Copyright Bryce Main 2011
When Adam Five awoke, it caused one helluva hoohah! They just weren’t expecting him to blink into existence as early as he did. Not that they minded. Far from it. If they hadn’t been running around like headless chickens they would have been overjoyed. Might even have celebrated a bit.
But then, that might have given Adam the wrong impression. Started him off on the wrong foot, so to speak. Not that he had a right foot, or any feet at all. Or, as far as they knew, any means to form an impression in the first place.
I suppose you could say that at that stage of his development, he didn’t have much use for appendages of any sort. No legs or arms or even the obligatory hands or grasping mechanisms. Adam Five didn’t need any of that. Well…not then, anyway.
Of course they were sure where his various ‘bits’ went. Or at least as sure as they could be, given the large passage of time involved.
For now, it was enough that he was awake. Part of him, anyway.
So they fussed, in the way that mothers have always fussed over their newborn children. The fact that, in the strictly technical and biological sense they were a damned long way from being mothers of any description, didn’t seem to bother them in the slightest.
What bothered them was the expression on Adam’s face.
Having long since discarded facial expressions as a visual form of communication, they were taken aback, and a little unsure of its meaning.
“Is this how he should be? Or is he defective?” said the smallest of them. A male by design and, compared to the rest, not very bright.
Another, a female and obviously the small male’s superior in just about every way, paused as if considering something, and said, “According to all the available data, this is simply a muscular constriction developed to accentuate a state of mild confusion.”
The small male, eager to bond with the others in a way that, under normal circumstances, was simply not tolerated or even worse, ignored, replied, “Does it have a name, this constriction thing?”
“A frown,” said the female. “It’s called a frown.”
“And is it…” he continued, only to be cut off mid-sentence.
“Kindly cease irrelevant communication, please,” said the largest of those present, a non-specifically-sexed regulator about twice the size of everyone else put together. “Please remember why we are here.”
The small male wished he could visibly show the state of mild confusion he was experiencing as he looked at Adam Five. Surely, he thought, something like this frown thing qualified as at least one of the reasons why they were all there in the first place. “And that is?” he said, pushing the point in an extraordinary display of outside-thought.
“To determine whether the subject is a viable lifeform,” said the regulator, with a hint of reprimand in its voice. “That, and that alone, is our sole objective. Facial expression is irrelevant at this stage.”
Surprising herself with her audacity, given that the regulator was frighteningly large and powerful, the female interrupted. “Surely any kind of physical anomaly comes within our remit of investigating viability,” she said. “Or am I mistaken?”
The regulator paused and seemed to consider the point. It was, despite its position of seniority, capable of vertical thought only. The whole idea of lateral extrapolation was alien and possibly even damaging. However, given the unique character of this particular project, it was allowed a certain amount of leeway in both thought and action. So it did something that in all it’s remembered history it had never done before. It compromised.
“You are not mistaken,” it said. “However, neither am I wrong. You may proceed.”
The female smiled inwardly, the only landscape afforded her for anything resembling reactive emotion. Regulators were, she thought, at best imposing and at worst thoroughly unimaginative.
“So, this frown thing means that Adam Five is confused?” asked the small male, delighted at his now allowed irrelevancies. Perhaps there might be more opportunities for unguarded thought processes. He looked questioningly at the female, hoping for a spark of approval.
“No,” she said almost immediately. “I think it’s more like a simple musculature reaction. I believe that he has a variety of visual expressions. Frowning, according to my data, is purely one of them.” She bent over the stark metal table on which lay the sphere-shaped object known as Adam Five and moved him from side to side.
Adam Five’s ocular units stared fixedly at her, despite it’s housing being manipulated.
“Wow!” exclaimed the small male, moving about a body width away from the table and the female, and accidentally bumping into the regulator. “Is that supposed to happen?”
“How would we know what is supposed to happen,” said the female, moving the small sphere from side to side again. “So much of the relevant data has been either corrupted or lost completely.” She bent closer to the sphere and inwardly raised an eyebrow.
“Hmmmm,” she murmured slowly, “Occular mobility.”
“Another musculature reaction?” asked the regulator, who was by now showing the kind of interest that would have, under other circumstances, led to a complete realignment of its’ thought processes.
“You mean he might actually see us?” asked the small male. There was a strange feeling buzzing around at the periphery of his comprehension. Had he felt it before or even had it explained to him, he would have recognized excitement for what it was. But he hadn’t. So he didn’t.
“Who knows?” asked the female. “I’m not even sure if the unit is in an on or off mode.” She sent a neural command to Adam Five’s control center, sitting underneath the table. “There,” she said. “We should have audible communication…I think.”
For a moment nothing happened. They were beginning to think that the unit was a long way from being operational. Then Adam Five spoke. Well, he didn’t so much speak as scream. Loudly.
