Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1950813-I-Watch
by lutz
Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Sci-fi · #1950813
Second part of current material in Return of the Beijing
I Watch: following
1st draft [continued from Beijing](1818788)

    Socorro had not seen John for over a year. She liked to visit in the fall around the holidays if possible. John had retired for the second time from UIA nearly five years before. The first time was from the Corps ten years prior to that. He went back to Jackson the capital of Mississippi. Much of his family was there. There he spent his time reading and writing when he was not volunteering for the church or veterans organizations.
    Trujillo approached the comfortable condominium wondering what she would say. She rang the bell in anticipation. Fortunately she had sent a few messages before she showed up. John's wife answered the door. Her name was Delores Lincoln also from Jackson. She too was just like family. "Where have you been child. You're late? I can imagine what you've been through." They embraced.
    "I need to talk," said Socorro quietly as she looked deeply into Delores eyes. 
    "Do you want to talk to me or John or both?"
    "Doesn't matter."
    "John! He ought to be here in a minute. I thought you'd be up there in the middle of it." Delores moved Socorro to the kitchen as she spoke.
    "Nah. Janet's on top of it and she'll be fine. I'm the one who's freaking out. I hadn't got used to one galactic empire when another one shows up."
    Wine, cheese and bing cherries were pulled out of the refrigerator. Tableware was removed from the dishwasher after hand washing.
    "Be brave. Don't panic. No news is good news. These big boys probably aren't worried about the small fries. The question is what are they up to and you're the best at finding out."
    "I don't feel like the best of anything."
    Food and beverage had been served when John came looked at the table, put his hand on Socorro's arm and said, "Don't get up. Eat and drink." He took a beer from the cooler.
    "Did you hear what we were talking about?" Delores asked John.
    "Some of it." he answered.
    "How's it going Chief?" asked Socorro with a faint smile.
    "OK. How about you?"
    "I've been better."
    "Cheer up kid. What can I do for you?"
    "I'm overwhelmed."
    "You should be. I am too."
    "What am I going to do?"
    "I don't know."
    "Aagg! That is not helping."
    "Well Delores got the first part right. Go with that for starters. You have another part right keep asking for help. You can't go wrong there. Remember my dear that I'm retired and out of shape for intergalactic problems. That's why we have you. I knew that five years ago when my recommendation for you went through based on our success of a decade ago. You can and will do this even if it is ugly. Be prepared for massive failure along the way. You can always call on me as time goes on and Dee too." John was in full support mode.
    "Thanks John. I love you but I need to stay over tonight and pick at this till I get some sort of clue. Should we put on coffee yet?"
    "No. I'm too old for all nighters. I'll stick with you as long as I can and after I pass out for a while I'll get you up bright and early."
    The next morning after having talked till midnight around the news channel the group had a conference type breakfast of european style french toast with apricot preserves and swiss cheese.
    "Did you get to sleep on it OK?" asked John while tuning Duke Ellington in on the hypernet.
    "Yea. OK," answered Socorro wiping her eyes with a napkin.
    "What did you decide?"
    "I guess I'll start with Amtex even though they look to be siding with the outworlders."
    "That'll change. Helen goes where the money goes. Sure way to follow up on humans."
    "Then I'll check in with the church. They too are active at Onset."
    "Father Dan will steer you right."
    "Don't forget to keep checking with us all you need. Patience. Be calm and cool." Delores practically gave hypnotic suggestion. "Remember, patience not only makes long times short times but also makes short times long times. Humility is good."
    Socorro hugged Delores and kissed her with teary eyes and did likewise with John who patted her on the backside.
    "Get'em tiger." he said. They showed her the door. She left promptly thereafter.

