the defense that she was under the unwilling influence of psychotropic spores, along with most of the rest of the town."
Seated at the breakfast counter next to Quinn, Daria looked out of the kitchen window at the workers in full protective gear cleaning out the Bio-Home's compost pile. She said, "For once, I'm glad we were stuck at home in this place and that the biofilters pulled the pollen out of the air for recycling."
"Me, too," Quinn said. "From what Zoe said, the whole town went really weird. I mean weird by Eureka standards."
"That's pretty weird."
Helen stopped and said, "I have to stop by my office first, and then I'll bring everything to you. Good-bye." Helen pocketed the phone and said, "It's going to be a busy day, girls. Go ahead and order something from Caf Diem if you don't want to be exposed to your father's cooking tonight."
"Gotcha, Mom," Daria said. "I'm probably going to eat at Jane's."
"That's fine, sweetie. What about you, Quinn?"
"I don't know yet. I might go over to Zoe's after school for some online shopping."
"I heard Sheriff Carter has been under the weather lately. Tell him I hope he feels better soon."
"I will, Mom."
"Oh, and about the shopping, please try to keep things under budget. Bye!"
"I will," Quinn said. "As if I have a choice with the smartcredit cards that the Bank of Eureka issued."
"If it makes you feel any better, think about the number of grounded days you've avoided because of the smartcredit," Daria said.
"I hate it when you do that."
"It's a gift."
Walking down the hallway of Tesla High School with Daria, Jane said, "This place is so much better than my old high school, but sometimes, I wish we could get away from it all for a day."
"This place is so much of a better place than my old school, but sometimes, so do I. But I don't want to know what kind of high-tech anti-truancy devices they use around here."
Jane stopped at a bulletin board and took a flyer from the wall. With a grin, she said, "Don't need to worry about it if we're on a field trip to Global Dynamics."
Daria said, "What's that?"
"Dr. Zhukarov is looking for two test operators for a new off-road walker. It could be fun, we don't need a driver's license, and we get out of class."
"I would think that they'd advertise in a nursing home for subjects to test walkers."
"Not that kind, silly," Jane said, holding the page for Daria to see. "This kind."
"It looks like something out of Star Wars."
"We can use them to explore the woods around Eureka. Come on, it'll be fun."
"I'm still getting used to this 'having fun' stuff."
"Come on. Do you really want to sit through class today? We'll get pizza afterwards."
"Okay, you've got a deal, but if I see anything that looks like an ewok, I'm leaving."
Jane laughed and said, "If you see any, I'll be right in front of you."
"You mean behind me."
"No, I run faster, so I'll be in front of you."
The vehicles stood about eight feet tall, with an oblong, two-seat cockpit slung between a pair of mechanical legs. The curved, oval canopy over the pilot's seat provided good all-around visibility and a sturdy folding ladder was lowered from the left side to allow entrance.
Dr. Zhukarov wore a fedora on his bald head while he escorted the teens around the two vehicles. "It is completely drive-by-wire. Simply point the joystick in the direction you want to go and the walker will follow. The entire idea behind the concept was to make operation as simple and intuitive as possible. We also included the collision avoidance radar. The drive system will override pilot controls to avoid striking another object."
"So that's why you're using high school students," Daria said. "To make sure any idiot can drive it."
"Hey, that would make it safe for even Daria," Jane said.
"Bite me, Lane," Daria replied.
"Well, yes," he said. "It has been well established that teenage drivers have the highest risk of accidents due to their inexperience and overestimation of their skill."
Daria said, "But aren't teenage boys even better known for such traits?"
"There's a limit to how much risk I'm willing to take," Dr. Zhukarov said.
"These people aren't considered geniuses for nothing," Jane said.
Dr. Zhukarov said, "Each walker has a data recorder to measure your location, speed, direction and any corrective actions the system needs to make. So, go out and spend the next four hours wandering around the forest and see what you can do. See what my walkers can do."
"What if we run into any trouble?" Daria said.
"You can use the radio inside to call for assistance if any is needed."
"Okay," Jane said as she climbed up the ladder to her walker. "Let's go, Morgendorffer."
"All right," Daria said. "We'll be back in four hours."
"Have fun, girls."
Seated in the air-conditioned cabin with music playing from an installed stereo system, Daria thought that Zhukarov was right; it was an easy vehicle to operate. Just point and go like a video game.