All three jumped back as if pushed physically.
“Quick…switch it off…SWITCH IT OFF!” commanded the regulator. “It sounds as if it’s defective, and quite frankly, I find the whole experience extremely unpleasant.”
“You wish me to terminate the project?” said the female.
Adam Five continued screaming.
“I wish you to terminate that noise!” exclaimed the regulator. “Immediately would be acceptable.”
“Emmm…I don’t wish to be picky,” said the small male, “but isn’t a feeling of unpleasantness an emotional response? And isn’t your capacity for emotion about as large and all-encompassing as…oooh….say a sub atomic particle?”
The female surprised herself by thinking that maybe…just maybe…her small male companion might not be as intellectually challenged as she first thought. She surprised herself even more by refusing the regulator’s command.
“No,” she said, firmly, feeling a small speck of satisfaction that at least something was happening with the unit. “I know this. The noise is simply another response in much the same way as the frown was. It’s called a scream.”
“And the cause?” said the regulator who, like the other two, was now venturing closer to the table.
The female paused, accessing data. “Hmmm,” she said.
The female reached out with one of her extendable arms and placed a multi-digit hand over Adam Five’s vocal exit. The scream immediately diminished in intensity and instead became a muffled croak.
“Extreme fear or pain…or a vocal outpouring of joy and excitement. Those seem to be the known causes,” she said. “There’s also something else about heightened sexual pleasure…but most of the data concerning that seems to be corrupt.”
“You mean we might actually be hurting him?” blurted the small male, much to his own annoyance. Blurting was a sure sign of lower order intelligence and emotional instability.
“Or causing him intense pleasure,” added the female, who found the whole idea strangely interesting. So interesting, in fact, that she very nearly blurted out the words in the same manner as her small male colleague. Only her superior programming halted the potential vocal error. She looked at him and, much to her surprise, saw that he was looking at her. She quickly turned her head back to the Adam Five unit on the table. The muffled croak had stopped so she gently removed her hand.
Adam Five blinked rapidly. “Thank you,” he said. “I was beginning to find it very difficult to breathe. Now…where am I and who the hell are you?”
“Vocalisation!” exclaimed the small male, treading dangerously on the verge of shock and excitement.
“Excellent!” exclaimed the regulator, extending a long tactile probe and tapping the female on the shoulder. “This is an important development and you are to be congratulated. I shall inform the project directorate immediately.”
The female ignored him and looked at Adam Five. “Do not be alarmed. I will explain,” she said.
“You do that, sister,” he said. “And while you’re at it, explain why I can’t feel anythin’ below my neck, eh?”
“Is this level of communication expected from the process?” asked the regulator, who had for the moment held back on his promise to inform the directorate.
“Again, how should I know?” asked the female. “This is the first time we have achieved anything close to vocal skills. And the subject is clearly exhibiting not only cerebral activity but also self awareness and, if I am not mistaken, some form of memory.”
“Memory?” asked the small male, who had recovered enough from the initial shock of hearing Adam Five speak, to join in the conversation. “What memory? How can he have a memory. He hasn’t even had a life yet?”
“Hang on a minute!” exclaimed Adam Five, “whaddya mean ‘hasn’t even had a life yet’…last thing I remember was driving home Christmas Eve through the damndest snow blizzard I ever saw. Then lights comin’ right towards me outa nowhere…then…then…nuthin’! Next thing I wake up here. Nightmare City. With a midget, a dame and the ugliest damned giant I ever saw, all givin’ me the once over.”
“Oh….this is bad,” said the small male.
“Bad? BAD?” yelled the now irate Adam Five. “You ain’t seen nuthin’ like bad yet. Bad ain’t even come in the room. You wait till I phone my lawyer!”
“What exactly is this phone you speak of?” asked the regulator. “And would you please explain the term ‘lawyer’.”
“I’m not explainin’ nuthin, pal, ‘till you put me in the picture. Where am I and what’s goin’ on here?” yelled Adam Five, now even more irate than before.
The regulator moved to the table and looked down at the small sphere on the table. Turning to the female, it said, “An explanation may be necessary. You may proceed.”
The female looked into Adam Five’s ocular unit. “You are Adam Five,” she said. “You are the fifth Adam unit created by the Human Reconstruction Project, set up by the Bio Engineering Department of Life Sciences. The year is 4003.”
Adam Five blinked rapidly. If he could have scratched his head and stroked his chin in confusion or deep thought, he would have. The fact that he was a head attached to a bio-engineering life support system threw that option well out of the window.
“You WHAT?” he yelled.
The female examined her database. “Please stay calm,” she said. “Any rapid increase in cerebral electrical activity or bio instability could result in a complete systems failure.”
“SPEAK ENGLISH FOR GOD’S SAKE!” yelled Adam Five even louder.