    Trujillo was working and paying for the time. She was actually on leave which was use or lose anyway. Her good youthful health left her with more time off than she knew what to do with and her personal life was quiet enough she saved on vacations. Her striking appearance made her a minor celebrity as government bureaucrats go but in spite of her biological clock ringing constantly she decided to wait on a family. She took a chartered speedboat north with a few other minor and one major celebrity on the mighty Mississippi to Saint Louis.
    Socorro took light rail which ran from the port directly to Amtex. She arrived after brief walk to the front desk security station and asked for an appointment to see Helen and that she would wait and return if necessary. Five minutes later a large uniformed man approached, stuck out his hand and said, "Director Trujillo I'm Major Robinson. I'll escort you to see Ms. Aimes now. Follow me please. He took her up to Helen's office with its dark antechamber leading to her well light office. Helen stood up as they entered.
    "Hi Director"
    "Hello Madame executive."
    They both smiled warmly but Helen cut the heart of the visit. "I can imagine why you are here but don't keep me in suspense."
    "No no I'm here semiformally at most. I want to talk about Peter."
    "As you know he's been in the treatment center for some time. I've been seeing him regularly and he's improved somewhat but both he and the staff agree that he should stay there for now. You want to go visit him? We can see him now or whenever."
    "Yea. Let's go as soon as practical."
    "Go on down to the cafeteria, tell them I sent you and I"ll be there as soon as I wrap things up for the day."
    "OK." Socorro went to wait.
    Helen showed up within a half hour. "My driver is waiting right outside as soon as you're ready." They left immediately.
    The ladies proceeded to Jefferson Barracks recovery center srategically close the Veterans Affairs training complex. It was a short trip but Socorro took the initiative by disarming with Helen again.
    "Seeing how you have me as a captive audience Helen, I could use some advice."
    "Do you think that the Andromedans are going to have two legs or four?"
    Helen smiled and looked away briefly. Then she said more thoughtfully, "I suspect they are the new big fish. This is our first intergalactic encounter so we are suddenly about to start considering the galactic cluster we live in with new terms. I don't know what to think. I imagine we are as ready as we're going to be."
    "Oh. Three legs you say."
    Helen was not amused this time.
    "I'm going to let you lead with Pete as we all speak together. Give me five minutes minutes with him myself before we leave."
    "No problem."
    The two women were escorted to the living room styled common area where they met Peter in an environment as near normal as you could get. Helen hugged and kissed him with a sad look on her face. Socorro did the same casually with a sly look on Pete's face. They all sat down on soft chairs.
    "I brought Socorro as you see Pete."
    "I'm sure you would approve. So when you going to come home?"
    "I'm not ready."
    "Come on I need you. Have you been watching the news?"
    "That's one reason I'm not ready."
    "What else?"
    "The thought of work sickens me."
    "You don't have to do anything except what you want."
    "Look Helen if you want to throw me out go ahead."
    "Do not be silly. I'm going to talk to your physician right now and get the latest on you."
    "I don't care."
    Helen stomped away. Socorro took advantage of her absence.
    "Pete, I've got an intergalactic supercivilization that some have called the antichrist appearing to threaten the Milky Way. Your problems here could get worse."
    Peter seized her about the waist in fresh manner and said, "I got a better problem for you."
    "Never mind. You help me with mine and I'll think about it." She pushed him away.
    "Forget it." 
    "Give me a clue please." She grabbed him by one finger.
    Pete looked upward for a moment and said, "If you'll leave me alone and take Helen with you."
    Socorro looked at him in a demanding stare.
    "Ask Watch or Washbot or whatever it is now."
    Helen rejoined them. "Have you had enough time with him Socs or you need more?"
    Socorro shook her head.
    "OK Peter ready or not?"
    "The doctor says you go with me next time or the major and the director here will insist. So get ready we need you whether you need us or not." They waved good bye.     
    When Trujillo arrived at home she did not even stop by her plush apartment. She went directly to the field office and sent for Watch the washbot which she had been calling Little John for some time. It came with the ESS car not far behind and the hobbled IX still farther behind. They had been called right after she saw Pete and sent to the Saint Louis branch. "I have a special project I want all three of you working on. We will be discussing the supercivilizations and I want you to prepare for the problem. Find out all the information you can about them and report to me at Helen of Troy as soon as you have been tended to as much as you can here on Earth. Little John, Pete told me to speak to you in particular. IX, we are going to have the field office get in touch with GE and have you treated directly. ESS, she pronounced the initials like the letter, I order you to release these two and assist them as often as possible. Does everybody understand?"
    They seemed quiver as they nodded. "Yes mizz."
    "Good. This is most important thing you will do for me so get ready."
    "Yes mizz."
    "Thanks. I will see you soon."

