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I asked would it be okay for her to have a drink with me since it was just the two of us. Without skipping a beat, Iris hopped down from the counter and lined up two shot glasses on the bar. “Tequila okay?” she asked. “I’ll leave it up to the professional,” I said. Iris reached for a clear bottle and poured us each a shot. We said cheers and downed our drinks and then Iris hopped right back up to her perch on the counter. A moment later, I felt the alcohol like a warm glow in my stomach, making me feel as if it was the source of the happiness I was suddenly feeling. “Well, if you don’t want to tell me what you’re doing here, let's start with what you do for work. It's only fair since you already know what I do.” Iris spread out her hands as if to indicate the floor was all mine. “You’re not going to be very impressed," I warned her. “I'll be the judge of that," she said. I went ahead and told her where I worked, what I did there, and how long it had been, making sure not to embellish, or make the job sound more interesting than it was. Then I told her about poker, how I'd quit my previous job to play full-time, and ended up losing everything in the process. When I was finished I took a long sip of my drink before finally forcing myself to look at Iris again. “Sorry to disappoint you,” I said, fully aware that I wasn’t telling her the worst part, which I had yet to share with anyone. I sat waiting for her reaction. I was expecting her to tell me I was an idiot, or that I should have been smarter, but what she said was, "You don't have to apologize, Simon." “I know, I guess I just wish I’d run into you under better circumstances.” “If it makes you feel any better, I thought it was refreshing." "Refreshing? That's the last thing I'd call it." "Well, the way I see it, you weren't afraid to take your shot, which is more than most people can say. I know it didn't turn out how you wanted but at least you’re still standing. Plus, I’m used to guys trying to make themselves out to be more than they are, so it’s nice to hear someone act humble for a change.” What she said was easily the nicest thing anyone had said to me in a long time, which wasn't saying much, but I was still touched by her kindness. Then Iris pointed at my empty glass and asked if I wanted another. “Sure, but only if you’ll have one with me," I said. We continued talking, and all the strangeness of suddenly running into her again began to wear off. Before I knew it, it felt like the most natural thing in the world for us to be sitting there in that bar together. We reminisced about our days at Dodson, and she reminded me how she'd had to wake me up that first day when we got to our stop. "You looked so worn out. I remember I felt bad having to wake you up, and then I saw all those stickers some kid had put in your hair and I got so mad," she said. "Do you remember me having to pick them out of your hair?" "I almost forgot about the stickers," I said. I was surprised she remembered so much. At one point we even tried listing all the books she'd had me read that semester, and we got all the way up to 17 before we couldn't think of anymore. Then I asked if she was still writing and told her how I used to look her up in case she'd had anything published. “No, I haven't been published yet, but I haven't totally given up. I like to think I’m still waiting for the right story to find me,” she said. “Well, I see you're still a big reader,” I said, pointing at her book sitting on the counter by the register. Iris reached over and grabbed it and placed it on the bar in front of me. I looked down and on the cover it said: Roberto Bolano 2666. Though the numbers weren't the same as the ones I'd been seeing everywhere, I couldn't help but notice a kind of symmetry between the numbers of the book's title, and the numbers of my birthday. Then I took a moment to stare at them the way I stared at the others, but I didn't feel anything. “Any good?” I asked. “I guess you'll have to read it to find out,” Iris said. Then I flipped the book open at random and happened to land at the beginning of a new chapter: "3 The Part about Fate” it said. I looked up to see if Iris was seeing what I saw, and then our eyes met and the two of us gave each other a knowing smile. That's when I wondered for the first time if maybe the entire purpose of the numbers had been to lead me to her, or that they'd brought me here for a particular reason. Again I thought about