“Sophia,” I called upon stepping out of my room. It was a bit late to start the day. I must have overslept.
“Sophia” I called again, once I was stood outside her door.
There was no answer.
I pushed the door open gingerly and poked my head around. I could see Sophia on her bed, still sleeping. It had been a rough few days for her, so I pulled the door back closed and walked to the main living room.
On the dining table was laid out a selection of fruits, meat and bread. There were even a few jugs of variously coloured liquids that I could only assume were juices. I grabbed an apple and took a large bite as I looked around the room.
On the edge of the table was a glyphscreen and the small metal ball that I had enchanted with Fion. I didn’t really understand how I had done it, but it was strong. I picked it up feeling the smooth surface, sensing the rather simplistic weave that was nevertheless unique. I smiled with a touch of pride as my mind compared this bauble to Airis. That golem was a marvel, I had checked on him before I had left my room. He was integrating nicely. The first few days for flexible systems are always a bit touch and go, they have been known to just collapse.
There was a story floating around the academy when I was training about a precursor to the glyphscreen. It had blown up spectacularly the first time it was used, taking with it the life of its creator.
Best of all his link was holding very well. I’d had to duplicate my own, which before I’d developed reading would have been impossible. My data node was tiny in comparison to all the information in the archives, but it was more specialised and personal. Airis had all the knowledge he needed to grow and develop and I had managed to fix two of the limitations of the current generation. Well, limitations in my view at least.
One, I had fixed the need for creator proximity in the first few weeks to years of development. It wasn’t a problem in most created beings as they were little more than shells. Some of the farm golems would likely have a shared linkage assembly, a power reservoir as it were, that they all drew from, and they didn’t develop they didn’t have learning weaves or personalities so they were considered finished. Ones like Orb, on the other hand had a link, but it wasn’t to the magic, it was to the commander of headquarters who ever held that title. That was how Orb had managed to survive while Rysan was away. It had been linked to Jase. The other problem that I had found was development time. Take Orb for instance, it was about two years old, but when not having its personality suppressed or acting outside of its protocols, it acted much like a 4 year old human, a very child like mentality. I personally enjoyed dealing with Orb when its like that, but it was a problem for such a creation. So I’d made it so that Airis could develop much faster his entire system was primed for learning, lots of background information that hopefully would accelerate maturation.
I took another bite of my apple as I thought through all this. I placed the bauble down on the table, so I could reach for one of the jugs. I placed the apple in my mouth holding it with my teeth as I selected a glass and the green liquid. I poured half a glass, and sat down in one of the dining chairs. It seemed I had a bit of quiet time before Sophia woke up, maybe I should use it to think through the situation I found myself in.
I was Sophia’s master. I had to do what was best for her in the absence of her parents. They were as gone as they could be, I don’t know if turning into a cloud could be classed as dead, but they were gone. I should look into the records for anything on magical transformations when I had some spare time. I had no clue how to raise a child, but Jase was helping, so I wasn’t entirely on my own. Avery is also available to handle the minor things like food and clothes. I just had to do my best and hope it was enough. I felt overwhelmed, that suddenly I had to raise a child, if I had know I might not have taken the oath, but life is like that, we never know what we are agreeing to at the time.
My rush of emotion also made me think about something else Jase had said.
Elan Solem had graduated.
To say I was surprised would be an understatement. Elan was one of these rare people that were charming and unfailing polite yet still managed to some how insult you with every breath they took. We hadn’t got on during our training, he was only a few months behind me in terms of reaching lucidity, what we called becoming a mage.We still have to take the test to make sure its stable, but thats another issue. His base awakening was fire though. So we hadn’t met much in the early years, but once he started trying to gain earth we ran into a problem. My earth control was far better than anyone else in training. I could grasp it consistently, and he couldn’t even do that with his fire. It started as what seemed to be lighthearted jabs. It quickly progressed to competition. I never really understood why he felt the need to tear me down. I’ll admit I wasn’t always gentle I made a point to show him up in earth class just because he was so unpleasant to me. it didn’t help that he was good at everything else he did. All I could do was control my magic. My understanding of theories and form equation was poor. I’m not overly clever, I never pretended to be. I can do magic, the hows and whys don’t matter to me most of the time. Golems are almost instinct, it appears that way for most of my magic. In many ways thats made my training harder. I don’t understand what I do, I just do it. The applications make sense without all the language and technical stuff. That just gets in my way. Jase used to refer to me as having the soul of an artist. I guess he’s right, but I’m not in an artistic field, I’m in a logical one. At least thats the way we are taught. I like to believe that magic is an art, it feels that way. I was getting side tracked.