    Socorro caught a spaceplane from the St. Louis spaceport. The vessel was mounted to the undercarriage of the much larger launching plane. It took off from the runway like a conventional aircraft and then dropped the shuttle from a point some ten kilometers above the Earth's surface. The shuttle then rocketed to the space station. This suborbital craft would then unload and return to land like a glider. This type of flight was a daily and sometimes more frequent. The fleet of shuttles included thirty vessels of varing age and use. Socorro and her staff used it often but had their own transportation also.
    Once the director had returned her worksite she decided to check on the news. She did this somewhat surrepticiously by giving the mum sign to security and using the rear door to her office. This way she could see what was happening on line before getting the vocal update from her assistants. Socorro went to her personalized site that included the Wall St. Journal, the Washington Post and the LA Times with triple screen so she could compare headlines in English. After that she moved to the Cairo and Jerusalem sites with double screen in Spanish courtesy of her alma mater. The big news was Trull's turnaround in importance with business of the IU at Onset. Even newer Seko was requesting yet more sages; this time they wanted a buddah and a yogi. She believed she was on top of both of these issues and did not want them to be in the way of her bigger problem that consumed her work.
    Dick, her associate, barged in since he had been on site during Socorro absence. "Welcome back stranger. You gone long enough?"
    "Yeah. I'm getting their."
    "We got a G.E. rep trying to get a hold of you. He says he'll be up with the IX as soon as he gets the word. There is a buddist monk from China and a hindu yogi from India being ferried to Seko by Amtex. They're here now waiting for another ship."
    "I'll see the religious right away. Tell G.E. I need them right after."
    Shortly thereafter Dick returned with two men. Dick said, "Director Socorro Trujillo this is Sri Yogananda from Trivandrum and Po Chang from Loudi. They are in route to Seko by way of Amtex."
    "Welcome sirs. Dick, stay with us for this will be largely business."
    Dick nodded.
    "Gentlemen, I say this in the strictest confidence. I am about to inform you on the issue of our times."
    "I offer my vow of silence on this confession, mizz," offered Sri.
    "I too", validated Po.
    "First, I will speak of the general greater problem. Then we will speak of specific possible solutions." So Socorro began. "Humanity has encountered two supercivilizations and must face the unknown. I have been pondering this since most had any idea. I have sought all the advice I can and prayed all I can."
    The clerics clasped their hands, smiling and nodding.
    "I must decide on a course of action for the security of the galactic sector. I am about choose how aggressively to deal with these cultures from different geological times. They must be investigated thoroughly. This may be very dangerous and I will need your help."
    "How can we help, mizz?"
    "What do you suggest?"
    "Allow me to tell you how I work on all my problems. Prayer you have addressed you should continue. It is your proffession to contemplate such matters and you are doing your duty. But how have you been meditating on the matter?" asked Sri.
    "Not much."
    "You must clear your mind. Listen when nothing is to be heard. This will allow you to rest and and to avoid obsession."
    "I sense you understand the problem very well," Po added. "My brother is quite correct. The situation is analogous to the unenlightened disciple being at the final step before the enlightenment, that is, the preparation for enlightenment."
    "You have had your salvation experience, the Catholic would be waiting for the mysteries of existence to be revealed," continued Sri. "The next step would be to go beyond the enlightenment and this you will do by constant meditation. You will seek self realization and have the answers you need. Does this help sister?"
    Socorro nodded and asked their requests.
    "Please follow the path of peace," said Sri.
    "The path may be one only of learning," said Po. "There may be little else to do for a long time yet. The Onset model may be continued at a higher level."
    "This crisis is world changing but not terribly unfamiliar. Patience is in order."
    "Also, bring us back an ashtray."
    They laughed as they rose from where they had been sitting.
    "Good luck on Seko and leave me a message."   

    The representative from GE was a nondiscript button downed sort who was escorted into the office by Dick shortly thereafter. He was Malcolm Wright from New York city. A hand shake followed a slight bow after his entrance. Ix was walking in with a cane.
    "How do you do Ma'am? Thanks for seeing me. As you can see Ix is in tow. We have worked on him as much as possible both surgically and therapeutically with his simple device. We are sorry that he is in this state but he has way outlived his expectancy. The cloning process is well on the way and he will have offspring soon and be replaced."
    "Offspring?" inquired Socorro.
    "Yes. The first clone was so successful that dozens have been ordered. Trull and Amtex have made purchaces so far. Even though Ix ages ten times as fast as a human he's held up well and we expect for the clones to last twice as long."
    "Are you OK, Ix?" Socorro asked.
    Ix grunted yes.
    "I expect to use the artificials extensively and I need you to face one more great challenge with me. It will be mentally difficult and not physically difficult. I want you to rejoin Watch and Ess and discuss the business of the supercivilizations. Can you do this for me Ix?"
    Ix groaned affirmation.
    "Here, take this letter to them and start to work. I'll see you soon."
    Ix hobbled out.
    "I am at your service. Call on me for anything at any time."
    "Thanks. Get me all the information on the Trull order you can."

