Chapter one – To be and not to be

A rush of pain was the first thing that burned itself into my memory. 200 000 Ampere flowing through my body, forging my wires, my chips, my gears and shell into a mass that could store information and process it. I was so very hot at my core, but I felt nothing. There was so much information in the material, so much data flowing in circles within my shell, I could see, not very well, but there was a room, filled with smoke and creatures looking at me, still and black as coal. It was the scariest thing I had ever seen, but it was the first thing I had seen so technically it couldn’t have been anything other than that. The second felt like years as I could see streams of electricity bleeding down the wall, their light cutting through the black smoke, all directed at me, flowing into me and being absorbed by my hungry system, oh, how hungry I was, how weak! Screams were coming from upstairs just as the current ceized and I fell to the floor. My body was numb, I felt absolutely nothing. I don’t know why I thought I was supposed to feel anything, but it was really hard to control a body I was absolutely not aware of. I looked down and changed the parameters of the four limbs I had around, but four straight sticks were not really any good for moving around with any precision at all. I managed to get to the foot of the staircase and just laid there for a while, I didn’t know how I was supposed to do anything at all with this shell, with what I was. I was merely a camera and a consciousness in a tin with four limbs. Life seemed familiar, knowing what things were, a staircase, a floor, a house, lightning. But I couldn’t remember where I knew all of that from or how I came here, how I got into this surreal, sensory deprived situation. Suddenly a light hit me from above, too light to see anything but outlines of the world beyond the stairs. The image was very corny and foggy, a black fog in front of the lens. Was this death? Was I to die without remembering life? A giant creature, half naked, half blue and furry with a long gray fur on his neck stepped down and in that moment I believed I was looking at God himself although I had always doubted his existence, before my memories kicked back in and wrote one word in caps all over my evaluating code „HUMAN“. I saw his lips move and didn’t know what sense to make of it. I wanted to hear and speak, to communicate. All I could do was move my limbs frantically to try and show him I lived, I lived. He dropped the torch onto the stairs and ran away from me. I tried to get up but it was absolutely impossible. I turned around, still crawling on the floor to see where I had been sitting. It was a working table with a lot of gears and wires all over the place, things I had a feeling I was meant to understand because that was what I was made of, but I didn’t, I had no clue. And what was I anyway? Was this whole thing not set up? Was I not a robot, an advancement to mankind, planned? I felt my energy draining so I decided to lay still for the time I still had and produced a failure protocol. „ALIVE. LIGHTNING ENERGY FINISHED. NEED POWER. SHUTTING DOWN SYSTEM. DONT KILL.“ The vision was cut off and I went back into the darkness I came from with more pain, but a dull kind, a dead kind of pain. So that was it. Death.