Elan Solem. My rival. It was petty, but I hated him. I’m fairly sure he hated me too. He was a scion of the old nobles, I guess he felt he had something to prove. I beat him every time in magic use. I was the fastest through the academy ever. I’ve lost count of the number of times he referred to me as a muddy farmer. Looking down his nose at me. The number of fistfights we had in the corridors when I called him the bastard noble. Well he was out.
I sighed and finished my apple.
He would have a junior position as we were the same age. I didn’t know where he would be assigned. I would have to find out eventually.
I sat on the chair thinking about a great many things. Pressing things. I still had no answer for. Who the mages were at the foundry, I had heard nothing about any outside interference though. It had been down as an equipment failure, Jase had assured me that it was being investigated, I still felt I needed to do something, but what was the question. All I could think of doing was digging through the archives for records.
I guess that was as good a place as any and I needed to look into the causes of the surges, we all knew the myths that some people just couldn’t handle magic at all. The dreamers who could use their power unconsciously and the day dreamers who could use it whenever they pleased just not as well or as easily as us awakened. Sometimes their links just broke in some way. Well I had seen evidence that it was true in some ways at least. Their links were broken, but the cause was unknown. Sophia’s parents had used their magic for years. What could cause them to both break at once? I asked myself. I had no answers and now way of getting answers without more examples or a far more knowledgeable person to ask.
I took a moment to accept that I was way out of my depth before I stood up. Sitting here wasn’t going to get me any answers. I walked back through to my rooms on my way to my workroom, Sophia was stirring if the faint rustling I could hear as I passed her door was her and not a draft blowing the curtains. I think I had enough time to have a chat with Airis before I introduced them.
My workroom was the same as before, the now faintly glowing stasis lighting the room in a blueish light. Just enough to make out the shadowed shape that was Airis, he was in his warrior form, I guessed it was because it was preconfigured. His faintly glowing eyes brightened a touch as I approached.
“Tristan, you’re back? I hadn’t expected to see you again so soon,” Airis said.
His voice carried my accent even in other forms, interesting, I noted to myself before saying “Yes I am, I thought now might be a good time to introduce you to your charge.”
“If you think I am stable enough then sure,” Airis said, his body began to shift, melting into his more human form, the one modeled on my far younger self.
“You should do fine, I cant accurately test your skills if I keep you in here,” I said.
“Let’s go meet her then, shall we?” I asked. I gave him a quick look over as his body stopped changing. It was uncanny, like looking in a mirror that turned back time.
Airis looked back, the glow in his eyes faded down to nothing, perfectly normal human eyes. He nodded again.
I turned around knowing Airis would follow. I didn’t know why he didn’t vocalise acceptance of orders like most golems, but it seemed to be a minor difference so far, more would come as he grows, so I just ignored it. I walked from the workroom, I didn’t need to look behind me to know he was there I could hear his footsteps in almost perfect sync with my own. I led us through to the main room. Sophia was sat at the dining table, eating some fruit. A little frown appeared as she noticed us, but her mouth was stuffed with grapes so she couldn’t ask anything yet.
“Good morning Sophia, I trust you slept well, from the snoring I could hear through the walls,” I said with a grin as we entered the room.
“Who is that?” she asked after a hasty swallow. Her arm rose to point at Airis who up until now had remained behind me.
“This is Airis, I thought having someone your own age around for lessons might help,” I said.
“I’ve never seen him before and you haven’t mentioned him either,” she said. She tilted her head, studying the boy before her.
Crap, I’m going to have to talk fast to sell this I don’t want her to know hes a golem yet, but I don’t want to lie to her either, I thought to myself as I scrambled for words.
“Hes new,” I answered.
“Um, right. Nice to meet you Airis,” Sophia said, eyeing him suspiciously.
“Well I spoke to Jase earlier, he is happy to have you both for a few hours of control lessons,” I said.
“We aren’t with you?” Sophia asked
“No, I have to get a few things worked out first before I can handle lessons, it shouldn’t be long until its worked out,” I said before adding. “Sophia, I know you were expecting me to teach you and I will, I just can’t right now. I’m also going to arrange for you to have someone to talk to about what happened, it may help.”
