Author's Note: In case this looks familiar, I first published this story onto DeviantArt nearly a year ago and decided to renew it here as a way of saying "Hey there!" I haven't been on dA in a long time, but if you'd like to visit and see my other work, feel free: .com/
"Captain, Probe 1 has returned positive."
Positive. The very word struck a note in the out-of-tune harp that was Captain Brandon McCrea's brain. That same note reverberated throughout the Axiom Bridge: positive, positive, positive…
"Positive?" asked McCrea hesitantly. His heart began to thud as strongly as a bass drum for the first time in years. Positive, positive, positive, positive.
The Axiom Autopilot did not respond as it 'awakened' the EVE probe. The probe, in turn, rose and gave an automatic salute to the captain.
"But," he said. "No probe's…ever come back…positive…before."
His eyes caught the presence of the flashing button once more: a green one that resembled the emblem on the EVE probe's chest plate, contained in a glass case beside a blue one bearing a symbol he did not recognize. A smaller button on the console opened the case. With the case open, he curiously set his pudgy finger down on the green one. After all, he had kept Auto waiting for a while.
Suddenly the room was locked up tight and the windows barred shut, now lined with tiny green bulbs of light. A catchy jingle played "Buy N' Large!" and at once all focus shifted to the holo-screen from which the sound came.
"Greetings!" a friendly-looking man behind a podium chirped. Everyone recognized him as the CEO of Buy N' Large, Shelby Forthright, "the man that started it all." All listened. "And congratulations, captain! If you're seeing this, that means that your Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, or"—he raised two fingers on each hand to quote—"'EVE' probe"—The probe in question did not dare make any suggestion of her dislike for such reference to her—"has returned from Earth with a confirmed specimen of ongoing photosynthesis! That's right! It means it's time to go back home!"
"Home?" The captain nearly jumped back in his hoverchair. Even on days when he had thought there was absolutely NOTHING to do, this would never have crossed even the back of his mind. "We're going…back?" Positive, positive, positive, positive.
No one answered his question as Forthright continued: "Now that Earth has been restored to a life-sustaining status, by golly, we can begin 'Operation Recolonize'!"
The end of the console that lined half of the bridge lit up, and a rectangular-shaped object emerged from the side. Where did that come from? No matter. McCrea carefully lifted the object and blew away years of dust. On the front of it were the words "Operation Recolonize", below it the same green emblem that flashed enticingly just moments before. A book?
"Simply follow this manual's instructions to place the plant in your ship's holo-detector, and the Axiom"—Humans, they never have quite mastered technology's full potential—"will immediately navigate your return to Earth! It's that easy!" Though they are excellent in manipulating other humans.
"Huh." The Autopilot could see the correctness in this assumption in his captain's face, which was mesmerized by that of Shelby Forthright. Pity.
"Now, due to the effects of micro-gravity, you and your passengers may have suffered some…slight bone loss. But I'm sure a few laps around your ship's jogging track will get you back in shape in no time!"
The captain self-consciously examined his legs, which hadn't actually moved for a long time. "We have a jogging track?" he asked Auto. What wasa jogging track?
"If you have any further questions just consult your operation manual. See you back home real soon!" The BNL CEO saluted to the camera and it closed with the same jingle: "B-N-L!" Then, all was silent.
"Operate…Manuel…" McCrea read to himself. These things had names? In that case: "Manuel, relay instructions." Nothing happened. Now what?
The Autopilot understood, rather than pitied, his captain's incompetence. Even he had not seen a real book since the majority of them had been obliterated centuries before. Instinctively he extended a spoke and opened the front cover with a handle-shaped tool.
"Wow," the captain breathed, astounded. "Would you look at that?" He lifted up a delicate page. It was even thinner than the smallest microchip.
Meanwhile, the EVE probe remained to the side, unmoving. She had already been briefed on this procedure years ago as part of her directive, yet she remembered every single step like it had been programmed into her just yesterday. All those years spent toiling in the dry, fruitless fields of Earth would soon pay off. The storm was coming, and it was soon to bring rains that would quench the thirst that had ached for all this time.