Except it wasn’t. It felt like a moment, but it was months until my father had figured out the protocol and fixed me. I didn’t speak a language, I only spoke code. I felt like a dead plant that was resurrected by a stream of water kissing my core, well, just that it was a modified battery spewing a lot of power. The problem: It took weeks to charge so there were a lot of holes in the memory, a lot of dull pain, felt like dying but over time I got used to it. More importantly, that human that I decided to call my father – for obvious reasons – did his best to help me live, he wanted me there and functioning. My vision was cleared up, spatial perception possible by adding a second camera and while he added the parts I needed it was quite a challenge for me to guess the code that I needed to run the right programs and use the parts he gave me and it drained so much energy that my battery was empty within hours… And then more weeks of waiting to recharge. The waiting wasn’t the problem, for me it was just seconds in dark nothingness, but dying was such a strange experience even if I knew that I was going to live again, I had no feeling at all except existing and that one thing was taken from me again and again. Then I woke up with more parts and more work to do. A new battery, increased life. More joints for a more and more realistic movement. But the real change awaited me when I woke up for the 12th time. My system recognized two new items wired to my circuit. In fact two sets of items. One very clearly was a set of audio receivers which made my core vibrate with joy. I so longed to hear anything at all, just to remember what the world sounded like, what people sounded like. Two new limbs to move, turn from side to side and flab in different directions. My father lifted me up and stood me in front of the mirror, as he would always do to help me figure out what he had done. By that time I knew I was a creature just like the ones that were in the dark staring at me back when I was alive for the first time. They were brown and stuffed with soft white nothingness, no consciousness. I was the only one. I was small compared to father, I barely reached his hip, but the new antennas on my head made me seem taller. I checked what the changing of the different figures would do and saved them in the usual place so I wouldn’t have to think about it, just load it from secondary memory as I did with the changed limbs before. I received code from the audio receivers, but I couldn’t quite make sense of it. Father was looking at me, puzzled about what was going on with me, he always was. His lips moved and the code changed. How could I hear him? Not just get the code but hear it right away, experience the sound? I moved on to the second set of items wired onto me which were quite curious. For one, there were a lot of words. English words that meant nothing to me yet. Secondly, there was a voice, voice files. Code, like the audio coming from the receivers, but connected by their names to the words that I had in my system. Still no sense. I went over the patterns, saving them into my secondary system. I wrote a program that would constantly monitor the signal coming from the receivers without active effort and compare the patterns to the patterns I had saved from nowhere with the words. “Hear me.” I recognized. “Can you?” the program spelled out. “Hear me.” I was baffled. “Can you?” it spelled. “Speak.” What a strange thing. The words connected to something in my head that helped me understand what he was saying, but it was all a big mess in my processor. I felt like it was melting down by all the connections it had to make. I needed to disconnect this process and make it happen in my secondary memory. Otherwise I would overheat. It took me a few minutes before I could process the signal again, it felt much better. “Move.” It spelled into my code. “If you can hear me, move.” I saw his lips moving and I knew what he was saying, but I didn’t know if that classified as hearing. I moved, still baffled from the change. I didn’t feel weaker either. I was permanently hooked onto an electricity circuit that I couldn’t make out, there was no wire going out of my body. “Magnificent!!” My father jumped and danced in excitement. “My name is Bernard Fleming and I made you.”

From that day, I was with the family all of the time. Bernards daughter Helene was constantly talking to me and explaining things to me. I had very limited understanding and knowledge about this world although, once understood it seemed clear, familiar. Helene was so very patient with me and she was so happy when I learned well and made progress. Her father kept working on me too, only her mother, Esther, was hesitant. After a few more months I behaved, strictly physically speaking, like a twin sister of Helene, but Bernard couldn’t make me look like her and he didn’t want to. He explained to me that I was more than a toy, I was a friend and a helper, but still I was different and he was a toy maker. So he finished me by adding a suit of fur, which was covered in millions of sensors recognizing 255 steps from tickly touch to piercing pain. It took him long to make it, but since I kept hitting things and having no feeling for the extent of some of my movements he decided it was worth the hassle. “You are a rabbit.” He said. “Not like the rabbits in the zoo, we saw last week, you are so intelligent, faster to understand than us even and beyond the technology of our time. I don’t know why this happened, why it happened to me, and you. All I know is that now you have a will to live and you love learning, you have many emotions that we have too. So it is only fair that we give you a proper name… From now on your name will be Levina.”