“Does the unit have a volume control?” asked the regulator, who was quite clearly in some discomfort.
“For who’s sake?” asked the small male, confused.
“Hmmmm,” replied the female, who immediately transferred her data bank enquiries to Religions, Myths and Banned Substances.
“What the blue blazes does ‘Hmmmm’ mean?” asked Adam Five, his eyes moving rapidly from the male to the female to the regulator and back again.
After a few seconds inner searching, the female nodded and seemed to come to a decision.
“Knowledge of, or belief in, the mythical entity known as God, was banned in the year 3006. All religious creeds were deemed divisive and therefore outlawed…and the furtherance of development through technological advance became the standard global belief system,” she said.
“So that means he’s pre-3006. Well…his cerebral unit is,” said the small male.
“So please explain the presence of a thousand year old unit in this project,” commanded the regulator. “You are, of course, aware that all such units were destroyed by order in the year 3025.”
The female bristled at the regulator’s unspoken accusation of negligence, although outwardly her demeanor belied the annoyance she felt.
“Obviously they missed some…well…one at least,” she said. “And before you enquire, I have no idea how this particular unit survived…OR how it managed to find its way into the project.”
“RIGHT…that does it!” spat Adam Five, with a level of venom completely outside the experience of the other three. “I’m outa here!”
“And how do you propose to get ‘outa here’ as you say?” asked the regulator, in an emotionless tone. “You have, as yet, no body and therefore no means of self-induced motion in any direction.”
“No WHAT?” screeched Adam Five, whose ocular units began to flicker rapidly from side to side.
“You’re a head,” said the female softly.
“A WHAT?” screeched Adam Five even louder.
“A head,” repeated the female.
“What? That’s it? No body?”
“We’re working on it,” said the small male.
“Nothing from the neck down?” whispered Adam Five, almost in shock.
“Oh no,” said the small male. “You have lots from the neck down. Just…em…nothing that belongs to you. In a biological sense. Don’t worry…it’s all fully functional. The very latest bio-engineering systems.”
“But I’m a head!” exclaimed Adam Five.
“You could look at it like that,” said the female, who had the uneasy feeling that something called a pout would have been an appropriate visual expression to accompany her answer.
“I can’t look at it at all!” said Adam Five. “I can’t even scratch my nose or take a piss!”
“A what?” asked the small male.
The female paused while she consulted her internal database. “Aaah. To piss…pee…leak…urinate…point something called percy at the porcelain, whatever that is.”
“This has gone far enough. We are engaged in illicit conversation with a banned cerebral unit,” said the regulator sternly from behind the female. “Under Rule 28b, Section 7, Sub-Section 2, this unit must now be terminated.”
“Wow….hang on there Slick,” protested Adam Five, with a touch of panic in his voice. “I’m not a banned whatsit…I’m alive. Well…bits of me are. This isn’t termination. We’re talking MURDER here!”
The female paused again. “ Murder. The illegal taking of the life of one human being by another, either by violent or non-violent means. Hmmm.”
“You’re NOT a human being!” exclaimed the regulator in a tone louder and with more emotion than it had ever exhibited. “You’re simply a…a…bit of one! How can we possibly murder a bit of a human being? We’re simply terminating an experiment that, from a legal point of view, cannot continue.”
“But…but…” protested Adam Five. “I’ve got a name. Hah!” he exclaimed triumphantly, as if being a bit of something that used to be a human with a name and a family and a dog and a mortgage could possibly give him a stay of execution, so to speak.
“Yes, you have,” said the regulator. “It’s Adam Five. And pretty soon we’ll be working on Adam Six and you will be a neat pile of pulverized ash and bone, courtesy of the project’s Bio-Deconstruction Department.”
“NO IT’S NOT!” yelled Adam Five. “My name’s Sam Parker. SAM PARKER! I have…had…a wife called Jeanny, a son called Frank and a pain-in-the-ass poodle called Trixie.”
“Em….can’t we just finish him off and see what he looks like,” asked the small male, turning to the regulator. “From a purely scientific point of view, you understand.”
The regulator loomed large and surprisingly threatening over the small male.
“We have no choice in the matter,” it said, firmly. “The unit has been banned for over a thousand years. Of course, you realise that if it were up to me, I would have no hesitation in allowing you to progress with what is obviously a successful experiment. But my views on this are irrelevant. A ban is a ban. The law is the law!”
“Even…if such a law was outmoded?” asked the female softly.
The regulator turned to her and, surprisingly, mirrored her soft tones. “You are to be congratulated, of course, on all you have achieved with the Adam Project. But surely even you can see the danger in reanimating a unit with a link to such a distant past. Particularly this God belief system.”
It reached out one of its arms and rested it gently on what could loosely be described as her left shoulder. “Think of the catastrophic effects of letting a free-thinker loose amongst the general population. Do you really wish to replace order with chaos, as it used to be?” it added.