And to think, she did not require any assistance from her sister units in the process...
"Well, let's open her up."
The blue ovals that glowed on her monitor almost flashed into crescents. Almost. She did have a reputation to maintain. Now was not the time to get too excited. …what an extraordinary file!
Captain McCrea, having finally understood the process, read aloud: "Step One, Confirm Acquisition."
"Confirm acquisition." A feminine, computerized voice activated a new flurry of motion. A scanner of some sort emerged from the ceiling, whirling about the room blindly like a tornado. When its beam fell upon the EVE probe, it flashed green and apprehended it with spider-like mechanical fingers. EVE didn't recall this process. Well, protocol was protocol.
Another device plunged downward and landed in front of McCrea's face. "Voice activation required," it buzzed.
Well this was awkward. "Uh," he said, backing his head an inch.
The computer repeated and accepted his response, ascending as quickly as it had come down. Another, similar device tapped a colorful code on EVE's chestplate, right over the heart battery, signaling for the compartment to open. The moment had finally arrived. The clouds were darkening and the rain was about to fall. McCrea braced himself for the storm, shrinking back in his seat as if this so-called "plant" would explode at any moment.
The EVE probe's chest compartment opened with a soft hush. No one moved. Where were the signs of human jubilation that EVE was supposed to see from the captain? Looking down, she soon saw why.
Nothing occupied the space but air.
"Where's the thingy?" asked McCrea.
"Plant," Auto corrected him.
"Plant, right. Well, where is it?" The captain tried not to panic. "Maybe we missed a step." He turned around and consulted the manual with his Autopilot.
EVE, no matter how hard she tried not to, panicked. Breaking free from the spider's grip, she began a desperate search for the plant specimen. Plants don't just get up and walk away, of this she was sure. No one could have possibly opened her compartment and taken it without proper authorization and consent. No one except—
"Why don't you scan her to be sure?"
EVE immediately returned to position at the captain's beck and call. The Autopilot blinked its blood-red "eye" and scanned her thoroughly. To be scanned in such a manner was normal, yet EVE had never felt more violated.
Concluding the scan, the wheel turned to face its steerer. "Contains no specimen. Probe's memory is faulty."
If that probe had been programmed with a more destructive directive, the Axiom would have been nothing more than a scrap of metal drifting aimlessly through space in a matter of seconds.
"So then, we're NOT going to Earth," said McCrea, more irritated than disappointed. Positive? Positive? Positive?
Negative, negative, negative."So, uh, I guess things go back to normal, huh?"
Neg-ative, neg-ative.The captain briefly looked down into the book. It still felt heavy and strange to the touch; even after reading its contents it still felt like it was written in alien tongue. Disturbed yet relieved that he didn't have to deal with this mess any longer, he closed the book with a thump. "Well, false alarm!"
"False alarm." The same feminine voice that had called upon the spider and its companions to come forth commanded for their return. The chaotic feeling of the scene dwindled quickly. The windows reflected artificial sunlight again, and not a speck of green was in sight. Neg-a-tive, neg-a-tive.
McCrea's smile fell to the floor in disapproval. "Probe must be defective."
The EVE probe groaned quietly. Wonderful.
"Gopher," he called to the GO-4 unit nearby. "Send her to the Repair Ward." His command was as dry and toneless as that of his Autopilot, the dismissive wave of his hand shunning them away. GO-4 activated a suspension beam and caught EVE in midair.
"And have them run diagnostics on her, make sure she's not malfunctioning or anything, and have her back here in a couple hours or so. That's about how long it takes for the diagnostics stuff to be done, right Auto?"
"An approximation, sir," he answered dutifully while keeping a watchful lens on the GO-4 unit. In what a human would perceive to be a millisecond the Autopilot sent an invisible wave of code to the fellow robot. Everything has been arranged according to plan. After the delivery, prepare to complete the second step to the process, then return to the bridge for further instruction.
