Cayson enjoys playing with code. That’s why they call him The Master. He lets them call him that but, truth be told, he hates it. No one is really a master until they have reached their higher purpose. And he is not even half way there.
The monitors in the room hum, lights blink and there are occasional beeping sounds. To anyone fresh in the program, this room (affectionately called The Beast) is cold and sustains a creep factor. Good. Cayson prefers it that way. It keeps the curious and bold out. But to him, The Beast is life itself. Though some would argue that artificial life is an oxymoron, he would argue that life exists when there is a creator to craft and execute it. God made his robots…the flesh, blood and bone that still walk this pathetic earth. And Cayson created his, the less elegant, but more obedient kind.
There is an efficient knock at the door and he looks at the monitor for the camera above it. It’s Lawson, his right hand woman. She is wearing the smart, crisp navy uniform. He buzzes her in.
She walks in and closes the door behind her. They stare at each other for a minute. A silent understanding.
“Well,” he says with a hint of impatience. He doesn’t want to lose his composure, but these last couple of weeks have been tense. He’s been hiding and developing strategy from The Beast so that the others won’t get a whiff of the cracks.
“They were close.”
“I know that.”
She shifts her leg when all she wants to do is collapse on the floor and take a nap. It’s been a hectic 24 hours.
“I guess their current location is too much to ask.” He gives his asshole smirk. “Unless the tremors finished them off.”
They all know it’s going to take much more than some tremors to get rid of Raven and Bear. With Raven’s military background and Bear’s connection with the natural world, they have become the two most dangerous agents against his cause.
“We’re not sure yet. The Scavengers are still searching the area.”
He knows what that means. That means they are alive and probably close. He gets up out of his chair and is lost in thought. Lawson disappears from his focus and he concentrates on the pick up.
“Do you want me to leave?”
He ignores her and keeps pacing.
“You’re doing it wrong,” she says under her breath before that even hits a filter.
But luckily for her, Cayson is somewhere else. He stills and braces himself against the main board. Its warmth caresses his hand but not hot enough to discourage a readjustment. He focuses on the lights blinking and chirping at him. His breathing slows and then he closes his eyes and begins his search.
The dark muck is first. It swirls like oil under a new moon. He keeps pushing. And to his satisfaction, the darkness makes way for light. There is a burst of color mixed in. It scrambles and makes shapes. Circles. Hexagons. His Nana once told him that men dream in black and white and women in color. So he made it his mission to always bring the color. The shapes transform into animals. First some kind of monkey and then a bear. Yes. The bear. He focuses on it. The massive walking blob stops and perks its ears. It looks around. Looking for him. And then…yes…he is spotted. The beady eyes focus on him. The shape slowly morphs into who he is searching for. Bear. That skinny Indian bastard.
“Native American,” Lawson chimes in. But he doesn’t hear her.
Bear. Where is he? As if by some kind of woodland magic, the space around Bear opens up. Trees everywhere. And a misty, grey darkness materializes. Cayson searches for something recognizable. But all the rocks and trees look alike. Blast. And then he hears her. Squawking like a medieval banshee. She lands on Bear scratching her territory and has the cheek to stare right at Cayson to fire her fury.
“You little bitch.”
As if to taunt him further, the insolent bird transforms into its gorgeous human form and hits him right in the gut. It’s been a while since he’s seen her. The impact is no less epic than the first time. Her long legs, that tight shape and those witch eyes throw an energy that is both sexual and belonging to another realm. She moves towards him, like an actor approaching a camera.
“So fun you could join the party. Right Bear?” She looks over her shoulder and Bear straightens up to play his role.
“Yeah. Party.” Then realizing what’s going on, he loud-whispers to her. “What the fuck? What are you doing?”
She gives him that shut-the-fuck-up-and-play-along look.
Cayson relaxes, amused with the bad theater.
“Oh, really? You’re happy I know exactly where you are?”
She turns back to him and winks. “Oh, yeah baby. I love a challenge. You should know that.”
“There is a difference between the bedroom and the battlefield.”
She smiles. It’s a smile that is so unlike her. It touches her eyes and radiates something he has never seen before. For a brief second, he is terrified.
“You know you’re wrong about that. They are one in the same.” And she blows him a playful kiss.
The instant darkness hurts. For a moment he is confused.
“Oh for god’s sake. Wake the fuck up.”
Lawson is in view staring at him like a he’s an invalid. He gets up and straightens up making all 6’3 of himself count. Lawson swallows and a layer of sweat suddenly appears on her face.
“You had a bad trip. I’ll get you some water.” She moves quickly towards the door before he decides to teach her a lesson.
“No water. Bring back a bottle.”
As she scurries away, he turns back to the monitors. There is the usual Citadel activity. The West Wing is being repaired after the tremors. There are some slackers in the kitchen. This irritates him. Maybe it’s time for another seminar. Everyone in this place is getting too lax. He brightens at the idea. Yes. A seminar. That will make him feel better. He goes to his main computer to draft the letter.