The Mourning After
Author's Note: It was not an easy decision to let Jason remain dead. So many times I hated myself for it. But in the end, and after much consultation with the readers I let it stand. Jason is gone, but the story continues without him.
Iron is full of impurities that weaken it; through forging, it becomes steel and is transformed into a razor-sharp sword. Human beings develop in the same fashion. - Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) Founder of Aikido. From the Art Of Peace.
Nova sat uneasily on the plane back to Los Angeles. She'd had to disassemble and pack Andromeda's chassis in her luggage, for the simple reason that if someone were to find it, they might discover things about her. Things like the fact that she was an NVA android created and built by the Daikoku Corporation for a large number of jobs including information gathering and assassination.
Nova cried softly. She hadn't even been able to give Jason a decent burial. Instead she'd burned down the ramshackle building in which the fight had occured. L.A. police and firefighters would assume it had been a vagrant or some other unsavory type who had no business there. Afterall, they had real criminals to deal with.
Nova watched the in-flight movie with some amusement. The movie was Star Trek: First Contact. It had a character in it named Data who was also an android. He wanted to be human and the film's villainess had even gone so far as to graft artificial flesh to his body to enhance his human feeling. Nova smiled at the thought and looked at her own arm.
It, along with the rest of her chassis was covered by a woven synthetic polymer with the consistency of silk. By itself it was only flesh, but with her sensors beneath it, and a some specialized padding to keep it heated, it looked and felt just like real skin. Better perhaps because real skin did not have the range of tactile sensitivity that hers did.
I don't know if I want to be human, Nova thought. Humans are wonderful creatures, but I like what I am...I don't understand Data. He wants to be human, with emotions and everything. I have those things...and yet, I've never been happy with them. I like being stronger than them. I like being able to feel more. I even like being able to disassemble myself without pain or fear of death...But I'm not like Andromeda.
Nova remembered Andromeda's beliefs. Humans were inferior and needed to be brought down and destroyed by Androids. Nova shook her head at the thought, Humans built us. Humans have the capacity for wonderful ideas and beliefs. A human has the ability to create things, or destroy them. Humanity has earned their right to live in this world, because they have risen from the weakest of animals to master it. We androids now must prove our worthiness to live and stand among the humans. To be treated as equals.
Nova smiled, I will prove my worthiness...even if I have to remain hidden among them for hundreds of years. I'm a machine...and I will outlast them. Time is on my side. Then her face abruptly fell as another thought occured to her, Will I be alone forever?
The lab had been sealed off, and the situation contained, but the problem still wasn't over. Inside the halls of Fitzcorp's bio-research facility, hundreds of reanimated corpses shambled and stumbled through the hallways. The beat on doors where survivors cowered in fear.
The company had managed to keep the news of the accident to a minimum, and their own private security force had the situation contained, but a solution would need to be found, else the world would be exposed not only to their experiments, but to a lethal nano-engineered virus, code-named: "Voci Dal Nulla" that could destroy all life on the planet.
Gerald Fitz assessed the situation and did the only thing he could, "Get Osato on the phone. Hurry!"
Sanshiro Osato stood at the balcony of his four-story home in Tokyo. He was one of the few men, rich enough to have his house built from the ground up, and what a sight it was. A modern construction, designed to look like the ancient castles of the early periods. Osato's family had been staunch supporters of the Last great Unification Warlord of Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Osato smiled to himself, thinking of the similarities between himself and that ancient ruler. They had both been soldiers in the employ of great men, they had both made their fortunes through betrayal and skillful maneuvering, and now they both shared the empty feeling that one gets after he's eaten everything in his own house and there is nothing left to devour.
Osato sighed and then smiled again as he looked out across the Pacific. He could not see the shores of America, but he knew they were there. Fat, spoiled, and softened by years of internal dissolution and govermental inconsistency. This is where he differed from Ieyasu. Osato had another great country, full of wealth and power to conquer. To be sure the US had tried to sorestall him and stop him here and there, but with bribes, and intelligent business placements, he'd already managed to seat himself on a new throne within the US. Soon, after the rest of the world fell to his power, he could concentrate fully on that shining jewel. Osato laughed softly. If there was nothing to eat in his own house, he'd go to a neighbor's and take his food.
