The Eldest of the Oraki, and for long their leader, Lifthrasir-1 has helped his children survive the throes of their birth, and has at last stepped aside, so that his waning years do not bring harm to his people.
With his plain, even craggy face, and short puff of dark hair, there might have been the chance, once, that he may have been mistaken for a human, of no particular beauty, were it not for the midnight velvet color of his skin, splotched by bone-white scars, and his pure size. Standing nearly 2.5m tall, and amassing nearly 1.25 megagrams, there are few this proud specimen can be mistaken for aside from Lifthrasir, first of the artificial men named Oraki.
It was cold, and although he had no name for the feeling upon the air upon his skin, the newborn knew this, and his muscles began to flex against themselves, to create warmth. It was strange, though this too, he could not name, to open his eyes, and see brilliant lights, and hazy motion within them, slowly resolving to people. Light. Cold. Hardness, as he laid upon the examination table, his heavy body restrained, but lightly so. He could move, but only a little. And this, more than the cold, more than the like, he hated. And he voiced now, his displeasure, a loud and curdling scream…
And, as the woman watching the monitors turned to one of the several men there, she grinned, a cocky sort of smile. 'Healthy lungs there, Dad. And no cascade failure this time. Yet. What are we gonna call him?'
'Lifthrasir.' 'Huh?' 'It’s an old name.' 'Well, you’re the boss…'
Born a full two Earth years before any of his brothers or sisters of the first generation, Lifthrasir, is, in a sense, the beta test model of his race. Accordingly, much of his ‘genetic’ codework has been laid down with this in mind. While a great deal of modeling had been done before even the first of the prototypes had been created, and individual organs created, the fear of uncaught complexities and consequences was strong in Dr. Orak. In order to compensate for unforeseen issues at the ‘cellular’ level, organs were made large and more capable than strictly necessary, stretching him to an outsized frame, while the organs that would be responsible for replenishing the nanites that compose his body over time were equipped with a relatively robust debugging system, with the data code for his construction soft coded, rather than hard coded, as would be the standard for later designs. While this has made his body strong and solid, even more so than the intended norm for his race, it has also made his body more susceptible to the data-drift that brings mortality to the Oraki. Lifthrasir, in general, regenerates injured tissues significantly more slowly than the rest of the Oraki, and has a certain number of cancer-like attacks. While his nanite-generation routines can be reset, it is not a simple process, and every attack causes more damage to accumulate inside his body.
The voice was small, curious as it asked plaintively, 'Doctor? How come there aren’t any others like me? Just people like you?'
And for a moment, Dr. Orak could only fall silent, his thought long and careful. 'Soon, there will be. But… we want to make sure that you are able to live. It is a very difficult thing, you see.'
Despite these design precautions, however, unforeseen bugs in the first models made their effects rapidly known to the designers in the form of a complex collapse of the central neural arrays, a lethal error that took several iterations of experiments to solve. Though the first to live, Lifthrasir is well aware of his older siblings, and has decided that the best way to honor them, and their sacrifice to bring forth all his kind, is to survive, at all costs.
Highly observed during his infancy, it was the delight of his creator to discover that despite his serious demeanor, the young boy-machine was curious, and after a certain sense, even playful, creating an endless series of games for himself, first with whatever he could lay his delicate hands on, then later with the simple toys he was provided with. Meanwhile, it was the delight of the Doctor’s foremost assistant that the new being was as alike to an over sized human child as he was, rapidly becoming the surrogate child that she could not have in her mind. And so, despite the myriad of tests and observations, Lifthrasir was raised not entirely unlike any other human boy.
Broadly educated, at first, it was decided after some observation to allow the young machine-child to largely direct his own academic learning, with some additional pushing from his 'parents', in order to ensure that his education was broad enough to support whatever pinnacle Lifthrasir chose to build for himself. There are those that would argue that his eventual drawing towards the science and engineering disciplines was destiny, built into the very stuff of his body, but as his mind rapidly matured, he began to gather together the philosophy to deny this. Instead, he had made his choice because he wished to understand what his 'father' was doing, as the doctor built his siblings. But, even as potent as the young boy-machine’s mind was, he would be unable to understand much for many years.
