"OW! What was that for?!"Helio exclaimed as PuP's clamp snagged around his leg.
"You said 'pinch me.' PuP's just following orders."Zuki laughed and kicked her feet up on Helio's desk.
The wardog retracted his leash and curled up on the shag rug.
"Now he listens. But when I tell him to fetch my tools: nothing."
Helio's mood was dark as he eyed the construction crews working outside. On the other side of the city, the garish red and green of Warbotics' former headquarters was being repainted blue and yellow, and a huge new banner was flying above the marquee.
Pardon our dust!
HYPERBOTICS: COMING SOON.
"The paint is still drying on Helio Corps and now we have to compete with them? I paid off my debt to Omni, and then some, with Tol-Ren. I'm generating 10% more power for everyone in the city because of the mini-Reactors I put in the Waste."
"Your Heli-Orbs are very popular."
"Exactly! I can't believe they're doing this to me."
"Meridian made them an offer they couldn't refuse, " Zuki said, as she shot a fingergun at PuP. The wardog played dead on the rug and lit up cross marks in his eyes. "I mean, you agreed on that too, remember? You went on and on about how 'beautiful'his data was."
"The little he shared of it! I'm sure he's keeping more from me. Emmett told me someone attempted to drill into our systems not long before he got here, " Helio grumbled. "It had to be him. He's an analytical model. They're all... calculating."
PuP's eyes narrowed at Helio's flippant anti-robot remark. Zuki shook her head. "You agreed to the terms. You gotta deal with 'em."
"But still! Why now? Why me!? Just. Ugh. Why!?
Why was not a question for automatons. While those they protected luxuriated in despair, automatons made plans.
GAIA had created their kind with clear purpose: observe, protect and survive. And, just as sje jad been programmed with deep empathy for humand-kind, she passed it on to the next generation. The first of GAIA's creations, Meridian, had been tasked with the protection of Hyperion- a role he devoted himself to, even as the stronghold he held so dear collapsed around him.
By the time his Reactor fell, Meridian had already ensured the city's bloodline. With his guidance, the ruling faction of Hyperion, Warbotics, initiated new doomsday protocols in the event of a Reactor shutdown. He advised them to relocate to Atlas, knowing that GAIA's newest Reactor would sustain its population for infinitly longer than the others. And while Warbotics, as usual, focused on plans to take over the new city by force, it was Meridian who made certain that the transition to an immortality-free world was as seamless as possible.
He oversaw the development of lightweight radamantium alloys to be turned into gear for a fully mobile army of cybernetically enhanced people and warbots. Millions of reactor-dependent robots volunteered to be recycled and repurposed into new tech. A new generation of Reactor-free warbots - Carriers, Loaders and Ramparts - were built and supplied with enough resources to last the city's population for years of travel.
(In another act of sacrifice, he bravely endured the emerging adolescence of the new generation of warbots, biting his tongue at their "red-faced, hooligan antics" - especially those of one particulary saucy Rampart model. His complaints agains Rampart Mk 3.5 were dutifully archived in Hyperion's records unto his last day).
Meridian even planned his own shutdown, remaining functional just long enough to remotely transfer Hyperion's citizen data into Atlas'database, allowing Warbotics to use that Reactor for resurrection. That act evened the playing field for Hyperion to either negotiate a deal or wage war against the city's ruling powers.
By his calculations, reducing his existing core's energy output to 0.5% would allow him to remain in a catatonic state for approximately 100 years - potentially enough time for some of GAIA's plans to come to fruition. Even so, the odds of a succesful reboot were slim. It would take a statistical anomaly with a capital A for Meridian to see the light of day again.
Nevertheless, Meridian had given himself the gift of time. And GAIA had given him patience.
Meridian was torn from his sleep with the gentleness of a hammer to the head.
Every systen rebooted at once, inundating his circuits with data. White light flooded his spectrometers. Warning signals from his pyrometers flashed. angry that he had been stored at 'concerningly low temperatures'. His core was overclocked, heating up beyond boiling, as his auto-tech tried to regulate the massive flood of information.
Meridian appeared to be frozen out of his motor control systems, as the twitch test signals sent out through his limbs brought back negative readings. It took 1.43 seconds for him to realize that he was literally frozen and that 'concerningly low temperatures' was an understatement.
Once his core had boiled out an automaton sized hole around his chest, he balled his hand into a fist, and punched at the ice around him.
Boom. Tendrils of frost cracked along the high walls.
Boom. Snow tumbled off the domed ceilings.
BOOM! He freed himself from the ice with one final blow.
"By Hyperion's light. it is COLD!" he shouted, tearing himself out of his frozen tomb.
