Darkness swallowed the room like a blanket, the only rouge lights were found on the myriad of buzzing equipment throughout the space. The lights were made up of tiny LED and interface displays, tiny symbols denoting various functions sprawling across the entire room of considerable size. They were mounted on shadowy equipment; small beacons of dim light in total blackness. It was in this darkness that a birth occurred, as another light dimly awoke to join the others. A single red jewel along the wall began to emit a sparing red glow, as if unsure of its own luminosity. As the machine awoke for the first time, it saw only this darkness and heard only the hum of its metallic brethren; unable to focus its perceptions on any of the tiny stars which swam through its optical processors.
Confused, the new entity began to process the data that was bombarding its fledgling consciousness: Room, 60X50 meters; unknown mechanics detected; no appreciable photon emanation; purpose… unknown. This last bit of data was processed sadly, the emotion being stored for future cerebral reference. Truly, however, the machine did not know its purpose; its memory banks consisted only of technical specifics, advanced education and martial skillsets; no mention of the reason for its awakening or its location was present in the databanks. This concerned the machine, for it could recognize that its construction was of considerable effort, and must have been accomplished for some significant event of which the machine had no knowledge of.
It was while pondering these thoughts that light was finally brought to the darkness. Large beams across the ceiling of a large laboratory sprang to life, a blinding luminescence filling the room like a tangible force. The machine now began to register its surroundings, which purely consisted of computers sandwiched between other computers across long silver worktables, their interfaces providing the twinkle which previously accompanied the darkness. Cables sprang from the metallic towers of computers like a snake swarm, traveling in more directions than the machines new mind could follow.
The computers weren’t all that was revealed however; joining the machine were 11 large humanoid figures, along the walls, just as the awoken one found himself. They each were uniquely shaped, a few were excessively large, reaching the roof of the considerable ceiling; how they would leave this space was not immediately apparent to the machine. The majority were of a height with the observing red light, which surmised its own form to be of similar humanoid shape.
Cross referencing designations observed above the other robots, the entity determined its own designation to be “X004”, its meaning unclear, but a shining truth in its current confusion. Observing its fellows, X4 determined that a truly important purpose must be necessary for their creation. Each of them wore skin of Adamantine which was itself enhanced by nanite techniques, causing it to be as reflective as a mirror. Shaped like lean athletes, the 12 robots were all held against the wall by harnesses which seemed more tools than restraints. Individual differences among them were obvious, indicating different purposes for each of them; purposes unknown… X4 thought.
A new shape came into X4’s view; it was a man. Doctor Farnsworth, Specialties: AI, Robotics, Nanite enhancement, Scalable Fusion Power Distribution. Height: 5’9 in, imperial system; Hair, eyes: color identified, Brown. Skin complexion: Color identified, chalk. Processing…. Possible organic deficiency, resulting in pale complexion. X4 considered this man, obviously his… father? The concept was new to X4… as were all concepts at this point in its existence.
Dr. Farnsworth immediately noticed the new member of his mechanical family observing him, focusing on the dim red light intently, as if trying to read the robots mind; a small smile across his pale face. “Do you know who I am?” the Dr. Asked. X4 was surprised by this question, surely Dr. Farnsworth was aware of all knowledge’s his neural interface possessed? Activating his vocal processors, X4 responded in a slightly monotone, digitized voice “Are you not aware that I contain records of nearly all scientific contributors and their projects within my databanks?”
“Of course I am Rook,” the Dr. said, his smile growing broader, success obvious in his eyes, “I was just curious if your personality subroutines were properly interfacing for proper data retrieval.”
“Identify Rook?” X4 asked as soon as the Dr. was complete.
“Rook?” the Dr. asked inquisitively. “Why? That’s your name son.”
“Copy,” X4, no, Rook replied, “New identity registered.” Rook’s head turned slightly to the side in what he assumed was an inquisitive posture. “Question: Why was my ID not already supplied in my databanks?”
Dr. Farnsworth laughed a rich baritone, filling the laboratory with an alien sound, though a happy one. “You are special Rook, alone among your brothers and sisters; you I cannot program to ID specifications. Truly, you are ‘Rook’ because that is the name I choose, do you wish another?”
