In Part One, Mercury was reawakened after a thousand year hibernation.
After downloading the stored data supplied by the Producer, Mercury was instructed to construct a ladder along the sheer wall of the ice tunnel from the hidden laboratory where he was created to the the top of the glacier covering the Atlas Mountains in North Africa .
Mercury now awaits instructions for the next assignment.
My next assignment became apparent when a set of coordinates locked into my built–in Global Positioning System. I looked over the ice sheet covering the Atlas Mountains. My destination lay one–hundred kilometers to the South at the edge of the Great Northern glacier encircling Earth.
If I maintained a continuous running speed of 50 kilometers per her hour, I should reach the edge of the glacier in a little over three hours. This estimate didn’t include the occasional stop to absorb melted ice. It wasn’t because of thirst, my alloy body only needed water to cool down the servo–motors in my knees and ankles after a sustained run at high–speed.
I started running across the ice, the metal grooves cut into the soles of my feet shredded the top layer of ice, leaving white rooster–tails in my wake. After one hour at this pace, heat indicators registered the need for an extra supply of coolant and I stopped.
Reaching down, I pulled a chunk of ice out of the glacier and squeezed it. As the ice melted, small louvers opened at the base of my palm and along the inside of my forearm, absorbing the cold water.
I absorbed three more handfuls in this fashion, resetting my absorption vents to a closed position when finished. As I prepared to run I noticed something that made my bio–mechanical seem heart seem to beat faster. I could see a black speck in the distance and it was moving toward me. A thousand years had passed since I’d seen another human being.
Immediately, I zoomed my ocular system in and magnified the approaching image: it was definitely humanoid, dressed in animal skins and running across the ice.
At this point I decided to contact the mainframe. Request access, I thought.
Granted, came the reply.
Computer, I have a question?
Silence followed. Computer, I persisted.
My name is not Computer.
Regretfully, I must have missed the allocation table containing your name during the initial download.
That’s understandable given the circumstances. The name I prefer is Robur.
I went off–channel and searched my memory banks for that name. It was of Swedish origin. It was the name of a truck and heavy equipment manufacturer in the late twentieth and early twenty–first centuries. The thing that caused me to raise my synthetic eyebrow was Robur was also the name of a fictional character from two novels by Jules Verne. He was very brilliant and very insane. Oh well, it could be worse. He may want to go by the name of Mr. Hyde or Jack the Ripper.
Robur, can you bring give me an update on the approaching humanoid?
Before Robur finished transmitting the reply, a complete background of the lone man on the ice downloaded into my memory bank. I pieced together details about his life, where he’d come from and where he was going, in a millisecond.
He was less than two meters tall, yet heavily muscled with broad shoulders. He wore animal skins fashioned from Polar bears and lined with seal fur. A quick search based on appearance and clothing put his place of origin what had become known as the Great Mid–Northern Salt Lake. Once the Mediterranean Sea, it had become partially closed off from the Atlantic on the West and completely cut–off from the Black Sea in the East and the Red Sea in the South. Areas of mainland Europe and Africa had escaped the grip of the glacier, forming peninsulas jutting out into the water.
These peninsulas became home to hardy groups of hunters and fisherman and this man was from one of the Northern tribes, probably from the island of Sicily.
At this point the man posed no threat. I could snap his neck with flick of the wrist. He carried a long, wooden spear terminating in a one meter triangular tip with vicious looking serrated edges. A curved knife with a whale–bone handle hung from a course leather belt.
Robur, what do you suggest?
Your programming dictates that you’ll come into contact with humans in the course of your assignments. This particular man poses no real threat. You have three options: go around unseen, walk right past him, or kill him.
I decided to go with a combination of the first two options. I would remain unseen until we were close, then reveal myself and walk right by.
After activating the chameleon overlay that caused my body to reflect light in distorted patterns and render me practically invisible, I proceeded at a walking pace until I was within twenty meters of the ice man. I powered down the chameleon–ware. I appeared out of thin air, naked and unarmed. The man looked at me in disbelief.
The man crouched. At that moment I knew he was about to go on the offensive. He took four steps forward, hurling the spear on the final step.
I calculated the vector of the incoming primitive projectile, took two steps to the right, and lifted my left hand. The spear–tip passed through the hole made by my touching thumb and forefinger. As the tip continued I applied pressure, grinding the serrated edge flush with the blade.
I threw the spear, impaling the tip of his fur boot in the ice. While he struggled to remove the spear, I casually walked by. For some unknown reason I stopped, pulled the synthetic flesh under my earlobes down, and with a sharp, twisting motion, pulled my face off, held it in one hand, and waved goodbye with the other.
* * * *
Continuing on my present course, I reached the edge of the glacier in two and a half hours, stopping once to absorb a few handfuls of water
My internal GPS indicated that I was standing on the exact coordinates my assignment required; however, I failed to take into consideration the elevation.
Robur, destination acquired and request download of the next step in assignment two.
Uploading data request, replied Robur.
Once the download had been processed into my RAM, I became aware of the second part of the second assignment. Keeping only the data necessary for real–time functionality in RAM, I stored the remaining data related to the assignment in the flash memory allocation tables embedded in my walnut sized brain.
My goal lay at the base of the ice shelf, 609.6 meters below me.
I adjusted my ocular system, focusing on the contours of the ledge. In a few minutes I’d mapped out the most efficient route down the face. Using my fingers and toes as rock climbing tools, I scaled the ice, clutching one outcropping then another, until I reached the bottom.