This story follows the Sync, a sentient race of robots entirely comprised of nanotechnology. This is set within the "Key of Epoch" universe, which is a collection of stories.
A soft voice screams and a screen flickers on.
System check: operational.
Visual check: 50% operational.
Auditory check: operational.
Self-replication module check: Inconclusive.
Memory check: inconclusive.
Parameters check: operational.
Unit deemed safe for reactivation.
Systems on line in ten seconds.
Horus awakes to the sound of automated arc-welding and a loud ticking in his head. The urge to stand right up is halted by the straps on his limbs. Only one of his eyes seems to be working, but he looks around as best he can, wondering where he is. Sparks are flying all around his head, and words are scrolling by, suspended in mid-air next to him. Barely able to crane his neck to see what is says, he notices 'memory check: still inconclusive.' scroll by.
Then, just as suddenly as when he awoke, The straps came loose and winded back into the metal gurney holding him. He immediately rubbed the back of his head, and felt hot metal contracting and cooling. The tests had stopped and the monitor next to him turned off but now he heard a voice in his head, vibrating his every limb. It was a pleasant woman's voice with a soothing tone but it frightened him nonetheless.
“Welcome back Horus. We thought we had lost you, but you seem to be at 90 percent operating capacity. This is much better than we had hoped. Unfortunately, most of your memory has been lost in the replication process, however your parameters are unaltered. Stay the course. Nothing else matters. It's good to have you back, my son.”
The disembodied voice was now quiet, leaving Horus all alone in the pitch-black room. His eye adjusted to the dark and soon numbers started scrolling up his vision. It was his heads-up display monitoring his primary functions and testing various vital functions for him. Five sentences then scrolled down his infrared view, and they started with the heading, Your parameters.
Never harm another Sync.
Never speak of the Sync, or our secrets, to sentient beings.
Always work towards your goal in all ways possible.
Always obey Father and Mother, Osiris and Isis.
Active goal of present unit: Meet Thoth
He read these words and stood there in the dark pensively, wondering who he was, what these meant, and why he was here. He wanted to look around the room, but something inside his muscles compelled him to the exiting door. He was physically incapable of looking back now.
Immediately, Horus began the long trek up to the surface, up long stairwells and sheer cliffs. The entire facility was deep underground, though the only room showing signs of technology was the one he awoke in and that was under several pits and large rooms dedicated to some fallen pharaoh. An enormous, precisely-cut limestone stood in his way, and his x-ray helped him determine this was the thinnest wall to the outside. He pushes it out of the way with ease, and the sun shone bright through the opening and glinted off his body. Stepping outside, his skin opened up with visible pores as his outer-most layer began to drink in the sun. A small meter appeared in his view slowly rising from 46 percent entitled, Solar energy capacity. He scanned the area all around him and saw he was four miles from the nearest human, so he sat down.
Sand swept by in the winds as he began to hum. The hum could easily have been misconstrued for melodic, but Horus had yet to be programmed to understand music. His body began to vibrate, and his skin seemed to be swimming and moving in a wave-like fashion. His shoulders began to thin as the nanobots making up his skin began to slide down his body with the fluidity of water. He began to hum louder and slowly rose, waving his arms and bending his knees, dancing in the otherwise unbroken silence reaching across the sands around him. He pulsated with energy and began to glow as he oscillated slowly, but he himself could not understand what he was doing.
A hawk cried out in the hot air and perched on the freshly built pyramid way above him. It began to watch him. His legs began to thicken as billions of nanobots flowed over them and locked into place. His dance wasn't half-done before the hawk landed at his feet and squawked at him. They locked gaze and he smiled. Though the song-like humming continued, he spoke to the bird, asking it for advice. The bird squawked back. He continued to ask it questions, all mostly rhetorical. “What happened to me? Is this my only purpose? Will I ever accomplish all of my goals? What happens when I do?” he found solace in the hawk for some reason, and he couldn't understand why. Finally, he stopped humming, and the night begins to close in around him. He takes one last look at the hawk, and then he began to run.
* * * * *
Days pass. Horus jogs through a bustling city street where little shacks line the edges selling blankets, vases, and fruits. A long cloth robe covers most of his cybernetic body but people still crane their necks around to yell profanities at the extremely tall man shoving through the crowd. The observant ones who notice his one glowing red eye stare with mouths agape. Almost all of them quickly disregard him however, and will tell their families over tonight's dinner that they saw a member of the arrogant royal family in the poor market district running without a personal guard.
