Star Forgers #2: Loss/Gain

Star Forgers 7.0

Previously on Star Forgers…

The Star Forgers are a group of individuals dedicated to the relighting and creation of stars throughout the multiverse. In the World of Data, an anti-virus program is chosen to join their ranks. With his newly acquired sentience, he begins to explore what life has to offer him…

l “Lambda” A.V

Anti-Virus program given sentience. Star Forger

Doctor Deloris Envore
Entomologist, owner of Lambda

Having purged peculiar viruses from the nearby lake, Lambda makes his return trip to the 63rd-floor balcony of Doctor Envore’s tower within the Nexus. When he arrives he finds himself greeted with a bear hug by another program, a fellow Anti-Virus named Sigma. He was a tall burly man with a full beard, a constant smile, and upbeat personality. The Sigma series was commonly used with the surprisingly popular lumberjack and fisher skin packs. While capable of being companions much like the Lambda series, Sigma was more outgoing and overt in his protective nature. This one wore a deep green buttoned-up shirt with short sleeves over tan cargo pants and brown boots. “Welcome back Lamb!” Sigma says cheerfully while shaking side to side with Lambda still in his arms. His joy uncontained and constantly on display.

“Hello Sigma.” he responds shyly. Having to experience one of Sigma’s trademark bear hugs while he’s capable of actually feeling it was somewhat startling to him. “Can you put me down now?”

“Course Lamb.”

“I didn’t know you’d be here Sigma. Is Phi okay?” In the past, having multiple anti-virus programs could end up being problematic for the computer they were defending. But with the creation of Cyberspace, it was often wisest to have several for anything larger than a small apartment.

“Phi is fine, the Doctor just wanted me to give you a message when you got back.”

“A message?” Lambda asks.

“She wants us to head back to Camp. And don’t worry about the Lab, Phi and Epsilon are gonna cover us.”

“Oh, okay. Then I’ll-”

“No going on ahead either. She wants us to go the normal way.” Sigma grabs Lambda by the wrist and tosses him over his shoulder before he can fly away.

“But…” Lambda protests and struggles to escape Sigmas grip to no avail.

“Nope, Doctors orders.” Sigma smiles as begins the long arduous walk down the towers 62 other floors. He could easily use Quick Access to reach the exit and return to Reality. But following orders meant he went through every floor manually. “Mind if I ask ya something, Lamb?”

“Uh, sure?”

“How’s it being sentient?”

“Um…” Lambda thought to himself how to word the sensation as best he could. “Confusing…I know I don’t need to breathe or blink or sleep but I feel like I need to. I know what I’m programmed to respond with but I don’t always think I should respond that way. Everything I knew feels different now. Now I’m questioning a lot of things I never considered before. Like is this really what thinking is like? Why’d I become sentient? What am I?”

“You’re a Lambda series anti-virus program.” Sigma responds casually.

“I know…but what am I now? We’re just meant to act like a person and also stop viruses. But now I’m…thinking…For real this time…What do you even call me now Sigma?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t answer that question.”

“I wish somebody could…”

As Lambda contemplates his existence, another sleeps without a care in the world. Wú Wěi Yuán was a lean man with wild brown hair laying on a tree branch in a forest of trees covered in pink flowers. His arms resting beneath his head and embedded in the back of his skull beneath his hair was a Star Core. Extending from it to the front of his head was an incomplete wire headband. The two wires that made each branch curving upward slightly in a loop giving it the appearance of a crown. He wore matching golden bands on his wrists that matched the one worn near the tip of his monkey-like tail. The Ankle Guards he wore were a similar golden hue albeit with an ornate design rather than a simple smooth finish. The midriff vest he wore was similarly colored gold and partly covered an 8-trigrams tattoo that took up most of his torso. A crimson tiger print loincloth was the only other article of clothing he wore. Radiants would often visit, watch over, or even continuously safeguard planets they came across in their journeys. Wú used it as an excuse to get away from his duties at times. But his sleep is disturbed by a low rhythmic hum coming from his Star Core.

“What do ya want Udona?” Wú growls annoyed at his Star Core. A little-known use of the Star Core was to communicate between Radiants across the multiverse. Unfortunately, with the loss of its infrastructure years ago has caused many abilities to be lost. Were it not for their de facto leader, Sorceress Udona, they’d be adrift in a multiversal sea.