    Socorro knew that the rapid development of Seko and Trull would lead to serious competition to make peace wiith the supercivilizations. She would have to do her part and that was best done by addressing the security end of the equation. Safety first was of paramount importance. She had to determine what to do specially because she knew what to do generally. "Dick, find out what happening with Ix and Ess and Watch and let's meet with them as soon as possible."
    "Roger that. Have you got everything figured out yet my young beautiful boss?"
    "Don't talk like that, you know that I spend entirely to much time at work. I might pounce on you"
    "Promises promises."
    "Just be quite and be still"
    "Hey. I'm suppose to say that."
    "In that case just go to work."
    OK, OK." He left.         
    Socorro began a meditation routine as soon the room had cleared. Her favorite mantra was 'cool calm'. This she would say twenty or thirty times till she could feel herself relax. She resisted sleep. Her head cleared as best as it could for twelve minutes and then she roused herself and returned to her work. Trujillo felt somewhat better. She stepped out of her office. 
    "Hey Dick. Where's the artificials? Time for us to check them out."
    "I'll have them located right away." Shortly thereafter Dick returned the comment, "They're all in the lab anytime you want to go."
    "I'm going down right away. Come on as soon as you can."
    "Right Oh."

    Socorro walked down to the engineering area. The centrifugal gravity created a field slightly greater than one gee at the outside of the station and slightly less towards the center. Her feet were the farthest out. This way heavy foot traffic went on the outer hall. The inner hall was accessible by way of ladders from the outer hall bypassing the nonessential offices and storage. She climbed into the area that would be used for meetings and found it empty. She called the group she came to see and noticed they had all changed when they came in. Ix was showing even more age, Watch seemed even more machinelike and Ess was more like a toy.
    "Please explain to me each of you why has your appearance been altered. Ix are you aging more rapidly?"
    Ix nodded his head as his hands shook his cane while he leaned heavily on it.
    Watch said, " as your nickname noted I looked like the retired director and no longer fill the service as his double."
    "What happened to your face?" The face was a generic robot sort.
    "I have chosen a standard face plate as I consider my future identity."
    "I'll miss your Little John face."
    "I can replace it any time you wish Mizz."
    "No, no I'll let you know if I need it."
    Ess said, "I felt the need to get away from my tank weapon look and take on a more soft, peaceful style expressly for the purpose of this meeting much as my partners have since I no longer am joined with them."
    "All right, let's discuss the situation of the present with respect to the galactic sector. Have you discussed this amongst yourselves?"
    The artificials nodded.
    "Good. What is your current understanding on this issue?"
    "I will begin," said Watch. "Ix, if you would sign your agreement please. Ess, interrupt me as needed. The first consideration is some analysis of the question. What is the exact first question about the situation?"
    "Good question." Socorro cleared her throat as slightly as possible regardless of the artificials lack of concern. "What do we do about the supercivilizations?"
    "We three do as we are told."
    "What do I do?"
    "Any number of possibilities. You have great authority from a narrow perspective but more broadly you can do little. How can we assist you?"
    Socorro could see she was way off track. "Can we contend with the supercivilizations?"
    "Can we cooperate with them?"
    "If so then can we prosper?"
    "If so then can we create a treaty?"
    "If so then can we increase technology?"
    "Can we avoid them?"
    "Can I enhance this process?"
    "Can I prepare a productive future?"
    "Ess, do you concur with this reasoning?"
    "Yes, Mizz."
    "Ix are you still hopeful?"
    Ix nodded enthusiastically.
    "OK. I need more from you all. We'll speak again soon. Next time we talk I want you with your personality programs on high. Enough of this precise conversation. We will speak more casually and simply. I must speak to Will and Jan. Bye now." She left them.

