THE TRIALS OF AN ANGEL (PART4)
By Ed Crane
Stumbling into the lounge I dumped my mass on my favourite couch. Sitting with my hands caressing my head I felt panic taking over. What Droid said crowded in. My mind froze while I fought the urge to burst into tears. It soon passed – no time for such nonsense. Total power failure meant no AI support. Potential disaster for our community. We had to find a way to restore power. I needed the boys.
Not trusting a bot-car after talking with Droid, I headed for the stables hoping my pony, Little Jon wouldn’t be spooked by the sky. Dawn light was building, but the aurora still very visible. Before I got halfway across the stable yard Rachael skidded to a stop in front of me. Nearly falling off the bike she grabbed my arm to steady herself.
‘There’s no power, Mama. The Andros aren’t working. Most don’t move. Some are walking around in circles making weird noises. If it wasn’t so scary it’d be funny,’ she paused to take a breath, ‘some of the bots are smoking. One even caught fire. We pushed it into the lake.’
‘Better get that out before it poisons the fish.’
‘Yeah yeah, some of the young men from Norway gebiet are doing that.’
My youngest daughter seemed to have come alive with the excitement of the strange events. I felt relieved, she’d always been so quiet. Seeing her sweat flecked face flushed with the exhilaration gave me hope she’d found her inner strength. She was certainly going to need it – we all would.
‘A lot of people are awake now.’
‘Is there panic?’
‘Not really, Ma, They seem more fascinated by the lights. Some are helping us go round checking on folks.’
‘The Arora Borealis.’
‘The lights. That’s the proper name.’
‘You know what it is? Why didn’t you tell us about it?’
‘I’ve been asking myself the same question. I can’t go into it now. We’ll have a community moot when things settle down, but first we have to find a way to get power on. I need to find your brothers.’
‘Yes. That’s why I rushed back. Terry wants you to meet him at Tech Central. He’s with Alan trying to get some new bots going. Jack, Alex and Fred are out checking the power supply units. Our sisters are keeping things cool in their gebiets and Junior’s going around to pick up anyone who’s injured or needs medical. Doc Sophie’s at the clinic waiting for them.’
I felt a wave of pride followed by guilt at underestimating my family. I guess I had a grin on my face.
‘You guys moved fast.’
‘They had a head start on you and me ‘cos we went to bed late. At around two the sky lit up. Half hour later the electrics went haywire. It happened really fast. Doc Sophie was in the clinic checking on a child she kept in with concussion after a fall when the power went down. The emergency batteries came on, but they failed after a few minutes. She couldn’t get any sense out of her andros, they kept bumping into things so she shut them down in case they damaged her equipment. Junior was with her. He went to get the lads as soon as it happened. They got on it straight away.’
Sophie, my second oldest daughter was always bringing sick animals home as a kid. We knew we would need someone trained in medicine in the community. After some basic lessons, Marge felt she would be ideal to train as a doctor. We sent her off to Jonny’s organisation as soon as she was old enough – there was no time to waste. At eighteen she reached the level of a qualified doctor. Jonny personally continued her training in surgery. We all call her Doc Sophie. She’s the most travelled of all the kids. Sophie trained Junior, my oldest boy, to be her assistant. They work well together.
Tech-Central was situated on the western edge of the estate land about five miles away. It took Little Jon over forty minutes to trot there. It’s the largest building complex in our community, built by bots long before the arrival of the new family. Originally a reception centre for transport drones bringing in new andros and bots, it sits in an arc around a landing pad. It was developed into a maintenance, repair and update facility with a storage warehouse. The grey walled almost windowless square construction looked almost monolithic in the flat dawn light. It bore little resemblance to the style used for in our community houses. Totally automated, run by IA computers, hardly any humans ever went there. I asked for the ugly lump to be screened off by a small Oak and Beech plantation years ago.
The cavern of the maintenance laboratory was illuminated by battery lanterns and torches tied to uprights by electric flex. I spotted Terry in the far corner after nearly falling over an andro lying where it had collapsed. As my eyes grew accustomed to the shadowy light I could see dozens of them. It looked like the aftermath of a lost battle. Pictures of the American civil war I’d seen in history lessons came into my head. Terry looked tired, his hands and face smeared with greasy grime.
‘It’s hopeless Ma. Everything is dead. The mainframes are cooked. It’s lucky there wasn’t a fire. If we can get power I might be able to rig some of the bots to work for us, but for the moment there’s nothing I can do here. I’ve been waiting for you. Alan’s already gone to help the others at the power centres.’
I looked around at the bodies strewn all over.
‘Are the droids reparable?’
‘Dunno, doubt it. If we can get their batteries charged we might be able to use a few, the rest for spares maybe.’
We stood facing each other, me looking up at Terry. Neither of us spoke for several seconds. I could hear Terry breathing.
‘I’d better go round and switch off the lamps, Ma. We need the batteries.’
I nodded. Terry stayed put, then he come toward me and held me against his chest pulling me close.
‘This is really serious isn’t it, Ma?’
‘Only if we let it be, Son. We can find a way. . . . Have to.’ I put my arms around him and reached up to kiss his chin.
‘Is it the lights in the sky doing this?’
‘I don’t know. I will have to go to the archives.’
Waiting outside while Terry finished up it was totally silent. There was no dawn chorus that day.