Chapter 25: Half-Twist

Lem led the robot to his home, accompanied by the rest of his group. The path they followed was convoluted and admittedly confusing even for a robot. He was not sure, but it seemed at one point the grassy path made a half-twist through one of the lesser known dimensions, just enough to cause his self-tracking log to reset and overwrite the coordinates previously recorded. The robot looked from Lem to the others to see whether they had noticed the twist in the space-time fabric, but nobody displayed any reactions out of the ordinary.

Since his log had reset, the robot had no way of gauging how long they had been walking, so he was not able to estimate how near or far his shuttle was from him.

The robot thought he’d utilize whatever time it took to get to wherever they were going, by bio-scanning the new humans to determine whether in fact they represented a new species. He ran x-ray, spectral, magnetic resonance, and low-dose computed tomography first on Lem, then on each of the men who surrounded him.

The robot noticed several differences between these humans and those he had interviewed at the tavern. The most pronounced difference was the diminished reptilian complex and limbic system in the brains of the men surrounding him. The so-called reptilian complex represented the primitive layer of the human brain and consisted of the cerebellum and the brain stem. The limbic system consisted of the amygdala and the hippocampus of the brain.

It was well known that the brain stem was responsible for the fight-or-flight response to stressful events and the amygdala was responsible for associating emotions with events.

Results of the initial predictive analysis were interesting: other factors like the cerebrum and frontal cortex being equal, an atrophied RC and LS might suggest a less primitive, less limited brain in the new species. It might be reasonable to assume that the behavior of the new species would be motivated by rational conclusions, that it would be biologically committed to rationality, as opposed to Sapiens who were limited biologically in their ability to respond rationally, and instead were motivated mostly by their emotions. Of course a short conversation with his hosts would verify that conjecture.

The robot clocked the response times on the neural pathways of his hosts. Visual processing showed 100 milliseconds as opposed to 150 ms for Sapiens. Object comparison took only 150 ms instead of 190 ms. Error correction speed was 400 ms, 70 ms faster than any Sapien. Motor response was 220 ms, 100 ms faster than the Sapien average. The results predicted that the new species was approximately 30% faster in any perceptual, cognitive, or motor activity.

Other than the differences noted above, basic genome analysis demonstrated a 99.5% similarity between Sapiens and the new species.

The group reached a ledge overlooking a valley between two mountain ranges. The sides of the mountains were pocked with glass-covered holes. Lem led the robot down a narrow path descending from the ledge down to the valley. Halfway down the path, Lem took a narrower path to the right that traversed a row of caves in the mountainside.

When he reached the third cave, Lem stopped and put his hand on the glass wall. The glass wall dissolved. The group passed through the entrance into the cave, after which the glass reformed. Lem guided the robot to a sofa and told him to make himself comfortable. The other men sat down on sofas and chairs nearby. Yani entered the room carrying a tray with fruit and tea for the men and synthetic oil for the robot.

“Thank you,” the robot nodded to Yani as he took the glass of oil from the tray. Yani nodded back and sat down next to Lem.

“Why did you land your shuttle craft here?” Lem asked the robot.

“We heard something about you from the humans in Sector 87,” the robot answered.

“Probably not very complimentary,” Lem offered.

“Certainly not very reliable,” the robot answered with an attempt at friendly humor. “We wanted to find out more about you in order to draw our own conclusions.”

“Sounds reasonable,” Yani interjected. “What do you want to know about us?”

“We were curious about the differences between your people and the others,” the robot said. “You should probably know that I scanned your biological signatures while we were walking through the forest…”

“Yes, we know,” Lem answered.

The robot was somewhat surprised. “How did you know?” he asked. “Could you feel me scanning you?”

“No, not really,” Lem answered, smiling at the other men in the group, some of whom chuckled back. “We knew you would scan us … then and there.”

The robot told Lem that some people at one of the taverns in Sector 87 had referred to the others as “Rats”. He wondered why.

Lem explained to the robot that the Homo Sapiens called them “Rats”, a pejorative term for “Rationals”, their dominant characteristic, aside from being blue-skinned. They had accepted the name, Rats, good-naturedly, and referred to the Homo Sapiens equally good-naturedly as “Saps”. Saps were rather exclusive in their concept of humanity, whereas Rats were far more inclusive. No intermarriage of Sap and Rat had ever produced offspring, although a few Rats were born of Sap parents, like Lem and Yani.

There had been a number of Rat births from Sap parents. Maybe it had to do with the cyanide compounds mined for processing gold ore in some of the sectors. Most Sap parents killed their Rat infants after child-birth. A very few, like Thort and Evanor or Kivo and Thana, let their Rat infants live and tried to raise them as Sap children. Unfortunately their Sap neighbors didn’t give that much of a chance.

It appeared that war between the two peoples was inevitable. Only one people would survive.

The robot sipped oil from his glass sadly. “Well, I really must be getting back to the ship,” the robot said, wondering whether he was Lem’s guest or captive.  “Do the Rationals have any special needs for supplies or assistance from his traders?”

Lem said there wasn’t very much the robots could do for the Rationals. “We can see where we are going and we knew what to do,” he added. “Our problems have to do with the Saps, who do not know where they are headed and certainly do not know what to do.”

Yani emerged from her sea of silence. “The Saps will never accept the Rationals, although they could use our help and they will continue to attack us, even though they do not stand a chance.”

Lem summarized, “In any event, the robots did not share our time line, except to intersect with it once every 64 years.” He did not tell the robot that the Saps only shared their time line up to a certain point.

The robot stood up and said that, if there was nothing the Rationals needed from them, there was probably nothing they had or wanted to trade off-world with the robots. Lem concurred. The robot promised to stop by just to check up on them once every 64 years, no strings attached.

Lem said somebody would always be here to welcome him.

One of the youngest members of the group accompanied the robot back to his shuttle craft. The way back to the shuttle seemed shorter than the way to the cave, but there was that funny half-twist along the way and the robot’s memory logs were reset once again.

The shuttle craft rose slowly into the clouds amidst thunder and lightning. Back at the main ship, the robot entered his cubicle and flipped on the QEB to report in to the watch officer.

“Did you find any evidence of that new species?” the WO asked.

“No,” the robot said honestly, “not a sign of them.”

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels

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