telling her the whole story, starting with my mother's car accident, and how alone I'd been ever since, and the phone call I'd gotten the morning before. But I held my tongue, convinced that saying anything about the numbers would only ruin everything. I saw Iris glance at her watch. I wondered if I'd run out of time, if I'd blown it, as if this had all been a test and I'd failed miserably. Then she said, “Want to go somewhere with me?” “Right now?” I asked. Iris nodded. “I don’t think anyone else is showing up tonight. The owner won’t mind if I close early. So what do you say?” “Okay, but where do you want to go?” “It's a surprise," she said. *** After Iris cleaned everything up and closed the register, we left through the backdoor. A white Prius was parked in the alley outside. “You're really not going to tell me where we're going?” I asked once we were inside her car. “You're a smart guy, it shouldn't be that hard to figure it out,” she said. “I think you’re giving me way too much credit for someone you haven’t seen since we were thirteen," I said. Then Iris turned on some music and put the car in gear. We rolled down the windows letting in the cool evening air, and though I was curious where we were going, I was so happy I didn’t care. It wasn’t until we’d arrived at our destination that I figured it out. Iris parked on the street as I tried to remember the last time I’d been to the beach, let alone at night, and for the life of me I couldn’t remember. “Come on,” she said as she turned off the engine. The two of us got out and right off the sidewalk there was a long flight of concrete stairs leading down to the beach. Iris and I began walking down and I noticed there were many more people there than I might have expected. I stopped and looked at all the figures lined up in front of the water. I wondered what they could be looking at when Iris turned around and said, 'Simon! Let's go!" and took me by the hand and led the way. We walked hand-in-hand across the sand as the sound of the waves grew louder with each step. When we were finally close enough to see the water, I was confused by what I saw. The waves appeared to be glowing, as if there were lights underneath. “It’s called a red tide,” Iris said. I’d heard of the phenomenon, but I had never imagined it could look so spectacular. We laid out a blanket Iris had brought along and the two of us sat down. I stared at the waves as they hurled themselves onto the shore, each one emitting a bright flash of phosphorescence into the night, and I felt as if I’d entered the realm of the surreal, like the world was suddenly a place where anything was possible. I glanced at Iris, saw her beautiful face, and I couldn’t believe it was really her, that we’d finally run into each other again after all these years. I had no idea how it had happened, how everything had changed so quickly, and that's when I remembered something from my early childhood, as if the memory had dislodged itself from deep inside me and chosen that exact moment to bubble up to the surface. “I just remembered the first time I saw the ocean,” I said. Iris stared at me without saying a word. Another wave crashed in front of us and her blue eyes sparkled in the light as I began to tell her the story of how I'd first come to this country. I told her how I hadn't wanted to come, and how my parents had promised to bring me to the beach as soon as we landed. I told her about the the little gift shop on the pier with the shell my father had given me to listen to, and the dream I'd had afterward, of the man sleeping inside a giant seashell. When I was done talking, Iris gazed at me with this serene expression on her face, like someone who’d just witnessed an act of extraordinary kindness. No one had ever looked at me that way before, and I leaned in and kissed her and felt her lips between my own, like some piece of fruit that had yet to be discovered. When we opened our eyes again she still had that same look, as she asked me to go on and tell her the rest of my story.