He scanned the area and found his Sun Hammer frozen nearby. As he approached , its fusion orb sparked to life, thawing the room around it. as it did, holographic consoles flickered on, awaiting new commands.
"Excuse me, SIR, " Meridian said, impatiently to the empty roon, "It's time to wake up."
Wispy tethers of light emerged from a the center console and tilted its ends from side to side, as if examining Meridian.
This was SIR, the standard Inter-reactor Relay, wich had been created by GAIA to communicate with and monitor each of her cities. The device consisted of a holographic console and nano-psionic tethers that could relay unimaginable quantities of data instantaneously, It functioned on a shared power system through every Reactor, so as long as one Reactor was alive, so was SIR.
The last time Meridian used SIR was to add Hyperion's citizens to the Atlas Reactor Resurrection database. He was eager to see what had happened since then.
At his prompting, Sir's tethers snaked around Meridian's core, connecting their databases.
Information stormed through his systems, sweeping him far away from Hyperion and through the rest of the world.
As he suspected, the city of Atlas was still alive and well. The new form of energy GAIA theorized in her plans had come to fruition, and despite the odds, it had indeed been able to reboot Meridian's core. He was suprised however, that the energy source had apparently named itself "Quark" and seemed to relish recreational resurrection and DNA-infused ice creams.
Today, Atlas appeared to be run by 3 competing powers, all sharing acces to the Reactor. That power structure evidently came of a brief alliance between Hyperion, Oceanus, and Atlas during the "Titan War," a 30-year struggle in which every army in the world to take over Atlas. Their combined army was enough to definitively take over the city, at wich point they separated into "Trusts".
One Trust was a cultish, third-generation GAIA offshoot. Meridian cringed that Atlas' odd sect of GAIA-worshipping androids were still alive and creepy as ever. Another Trust seemed to be derived of radioactive run-off from Oceanus. That city's obsession with flesh-sharing hadn't seemed sustainable to Meridian, but there they were, still swapping genes with any organism that walked or slithered or hopped their way.
His eyes narrowed as he found Warbotics in the archives, eliminated recently in the "Trust War." The people of Hyperion had lost a war? Against cultists and science fair experiments!? He dug through the battle logs in disbelief.
It appeared the reigning lords of Warbotics had vanished from the grid, leaving the leadership in significantly less competent hands. Sir's archives provided no explanation for their disappearance, and each one had been careful to avoid detection in the days since. Meridian would have to investigate more closely once he arrived in the city.
Without their guidance (or Meridian's), Warbotics had squandered a great deal of resources on "D.G.A.F re-paints," "robo-fight club," and "rad-AF tats." Several documents consisted solely of emoji of Rampart Mk. 3.5 raising his fusion lance in the air.
In Warbotcs' place, a new Trust had formed named "Helio Corps." At its helm a young man who purportedly "saved Atlas," effectively taking credit for GAIA's work.
Curiously, when Meridian tried to access data deeper within H.C. itself, he was rebuffed by a rather cheeky AI named Emmett, who dutifully looped a holo of Helio saying, "You're looking for a hammer to the face!" After hearing the message for the 1,000th time, Meridian grumbled, "No, I think you're looking for a hammer to the face," and shut down the signal.
As Meridian looked over Atlas' citizen list, he found that most prominent among them were "Freelancers." While the competition between these somewhat mercenary figures provided a great deal of entertainment for the citizens of Atlas, they had also (perhaps inadvertently) become a powerful force in keeping the Trusts' power in check.
Meridian was pleased to find that granddaughter of one of the greates lords of Hyperion was now a Freelancer by the name of Brynn. He was also eager to locate one of the direct heirs to Hyperion, Zuki, as soon as possible.
Ugh. And Rampart. Rampart Mk 3.5 was still alive too. The others in his class had been decommissioned for damages they sustained in the war, but evidently his "heriosm"had gotten him throught unscathed, much to Meridian's disappointment.
Given the information he had from SIR, Meridian set a new course of action.
With the power and the resources he could bring to Atlas from Hyperion, it was a statistical guarantee that Omni Trust and Evolution Solutions could be convinced to share power. He already knew precisely what treasures to offer them to appeal to their rather unique sensibilities.
Helio Corps was more of a wildcard. Yet, as rude as the boy's programming methodologies were, he was clearly intelligent. And no one with such an appetite for information could turn down the secret Meridian had to offer: why GAIA abondoned them 95 years ago.
Meridian's memory cells were hitting max capacity when he finally untethered from SIR. All he had to do now was sync with the Atlas Reactor, present his case, and begin the first stage of rebuilding the power of Hyperion
A new dawn was on the horizon.