Island In The Sand

Book 2 Part VIII

Star was more frozen in shock than she would have believed. How could the explosives not have been placed where they were ordered to be placed? Jordan had agreed to the placements of both the supply pile and the ground zero for the giant explosive detonation. If the detonation had taken place only one kilometer from where the tribes and Sly’s band were gathered around the supplies then at least half of them were dead and the remainder were in some kind of damaged condition.

Star breathed in and out rapidly and deeply. She had to think. Her moves in response to dealing with the artificial entities were not working out to the eventual success of any of them. Suddenly, she realized that her ideas about dividing the band into two groups were not going to work either. She needed the very same things the outside members of the band had brought to her when they’d come, and then used in all of their favor. She had to trust, or the survival of her own band alone was going to mean nothing beyond the present, and for a very short time into the future.

The band was either one and acted as one, or they were all doomed.

“Ninety-One,” Star said, finally getting control of herself enough to speak in a normal tone. “What’s the best way to find out what happened up there, and how is it that you indicated we could trust Jordan before the explosion?”

“Having been a part of the process of intricate connection with the entities it remains my opinion that Jordan, and the others, have no intent to do anything but help the survivors of the asteroid tragedy, and that was the basis of logic I used to rend an opinion at your request. We also do not know what the results of the detonation might be.”

Star stared at the robot for a few seconds before turning to look out over the beautiful valley stretching out before her.

“House, please connect me with Jordan at the complex,” she instructed out toward the valley view.

“There is no need to connect,” the dwelling responded. “Jordan is available directly by indicating you wish to communicate.”

Star sighed. The conversation had gone in the same direction once before but Star had forgotten exactly how it might all work with the seemingly linked but not dependable connections the artificial entities had with one another.

“Jordan, how many humans died in the explosion?” she asked, deciding that accusations would make no difference in determining exactly what had happened and what could be done about it.

“None, as indicated by my sensory apparatus,” Jordan replied.

Star was shocked again. Was the entity lying to her or was there something she didn’t know?

“Ninety-One, do you believe what Jordan’s saying?” Star asked, turning her head slightly to the side.

“There is no reason to doubt such easily verifiable information,” Ninety-One replied.

“How can it be?” Star whispered to Jameson, who’d moved up to stand next to here. Wren stood near her other side.

“Ask,” Wren instructed, her voice almost too soft to hear.

“Jordan, how is it that no humans were killed when we calculate the explosion as having occurred too close to the food supply to allow for that, based upon your own information before the detonation.”

“A decision was made to remove the food supply and not instruct Sly and the tribal leaders that such a supply had been provided,” Jordan replied, with a flat analytical intonation. “Once the removal of the supplies was accomplished, the explosion was moved closer to the forest so that all concerned would receive a more direct shock wave from the blast, although not close enough to seriously damage the forest fauna or flora.”

Star was so relieved she couldn’t speak.

“Why didn’t you follow the orders you were given by Star Black, Administrator,” Wren asked, from beside Star.

“Jameson,” Star whispered, “go see if the transport is there or gone. I have to have something I can trust.”

“The transport is on its way back to your position inside the dwelling, Star Black,” Jordan replied without responding to Wren’s question. “Your presumption is correct, in assuming that the transport had to be used to remove the supplies already emplaced. It is hoped that you will accept this as proof that what I am telling you is true. It is only natural after such an emotional incident to have great doubts.”

“Check it, anyway,” Star said to Jameson.

“Do you want to hold communications until the data is confirmed?” Jordan asked.

“Answer Wren’s question,” Star replied, ignoring Jordan’s own.

“My programming permits making field decisions when no other command forces are deemed to be available to make them to the best advantage of the mission,” Jordan said, spitting the words out as if they were being read from some carefully written script.

Star was so angry she almost couldn’t control herself.

She tried to settle down before replying.

“And the reason you moved the location of the explosion and took back the supplies?” Star asked.

“Just prior to implementing the dissemination of the information to the humans on the surface…” Jordan said before Star cut him off.

“How?” She asked, raising her voice. “Just how were you going to ‘implement dissemination of the information’ unless you have someone up there to do it?”

“The complex remains in communication with the human you call Sly and his administrator named Spot,” Jordan replied.

“After all this,” Star said, trying not to let her shoulders sag. “You not only remain in communication, you just called Spot an administrator. There is only one administrator and that is me. According to you yourself that was a decision made by the Distants and confirmed by the singularity.”

“The usage of that word was an honorarium,” Jordan answered. “The fact that remains a fact is that you are the only administrator, as was first described to you.”

“How do you communicate…” Star began, but Wren put one hand on her arm and squeezed hard.

“Get back to the issue,” she whispered into Star’s ear.

“Okay, okay,” Star murmured, before recovering herself and speaking to Jordan again.

“Why were the supplies withdrawn?” She asked.

“The decision was made when communication failed. I could not reach you directly because of the inability to access you through the robot, and it occurred to another entity that the food might better served being offered following the explosion rather than before it.”

“Wow,” was all Star could think to respond.

She had been out of communication, although that time had been very short.

“The Singularity,” Jordan said, without having been asked another question.

I assumed that you might want to know what entity. The Singularity is also requesting a second audience since the first did not go as planned. The transportation device awaits your inspection and use.”

“Ninety-One,” Star said, over her shoulder. “What kind of communications might the complex have with Sly that you know of since it doesn’t look like Jordan here wants to answer that question directly.”