Rook was confused, “Question: explain inability to program personality specifics, is that not custom android production processes?”
The doctor thought to himself, then seemed to make a decision. “I did not have the space in your neural interface for proper logic restraint chips, Rook. Much more important programming was necessary in your databanks. Though those programs won’t be utilized for some time to come…” Dr. Farnsworth trailed off at that, implying that “some time” was more than just a matter of years.
“My reasoning and your true purpose will be revealed in due time, Rook; truth be told I am fairly surprised to see you awake already. I expected your brothers and sisters which reached completion before you to awaken first.”
Rook thought on this for a moment, “I awoke because I chose to.”
“Indeed?” Dr. Farnsworth replied. “Well, sleep again for now, Rook. It will be sometime until your family is fully aware and capable to begin the tasks necessary.”
Purpose… Unknown… “What purpose…” Rook sputtered out of his vocal processor, as though it was a difficult thought to vocalize.
“Purpose?” the doctor replied, slight surprise on his face. The surprise quickly assimilated into determination as he finished his reply. “The twelve of you must stop the void itself, and if the endgame is as I expect, you Rook must save us all.”
Void? Save? Rook did not like this cryptic answer. “Further clarification required, explain Void, explain ‘Save us all’, more data necessary for proper decision protocols to analyze potential actions.”
“So many questions,” the doctor said accusingly, “Void refers to the Elemental Plane of Void, which you will find in your Meta-dimensional databanks. It is currently poised to rid the rest of the multiverse of what it considers clutter; matter.”
Rook immediately retrieved the data requested, revealing the breadth of a vast multiverse hidden in his knowledge databases. This multiverse consisted of many types of realms: A series of connected physical realms within a ‘Prime’, the inhabitants of which included the doctor’s people, an incredibly advanced civilization that long ago learned to bend space and time to their will by technological force. Above the prime (or below) were the co-existent dimensions of the Astral and Ethereal planes, each a slightly different quantum reflection of ‘the space between’. Outside of these rose the Outer Planes, dimensions where beings of advanced quantum potential forged whole realities, only to please their individual moral requirements. And finally, energies of elemental forces connected in the Lower Planes, a series of dimensional folds separated by their unique physical characteristic; Void being one of these dimensional planes.
The flood of information nearly overwhelmed Rook, as he absorbed the vast cosmos in an instant; devouring the data his neural network revealed like a starving animal. “Where are we now Doctor?” Rook asked.
“Currently we reside in a laboratory provided by the Believers of the Source in the city of Sigil. We were commissioned by ‘The Lady’ for some very important business Rook, business which may stop the Void.”
Rook’s memory banks revealed information on the Godsmen of Sigil as well as a series of other factions, data on each whirling through his head, painting a thick tapestry that was ‘The City of Doors’.
“My databanks indicate that this culture is highly adept at reality manipulation through quantum observational techniques. Why did they commission technological entities such as myself?” This was a logic hole for Rook; these reality manipulations should be capable of anything that his own creator civilization could accomplish.
Though the techniques by which his systems controlled the physical forces of matter and gravity on a sub-quantum scale did provide certain advantages not easily accomplished by the fickle use of observational techniques.
“‘The Cage’ must be unlocked Rook, and if their ‘magic’ could be the key, it would have snapped open long ago.” The doctor sighed after this, as if reflecting on past events, “No, after studying Sigil, my colleagues and I have determined the process necessary to unlock this puzzle. You and your ‘family’ are the tools for completing this process.”
Rook contemplated this, ‘The Cage’; its mention brought a chill to Rooks metallic spine. He now understood his ‘purpose’. His databanks poured line after line of data into his mind, the technical specifications of Sigil, and the necessary tasks that will be performed by the 12 androids to unlock the cage. The tasks weren’t of small significance either. Thousands of doors must be unlocked within a ‘City of Doors’ in order to unlock the final door.
“When am I to begin, doctor?” Rook asked after an eternity of thought, or a few moments in actuality.
“Soon Rook, very soon; your ‘end’, however, I fear will be long beyond the end of everything…”
250 YEARS LATER
Rook stood alone in the final control room, his brothers and sisters in the adjoining room, interfaced with ‘The CAGE’ (Continuity Alternation Guidance Engine). It was the final end-game; his actions would determine the fate of not only himself, but of an entire multiverse.