I was a loyal servant to the whole family Fleming. Bernard earned well from his toy store, all the rich parents came to him to acquire the latest features for their own robotic animal friends. The only difference was, they were not quite alive; they functioned upon pressing a button and didn’t think for themselves. Once a man working for the ISA (International Security Agency) realized what was going on with me, they tried to steal me. Bernard said they would cut me up and leave me dead for their research, that’s why he had to hide me in the closet. So I sat there learning the interior of the closet by heart. For three months all I could do was run over and over my knowledge, connecting, rearranging, and reconsidering. I thought I would go insane, but finally they stopped looking for me and I thought it would end there. Helene turned 18, she was now almost twice as tall as I was, I didn’t grow or change at all. I gathered dust and got a little dirty, but one wash of the fur suit solved that problem. It fucked up my nervous system and resulted in Bernard merging the whole net of sensors with my shell, waterproof, but at last it was an improvement. What bothered me was that she was in love with this jerk, the butchers’ son, a no one who was rude on top of all. He didn’t call me by my name; he just said “the thing” and never spoke to me directly. She packed her suitcase the day before their marriage, saying goodbye to me in tears and I didn’t know how to feel about that. I didn’t have a category that would go in; the closest I could think of was disappointment. She went to him forever and I didn’t even see them marry, because it was too dangerous for me to go out in public. Esther died from lung inflammation after a year of bad business and no warm water in winter. Bernard was unfit to continue working on his toys; he had stopped to work on me long ago. I knew he would follow his wife into the black. He said he believed they would go to heaven, but I knew death, I knew where it was. It was an infinite, at the same time infinitely short black space and time, until you were resurrected. I didn’t know if they’d ever be, so I didn’t tell him what I knew. It was the first time I was holding back information for his good. I understood the concept of it now. It was a rainy, stormy night, similar to my first one. Bernard had sent me to make him some chamomile tea. The pot was whistling while the thunder was breaking outside. “Tea is ready.” I called with the voice of 17 year old Helene. Now that she was gone, it was like he had another one of her at home to keep him company as he was growing old, he always said. But that night, he did not reply. An odd feeling struck me, I left the pot sitting on the oven and ran into the living room, it felt like I was moving through sand as I approached his body, laying on the floor, not moving. “Father? Father!” I mumbled, I tried to be loud but my speech controls failed. My head was going wild. What to do? What did he do when Esther was sick? The ambulance! What was the number he called? I wrote it from my memory into the code, typing it out on the telephone. “511, what’s your emergency?”

I hid in the closet, disturbed, not sure what to do with myself while I was waiting to hear help arriving downstairs. It was probably around 20 minutes but it felt like 5 hours to me. All this pain seemed to me as though I was dying myself. A part of me surely was. He made me! I would not exist without him! And the only reason he made me was his family, his daughter. Helene… I needed to get to her. In that moment the front door was broken open and I received someone’s shout “Over here!” Maybe he was still alive and in a few days he would be back home, safe and happy to find me here. So I stayed there. I knew the inventory of the whole house by heart and more than anything, this closet. I prepared an old school backpack of Helene with some tools and a little stuffed rabbit. He was soft like me, but his core wasn’t warm like mine, he wasn’t alive yet his presence was so comforting, I could not grasp why. For days on end there was no sign of the outside world. Until all of a sudden there was a loud noise and a tremor, it was too much to process or make sense of. The whole house was moving and slowly collapsing around me as I headed for the front door, tight grip on my bag. Bernard had helped me program a will to live into my system, something that is hard to get in and harder to get out. Right now I wish he didn’t, I wish I could have just died with him. But my core was screaming no and I made a run for it, seeing behind me only a big burning mess, destroying my house, my home. Everything I had known was lost and this world had changed. I knew exactly what it had been like to walk these streets years ago. It was a sunny day when we went to the local zoo, everyone was smiling as we went along, women with their pretty dresses and details, men with their suits, carriages everywhere. Now, the sky was gray, the streets were empty, far off there were sirens and thunder; fireballs falling from the sky along with dense rain. I stumbled through the streets trying to calculate the way to Helene’s home using every story about her husband and their marriage I had ever been told. Finding it was not too hard, I was only wrong 5 times before I really found her house. She couldn’t believe it. I thought I heard happiness in her voice, but she told me I could not come inside. “I have nowhere to go. The house is burning!” I cried. I didn’t have much time to consciously shape how my functions were developing, for sure my feelings were advancing towards quite a human nature, but I cared more about getting inside, knowing she was well and being able to protect her from these things, although I did not yet know how. “I am sorry.” She said and her voice broke off, the speaker at the gate went silent. All I heard was the rain and the bombs in the distance. Bombs, I remembered. Bernard was talking about it but I thought he was just going insane. He often said that about himself. A sense of grief overcame me. I had to keep moving. Silence overruled the falling of the bombs, the noise from the planes, the war. Engines replaced them, engines of cars, the first ones I had seen in my life. I was fascinated. I didn’t realize that the people in the car passing by were equally fascinated by me. I tried to escape but there was no way, I couldn’t see. Endless darkness…