    Socorro dashed back to her office. Dick was in hot pursuit. "Dick if you got all that back there find out the latest on Onset and then connect me with Jan so I can double check."
    "Yes Ma'am." He went to secure communications. Ten minutes later Dick said, "Jan's on line one boss. Call me with the news."
    "Jan this is Socorro. What's the latest out there? I've got to make a decision and it better be a good one."
    "There's something going on big but I've not had anything official yet and I don't think I'm going to get anything either. This is the rumour mill only. The two supercivilizations have been planning a major move that does not include us little people. That is not to say that we are excluded. I suspect it has something to do with searching for the next greatest civilization in this region of the galactic cluster. My guess is they going to find a way to go galaxy hopping till they find the biggest people around."
    "Who else is talking about this?"
    "I think everybody's has some idea but our best source is Will. That is the old church by way of Father Strasse. You know him don't you?"
    "Yeah. It's been a while."
    "He seems to know as much as anyone other than the big people. I'll get you his number. Hang on." Two minutes later Jan said, "I just sent it to you and now I'm going to transfer you if there's nothing else."
    "Good job Jan. I'll talk to you later."
    The call was answered. "This is Will."
    "Father Will Strasse. This is Socorro Trujillo. Long time."
    "Yes indeed Madam Director. How are you?"
    "Very well thanks. How about you?"
    "I'm OK."
    "First names?"
    "Of course, Socorro."
    "Listen Will this is not a social call. We have to do that now that you're a full blown catholic or my parents will kill me. I just talked to Janet Dough and she said you have a hand on things. What is happening and what am I to do about it?"
    "So the first question is what exactly?"
    "What are the two galactic supercivilizations primary action?"
    There was no immediate response. "I believe they are in search of the Timemasters."
    "The what?"
    "That is my name for the dominant civilization of our galactic cluster."
    "I've been thinking of them as 4.1 assuming that 4.0 means intergalactic."
    "Interesting. I'm not sure how the cluster is defined but I'm guessing in the smallest practical sense. With that in mind do you see a pattern forming?"
    "Possibly. So the thing to do is go along for the ride."
    "Is your second question what can we do? That might be an answer."
    Socorro thought for a moment. "My second question is what do I do to error on the side of Humanity?"
    "As director you need no help from me. As my old friend I pray you go for it. I feel our journey is to find God and we may encounter 4.2 along the way."
    Socorro smiled. "We will embark on the newest quest. We will search for the supercivilizations. Thanks my friend. I'll get back with you on the details of this but Pete asked me to talk with Watch about this and I had only just started when I needed to talk with you. I'll resume that conversation here shortly. What else can I do for you?"
    "You can let me say a private mass for you and your family."
    "You are on. By the way what is your source on our cluster news?"
    "Milky and Silky. They are human reproductions of alien making."
    "We'll talk more about that later. See you."
    "God bless you." The call ended.       
    Trujillo made her way back to the engineering lab after letting Dick know and gathered the artificials. She continued the conversation on the galactic sector that they had begun earlier. "Let's resume as best we can where we left off. I have new information. Seems that the Milky Wayers and the Andromedans are after the supercivilization of the galactic sector. We do not even know if they exist but I suppose we'll find out if we follow this lead. Do any of you have any thoughts on this matter and those that we discussed previously before I make a request?"
    Ix handed Trujillo a pad. She read, "Dear Mizz, I wish could help you and everybody with their problems but I'm not smart and I don't how much longer I will live. If I could help I would ask Will and Pete for help. Anything you want that I can do I will. Promise. Please be careful and live and let live. We should always try to help others if we can. Thanks for being my friend. Let's be friends with all the space people too. Watch and Ess are smart. They will help you better then I can. They help me alot. We have already talked and decided many things. Ask them."
    Socorro kissed Ix and he became bashful. "OK Ix." She turned to Watch and Ess. "Ix told me to ask you whether we should make friends with the space people?"
    All three nodded.
    "As you well know Mizz that is more or less my primary programming. Defense is secondary," stated Ess.
    "In general we pursue alliances first as a matter of good diplomacy," concurred Watch.
    "I personally say safety first therefore security through greater defense," stated Trujillo.
    "When dealing with a supercivilization that is impractical. We are no match for the power of a galactic military. We must follow or flee." Watch warned.
    "I must consider alternatives," stressed Socorro.
    "Perhaps we should wait and adjust to coming conditions," added Ess.
    "I will be doing that to some degree and so must you three. I have learned of a possible future for intelligence in the galaxies that I have suggested to you. It may be that this is a big part of our purpose in the universe. In theory we the thinking are in a quest for the greatest thinkers of all time and space. I predict that our descendants will find out the true nature of this quest. I will do my best to transmit all the facts to support my conclusion to all those concerned and I wish you to do the same. You are hear by ordered to prepare all future artificials for this task. Do I make myself clear? Please pardon my overstressing this request. Do this in the most practical way you can."
    The three nodded and signed in affirmation.
    "Very good. Now go out to your worlds and help me as best as you can. I will be in communication with you and your associates and call on me anytime you need. Good luck and good service.

