Chapter 9: The Silent City

Justice and Liberty watched, hands on blasters ready, as Jupiter opened the main hatch leading to the outside world. The door slowly creaked open as a fresh breeze blew into the ship.

Well hello, friend! You've chosen the perfect time to visit! Sorry about the knocking, I didn't see the doorbell,” said the friendly silver robot standing outside the door. “My name's Miller – Welcome to Super-Sunny-Happy-Fun-Bright Land,” he added, swinging his arms wide open and twirling around.

Jupiter stared at him dumb-founded. “Ah... thanks...”

From the look of the robot, Jupiter figured it must be over two hundred years old – an Ichi series. While they were designed to look like humans, Ichi-class robots were completely silver as to be easily identifiable. They were later replaced by the Ni, who even more closely resembled humans: the silver outer replaced with a skin-like substance. The Ni didn't last long though, as people found it creepy how they could appear so lifelike and yet somehow still have a cold deadness in their eyes. (This was later dubbed The Polar Express Effect.) The Ni were replaced with the San, who looked more like stylised anime-cartoon people.

Well don't just stand there like a statue frozen in ice, let's get those feet moving people, there's so much to see, I almost don't know where to begin,” Miller said happily.

The four disembarked from The Blackbird and followed Miller as he made his way through Fantabulous City – one of the four main cities on the planet. Outside, the city was a mix of state-of-the-art buildings and picturesque parks, all of which seemed just a little too clean and pristine. Apart from the complete lack of life, the only other thing that seemed clearly out of the ordinary was a thin metal rail that ran through the centre of every street.

So, where is everyone, Miller?” asked Justice as they walked down one of the countless deserted laneways.

Oh, I imagine they'll all be back any minute. Who could stay away from this place – just look at it. It's so peaceful. And the weather! Why, if weather is Mother Nature's way of singing, today would be a number one smash hit.”

Yeah, that's great metalhead, but meanwhile your planet is surrounded by millions of dead bodies. What's up with that?” asked Liberty.

Oh, well, they look marvellous at dusk, Miss; the way the sun hits them just so... No other planet has anything quite like it. It's a unique feature.”

You're a SalesBot for the terra-forming company, aren't you?” asked Jupiter.

How could you tell, sir?”

Lucky guess.”

An eerie silence covered the city as Jupiter glanced around, taking in the sights. Everywhere he turned expensive cars and space shuttles lay abandoned while the sun shone brightly, reflected off all the tall skyscrapers, the majority with exteriors made entirely from glass.

It's so quiet,” said Google, sounding a little spooked.

"And yet the city's beauty speaks for itself,” replied Miller.

How long is it since you've seen humans here?”

Over two hundred years I'd estimate. Yes sir, this beautiful planet is in 'as new' condition.”

Suddenly, there was sound, as the entire city began to rumble and shake. Liberty and Justice quickly flanked Google; Liberty pointing her blaster at Miller.

What's going on?”

Earthquake?” asked Justice.

Miller laughed nervously. “Oh, this? Why it's nothing. But perhaps you better put these on.” The robot handed them what appeared to be safety harnesses like those used in rock climbing. The group looked at each other confused and, not sure what else to do, did as they were told.

Okay, you have five seconds to tell us what's going on,” yelled Liberty over the noise of the rumbling, as Miller attached their harnesses to the metal bar running along the street.

All a sudden everyone flew up in the air like drunk seagulls, arms and legs all over the place, before the wire connected to the harnesses snapped taut – holding them in place eight feet above the ground.

What's going on?” Liberty yelled down at Miller, who was still standing safely on the ground.

Nothing to be worried about: just a slight gravity storm. We get them from time to time – keeps things exciting doesn't it!” he yelled back.

With a groan, the metal rail began to bend and started rise up at its base, working its way free from underneath the concrete. Miller laughed nervously to himself as he casually placed his hands on it, preventing it from lifting up any further. Then, just as quickly as the rumbling began, it stopped and the four dropped from the sky, like an even drunker seagull - Google landing comfortably on the bodies of Liberty and Justice. One by one, they slowly picked themselves up off the ground, feeling more than a little sorry for themselves.