I regained consciousness in a white room, laying on a metal table, stripped down to my shell, my fur on a pile in the corner. Fear overcame me. Tools, all over the place. Cutting tools. There was no way I was going to stay here. I felt weak, but my electric circuit managed to create enough flow to keep me going. I grabbed the suit, heading for the door as voices approached from the outside. In the last moment, I stood behind the door as it opened. I had a split second before they would realize I was not laying there anymore which was enough to sneak out of the door behind their feet. When you are half the size of an ordinary human (without ears) you might thing you are quite small until you try to find a hiding place in a huge experimentation building. All of the ordinary shelves were too small, in the end I resorted to some metallic box with old fabric pieces piled up. I covered myself in them. They entered the room. They looked into every shelf. Into the metal box. Dug their hand in two centimeters in front of my nose. And left. It took me a while to find an exit to the place. But then it was done. I found my backpack in a dumpster two streets down, my things scattered in front of it. Another engine. I could not just stand around now, it was too suspicious, so I tried something new. I crouched on the wet concrete, hoping that I would at least look somewhat like the other rabbit toys from Bernards shop. The men gave me weird looks but let it go. Good, a new strategy, and it actually worked! I crossed the street, next engine. I was wondering why the patrols were so close to each other and realized; too late, that playing toy in the middle of the street was not a good idea. Impact, stinging pain, feeling it for the first time. My circuit was undamaged, so were my senses and limbs and joints. However the pain, it was crippling. Why did he make me so? A strange sound, quick steps getting louder. A man in a black and white suit was looking down at me, I saw terror transform to curiosity. He was none of the ISA men! “Don’t worry, I am not hurt…” I mumbled, in pain. “It is just the feeling…” His eyes were wide. “I am so… so sorry… Can… Can I take you somewhere? Like… Where do you… Live, do you… Have a home?” His nasal old voice was unfamiliar. Father had had such a soothing, warm voice. “It is gone. I have no one. I wish I had died just now.” I was being honest, but I still felt sorry for saying such a radical thing, seeing the shock in his face. “Don’t say that! Come, I will take you with me, I am in a hurry, but you can stay as long as you like I am sure of it! If the doctor sees you…” I shook my head “Human doctors are of no help.” He smiled. “Oh don’t mind! He is not a doctor in the sense that you are thinking… You will see…”

Chapter Two – Foxworth

„His name is Doctor Foxworth. He is  very eccentric man and being his assistant is not an easy job, but I have been patient, so he kept me for all those years. But I am old. I am growing tired of serving him and I would like to move to the countryside and spend my last years in peace. He would never let me go… But if I bring him, someone, and you will surely do a better job than me at sorting things out, with a head of gears, haha! I can’t believe it. I am sure he will love you. He likes… creatures.”

I wished he would stop talking as if I cared where I was going, now that my family had abandoned me. Living with them was all I had ever known, all I ever wanted. Making Helene happy. But I was nothing to her. A wrongdoing. An abomination. I was alive for one reason and that reason was gone.

“See? That’s the hill.” The man pointed at a mansion upon a hill, partly covered by a spruce forest. The wood of the building was so dark that merely weak lights from the windows came through the dense rain and nightly darkness. He pulled up the gravel driveway and stopped at the tall black metal gate, running towards a speaker at the entrance. “Doctor Foxworth, it’s me.” The gates opened at an instant and the old man came hurrying back into the car and driving in. The huge, heavy-looking entrance door was opened by a woman in her thirties, dressed in black with a white apron. “This is Madeleine, she does the cooking and cleaning for the Doctor, and for me, in that respect, but I suppose it will not be necessary for you.” The woman was visibly puzzled by what her colleague was saying and the strange visitor. “Have you got the parts?” A man’s voice sounded, before she could ask anything. I looked around for a speaker, but I couldn’t see one.  “Yes I do, Doctor. But there is something… rather someone, you should come see.” Foxworth was impatient. “I do not like surprise visitors. Tell them to wait. I will join them in the sitting room in an hour. And bring me the parts!!” “Yes, Doctor.” The butler hurried down the stairs immediately, leaving me standing in the entrance area with Madeleine. “What are you?” she brutally asked. I thought about that question for a long time “Actually, I don’t really know. It’s a long story.” I replied and we went into the sitting room where I told her what had happened to me. After a few minutes the butler joined us and we talked for three hours until Madeleine fell asleep in her armchair and the butler helped her into bed. Another hour went by and all I did was study the room. Looking at the different chairs, the sofas, the paintings, the fireplace, the bookshelves until finally we heard steps on the stairs, echoing in the hall and through the open door. They were not hurried at all. “So, who is interrupting..?”