Star didn’t like the idea of returning to the lair of the singularity until she knew more, and the transportation device had to be some sort of fearful thing to consider using. Transportation to where, or when, or both?

“Multiple wave-form radios with small particle penetration extensions,” Ninety-One replied.

“That’s accurate,” Jordan followed. “The small hand-held device was accessed by Spot during their first entry to the facility. None was offered to you or anyone else because the devices are not mutually exclusive. Whatever is stated through a device is available to all receivers unless very special adjustments are made. The device can also be turned off and that is what occurred in this instance.”

“Is the device active now?” Wren asked.

“Yes, it is, and Sly or one of his band have been trying to transmit over and over since the explosion,” Jordan said, in a tone that made it seem that the entity was somehow apologizing. “The humans above must think that some repeat of the asteroid strike has occurred. It would be good to discuss that with them and also instruct them in what you want them to do upon the delivery of the supplies. I have not responded to their contact because I wanted to allow that privilege to be yours alone.”

“Right,” Star said, shaking her head. “Am I able to talk to Sly using this system through the dwelling and then you?”

“Yes, that is what I am encouraging,” Jordan replied. “You are now direct.”

“Sly?” Star asked.

“Is that you Star Black?” Sly asked back.

“It is. You just survived a five-kiloton explosion that was set two kilometers from your location. That detonation was set by my forces as an example. It was not a natural phenomenon.”

“What’s a kiloton?” Sly replied.

“What happened not far from you was five of them going off at the same time, which you might have noticed,” Star replied, her voice betraying no emotion at all.

“Oh, I remember you very well,” Sly responded. “I don’t know how you convinced these things down there in the ground to do your bidding but this isn’t over. You are not below the ground anymore, from what I found, and we’ll be going over there to visit real soon.”

Another voice came over the radio before Star could reply to Sly’s threat.

“What are your terms?” the gruff voice asked.

“Why are you here on this land, in the forest, and hunting us?” Star asked, taken off guard by the timber of the man’s voice and his words.

“What are your terms?” the voice responded as if Star had said nothing.

“What terms do you want?” Star asked, knowing her question probably made little sense.

“You caused the largest event known to us since the Reaper did its work so long ago. We cannot match that kind of power. We must think of our people.”

Star didn’t know what to say.

“Do you have casualties?” she finally asked, stalling for time.

“No, the explosion expended itself just before it might have caused great loss and death. Thank you for that.”

“We do not want violence,” Star replied, trying to catch up to the negotiation following the event which she’d never thought about. “Why did you hunt us?”

“We hunt supplies and nourishment for ourselves and our people,” the man said. “I’m Sven, of the clan of Norvold from the State of Colorado. I have been chosen to represent the tribes, clans, and states. We do not hunt you, in spite of the accusations and violations that have been lodged against you. There has been talk of huge amounts of food supplies and materials. Is there any truth to these rumors?”

“Sly, one of your number, has indicated that he will seek revenge against us in the near future,” Star said. “Can you help us prevent such a move?”

“This one called Sly is a very capable leader and has gathered some of the tribal people together in opposing whatever it is that stands behind you,” Sven replied. “I have no control over his band or the ones who’ve joined him. If there are resources available then we are only here to get them because of him.”

“If we provide you with food and clothing supplies, beyond your imagination in amount and quality, will that change your decision?” Star said.

“The survivors of mankind have not made it this far by violating their oaths.   We made an oath to allow the independent action to this man and his band. We cannot take that back, even if you provide what you say you can.”

“No Sly, no food,” Jameson said, leaning forward, his voice aggressive and threatening.

“Is this male person a decision-maker,” Sven asked back, almost instantly.

Star turned her head to look Jameson full in the face. Neither of them moved for several seconds. Very slowly Star shook her head. Jameson looked away and stepped back a few paces. Stars shoulders fell slightly when she turned back to face the valley.

“No, that was a statement of emotion and anger because of the threat Sly poses to myself and my band,” Star very carefully replied, deeply regretting that she could not support Jameson.

“Jordan,” Star said out into the room.

“Yes, Star Black, Administrator,” the entity replied.

“Deliver the supplies to the edge of the forest, now.”

“Sven, the supplies will be delivered to the edge of the forest in a few minutes time. Remain away from the transport delivering them because that machine holds violently terminal weapons you do not want to be directed toward yourself or your people.”

“As you say, so shall it be done,” Sven said. “Thank you from myself and the tribes of this new nation. Your crimes, and those of your followers are absolved with this favor, and the accusations considered to be null and void.”

“Is Sly still with you?” Star asked, feeling warm inside in absorbing Sven’s words.

His statement was the very first statement of approval she’d ever received from any of the refashioned states or leaders of them at any level, and even that was only a blanket forgiveness for ridiculous sins instead of compliments for what she’d obviously accomplished. Sven would return to the gathered state leaders as a triumphant hero, but not her.

“No, I have kept the radio for communication and he has gone his way toward some residence he says hangs over the very edge of a distant valley.”

“Holy hell,” Jameson said, turning to re-arm himself, gathering up Star’s rifle as he did so.

“The food is being delivered now,” Star said. “Please cut off communications with the tribes now, Jordan,” she went on. “And, how long before the transport returns?”

“Damn,” Jameson swore. “We can’t let the transport return and have the door gaping open when Sly gets back.”

“Unless you initiate the transports defense mechanisms, that is,” Ninety-One added.

“Yes, there’s that,” Star replied. “Let’s get ready to defend this place again.”