XXVIII - Endgame; Part II
“The final stage of a course of events.”
Date: Friday, October 13, 2006, 12:02 PM EST
Location: Unidentified Underwater Earth Station, Captiva Island, Florida
Age: 35 (Current)
An actual Brüder.
This was the answer to one of my biggest questions.
A standard biped with two legs and two arms lay before me. I couldn’t see toes, but could see five large, fat fingers, sans fingernails. It wore a cheap Captiva Island, Florida T-Shirt and blue jeans that didn’t fit properly as they were too short. The Brüder was at least seven feet tall, possibly more. Then there was its color. It wasn’t the flesh of a white man or a black man, but a pastel blue-grey. Its open eyes were completely black and shaped like almonds, like sexy supermodel eyes. There was no discernable pupil or iris. The nose was long and slender. Its lips thin, forming a small mouth.
It was damned creepy looking.
I looked up at Connor. “He looks like one of those grey Roswell aliens you’d see in countless sci-fi movies.”
“The cover up to hide the truth about what happened in 1947 was almost a success. Rumors and artist conceptions from witness descriptions leaked out. Those interpretations over the decades are the images many associate with aliens, little grey men with big black eyes. I’m not sure where the ‘little’ part came from. Most Brüder are over seven feet tall.”
I looked back at the Brüder body. “This is unbelievable. Do you know who this is? Would Jim?”
“I don't know. I doubt it. If Jim knew about this place, he would have said something. He could very well be the missing Brüder-3 pilot.”
It dawned on me then. For an underwater facility, it was very humid, and stuffy. “Is it me, or is it really hot down here?”
“Yes, it is. It should be a lot cooler. Computer, extrapolate topographical map, radius one mile.” Nothing happened. Connor sighed. “Berechnen, extrapolieren, topographische Karte, Radius eine Meile.” A windowed image appeared, detailing a rough layout of the facility, accompanied with the observatory control panel. “Temperaturen gemessen und angezeigt Varianz. Auflage. Markieren aktuellen Standort. This will show us the temperate differences from our location.”
A yellow dot appeared overtop the map indicating our current position. Shades of orange, red, yellow, and green displayed the hottest and coolest areas of the facility. A large room down the hallway to our left indicated a large patch of red. Connor rubbed his chin in thought. “Whatever is there, in that area, it’s giving off a lot of heat. Let’s see what it is.”
We left the HMS bound Brüder body and proceeded to the area in question. “How much heat do those holographic generators give off?” I asked.
“Nothing like this,” Connor said, nodding at the image floating next to us as we walked.
“Computers of my time, especially server farms, give off that kind of heat,” I said. “What kind of power source does Brüder technology run off of?”
“How familiar are you with quantum physics?”
“Not very?” I said, in question.
“When the Brüder constructed FCA-1, they built it around a quantum singularity. They are rare, but do exist. The amount of energy it gives off, that we can harness, can’t be measured by any technology of the twenty first century. To power FCA-1 by any means our civilization has to offer would be impossible. Quantum singularity energy is infinite, it never runs out. The Earth stations, the Brüder ships, they are powered by its residue, the FCA-1 singularity. Those power sources, they recharge themselves through a chemical reaction with the Unobtanium that encasing it. As far as I know, they’ve never been replaced, those energy cells. They can run down significantly as you saw aboard Brüder-2, when went through temporal displacement, but they replenish quickly. If what we are seeing here in this overheated room are Earth computers, the hardware would have died eons before the power would run low.”
We turned into the room giving off the elevated heat, stopping dead in our tracks. The room was the size of a warehouse. Connor expressed his surprise with an exaggerated exhale. My guess had been only partially correct. A mish mash of twentieth century computer technology and Brüder holographic technology lined the room. Wires and cables bundled in trunks hung everywhere, all leading back to a huge mainframe.
