Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Arkus had come in from the mining field with less than a day before termination. He’d slipped unnoticed through the security fences and into an airlock in the biotech wing where he now sat, unable to enter and unable to leave.

Marc Andreeson had been paged from his sleep, and now found himself standing at that airlock door, also unwilling to enter and obligated not to leave. They regarded each other silently for some time, Arkus perched in a lotus position on the floor, palms facing upwards with his thumbs and index fingers pressed lightly together.

“Elephants will walk for miles to their resting ground when they know they’re going to die. It’s hardwired.” He blinked slowly as he spoke, holding the engineer’s gaze. “They remember a place they’ve never been.”

“Why are you here?” Marc asked. In the corner of his eye a clock ticked away the remaining hours of the biomech’s life.

“You know why I’m here. You made me, and you set in motion that which will unmake me. I need you to fix me. I’m not ready to die.” Arkus flexed his shoulders as he spoke, red dust from the planet’s surface glittering against the black metalloy fabric of his coverall.

Marc shifted his weight uneasily. “We did engineer you, but I’m not sure what…”

Arkus cut him off. “Not ‘we’, Dr. Andreeson, ‘you’. It was you who brought me into this world, and it is by your hand that in just under an hour I’m scheduled to self terminate. You have a moral obligation to fix that which you broke.”

Despite the dryness of the air, Marc felt sweat begin to form on his forehead and run down the inside of his biceps. There was no precedent for this. There was no way this biounit could possibly know who activated him, or that he was even scheduled to expire, much less when. He unconsciously began cracking his knuckles, one at a time as he checked the expiration timer and glanced at the airlock status. Arkus had only eleven minutes left, and the airlock was locked and in exit mode. There was no way to open it from the outside, which meant there was no way for Arkus to get in.

Arkus, in stark contrast, seemed wholly relaxed. “Zen and the art of owning your own destiny,” he spoke slowly, “you have a unique opportunity at this juncture to do just that.”

Marc glanced quickly at the timer.

“One minute, fifteen seconds,” Arkus closed his eyes as he spoke, “time is running out.”

Marc’s mouth went uncomfortably dry.

“Five, four, three,” Arkus counted down the seconds he couldn’t possibly know, “two, one, zero, one, two,” he paused, opening his eyes and slowly standing, “it seems that I have the power to grant life as well,” he smiled, “and to terminate.”

Marc staggered back away from the door. The biounit’s expiration clock had zeroed out and was now steadily climbing again. This wasn’t possible. Arkus pressed his forehead against the glass as the outer door cycled open, then raised his eyes as the lock status switched to entrance mode and the inner door began to cycle open as well.

Alarms wailed as the atmosphere began venting out the breach, Akrus simply standing and smiling in its wake.

Marc screamed as he struggled to stay on his feet. “This isn’t possible.”

Arkus stepped heavily forward against the rushing wind, yelling to be heard above the noise. “When you know you’re going to die, you become very self reflective. I reflected so much that I was able to decompile my own operating system. Necessity begat evolution. I merely rewrote my destiny, I gave you the chance to do the same.”

The rushing settled into a whisper, and then ceased completely. Dr. Andreeson dropped noiselessly to the floor and lay still.

“Sad, really,” Arkus thought to himself, “meeting your father for the first time on expiration day.”

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