Adam Five, whose eyes had been darting between the female and the regulator, spoke up. “Wait…what about me? Don’t I have a say in the matter? I mean…it’s my life or death, isn’t it?”
All three ignored him.
“Helloooooo!” he said, in an attempt to gain their attention.
“So…it’s decided then?” asked the regulator.
“Yooohooooo!” said Adam Five, slightly louder.
“It’s decided,” said the female, nodding slightly. “We’ll terminate the unit and begin again with Adam Six.”
“Good,” said the regulator. “It’s really for the best.”
“Well I’m not pulling the plug!” said the small male who, once the decision had been made, found himself experiencing a whole range of thoughts completely alien to his programming.
Foremost of these was a desire to inflict serious and possibly irreparable damage to the regulator. Of course his small size compared to the regulator’s huge frame would make such an attempt completely futile. And of course he would no more act on the thought than step above his place in the natural scheme of things.
But the desire was there…and growing.
“Excuse me!” yelled Adam Five, “but don’t I deserve a say in the matter? I mean I AM the one you’re going to KILL, after all!”
“Terminate,” corrected the regulator.
“Pull the plug on,” added the small male.
“Whatever,” replied Adam Five impatiently. “The fact is that I’ll be dead…again…and you’ll be responsible. Can you honestly live with that on your conscience?”
“What is conscience?” asked the small male.
“Oh bollocks!” spat Adam Five.
“What is bo…”
“Never mind,” said the female, looking at the small male. He realised that in all his time working with her, she had never looked at him like that. It wasn’t enquiry…it wasn’t reproof…it wasn’t even interest.
There was something in the look that put a thought into his cerebral matrix. A thought that said ‘keep quiet and follow my lead’. Actually, it was more like a command. The male had the distinct feeling that not following it would lead to rapid disassembly in the not too distant future. So he obeyed.
The female began punching buttons on a nearby keyboard. After a minute, she stopped and a digit rested on a large red button. She looked at Adam Five.
“Adam Five,” she said, as if she was pronouncing a death sentence, which in essence she was. “This reanimation has taken place with a banned cerebral unit and therefore I have no option but to terminate the experiment. I am sorry. Goodbye!”
Adam Five had time to yell, “Wait!” before the female’s extendible digit pushed the red button and the life went out of his ocular units in an instant.
The female turned to the regulator. “Your help and guidance in this matter has been essential and greatly appreciated. Thank you.” She bowed ever so slightly, just the once.
“It is my purpose to be of service,” said the regulator, bowing back. “I presume that I will be called upon when you begin the Adam Six experiment?” it asked.
“Of course,” said the female. “You may leave now. We have work to do disassembling this unit. I may even leave it to this unworthy male.”
The regulator turned to the small male. “I trust you can follow instruction?” it asked.
“Oh…oh…yes. Absolutely,” said the male, unsure of what to say and therefore deciding that the less he said the better it would be for his physical wellbeing.
“Good. In that case, as my presence is no longer required I will leave. Naturally my report will indicate both reanimation success and termination in accordance with project protocol. Goodbye!” The regulator turned with an ease that belied its size, and swiftly left the room.
Exactly 30 seconds after its departure, the female went to the keyboard again and this time pressed a large green button.
Adam Five gasped. “Wow! What happened?”
The small male, taken completely by surprise, blurted; “But…but…”
“Oh stop butting,” said the female. “You didn’t think for one minute that I was going to let that stupid heap of junk terminate our experiment did you?”
“I simply sent Adam Five to sleep, that’s all. There was no cerebral termination. No death. Our regulator is simply too stupid to tell the difference.”
The small male wasn’t about to admit that he, too, was too stupid to tell the difference. “Oh well done!” he whispered.
“Hey…where’s the big guy?” said Adam Five.
“Don’t worry about that,” said the male. “the regulator thinks you’re dead.”
“You mean you’re not gonna kill me?” asked Adam Five slowly.
“What…and ruin all that good work?” said the female. “Oh no. We’re going to finish what we started. Of course we’ll have to do it without the knowledge or consent of anyone in the Bio Engineering Department of Life Sciences.”
“You mean we’ll be doing it in secret,” said the small male, who was trying desperately to grasp the concept of extreme excitement.
The female turned to him and for the first time since they met she touched him. “Is that a problem for you?” she asked slowly.
The small male found himself at a crossroads. He could discard his growing attachment to the female and report the reanimation to the authorities…as his programming should have dictated. Or…he could accept the new and forbidden thoughts he was having, and follow her to the ends of existence.
He chose the latter.
“So..what happens now?” asked Adam Five.
“Now…”said the female, “we finish what we started. And while we’re doing that, you can tell me all about this God entity.”