“Is that any way to talk to a lady?” she says across the Star Core. Her voice mature with a royal air about it.

“Show me a lady and I’ll play nice.” Wú scowls and sits up from his interrupted sleep. Crossing his legs and arms like a pouting child.

“Cheeky.”

“Yeah yeah just get on with it already.”

“One of the Radiants has passed.”

“Oh wow, another dead Radiant?” Wú sarcastically replies. “Tell me something new.”

“It was Star Whisper, Wú.” she says to no reaction. “But by all means, go back to sleep.”

“Did a replacement get picked?” Wú asks with a heavy heart. Despite his demeanor, Wú was the trainer for most of the Star Forgers. Star Whisper was his latest student and one of his best. At the very least, she held a special place in his heart. “Where did she die?”

“It hasn’t gotten a designation yet. It seems to have been right near the surface of a star she relit. All I ask if you give your special brand of guidance to the young Radiant in the World of Data after you’re done.” she answers.

“Fine.” Wú’s replies without arguing. His body glows with the golden cosmic aura. His headband, golden bands, ankle guards, loincloth, and tattoo begin to shimmer with galaxies as he flies into space.

With the Star Core as his guide, Wú flies towards the sun that his planet orbited. One of the unique skills of Star Forgers that helped them navigate the multiverse was the Star Gateways. With this ability, they could use any active star as a portal connecting to any other active star in any of the Worlds. The main downside of the ability was actually knowing where you’re exit was. Most went by feel in trying to find a place that was familiar to them. Others went blindly and those who were aware of her presence, relied on Udona to guide them. Wú knew Star Whisper well and could track her on feeling alone. He entered the sun, flew fearlessly through the portal that carved its way through the astral plane. The shimmering rainbow of aether that surrounded him was like an aurora borealis. For the uninitiated it was disorienting but for a veteran like Wú, it was just a minor annoyance. His heart guided him and he returned to reality at the sun Star Whisper died to relight. It was a healthy Main Sequence Star that began now had several planets forming in orbit around it. In a few million years, this new World may begin to sustain life. He could sense that she was here in the cosmic dust that filled the void but he could also sense the former presence of a Rift Gate.

“Sue…” Wú mutters while letting the cosmic dust flow through his fingers. His eyes full of sadness and heart full of rage at her death. A rage that sparked his headband to glow and cause immense pain to course through his body. He takes a deep breath and begins meditating to calm down. The more he relaxes the less pain he must experience. But the pain told him what he needed to do. He entered the Star Gateway once more and followed his heart. The gateway curving like a snake through the astral plane. But rather than exiting a Star, he found himself floating above a field of flowers. In the distance, he could make out mountains, rivers, and the occasional castle. A paradise that seemed unaffected by any sort of conflict. Wú soars through the sky towards the nearest castle where all walks of life from seemingly all possible timelines went about their daily lives peacefully.

“Halt!” a woman clad in silver and azure armor wielding a javelin and shield calls out as she flies to meet Wú. Her armor was smooth and polished yet still somewhat bulky in covering her thin frame. Her skin was pale and fiery red hair tied braided into two ponytails that felt onto both sides of her neck. She was a Valkyrie charged with ferrying pure souls to the paradise known as Valhalla. “A Radiant? We’ve not seen one of your kind in ages.”

“Fighting Angels tend to do that.” Wú scowls at her. His headband flickering slightly and causing a brief but sharp pain.

“You fight a noble cause Radiant.” she banishes her weapons and gives Wú a slight bow and salute. “Should you meet a natural end there is a place in Valhalla for you all.”

“Thanks…I guess…” Wú replies awkwardly. He knew she was well-meaning despite the poor wording.

“Tell me, what mission brings you here?” she asks.

“I was looking for someone. A friend, she was a Radiant like me and died recently.”

“My apologies Radiant, but many souls come through Valhalla’s gates. Surely you’ve more details to aid the search.”

“She was from the World of Henshin, her Star Core was in her navel. She was annoyingly cheerful, painfully upbeat, and disgustingly optimistic. Her name was Sue…I don’t know what her last name was though. She preferred to be called Star Whisper.” he said with blatant disdain. The Valkyrie easily saw through his ruse.