“What the hell is this?” I asked, in wonder. Connor didn’t answer. He focused on the one apparent interface to access the data within the monster network. An extravagantly accessorized chair like one might find in a dental office was wired into the surrounding computer system. To the right of the chair, monitors and keyboards encompassed two additional interfaces.
In the chair lay Victor Merrick, resting or asleep. Two nodes emitting pulsating beams of light surrounded his head, beaming into each temple. From behind, a third node of light pulsed into the location of the cerebral cortex.
Connor stared intently at Victor’s face. “Are you seeing this, TDI-2?”
“Copy,” Ryan said, barely a faint whisper. “I’ve never seen anything like this. I couldn’t even guess at the purpose of this device.”
“Dr. Ecklie?” Connor asked, in a whisper.
“Should I hazard a guess, I would say its some fancy Brüder gadget to scan information from Victor’s temporal and cerebral cortexes. Mind you, it’s merely a guess.”
Connor cautiously took slow steps toward Victor and the chair. He knew something. The look on his face gave it away. I didn’t know whether to stay put or follow, until I remembered we were in a holographic recreation. Victor could neither see nor hear us. Then I followed. Connor moved in for a closer look at Victor’s tie. “Do any of you read binary?”
“It's been a while,” I said. “I could try.”
“I want to know what the sequences on Victor's tie represent.”
I approached Victor's other side so I could give the tie a closer look. Binary code, a sequence of eight digits consisting of ones and zeros is the language computers use to interpret information, what we understand as letters and numbers. Each eight digit binary sequence would represent one letter, number, or character, such as a space, exclamation point, etc.
Victor's tie contained exactly fifteen sequences.
I had not messed around with binary since high school computer class. It took me several minutes to recall and apply the methodology used to translate them.
“The first letter is a 'V',” I said. A few minutes later, “The next one is an 'I'.”
“And the third one a 'C'?” Connor asked.
After calculating it, that large sinking feeling in my gut returned. “No, it isn't.”
Connor closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead with this thumb and fingers, indicating he was expecting bad news. “Then it's an 'N', isn't it?”
“It is. How did you know?”
“And the one after that, it’s a 'C'.”
I looked at the tie to confirm it. Connor was right. “Okay, what does it say? You obviously know.”
“Please, just finish translating. I need to be sure.”
I shot him an annoyed glance and continued. “e, n, t, space, r, e, t, t, o, r, i.”
“Vincent Rettori,” Connor said, frowning as he stared at Victor. “It's true then. He’s not a myth. He’s real. Vincent Rettori is the name he gave him self, since technically Victor Merrick is dead. Half of what Victor used to be is mixed in with the Internet’s artificial intelligence.”
I looked up at Connor from Victor’s tie. “You're telling me that Victor Merrick is now a conscious hybrid of himself and the…” I circled my finger in the air, searching for the appropriate terminology. “… the artificial intelligence borne from the Internet? How is that even possible?”
Connor never took his eyes off Victor. “Yes, that's what I'm saying, and I don't know how it's possible. It does explain all of...this,” he said waving his hand at the freak hybrid of human and Brüder technology. “I’ll wager this is where it hid itself, the Internet A.I., after The Corporation attempted to terminate it. This is why we are seeing a combination of human and Brüder systems. I’ll also wager its stand alone, this entire network, so it can’t be broke into. It’s also why the Jaunte portal has no power.”
“Right,” Ryan said, literally interrupting Connor. “If the portal was connected to the Jaunte system, it would register on the Jaunte network, giving us access to this station.”
Connor sighed, shaking his head as if to scold himself. “Eliminating power to the Jaunte is what makes it self contained, this station.”
The Brüder who had been asleep inside the HMS entered the room. It approached Victor, placing its big clumsy hand on Victor’s head. “Vincent?” It asked. I winced at the sound of its voice. It was demonically deep in tone.
Victor opened his eyes, darting in the direction of the hovering Brüder. “Hello, Martin Wexler.”
Connor and I looked at each other in astonishment.