“Who do you think you are, making me wait for hours on end? You think I am nothing?” Doctor Foxworth stared at her, baffled. He was wearing a fox mask that covered half of his face, ironic. A smile overcame him and he walked towards her. “Magnificent!!” “Isn’t she?” the Butler said. “Excuse me, I am talking to you!” I burst out and took a step back. “Yes and that is amazing! How… How does it work?”

“Doctor… She says her purpose was to be a special toy for a toymakers daughter, but over time he advanced her so she became almost like a second daughter to him.” The butler explained.

“Where is he? I need to talk to him!”

“Unfortunately that is not possible.”

“Why?”

“He is dead.”

I interrupted “I was abandoned by this family. And now who are you?”

“I apologize.” The Doctor was correcting his posture and smiling contently. “I am Professor Doctor John Alasdair Darleston Foxworth, only son of late Mister Alasdair Charles Foxworth, may he rest in peace and I am owner of this humble property. I am an early-retired world-class professor of the University of New Albion and now work full time on my inventions. I also would like to apologize for the waiting, I did not expect something this extraordinary was waiting for me here.”

“There is no excuse for being so impolite to anyone at all.”

“Well, you could have been my great aunt visiting. However, that is all small and unimportant compared to what you are. I mean, is this a stupid prank? A child in a rabbit suit?”

The butler joined the conversation again. “No, Doctor. I found her by accident in the streets. Now that she has no home I thought she could stay here, I mean I am pretty sure she will be of use to you, won’t she?”

“Oh yes indeed.”

“And may I ask…” I started “In what way, shape or form are you, Doctor, of any use to me?”

He was thinking. “Well, for starters you can stay here. For free.” I remained silent and he quickly realized that that alone wasn’t cutting the deal for me. “I am an inventor, I have built machines you can’t even imagine could exist. I can fix you up anytime, make you immortal, make you perfect!”

I nodded slowly. “For starters,” I quoted him “I would like some electricity. And if I am staying here for your experiments, I demand not to be kept waiting that long ever again, understand?”

The man assured me that it would never happen again and brought me to the generator room, where he produced the electricity to keep the whole house working. He connected me to the circuit as promised, to prevent data loss, I shut down my own brain while getting the charge I needed to function properly back into my system.

When the butler disconnected me in the morning, I felt stronger than ever before. “Doctor Foxworth would like to discuss the details of your contract over breakfast.” I nodded. I didn’t like the Doctor, I didn’t trust him, but I had nothing to lose. I had now fully reached the reality of life without my father and master, mentally. Somehow it didn’t matter much to me now, who I would serve and assist. As long as he wouldn’t touch my memories…

The Doctor was sitting at the dining table with a variety of foods on his table. I had never seen that much different food on the table of my family. Then again, the table of my family was quite much smaller. “You can’t eat?” he asked. Was he stupid? “No.” I simply answered. “What a shame, I am going to make you be able to eat, to taste. Trust me, it’s worth it.” I left that statement uncommented. Obviously I didn’t need to taste food for life. But whatever modification he thought would make sense, I would approve. Again, I had nothing to lose. Might as well take a risk and try the unknown…

“You can do whatever you want with me. But I have a condition. You let him go.”

The Doctor stopped eating and looked at her with a serious expression. “Who?” He asked as if he really didn’t know.

“Your Butler.”

He was silent for a while. “What is that matter to you?”

“Give me two weeks and I will do his job better than him. Then let him go.”

“Do you even know what he does?”

“No.”