As the GO-4 unit turned away from the captain, it replied almost simultaneously: Affirmative.
Placed in a blue, energy-generated harness atop a MOV-R unit led by the midget GO-4, the "defective" EVE probe hastened to plot an escape route. She needed to investigate the disappearance of the specimen as soon as possible, and her sensors indicated the first location to search.
She could make it. Easily. After all, she had nothing to lose.
Nothing, that is, except her directive. Any robot knew that disobedience would lead to disastrous consequences, including the removal of their directive. The process would be quick, easy, and the memory logs would be wiped clean, yet such a thing would be as terrible as the loss of a dear friend to a human. Then again, EVE had no dear friends, and she did not plan on acquiring one any time soon. A directive is a directive. The directive is the top priority. Always.
And so the decision was made to leave. How vulnerable that GO-4 unit looked…
Wheesh.Too late. The Repair Ward.
The Machine that dominated the Diagnostics Wing of the Repair Ward was not one machine, but three. Each pearly-white component, curving inward and outward to resemble the figure of a slender human female, worked separately, tending to simple repairs of one robot at a time, yet it functioned entirely as a whole, wirelessly maintaining the electronic equilibrium that imbued unnatural breaths of life into the wan atmosphere. Once, back in the glory days, this Machine was fully operated by human hands, mainly by a small control panel that inhabited roughly 1.5 square feet of space on the wall in a corner, where it was close to invisible. Most preferred not to use it, since many were still utterly fascinated with the inner workings of machines from WALL units to an Autopilot apparatus, and only used it in case of late-night malfunctions. When the Arms were first in development, human programmers would delight in controlling their every twitch and turn, often lifting fellow humans into the air as if they were stuffed toys in a once popular game. Now, they and the mechanism that later directed them were fully automatic. Programmers became too preoccupied in new, complicated projects that required their immediate attention; they simply hadn't the time for being intimate mechanics as they had been once before, and soon there were no more reasons for such intimacy. Slowly, as time progressed, these humans disappeared with the rest of their kind…
EVE awoke from sleep mode in this Wing, in front of this Machine. To her right, a BRL-A unit screeched as it struggled to open its blue and white-striped nylon canopy. To her left, a D-FIB unit hollered "CLEAR!" and released electric jolts so strong a stuffed model of a human burst into flames. Apart from these minor distractions, EVE found the room's colorless simplicity (as distinguished by the lack of change in color value) to be strangely comforting. Too comforting.
The Machine, the head of the hideous garden of mechanical snakes that slithered throughout the Ward, emitted several sounds and signals only artificially intelligent machines could understand, and EVE complied with them without complaint. It would be over soon enough. At the signal, she covered the right portion of her monitor. The left. Extended her right arm. Activated ion cannon. Allowed one of the Arms to detach it from the magnetic field that enabled function upon EVE's command. With the arm cavity exposed, another Arm inserted a small probing tool, lighting up every circuit in her system. It was at this moment that EVE discovered she was, as the humans say, ticklish.
In a minute or two the procedure was finished, and EVE's monitor was wiped cleaned and buffered. She hadn't been doted upon like this in a long time. The Ward didn't seem like such a threatening place anymore. It felt like…home?
The central Machine emitted smooth, slow waves as the underside of EVE's head was being buffered. A human might decipher it as: Is your system more relaxed?
In similar speech EVE replied: Yes, immensely.
Good. The mother Machine continued to send messages to the EVE probe as her daughters tended to her further. Now, Medusa cooed. I want you to let your internal systems cool down. The coded numbers came soundlessly, slowly, evenly. A soft human heartbeat. Let yourself shut down. Darken those weary eyes that shine so brightly. Slow down. Unwind. Recharge.