Coming up on a clearing in the forest, Jane said, "Hey, let's see if I can make this thing dance."
"Come on, Lane. Without arms and a white leisure suit, how do you expect it to dance?"
Jogging the control back and forth to make the walker do a crude side-stomping motion, Jane sang along with her music, "I can't get no, satisfaction."
"Mick Jagger, you're not," Daria said.
"I sound better than my brother."
Jane was suddenly jarred as the walker moved aside and a voice said, "Collision avoided."
Hearing, Daria said, "Well, twinkle-toes, what did you almost hit?"
"I don't know, there's whoa."
Daria moved her walker over next to Jane's and she looked down into the tall grass. What looked like a piece of black-painted aircraft wing was buried into the ground while a gash tore through the grass and away to the forest edge. There, under the shadow of the trees, was the rest of the aircraft, twisted and wrecked.
"Oh, crap," Daria said. "We need to see if anyone is injured."
Jane followed Daria and, from the walkers, quickly examined the wreckage. The canopy had been jettisoned and the cockpit was empty. Jane said, "Looks like he got out."
"Whoever he is. Jane, look at this thing."
"It's a cool shade of black and has some neat lines."
"It's a stealth aircraft of some kind. One that I've never seen and I've been studying them for my latest Melody Powers story."
"We're in Eureka; it's probably some new prototype."
"We need to call this in."
Jane said, "I guess you're right. Call away."
Daria changed the radio channel. "Dr. Zhukarov, do you read me?"
"I read you, Daria," he said. "Do you have a problem?"
"Um, we found a crashed airplane. No sign of the pilot, it looks like he got out all right."
"Daria, there's wrecked experimental vehicles all over the woods of Eureka. Don't worry about it."
"What if the pilot is still out here?"
"Then GD Security would be out there looking for him. They probably wrote the wreck off as a lost cause and abandoned it in place. They do that when it's a particularly embarrassing failure. Go on and have fun, kids."
After Zhukarov closed the communication, Daria said to Jane, "Look at the ground; this is fresh. I'm going to try calling Sheriff Carter."
"I heard he's been sick lately," Jane said.
"If he doesn't feel up to things, he'll send Deputy Lupo." Daria dialed the number on her cell phone and waited. After reaching the voice mail, she said, "That's odd. I'll try Lupo."
After reaching voice mail again, Daria looked concerned and said, "That's very strange."
Jane said, "They're probably dealing with the latest Eureka freak show."
"I'm going to try one more thing."
This time, a man answered, "Global Dynamics Security, how may I help you?"
"Hi, this is Daria Morgendorffer. I'm in the western forest with Jane Lane and we found a crashed airplane."
"We have no record of an airplane crash."
"It looks like it might be a stealth aircraft."
"We can detect all known stealth configurations and we've had no airspace intrusions."
"Okay, I might be wrong, but can you send someone out to check, just to be sure?"
"Deployment of a security team requires an authorization from Dr. Stark or Dr. Blake."
"Can you please try to get the authorization?"
"Both are currently unavailable. We will record your request and we will get back to you."
Daria closed the phone and said to Jane, "Looks like we're on our own."
There was a slight, odd crackle on the radio and a woman's voice said, "Ms. Morgendorffer. A team will arrive at your location shortly. Please wait. Thank you."
"Or not," Jane said, while Daria gave the radio console a nervous glance.
A few minutes later, an aircraft that looked much like the wreck appeared and, after hovering a moment, dropped down to make a vertical landing.
"I've seen nothing in my research about a VTOL stealth aircraft," Daria said.
Jane said, "It looks cool."
After the canopy opened, two women removed their flight helmets and climbed out of the aircraft. Wearing GD Security uniforms, they walked over to Daria and Jane. The first, a woman with blond hair pulled into a pony tail, said, "Ms. Morgendorffer?"
"Yes," Daria said.
"I'm Dawn Calvin," the new arrival said, then gestured with her open hand toward the second woman with close-cropped, brown hair. "And this is my partner, Lana Godby. Please, call us Dawn and Lana."
Jane said, "You got here awfully fast."
"We were already searching for the missing aircraft when your call came in," Dawn said.
Daria said, "If you were in the air searching, why didn't the dispatcher know?"
Dawn said, "This is a highly classified Section Five project. They did not have clearance."
