Two years ago Zark had secretly developed a partition software he named Rift and an accompanying operating system for their shop androids. They had purchased a simple house-cleaning android, but after using Rift and installing their own operating system on the partitioned drive, it could learn functions nearly instantly. These learned functions would normally take months, or even years of training for any human to learn. Zark had never been more proud of anything he had made. It was his knowledge of customizing androids’ behaviors that gave the team their edge over the competition.
“No, I think we should leave him alone for now,” said Zedd. “I want to know what he’s capable of before we try to alter him.”
This was part of the concern, but moreso, Zedd assumed Ellis probably had some sync to Fenix. Toying around with the operating system was a quick way to blow the lid on Rift’s possible MRL illegality.
From the tunnel at the end of the plaza, two white lights crowned by a golden digital display emerged. Zedd and Zark were the only ones waiting at the platform when the tram came to rest. They decided on the empty front car.
Once seated, Zark re-opened the manual. He clicked on a section titled Operating System. Reading through, he found that Ellis was running an OS called Solomon. Solomon enabled Ellis to learn behavioral patterns of people he encountered and change his own behavior depending on the personalities he encountered day to day.
It looked like Ellis already knew basic tasks like cooking and cleaning, but he would have to learn the skills of their business. I guess that makes sense, Zark thought. It would be impossible to pre-load every android with each team’s operating procedures. He supposed it was better this way. Ellis would be theirs, and only know their operating procedures. Zark looked up.
The tram had entered the Industrial District, where the main lift to the lower levels was. When the tram stopped, they disembarked and found several others waiting. It was strange seeing men and women dressed so smart. Arrival Day was unlike any other day Zark had experience. Some considered it a holiday for relaxation and reflection, others like the first day of a new job. Each person celebrated the new beginning in their own way.
It was dim in this hallway. All about them, pipes ran along exposed walls. In bold, yellow letters, ‘CAUTION’ was illuminated by an amber-colored, rotating light. This word covered the top of an enormous sliding elevator door. From the other side of the closed door a deep whirring sound could be heard rising from the depths of the ship. It was carrying up an empty car. Air pushed through tall vents on either side of the door as the unseen rising platform carried great wafts upwards through the shaft. A warm, peppery scent washed through the group.
Finally, the air movement subsided and the whirring came to a stop directly in front of them. The tall door slid vertical and into the ceiling. The small crowd entered the empty car. Inside, an absence of walls exposed more pipes of all sizes surrounded them, travelling from the depths below, disappearing above them into the upper deck of the ship. Once everyone had entered the elevator car, the panel next to the entrance buzzed and flashed a green light. The door slid back down. Two guardrails shot out from inside one of the car’s structural beams and closed off the entranceway. With a great lurch, the elevator dropped heavily causing a few to lose their footing. After the initial drop it steadily descended into the shaft.
It grew warmer with a strange pungent scent. The walls of the shaft fell away revealing an immense hall below them. Hot air rushed about them. Vehicles of great bearing strength came in on large ramps through enormous bay doors on the ship’s underside. Zedd and Zark were still about eight stories from the ground level, but now could see the vehicles coming in and out of the ship’s belly. Each carried countless stacks of crates. Ahead of them, large crowds of people separated into queues that led to a long countertop.
The elevator slowed as it approached the ground and connected with a loud clang. The guardrails on the front section of the elevator retreated as the same green light flashed on and buzzed.
“Have you ever been down here?” Zark asked. The service elevator opened to a wide catwalk. It passed about two stories above the shipping frenzy below them.
“Twenty years ago. Except now it’s all in reverse.”
They walked down the path until the catwalk ended in a crowded platform. Beyond the mass, people divided into lines determined alphabetically by last names. Zedd and Zark found theirs after politely pushing through a group of young men holding a conversation circle. The line moved steadily. Each person met the official behind the counter ahead for a moment, then walked another pathway to the left and into a narrow hallway.
A large, dark-skinned woman sat behind a tall counter eyeing a screen that only she could see. “Step up please.” Zedd approached the counter. He looked into a small machine mounted to the top of the counter separating them. He stepped away and she motioned to Zark.