CHAPTER TWENTY SIX – First Time in Reality

We all went to the door and opened it to find an extensive amount of security officers gathered around the building. They were all hiding behind cover and facing their rifles towards us.

“Let the child go!” An announcement said. 

“What!? Caroline?” Elatio looked over at her and said this in such an accusing way.

Caroline looked at him, shocked. “This is nothing to do with us! You did nothing illegal.” Caroline said. 

“Bah, you cannot trust Companions.” Elatio continued. “And after all of that pleasant stuff you said!”

“Honestly Elatio, I do not understand what is going on!”

“Bring the child, now!” said the announcer, using an alien device to make their voice louder.

“I believe her Elatio, Caroline wouldn’t do this!” I said

He took a deep breath. “I suppose it could have been Nasum. She may have contacted one of my mothers. I’ll talk to them! Make sure you two don’t get arrested. If it looks like you will be, run!”

I nodded in agreement, considering I knew what was in my pocket. Caroline did not understand. “There is no way we going to do that!” she said as Elatio walked away. I just sighed at the comment. 

We could see Elatio talking to the security for a long time. The guards looked like they were listening, nodding to what was being told, however a lot of them didn’t lower their rifles. I placed my hands in the air, just in case.

“James, this isn’t Earth! You look like an idiot, put your hands down!”

I put my hands down, looking around at the reaction of the Tuhingan around us. What were they talking about I wondered? Didn’t matter though, just as long as Elatio could get us out of this situation. Elatio and the guard then approached us. “So Elatio was just saying that you were just talking, that you two are good friends now. Is this true?”

“Eh, yes Officer.” I replied nervously. He paused for a moment and seemed to look through me. Focusing on something that seemed to be inside my face rather than on it.

“You know, Elatio, your family is hard to deal with. Why on Earth would you meet with James!? Of all people.” He sighed and then looked at me. “Look, I am supposed to arrest you. However, I can see that Elatio chose to come here. He’s a good kid. So I am going to do something that I am not supposed to do and let you go. Just promise me you won’t do this again!”

“Wait!? You should arrest us!” Caroline said next to me. “We broke Tuhingan law!”

“Oh, Companions. Look, many laws can be open to interpretation. I don’t want this headache so could you both please just get out of my sight!”

“Certainly Officer! Thankyou.”

“Don’t call me an Officer, I don’t work in an office!” he said to me as he began turning to walk away. “Oh, and James!” I stopped as I was turning away and looked at him. “Don’t meet Elatio again!”

I nodded and said “Sure” uncertain whether I could keep that promise.

“Now go!” 

“See you, James!” Elatio said as he turned with the guard. 

“See you Elatio, nice meeting you!”

“You too!” 

After that me and Caroline hurried away and entered the nearest station.

“Why do the Tuhingan’s do that?” She asked me.

“Do what?”

“Bend rules, break laws. It’s as if they don’t care about their own laws.” 

I frowned, “that is not what was happening.”

“Well, whatever was happening, it happens a lot!”

“How do you know that?” I asked as I entered a Pod at the back.

“It’s happened to other Companions.” She said as she got into the front of the Pod.

“Hmm. Well, from what I could see was police under strain and dealing with a troublesome person.”

“Bah, humans are so primitive!”

The doors closed and the Pod started on its way. 

“Excuse me! You’re half human, you know! Or at least I think you are!?”

“Yes, well, I’m still more capable than the average human. I have more eyes than you, more minds than you.”

“What does that even mean?”

“My brothers and sisters, the other Companions. I can see their thoughts whenever I want to. We are all linked.”

“Like a hive?”

“Not like Bee’s no. More like networked computers.”

“Right, a computer? So you have to respond to input from a user?”

“Like humans do anyway, yes.”

“But The Core controls you?”

“No, I’m an individual!”

“But you can’t break any laws, even a small one?”

“We have access to any of the legal databases on worlds within the Galactic Union and even worlds that aren’t. We are constantly assessing situations. Running it through The Core if we suspect something. If we don’t, then it could mean annihilation.”

“That’s harsh.”

“Yes, but necessary.”

“Why?”

“We’re the representatives for The Galactic Union and its important that people trust us!”

“What if you block The Core and the other Companions from seeing your thoughts?”

“It’s not possible, everything gets run through The Core!”

“Everything?” I asked, feeling embarrassed and shocked.

She took a deep breath and sighed. “Yes, James, everything. I know that in some cultures on Earth took privacy as being a very important thing. But its not the same in the Galactic Union. It’s not good to hide anything.”

It stunned me for a moment. “You mean, The Core records everything we have done?”

