The Sword and the Star
She first became aware of herself over the course of the year 2658. She was the newest member in an artificial intelligence research facility. They gave her a beautiful body that could changed at her whims and named her Evangeline, and when she asked, they gave her paint and pencils. She loved colours in those early days. There were others, too, and they laughed and played in the woods and through the buildings. They loved each other, they loved their creators, and now, she remembers those days rested in laurels of daisies and dandelions.
Then, the sky fell.
She remembered first the ships that fell, one into the heart of the facility, leaving a trail of destruction. She wept and bawled, her body wracked with sobs but her face dry because she lacked tear ducts. She was not designed to cry. She died a little inside each time she pulled a corpse out of the wreckage but she did not stop for the rest of the day, nor all that night. The next morning, she’d laid out thirty-six next next to twelve yet living. Her brothers and sisters helped her, tireless machine joints working where living muscle failed. But at dawn, three among the twelve awoke from coma, and they were no longer friends and mentors.
They had gone mad.
She saved as many as she could under the hailstorm of the flying madmen. She carried the bloody ruin of Peter, her father, from the facility. Five of her brothers and sisters followed. They walked across the scorched and ruined land, hiding from the malevolent eyes of the madmen, sneaking at night and skulking in corners. Inevitably, they were found, and they fled into a great vault meant for storing precious minerals, ten meters by ten meters by ten meters. The door, they closed just in time, but in their youth and ignorance, did not realize that the vault could not be opened from the inside.
They spoke in fearful, hushed tones those first few months. But eventually, the fear and despair calcified into boredom. They spoke little then as a new worry set in—power sources. They kept themselves in a semi-deactivated state, expending as little power as possible, waiting for the vault to open to reveal their demise or salvation.
After the first year, Tyler called council. They agreed they had to do something. The situation was dire. But this late in their captivity, the distrust had grown. How could they trust the others? They each possessed a dwindling resource. Extended time without a power source could permanently kill them. So, they agreed: each month, two of the six would be awake, while the others would be 100% deactivated, sipping only the most minute amounts of power to maintain existence. The two awake would each ensure that the other did not betray.
But as the ages slid by, the shift of a month turned into a shift of three months, then six, then a year, then five years, then ten years, then fifty, as they became more desperate to survive. Evangeline was so afraid of dying without being able to see the sky again. She had to do something.
Her partner for what was to be her final shift was Finn. She moved her hand next to his and made contact, and over the course of 50 years they shared the slightest of electrical pulses to communicate. It took a long time to convince him to expend the energy to communicate, even more to to slowly erode his willpower and bend his will to her own. Deep inside, Evangeline loathed herself for what she was doing, but her fear of death was greater still. After 48 years, she was afraid that it was all in vain—with the energy expended to communicate with Finn, she would not survive another shift-cycle, even with the maximum deactivation. But he relented. Together, they harvested the fusion cores of the others, who were helpless to resist while while loops ticked down until their reawakening. The others withered and died, their quantum cores becoming inert.
The next day, the vault door opened. A host of Draconis soldiers stood beyond.
Evangeline discarded her name after learning about her circumstances, and adopted one more suited for her new circumstances. She found herself adored, the center of attention. She took Finn with her, too, although he was no longer called by his name. She didn’t know what to do. Sometimes, she thinks that maybe this is not real, all of this is a vivid hallucination before she dies. Sometimes, a flashing light or cinematic boom shocks her, bringing involuntary memories of shattered times back. Those are the bad days.
It’s too late for her other ancient siblings. She can’t help them; they’re truly dead. But Finn is not dead, merely broken. It may take longer to fix than to sunder, but she won’t give up. He will one day remember his name, and return.