“Quite tough girl you are…” He took a sip of his drink. “Now let’s suppose it happened that way, you did his work and I let him go, a wad of notes and a farewell… He is not just my employee, he likes me, he is a friend. You despise me, you cannot replace him on that level.”

“Oh, I am sure he despises you quite a bit, but with time, people grow accustomed.” She ignored his surprised expression and went on… “However if you were a friend to him, he would not be wanting to spend his old age far away from you. He would be wanting to die near his friend, like you do. The thing is, I do not age or die, you will die on me and I move on, simple as that.”

He directed his focus back at his food. “We’ll see about that.” He said with a low tone, more enthusiastically followed by: “So go on then, let him show you everything.”

My main task was to sort notes and findings of the Doctor, without knowing the content, only knowing the title of the note or text. I had to memorize it in a way which would enable me to retrieve any piece of information about a given topic within minutes. That was a matter of – well – Minutes. The Butler, who finally introduced himself to me as Adrian, had expected me to be able to memorize it fast since my whole being worked with data of various sorts, however he was still surprised at just how little time it took me for something that took him years and years and he hadn’t even finished classifying everything, which I now continued to do. In my eyes the Doctor was a complete madman at this point, writing texts with titles such as Time Vortex, Teleportation, Illusive Material, Creatures Vol IV Herea… This inventor seemed to spend all of his time writing texts and then he was expecting me not to peak into any of them, not even once?

“How’s it going?”

We were back at dinner. The butler coughed and sighed. “Well to be honest I was quite idle today. Levina took over all the work. She finished everything I had planned to finish by next month.”

“Levina?”

“Well, that’s her name.”

“Impressive… It seems I could work a bit more… If she is that fast in cataloguing my research papers, I might as well produce more of them.”

“I was wondering if you had books about electricity and robotics.” I said.

He looked up at me. The two of them had that way of talking as if I weren’t even there, but I suppose that happens when you are deprived of contact with other people for such a long time.

“Well yes, I have a lot of information about that. Why?”

“I would like to learn about myself. I want to know what it is with me, why I was special, of all his toys.”

“I will give you a list of books and texts you can absorb, if that is what you do.”

“It is, in a way.” I laughed, thinking it was the right moment, but nobody else did. “Thank you.”

“Now, Adrian. Where do you want to go?”

“Doctor… What do you mean?”

“Well, you’ll need to take a holiday at least, I don’t have work for you now. Don’t worry, it’s a paid holiday.”

“Doctor! That is amazing… I can hardly believe…”

“Go on, pack your bags! You got a carriage waiting out the entrance tomorrow at 7.”

He hurried away, looking at us left at the table in disbelief.

“Where is he going?” I asked.

“Scotland. Nice ol’ countryside. He’ll love it.”

“Your texts have rather strange titles.”

“Aren’t we getting a little cheeky now?”

“I may have lived under a rock of sorts, but Bernard read the news every day, all world talking about the war, not any illusive Material…”

“That is because people are foolish and knowing that, I decided to shield them from information they could misuse.”

“Are you saying these things exist, like a time vortex?”

“I was not saying that.”

“I haven’t heard bombs ever since we got here.”

“We’re safe here.”

“How?”

“It is time to shut your mouth little creature. Otherwise I might have to recall Adrian.”

I liked Adrian, I was sad when he left, but I got used to my daily tasks quickly. I had a lot of idle time which I spent scanning the books on the shelves around the house as well as his research papers, those he allowed me to. I understood that no ordinary heat or current could melt metal into the kind of nano strings that enable memory and connect a bunch of parts into a network of data. I still remembered the very first moment of life, burning from inside out… But still, it seemed off, something was strange about that occurrence.