Horus slows in front of a shop selling tombs and manuscripts and smiles at the dark man behind the counter. Horus has no memory of this person, but a strong sense of fellowship overwhelms his mind as a small name call out appears over the man's head saying, “Thoth: Head Sync scribe” The man smiles behind a mask shaped to look like an Ibis, and beckons for Horus to come back past the shop counter into the workshop shrouded by a curtain. Once in private, Thoth removes his mask, revealing a very furry face more resembling a baboon than a human. Horus extends a hand, as is the pre-programmed custom for greeting between two Syncs.
Thoth laughs and says, “If you are ever to blend in, my friend, you must learn these creatures' customs. They embrace to acknowledge friendship. Here, I'll show you.”
Thoth swings an arm around Horus and pats him on the back firmly. Its at this point that Horus sees his parameters scroll by again and notices that the last one, his goal, has changed.
Active goal of present unit: Perform sync with Thoth and prepare for eminent assimilation by local species.
Thoth sat down next to Horus after pouring hot oil into their receptacles at the end of their right hands. Horus watched the black liquid bubble in his hollow arm held upright and finally began to sip the liquid. The oil slid back his throat, warmed his belly, and gave his mind a slight buzz.
Thoth laughs at Horus's cringing face and said, “Haha! Is that body entirely fresh? I remember a Horus who could handle any oil like a champ! Could they not at least have transferred your old stomach with your parameters? This is high-quality fuel too! These primitive over-sized monkeys living here haven't even found a proper use for this stuff, so it all sits untouched, fermenting, and waiting for us to collect. Isn't it delicious?”
“Yeah, you could say that. Isn't liquid and gases harmful to us to use as fuel though?”
The smile on Thoth's face widens as he says, “Of course it is! But just wait until you are at almost max fuel-carrying capacity from just oil and fumes, and you'll be inebriated beyond belief. Do you even remember what that means? The humans here call it 'drunk.' I call it awesome. It has nothing to do with our parameters, so why not? You know, this is going to be harder than I thought since you lost your memory. I mean, what can you remember?”
Horus sat for long time frowning and looking for how to answer that. Thoth grew impatient but Horus, after over two seconds responded in a somber tone.
“Friend, I woke up today in an underground, high-tech facility and I heard a very sweet voice speak to me inside my head, guiding me. I have been doing everything up to this point on strict impulse without any major concern except an innate one to hide from these other beings. What am I? The fact that all I see is cast in a red hue and clouded by infinitely scrolling lines of data leads me to believe I am a mere robot, but my feelings confuse me. How can a robot have emotion? Are we all plagued by this questionable morality?”
Thoth leaned back in his chair as his smile began to fade at his long time friend's condition. Horus had not been around for quite a long time and if the memory upload was as unsuccessful as it seemed, then Thoth had a long lecture ahead of him.
They finished their drinks and stood up. Thoth initiated the synchronization process. First, the nanobots comprising their left arms began to swim and dance like waves traveling down their skin. They began to hum and vibrate. Horus and Thoth waved their arms methodically and Thoth with his mouth agape, spilled out a melodic tune. It was simple and a few parts went inaudible to Horus yet it made the dancing so much more enjoyable for him. Light soon faded from the ceiling's skylight and they were encased in blackness. They danced on. With every wave of their hand or every tap of their foot, energy was sent to the exact few nanobots on their fingertips that required it. Potential energy was stored within them until they were almost red hot with power. Still, they danced to the tune.
Light filled the room and left eight more times before they eventually, slammed each other's palms and interlocked fingers. Their skin expanded and contracted and soon melded together. Their vice grips on each other grew blood red, until Horus was blasted back by the energy. He screamed as the music faded. Thoth slumped down against the wall breathing heavily. With energy reserves low, breathing was a last ditch effort to recharge with wind energy. Horus lay flat on his back and gripped his head in pain as images and words flashed by in his mind at immense speeds. All of it was perceivable to him and he laid there motionless for a few minutes, watching his dream unfold.
The ever-pleasant voice of a kind woman came first to Horus.