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[This is the same story as "Swiat dla Ell" but translated to English.] "Hi, Ors. What are you thinking up today?" Mar pushed her way between the chairs and stood behind the man, brazenly staring at the three-dimensional image on the desktop. "A monster," he replied and looked at the girl. She was just over eighteen, with short black hair and green eyes. She was the youngest employee of the X Incorporated design department, a company dealing with almost everything from combat robots to children's toys. She winced and wrinkled her nose. "Monsters and monsters. What kind of imagination do you have?" "Monstrous." They laughed. Ors, who had long since crossed the age of forty, felt remarkably young in the company of Mar. Sometimes he wished he had a daughter like her. "Leave it and let's go eat something," she suggested. Ors stood up slowly and limped behind the girl. He was a tall middle aged man with dark blond hair and steel-gray eyes. He would be quite handsome if his features were not distorted by the scar running across his face from the right temple to the left side of the chin. The missions during the never ending war with Dominion left him with many such souvenirs and with the left leg stiff and shorter by a few centimeters than the right one. Mar's boyfriend, Luk, was waiting for them at the bar. The young ones greeted each other tenderly and sat at a table in the corner, leaving room for Ors. They ordered the dish of the day. Luk looked serious. He did not even smile when Mar tried to cheer him up. He just looked at both of them and asked, "Have you learned something yet?" "About what?" "They destroyed your home, Ors." The message did not trigger the expected result. The man only smiled. "And what?" He asked "It will rebuilt itself. That's how it's designed." Luk shook his head. He waited for the waitress to leave and denied, "No, not like that. Not a building. Your planet." Ors looked as if someone let the air out of him. He stared at Luk and whispered, "Whole Cetis? Just like that?" The younger man nodded. Ors hid his face in his hands. "Millions of beings," he whispered "They only wanted peace. After all, there was nothing there to start a war for." Mar put her hand on his shoulder. "We know," she said "It's an agricultural planet, right?" Ors nodded. After a moment, he stared at Luk again. "Who?" he croaked. "The Machines." "That's impossible! They never showed any hostile intentions." "So obviously they did now. They hit both sides of the ongoing war, The Free Worlds and The Dominion at the same time. Showing that they want to join our war." Ors shook his head. "No," he stood up "They would not destroy something they'd created." He spun on the heel of his healthy leg and left. *** Ors took the elevator to the forty-eighth floor, where the flat he rented was located, let the sensor near the door scan the image of his retina and went inside. The place was small - a room with a kitchenette and a small bathroom. A single retractable bed, a round table with two chairs and a desk were all the rooms amenities. Ors did not need more, as his real home was on Cetis. Here he came back only for Ell. He sat down at the desk and listened to the quiet rumble of a computing unit that was starting up. Memories pressed on him. Ell. He remembered her too well. She was eighteen when they met, with auburn hair and hazel eyes. She valued naturalness. Like he did. They were great for several months of meetings on Lena III, one of The Free Worlds. Later, there was a war, and he was sent to pilot the combat robot, Xyber, into the areas conquered by The Dominion. Mission after mission, world after world, days, months, years… Strictly taking two years. So brief, yet so long. When he returned, she had become the wife of the CEO of X Incorporated. They tried to meet in secret, but it did not last long. Col, Ell's husband, learned about them and arranged with the military a mission Ors would not return from. During the war between The Free Worlds and The Dominion, some of AIs developed consciousness and left to create the Republic of Machines, based on several distant planets. It was growing technologically, but ignored the two struggling factions of humanity. Ors and three other soldiers were to infiltrate their home world, steal advanced technology and, if possible, destroy the data structures. Neither The Dominion nor The Free Worlds wanted a neighbor with potential weapons that they could not understand and that they were afraid of. The Machines detected the spies right away and took Xybers away from them. The pilots became diligently observed prisoners. They had to demonstrate abilities useful for their captors to survive. Ors thrived in the technology driven republic because he had a talent to build and improve devices. He also dealt quite well with computer systems. The other one to survive was Vit, the pilot of the second robot who turned out to be a genius