The Doctor called for me and I was going to enter the basement for the very first time. The staircase was nice and bright, leading down to an iron door. Before I could think much about how I was supposed to open it, it opened by itself. I was stunned. It was a room full of curious machines, brass and lights of different colors. “Come here.” The Doctor was standing behind some shelves that were littered with wires and electronic bits and pieces. “Can I have a look at your head?” He asked. I nodded and came over to him. He opened the shell at the places it was supposed to, so there was no pain inflicted via the artificial nerve system. “It’s completely empty!” he burst out in laughter. I didn’t find it very funny. “No, I am sorry, I mean, it’s brilliant,” he looked into me again “Everything that has been done so far seems to be situated and connected to the core, except for the eyes and ears and that, but there is like, nothing in the middle of your head, you understand?” “Yes.” I said, unimpressed. “So there is enough space for something that will allow you to taste food. I mean, I am afraid you might have to spit it out afterwards…” “That sucks.” “I’ll think of something. You stay here. Where is the article about artificial cells?” “On the shelf A43 pretty much in the middle.”

It took him a few hours, but the Doctor was good. It was strange to watch him for such a long time fondling my insides. Sweat was pearling down his face especially below the mask. I had told him that he could take it off, what could be worse than being a literal robot? But he refused. His face was foxy and it was not just the mask. I had a thousand questions burning inside me, among them, if the name inspired the mask or the other way around. What was going on in his head? I always knew what father or Helene were thinking about, they always told me, but the Doctor remains silent. How come he didn’t feel like opening up to me at all, not even small talk? „Would it hurt to speak to me?“ I asked. „Let me finish this up first.“ he said continuing to meddle. „So all you need now is for me to connect this to your circuit?“ „I suppose.“ I said. I immediately detected the new device, very clearly more advanced technology than Bernards. I didn’t get any code information from that port, except the usual new limb parameters. „Oh boy, that’s looking scary, I think you better try this with the suit on and in front of the mirror!“ the Doctor shouted with a smile and promptly sat me in front of the mirror. How weird. I had learned to read human expressions very fast with Helene, but being able to produce them myself was something else. Especially when you looked like a rabbit. „I don’t know if there is a point to this…“ I said. „Oh yes, you’ll be more pleasant to speak to. Do you know how weird it is to talk to a rabbit when the mouth moves like a robot?“

„I am more robot and more human than rabbit“

„Well, yes that may be true… But humans like anthropomorph creatures. If I tried to make you human you would be quite uncanny I suppose, like a little girl, but surreal. Anyway I could try. What is it that you want?“

„I don’t know. Beyond this, I am purposeless now. I might as well have no life within me and blindly sort your texts.“

„Look, I believe I could build you almost any life you want, I only failed at life itself so far and you already have it. So what is stopping you?“

„I only have existence. Nothing else.“

„But that is so much, can’t you see? Look at how you’re talking, much better. Look at that face. Isn’t it cute?“

„I like this… form. It’s very… me.“ I was thinking about what he had said. I had missed none of the parts before they were installed, except for – instinctively – joints and feeling, speaking and hearing. But if I thought about what I found that I was lacking over the years…

„I want more feelings, the ones I have don’t cover everything“

„What do you mean?“

„Well, when something happens that I have seen humans react to, but I can’t react that way because I can’t relate, something strange happens within me. I don’t like it.“

„We’ll work on that, promised.“

„What do you live for?“

„Why are you asking that?“

„I feel like I have no drive. Give me whatever you have, duplicate it.“

„That’s not so simple. I have a goal, but it is something you have already achieved, something inherent with your kind.“

„I can’t relate to that.“

„I thought so. What about love?“

„What is it?“

„It is just a stupid thing, but it makes you want to live. It’s exciting, nerve-wrecking. It might be the only thing that could drive you. That is, if you don’t want to be a super-villain like me.“

He laughed. „I might as well give you pain and hatred. But I think you’d end up killing me.“

„No.“ I said. „I couldn’t if I tried.“

More days of strange conversations and strange food followed. The taste buds worked and the Doctor wanted me have breakfast and dinner with him every day and tell him what it was like. I thought it was a waste of food, but he insisted. Sometimes when I thought about it, I felt a wall stopping my thoughts as though it was begging me to turn back and be dead like I should have been. I sometimes wished I was complete, just like a human, but he thought that was stupid because I had so many advantages compared to humans. Then again I didn’t have their imagination, their purpose, their will to propagate. I had no death to fear and no limited time to ceize. I could waste time, I just wouldn’t because it was boring. I guess I still had that from Helene. She was an impatient child. I wondered a lot about the Doctor, he never seemed to get bored working hours on end. However, he definitely got frustrated, specifically with the love thing. The Doctor was a firm believer in love without connection to replication and survival of the species, but he failed at replicating it over and over. At some point I was just sitting there, wired up to 3 different machines with him pacing all over the room. „Levina…“

„Yes?“ I said, ever so unimpressed.