Recharge.The word, a human's sigh as it escapes his fully-expanded lungs, integrated itself into every metallic fiber of EVE's core. The thrumming of her heart battery slowed to a dull flutter. Her vision became fuzzy, as if a human had breathed on her monitor. Ever so slowly, the red defect boot was detached from her chestplate and monitor. Yes…fly away now…it is time to fly away…
A distorted figure. No sound, but appears to be D-FIB unit. No light from monitor. Sleep mode? Now being held upright by two of the Arms. Piece of wall…missing? Unit moved to missing part of wall. No resistance. Deposited. Wall closed. No…resistance…must…compute…
The D-FIB unit was deactivated completely, dumped into a hidden garbage chute. Never to be seen nor heard from again. In a few, static moments, EVE realized something was terribly amiss.
System reboot: activated. The newborn heat in her system honed her sensors immediately. What are you doing? The Machine wailed. Don't open those eyes! Stay with me…
The code kept coming, suddenly achieving a nasty viral quality. EVE continued to resist, sensors at their keenest. From the corner of her monitor a snake's fangs grasped her right arm, and in one swift motion she broke free from the allure and snatched the gun from its mouth. What would the captain say about this atrocity, scrapping defective bots with no chance of running again? Surely he would have a say against this! All of the rejects in the waiting room, they had no idea what was coming to them! There was only one thing to do. This command was transmitted to the tip of her ion cannon.
The head of Medusa was blasted off of her neck, and her pets fell limp from the ceiling. Well, that wasn't so difficult. Moreover, no assistance was required.
Lights flickered, the frosted glass door opened midway, and the laser barriers that caged the other defective bots disappeared. For a brief moment the Ward was hushed as they fixed their yellow and blue flashing eyes on EVE. Instantly the moment was lost in triumphant buzzes and beeps of sheer .
EVE bolted out of the Diagnostics Room as the rejects began to crowd around their new savior. She turned to face them. No! Do not follow me! Stay where it is safe!
Then we will stay with you! The defect boots set off an alarm under the entrance of the Ward. The rejects tracked EVE throughout the corridors as she made her way back to the Axiom Bridge. Just a few more turns and…
"HALT!" The parade of escapees was blocked by a troop of service bots, all bearing a symbol resembling a stop sign on their screens. "HALT!" they boomed again in unison.
The reject bots shrunk back in fear of being damaged by the scary security bots, but EVE remained in a defensive position. Slowly, she hovered forward, inch by inch. She stared at the cameras just above the screens of each unit. If she fired, one would be eliminated, the others would restrain her. If she kept going, all would restrain her. If she turned back…
"HALT," the units repeated, not as loudly this time. The lights on her monitor diminished slightly, the eyes shaping into what a human may call a frown. And then she uttered a word she never believed would escape from her vocal mechanism.
The security units prepared to apprehend her immediately. EVE prepared to fly, away from the crowd and back to find another route to the Bridge. However, both sides were caught unprepared for a beam that engulfed EVE in red suspension.
GO-4 hovered beside EVE and said with an audible hiss: "Yes."
"She did WHAT?" Captain McCrea's voice echoed as if the Bridge were an endless canyon, even though he was sitting directly below it. "This is…this is insane! MUTINY, even! How…?" A dull thump sounded, probably coming from a pounded fist. "That's it. I've had enough of this. Auto, have Gopher send her to me right now!"
"Aye-aye, sir," replied the Autopilot, and the ship's wheel disappeared from his view.
GO-4 had EVE trapped in its suspension beam since they were given police escort to the Bridge. Fortunately, the imperative task at hand had already been completed. The unit caught sight of debris from an explosion in the distant abyss of space. Perfect plot: perfectly executed.
Another authoritative figure also took note of this. The GO-4 unit had done a satisfactory job. Excellent. Now, to take care of the fugitive. The ship's wheel emerged from the floor. "Your presence is requested in the Captain's quarters."
The eye-lights on EVE's monitor formed into the shape of a scowl as Auto descended once more. streamed fully in every spoken word. She knew she had been right to place him under suspicion in the first place.