The Void which overwhelmed the cosmos was unstoppable. Everything was consumed in its path reality torn asunder in its wake. This wasn’t the ultimate fate of reality though, Dr. Farnsworth was able to determine that another universe would take the place of the one consumed by entropy It was the goal of himself, and many others, from Gods to peasants, to ensure that it was their own reality that returned to fill the void. That was ‘the purpose’.
For the last quarter millennia, Rook’s siblings had been collecting all the information they could to provide an index of their entire multiverse. Time was however relative, as their journeys were through the very fabric of their multiverse in order to preserve everything possible. It was with this knowledge, and CAGE that Rook would be able to ‘mold’ the new universe into the cosmology and existence of the previously consumed multiverse. Rook only waited for the final moments of existence before he could begin.
The control room for CAGE was unlike anything Rook’s travels had ever uncovered. It was a sphere of considerable height, even to Rook’s impressive 7 and half feet. The walls were made seemingly of transparent glass, though nothing was visible on the other side. Rook found the interface controls to come instinctual to his artificial brain as display screens began to materialize in the air surrounding Rook, displaying various data sets.
What Rook found in the data was astounding; the entire cosmos were displayed at his will, as bleak as they were these days. Rook focused on a single planet in the Prime material plane, the only remaining jewel in what was once a sea of gems. The screen displayed statistics of populations, and military strength; outlining the reality discordance technology surrounding the planets immediate space, the reason for its survival. It’s yellow star was in shreds as void gnawed on its sister planets, yet still the one stood, defiant against fate itself. Though defiance always has limits… Rook thought.
Next Rook found a battle raging in the Outlands of the Upper Planes; Devils, Gods, Demons, Heroes, Dragons and any other countless powerful beings struggled against pure entropy, a struggle that was in vain. Rook looked on in amazement as once bitter rivals fought side by side in a losing battle for their very existence. In disparagement, entire sections of the planes fell to void, the River Styx emptied into the ravine that was once Gehanna. The gears of Mechanus strewn about the fields of Archon like a child’s toy set. Pandemonium and Limbo writhed together like a miasma inside the void, the Githzerai standing firm, their Observation of reality proving to be the only effective force against the Void, though not effective enough.
Briefly Rook found himself observing the Inner Planes, mostly only destroyed heaps now, remnants the void had yet to finish consuming. However, even in this desolation, resistance remained. Here and there Jinni and Effrit could be seen struggling against the Void, massive Golems coming to their aid. Whole oceans attacked with beings of pure energy riding their waves. All for naught, Rook thought, as he saw each elemental fall before the Void in its own time. A screen caught Rooks attention, were the Astral Sea came to light. Even at the End of Days, the Astral Seas silver glow remained. The Void slowly gnawed at the corners of the Sea, slowly consuming the silver nothing that made up its ocean. Within the silver, massive ships could be seen in conflict with the Void, fruitless battles that always ended the same. Still the void gnawed away, devouring vessel after vessel.
This continued for some time, and Rook could only watch in abject horror as force after force lost against the Void. The CAGE wouldn’t be utilized until all was lost, the Void must be complete in order for proper manipulations to take place during the natural birth of the next universe. It was as the end neared that Rook first realized something wasn’t right. Bringing a systems display to the fore, Rook confirmed that not only was his brothers and sisters no longer interfaced with CAGE, but that they were no longer even in the adjoining room. In fact, the room was not even present. This was not part of the expected operations of CAGE, and precluded completion of the necessary protocols. In frustration Rook began to scour the monitors for some indication of location for himself or his brothers and sisters.
He immediately located his family, in the room outside of the CAGE facility? Then why did he not register their presence? After a moment of review, Rook realized their error. The Central Control room for CAGE was not where they thought it was at all, in fact, Rook had no clue where he was at the moment. The Standard cosmology chart provided by the CAGE displays indicated that his location was not in the standard multiverse.