“You don’t have to use my full name Vincent,” Martin said, with a small smile of the Brüder’s mouth. “Just call me Martin.”
“I’m sorry, Martin. I’ll try harder next time.”
“Did you enjoy your pizza?”
“Yes, thank you. It was very delicious. I find the taste of dairy product and the flesh from which it comes satisfying.”
The Brüder face smiled with its tiny mouth. “I’m glad you liked it. We can go again tomorrow if you want.”
“Yes, I would like that very much,” said Victor, in childlike wonder. “Did your friends follow us?”
“No, I don’t think so. Do you remember my telling you I would have to go and reclaim my original body sometime soon?”
“Yes, I do. Is today that day?”
“It is, and I have to go away for a little while. I’ll be back soon,” Martin said, taking Victor’s hand in his. The Brüder hand swallowed Victor’s. “Go ahead and continue your work. It’ll be time to go soon.”
“Thank you, Martin Wex--, Martin.” Victor closed his eyes.
Martin began to walk out of the room. He stopped, looking back at Victor. “Do you like your present, Vincent?”
Victor opened his eyes. He ran his hand over the binary tie. “Yes I do. Thank you very much.” Martin smiled again and left the room. Victor closed his eyes.
Connor shook his head in disbelief. “This is when he goes back to ES-5, after the first attack on Brüder-2.”
Ryan audibly sighed in anger. “That son of a bitch. No wonder he freaked out about not being able to come back here after we captured him. I don’t think Victor, or Vincent, or whoever, can take care of him self.”
“Nor do I,” Connor said in agreement. “I think the combined consciousness that is Vincent Rettori has only been with us for a short time.”
“Really?” Ryan asked.
Krissie readily agreed with Connor. “Even with his intelligence, the experience of existing as a living, breathing human being is new to him. His thought processes are no longer simple ones and zeros. All of that, combined with consciousness as we understand it literally makes Vincent a child.”
“Okay, I get it,” Ryan said. “That’s why Martin wanted to come back here so bad. Do we have any idea where they intended to go had Martin returned?”
“No,” Connor said. “But since he manages to break out later today, he could be coming back here soon enough.”
The pressure in the station increased. Had we been there, our ears would have popped. Connor looked around towards the hallway to the Jaunte portal. “Something is happening.”
We ran back into the Jaunte room. Martin manually launched the sub ship to return to the surface, unmanned. Connor grinned. “That’s how he thinks he’s getting back in.”
Martin returned to the HMS tube. The Brüder body went limp when Martin displaced from it. The question as to whether or not Martin was still lurking about would be a non-issue. We knew he would return to Area 51 and Brüder-2 after his fifteen-year absence. For Ryan and me aboard Brüder-2 at this moment in time, Martin would only be gone a few minutes, using the Impüls cannon as his excuse for displacing.
“TDI-2, do you see the sub ship?” Connor asked.
“Copy, it appears to be tethered to the base. I don’t get it.”
Connor looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders. “Ryan, you and Krissie board that thing and get down here. We gotta get this Jaunte portal working.”
Ryan and Krissie - in tow with her black bag - disembarked the sub ship as quietly as they could after it docked. As Connor and I were not physically there, Victor could not hear us. On the other hand, should Ryan and Krissie make too much noise, their presence could alert Victor. Ryan held a flat device the size of the average laptop computer that displayed live images from Connor’s perspective within the observation platform.
“The first thing you need to do is take him into custody, Victor,” Connor said. “We can’t chance him interrupting us while we try to get this thing working.”
“Copy,” Ryan whispered.
Krissie reached into her bag and handed Ryan a pair of wrist restraints. “You may need this.”
“Thanks,” Ryan said. He looked into the pad. “Lead the way, boss.”
Connor led the team to Victor’s computer lair. “Turn the pad off,” Connor said. “I don’t want Victor to know Kevin and I are listening.”
“Copy,” Ryan said, tapping a button at the top of the holographic display. The screen of the pad went dark as he handed it to Krissie.