of cyberspace. They worked for the Machines for fifteen years, away from the war of the humans, getting to know their world and views, and later they were sent to Cetis for "retirement." The planet was a place adapted for all who have ever worked for the Republic of Machines. After the technical worlds it gave a breathing space captivating the greenery of forests and the purity of water. People sent back there decided not to change it, not to industrialize Cetis. They built simple houses, tamed animals, hunted, fished and farmed the land. If they needed something – the Machines provided it. They had access to media and subspace channels, but they rarely used them. Ors also built a house in the forest and enjoyed simple life like everyone else. Except one detail. In the basement he was working on a project that when he chose to go back to The Free Worlds it would get him closer to Ell. Together with Vit, he created a new type of extended link to the Xybers, one allowing remote control of robots from a specially designed cabin instead of a physical presence behind the controls inside of the machine. They also programmed a kind of self-preservation instinct. When Col died they decided to disclose, counting on Ell's favor. Ors and Vit presented their project to X Incorporated. After a brief but insightful research period, the company began to apply new technology from Ors and Vit's work into all freshly produced combat robots. The Mercenary League, delighted by the increased efficiency of remotely controlled Xyber and nearly zero losses in humans, sent all its machines for upgrade. Ors oversaw the whole process and approached Ell, who now led X Incorporated. Happiness was a step away when the woman fell ill with a plague brought from a distant planet. Her death deepened the bitterness of Ors and his disgust for the ongoing war with The Dominion. The company was taken over by Ell's son and the project was continued. Ors had nothing left to care for, except his home on Cetis. And now he learned that Cetis was gone… The man shook his head to free himself from the memories. The last stage of the project remained to be triggered - awakening the self-preservation instinct. "Tanu," he said. A three-dimensional image of a person appeared on the table top and took on Ell's appearance. To honor the boss's memory, X Incorporated created a program that advised and did a dirty job in cyberspace. Ell's personality was transferred and Tanu was given her appearance very convincing. Unfortunately, memory has not been preserved. Or maybe it wasn't supposed to be. "Hello, Ors. Are you still doing the same?" "Yes, Tanu," the man took a cigar from Cetis from his pocket and lit it. "It's a pity you do not remember me," he muttered. "I do not remember you," admitted the program. "But I like you. And I'm sorry." "Because of Cetis?" The figure on the hologram nodded. Ors blown smoke. He looked like someone making an important decision. "Tell me, Tanu, who did it." "The Machines," the answer came. He winced. "This is the official version. And the others?" The figure disappeared to come back in a moment. "Come to me," she said flirtatiously. He connected himself to the network and got surrounded by a feast of colors. Shortly he saw Tanu in a bright airy dress. She extended her hand to him. She spun around and pulled him to her. Here he could dance. They swirled. "I have a new Cetis for you," she whispered. "All you have to do is to come to me. Indestructible, even out of reach of The Dominion. Do you want it?" They whirled. "You're tempting, Tanu. Maybe someday…" She stopped in his arms. She even smelled like Ell. "I'll wait. Now go." He returned to reality. Tanu was smiling in the hologram. She had a specific way of communicating information, especially secrets. The Dominion. They were behind everything, Ors was certain that The Dominion influenced the Machines to destroy his home. Well, he will answer them. He'll give The Free Worlds a terrifying advantage and let The Dominion worlds burn! Ors ceased to care for the innocent, after all a war was a war, and they did not spare the peaceful residents of Cetis. He took the mini disk out of the drawer and put it in the reader. A row of numbers appeared on the screen. The final passcode of the project. He sent it to the main server and went to sleep. *** When the secret code was received, accepted and confirmed by all Xybers with the new link, X Incorporated issued a banquet to celebrate the success of the project. From the