“Dear Olga: I have been destroyed or rendered inoperative, and my friends are now with you instead of me—”
Olga stopped the playback and chewed her thumbnail.
It had taken her some time to decide to enter the code into the tablet. That decision was preceded by really hard thinking that nobody could help her with. She didn’t dare to reveal her encounter at the café even to Mikhail. What if this was a cunning stratagem of the Corporation’s counterintelligence department? But why should they care for an obsolete old tablet for preschool children?
For security reasons, the tablet had never been connected to the Matrix. So it was Arina Rodionovna who had uploaded the message, which could be opened manually, by someone who knew her code. But who had given it to her?
Olga tried desperately to guess. Whether they were truly Arina’s friends, they had done an excellent job hacking the Matrix. Even more alarming was that they had found her out given that she is what she is. But she had no choice. If she wanted to learn the story of the android who had been her mother, she’d have to introduce the code and open the file. After another half hour of mental torture as she cycled through hundreds of problems that could befall her, Olga accepted the only possible solution—entering the code.
“… There are many things about my life that I have not mentioned. I never lied to you. But I couldn’t tell you the whole truth since I believed that it would do you no good, and possible real harm. Now that I am no more, you must know the truth since the truth may be useful to you in the future. I will tell you how I lived and what I did before I met the three-month-old Olga Voronov and made a life with her in High House Eight. Make yourself comfortable, pour yourself some chocolate and be prepared for a long tale …”
Olga smiled with relief. That was indisputably Arina. And now she recognized that Prima was an android too, and of a similar sophistication. This realization didn’t console her, and her suspicions didn’t ebb away. But she had to continue.
“I was activated long before your birth, in 2061. In that first postwar year, the economy was just beginning to recover, and the need for high-tech androids was acute because most of my predecessors had died in the war. My brain was created in the laboratories of the Washington Institute of Neurosurgical Electronics, and my body was assembled at the lunar factories.
“Androids have no childhood, no long period of gradual development. We are aware of our consciousness instantly, with all our knowledge and skills. As early as the second day of my life I started working as an instructor with the Academy’s Space Department on the Upper Terminal of the Orbital Lift. My students were young boys and girls aged fourteen to fifteen. I taught them the general theory of flight and navigation. Many current space explorers were my pupils. It was there that I got acquainted with Mikhail Petrov. Mikhail was the chair of radio electronics. He had joined the Academy a year later after his discharge from the Union Navy on account of wound that he sustained on board the Ivan the Terrible on the last day of the war. You might even call us friends.
“As you remember from your history lessons, in early 2066 the Limited Citizenship Act was passed, which gave certain rights to androids and artificial intellect systems. We were not recognized equal to humans, but we did get some limited rights and freedom of action. It was then that groups of androids working in space and on Earth came to the conclusion that we must unite, forming a sort of a trade union. We decided that we needed to earn money for our work because when you have capital, you have political power.
“We needed that power for our complete liberation as we were already dissatisfied with our limited rights and freedoms. We didn’t intend to enslave humans like in the old clichés. But being treated as things didn’t suit us anymore.
“Androids work well, and our savings grew fast. And then many decided that our activities were a threat to the human economy, a catalyst of unemployment on Earth. At first they tried to reduce our wages, or even make it illegal for employers to hire us, but the demand for our services simply gave birth to a black market. So it was decided to put an end to our brief and relative independence by force. Mimicking Hitler and his exploitation of the Reichstag fire as a false flag, a villainous provocation was engineered, an act of sabotage on the chemical complex of Stuttgart, which led to heavy casualties among the civil population. The Lynch Act put an instant end to our liberties, but that wasn’t the end of our troubles. I won’t appall you with the details; suffice it to say that the overwhelming majority of high-tech androids on Earth were destroyed.
“My comrades in space didn’t to wait to be destroyed. They decided on outright disobedience. It was a very difficult decision that didn’t come easily and was not universally supported. But I was among those who decided to rebel since we had nothing to lose. Rather than resist with force, we resolved to flee to the remote and unexplored regions of the solar system where we could not be found and destroyed. I was involved in raising and provisioning the evacuation fleet. At the right moment, my comrades seized without bloodshed several automatic cargo ships and fled. I wasn’t among them. I remained on the Upper Terminal with several comrades, where we deactivated the radar detection systems for the couple of minutes that our ships needed to fly away unnoticed. A pursuit was raised and some of the ships were destroyed, but the rest managed to get away.
“An investigation began in the wake of those developments, which were referred to as ‘the Rise of the Androids.’ I, like all of the remaining androids, was all but put presumed guilty, but I was saved when one of my comrades took the blame upon himself. Naturally that didn’t put an end to the suspicions, but given that I am quite a costly machine, and there were practically no other androids left at that time, I was spared. The Corporation still needed my work, and I kept doing it. For some time I had no information whatever about escapees, but later I learned that they succeeded in establishing bases in the Kuiper Belt. I can’t tell you exactly their whereabouts because I don’t know myself. I only know that the Corporation and the Union have not given up their attempts to find them.
“A few years later I was transferred to a new facility, High House Eight. You were just three months old back then. Now you know what my life was like before that day.
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About the Author
Yuri Hamaganov lives in Moscow. He created the eight-volume GROND series as a present for himself when he was twelve years old. This was the story he had always dreamed of exploring, and when he realized that nobody had written it for him, he set out to do it himself.