Victor was as we left him. Ryan raised his Impüls weapon. “Victor!” He said, sharply. Victor opened his eyes and sat up, breaking his link to the computer. “Don’t resist, okay?”
“Ryan Capcoseve and Kristina Ecklie,” Victor said. “What are you doing here?”
“We’re here to take you into custody, Victor. If you come quietly, without resisting, I won’t need to use this,” Ryan said, waving the Impüls.
“My name is not Victor Merrick,” he said, with child like innocence. “The Victor Merrick you knew evolved into who I am now. My name is Vincent Rettori.”
“Okay, Vincent. Regardless your name, I still need to secure you for our safety.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Victor said. “I have no quarrel with you and the Fifth Column Alliance. My enemy is The Corporation and the Brüder.”
“I don’t think Martin would agree,” Ryan said.
“Martin Wexler is helping me.”
Ryan appeared miffed. “Good for him. In the meantime, I still need to secure you.”
“Why do you want to hurt me? I don’t understand?”
“I don’t want to hurt you, Vincent. I don’t want you to hurt me. Restraining you is the only way I can be sure that won’t happen.”
“But I already told you, I do not have any fight with you,” Vincent said, genuinely confused. “I do not know why you are here. I was not expecting either of you.”
The way Vincent said that triggered a red flag in my head. He was expecting someone else, maybe?
Ryan looked at Krissie for some kind of suggestion. Krissie spoke to Vincent. “We don’t want to hurt you, sweetheart. We want to help you. We thought you were still Victor Merrick. We knew Victor and trusted him. Since we don’t know you yet, we need to be able to trust that you mean us no harm. Once we have established that, we won’t need to restrain you.”
“But he is pointing a weapon at me,” Vincent said, pointing at Ryan. “How am I supposed to trust you?”
Krissie motioned for Ryan to lower his Impüls. Reluctantly, he complied. Vincent looked back and forth between them, slowly holding out his wrists, face up.
“Thank you, love,” Krissie said as Ryan applied the restraints, cuffing Vincent’s hands together. “I promised we won’t hurt you,”
“What are you doing here?” Vincent asked.
Ryan answered. “We need to restart the Jaunte portal.”
Vincent appeared physically distressed. “No! You cannot do that. The Corporation will find me.”
“Who told you that?” Ryan asked. “Martin?” Vincent nodded. “He lied. The Corporation doesn’t control the Jaunte system. We do.”
“Why would Martin Wexler lie?”
“Because The Corporation brainwashed him,” Ryan said, with little emotion. “I wouldn’t get too broken up over it, he lied to us too. We trusted him, and he betrayed us by kidnapping my colleagues and forcing us to do things we didn’t want to do, one of which involved The Corporation exchanging Victor Merrick for a certain coin.”
“Yes, I have memories of that day from Victor Merrick’s life,” Vincent said. “But Martin Wexler was there to save Victor Merrick from The Corporation.”
Ryan posture indicated growing impatient. Krissie noticed and interjected. “Yes, he did. Martin rescued you,” she said, speaking to Vincent as a mother would speak to a child. “What you may not know, sweetie, is Martin kidnapped me and forced me to take a friend hostage to make that exchange. Martin also didn’t know his friend Victor was involved. When Martin realized that, his alliance with The Corporation ended. He sacrificed himself to save Victor.”
“Martin Wexler helped The Corporation?” Victor asked, with disappointment in his voice. “Why would he do that?”
“He couldn’t help it,” Krissie said, with sympathy. “The Corporation took Martin prisoner at some point. We didn’t know about it. They brainwashed him into doing what they wanted him to do, which meant betraying us, his friends. Right now, Martin is still helping The Corporation in some fashion. We came here looking for Victor so we could protect him. Even though you are no longer Victor, we still want to help protect you until we can find Martin and get him the help he needs.” Victor looked as if he might cry. “I’m truly sorry to be the one to tell you Martin has not been honest with you, love. I do promise you however, The Corporation does not have control over our Jaunte network. We need to make the Jaunte portal here work again, so we can take you someplace safe.”