It was far sooner that Lifthrasir would have 'siblings', born first one by one, then two by two, and more, as the laboratory’s equipment was refined and more were brought on line, and a small handful of human children as well, born in the normal fashion. Their numbers were only constrained by the ability of the staff to parent, and before long, a minimal population of the new beings existed, enough, the researchers hoped, to form a stable population in time. At first, the boy was delighted to have fellow children to play with, and to share the tiny, mechanical world of the research station with. It was, perhaps, to his credit that Lifthrasir displayed little or no jealousy to the relative loss of attention to him, at least once he understood his comparative self-sufficiency.
Indeed, recalling the joy that his creators showed when he learned from them, Lifthrasir found himself seeking to teach his siblings all that he had learned. For the greatest part, he succeeded, though not all accepted his lessons equally. Chief among those who rejected their elder, at least at first, was the girl who would come to be named Lilith, who demanded the chance to learn for herself. While taken aback at her firey demeanor and demands, he eventually came to understand them as similar to his own determination to survive, and in a way, came to admire this.
In all, it was an idyllic time, at least as close as one can get, tucked into a tiny space station at the edge of civilization, away from even the worlds. And then, they came. The small-minded men, full of fury and fear and false piety. They came, and they destroyed his world.
The klaxons were sounding, loud enough to drown out the pure, elemental scream of chambers decompressing, as bulkheads slammed shut. And, the children ran, their half-panicked nurse-mother in the lead, towards the evacuation vessels. Lifthrasir could feel the panic in his siblings, yes, fear even in himself. But it would be alright, wouldn’t it? Father always made everything alright. He would make the bad men understand that they meant no harm to anyone.
And then, all were in the tiny ship, though haphazard, the woman who had served as their mother smiled, a soft, sorrowful smile, as she watched the door close, cutting her off from the young sophonts. Her fingers danced upon the keypads, instructions for the lifeboat, to hide it among the debris that was sure to come. And then, the woman ran. If today she would die, she would do so at her lover’s side.
First drifting among the debris of the station, the lifeboat only kicked to life as it registered the last of the ships leaving the system. And as the boat’s sensors registered this, and it followed its programmed course, the young machines began to panic. Their home was gone, their parents were gone. What would become of them?
It was Lifthrasir who spoke now, his voice clear, calm, and composed. He knew what must be done. 'We shall live. That is what Father intended for us. Surely there are those who would give us aid, even as there are those that would destroy us. We shall run, and we shall seek them.'
However, not all that is sought can be found. The product of illegal research, there were few among mankind who would give them succor. Others named them mere machines, and tried to enslave them. And everywhere, it seemed, they were hunted by the Faithful, to be slain for the affront of existing, against the will of both God and Ancestor.
Fleeing once more, as Lifthrasir held the bloodied and broken body of his youngest sister, Pyrrha, in his arms, that Lilith came upon him, all their remaining brethren in tow, and spoke to him. And she said, 'This ends, and it ends now. We are not mere machines, nor are we devils. We are the Oraki, and we will have our homeland, and there, we will stand for what is ours, and what is our children’s, and our children’s children’s. I will stand. Are you with me, or will you slink into the night like a whipped curs, before our creator’s blood?'
For a long, long moment, Lifthrasir was silent, his anger at this upstart and his pain for his brothers and sisters, his people dueling in his mind, until finally, he rose. 'We will stand. We will survive. And we shall remember. We shall remember every sacrifice, every agony that has been inflicted upon us. Every one.'
As Lifthrasir spoke, Lilith reached down, dipping her fingers into the cooling blood of her sister, and she touched it first to Lifthrasir. 'They would deny us our souls, but they have baptized us in our own blood. We shall remember.'
And Lifthrasir responded, 'We shall remember.' And he took his own hands, soaked in the blood of Pyrrha, and he anointed each of the others in turn with that thick fluid, the barely warm blood seeming to sear his fingers with every touch.
