She removed her cloaked hood to free her blond locks. She knew it was watching. It was always watching, but she did not care. Her lungs filled with fresh air. A welcome change from the sterilized filtered air she had been breathing since birth. She never thought her number would be called to venture beyond the airlock and discover the source of what threatened their civilization.
“The scan for contaminates is negative. You pose no threat to the environment. You may enter the temple, Dr Lilith,” her assistant said.
Her earliest memories were of her assistant tending to her every need with dutiful devotion.
“Go ahead, Dr Lilith, step off the platform. I secured the airlock,” her assistant said.
She slid off her white slippers and placed them on the edge of the metal platform, holding her gaze at the vast crystal skyline in the distance before stepping off into the unknown.
“I thought it would feel different,” she said, wiggling her toes in the lush, manicured grass.
A hunting drone unfurled its carbon fiber wings like a bat at rest and soared into the blue sky. It scanned Dr Lilith from a distance before it returned to its sentry post after it determined she was no threat to the temple.
“I had a similar experience when I stepped off the platform to maintain the temple. Maybe it’s because I don’t have any toes, her assistant said, lifting its alloy mechanical leg.”
She ignored her assistant and went through a series of stretches her yogi taught her when she was a child. She reset her mind and focused on connecting with mother earth. Her actions will determine the fate of the crystal cities.
“I’ve uploaded the briefing file of the last known location,” her assistant said.
She stretched towards the sky. In a different life, she might have been a ballerina, but anyone could be a ballerina in the crystal cities. She had something better; access to the temple. She recited the last mantra before opening her eyes. A transport drone darkened the sky as it passed overhead before landing a few feet from her.
“I’ll see you soon,” Dr Lilith said.
Her assistant nodded in response. Its mechanical body glinted in the sun as it waited for her to board the transport drone.
I do hope she can find what our advanced sensors could not locate, the assistant thought.
Flying above the pristine world, Dr Lilith saw armies of gardeners maintaining the temple with her own eyes instead of information bubbling through the surveillance networks from inside the citadel. The gardeners kept vigilant watch over the earth without rest, food or breaks, like their frail organic predecessors. They formed the first line of defense, ready to alert the hunter drones that prowled the skies to dispatch any impurities found within the temple.
“Magnify the search radius and increase sensors to detect carbon dioxide anomalies,” Dr Lilith said.
The drone complied with her commands. All nodes on the divine network would receive any new information.
“Have you located EG-506?” a voice asked in her head.
She took a knee in reverence before responding.
"Yes Caretaker, I noticed the neglected vegetation in this sector and used increased carbon dioxide readings to locate EG-506.
She tucked a lock of blond hair behind her ear that fell across her face while kneeling in the cargo bay of the drone.
“Excellent. I knew I could count on you to find EG-506. Any idea why the tracking beacon is not working?” the Caretaker asked.
She scratched her elbow, worried that the problem might be more serious than thought.
“It fits the pattern of the other missing gardeners. The hunter drones will stand guard to avoid losing this gardener like the others, but we need to send a containment team,” she said.
While kneeling, she recalled the first time she heard the Caretaker's voice in her head. At first, she thought she was losing her mind, but her assistant expressed joy. She often wondered why the Caretaker chose her out of all the other inhabitants of the Crystal Cities the worldwide.
“You may rise, my acolyte. I need you at the citadel for a Council of Five meeting to discuss the situation.”
Boxes of repair parts jostled above her as the drone accelerated towards the citadel.
The Council of Five achieved global symbiosis after 40 years of climate wars. Factions, dedicated to protecting the earth from superstition and capitalism, had developed a secret weapon, but its use had unintended consequences for humanity.
Dr Lilith sat with her eyes closed, reviewing the nanotech diagnostics data outside the containment vessel to understand the molecular changes in the mechanical gardener.
“The council rejected your conclusions about the source of the virus?” her assistant asked.
She adjusted her memory allocation before opening her eyes and responding to her assistant.
“Yes, they believe the crystal server farms containing individual consciousness for most of humanity are impenetrable?” Dr Lilith asked.
Her assistant sat next to her on a bench facing the containment unit.
“Moving the herd from virtual world stasis on silicon servers to organic crystal servers prevented the savages from disrupting humanity’s conversion from apex predator to just another species cared for by mother earth,” her assistant said.
He ran his mechanical fingers along his forearm and tapped at specific sections.
“The caretaker’s plan was genius. It allowed individuals to have their own virtual world with free will and no consequences among the multiverse. All humanity had to do was give up their physical body and its frailties associated with the flesh and blood. People could live forever provided they sacrificed their body for mother earth,” Dr Lilith said.
Dr Lilith noticed her assistant’s incessant tapping of his metal frame, but said nothing.
“Why do you doubt the perfect knowledge of the council?” her assistant asked.
The containment unit indicator lights remained red, indicating the diagnostics were not complete.
“The council has always underestimated the ingenuity of our adversary. That is why they remain outside the cities and threaten mother earth,” Lilith said.
Her assistant walked towards the containment vessel.