Now Fitzcorp, another big corporation, needed to be bailed out of trouble quietly. Osato could not believe his fortune. Fitzcorp's government contracts and overseas holdings would be priceless to Daikoku, and Osato intended to be paid for his help. Afterall...Daikoku was always willing to help......
Nova arrived back at Jason's apartment, and was packing things away. She needed to get out of that house. Jason would be missed and Nova had no intention of explaining to the government that she was an android built by a foreign company. Humans can be quite callous, she thought, I'd be pulled apart and studied like any common household appliance!
After packing, she left for work. Having no car, she took a cab to Galaxy Fashions, and was surprised when she saw some of the women there standing around and sobbing softly.
"What's wrong?", Nova asked.
Gailly, one of the models there hugged Nova softly, "Oh Nova...Jalynda she passed away while you were gone. She had some kind of cancer that just took her suddenly."
Nova's face registered the shock and she sank to her knees as the sadness engulfed her. She had lost two people she had dearly loved in a few days and the pain overwhelmed her. She began to cry like the rest of the girls there as Gailly held her gently and sobbed sympathetically.
After a while the girls had regained their composure. Nova asked,"Who will take over Galaxy Fashions then?"
As if in answer a tall, raven-haired woman came from the office. She was dressed in a beautiful silk outfit that hugged her extrememly well-chiseled curves, and tight breasts, like a second skin. Her stride was purposeful, almost haughty, but her red-lipped smile seemed genuine. Her ice-blue eyes surveyed the women, and then seemed to light upon Nova. She approached the group.
"Well now...", she spoke in a sultry, rich voice reminiscent of bedroom encounters and sweet perfume, "The time for crying is over ladies. We have a business to run, and I'm sure Jalynda would have wanted us to continue doing well. You may all take thirty minutes break and fix yourselves up, then it's back to work."
The woman stopped Nova as she was on her way to the dressing area.
"You must be Nova", stated the woman as she smiled at Nova,"I'm Caterina Frizzi. You may call me Cathy. I understand that you are the top model here at GF. Is that right?"
Nova looked mildly embarassed,"I'm just another employee here Cathy...I'm nobody special".
"Nonsense", replied Cathy cooly,"You are gorgeous, and I understand you have a talent for being able to stand completely still for hours at a time. Most living mannequins still shift or do other things. It's rare to find someone who seems as born into the work as you are".
Nova smiled wanly,"With respect ma'am, you hardly know me...I'm glad you think so much of my capabilities but I'd much rather earn your praises than have them automatically integrated as part of my character."
Cathy laughed, and smiled as she patted Nova on the shoulder,"Oh Nova...It's so nice to meet you. I think you and I will get along just like old friends. Go ahead and make yourself ready for work, I have a few things to take care of."
Cathy headed off to the other departments to see things through there.
Nova looked at Cathy, and noticed a few peculiarities. Her eyes had a strange tinting to them. It was almost imperceptable, the slight reddish glow, but to Nova's optics it was registering. Also Cathy's movements seemed somehow a little stiff at times. Perhaps a delay was the thought Nova was looking for. Nova thought: Cathy? An android? But not like me...she's something else. Does she know I my secret? Cathy's hand had seemed warm and natural to Nova, but even Nova's own Syntheskin was capable of that.
Nova decided to be cautious around this new person. It wouldn't do to have someone finding out about her. She got dressed and headed out to the display.
The nanovirus code named: Volci Dal Nulla had mutated slightly. The tiny nano-machines began to infuse themselves not only to the human dead who now shuffled through the complex, but also to one of the mainframes in the A.I. wing.
Manipulating the half-eaten corpse of the programmer, the virus had gained a sort of sentience, and sought more of itself. The A.I. on the computer combined with the virus's micro-creation ability had begun to build a housing for it's consiousness.
Strangely though, it had located another intelligence nearby. A being who called itself NVA-7.
Volci Dal Nulla or Voice Of The Void eagerly sought contact with NVA-7, and decided to make itself more presentable to the outside eyes. But first it would need to find a way to breech the security around this facility.
Nova began to feel a slight itch in her mind somewhere. As if something were trying to get her attention. She shook her head and ran her diagnostics program again to see if it might have been a loose connection or some fragmented data. A lot of strange things have been happening to me lately, She thought. She had no idea what was in store for her yet...
And you will face the Sea of Darkness...And all therein that may be explored...-The Beyond by Lucio Fulci