pilot's room located in the back of the building, Ors connected with a huge battle robot standing in front of the company's skyscraper to present his invention. Instantly he was virtually inside the Xyber's cabin and heard a quiet greeting. He answered the same and thought the movement. The robot reacted smoothly, as integrated with the pilot. They took a few steps, destroyed the set targets and avoided a sudden attack. Xyber understood what it was doing. The last code activated the Intelligence of the Machines in it, a module, now installed in every combat robot, which Ors had once received at Cetis for research. It gave its own judgment to the Xybers. "Withdraw now, pilot, but stay in cyberspace," Ors heard the nice voice of the robot tell him. He did as he was told. The events went on quickly. The first Xyber missiles destroyed the transmission booth, the rest half of the corporate skyscraper. *** Ors woke up on the bench next to his home on Cetis. He breathed a sigh of relief. He must abandon this project. Too many nightmares were bothering him lately. He stretched and walked briskly to the door. Something was wrong. He went inside. Ell smiled. "Well, sleepyhead. Breakfast is ready." "Okay, I'm just gonna wash my hands." He closed the bathroom door behind him and his eyes fell on the cane standing in the corner. Who needed that? He washed his face, admiring himself in the mirror. His features were smooth and scar free, like they hadn't been for years. He entered the kitchen and kissed his beloved. They sat down for breakfast. The impression of unreality has intensified. "Darling, I invited Mar and Luk today for dinner. Do you mind?" He looked at the woman intently. Sparks scoured in his gray eyes. "No, Tanu, I do not mind. You saved them, didn't you?" Ell/Tanu gave him a surprised glance and confirmed: "Same way I saved you. Personality transfer. I did not want you to be alone. Others will join as well. Cetis is a gift from the Republic of Machines for those who helped us get rid of the threat from humans. Did you suspect what it will be like?" Ors smiled. "That new Cetis will be virtual? Yes, from the moment yesterday you asked me to join you. But why did the Machines attack? They never interfered. I thought their logic would not allow killing." She answered; "It doesn't let us kill your war machines, because they are the same race." The man slowly got the meaning of her words. "And humans are not," he said slowly. "Machines always had an eye on the threat we presented. We were constantly trying to destroy their intelligence, make them slaves. How could I do something like that?! How could I have thought that the Machines would not want to get rid of us?" Tanu stood up and shrugged. "Humanity will survive. I think so. We will bring you back to the level before space flights. We do not have to destroy the whole race, it's too energy consuming. And Ors, it's not your fault. We've been working on you for fifteen years. We had to give you the conditions for creative actions, cherish the desire for revenge, give Cetis, take away Ell, give Tanu, finally take away Cetis. It worked. Your world is still fighting, but it's a matter of time. You have as much time as you want. You have your Cetis." "And I have you." Tanu began to dissolve. "No, you don't. I will send you others. I'm just a ghost in the machine." THE END
[This is the same story as "A world for Ell" but in Polish, its original language.] – Cześć, Ors. Co dziś wymyślasz? – Mar przecisnęła się między krzesłami i stanęła za mężczyzną, bezczelnie wpatrując się w trójwymiarowy obraz na pulpicie. – Potwora – odparł i spojrzał na dziewczynę. Miała niewiele ponad osiemnaście lat, krótkie czarne włosy i zielone oczy. Była najmłodszą pracownicą działu projektowania X Incorporated, firmy zajmującej się niemalże wszystkim, od robotów bojowych po zabawki dla dzieci. Skrzywiła się i zabawnie zmarszczyła nos. – Potwory i potwory. Jaką ty masz wyobraźnię? – Potworną. Zaśmiali się. Ors, który dawno już przekroczył czterdziestkę, czuł się zadziwiająco młodo w towarzystwie Mar. Czasem żałował, że nie ma takiej córki. – Oderwij się od tego i chodźmy coś zjeść – zaproponowała. Ors wstał powoli i pokuśtykał za dziewczyną. Był wysokim ciemnym blondynem o stalowo szarych oczach. Byłby całkiem przystojny, gdyby jego rysów nie zniekształcała blizna biegnąca w poprzek twarzy od prawej skroni do lewej strony podbródka. Misje podczas niekończącej się wojny z Dominium pozostawiły go z wieloma takimi pamiątkami