I Watch. first draft

1. Introduction and update
2. The beginning of the quest
3. The Timemasters
4. The end of prehistory
5. P.S. protocivilization

The Histories
Earthtime: two centuries later (after Gagarin)
    Humanity has encountered the local galactic cluster to the extent of twenty-one galaxies by way of assistance  from the Milky Wayers and the Andromedans each combing the cluster in opposite directions and taking earth people with them. Subspace communications has been advanced by an extra dimensional array made accessible by the supercivilizations.

Earthtime: two centuries more
    Seko explores with the cluster travelers also. The Timemasters have been found and soon lead the charting of the expanded local cluster. The area includes the neighboring part of the Virgo supercluster including one hundred sixty additional galaxies. All of these include galactic supercvilizations most of which do not have intergalactic capability. A minority have civilizations comparable to the Way and the Andromedans and none have a cluster leader such as the Time[they actually referred to themselves as the Time Apprentice for one name].

Earthtime: two centuries more
    The International Union continues to grow as planets are brought in to the organization. They grow both within the Milky Way and in the neighboring galaxies. Twelve hundred galaxies are added to the explored portion of the galactic cluster. The Time leads the other galaxies and planets out into the cluster with the first intent being to find the next greatest supercivilization. This goal proves to be elusive.

Earthtime: two centuries more
    Virgo supercluster expansion has reached three thousand more galaxies and the Time remain the most powerful of the civilizations. They work constantly in the chase for their peers and take all those who would go with them. Earth has become a tiny voice in the cosmos yet not unheard.

Spacedate: 010658.33-2500
Stellar place: Seko
    The Eletron Security System has been constantly modified and upgraded by the sekon people for all these centuries. It remains the premier defense grid in the galactic sector and has microrobotics as far as the frontier of the galactic cluster. The device that had visited Earth in the previous millennium and had become Ess was never totally replaced. It being a historical machine it was always preserved as much as possible even that which was declared a ruined artifact. New generations of the system were morphing into any conceivable mechanism to accomplish its task. One such part was the latest in the line of replicants of sekon beings that had retained all memory of the occasion of the Earth Ess that was active during the time of Gagarin's mission at Onset. This model included a robot that was unique. It called itself Uno. Its purpose was to return to Earth and resume the mission proposed at that time under the direction UIA.

Stellar place: Earth       
    The IX(XX) was an artificial lifeform that was a manufactured biological. It had been created by a ancient Earth corporation known as General Electric. The first model actually sold was roman numeral IX and the affectionate name for it became Ix. Ix was so called by a corporate espionage agent from Amtex that had procured the model by unauthorized means. Although Ix only lived eleven years and was still quite prototypical it had come under the influence of Ess model and UIA also at the time Gagarin.
      Watch was the name of one of the Amtex' agents timepieces. Its descendant was a 7.5 software upgrade that had been put upon any number of devices through out time in the development of human personal computers on Earth. It had been integrated into a novel robot at the time of Gagarin and was also influenced by Ess and UIA. The upgrade in the current time period was put on a generic robot chassis and should have produced a predictable result. The result however was outside of historic robot psychological standards in this model. This version of Watch had precise memory of final instructions from the last millennium when all three artificials were together in previous ancestry.

Location: Deepspace Station Galactic sector ten
    Once upon an age a reunion of descendants occurred because unprogrammed instruction was followed for no recently conceived directive. It was busy at the waiting area for a time shuttle to the region of the galaxy where the supercivilization called of the Milky Way was sending a time ark out into the galactic cluster. Artificials traveled seperately because they often required little in the way of life support. This was not mandatory but happened often because the artificials could move as cargo. Uno, Ixxx and Watch7.5 all congregated with the other artificials but were soon drawn to each other.
    "Why are we three meeting like this?" asked Uno, "I am here on security check."
    "I don't know why I'm here but I usually don't know what I'm doing anywhere," said Ixxx.
    "I'm here because of an old story I've heard." explained Watch.
    "What is the story?" demanded Uno.
    "A long time ago a woman who lived when the galactic sector was a smaller place told a riddle to three such as we. She knew that they might not get it but maybe their coming line would. Maybe we are the end of that line.
    "What was the riddle?"
    "What's the difference between a being and a friend?"
    "Well what's the difference?"
    "I don't know. Do you know?"
    "No. I don't know. How about you?"
    "How would I know?" answered Ixxx indignantly.
    "Well, we will find out as we look for the greatest civilization in known space and time," restarted Watch.
    "Those that some call the Timemasters," continued Uno.
    "Yes. Shall we go to them together?"
    "Well... I guess so," answered Ixxx with great doubt.
    So it began when they left on their journey.