“Oh, talk to who?” she asked.
“Thats what I’m going to arrange, I don’t know yet, but I’ll find someone nice,” I answered
“Ok, I guess, come sit down Airis, have some breakfast. The grapes are really good,” she said, changing the subject.
Airis moved to sit next to her. His face was still blank, although hints of animation were starting to appear.
I stood watching for a moment as they sat there eating, I shouldn’t have to wait long until Jase arrived to take them for control exercises.
I was nervous, I didn’t want Airis giving away that he was a construct straight away. So I blurted out, “Sophia, how are you feeling about more lessons?”
“Meh, I should be done soon, shouldn’t I?” she asked.
“Depends on how well you do, you know, we only have to teach you to touch it so you can suppress it. It can take a long time to get a firm hold on it. Most of my mage training was fine control, but the same principle applies.”
“But I did okay with the stones,” she complained.
“You did, but thats just a baby step. You still can’t stop the involuntary activations, which are what got you placed with me in the first place,” I instantly regretted saying that. Don’t cry. Please don’t cry.
“I will do it. Just you wait and see, I’ll make you proud,” she said.
“I’m sure you will, you could be a mage in the making,” I said with a smile. This kid is tough, I thought to myself, there was no hint of sadness on her face, although there was a glimmer of anger.
“Maybe, still don’t like magic,” she said. She pouted a bit at that.
“I know, I will just have to work harder to change your mind. It can be a lot of fun and its useful.”
“More trouble than it’s worth,” she said.
I had no answer to that. In her eyes at least it would look that way. It had taken her parents and kept her away from her friends.
“I am looking forward to lessons Tristan.” Airis said dutifully.
“Good, Jase will be here soon,” I nodded more to myself than to them as there came a knock at the door.
“Perfect timing,” I said before walking to the door. “Jase come on in, your students are eagerly awaiting.”
Jase walked in and stopped as he took in the scene.
“Tristan, could I have a word please?” Jase asked.
“Of course,” I turned to the table. “Sophia, Airis, if you will excuse us for just a moment,” I gestured to Jase. “ We will go through to my room, let them finish their breakfast.”
“Alright,” Jase said, his eyes never leaving Airis.
I led Jase past the table, sure he was still staring.
We went through to my room.
“Whats the problem Jase,” I asked.
“How is a golem wearing your face?” Jase asked loudly.
“Keep your voice down, I don’t want Sophia to know. Airis is my project, I want him to be Sophias companion. How did you know he was a construct, I thought I had made him well enough to pass?”
“Tristan, it has your face are you so arrogant that you thought no one would notice. It’s clear as day that it’s not natural,” Jase started pacing around clearly agitated. “It should not be possible, how did you give it your face? It looks so human.”
“Stop calling him an it. He has a gender. He’s called Airis. I’ll let you have my notes, so you can look over what I’ve done, but in essence I duplicated my link to the magic. The only way to do that was to imprint a part of me in to his matrix. In some ways he is my own blood”
Tristan, you know golems aren’t my area. I don’t understand half of what you do with them. Your own blooming makes no sense from an academic point of view. You shouldn’t have been able to produce a sentient being. Even my own feeble attempts at constructs don’t live, they are tools. Very good tools, but not alive in any sense. But I’m wandering again. You shouldn’t have been able to grant a stable link, let alone your own features.”
I smirked as Jase rambled on.
“That can’t be its original form. I wouldn’t even know where to begin making flesh and blood. Are you sure you thought this through Tristan? What if its unstable?”
“Calm down Jase. I’ll tell you about him. No it’s not his base form. I gave him limited shifting abilities. I made him to be Sophia’s companion, she can’t bond to a lump of rock. Shes a human girl. She needs some natural seeming, but that wasn’t the main point of making him. I wanted to get over some of the limitations of the standard golems, low intelligence, limited range and autonomy.”
“Tristan you are brilliant in this area, I won’t deny that, but those limitations keep us safe. You can’t give souls to machines. It’s not right. What if he decides he doesn’t want to be bound any more? What if he’s unhappy. You could have made a being that you can’t control,” Jase stood there looking at me, his face was pale as he considered the implications.
“Jase, please calm down. I have thought of these things. Airis is just a child as yet. He will grow and he will learn, he doesn’t have emotions as such yet, its all just simulations. I’ve given him a seed of life. It’s up to us to nurture that seed as we would any other.”