"The most restricted part of Global Dynamics," Daria said.
"But you're talking to us," Jane said.
Lana said, "Your involvement has become unavoidable."
"Great. In that case, I guess it's a good thing we weren't able to contact anyone else."
"That will make our job a lot easier, yes."
"What do you want us to do?" Daria said.
Dawn said, "Dr. Zhukarov's experimental walkers will be very useful."
"How?" Daria asked.
"They give us a mobility advantage. You and Jane drive while Lana and I search for our target."
Jane said, "Target?"
"We're very interested in the missing pilot," Lana said.
"That plane was stolen," Daria said.
"Yes," Dawn said. "So you can see why we want the pilot."
"Can we assume that this pilot is probably armed?" Daria asked.
"There is no direct danger from the pilot," Dawn said.
"If the plane was stolen, how can you be so sure about no direct danger?"
Clearly reluctant, Dawn said, "The First Law of Robotics."
"You're after a robot?" Jane said.
Dawn and Lana both nodded.
"More Section Five?" Daria asked.
The security officers nodded again.
"So we're not going to be able to say anything about today, are we?" Daria said.
"That's right," Lana said.
Daria rubbed her nose under her glasses and said, "Okay, but one ground rule. No embarrassing changes of clothes. Understood?"
Dawn said, "I think we can agree to that."
Jane said, "How are we going to follow this robot?"
Dawn held up a small device. "We can track its positronic brain."
Daria said, "Positronic?"
"Let me guess. Section Five stuff, right?" Jane said.
"Where else?" Lana replied.
Daria said, "I have a couple of questions."
"Go on," Dawn said.
"Is this robot programmed with all of the classic Laws of Robotics?"
"Then why didn't someone simply order it back when it stole the aircraft?"
"It is firmly convinced that returning without completing its task will result in human harm. The First Law is overriding the Second."
Jane said, "What is its task?"
"To reach something in Section Five."
Daria said, "I thought it was from Section Five."
Dawn said, "Yes, but it waselsewhere at the time."
"You can't tell us where," Jane said.
Lana said, "No, we can't."
"I've got a feeling I need to get used to that."
Lana nodded. "It would be a good idea. Helps me all the time."
Daria said, "What can you tell us about the robot? For instance, does it look like a robot?"
Dawn said, "Artie is clearly a robot."
"Artie?" Jane said. "You named a robot Artie?"
"Unit RT-10," Dawn said, "is a hazardous situations entry and operations model that is hardened against heat, cold, chemicals, magnetism, radiation, you name it. It can operate equally well on the surface of a volcano or a glacier, as well as take radiation readings from the edge of a nuclear crater."
"I hope you have something really big to knock it out," Jane said.
Dawn said, "No."
Jane raised her eyebrows. "No?"
"We're going to have to talk to it."
"Talk to it?" Daria said.
"Yes, and we have to be successful before it reaches Global Dynamics. His appearance would raise a lot of questions that we, and a lot of other people, don't want to answer."
Daria said, "In other words, somebody really screwed up and you're stuck cleaning up the mess."
Dawn slightly smiled. "That's it in a nutshell. So, we had better get going. Daria, do you mind if I ride with you and Lana with Jane?"
"I guess not," Daria said. "Jane?"
She shrugged. "Rich people pay good money for adventures like this and we get them for free. Let's go."
Reading the aged sign ahead, Daria said, "That's a restricted area."
Seated behind her, Dawn said, "You're with us; it's okay. But to be safe, bear to the left."
"Won't that take us off our track?" Jane said.
"Yes, but it will avoid something that it would be best if you didn't see."
Over the radio, Jane said, "Gotcha."
Following the new path, Daria said, "Since my family moved to Eureka, I've been turned into a living light bulb, I've had to save half the town from the malfunction of a nuclear rocket bunker and now I'm tracking down a lost robot. When does Global Dynamics start giving me hazardous duty pay?"
"Trust me," Dawn said. "You haven't seen anything close to what GD considers hazardous duty."
"Yeah, we just take our lives in our hands when we wake up every morning," Daria said.
"That's not hazardous duty around Eureka; that's just life."
"Cheer up, Daria," Jane said. "You could've ended up in Lawndale. I'll take Eureka any day."
"I still find it weird that I almost moved to the town you moved from," Daria said.
Dawn said, "That's life. Get used to it."
