by Maoz Nagauker

Page 6

The storm continued for hours while Ody and Frame spent the night at the old warehouse. This time, the place was well-lit due to Frame’s bright aura, and Ody had actually managed to find a big board and an old dusty mattress and turned them into a bed. Using Frame’s sensors, he located some more canned food, and some empty bottles he filled, by letting the rain gradually accumulate inside. Curious of the circumstances that got Frames to be buried, his journalistic instincts kicking in, Ody decided to decipher his new companion.

“How long have you been here, Frames?” he asked Frames. “Six hundred twenty-eight years, seven months”, came the shocking answer. “That is almost three centuries before the Copula”, Ody exclaimed. “And how long have you been deactivated?”, he continued to probe.

“Nine months”, Frames replied. Ody was shocked. How is it possible? Why would a pre-Copula robot be active in DarkWare for so long without his power source depleted and no one to…” Oh wait. But… That was impossible. DarkWare is plagued. Everyone knew that being exposed for so long here would make the body succumb to numerous deadly diseases, collectively known as the DarkWare Blights. “Frames, have you met or known other human beings during your stay here?” The illumination that came from Frames followed by a short “Yes” answer. “How, how is it… How many, Frames, I need to know?” He pleaded with Frames as if Frames was holding back the information. Frames seemed to struggle with the question, “How many, O-dy?” He asked, saying Ody’s name for the first time. “How many people have you met?” Ody replied. “One hundred and thirty-nine people, four of them embedded”.

So many people, Ody thought. And what embedded meant? Is it possible that… that people can survive here? Were those people sick? Where did they live? With every answer, came more questions. More inquiries. Relax. You need to relax, Ody, he told himself. “What does embedded mean, Frames?” Frames considered the question and then started to glow alternately in four different shades - sienna, peach, dark blue, and cyan. And then, a light ray beamed from what could be considered as Frame’s shoulder and a display of four different persons - two men and two women, were screened upon the shelter’s wall. “Those are embedded within me”, said Frames, and then emitted a strange sound. Was that a sigh? “You have their memories?” Ody asked. “More. Their consciousnesses. They are remembered through me, and to some extent are part of my programming”. That sounds like… like… blasphemy! Ody remembered the core belief that once you are about to depart from this world, you would be unified, through copula, with the city itself. No one has ever been departed otherwise, and to suggest so was considered sacrilegious. Moreover, since DarkWare was considered to be plagued with the Blights, then everyone there would die without any unification. What more would I uncover? Ody was afraid but had to gather his strength and understand.

Page 7

Two hours later, the skies got even darker and daylight was about to diminish into the rainy night. Yet, there was no sight of any structure ahead, which would imply of this Organa’s whereabouts. Ody was worried. Does she even exist? Could this be some sort of a trap? He turned to his friend. “Frames? how far are we from… from where Organa lives?”. Frames seemed to dim his own lights, but then his lens dejected partially, tuning itself forward. What is he doing? After ten seconds, the lens returned to its original position and Frames replied.

“We are here, O-dy”.

“Pfft, what?” Ody was amused - Was Frames pulling a joke on him? That makes no sense. They were in the middle of nowhere. A dark barren land. There wasn’t even a hint of a structure or an entrance to such a place. “Frames, is something wrong with your processing unit or huff-duff?”

“I am functioning well, thank you O-dy”, Frames replied in all seriousness.

“But… there is nothing here, Frames.” Ody was disturbed “No living creature, no building or even sort of a lair? Where is this Organa?”

A sudden gust of wind traveled near his ears, almost whispering to Ody of a presence, and he shuddered. “H… Hello?”

Another gust. Frames’ lights darkened. “Frames?” Ody whispered to him. “Are we in danger?” Frames did not respond other than shutting his lights all completely. Was he afraid? Being cautious? And then, it happened.

At first, Ody thought it was his imagination playing some sort of tricks on mind and vision. Green and red flashing lines in the skies shimmered briefly in the sky, and Ody thought he saw a gargantuan hybrid humanoid and spider-like creature in front of him, hovering over an enormous ziggurat. This sight flashed twice for about less than a second, and Ody thought it was probably a phantasmic induced mechanism someone had planted in this area. But then a second, longer flash appeared in the sky, and he could spot the giant monster and the ziggurat in front of it, but instead of being upfront, they appeared hard to the left. More flashes of this vision recurred, and Ody felt his eyes being stabbed. It was a pyrotechnic show of the occult and also displacing and alternating location after every flash thus worsened Ody’s brain’s capability to deal with it. And when the series of flashes intensified, he could notice the creature moving its mouth, in a manner of laughter.

“Ha, ha, ha”, It sounded feminine and fragmented. It only sounded when the skies flashed. Was it HER? “Th- p-wn and h-s --ight are he-- for th- --een’s en--ame”. Ody managed to deduce that the creature was talking to him and about him. Pawn? Queen? What does that mean? Ody looked at Frames who seemed turned off. Puzzled, he then looked again to where he last saw the ziggurat. It wasn’t there. Yet, the skies continue to flicker. Where has it gone?

And then, everything went white.