A Short Story by Edmund J. Janas, II
The first Short Story illustrated by AI as far as we know
Co-Illustrated by the AI known as Dall-E Mini
See Revision 1 co-illustrated by Dall-E2
It was her initiation day, the most important day for a young Amazon. Angazia chose to be initiated into the Queen’s Guard, the most demanding class of warriors. No woman from the House of Delphi has held that rank since her great-great-grandmother. Council Mother explained that Angazia’s three qualifying labors, which would be broadcast across the Biferon, would have to be grand indeed to be worthy of the Queen’s Guard.
Inwardly, Angazia’s first labor frightened her; upon seeing Biferon images of the mutant fisher cats hunting the children down and tearing them apart, she almost, but did not, flinch. If any Amazon Warrior class showed weakness, it was punishable by excommunication or death. Yet the mutant beasts did frighten her, unrelenting dark wailing things with hooked barbs that prick the flesh with toxins to immobilize their prey.
If any creature could scare her half to death, it would be a mutant fisher cats standing twelve feet tall on their hindquarters. They are impossible to see coming at night, stealthy, slinking low to the ground, silent stalkers with glowing eyes. And their wails were almost human; they were always hungry, always yelling and shoving their barbs into any creature unfortunate enough to cross their paths. The Biferon flew over the creatures, and it showed one throw a village child up into the air so the child landed on the other creature’s spikes like a rag doll; the other creatures pounced and clawed off its flesh. Insatiable feeders that never stop eating.
“Angazia, Your first labor is to kill this abomination!” Mother said as she pointed to the largest of the dark beasts.
Surprisingly, the killing of the mutant beast went well, Angazia lured the beast into an underpass within a cavern with its mate’s scent and then launched an energy blast to the rocks on the ridge, which fell and crushed the beast and its mate far below. No other warrior in recent memory had ever killed such a threatening beast in so short a time. Mother said ratings on the Biferon were the highest of the season; she told Angazia that she brought great honor to the house of Delphi and her kills honored the Fates. Then, as if the fates smiled on Angazia twice in one day, in the middle of the night, the Eye of Biferon flew up to her encampment when it heard
Angazia screaming in pain as a synthetic burrowing worm pierced through her leg; Angazia smartly made a show of it. Knowing millions were watching, she grabbed her dagger and stabbed her thigh until the creature was exposed, then she pulled it out of her flesh as it screeched for mercy. That made Angazia a star even among the badland exiles. She was now a household name. Sister Tribes all over the planet watched on and waited for her to destroy the male cyborg. It made for excellent viewing pleasure, but most of all, it was designed to instill fear in men, who all Amazons just knew were watching.
The hard part was over; now Angazia just had to kill a man and have a vision in the Womb of the Earth and she could join the Queen’s Guard. Killing a man is a fairly procedural affair; a trespassing cyborg had been spotted near the edge of the forest for some days.
Angazia made her way into the inner forest and found fresh cyborg tracks; she wanted to focus on her objective, but the occasional noise of the Biferon made it hard to concentrate. By the cyborg’s gait, she estimated his height to be at least eight feet tall. She followed the tracks to a ridge overlooking the forest valley below. It was lush and green, and above it was a waterfall that misted the air around her. Above her, white and multicolored birds flew around, some synthetic and some natural, cawing and chirping. She rested on a felled tree, examined her weapons, and checked her energy levels to assure she had enough power in her armor to take on a cyborg of his size; she felt confident she could. She knew men were constantly modifying their bodies and they could be any ratio of man to machine. She calibrated her weapons to have the deadliest impact.
Angazia sat there wondering what the world of men was like, far beyond the badlands where the exiles lived. She heard there was no life there, no animals… just man and machine.
Angazia felt the spray of the waterfall turn warm suddenly and a red mist enveloped her.
Before she could realize it was her blood, her feet lifted off of the ground and a tearing pain shot through her shoulders. She screamed in agony as the world below her feet disappeared. Pyron wings, large and black, covered her field of vision and she heard energy blasts from below. The Pyron let out a death cry and her heart pounded as she was suddenly in free-fall, spinning towards the falls below.