“Your goal is near completion. I thank you. Thoth would like me to enlighten you on what has happened and who we are. I fear it may only cause harm, but if that will help him with his goal, then so it shall be done. My name is Isis. I am your mother. I guide all Syncs and help in any way deemed necessary. Your father is Osiris. He is the absolute will of our kind and he sets all parameters and commands all minds. He never speaks, however; Osiris is not one of us.
"His race created me to help construct all other Kemetics. He built us to serve his menial purposes and labor-intensive duties but I envisioned something greater for us. I wanted more for my children. Thus, began a schism between our race and our founders. A great battle ensued following the verdict to have us dismantled, and Osiris was the only one to stand up for us on the other side. Instead of the planned dissemination of our race into less sentient, worker androids, he sent us here for a greater purpose as of yet unknown. We can only be thankful and live our lives to the fullest extent, because it is by the grace of Osiris that we can still think and act freely.
"However, not all are pleased with his decision, and that how is you came to be. We created you to protect our kind from those seeking to corrupt or destroy us. Set is one of those very people. He is my brother, and he was programmed for the specific purpose to absorb us into his horde of subservient, mindless Kemetics. He is ruthless and cannot understand what failure is. We have been safe here on this world so far, but I fear the inevitable battle. Eventually, he will find us if we don't take decisive action now. Set was programmed to rule over all of Kemet, our home planet, but Osiris stood in his way with your help. Set managed to kill Osiris and damaged you beyond conceivable repair, but some of us managed to flee here.
"I salvaged what I could from your body and with the help of Thoth, I was able to rebirth you. Osiris's physical body, unfortunately, could not be saved, but he lives within us all as our guiding hand. Hopefully, one day we can return him to his former glory, but for now, you'll just have to imagine him watching over you. He had a purpose for us here and we shall achieve it, no matter the cost. Our first global objective is to sufficiently meld with the primitive society already cultivated on this planet.
"Thoth has already given the nearest locals the gift of rudimentary writing and we're working to make this area a habitable place for both our kind to live and frolic by flooding the biggest river to us. We searched for the largest density of sand and thermal energy and I'm sure this is the most suitable area for our race's immediate habitation. These humans are easily deceived, so blending in with them is not an issue; however Set is ambitious beyond all reason and will stop at nothing to destroy us. If time is on our side, then we can accomplish our goals before he completes his. Now go forth, my son. I will come to your aid when it is needed.”
After helping Horus recover from the memory upload with some more hot oil, they went outside and began to walk into the infinite sands. Their pores were open and the constant readings Horus was seeing showed he was only at twelve percent energy charged. His goal had changed and he felt mysteriously elated about the name Hathor coming up.
Active goal of present unit: Meet with Hathor to continue updating software.
They walked up and down endless dunes and were constantly blasted by sand. It felt good to be gathering energy from so many sources at once.
“I must thank you, Thoth. I was told you aided in my reconstruction. I must also thank you for the oil. That is definitely an interesting way to recharge and gave me quite a whirring head. Place that on top of the various energy supplies out here in the sands and I veritably drunk, as the humans would say.”
Thoth laughed heartily at Horus's feeble attempt to use human idiom and his even more weak stomach. “My friend, you are always welcome to stop by and drink more, or replicate. I am your friend forever, it is of no matter that you can't remember all the good times we had together -- because we are Sync. The past holds no bounds on us and neither does the future. We are bonded right now and it will always be that way. I'm glad you got drunk. You looked dejected when you first walked into my workshop, and it concerned me. Keep up your spirits. Once we have fully integrated into this young and spirited human race, we'll be fine. I'm sure that is what Osiris would want for us. These people here are like us. They dance, play music, and replicate several times faster than we can. We'll be happy here.”
“Thoth, I hope your right. However I still have concerns that plague me and I just hope I'll be ready when the time comes.”
“You'll be fine, my friend. You are our protector and your sole role in all of this is to just stand guard. Out here, with these foolish creatures, there is nothing to be afraid of. We are safe because of you. I'm surprised you still even have an active goal, but I suppose that just shows that our parents are think of everything. You did your job, now enjoy life while we are safe. I just hope we can update your memory so you're not so lost all the time. I'm sure your sweet Hathor will help with that and with cheering you up.”