Vincent’s eyes lit up. “The base in the moon?”
“Yes sweetie, that’s where we would like to take you. We have very smart and friendly people there who will take care of you and keep you safe. We too are looking for The Corporation. They are our enemy as well. It’s our hope that once we find Martin and talk to him, he will rejoin us and help us find The Corporation. We could all work together.”
Vincent looked away, deliberately making no eye contact with anybody. “I don’t know how to make the Jaunte work.”
“He’s lying,” Connor said. Ryan nodded ever so slightly to indicate he heard or agreed. “When Martin and I originally met and learned of the Internet artificial intelligence, its primary goal was to obtain our protocol for the HoloLog system. When it became self aware, the Internet, we moved all new content to holographic, so it didn’t have access to it. It was rumored the intelligence wanted to merge with a human so it could think like one of us, giving it a better understanding of how we think, making it easier for it to gain access to them, the HoloLog protocols, a Brüder technology. My bet is the Internet intelligence, before it merged with Victor knew quite a bit about them, the Brüder, and their technology. The hybrid of systems in this room proves that. Even if he’s never worked on a Jaunte portal, he would know how it works.”
Ryan stepped up to Vincent. “Now Vincent, I don’t think you’re being completely honest with me. You used to be an artificial intelligence we called The Internet. You knew quite a bit about Brüder technology, judging from the network you have here. Why would you lie?”
“Martin Wexler told me to,” he said, dejected. “I am not all that good at lying.”
“Then don’t,” Ryan said, irritated. “Do you know how to reactivate the Jaunte, or not?”
Vincent sighed. “You need the power converter and junctions from the submarine ship. But Martin Wexler launched it already.”
Ryan sighed. “Yes, I know. How do you think we got here?”
Vincent’s eyes widened. “How will Martin Wexler get back?”
“He’s not coming back,” Ryan said. “Other FCA operatives are bringing him in right now. I was told his primary concern was for you and your safety, which is why we are here.”
Vincent nodded. “Okay, I understand.”
Ryan helped Vincent stand up. “Let’s go.”
They returned to the Jaunte room and the sub ship. Connor and I followed from Observation. Ryan handed Vincent off to Krissie so he could enter the sub ship and disconnect the equipment needed to reactive the Jaunte portal. Within minutes, he emerged with the required apparatus, looking at Vincent. “If we turn this back on, is it going to matter if half the side of that portal is missing?”
“I don’t know.”
Ryan disappeared around the left side of the Jaunte octagon with the newly finagled equipment, the side missing most of its structure. Within minutes, the Jaunte began to show signs of life, beginning with the control panel. The holographic display flickered intermittently, along with the holographic outline around the inner octagon. The holographic octagon shape held its position in spite of the incomplete frame. A wall of shimmering black or a red-shifted image from the event horizon normally filled the Jaunte octagon. The solid rock background behind the Jaunte remained in view. Something wasn’t working properly.
Ryan returned to the front of the portal, scratching his head. “Okay. Now what?”
Connor studied the flickering control panel. “Ryan, with the hardware half gone, I don’t know how stable this thing will be. See if you can reboot the interface.”
Ryan did some trickery with the intermittent interface, performing a hard reset of what amounted to the operating system. The inner outline of the octagon flashed, as did the control panel. This time, text scrolled up the holographic display.
“Station twelve?” Ryan asked, annoyed. “There are twelve stations total? For fuck’s sake, what else don’t we know?”
Connor glanced at me. “We only knew of eight. This find is interesting, to say the least.”
The holographic interface I recognized from other Jaunte portals replaced the white on black display. The red security field crashed down across the open octagon, dispersing out the unsupported and missing sections of the octagon structure. The inner outline of the portal and the control panel continued to flicker.
