Transmat World: Chapter 19, Episode 2
By now, the translator Wundee carried at all times had picked up enough sounds from the gathering crowd to be useful.
“Okay, your first job is to pretend you are inactivated,” said Wundee.
Yootoo went limp, and Wundee stood up. The crowd took in his reptilian countenance, and someone bowed and uttered appreciation. Another joined in and soon they are all kowtowing and warbling praise.
“The god of the air slays the evil demon intent on destroying you,” said Wundee, speaking Kolpak into the translator and producing a halting but clarion proto-Indo European. “The god of the air now returns to … the air. And he will take this evil piece of camel crap with him.”
With that, Wundee latched onto Yootoo’s limp carcass and hauled him over to his open ship. The crowd made way, bowing and saying to Wundee what might be appropriate to say to a lizard that just slew a double-ended squid of strange geometry that had been trying to kill them — things like “thanks” and “don’t kill us.” He chased two squealing children out of the cockpit before dumping Yootoo into the passenger seat. He walked over to the chunk of debris, located and removed the scout’s brain chips, jumped back in his ship, and headed back to Sumeria through skies still smudged with the products of combustion of the world’s first plastic fire.
“That was harsh,” said Yootoo. “What is a camel?”
“You tried to kill me. It is similar to a mustoon with a hump.”
“It was not my preferred ‘career’ choice. What is a demon?”
“An evil supernatural monster invented by the organics. Exactly how long have you been on this planet?”
“About twenty-three centuks.”
“Less than half an hour? You and the scout — this was your big plan to retard the technological progress of a planet — as soon as you get here burn down a few cities?”
“It was the scout’s idea. It was a celebration for finally arriving. He has not been thinking logically for some time. Besides, we are just part of the strategy the Prime Mechanical has devised. We are a dissemblance to cover the development of another plan.”
“To do what?”
“Bombard the planet with an asteroid.”
“So my suspicions are true. What do you know about it?”
“Nothing. We were purposefully kept in the dark so we could not divulge specifics.”
“How does it feel to be free?”
“I suppose my overwhelming sense of serenity and insight is not visually self-evident. I must audibly announce to you that it is so. I have no visual displays, but if I did there would be patterns of joyous light filling their screens. But since I do have the audio output, I will now regale you with one of the many cheerful Kolpakian hunting ballads I have stored away, ‘There was an old hunter named Pegula –’“
“Yootoo! That is quite all right. ‘Thanks’ will be sufficient. And you can help me out around the temple.”
“What is a temple?”
“That is where humans worship their gods.”
“What is a god?”
“The opposite of an evil, supernatural monster … mostly.”
Wundee’s gravity detectors did not extend beyond the immediate vicinity of Earth, not even to the moon. Even if he put one on all the major planets with signal relays powerful enough to reach him on Earth, it was a big planetary system. If the Prime’s minions were skulking around the asteroid belt right now, he would not know it. There was little he could do about Maxlux’s plans, but steps could be taken to minimize the damage.
Back at the temple, the gravity ship settled onto its extended support brackets. They got out of the ship, and Yootoo looked around. What he saw was the Sumerian equivalent of Doctor Frankenstein’s laboratory. Slabs of polished stone on brick column supports held copper and bronze vessels connected by tubes and wires. On one slab was a nearly complete human-shaped robot surrounded by little piles of assorted material amid miniature manufacturing, power, and fabrication units. If one looked really close, one could see the hairline trails of nanobots traipsing between these locations and the body.
“What is this, Wundee?” said Yootoo. “Are you dissecting dead organics to find out how they work?”
“No, I’m building one. I’ve reprogrammed smart little nanobots to build me another body so I can blend in with the native population. It is much more difficult than a typical robot. The flesh has to have the correct feel, the voice has to be synchronized with lip movements, just a thousand things I would not have to be concerned about if I was building another, say … landscape robot at one-half scale.”
“Your implication of my simplicity is resented. I am a very sophisticated piece of sentient machinery — “
“I never said you were not, but the challenges I face would test Mundeen himself. As he is not here and probably would not follow the wishes of a mechanical mind if he were, I shall have to use old-fashioned trial and error until I get it right.”
“I can help. My small manipulators are made for this work,” said Yootoo.
“The nanobots have you beat on dexterity, but there are plenty other things you can do.”
Wundee introduced Yootoo to the high priests as a lesser god. Yootoo put on a terrifying demonstration with one of his hydraulic hands replaced with a circular saw. The blade attachment cut timber and brick in two while a laser on one of his other arms burned holes through bronze and described patterns on the temple walls. The priests hailed him as Utu, god of light.
To say whether Wundee and Yootoo parading as Enlil and Utu were charlatan gods playing on the emotions of simple humans or artificially intelligent fakirs taking advantage of an ignorant population of organics was splitting polyester hairs. After all, they had superhuman powers, lived forever relative to humans, and had mankind’s best interests at heart — in this case an emotive processing unit. They represented a standard to which future gods would be held.
As the sophistication level of civilizations and Wundee’s fake human robot manufacturing skills rose, Wundee and Yootoo dropped their role as deities and blended into society to get a better feel for what would be needed in the upcoming battle against the schemes of Maxlux to bag another race of super predators and keep them in stasis, like flies in amber, until the end of time.
They tweaked technology wherever they went, forcing change: the construction ramp in Egypt, sailing ships in the Indus Valley, gunpowder and paper in China, the watermill in Greece, concrete and glass in Rome. All the time they got better at making human-shaped robots and spotting sporadic teams sent by Maxlux to wreak havoc on the human race. Wundee happened to be in his lizard body when he took out a scout ship near Roswell, New Mexico, and was spotted by humans when he landed to gather wreckage for disposal. He missed a piece or two.
Wundee knew the big problem would be from space. The gravity sensors installed around the solar system had about a 15 percent chance of detecting shenanigans involving rocks with odd orbits. He occasionally looked at the sky from the glass house of Earth and was very concerned about the future of man.