The Origin of the Collector: Part 4

Graphic of the Collector.
The Collector.

In Part Three, Mercury traversed the African plain, made contact with a security team from one of the corporate families, commandeered a vehicle, and entered the compound.


The commander kept his eyes locked on me as I approached. The troopers shouldered their laser carbines.

“Don’t come any closer,” the commander said. “What the fuck happened?” he added, glancing at the corpses tied to the hood of the car.

“Self defense. They drew their weapons on me when I couldn’t show them an IM.”

The clicking sound of the safeties being switched off alerted me. I set my palms on the grips of the pistols. The commander turned to his troops and said, “Stand down.” They set the safeties back on and lowered their weapons.

The results of a scan transmitted from a device embedded in an emblem on the commander’s uniform returned to its origin. The commander, after reading the data detailing my body armor and capabilities, had decided not to engage. A wise decision on his part. He looked at me and said, “This way.”

I followed closely behind the commander, the troopers closing ranks and escorting us on both sides. Once inside the complex, I was taken to the office of the General Manager.

Robert Eldridge, the GM, a youthful looking man with a thick head of blond hair and perfect white teeth, extended his hand. I reached out and shook hands with the man, adjusting the servo–motors in my knuckles, dialing back the pressure. From his skin I received a series of data streams: he was 145 years old, his youthful appearance attributed to five longevity enhancements.

“Commander Ross tells me you got the jump on two of his best men and stole a two million mark grav–car.” He got right to the point.

I decided to do the same. “I need an X–9 drilling unit delivered to this location,” I said, uploading the coordinates of the buried hybrid mammoth carcass to the tablet attached to his belt. He pretended not to notice.

“I’m sorry, Mr. … I don’t believe I caught your name.”

“One, Mercury One,” I answered.

“Well, Mr. One, I’m going to have to deny your request. The company simply can’t spare that equipment at this moment. Besides, the coords you’ve supplied have been checked out and no valuable resources were discovered.”

“The resource I’m seeking is not gold or diamonds, it is something far more valuable.”

“There is nothing more valuable than gold or diamonds. These elements are essential in the construction of computer hardware and laser technology,” he insisted.

“I’m afraid Serene Galahad, my creator, would disagree,” I replied.

He looked at me, thumb and forefinger stroking his chin. As he connected to the mainframe of the complex and searched for the name Serene Galahad, he said, “Katherine.”

The digitally enhanced voice of an elderly woman filled the office: Yes, I’m here.

“Can you please tell me what weapons I’d need to destroy our guest, Mercury One?”

A one megaton blast from a clean nuclear explosive would be sufficient.

“Katherine, do we have the explosive on sight?”

No, however, the materials are available and the explosive could be manufactured in 18 hours, Katherine, the Artificial Intelligence monitoring the complex, replied.

“You see, Mr. One, we have the means to destroy you,” the GM smiled.

“Katherine,” I said. “I’m invoking cardinal status, please stand by.”

Cardinal status invoked. Standing by, Katherine answered.

“Katherine, shut down all power to the complex.”

Shutting down, the AI answered. We sat in pitch blackness until the GM said, “All right, I get it. You can have whatever you want. Just get us back online.”

Katherine, I transmitted directly, restore power.

Instantly, the lights came back on. The GM was fumbling with a pulse pistol, trying to shove it back into a desk drawer. “You have the coordinates,” I stated, pretending not to notice his clumsy attempt at hiding the firearm.

“We can have the equipment delivered in four days,” he said.

“Not good enough,” I answered. “I’m going to take it to the site myself and finish the job.”

“Very well, if that’s what you want.”

* * * *

After downloading the full technical specs and user manual, I drove the X–9 out of the compound, maintaining a course locked on to the coords of the buried carcass.

The portable drilling vehicle’s wide profile pneumatic tires trampled a path through the tall grass. On the second day of the journey, in the early morning, I came across a small group of hunters. They had just brought down an adult gazelle and were in the process of skinning it. They stared at the strange vehicle and its passenger sitting in the steering compartment.

One of the hunters, a tall woman with tightly braided strands of hair reaching below her waist, stepped forward. She had an arrow knocked to the string of the two meter bow she carried. I shut down the X–9 and climbed out of the cab.

In an instant I became aware of her language. “I mean you no harm,” I said, opening my hands in a gesture of peace common to the tribes in the area. I had left my weapons hanging on a garment hook.

“What do you want?” She asked, dropping the bow and relaxing the arrow. Her bare breasts heaved as she threw her shoulders back.

“I want to know what your name is,” I answered.

“My name is Celukwaze,” she answered.

I needed assistance in the excavation of the carcass. Her psychological and physical profile matched the criteria. Celukwaze’s name, the Zulu equivalent of looking for knowledge, might mean she had a curious nature. After a lengthy, non–scientific explanation about resurrecting the king of the elephants, she agreed to come with me.

During the rest of the journey, I taught Celukwaze how to operate the X–9. She caught on fast and soon she was driving the massive vehicle across the plains. I convinced her to use the shower in the cab and I had to demonstrate how to use the soap mist and auto–dryer. She put on a clean pair of overalls.

We reached the edge of the glacier and set up the drilling platform, boring a one meter diameter pilot hole into the ground. While Celukwaze operated the drilling procedure, I monitored the placement of the diamond bit, keeping it aligned with the carcass. This continued for two days, until the hole was within ten centimeters of the carcass.

The next step was to take a sample of the carcass. Before the sample could be extracted, all the oxygen in the hole would have to removed, creating a vacuum. After attaching a circular head to the end of the telescoping bit, I ordered Celukwaze to lower it. I activated the head, opening small ports along the circumference. A molten ceramic material sprayed out of the head, covering the sides of the drill hole. When the head reached the bottom, I deactivated the material output, closed the ports, reduced the diameter, and raised it.

Now I replaced the spay head with a combination pinpoint bit and vacuum sealer head. A high–powered nuclear compressor would suck air out of the hole as the pinpoint bit, sealed with a silicon edge, slid down the hole.

When the pin point bit touched the perfectly formed bottom of the hole, I locked the head and drilled into the solid rock. As the bit touched the the spine of the carcass, I stopped it, extended a clasper and extracted a pice of bone marrow.


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