Connor frowned. “This is a problem. Once it’s released, that field, and the wormhole connects to this location, there is a fair chance we may not make it all the way though in one piece.”
I didn’t care for the sound of that. “What does that mean?”
“The octagon frame is incomplete, so the connection won’t be complete between portals. The artificial wormhole relies on the Unobtanium frame to prevent a ‘leak’, for lack of a better word.”
“A leak?” I asked, alarmed. “A leak to where?”
“No one knows,” Connor said. “Not that it matters. The gravitational pull out of it, the worm hole, will scatter your body’s molecules across whatever surrounds it.”
“Fuck,” I said, under my breath.
“Can you hear me Ryan?” Connor asked. Ryan nodded subtly. “Sync up with FCA-1. We’ll be on COM as we leave Observation. When we get to our side of the Jaunte, watch for something to come through.” Ryan nodded ever so slightly again. “We’re on our way.”
Ryan was still entering information into the control panel when Connor shut down Observation. The real time images ceased, leaving us standing in a stadium-sized room. We wasted no time in running for the exit. I kept up as best I could. The last temporal displacement had left me feeling sore and sick, if it was in fact the displacement. I feared it might be withdraw symptoms from the TS-14.
Inside the Jaunte room, Connor dropped the Jaunte security field with a few finger taps on the control panel. The first problem I saw was the lack of the Jaunte transport platform. Connor noticed it too. A bad feeling ran through me, leaving me worried. Connor looked at his watch. “Damn! We blew our four-hour window. You and Ryan are due to come through here any time now. We need to get the hell out of here!” He scanned the room, not finding whatever it was he wanted. “Wait here, I have an idea.”
“What if Ryan and I come through while you’re gone?”
“Since you didn’t run into us earlier today, we should be okay. If the Jaunte activates from Earth, it’ll say so on the readout. If that happens, you’ll have three minutes to hide.”
Connor left. He was gone for nearly five minutes as I paced back and forth, watching the Jaunte control panel for incoming activity. When he finally returned, he carried a huge section of what looked like air conditioning duct.
“What the hell is that?” I asked. Without haste, Connor dropped the section vertically to the ground. It made a hollow crashing sound as it hit.
He motioned for me to help him push it through the Jaunte octagon. “A way out, I hope.” The section was surprisingly light as we pushed it through. I knelt down, peering across to the other side. Krissie stared back at me. Connor stepped back. “This won’t hold long. The gravitational stress won’t destroy Unobtanium, but it could bend the hell out of it. You first, make it fast.”
I crawled inside the duct. It was a tighter fit than I thought it would be, requiring me to crawl on my elbows while dragging my legs. The distance couldn’t have been more than eight feet. It felt like a hundred. The sound of stress pushing on the tunnel was painstakingly evident. By the time I came out the other side, the tunnel structure began to crumple in the middle. Krissie and Ryan helped me out as Vincent watched intently. He recognized me right away. “I know you too, Kevin Garrison. Or do you go by Kevin Provance now?”
“Provance, thanks,” I said, focusing my attention on Connor’s Jaunte hack. Connor was halfway through when the tunnel began to twist and shake violently. His legs became trapped in the crumple. He attempted vigorously to pull himself free.
“Pull it through!” Connor yelled. The three of us grabbed the edges of the tunnel and yanked it through. It, with Connor trapped inside slid into the room, the red security field slamming down behind.
Vincent stared in awe. “Connor MacKenzie! You are a legend! Can you really time travel?”
Ryan carefully helped Connor maneuver his legs out of the crumpled tunnel. “Yes, that’s a fair description of what I can do. We call it temporal displacement.” Connor stood, limping a bit. Otherwise, he appeared fine. He looked at Ryan. “Shut down the Jaunte. I don’t want it visible on the system.”
“Done,” he said, taking the necessary steps to shut down the portal.
Vincent beamed over Connor’s presence. “It is a pleasure to meet you in person. I have been expecting you.”