GO-4 guided EVE into the elevator down. Not a word was spoken nor a code transmitted when the robotic delinquent was placed in front of the captain. GO-4 did not ease the strength of the suspension laser. Auto kept watch in case of attempts to escape. McCrea crossed his swollen arms. The EVE probe remained silent.
The captain fixed his eyes on her and spoke calmly. "Eve, Auto says that you nearly destroyed the Repair Ward. Is this true?"
EVE continued to stare at the human blankly. She could not give a response he would be able to understand. At least, not one that openly insulted and accused the Autopilot of bearing false witness.
"Well, according to this camera footage here," said McCrea, turning to face his computer. "You did." At the push of a button a black and white screen appeared, recollecting EVE's destroying the root of all evil in the Ward. Again, EVE said nothing.
"I'm disappointed in you, Eve." The human spoke to her as if he were admonishing a child. "I hope you realize that there WILL be consequences for this. For one thing, Auto'll make sure you are completely repaired under total supervision; and I promise you, you won't be going back to Earth for a long, longtime."
EVE had been expecting this sort of punishment, but did not react beyond a blink. The way he spoke to her, it was so…peculiar. For a moment it was as if she herself were…acceptedfor her deficiencies. Forgiven.
"But," he added. "I do wanna see whatever you saw back on Earth, just so I know you weren't making that up either."
The peculiar moment died then. But then EVE's eyes brightened. If the captain could see all that she had seen on Earth, even the security camera that recorded while she was temporarily offline, she could still prove her innocence AND justify her reasons for destroying the Ward! She was so close to laughing; the moment was absolutely perfect!
Frantic waves of robotic code were in transmission.
No! Must keep Directive A113 under SECRECY! Must prevent footage from revelation!
Run , GO-4. All orders have been given. No need for your system to overheat.
Are you certain?
Affirmative. Allow procedure without interference.
A list of assorted numbers scrolled in a marquee across EVE's screen, but she could not decipher them. This code was meant for communication between two robots and two robots only. This was no surprise.
Nevertheless, EVE allowed Captain McCrea to place a memory retrieving device upon her monitor. Upon doing so, GO-4 ruefully deactivated the suspension beam. The footage appeared as a hologram pieced together by the accompanying transmission device on the floor, just as EVE remembered it: the dusty landscape, the mountains of debris that consumed the landscape, the metal carcasses of ancient robots that had shut down in their working towards their directives. Then there was the path of her flight after the scout ship's departure. Oh, the beauty of freedom!
Brandon McCrea saw no beauty. The only thing that flashed before his eyes was the desolate wasteland he almost called home. But he had lost hope in the concept hours ago. It seemed like a lifetime. Perhaps, if EVE hadacquired the plant, his outlook on this would be much different. He remained silent, eyes still fixed on EVE through the holo-screen.
It had taken EVE approximately two and a half days to find the plant. The first day proved to be unsuccessful, with the search spanning a radius of about 10.6 miles from the landing site. On the second day, as the footage showed, she had lost her temper at times in frustration, and the captain let out a small gasp when he saw large structures that closely resembled his ship collapse like a line of dominoes and explode, all because of EVE's .
The following day, EVE remembered, she was lucky enough to find a plant specimen behind a large metal box after she had blasted a hole through it. It was in front of this metal box that she shut down and was received by the scout ship later that day. The same metal box appeared in the footage, growing larger as EVE's camera approached it. Suddenly the image flashed after her weapon fired; EVE had entered regeneration mode. And then…the scout ship? But it was far too early for the scout ship to be…
"What the…" Captain McCrea frowned. "But how…?"
"Sir," the Autopilot cut in. "Video is malfunctioning. This may be caused by a flaw in the system, or the action may have been deliberate."
"Huh? But that doesn't make any sense!" said McCrea. "These reports from the Repair Ward, they say her system is perfectly normal! Unless…" His face suddenly turned cold. "…unless YOU"—he pointed at the already shocked EVE probe—"you were trying to trick us into thinking you had the plant so you could start the riot in the Ward!"