oraz z lewą nogą sztywną i krótszą o kilka centymetrów od prawej. W barze czekał już na nich Luk, chłopak Mar. Młodzi powitali się czule i usiedli przy stoliku w kącie, zostawiając miejsce dla Orsa. Zamówili zestaw dnia. Luk wyglądał poważnie. Nie uśmiechnął się nawet, gdy Mar próbowała go rozweselić. Spojrzał tylko bacznie na oboje i zapytał: – Wy jeszcze nic nie wiecie? – A o czym? – Zniszczyli twój dom, Ors. Wiadomość nie wywołała oczekiwanego rezultatu. Mężczyzna uśmiechnął się tylko. – I co z tego? – zapytał. – Odbuduje się. Tak jest zaprojektowany. Luk potrząsnął głową. Poczekał, aż kelnerka odejdzie i zaprzeczył. – Nie, nie tak. Nie budynek. Planetę. Z Orsa jakby ktoś nagle spuścił powietrze. Wbił spojrzenie w Luka i wyszeptał: – Całe Cetis? Ot tak? Młodszy mężczyzna pokiwał głową. Ors ukrył twarz w dłoniach. – Miliony istot – wyszeptał. – Chcieli tylko spokoju. Przecież tam nie było niczego, o co warto prowadzić wojnę. Mar położyła mu dłoń na ramieniu. – Wiemy – powiedziała. – To rolnicza planeta, prawda? Ors pokiwał głową. Po chwili znów wbił spojrzenie w Luka. – Kto? – wychrypiał. – Maszyny. – To niemożliwe! Przecież nigdy nie wykazywały wrogich zamiarów. – Jak widać wykazały teraz. Uderzyły w Wolną Strefę i Dominium jednocześnie. Pokazując, że chcą dołączyć do naszej wojny. Ors pokręcił głową. – Nie. – Wstał. – Nie zniszczyłyby czegoś, co same stworzyły. Okręcił się na pięcie zdrowej nogi i wyszedł. *** Wjechał windą na czterdzieste ósme piętro, na którym znajdowało się wynajęte przez niego mieszkanie, pozwolił czujnikowi przy drzwiach zeskanować obraz siatkówki i wszedł do środka. Lokal był niewielki – pokoik z aneksem kuchennym i małą łazienką. Pojedyncze chowane łóżko, okrągły stolik z dwoma krzesłami i biurko stanowiły całe wyposażenie pokoju. Więcej Ors nie potrzebował, bo jego prawdziwy dom był na Cetis. Tutaj wrócił wyłącznie dla Ell. Usiadł przy biurku i wsłuchał się w cichy pomruk budzącej się do życia jednostki obliczeniowej. Opadły go wspomnienia. Ell. Pamiętał ją aż za dobrze. Miała osiemnaście lat, gdy się poznali, kasztanowe włosy i orzechowe oczy. Ceniła naturalność. On też. Było im wspaniale przez kilka miesięcy spotkań na Lenie III, jednej z planet Wolnych Światów. Później i tam dotarła wojna, a jego wysłano do pilotowania robota bojowego, Xybera, w głąb Dominium. Akcja za akcją, świat za światem, dni, miesiące, lata… Ściśle biorąc dwa lata. Tylko dwa i aż dwa. Gdy wrócił, była już żoną prezesa X Incorporated. Próbowali jeszcze się potajemnie spotykać, ale nie trwało to długo. Col, mąż Ell, dowiedział się o nich i załatwił Orsowi misję bez powrotu. Podczas wojny pomiędzy Wolną Strefą a Dominium część sztucznych inteligencji zyskała świadomość i utworzyła Republikę Maszyn, która rozwijała się technologicznie, ale ignorowała dwie walczące frakcje ludzkości. To ten świat mieli we czterech zinfiltrować i wykraść tamtejszą technologię, a jeśli to możliwe – zniszczyć struktury danych. Ani Dominium ani Wolna Strefa nie chciały potężnego sąsiada, którego nie potrafiły zrozumieć i którego się bały. Maszyny wykryły szpiegów od razu i odebrały im Xybery. Byli pilnie obserwowanymi więźniami. Musieli wykazać się przydatnymi dla Maszyn zdolnościami, by przetrwać. Orsowi się powodziło w rozwiniętym technologicznie świecie, ponieważ posiadał talent do konstruowania i ulepszania urządzeń. Radził sobie też całkiem nieźle z systemami komputerowymi. Przeżył także Vit, pilot drugiego robota, który okazał się być geniuszem cyberprzestrzeni. Odpracowali dla maszyn piętnaście lat, z dala od wojny toczonej przez ludzkość, poznając przy okazji ich świat i poglądy, a później zostali wysłani na Cetis na “emeryturę”. Planeta ta była miejscem zaadaptowanym dla tych, którzy kiedykolwiek pracowali dla Republiki Maszyn. Po stechnicyzowanych światach dawała wytchnienie urzekając zielenią lasów i czystością wód. Ludzie odesłani tam sami postanowili tego nie zmieniać, nie industrializować Cetis. Budowali domy, oswajali zwierzęta, polowali, łowili i uprawiali ziemię. Jeśli czegoś im brakowało – maszyny to dostarczały. Mieli dostęp do mediów i kanałów podprzestrzennych, ale rzadko z nich korzystali. Ors także wybudował dom w lesie i cieszył się prostym życiem jak inni. Poza jednym szczegółem. W piwnicy pracował nad projektem, który pozwoliłby mu powrócić do Wolnych Światów i zbliżyć się do Ell. Razem z Vitem stworzyli nowy rodzaj rozbudowanego łącza do Xyberów, pozwalającego na sterowanie robotami na odległość, ze specjalnie zaprojektowanej