Daria groaned. "I was afraid of that."
"Artie is just ahead," Dawn said. "Follow the trail."
Jane said, "Not that I object to adventure or anything, but this thing won't hurt us, right?"
Dawn said, "A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. The First Law is clear."
"And unlike humans, robots actually follow the law," Lana said. "Sometimes, frustratingly to the letter."
"Experience?" Daria said.
"Why do you think we were sent?" Dawn said.
Jane asked, "Why don't you shut him off? Don't you have a remote or something?"
"Yes," Dawn said. "But that is an option of last resort only. Shutting down a positronic brain causes damage on par with a serious traumatic brain injury in humans."
Looking ahead, Lana said, "There he is."
RT-10 smoothly walked through the forest underbrush and used its arms to cleanly move vegetation out of the way. Its polished, unbroken surface gleamed in the sunlight.
"Why is it so shiny?" Jane asked.
"Easy to decontaminate," Dawn said. "It's made of durachrome; completely smooth with no rough surfaces, sealed seams, and no places for even the tiniest amount of contaminating material to stick. Dammit, Artie got closer to GD than I had wanted. Pull around and we'll get out to talk to it."
"Okay," Daria said, maneuvering the walker around the robot and then stopping about twenty yards ahead. A glance at the navigation display showed the Global Dynamics outer security perimeter was just over the next hill.
Dawn and Lana climbed down and stood in front of the robot. Dawn said, "Unit RT-10, pause for a minute."
The robot stopped and its mechanical voice said, "Delaying my mission for sixty seconds will not have an adverse effect."
"Thank you," Dawn said.
Daria took the chance to examine the robot. It reminded her of the antagonist of a certain android time-travel movie, only with fewer features and no attempt to make it really look human. The head was featureless except for a full-circle dark band that she presumed was some kind of sensor array.
Dawn said, "Artie, we understand that your mission is to prevent certain harm of a human being."
"That is correct," Artie replied. "Dr. Kim Anderson will die if"
Dawn quickly said, "Not everyone here has Section Five security clearance."
"The First Law requires you to act to prevent human harm."
"That is correct."
"Even if that action causes harm to more humans?"
"After I prevent harm to Dr. Kim Anderson, I will act to prevent harm to others."
"What if you are not successful in preventing harm to others?"
Daria and Jane had climbed down and were watching. Daria said, "Why is Artie so certain that Dr. Anderson will die if he doesn't act?"
Dawn winced at the question and while keeping her face turned away said, "I'm sorry, Daria, but you don't have the clearance and please, don't ask any more questions. That goes for you too, Jane."
Daria said, "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies?"
"That's a good way of putting it," Lana said.
"Artie?" Dawn said. "Answer my last question."
"I must do everything I can to prevent harm to humans."
"What if your actions cause harm to humans?" Dawn said.
"The First Law does not allow me to harm humans," Artie said.
"It does not allow you to intentionally harm humans, or intentionally allow them to come to harm."
"I am telling you that if you are successful, you will prevent Dr. Anderson from being harmed, but that many more humans will be harmed because of your actions." Dawn held up a small object in front of Artie's sensor array and said, "Scan the data on this unit and you will see what I mean."
Artie stood still for a moment and then said, "You are correct."
Lana let out her breath. "Good, then you'll follow us back."
"I cannot," Artie said. "And I have paused for more than sixty seconds." The robot started walking toward Global Dynamics. "The harm that will come to Dr. Kim Anderson in the immediate future has developed a stronger First Law potential than the more distant harm to other humans you showed me. Therefore, I must follow the stronger potential."
As Artie walked away, Daria said, "Remembering the stories, there is one more thing you can try."
"Yes," Dawn said. "But there are consequences to that option."
"The only other thing you can do is turn him off and you said that you didn't want to do that."
"I know, and I still don't want to do that kind of harm to him." She shook her head. "I'll do it."
Dawn and Lana jogged side by side while Daria and Jane followed. Lana said, "Are you sure that we don't have another option?"
"I could point a gun at your head and say if Artie advances any further, I'll shoot you. It'll be a higher First Law potential," Dawn said.
"I'm not really excited about that idea. How about if I point a gun at you?"
"Either way, it will work until he finds a way to disarm whichever one of us has the gun. It's this, or shutting him down."