"The speculation appears to be correct, captain," said Auto, removing the memory retrieval equipment. "Probe has defied its directive."
"LIAR!" EVE shrieked as she pointed her weapon at the bloody eye of the wheel. He was behind all this. He had been behind it all along. He must have requested the Machine in the Ward to remove pieces of her camera footage from memory so the captain could not see it. But he could not make such a request without the captain's permission, could he? Unless…
As she suspected! A mutinous maneuver! But why interfere with her directive in particular? Whatever the reason, he would soon know the meaning of such interference for himself.
When EVE had clicked her weapon, GO-4 immediately began reactivation of the suspension beam. She shot a clean hole through the unit before the beam could reach her, and it toppled back dead. McCrea screamed and steered his hover-chair into a corner on the far end of the room.
The Autopilot did not react beyond a simple command: "ENOUGH."
The low altitude between the floor and the ceiling was a clear impediment in escape by means of flight. All exits were locked shut. EVE fired shot after shot at the wheel built in Hell, but only kept hitting glass that shattered and fell like hail onto the Lido Deck, for it took away precious seconds to prepare for the next shot. No one was there to witness the hail storm at 1:13 in the morning (it had been that long since the visit to the Ward?), and no one heard the desperate cries of the terrified human and the innocent probe.
"KILL HER, AUTO!" McCrea screamed. "KILL HER!"
EVE continued to dodge the wrath of the Autopilot, who had now extended a taser from one of his spokes. "Surrender," he demanded in a low yet penetrating voice. "Surrender immediately."
"Directive!" cried EVE desperately, firing yet another ball of atomic fire. One word alone would explain her purpose for revolt. "DIRECTIVE!" More shots. No hits.
And then, the unthinkable: EVE no longer had control of her right arm. The Autopilot had knocked it out of range with an extended spoke and she watched as it slid under the computer console. Auto quickly recognized the button of opportunity and pushed it, cornering the "defective" probe into the wall beside the garbage chute. EVE tried to shove the wheel forward, but it persisted and was too strong.
"Directive," Auto growled.
With the taser resting on EVE's chestplate, surging with energy that was yet to be released, the Autopilot faced his captain. "Sir, shall I dispose of this defective unit?"
"YES, PLEASE!" A tear bled from Brandon McCrea's right eye. "Get rid of it however you want! I don't care! I can't have that thing jeopardizing my life and the life of everyone else on this ship!"
He stopped for three agonizing minutes, his breaths short and hoarse from screaming. If there was a god of technology, EVE was praying to it.
"Auto," McCrea gasped. "I trust you completely. I want you to shut her and all the other EVEs down forever. I want you to make sure this never happens again. I want you…to have total control…of everything."
EVE's eye-lights widened in sheer disbelief. This was completely unlike the captain. She could no longer recognize him as the man she was programmed to believe him to be. He was nothing more than a representation of human cowardice.
"Aye-aye, Captain." Although it would have been visible to no human, the now beloved Autopilot's eye blinked in such a fashion that EVE felt her inner circuits short out. The game is over, lying imbecile. Had the machine been human, his face would have borne a grim smile. I have won.
The EVE probe did not emit a cry of any sort when the Autopilot thrust the active taser into her chestplate.
How could I have let him trick the Captain into giving him control?
WARNING: System Overheating.
I know I could have stopped it!
System Cool-Down Activated…
I knew it from the beginning!
ERROR: Program "System_Cool_" has been unexpectedly terminated. Automatic Shut-Down In Progress.
If only I'd noticed this before,
Now disabling Ion Cannon…ERROR: Could not connect to device.
If only I escaped from the Repair Ward in time,
Now disabling "BnL_Anti_Virus _Deluxe_Bot_"…
If only I had the chance to explain,
Now disabling "BnL_Axiom_EVE_Directive_Standards_"…
The cracked eggshell lost gravitation and plunged down the garbage chute into blackness.