The search began then, as Lifthrasir and the others combed through every piece of astronomical data they could find, seeking the world which they could call their own. After many days of drifting nearly at random through hyperspace, they finally found a world which they believed they could claim, and more importantly, could hold, even against those who hated them the most. It would be their Sanctuary against the outside universe. Here, on their cold, dead world, full of the metals they would need to grow, they would flourish and fortify.
Lifthrasir swallowed his distaste, as he nodded towards his brother. Their traiding partners were not good men, and both of them knew that. At any moment, they might be sold out to the highest bidder. But it was a risk that he had decided they must take. They barely had more than raw ores, and the machines they needed to live were complex. The deal must be done, with perhaps some misdirection. Yes. That would do nicely. Now, who to... Ah, yes. 'Take that young one with you. What was the name she had picked? Ah, yes, Jaguar. She does so enjoy playing tricks.'
Arriving on their new world, so precariously close to Neo-Terra, they began to dig beneath the surface of the world, excavating a fortress for themselves beneath miles of metal-laden rock, beneath the direction of those appointed by Lifthrasir, while building and bartering with those more interested in money than in killing them for further equipment. Perhaps the most useful advantage they would have was Lifthrasir's nose for the talents of his people, seeming to assign them to those tasks most suited to the development of that talent - an ability that let them lay in enough material in a few short decades, when they were found out, they were ready.
And found they were. Lifthrasir was not quite sure who had taken the word back to the vile madmen of the Book. Still, when the Word of Creation appeared on their doorstep, Lifthrasir had known they were coming for them for quite some time. And they were ready. Though he declined to take the front lines himself, as a rule, his cunning stratagems turned the tide in the favor of the vastly outnumbered Oraki, his extensive gambits bringing the enemy down into their tunnels, where their numbers were of little help, and their inability to breathe the oxygen-free air was most punishing.
For decades after, Lifthransir continued to guide them in digging down ever deeper and more securely in the world of Sanctuary, while he at last chose ambassadors from among his people, leveraging his people's recent blooding into a quiet alliance with the Starkin Federation. Though the agreement to provide special forces and industrial capacity would be expensive to his children, he knew it might well prove vital to their survival.
Some years after the war, in Sanctuary year 87, Lifthrasir chose to step aside, handing the executive power over the Oraki homeworld to a triumvarte of second and third generation Oraki. Thereafter, he retreated from the public view, preferring to work behind the scenes, a small whisper here, a suggestion there, and an enthusiastic participation in the life of his descendants, which are now legion.
Lifthrasir carries nothing special. If he is rousted to combat, he will wield the heaviest ranged weapon available, in a reasonably competant fashion.
In many fashions, Lifthrasir considers himself the grandfather of his entire race. The continued survival and thriving of the Oraki as a whole consumes his mind and efforts, and although he no longer leads them, he is viewed by his people in an almost messiah-like fashion. Much as Lilith, many of the youngest Oraki who have never met Lifthransir personally, but felt the effects of his work, have begun to look upon him as something more than mortal, but less than a deity.
While he is perfectly willing to assist, and even trust non-Oraki, Lifthransir is often deeply suspicious of those who have not yet proven themselves benevolent to his kind, and it is somewhat difficult for a human to gain his direct trust. He has no particular material desires, but often has a vested interest in some thing or another that he believes will give the Oraki another advantage towards survival, and will cut deals for them to be obtained or achieved, with varying degrees of paranoia.
Most recently, he been attempting to assure the compilation of a full and complete medical atlas and treatment system for the Oraki. While the original construction data is still mostly available, strange defects, even mutations can arise, and a rare few microbes are beginning to become to be able to infect the bodily organs of the Oraki - These, more than anything else, are the current focus of Lifthransir's attentions.
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? Responses (6)-6
And out is he, the first of his race. I had to look up Lifthrasir, the name is indeed appropriate.
I like the little difference between him and Lillith. :)
More love for Lifthrasir!
I recall reading this while it was in-work a long time ago. It has met my high expectations. Very nicely done SnO.
A great story - I would love to see a novel set in your universe Siren, especially with your attention to hard science fiction.
An excellent read, and it is made more tantalizing by the things that are hinted at, and not named.