Connor stood up, barely reacting to Vincent’s declaration. “Likewise Vincent, although I was expecting Victor Merrick.”
“Victor Merrick is part of me. I know everything he knew.” Connor pulled as the unshaven whiskers on his chin. He studied Victor, who looked back innocently. Connor approached him and released the holographic wrist restraints.
Ryan gasped. “Connor?”
“It’s okay,” Connor said, still looking at Vincent. “The FCA means you no harm Vincent. I am showing you my good faith, trusting you when you say you have no quarrel with us.”
“How did you know I said that?” Vincent asked.
“It’s not important. What is important is we have trust. Do you believe me when I tell you we are your friends?”
Vincent smiled slightly, as a recently praised child might. “I do. I know lots of things, Connor MacKenzie.” The way Vincent said it rubbed me the wrong way. I glimpsed at Ryan who met my glance. He heard the same thing I did. It was not what Vincent said, it was how he said it.
“I need to ask you some questions, Vincent,” Connor said gently, placing his hand on Vincent’s shoulder. “Are you up for that?”
“Yes, of course!”
“Will you be honest with me? It’s very important you are, for your safety.”
“When exactly did you become Vincent Rettori?”
“Fifty two hours ago.”
Looks of surprise passed between the rest of us. Connor did his best to appear unaffected by Vincent’s answer. “How is that possible, Vincent? I’ve been to several points in future time where it’s still confined to its hardware, the artificial intelligence you used to be. Rumor of your existence as Vincent Rettori didn’t start until after 2032. Do you see the problem with it, your answer?”
“Yes,” Vincent said. “Lots of things that happened to bring me here have not happened yet.”
Connor appeared curiously confused. “Are you telling me the artificial intelligence part of you is from another point in time?”
“Yes. September of 2095.”
I groaned. Connor didn’t break character once. “How did that happen? Did you arrive through temporal displacement? Was I involved with that?”
“Daniel Wilson brought SAIN to this location a little over sixty hours ago.”
Ryan couldn’t help himself. “What? How did that happen? What the hell is going on here?” Connor extended his hand backward toward Ryan, suggesting he stand down. He never took his attention away from Vincent.
“Sane?” Connor asked, unsure of the reference.
“Yes, it means Silicon Artificial Intelligence Network.”
“So you’re telling me Dan Wilson brought your artificial intelligence here, to this location almost three days ago”
“How old was he, Vincent?”
“I do not know exactly. Old.”
I shook my head in silent wonder. I wondered if that was older Dan’s plan all along, wanting asylum from Connor after the failed exchange of Victor and the quarter in 2025, for the purpose of what Vincent described. Connor left older Dan in July of 2095 aboard FCA-1, two months before the time Vincent indicated. The incident he explained has yet to occur for Connor. It now puts him in the uncomfortable position of allowing or assisting Dan in sending the Internet artificial intelligence, or SAIN as it calls itself, back to 2006. To do anything else would create a paradox.
Still, didn’t Vincent say he expected Connor’s arrival?
Connor motioned towards the comatose Brüder body. “Who is that?”
“That is Cristalstimus. This place and the PrinzessinErde belong to him.”
Ryan appeared confused. “That what?”
“I think he’s talking about the yacht,” Connor said.
“Yes,” Vincent said in agreement. “The PrinzessinErde is the name Cristalstimus gave his boat.”
I chuckled to myself at Vincent’s inaccurate description of the yacht. Yeah, ‘boat’ is one word for it.
“Cristalstimus lives on both, far away from humans,” Vincent said. “Martin Wexler learned about this place and the PrinzessinErde when he overtook Cristalstimus during his escape with Victor from the crash of the ship you call Brüder-3.”
“So let me get this right,” Connor said. “The Brüder over there in stasis is Bruder-3’s pilot from 1991?”