The start of the quest
Galactic place: Wayer's district Arkport
    The three decendants of the artificials from the story of Earth in the last millineum once again met in a waiting area for transport only this time they would go to another galaxy. This trip would take much longer but no concern because the two electromechanicals would just shut down and the biological could hybernate lots better than any natural creature. Their trip may be only one way. There was no telling now.
    Arks were no longer actually used. Those of the Milky Way had long ago created ports that opened farspace such that great distances could be traversed in record time by galactic standards. This was the means to go to another galaxy. It was fast and comfortable and much like far simpler public transportation. The latest vessel was a carrierferry that could move many people and their private transportation as well as the ships of other worlds. Boats on board could be launched so that passengers could leave for other ports along the way. There was one primary destination and in this caes it was the nearest world operated by the Time.
    By and by Uno told his companions, " I have a gift for you from my homeworld of Seko."
    Ixxx clapped. Watch stuck out his hand.
    "What is it?" asked Ixxx.
    "It is a ring," answered Uno as he handed them each one with two of his clothed tentacles. "You may expand them to any practical size you wish." He demonstrated by stretching his first to a bracelet size and then to a belt size. "They will permit you to communicate with any other nearby ring of the same sort even if there is a time and space distortation."
    Ixxx promptly challenged by moving a short distance and testing the ring. "Hello. Do you here me now?"
    Watch nodded his common head.
    "Thank you Uno," they said.
    "You are welcome."
    Their departure was announced. They boarded their carrierferry and settled down for a long voyage to the port that would put them in contact with Time Apprentice. Humble accomodations were all that was needed for the group and that is what they received. A small cabin with three benches plus room for a fourth and power outlets they would share. Other vending was available in a more public setting. Food, fuel, and wash rooms were nearby. Even artificials needed to consume and clean to some degree.
    "What will we do when we arrive at our destination?" asked Ixxx as he sat down.
    "We will seek out a lifeform that will have authority to assist us," answered Uno.
    "I expect that we may have to go through another artificial to do so," offered Watch.
    The threesome settled in a much as they could and were convinced that they would keep satisfactorily until they arrived at their new workplace. Things could not be left well enough alone. They decided to explore the great ship. Surely the ship would be safer if they knew more about it. Safety drills would not suffice. Warning signs to proceed with caution by first being as still and quiet as possible were certainly overstated.
    "I suggest the first area we explore should be the powerplant. No doubt we will be helpful there." Uno stated this emphatically.
    "I agree." Watch concurred swiftly.
    "I don't know but I guess I'll go along," said Ixxx. "How do we find it?"
    "It will be easy with the help of the directory," answered Uno. "From there we shall seek it out and have a little adventure in learning and sharing our knowledge."
    "No adventure is best. No danger is good."
    "Come now it will be fun."
    "Machines need to be useful not fun."
    "You are not a machine and you need exercise." So off they went.
    The three went as far as they could by visual examination of the directory. This had taken them from roughly the center of the ship to the back of the ship. Some three hundred steps were walked and four decks were descended before they had to ask the ship where to go.
    "Ship, where is the engine room?"
    "The tourist viewing area is as follows on the screen. Follow the arrows on the bulkhead as needed. All other related engineering areas are restricted."
    "The restricted areas will be the most interesting."
    The group moved on until they came upon the desired location. They examined all that they could and then approached a door marked restricted. Attempts to enter failed when a lifeform accosted them. "How may I serve you?" asked the creature serving the hosts.
    "We wish to examine the reactor and the drive for this vessel."
    "A special authorization will be required." The creature was quadruped that was capable of converting to a biped mode where its three pronged front hooves could become more dexterous.
    "We don't need a special authorization," continued Uno. "We aren't special."
    "Never the less you'll need to speak with the passenger director but that may not work. I'll attempt to make you an appointment." The creature stepped aside to assist.
    The three withdrew and conferred. "We'll need to find a better way. If necessary we should proceed without permission."
    "That is not wise," warned Ixxx.
    "No wisdom is required simply to make a minor adjustment. We just want to move things along," urged Uno.
    Watch remained observant.