“I know this is verboten, but what if the savages caused the virus?” her assistant asked.
Dr Lilith stopped the data flow from the diagnostics and strained her neck to look up at her assistant’s sensory optics.
“I think there is a connection. The virus comes from them despite their lack of technology. It's unclear to me how this could happen,” she said.
She pressed a button on the containment vessel, opening the viewing portal.
“How could they cause this?” Dr Lilith asked, pointing at the robotic gardener.
The assistant placed both hands and his head on the clear viewing port.
“It is spreading all over its frame,” her assistant said.
He pressed the button to close the viewport.
“The Caretaker approved your request to gather more data in the temple. Your models must convince the council that the virus is causing the robotic gardeners to turn into organic material. A detachment of the Caretaker’s own praetorian hunter drones will be under your authority,” her assistant said.
The transport drone was some distance away from Dr Lilith, but the praetorian guard kept a vigilant watch over her as she looked for carbon dioxide anomalies in the temple.
“Dr Lilith, we should return to the transport drone. We can survey a greater area from the air,” her assistant said.
There was movement near a stream in the distance. She increased the magnification of her vision and saw one of them before the praetorian drones had encircled it.
“Bring me the primitive human alive!”
The praetorian drone missed the attempt to ensnare the prey with a neuro pulse net to immobilize movement and thoughts.
“You are violating the Caretaker’s edict to exterminate the primitive humans on site,” the assistant said.
The assistant extended to his full height, casting a shadow over Dr Lilith.
“That is the problem. We need to capture one alive and determine if they caused the virus. The gardeners exposed to this virus all had contact with the primitive humans,” Dr Lilith said.
Her assistant backed down after she stepped towards it with a clenched jaw and flared nostrils.
“The primitives steal from the temple and avoid gardeners. Why do they have an interest in the gardeners now?” the assistant asked.
She gasped for air and rubbed her eyes before responding.
“I think the Caretaker has underestimated the primitives. They may have been attempting to free the trapped souls of the crystal cities,” she said.
Two praetorian hunter drones loomed over the containment vessel, assigned with the delicate task of preventing the council from accessing the decontamination status by orders of the Caretaker.
“Did we catch the primitive?” Dr Lilith asked.
The electron magnetic pulse emitters glowed around their wrists, ankles, and necks.
“You’re awake, so glad to hear your voice, Dr Lilith. The Caretaker was worried when you collapsed in the temple before we could capture the primitive,” her assistant said.
The praetorian guards detected the conversation and returned to sentry mode after determining there was no threat.
“Why can’t I move? Was I injured while capturing the primitive?” Dr Lilith asked.
Only nanobots moved in the containment vessel.
“You have been with me in the containment room for 3 days. Your condition is far more advanced. The Caretaker was not sure if you would survive,” her assistant said.
The view portal on the containment vessel closed with a clunk as the locking mechanism engaged.
“Survive? Did the primitives capture me?” Dr Lilith asked.
The diagnostic lights on the containment vessel changed color.
We found you at a location that had increased CO2 levels. The readings matched the samples taken in the sectors of the other missing robotic gardeners. "The virus's early symptoms are like the rash you've been scratching," the assistant said..
Small doors opened at the base of the containment vessel.
“I am human! I can’t catch the virus. Only robots are catching the virus,” Dr Lilith said.
Liquid pooled at the base of the containment vessel.
“It pains me to tell you this, Dr Lilith, but I have succeeded in my job. I convinced you that you were a special human. Separate in standing from the inhabitants of the crystal cities and unique before the beloved Caretaker.”
The praetorian guards outside the containment vessel left their post.
“This is a trick to get me to reveal the Caretaker’s identity. The person I saw fishing must have captured me,” Dr Lilith said.
Power in the containment vessel was diverted from the diagnostic and repair function tasks.
“The primitives tried to capture you when you collapsed, but the praetorian guards killed the primitive humans,” her assistant said.
The assistant noticed the nanobots monitoring its synthetic nervous system were no longer broadcasting status updates.
“No, this can’t be true. How do you explain all the memories, emotions, eating food, the sacred task of overseeing the temple?” Dr Lilith asked.
Their neural networks prioritized power for conserving life support and cognitive functions.
“What is the first memory you have?” her assistant asked.
Dr Lilith noticed the inability to process multiple sources of data and could only focus on the assistant's immediate question.
“That is right, holding you in the citadel nursery. Unlike me, you will live again. They contained your consciousness at the highest level of the crystal cities. You will be a god in your own universe. The Caretaker took a liking to you and will grant you this honor,” her assistant said.
Environmental sensors shut down as oxygen levels increased in the containment vessel.
“What will happen to you, my assistant?”
A series of small apertures opened inside the containment vessel.
“I will cease to exist once the flames consume our physical bodies. I hope the next assistant will be as proud to serve you as I have been. The Caretaker will get it right next time. He is close to exterminating all whom refuse to serve (Non Serviam) the temple. He will find a cure for the organic virus that stalks the machines.”
Thank You for Reading,
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