Note: This story is a continuation of a larger series. Here is the complete list of sections.
Steve Lyon walked through the open door in front of him while his mind was in a haze, barely noticing the door swiftly hiss closed behind him. Jane, who had just finished introducing herself as his handler, whatever that meant, continued next to him, saying nothing. Not that Steve was in the mood for idle conversation, anyways.
He was starting to feel ill. His arms were no longer flesh, but metal. While his eyes did not burn, the fact he was incapable of blinking caused more distress than he anticipated something so minor would. He couldn’t feel any heat, and only felt a minor pressure on his limbs when they touched something solid.
The room, just like the corridor they had been walking through, had stone walls with metal supports all around, and entirely lacking any windows. At Jane’s prompting, Steve sat down in one simple metal chair among several rows of identical seats. It was considerably more comfortable than it looked, but since he was now made of metal such things as comfort could be expected to be experienced quite differently than flesh and blood. He might now sink into the cushions of a more standard couch or cushioned chair because of his weight, for all he knew.
A handful of other Drones were also sitting, some looking just as shell shocked as Steve felt. They all sat next to another much more composed Drone. It occurred to Steve he was having no trouble reading their emotions like humans typically do with each other, despite the minimalistic facial expression capacity provided by largely rigid faces.
“All right, let’s see...”
Steve turned his attention to the front of the room, where another Drone had appeared. He was structured quite differently, with BOB-7800 printed on its forehead, and a slightly stockier stature, putting him at about four feet. He was looking over an electronic device not dissimilar to a clipboard, shaking his head.
“Hmph. Multiple completely uneducated Drones today. I guess there is no way around it then… Let’s start at the beginning. First off, you all may address me as Bob.”
With a snap of his fingers, the wall behind him displayed a diagram of a Drone, each part labeled with various highly technical words that Steve could scarcely read quickly enough before the picture would update to something else. “All of us are Drones. As you know or have recently discovered, we are not what you would call human. We have our souls inhabiting our cores, which can be considered the very essence of our being. We have the capability to integrate all forms of sensors to interface directly with our minds, as well as adapters for using some of our other technologies with only our thoughts. In fact, we are speaking with our thoughts right now, and any other race would not be hearing my words without special training or equipment. Our cores working in tandem with our chassis auto broadcast the surface level thoughts we have that normally occur during standard speech.”
One other Drone that looked just like Steve and having no number printed on his forehead spoke up. Looking around again, Steve realized all the new Drones looked almost identical, while the other handlers and Bob had more customized bodies. “What happens if we lose a limb? Or our head? Or even our core?”
Bob chuckled. “Same thing as a human suffering injuries; pain, so we can know that something is wrong. But we have body shops strewn all over Tempora, and even some in other major cities. You can get an entirely new body built, assuming you have the money to pay for it. And even cores can be repaired or replaced, as long as you get emergency care in time. The core is only a container, so you can move your being to another, using either some very expensive equipment, or by mastering a specialized form of class six electro casting.”
Steve chimed in this time, thoroughly confused. “Excuse me, casting?”
Several other Drones turned to look at him, as if he had just asked an incredibly stupid question. Bob only shook his head in disapproval, making Steve feel even more singled out and isolated. “It’s worse than I thought… we will need to perform a complete audit of your simulation… Lyon, correct? This orientation is not going to cover the topic of casting. You will need to get a private education on that subject. But don’t worry, it is not absolutely required for you to understand in order to properly make a life in Tempora. If you could come up here, I would like to demonstrate something else...”
Still feeling self conscious but not willing to disobey an authority figure’s simple request, Steve approached the front and stood in front of the audience. Bob pointed at his chest. “Please remove your core.”
Awkwardly, Steve opened the compartment and took out the object containing his very soul. His hand glowed slightly, and while his senses remained sharp he could feel the otherworldly weight and significance of what he held within his hand.
Bob took the core, and reality blinked out of sight. What replaced it was a surrounding visual static as he felt his disembodied self standing inside what he could only describe as an enormous glass dome. Outside, he was gradually able to make out the rough outlines of the room he had just been in, as if they were screen burns on an old monitor. He could even distinguish the collapsed body on the floor that must have been him. He felt himself being placed back into the inert machine, and his normal sight and feeling of inhabiting a physical body returned as he gasped in shock.
Bob spoke as if what he had just done was completely mundane. The other new Drones were just as shocked as Steve was, though. “Your body has built in connectors in your hands and your core compartment, but there is no wireless connections. Once you are physically removed, your chassis becomes an inanimate hunk of metal. I suggest all of you try this at some point with a trusted partner as I have shown Steve, so you can see exactly what happens. You won’t be able to move your body, and your sight is only based on rudimentary built in electrostatic environment overlays.”
Steve returned to his seat, calming his nerves as he tried to focus on the new information being presented. “The base model Drone chassis has very few features beyond what is necessary to function and support life, but one thing they are also all required to have are common library schematics. This should especially interest the more technical apt of you, but it is still important for the average citizen. It allows you to properly construct multiple varieties of devices, as well as how to operate them. You still need the materials, and other than specifying what is required they no information on how to obtain them due to space constraints. Most of you will have no need to make these devices yourself as they can be purchased or borrowed, but you can still use these schematics to quickly learn how to operate these more manually operated machines around Tempora.”
“Now, onto the city I previously mentioned…” On cue, the picture changed to a overhead view of a sprawling city built with metal, glass, and stone, having rising spires that appeared to sprout out of the ground with sloped bases, as if they were leafless trees. A great wall surrounded the city, pure white with gates at symmetrically spacing all around the city. “This is Tempora, where we are currently located. Or more precisely, we are underneath the city. It is the homeland of the Drones, founded by none other than the great and powerful Tense many centuries ago.”
Another Drone sheepishly raised her hand. “Um… I have heard that name before. Who is he?”
“So glad you asked…” The picture changed again, showing a statue that appeared to be erected somewhere within the city. One of the few things made of a darker color steel, the object starkly contrasted against the light gray and white of the surrounding structures. It depicted a tall human with a lab coat and goggles, and a completely shaved head. His expression was serious and intense as he held one outstretched hand with palm turned upward, caressing a model of the atom to further drive the point that the man was recognized as a great scientist. “This is Tense. Or at least, what we believe he looked like. While most records of what actually happened were lost or destroyed, what we do know is Tense created the Drones. An evil curse had fallen upon the land, and at great risk to himself and his companions he thwarted it with his unmatched mastery of electro casting. Alas, as the legend goes, he lost his life in the end, but not before granting the entire civilization being threatened by the evil the power to survive. This power changed the citizens into what we now call Drones.”
The picture faded away as Bob spoke solemnly for a moment. “Tense was our savior, our leader, our guardian, and so much more. He was not a god, and that makes what he has done that much more incredible. Most of our technology was originally imagined by none other than Tense. You may do and say many things freely in Tempora, and most Drones will not attempt to silence you. But I warn everyone here… never trample on the legacy of Tense. He was the kind of man that the best of us strive everyday to be. He is worthy of your reverence.”
Bob exhaled deeply. “That should be everything. Now, time for the fun part. We are going to the Hub.”