Panic began to rise in Rook as he worked at speeds only he and his fellows could achieve in order to reestablish the connection with the other eleven; their databanks were crucial for the manipulations. Rook himself did limited observing for this event, he instead was relegated to defending Sigil from the Void while the data was recovered; meanwhile being tutored by Dr. Farnsworth for this task. A task he seemed doomed to fail in.
An eternity passed as Rook vainly attempted to finalize the connection, each final shred of reality slowly being consumed. The light of Rook’s eye shone in a bright fury as his arms continuously punched away at monitors and keys trying to affect anything, but it seemed that his fate was driven by other forces. Every effort was for naught, and Rook slowly began to realize that he would not be able to finish this task, that in the end, Dr. Farnsworth had not been adequately prepared.
Rook finally noticed that the light in the CAGE control room was beginning to dim, the void finally reaching even the heart of Sigil. He had assumed safety due to the unique nature of the CAGE, but it seemed the void would allow nothing to remain. One by one the screens went blank; not because they were forced dark, but because they had nothing else to monitor. A single observation display was still active, that Rook could see, showing the silhouette of a single ship, forgotten in a dead sea. “How forlorn,” Rook muttered out loud. In a moment, he returned to darkness; darkness he had not seen since his awakening. He had failed; a new universe would be born of other rules. He had failed and all would perish for it.
A FEW “MOMENTS” LATER
Systems rebooting: initializing self-diagnostic……….. All systems nominal, initializing sensory and kinetic sub-systems. Light flooded Rook’s optical systems; it was the light of Sigil. No, not Rook’s Sigil, he alone could detect the subtle gravimetric differences between this place and the Sigil he knew. A subroutine activated in Rook’s databanks at that realization, a subroutine Rook had not ever known was there.
Instantly an image of Dr. Farnsworth flashed before Rook’s eyes. “If this was activated then my secondary calculations proved to be accurate; how unfortunate. Mistakes CAN be made however, Rook. As I’ve taught you, time and space are really quite relative.”
The doctor then became accompanied by a slew of technical schematics and mathematics. “This Rook is the key to our redemption. These algorithms will allow you to attempt the CAGE again, this time in a functioning Multiverse. I hesitated in our own, because it will possibly destroy the current multiverse it is activated in.” The doctor paused for a moment.
“Though,” he continued, “I think it is more probable that our own Multiverse will be returned in its own dimensional parallel, leaving this imposter to its own devices; that is, if my calculations are correct.”
“But first, you must find the CAGE again. This may take some time, son, for you do not possess the key to this Sigil, nor do I believe it will even open for you. No, you must find other means into the CAGE; what this may be, I do not know.” The image shook its head sadly, as if ashamed that it could assist no further in the matter.
The Doctor smiled in Rook’s mind, “But don’t worry Rook, you are the culmination of a very advanced society, and were built to last. I have faith that you will see the end of this purpose, I have always had faith.”
With that, the image faded, along with the accompanying data files, stored away until the time they were needed for the CAGE. Standing, Rook looked at the street around him; seeing no reason to delay he entered the first ‘door’ that presented itself, beginning the search for the impossible.
“SOME” TIME LATER
Sys..t.em.s Init.t..ia..li…z.ing, eer..r.oor. Unab.le to re.g…iss.er. all da.a bank.s. Memo.ry scra..ble. ……….. System reboot complete. Self-Diagnostic complete, WARNING: Severe structural integrity damage noted! Damage to 99% of situational memory corrupted! Unable to determine cause; registering loss of immediate data banks.
Rook awoke in darkness, his red optical sensor dimly battling the dense murk. The internal damage to his systems was substantial. Systems operating at 1/8th capability; Rook realized, whatever had occurred must have been brutal. He began to register other forms in the dark, deep in slumber of some kind. Unable to determine their features in the darkness, Rook consigned himself to waiting for whatever outcome was next. He had some time on his hands before his databanks were fully repaired, and his search for CAGE was wherever he hadn’t been before, and assuredly, he had never been here before.
Something was screaming inside Rooks head, however, behind miles of damaged data sectors, and try as he might, Rook could not figure out what it was trying to tell him._ Grrav.. GGrRaavvimee… Data banks too corrupted, unable to interpret error code, disabling port._ The nagging sensation went silent, and Rook was left to his thoughts again.