“Yes. Martin Wexler suppressed his soul after we crashed in 1981. Martin Wexler was upset about that. We were ten years from where we should have been. Martin told Victor having a Brüder running around out of control in a time where he didn’t belong was dangerous. Moving him all the way down here after the crash was very, very difficult. We couldn’t move into this place until 1991 because then there would have been two Cristalstimuses.”
“Where did they stay for those first ten years, Victor and Martin?”
Vincent looked at the floor, ashamed. “Martin Wexler did some bad things. He said it was necessary to survive. Victor Merrick believed him. They are not bad people, Connor MacKenzie.”
“I know Vincent. Believe it or not, I’ve been there before, stuck in a time and place not my own.” I pursed my lips in guilt, having been responsible for Connor’s estrangement in 1977. “I understand the need to survive. What happened?”
“Martin Wexler used his spiritual displacement to control people. It’s how he got a car and drove to Florida with Victor and Cristalstimus’ body, which he kept in the trunk. It was not hard for him to find an illegal immigrant that nobody knew. Martin Wexler soul suppressed that man and assumed his life. He stole money so he could buy a home in Miami where he and Victor lived until they could move into Cristalstimus’ boat, and this place.”
Connor nodded, hiding his disgust from Vincent. To me, it was evident he disapproved. “And he kept care of Cristalstimus’ body, Martin did?”
“That was decent of him,” Connor said, taking a deep breath to hide his loathing.
“Martin Wexler had uses for Cristalstimus,” Vincent added. “His knowledge of Brüder engineering helped us to disassemble the sub-space transmitter we found when we moved into this station. When SAIN arrived, Martin Wexler used Cristalstimus’ body and knowledge to merge the human and Brüder systems together.” Vincent paused. “Victor Merrick did not want to be merged with SAIN, he was scared. He felt betrayed that Martin Wexler did not fight for him, the same way he did in 1991.”
Connor appeared confused. “What do you mean by that, Martin didn’t fight for Victor?”
“Martin Wexler was forced to perform the procedure, at the threat of his own termination.”
“Dan threatened Martin, after delivering SAIN to this station?”
“At the point of an Impüls weapon, yes.”
Connor didn’t flinch. He wanted to. That much was obvious. “How do you feel about Martin now, as Vincent? Do you feel betrayed as well?”
“No sir,” Vincent said, beaming. “If it were not for Martin Wexler, I would not exist. I owe him my life.”
Connor sighed. “Tell me, is it possible to revive Cristalstimus?”
Victor bowed his head, occasionally peeking up to meet Connor’s eyes. “Martin Wexler says it is possible, but I do not know how. That is the truth. Martin Wexler told Victor Merrick that Cristalstimus’ consciousness needs to be pulled from wherever it is. I think you need to use spiritual displacement to do it.”
“I think so too,” Connor said, nodding. “I’ve never seen it done, successfully anyways. Vincent, I’ll be honest with you. I had Martin in custody for treason against the FCA. He betrayed us, lied to us, but escaped with the help of Dan. I don’t believe he’s coming back for you. I don’t know what Martin is planning right now. I think he’s working on his own. After Martin stopped serving The Corporation, he broke ranks with them, but continued to work with them anyway, pretending to be their friend. He needed them and their technology for some purpose we don’t know about.”
“I know what his purpose is,” Victor said, with a joyful smile.
“Would you tell me Vincent? What is Martin trying to do?”
“He is angry at The Corporation, like me,” Vincent said. “He wants to eliminate all of them. To do that, he needs the ship you call Brüder-4 to go to Oberen, the Brüder planet. The only way Martin Wexler could get the Brüder-4 location was for SAIN to give it to him in exchange for the body of Victor Merrick. It needed to be Victor Merrick as his body has a special set of attributes. Martin Wexler did not know that at first, when The Corporation tried to exchange Victor Merrick and the coin. Martin Wexler was mad at The Corporation for using him and lying to him the whole time. It’s why he took Victor Merrick and went into hiding after the Brüder-3 crash in 1981.”