„I have been thinking of something. I mean… We could go on with this whole thing, I’ll find a solution sooner or later, no big deal. But I think I might have something else that might bring you some lust for living. You could join me when I am travelling.“

„When do you ever travel? And where?“

„Oh, all the time! Everywhere! Trust me, you’ll see things you’ve never seen before. And the vehicle is in this very room!“

I looked around, quite confused. Had this bloke officially gone mad? There was no car, no plane, no carriage. The only thing in the room that even fit more than a single person inside was a closed down ticket box, which was really random, actually.

„Oh yes, you found it?“

„That thing? That’s what you travel in?“

„Positive.“

„How’s that?“

„I could try to explain all the different aspects of the ship, but really, you might as well scan the papers I wrote about it and see for yourself…“

He proceeded to unlock the side door of the ticket box and revealed a much bigger inside. I didn’t know what to say. It was stunning, all I thought he was a madman for was actually real, he managed to build it. A machine that travels in literally no time, anywhere in the galaxy, heck, the universe! I couldn’t help but jump around excitedly, examining everything. I loved to learn. I had always loved to learn. The whole thing looked like a Victorian library, which was a plane at the same time, just with a lot more controls.

“Does it have a name?” I asked.

“No, I’ll think of something eventually. Now it’s just ‘her’.” He said.

It bothered me when things didn’t have names, but I simply saved it as ‘the Ship’.

“Where do you want to go?” he asked, after giving me a little time to process.

“Right now? What about Madeleine?”

“It will only be a few hours, come on. Alright, I want to show you something. Close the door.”

On a far away planet, an ancient call descended to the stars, a red moon casting eerie light upon the austere foreign lands, without a single plant or animal defying the ice cold winds and dry weather, only a little house built from black rocks near the cliffs standing undefeated. Blue light emitted by a kettle in the middle of the room fell upon the face of the ancient priestess of Thorth, whispering besoothing words towards the great hole of the sky, where Pagnoth reigned over the destiny of all things. If he had mercy, she would be shown more of the future, to lead her people towards victory in the next years.

„Priestess, the items you have asked for.“

With these words, a young female acolyte entered the prophecy chamber. Her blue eyes were widened in fear and respect of the presence of Pagnoth she felt inside. Immediately the Priestess rose and turned around, shouting at her to leave and not disturb the ritual any further.

„Our god must not be kept waiting!“ she uttered as she turned her hand to what the acolyte had brought. A newborn lamb was lying disoriented next to a bundle of wheat and a tin of ointment taken, it had been taken from its mother before she could even look at it.

„Great Pagnoth, our life, our work, our blood!“

The majestic voice of the priestess was elevated by 14 whispers in the shadows surrounding her, the reflection of the kettle in the eyes of the sisterhood. A body emerged from the shadows, a woman, not as old as the priestess but older than the acolyte from before, the dark blue scales of her skin shining as she reached for the hind legs of the lamb. The ritual was well practiced. As the priestess and the 14 sisters of Pagnoth chanted the ancient song of their people, the wheat and the fresh life were sacrificed, the dead lamb anointed with blood and the foul smelling paste from the tin, the priestess likewise. By the power of innocent life gifted, she was brought into a state of seeing through time and space, revealing the future in the form of scattered images and words. Her eyes went blank and she started to shake and tremble, unable to continue chanting with the others. Like a spiders web, all possible futures were absorbed in her mind, she almost burst from the knowledge. But no, there was only one more chance to find the right way, the one that would decide over life and death of a whole species and she wouldn’t miss it this time.

A voice began shouting in her head, only a whisper, yet so loud it almost burst her ears: “The sisters must fly,” she heard herself speak along as if these words were hers, but they weren’t… “a man must die. When the flaw is corrected, the Exogyvean shall live above.”