“I’m sorry for your loss Radiant.” she puts her hand on his left shoulder. “When Star Forgers perish, the Star Core does not travel with them to the afterlife even if it remains intact. Were she here I’ve no way of locating her. But if she truly means that much to you. If she really was the light of your heart, she has found peace here. Wherever she may be.” she tries to assure Wú. His eyes and head hung low at the uncertainty of her fate. Either she was erased from reality or hidden somewhere in Valhalla beyond his reach.

“Thank you…” Wú pauses and waits for her to say her name.

“Ceres.”

“Thank you Ceres.” he performs a bao quan, placing his left hand open atop his right fist and extends it slightly towards the Valkyrie. “If you do find her…”

“I believe Queen Angela would have no objections to you seeing her.” Ceres smiles.

“Thank you.” Having no other reason to remain, Wú leaves using the Star Gateway once more. But this time, the journey leads him to a star formation he’d grown accustomed to seeing. A single Main Sequence Star with 8 planets. The first four separated from the latter four by an asteroid belt. The third blue-hued planet was frequently called Earth and capable of sustaining life. This would be the first place he checked.

Elsewhere, Lambda & Sigma finally reach the bottom of the Doctor Envore’s tower after what felt like an eternity. There the hulking program releases Lambda. Together they step on a diamond-shaped platform on the floor that phases them out of the digital Nexus into the pseudo-digital Cyberspace that used to be Earth. While in the Nexus they were in a tower, in Cyberspace they were inside a modestly sized building made of wood that didn’t intrude upon the natural landscape. When the pair finishes phasing between the two zones, they find themselves in what looked like a garage decorated with balloons and banners. A banner with the words Happy Birthday Lambda hung as the first thing he saw. The second was Doctor Envore and several other programs exclaiming surprise in unison.

“Birthday?” Lambda says confused at the sight. For a second his mind goes blank and he’s totally unsure how to respond. Even his programming wasn’t designed to handle actually getting treated so kindly. “I…um…”

“I know we’ve been together a few years but until recently I’m ashamed to say I never really thought about something like this for you.” Doctor Envore explains with an awkward smile. “Do you like it? I’m not sure you being sentient meant you can taste food now but I still got a cake just in case.”

“I…” Lambda can’t find the words to express himself and begins welling up with tears of confused joy. Before he gained sentience he was never treated poorly but now he could properly understand and feel how well he was treated and how much she went out of her way for him.

“Oh, honey.” Doctor Envore hugs the confused program who hugs her back. “Come on, I have a gift for you.” she lets go of Lambda and walks over to a shopping bag. “I may have told a little white lie earlier about the Virus. I just needed some time to set this all up. Happy Birthday.” she hands the bag to Lambda.

“Thank you.” he replies before looking in the bag and unwrapping the neatly wrapped gift carefully. Doing all he can to not tear the paper or ruin the shimmering blue bow. Inside was a tan short sleeved button up shirt, matching pants that could zip off at the knees to become shorts, a pair walking sneakers and a pair of walking sandals. “Clothes?”

“I honestly wasn’t sure how the old programs would work with you now. So I thought I should get you something real you could wear whenever we’re out instead of that armor.”

“We?”

“Of course, we’ve always been family but now you aren’t forced to stay here. You can go where you want.” she says to Lambdas confusion. Part of him knew he could go where he wanted but he never actually considered going without getting permission beforehand. Lambda looks back into the box one last time and finds a card that he begins to read.

Dear Junsui, we may have known each other for years but today is a new beginning. You’re not the same meek program I brought to help with my work. You’re my family, my son, who I can’t wait to see grow. Love, Deloris.

“Junsui?” Lambda looks up at Doctor Envore.

“It’s your name, it wouldn’t be right to just call you by your species. Do you like it?”

Lambda, now Junsui, just nods his head with tear-filled eyes before flying into Doctor Envore’s arms once more. His mind and programming matching his appearance of still being a young man. The sudden act of kindness was overwhelming for him. The sensation of being happy yet crying was confusing but oddly comforting in a way. He wasn’t fully human, but now he could slowly start to learn to live as one.

Next Issue

Star Forgers Chapter 3- Leaving the Nest

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