Tony Ballantyne

Blood and Iron

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

I have cried desperately for help but still it does not come.

During the day I call to you, my God but you do not answer,

I call at night, but get no rest…

From Psalm 22
The Story of Kavan and Karel

This is the story of Kavan and Karel, who fought when they were a thousand miles apart and endured a bitter truce when together.

Both represented their states, though neither was of their states.

At the time of their making, Artemis and Turing City were the two greatest states on the continent of Shull. The robots of Turing City were made to respect themselves and others as individuals; the robots of Artemis were made to place the state above all else. Turing City celebrated the ascendancy of the mind. Its streets and buildings were artfully planned and decorated, its parliament and forges rang to the sound of vigorous debate as the robots discussed the philosophy of their state and others. Artemis City saw no distinction between the twisted metal that formed a robot’s mind and any other metal. Its forges rang to the noise of hammers, building the army that was already marching into other states and claiming them for its own. Already the robots of Artemis City were looking beyond Shull and thinking of other continents they could subsume. Some had even dared to think of moving beyond the planet of Penrose itself. Little were they to know that other planets were looking to them.

But that is not part of this story, rather it is part of Blood and Iron, the story that follows.

Now, Karel was a child of war. His mother was forced to weave his mind from the metal of an Artemisian soldier. All through the making of the mind, the soldier taunted the mother by asking which philosophy she had chosen to weave, but Liza refused to answer. So Karel grow up surrounded by suspicion, never quite trusted by any robot save Susan, his wife, and that was only because Susan had been woven to love Karel. When Artemis turned its attention towards Turing City, many doubted where Karel’s loyalties lay.

Kavan was not made in Artemis, but no one doubted his loyalties. It was said that his mother came from Segre, that she had looked at the way the world was moving and wove the Artemisian philosophy into her son, believing it to be the best route to his survival. If that were true, she wove better than most mothers of Artemis itself. Artemis welcomed all robots who were willing to follow Nyro’s way, so Kavan became a member of the Artemisian infantry. He gained status all the time in the eyes of other Artemisians, eventually leading the final push that ensured the fall of the state of Wien. So great was his following by this time that Spoole, first amongst equals of the Generals who led Artemis City, began to regard him as a threat. It was Spoole who ordered Kavan to attack Turing City, reasoning that whether Kavan or Turing City fell, he would rid himself of one of the greatest threats to his leadership.

Kavan succeeded in taking Turing City, and during the battle Karel saw his son killed, his wife taken into slavery and all he believed in destroyed. Karel’s mind was removed from his own body and set to driving a diesel engine in support of the Artemisian war effort.

Now all of Shull knew Kavan’s name, and Karel hated him. Karel blamed Kavan for the death of his son, the loss of his wife, and his enslavement.

But did Kavan know of Karel? For Karel was still spoken of by many robots, mentioned by some as a traitor who had betrayed Turing City, mentioned by others as the coming mind that was referred to in the almost mythical Book of Robots.

Perhaps Kavan was yet to hear of Karel, but the time was approaching when the two robots would certainly know of each other’s existence. When that happened, life on Penrose would change forever.

Here the story of Karel and Kavan fragments into many versions. All agree that Kavan was sent by Spoole to conquer the kingdoms of northern Shull, for Spoole still feared Kavan, and did not wish him to return to Artemis City at the head of an army.

Artemisian records were second to none, and most survived the coming troubles that were to beset Artemis City, so it is without doubt that Karel travelled north, carrying troops and other materiel to support the invasion.

All of the accounts agree that Karel and Kavan met on the northern coast of Shull and that Karel fought Kavan, but before the outcome could be resolved, circumstances forced them to go their separate ways. It is also agreed that it was on the northern coast that Karel finally understood his own nature. He saw that the anger within him was so powerful he would never accept the world as it was, and would instead try to change it. In this, he was unusual indeed amongst robots, most of whom had their beliefs set when their minds were woven.

The different versions of the stories arise in their recounting of what happened just before they fought, when Karel and Kavan entered an ancient building that stood on an island just off the coast of Shull said to hold the proof of the origins of life on Pen-rose.

In some stories, the building is said to hold a copy of the Book of Robots, the book that contains the instructions for building the original robot mind.

In other stories, the building is said to contain proof that robots evolved naturally on Penrose.

All these stories agree on only one point.

When Karel and Kavan entered the building, they found the titles of three stories written in metal on the far wall.

The Story of Nicolas the Coward

The Story of the Four Blind Horses and

The Story of Eric and the Mountain

Ruth Powdermaker, 2141

(For a fuller, though less rigorous and occasionally historically inaccurate retelling of the history of Penrose immediately before the arrival of the human race, see Twisted Metal by Tony Ballantyne.)

Merriac’s Robots

From all over Shull, trains were converging on Artemis City.

They carried the spoils of war, materials captured by the Artemisian army in its conquest of the continent. Long chains of rolling stock, bumping together, shaking the dust from the coal and ore in the hoppers; rippling the oil and the acid in the brim-filled tankers; rattling the metal plate and wire stacked on the trucks; and unnerving the prisoners crowded together in the locked wagons.

‘We’re almost there,’ said the robot by the door, peering out through the crack. ‘I can see the glow from the forges.’

A low hiss of static swept through the tightly packed wagon, the sound of barely restrained fear.

‘They say that the Artemisians allow you to enlist in their army!’

‘They say that they only destroy the old and the damaged!’

‘They say that if you can prove yourself there’s always a place for you in Artemis City!’

The tightly packed robots looked at one another for comfort, dark shapes striped in the red light squeezing through cracks in the panelling.

‘Not true, I’m afraid,’ said the robot by the door.

He was different from the rest of them. They had been herded onto the train at some tiny little city state in northern Shull, just a few forges and fortifications clinging to the side of a hill. They built themselves all in the same manner, tall and thin, of copper and iron. The man by the door was different. A little shorter and stronger, he wove the electromuscle in his arms and legs in a thicker pattern.

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