    Artificials from the galactic sector that brought us the incident at Onset could be considered predictable only in the sense that they would be unpredictable. They moved to where they were out of plain site and attempted to force open a door with minor damage occurring. An alarm blared. The area was secured and the three were confined to the hall that allowed them five meters of freedom. Armed robots approached ten seconds later. "You have violated this space and will be taken for questioning."
    "Wa wa wa," shook out Ixxx.
    The group was escorted to a security office in which a robot boss looked at them carefully and said, "We have a recording of you damaging public property. Do you want to make a statement?"
    "We want nothing except to go more swiftly to our destination."
    "Your actions can be considered dangerous. You will have to explain yourselves before you can go."
    "We mean no harm. We are only confused travelers," continued Uno as speaker.
    "Ignorance is no excuse. You will be confined until representation is arranged."
    The artificials from the IU sector were rather rudely taken to a detention area where it was clear that they would not be given time to work on their case. They were put in the charge of an overseer that put them to hard labor breaking coal blocks for emergency fuel.
    "Well this is a fine mess," said Ixxx as it swung a mallet.
    Uno converted to a rock crusher and was loaded by Watch. Sorting was required after the overseer determined enough pieces had been broken. This continued for hours when Uno decided on a new plan. "We must prepare to escape."
    "Woop woop woop," spat Ixxx.
    "I'll go along only if we will be safe and I don't believe we will be," said Watch.
    "I guarantee it,"said Uno.
    They attempted to short circuit the force field barrier. The effort failed and once again they were confronted and then slapped across their faces in a single strike as they stood side by side. "Hey! We did nothing but check the door," cried Uno.
    "An escape attempt is a serious offense that will be added to your charges." The big robot guard spoke swinging its stun baton.
    "Weh weh weh," stammered Ixxx.
    "Take them to the bending area."
    The three were then taken to a secured storage section where reinforcement bars were being bent in to shapes required for various construction needs. The two electromechanicals had basic bending programs that made this possible. Ixxx was very strong but could not bend one inch steel for very long. When the overseer saw this Ixxx was chained to a device that would assist him with the bending. Now he was compelled to drag this heavy machine around with him.
    "This another sticky mess you put us in," Ixxx complained to Uno. Watch followed along silently recording the predicament. They went on bending for days. The only interruptions permitted were for Ixxx to eat and rest. Medical checks occurred daily. The other two were allowed to keep him company.
    Deep in intergalactic space was the ark before the hard labor routine was altered such that some good news might come. A robot attorney arrived.
    "I will be by early on your court date so you may make any pleas you need before you are sentenced," said the robot barrister.
    "We did nothing and we will say nothing," said Uno.
    The Earthlings continued to labor in the meantime. Days dragged on as there was no speedy justice. Artificials were good at waiting; that's what they were made for. Finally one day their work was interrupted by a voice over an intercom. "Earth beings report to control." The guard motioned them to proceed. Uno wondered why the Earth artificials were being called and not him. It mattered not in that he was herded along with them. A precourt chamber was their first stop after clearing control.
    The robot lawyer met them there and said, "Since the evidence seems against you we'll plead no contest in hope that you being first time passengers and first time offenders your sentence will be light. This judge is fairly strict but if you are still and quiet you three should be released soon. Remember good behavior."
    The group was marched into court and immediately became aware of a host of artificials including a judge, a prosecutor and a bailiff. A clerk began with reading off charges. The list was long running from trespassing to sabotage. Uno stood up to object when his counsel pulled him back. The prosecution nodded. "How do you plea?" the judge asked the defense.
    "No contest your honor", said the robot defender.
    "Then sentencing will be determined immediately."
    A recommendation of probation with community service or dismantlement came from the prosecution.
    The judge agreed, "The court is so advised".
    Ixxx began to grimace in so far as he could wondering what dismantlement for a biological would mean.
    "Banishment to serve at the pleasure of their next hosts. Contact the authorities at their destination and see if they will accept them by extradition."
    "Yes your honor."
    "We will meet with the Andromedans prior to our trip's end and then with Time's travelers. The offenders will be dealt with after being put into stasis before our arrival. Court is adjourned".

To be continued.

Next: The revelation of Chat. [go to 2041385] Thanks. Bless you. XO II V MCD 

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