“Tristan, how can you be so confident? That being in there represents a massive shift in golem technology. But its so dangerous. Have you tested it? Him sorry.”
“I’m confident because I feel that he is well made. Yes I know I may be overlooking something, but I can’t think of everything if I don’t experiment. I needed to construct him to see if it was even possible. There will be questions I didn’t even know needed to be thought out.
“I guess you’re right, but I’m not convinced. You need to keep a close eye on him.”
“I will Jase don’t worry, if there is a problem I can fix it. I made him flexible for a reason. Ah, thats actually what I wanted to talk to you about. I need some skills for him.”
“I take it you don’t want base skills. you should be able to handle them yourself,” Jase said.
“Yeah, i’m going to need some advanced modular developing skills,” I asked gently. I held my breath and looked at Jase to gauge his reaction.
Jase looked at me and just sighed, “Of course you do, you never ask for the easy stuff. You know I need the council’s approval to hand out those. Is Airis suitable?”
I know, they arent for Airis as such. I need them for my research, I’ve never gotten to handle them before.”
“That’s because they are dangerous Tristan, I won’t get you the combat ones. Which ones are you thinking of?
“Any really, I need to work out what makes them different from the standard. I’ve placed sockets for them in Airis’ matrix, I want to see how they integrate.”
“Tristan I need you to be honest with me. What is the purpose of all this? Airis could be the biggest leap in golems since the dawn of organised magic. At least in terms of true artificial life. Do you really need to do more?” Jase asked. He faced me squarely, resolute in his questioning of my goals.
I didn’t have an answer. I looked away thinking furiously. Did I really need to push so hard, I have time. I collected my thoughts before saying, “Jase, you know I’m not very good at all this being a mage stuff. I can’t do the formulas like you can, I’m not as smart as some of the others, working hard doesn’t work for me. I either get something or I don’t. I feel I need to do this. It’s something I can do. It’s hard, but its my gift. I don’t want it to be just my gift. I want it to be a gift for everyone,” I blinked back the tears that had formed in my eyes as I spoke.
“Tristan, my boy, you have time, you are growing into an amazing mage. I’ll admit you aren’t as good with the formula’s and the well thought out uses of power. We won’t even speak of the more advanced levels. But the things you can do are remarkable,” Jase said, he placed his hand on my shoulder and looked me straight. “Give yourself time, you have only been doing this a few months”
I pulled myself together then shook of his arm “Thank you Jase. I’ll be fine. Now can you get me one of the modules? I don’t need it, but I’m curious about them.”
“Yes, I can get you one, I may even have a couple down in my lab that I can let you look at. I’ll talk to Wizard Decon, see what he says about it,” Jase said.
“Wizard Decon? Nevermind. are you okay to take Sophia and Airis for control today?” I asked.
“Yes, I’ll take them. I need to know Sophia’s progress, before I can though,” Jase said.
“Oh, yeah. Not reliable at all. She has successfully used her power on command, but its nothing that she has a great deal of control over. She needs to be able to suppress it when it rises unbidden. Other than that she should be fine. I guess now I should mention, there is a faint, but very possible chance Airis could use magic too. Don’t over react. Try to treat him as you would any other child,” I said.
“How faint?” Jase asked. An edge of wariness crept into his voice.
I scratched my head, “I’m not really sure, he’s safe,but experimental. His full capabilities won’t be assessed for a while. I need to run some tests in a few days to see that his experiences are meshing with the rest of his systems. I can’t do that unless he has experiences,” I said.
Fine, I’ll do what you ask for now, but this is a one time thing. I can’t. No I won’t risk you or Sophia to a dangerous experiment. If I think he’s too risky, I will deactivate him,” Jase said. His demeanour shifting from wary to almost aggressive.
“Okay Jase that’s alright, don’t damage him though, I’d have to work out what went wrong. I don’t think you will have to do anything to Airis though, he seems really stable. Just be clear when speaking to him, he hasn’t got Orb’s higher language functions. I wanted to grant them to him, but they are on the restricted list for some reason,” I said, distracted by my wonderings.
“Leave the restricted list alone Tristan some of the things on it are worse than the module you’re asking for. I’ll go take the kids down to the lab and see if we can make some headway,” Jase turned and walked back through the door, leaving me alone in my room.