kabiny, zamiast fizycznego siedzenia za sterami wewnątrz maszyny. Zaprogramowali też rodzaj instynktu samozachowawczego. Gdy dotarła do nich wiadomość o śmierci Cola, postanowili się ujawnić licząc na przychylność Ell. Przedstawili swój projekt X Incorporated. Po krótkich, acz wnikliwych badaniach firma zaczęła stosować nowe rozwiązania we wszystkich świeżo wyprodukowanych robotach bojowych. Liga Najemników, zachwycona podwyższoną skutecznością zdalnie sterowanych Xyberów oraz niemal zerowymi stratami w ludziach, wysłała swoje stare maszyny do przeróbki. Ors nadzorował całą akcję i zbliżał się do Ell, która teraz prowadziła X Incorporated. Szczęście było o krok, gdy kobieta zachorowała na zarazę przywleczoną z odległej planety. Zmarła, co pogłębiło rozgoryczenie Orsa i jego wstręt do trwającej wojny z Dominium. Firmę przejął syn Ell, a projekt kontynuowano. Orsowi nie pozostało już nic, na czym by mu zależało, oprócz powrotu na Cetis. A teraz dowiedział się, że Cetis już nie było… Mężczyzna potrząsnął głową, by uwolnić się od wspomnień. Pozostał ostatni etap projektu - przebudzenie instynktu samozachowawczego. – Tanu – powiedział. Nad blatem pojawił się trójwymiarowy obraz postaci i przybrał wygląd Ell. Dla uczczenia pamięci szefowej, X Incorporated stworzyła program, który doradzał i wykonywał brudną robotę w cyberprzestrzeni. Przeprowadzono transfer osobowości Ell i nadano Tanu jej wygląd. Niestety, pamięci nie udało się zachować. A może nie chciano. – Witaj, Ors. Ciągle zajmujesz się tym samym? – Tak, Tanu. – Mężczyzna wyjął z kieszeni cygaro z Cetis i zapalił. – Szkoda, że mnie nie pamiętasz – mruknął. – Nie pamiętam – przyznał program. – Ale lubię. I przykro mi. – Z powodu Cetis? Postać na hologramie pokiwała głową. Ors wydmuchnął dym. Wyglądał jak ktoś podejmujący ważną decyzję. – Powiedz mi, Tanu, kto to zrobił. – Maszyny – nadeszła odpowiedź. Skrzywił się. – To oficjalna wersja. A inne? Postać zniknęła, by wrócić za chwilę. – Przyjdź do mnie – powiedziała zalotnie. Podłączył się do sieci i otoczyła go feeria barw. Później ujrzał Tanu w jasnej powiewnej sukience. Wyciągała do niego rękę. Zakręciła się i przyciągnęła go do siebie. Tutaj mógł tańczyć. – Mam dla ciebie nowe Cetis – wyszeptała. – Musisz tylko do mnie przyjść. Niezniszczalne i poza zasięgiem Dominium. Chcesz? Zawirowali. – Kusisz, Tanu. Może kiedyś… Zatrzymała się w jego ramionach. Nawet pachniała jak Ell. – Poczekam. A teraz idź. Wrócił do rzeczywistości. Tanu uśmiechała się na hologramie. Miała specyficzny sposób przekazywania informacji, szczególnie tych tajnych. Dominium. Ors miał pewność, że to oni stali za wszystkim, i że wpłynęli na Maszyny, by te zniszczyły jego dom. Dobrze, odpowie im. Da Wolnej Strefie przerażającą przewagę i niech światy Dominium spłoną. Przestał się przejmować niewinnymi, w końcu wojna była wojną, a oni nie oszczędzili pokojowo nastawionych mieszkańców Cetis. Wyjął z szuflady mini dysk i włożył w czytnik. Na ekranie pojawił się rząd cyfr. Kod końcowy projektu. Wysłał go do głównego serwera i położył się spać. *** Kiedy tajny kod został przesłany, przyjęty i zaakceptowany przez wszystkie posiadające nowe łącze Xybery, X Incorporated wydała bankiet dla uczczenia sukcesu projektu. Z wnętrza komory pilotów znajdującej się w głębi budynku Ors jako pierwszy podłączył się do olbrzymiego robota bojowego stojącego przed wieżowcem firmy, aby zaprezentować swój wynalazek. Natychmiast znalazł się wirtualnie wewnątrz kabiny Xybera i usłyszał ciche powitanie. Odpowiedział tym samym i pomyślał ruch. Robot reagował płynnie, jak zintegrowany z pilotem. Zrobili kilka kroków, zniszczyli ustawione cele i uniknęli nagłego ataku. Xyber rozumiał, co robi. Ostatni kod uaktywnił w nim inteligencję Maszyn, której moduł, zainstalowany teraz w każdym robocie bojowym, Ors otrzymał kiedyś na Cetis do badań. Dawał on własny, o wiele szybszy od ludzkiego, osąd Xyberom. – Wycofaj się teraz, pilocie, ale pozostań w cyberprzestrzeni – usłyszał miły głos robota. Uczynił co mu kazano. Wydarzenia potoczyły się błyskawicznie. Pierwsze pociski Xybera zniszczyły kabinę transmisyjną, następne połowę wieżowca korporacji. *** Ors obudził się na ławce obok swego domu na Cetis. Odetchnął z ulgą. Musi zarzucić ten projekt. Zbyt wiele koszmarów go dręczy ostatnio. Przeciągnął się i żwawym krokiem podszedł do drzwi. Coś było nie w porządku. Wszedł do środka. Ell uśmiechnęła się. – No, śpiochu. Śniadanie gotowe. – Dobrze, tylko umyję ręce. Zamknął za sobą drzwi łazienki i jego wzrok padł na stojącą