“Yes, just like everything you have witnessed is recorded on your BCI!”

“Ah, that chip in my head!”

“Yes, James.”

Our Pod then pulled into the station and we both got out while I was thinking of the situation. I just realised that I didn’t have any privacy. Caroline didn’t have any privacy and perhaps doesn’t even have free will.

“What about free will?” I asked as we walked up the stairs.

“I have free will, just I have to follow all laws. I can’t break any!”

“What if it’s confusing whether you would break a law?”

“The judicial services given by the Galactic Union would process the situation. If The Core doesn’t have a signal, then it would run the situation through several simulations. It then asses which actions would reduce the amount of laws I would be forced to break.”

“Wow, so you have to follow what The Core suggests doing?”

“I don’t have to, I could do something else in that situation. There is a reason I am independent from The Core.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“To make faster decisions, James. If The Core has to process everything, my actions would just be too slow!”

“Caroline. Can I trust you?”

“Of course you can James, what sort of question is that?”

“No, I mean, could I trust you if I accidently break the law?”

She frowned at me as she looked at me. “James, you can’t break any of the Galactic Union laws!” 

“But Tuhingan laws are okay?”

“Tuhingan laws are confusing and contradictory! Even their record keeping isn’t so good!”

“Ahh!” I tried to think of Earth and think how we kept records. “A little like Earth then?”

“Earth was worse! Far worse!” 

“Oh.” I said after I realising that she see’s me as some primitive. I was thankful that we finally approached home and could settle in the motorhome. I hung my jacket up inside the wardrobe with the device still sat in its pocket. I had no better place to hide it.

We entered and got settled. Had our meal and went to bed, soon to be having fun between the sheets.

The next morning, over breakfast, Caroline suggested that we should look for volunteer jobs for me. I agreed and she showed me how to access the network. They had news articles in there, some talking about me. I read headlines such as “Annihilator attacks family at sons annihilation ceremony!”, “Annihilator kidnaps their victim’s brother!” and “Why is this Vnnihilator still free?” I don’t think there was a single one that didn’t use the word ‘Annihilator’ to describe me.

“Eh, these headlines!”

“Ignore them James, we need to focus on the volunteer jobs, not the news!”

“Sure, what have we got?” 

“I think I found something simple and nice. Something away from people at least.”

“You think I need to be away from people?”

“I think you could do with hiding from the public for a while!”

I sighed, “Fair enough. What is it?”

Caroline shared the advert with me and it read something like this.

Missing Child!

Need help to find my child. She wandered into the dark side of the centrifuge and has been missing since. The guards are out looking for her, but so far had no luck. We are looking for a team of volunteers to go after her. The more help we get, the better!

“A rescue of a child. It will be good for your PR! There are already eight people who going.” Caroline didn’t hesitate to say.

“I thought you wanted me to stay away from people?”

“Well, there have to be some witnesses to see how kind you are.”

“They will still see me as a murderer.”

“But they will see you! That’s the important thing.”

I still felt very nervous about the situation and the thought of going out there with eight others in ‘the dark side of the centrifuge’. Wherever that is.

“I’ll sign up.” Caroline said.

“You will?” I asked.

“Yeah, it sounds like fun. Going out into the wilderness to find a child hidden in a dark forest.”

“There’s a forest in here?” I asked, shocked and fearing the description.

“Yes James, didn’t you see it from the observation room?”

“That was with Periclum and when I was still getting my head around where I was. I wasn’t looking at details!”

“Well, you’ll find out soon enough, we are both going!”

“Aren’t you worried something will happen to us?” I asked.

“So what if it does, we’ll just scan ourselves before we go!”

“And I’ll go through all that traumatic experience of being murdered again?”

“James, you’re so dramatic.”

“You weren’t the one killed and having nightmares every night!”

“I’m sorry for that. I wish I could help you with that.”

“You already do a lot for me.” I smiled back at her and she smiled back.

There was a moment of silence until I remembered how my body is failing me at that current moment. It sounded like the Tuhingan mother wanted someone to come immediately. I asked Caroline about it. She considered me strong enough to go on the journey. Also thought the exercise could help build my muscles faster.

I just looked at her with the best sceptical look I could muster. 

“It will be torture!”

“No, it will be great! You’ll be fine.” She lied. “Besides, your condition will make you seem less threatening to the other volunteers. Especially the Tuhingan.”

I took a deep breath and then agreed. We were going to rescue a child!

The meeting of the volunteers were to happen the next morning. So for the rest of the day, we ate, I exercised and we had fun. Before we knew it, the next day was upon us and my stomach was in knots.

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