In a now voice, Dawn said, "The consequences of Artie saving Dr. Anderson or, worse yet, reaching the Artifact means that we have to take the risk."
"Yeah, reality unraveling would be bad," Lana said. "You and your damn logic."
Dawn ran ahead of Artie and then stood firmly in front of him, holding up her identification badge. "Unit RT-10, Core programming override code Echo Lima Lima India Sierra Oscar November."
Artie stopped and said, "Unit RT-10 ready to receive new core programming."
Dawn took a deep breath and muttered to herself, "Boy am I going to have some explaining to do."
"Please repeat the command," Artie said. "I did not understand."
Clearly, Dawn said, "Zeroth Law. A robot may not harm humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm. Core programming closure code Hotel Alpha Romeo Lima Alpha November."
Artie said, "New programming accepted and active."
Dawn said, "Good. Artie, you must return with us."
Artie said, "Yes, ma'am."
Letting out her breath, Dawn said, "Please follow us."
Lana said, "It's over."
"That's it?" Jane said.
"We still have to sanitize the crash site," Lana said, "but otherwise, yeah."
Jane asked, "If it was this easy, why didn't you do it before?"
Dawn said, "Because we just created a robot that could develop the moral imperative to take care of the entire human race."
Jane's eyes widened. "Oh."
Daria said, "So what will you do with Artie?"
"For now, we have to keep it focused on its duties," Dawn said. "And minimize the amount of news that it learns until we can think of a way to reason with it further."
With Artie's help, the wreckage was vaporized and replaced with fragments of an experimental surveillance aircraft. Dawn brushed some dirt from her hands and keyed her personal radio. "Global Dynamics Security, come in."
A voice replied, "Global Dynamics Security."
"Authorization Janus. Crash site at grid Delta Echo Three Five confirmed to be missing Project Parsons vehicle."
"Janus confirmed. Crash information recorded and investigation closed. Thank you."
"You're welcome," Dawn said.
Jane said, "That sounded like something we're not going to repeat to anybody."
Daria said, "Agreed. Not a word."
Lana nodded. "Smart girls."
Dawn said, "Thank you for your assistance. If you hadn't found the crash site, we wouldn't have located Artie in time."
Daria said, "Um, you're welcome. Are we going to need to be debriefed or anything?"
"No," Dawn said. "The case is closed."
"That was awfully easy."
"Trust me, behind the scenes, it's not," Dawn said. "Now, why don't you two get on your way? I'm sure Dr. Zhukarov would like his walkers back."
"He told us that there were data recorders on board," Daria said. "They would show our exact path."
Closing a hatch on a walker, Lana said, "Don't worry about that."
Jane said, "You know, heading back sounds like a great idea. Come on, Daria," as she climbed up into her vehicle.
Walking to hers, Daria said, "What about your sense of adventure?"
"I've had my fill for the day."
Daria climbed into the cab of her walker and after waves from Dawn and Lana, she and Jane turned and headed back to Dr. Zhukarov's lab.
Daria and Jane were lounging on the sofa and letting the day's events sink in when Quinn arrived home. Agitated, Quinn said, "You won't believe what happened to me today!"
"Probably not," Daria said. "But I'm sure you're about to tell us."
"Some old programming of SARAH took over Zoe's house and held her dad, Dr. Stark, Dr. Blake, Dr. Fargo and Ms. Barlowe hostage. It even pointed a weird laser thingy at me and Zoe when we got there!"
"Sounds like you had an exciting day."
Quinn shook her head as she went upstairs. "You're not kidding. What did you do, today?"
Daria looked at Jane and said, "We went for a walk in the woods."
"Be glad it was something tame."
Jane looked at Daria and both laughed.
With Artie loaded onto their aircraft, Dawn said, "Damn, we were that young, once."
With a laugh, Lana said, "Yeah, we were, but we got over it."
Dawn checked a reading inside their aircraft and said, "Good, we haven't disrupted any of the other temporal loops appearing around this time. Mission accomplished."
"Too bad we can't change a few things'"
Hands on hips, Dawn said, "You know what happened the last time anyone tried that; we both ended up going through high school in Lawndale."
"Yeah, I know, but still."
Dawn slid a switch on her belt and the hologram around her and Lana faded to reveal their true forms. "Let's get out of here, Lane."
"Sounds good, Morgendorffer."
Thanks to Louise Lobinske and Kristen Bealer for beta reading.