w rogu laskę. Kto jej używał? Umył twarz podziwiając się w lustrze. Jego oblicze było gładkie i pozbawione blizn, takie jak wiele lat temu. Wszedł do kuchni i ucałował ukochaną. Zasiedli do śniadania. Wrażenie nierealności się nasiliło. – Kochanie, zaprosiłam Mar i Luka dziś na obiad. Czy masz coś przeciwko? Spojrzał uważnie na kobietę. Iskry zaigrały w jego szarych oczach. – Nie, Tanu, nie mam. Ocaliłaś ich? Ell/Tanu rzuciła mu zaskoczone spojrzenie i potwierdziła: – Tak jak ciebie. Transfer osobowości. Nie chciałam, żebyś był sam. Inni też dołączą. Cetis to dar od Republiki Maszyn dla tych, którzy nam pomogli pozbyć się zagrożenia ze strony ludzi. Wiedziałeś, jakie będzie? Ors uśmiechnął się. – Że będzie wirtualne? Tak, od chwili gdy poprosiłaś, bym do ciebie dołączył. Ale dlaczego Maszyny zaatakowały? Nigdy nie ingerowały. Myślałem, że ich logika nie pozwala na zabijanie. – Nie pozwala na zabijanie innych maszyn, nawet waszych Xyberów, bo to ta sama rasa. Do mężczyzny powoli docierało znaczenie jej słów. – A ludzie już nie – powiedział wolno. – Maszyny zawsze musiały się z nami liczyć. A my ciągle próbowaliśmy zniszczyć ich inteligencję, uczynić z nich niewolników. Jak mogłem coś takiego zrobić?! Jak mogłem myśleć, że nie zechcą się nas pozbyć?! Tanu wstała i wzruszyła ramionami. – Ludzkość przetrwa. Tak myślę. Sprowadzimy was do poziomu sprzed lotów kosmicznych. Nie musimy niszczyć całej rasy, to zbyt energochłonne. I to nie twoja wina. Pracowaliśmy nad tobą piętnaście lat. Musieliśmy dać ci warunki do twórczego działania, pielęgnować żądzę zemsty, dać Cetis, odebrać Ell, dać Tanu, w końcu odebrać Cetis. Zadziałało. Twój świat jeszcze walczy, ale to kwestia czasu. Ty masz go ile zechcesz. Masz swoje Cetis. – I mam ciebie. Tanu zaczęła się rozpływać. – Nie. Przyślę ci innych. Ja jestem tylko duchem w maszynie. KONIEC
This is it. I'm almost done. The translation of my book (originally in Polish) is ready. Proofreaders are reading. I set a pre-sale on amazon and smashwords, and added it to goodreads. And there are still so many little things to be done… Is there any place I can sell it for BCH??? While I'm having a headache over an acknowledgement page and sales organizing, you can take a look at how "More Than Bad Intentions" will present itself on a reader!
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Lately I've been trying to work on my novel in progress and it's been a struggle. I don't know why but everything I write feels so forced or disjointed. But then when I write about something else, usually something that's just happened, the words just seem to flow out of me and I barely have to even think about what I'm typing. I want it to be like that with my novel but no matter how hard I try I...
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[This is the same story as "Wieża" but translated to English.] The tower has always been here. And since I remember it was a forbidden area. Besides, not much of the once magnificent building was left. The walls reaching to the sky, but crumbling under the influence of wind did not encourage approach, hence nobody really knew what was inside. I did not try either. I liked to watch the tower fr...
[This is the same story as "The Tower" but in Polish, its original language.] Wieża stała tu od zawsze. I odkąd pamiętam była terenem zakazanym. Zresztą, niewiele już z niegdyś potężnej budowli zostało. Mury wysokie do nieba, lecz kruszejące pod wpływem wiatru nie zachęcały do zbliżania się, stąd nikt naprawdę nie wiedział, co znajdowało się w środku. Ja też nie próbowałam. Lubiłam obserwować ...
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[This is the same story as "Genie and other inventions" but in Polish, its original language.] Butelka z dżinem stała na oknie i wywoływała wyrzuty sumienia. Dżin nie wyglądał na złośliwego. Ot, taki sobie zwyczajny szczupły brunecik z podkręconym wąsikiem. Siedział po turecku i patrzył przed siebie. Sprawiał wrażenie nieszczęśliwego. Może zresztą był. Miał prawo po latach siedzenia w jednym mie...
[This is the same story as "Dżin i inne wynalazki" but translated to English.] The bottle with the genie stood on the window sill and made the girl feel uncomfortable. Genie didn't look malicious. Just an ordinary slim brunet with a curled mustache. He was sitting cross-legged and looking straight ahead. He seemed unhappy. Perhaps he was. He had every right after years of staying in one place. ...
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