The following short story is my first attempt at fan–fiction. The initial segment being an interpretation of Neal Asher’s novella Africa Zero.
The original story is set in a dystopian future and is about an android that roams the African plains protecting a species of hybrid mammoths from poaching and hunters.
Africa Zero is one of my favorite shorter pieces by Asher and it seems to be a good place to start.
One morning I awoke to the humming of machinery. The container I’d been encased in for a thousand years came to life—generating vast amounts of radiant heat through the glass pod at the top.
The radiant heat slowly worked up into the 500 meter block of ice above the laboratory where I was created. Forty–eight hours later and the concentrated heat from the pod had melted a perfect hole in the walls of the glacier.
The upper section of the pod divided into sections and opened. I stepped out, climbed down from the base of the pod, and stood on the floor. After adjusting the temperature indicators in the synthetic flesh covering my feet, I felt the stinging sensation of the cold, bare tiles. I reset the indicators back to factory settings. I was capable of feeling, but, I had no desire to.
Looking around, I located the command terminal in the center of the lab. A wave of my hand activated a two millimeter thick screen embedded in the glass table top.
A retina scan passed through my ocular system and a robotic voice spoke: “Occupant confirmed. Commencing download in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.”
All at once storm of data entered my consciousness. My knees buckled and a tingling sensation started in the tips of my flexible steel toes to exit out of the strands my nylon hair in a shower of blue sparks.
Terabytes of data relating to the Natural Sciences flooded my memory circuits. I achieved instant and complete knowledge of Chemistry and Physics. The Earth Sciences followed. I became an expert Ecologist, Oceanographer, and Meteorologist in a millisecond. Once the Earth Science download ceased, the Biology download blasted through my brain. When the final byte of data loaded I was a Biologist, Zoologist, and Botanist
The face of the Producer appeared. She said, “Mercury One, if you;re monitoring this transmission it means that you’ve survived the first thousand years of the Ozone ice age.”
I paused the video playback and looked into the digital eyes of the Producer. The events of the my first day in the laboratory in the Atlas Mountains of North Africa unfolded in my mind.
Because my net worth worth had fallen below one million euros, the government deemed me a zero asset to society. My refusal to work on a collective fish farm left the government official hearing my case no choice: death by ingestion and compacting. He left out the part about being fed to the other zero assets working on government sponsored jobs.
On my way to the community ingestion factory, or Jaws, as the locals called it, something happened. The armored car transporting the group of prisoners I was with came to an abrupt halt. An explosion knocked me to the floor. I looked and up saw the whole front section of the car had been blown into a mass of twisted steel. The mangled corpses of the driver and the guard mingling with the wreckage.
The back door opened. Two members the Radical Green Brotherhood ( RGB ), wearing embossed emblems depicting twin lightning bolts crossed over planet Earth on their shoulders, stood on the street. One of them motioned to me and said, “Step out, now.”
I climbed out of the back. A few of the condemned passengers attempted to exit the car.
“Sorry, only room for one, ” the second member of the RGB team said. He popped the top on a gas grenade, tossed it into the car, and slammed the door.
“Let’s move,” the RGB man who’d made me get out said. A van pulled up and we sped away just as the first police cars arrived at the scene. The man sitting next to me jammed a compressed air activated hypodermic needle into my neck. I blacked out.
* * * *
I resumed playback of the video and the image of the Producer continued speaking: “Mercury, your first assignment is to build a ladder in the ice wall. You will climb out of the Sanctuary. Once this is accomplished, embedded memory patterns will be activated and you will receive your next assignment.”
“Holy shit,” I said out–loud, pausing the video, “what do these lunatics want from me?”
I became instantly aware of the specifications of the tubular steel ladder and the location of the materials. I devised the entire construction plan in milliseconds and got to work.
Standing on the metal edge of the pod, I reached up, setting my fingertips on the smooth ice. Applying pressure through my wrist, along with a mental command to the miniature, nuclear powered servo–motors implanted in my knuckles, I bored clean holes into the ice.
I pushed away from the wall, jumped up off the base simultaneously, and inserted my extended toenails into the holes.
After boring another set of hand holds, I repeated the process all the way to the top then climbed back down to the laboratory. I found the ladder material stored under one of the operating tables. As I removed the steel tubes my mind wandered back to that fateful day when the alteration took place.
The Producer and the attending surgeons were standing over me.
“The procedure is about to begin,” she said. “Unfortunately, it is imperative for you to be conscious during the process; however, you’ll feel no physical pain.”
“That’s reassuring,” I replied.
They started with my arms, making two lateral incisions down the length of each one. Once the epidermis had been peeled and held in place by surgical clamps, the circulatory system, nerves, muscles and bones were carefully removed. The skeletal structure was replaced with a carbon fiber composite. The muscle fiber was replaced with strands of an elastic material with the tensile strength of hardened steel. Thousands of meters of fiber optic wiring replaced the nerves in my arm. My veins and arteries were replaced with a network of tubes and filled with an irradiated bio–chemical plasma. The process continued in the same manner for the rest of my limbs. My heart, lungs and brain were a different story.
Because I would have no use for oxygen, my heart and lungs were removed. A self–filling reservoir, supplying a constant and never ending supply of the irradiated plasma to my circulatory system, replaced the missing lungs. My heart was replaced with a nuclear battery charged with a half–life of one million years. My brain was encased in flexible ceramic material then shrink wrapped under pressure. Redundant systems of fiber optic bundles, installed at the base of my skull, wound around my flexible tubular steel spinal column.
In twenty days my entire body hand been refitted. A metal framework was placed over my internal structure and a synthetic skin applied to the frame.
I looked like a character from some early Twentieth century fantasy novels. Doc Savage was the character’s name and of the author was Lester Dent. As a child I’d spent many hours reading the books on my tablet and the cover art left a lasting impression on me.
At that point the Producer shut me down and I powered up not less than 12 hours ago.
* * * *
I installed the steel tubing into the ice wall by inserting steel anchors with twenty centimeter barbed tips into the holes. The rungs were attached to the anchors and the risers attached to the rungs.
The risers of the ladder worked on a magnetic levitation principle controlled by small activators in my palms and ankles. A mental command issued to the activators while holding on to the risers would elevate me upwards, remain in place, or lower me.
As I stood at the top of the hole and gazed out at the vast sheet of white ice covering the Atlas Mountains, my second assignment flooded my memory banks.