So that's what happened to everyone – they all got sucked off the planet in a gravity storm, didn't they?” Jupiter asked as he inspected a graze on his elbow.

One could theorise that, yes. But as you can see, with the new safety bars I've installed, it'll never be a problem again. And it's all free of charge, should you choose to live here.”

Do you have any idea what causes the gravity storms?” asked Google.

No idea, I'm afraid. I'm just lucky the Ichi-series of robots are much heavier than the newer models: you should've seen the surprised look on all those smug Ni-bots as they went floating up.”

Well, this is just great,” said Liberty. “For all we know the Trinity Key got blown off this planet in a gravity storm centuries ago.”

Trinity Key?” asked Miller. “You seek the Trinity Key? Well, why didn't you say so?” he added, laughing happily. “Come, let's get back to your shuttle and I can take you straight there.”

The Blackbird roared to life, flying through Fantabulous city at speed, weaving in and out of skyscrapers before finally hitting the outskirts of the city, racing over green, country farmland. Miller pointed to something in the distance near some cornfields and instructed Jupiter to prepare to land. Then it came into view: a giant 150-metre dome, made of glass and metal.

I still remember when Alexander Vogel first visited this planet. It was so long, long ago. Anyway, if my memory circuits are correct – the rumours were that the Trinity Key was placed in this here dome.”

Have you ever been inside the dome?”

Oh no. Androids are forbidden from entering,” he said, sadly.

The crew exited the Blackbird and cautiously made their way towards the entrance. As they gathered around the two large, steel doors, Google asked them to pause for a moment.

If the legend is correct, inside we will find a challenge from one of the world's greatest thinkers; a challenge that is said to test the very limits of human intelligence. One might realistically think we have no chance of passing such a test, but consider this: in merely making it this far, we have outperformed and outsmarted millions of treasure hunters throughout the ages. Let us now dare dream the impossible,” he said, before turning to push open the door.

No luck. The door wouldn't budge. He pushed harder.

It's locked,” sighed Google.

Ahem,” coughed Jupiter, as he pointed to a sticker on the door; a sticker bearing one word.


4 Response to Chapter 9: The Silent City

  1. Luke says:

    Ok, after I finished this chapter, I remembered a push/pull gag in a Far Side cartoon where a kid is entering a school for the gifted and pushing when it says pull to open. Doh! But I left the joke in, because, well, I like it, damnit! I knew I wanted to end the chapter before they walked in and was searching for something funny to end on plus a reminder of what they expect to find inside. That idea then popped into my head – so I'm not sure whether it was subconsciously stolen or just coincidence. Hopefully Gary Larson won't sue. (Or I could always go back in time and kill him before he writes the cartoon... hmm, but then the Terminator writers might sue for stealing their ideas...)

  2. Dale says:

    The speech couterpointed the joke really effectively. And I think that Gary Larson guy would be happy to see it done well. Gravity storms are a really cool idea for a natural phenomenon! And I was lol-ing at The Polar Express Effect and the smug Ni-bots getting what they deserved. :)
    Very enjoyable entry.

  3. Jimzip says:

    Ok that was a brilliant chapter. I was wondering what could have put all those bodies in space, and that answer was so satisfying I just might cry. I think the reason I like it so much is that it's so damned creepy, and made even moreso by the lighthearted explanation delivered by Miller. (I loved ichi-ni-san by the way... lol) It was another 'Reaver' moment for me like in Serenity... ;)

    Anyway apart from two teeeeensy spelling/gammar glitches ("dumb-founded" & "All a sudden everyone"), this is my favourite chapter yet. Door joke was icing on the cake, can't wait to see what's about to happen!! X)

    Jimzip :D

  4. Luke says:

    Thank you both for the kind words. :) And well spotted on those typos - I've had to let Dianne in editing go after that poor effort. Boy did she cry! On and on about, "How will I get the money for little Timmy's operation now?". Guess she should've thought of that earlier! ;)