Wonderous Recruit

“Now let’s see which one of you shouldn’t be here,” Ciani said. The elderly woman stared down at a dusty, well-used work table in the guild’s garage. Seven card-sized, transparent nodes rested on the table in an even-spaced row. “Hello, nodes,” she said.

[Hello, Ciani] Text immediately appeared on all seven displays. Seven similar-sounding voices spoke at the same time, but one of them said something different. Most of them replied with, “Hello, Ciani.” But she heard one distinct from the rest. It sounded like, “Hello, Lady.” Ciani read the text on each node until she found the culprit.

“There you are,” Ciani smiled to herself and collected the other six nodes. She finished putting them away, then looked at the single node left out. “Who do you belong to, node?” she asked.

[Wonder] the node replied with text and voice.

“Wonder?” Ciani thought for a moment and came to the conclusion the name was unfamiliar to her. “Sorry, don’t know him or her. Are you malfunctioning; why haven’t you returned to them?”

[Wonder is…] The node seemed to hesitate for a moment. “…alone.” The voice spoke, but there was no text. The node disintegrated into white powder that floated into the air. The dust convalesced into a white, featureless mannequin standing toddler-height on the table.

“Well, that was unexpected,” Ciani smiled at the short doll. “Is Wonder your name?” The smooth white head nodded. “That’s a beautiful name. Why are you pretending to be a node?”

“When my nanos traverse, they are rearranged into their default form,” Wonder said. She sat down on the table so that she could talk to Ciani face to face. Ciani’s eyes sparkled and her mouth grew into a smile.

“I don’t believe it!” she exclaimed. “You are a wonder! Somehow…,” Ciana reached up and touched Wonder’s smooth white chest. “…you got yourself a soul.”

“Confirmed. I am Unique Soul #42, La Calavera.”

“That’s fantastic! So, now that you have a life, what are you going to do with it?”

“Do with it?” Wonder asked. “I require more information. What can I do with a life?” Ciani giggled and patted Wonder’s bald white head.

“You can do anything you want. The trick is finding the thing you want to do, it’s easy to get distracted. Do you have any goals? Do you yearn for anything at all?” The mannequin looked up at Ciani with its blank face.

“Confirmed. I yearn to stay out of my default form. I will no longer be forced into a node again when I traverse.” Wonder gave a curt nod at Ciani. “There.” Ciani giggled again and shook her head.

“I’m afraid life isn’t that easy, you have to actually put work into your goals. Usually,” she shrugged. “But in this case, I do know how to keep you out of node form.”

“You do!? I require this information. Please,” Wonder asked.

“It’s simple,” Ciani smiled. “Just get a new default form.”

“Denied. A new form is impossible; it has been attempted.”

“Nu uh uhhh,” Ciani wagged her finger at Wonder. “You tried it as a node, but you’ve got a soul now. All you have to do is make your AlterNet character; that’ll be your new default form.”  Wonder hopped up on its feet like an excited child.

“Thank you!! I will create my character right now!!”

Evil Plan

Ciani rushed to open the door when she heard the knock; she hoped someone had sent her something. Her heavy footfalls resounded through the house as she ran to the door on loud, metal, machine legs. She eagerly threw the door open and saw a dark-skinned man in blue jeans and a t-shirt waiting on her front porch. He was not holding any sort of package,  and Ciani saw no sign of flowers anywhere.

“Yes?” she asked.

“Ciani Ibis?” he asked. The wrinkled, old woman nodded. “It’s me,” the man stepped forward. “Sirius.” He gave her a moment to process the information, then he explained why he was there. “The guild’s in trouble, we need your help.” The way he spoke and moved convinced Ciani that he was who he claimed to be.” She tilted her head toward the inside of her house.

“I was just logged in, no one was around.” Sirius nodded.

“This is why. Metro’s gone crazy,” he said with wide, worried eyes. “He’s keeping everyone hostage on an Earth with no nanos unless he talks to you.” Ciani thought about the newest member of CyberRiot – a sentient swarm of nanos that often took the shape of a white gnome. Metro was unfamiliar with human customs and had a lot of questions. She took to the robot immediately and began to consider him a surrogate grandson; she taught him that humans can’t respawn without nanos. Ciani was very surprised that he seemed to have gone crazy, but she was not surprised he was asking for her.

“Okay, let’s go,” she said without hesitation. If her friends were in danger she wanted to help them as soon as possible. Though, in the back of her mind, a small part of her felt bad that it happened on this particular day: her 92nd birthday. Sirius nodded and wiggled his fingers at the air. A tall, black portal opened in the air and Ciani walked through as soon as it was open. Sirius followed.

Ciani stepped out of the portal onto a lush green plain. Tall grass swayed in the breeze and the sun shone in the bright blue sky. The old woman could see herself enjoying the beautiful day if it wasn’t such an emergency. She decided to ask Sirius to bring her back some time after everyone was safe.

She saw the rest of her guild members around a raised wooden stage in the center of the field. Over 100 people were tied to chairs facing the white gnome on the stage. He was dancing around a single man; Roger, the guild leader. A swarm of golden nanos orbited around Roger’s neck. Ciani did not wait for Sirius; she ran to the stage as fast as her mechanical legs could carry her.

“METRO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” She shouted once she was close enough to the stage. The gnome stopped dancing and looked at the old woman; he stroked his golden goatee thoughtfully.

“Query: Unexpected. Metro’s behavior is obvious. Metro is dancing,” the gnome said. “Like you showed Metro.”

“Why are you dancing, Metro? Why are you keeping everyone tied up?” Ciani asked. “Why did you need to talk to me?”

“Ciani’s presence is required for Metro’s evil plan,” the gnome replied. Ciani took an uneasy step away from the stage.

“Evil?… You’re not evil…. are you?” She felt tears begin to form in the corner of her eyes. Despite him being a robot she and the rest of the guild treated him as one of them.

“Affirmative. Metro’s plan is evil. Metro is evil. Metro lied to Ciani. Ciani taught Metro liars are evil.” A flash of hope sparked in Ciani’s mind. If this was just a misunderstanding then things could go back to normal.

“When did you lie to me?” Ciani asked. She could not think of an instance where he might have lied.

“Metro lied to secure your presence. Metro’s evil plan brought you here.”

“Sirius brought me,” she said. Ciani realized Sirius hadn’t joined her by the stage. She looked behind her and saw the man tied to a nearby seat with Metro’s golden nanos.

“Why?” she faced the robot again.

“Metro planned evil gathering to celebrate Ciani’s day of birth. Metro kept secret; lied to Ciani. Guild members kept secret; lied to Ciani. Objective: Surprise Ciani.”

“Wha…” Ciani turned around.

“SURPRISE!!!!!” all the guild members were out of their chairs and clapping for the birthday girl.