The Biferon moved out of her way.
Right before she hit the water, she saw the cyborg man on the riverbank, his metal-white body shining in the sun, his energy weapon still glowing blue. The next moment it seemed as if his hand reached into the icy water and pulled Angazia out to safety… his jetpack ignited and they flew off into the distance at a rate many times faster than the Biferon. And that was the last thing the audience saw for nearly three days.
Angazia awoke on the bank of a river coughing and gasping; without delay, he went to work on her wounds, binding her shoulder gashes with a glue-like substance that shot out of his left appendage. It changed into a skin under his laser. He gathered rocks and heated them with his hands for the cold night ahead, and for nearly three days, the cyborg nursed Angazia back to health.
Her appetite returned as she woke to see an elegant cyborg darting back and forth, preparing a meal. She could smell something cooking and her stomach growled. He was humming as he cooked the fish and she could hear the sound of broth bubbling.
“Good morning!” Cyborg greeted in a chipper voice, unlike one she had ever heard before.
“Good… morning,” Angazia said hesitantly.
“It seems the worst is over, young lady.”
“Who are you?”
“I am called Fibian.”
“Are you a… man?”
Fibian stopped stirring the soup and tilted his head, wondering.
“Mostly, I suppose. Mostly machine, but also… genetically… male. So yes, I am a man.” He went back to stirring the soup.
“So it’s true, your kind do talk a lot.”
“Breakfast is served!”
And so the two sat on the riverbank by a dying fire and talked.
“Is it true that there are no animals out there?”
“True, only synthetic life forms. But they are programmed to meet our needs.”
“They harvest all we need from chemicals from our environment.”
“Why are you intruding into Amazon territory?”
Fibian stopped and thought.
“To meet you, I suppose.”
“You. I’m on a mission… and I need your help.”
“Why not get help from the exiles? I’m told they’re sympathetic towards men.”
“Would you believe me if I told you that this is not what it appears to be, Huntress?”
“I was sent here to find you, specifically. Our oracle says you offer the best odds of success—your initiation and proximity to the queen. You believe you were sent here to hunt me, and you will. We must make that part believable if our plan is to work.”
“But I must tell you something first. It is a matter of utmost importance. Mankind and womankind separated a thousand years ago, as decreed by the New Lawgivers. Though we evolve and replicate quite differently, both our kinds are dying, Angazia.”
“How do you know my name?”
“I’ve been watching your show.” He tapped the machine part of his head. “Fake, but entertaining. Where was I? Yes, men. Our machine nature has nearly overtaken our human nature and our lands have become polluted beyond repair. Now the whole Earth is in peril once again… but this time, we can’t repair it. Our leaders have begun shutting down and on each continent, one cyborg is attempting to make contact with one of your kind to seek reunion.”
“Ha! We’ll never allow that!” Angazia chuckled, nearly spitting out her soup.
“Well… you may not have a choice.”
“All this, all this beauty will end too. These islands of paradise that women have preserved will not last much longer than the outside world. Every attempt to establish ties between us has only ended in bloodshed. This will save all life. You have the resources; we have the technology. But alas, cooperation, goodwill, and generosity—both sides lack that.”
“What can I do about that?”
“After your labors you are expected to take the Queen’s Guard post. Do that, then replicate… using my DNA… and present our son to the Queen. Give her my Data Core. Tell her all I have said to you. Kill me on Biferon, and make a good show of it.”
“You want me to have a male child?”
“I want you to take my genetic material and create a male offspring. Yes.”
“You want me to pollute my temple? ME, a daughter of the House of Delphi, with male DNA?”
“It is a quick and painless procedure, a little sequencing and then it’s done.”
“Goddesses, NO! I should kill you for the thought of it!”
Angazia ran off and Fibian followed for a few steps, but gave her space to process what he’d told her.
“Look around you, Angazia. In a few years, all this could be gone. We need peace, a solution to the problems that plague both our kinds. Don’t answer now… sleep on it.”
In the morning, Angazia agreed to the plan and the two staged the fight in full view of the search party and the Biferon.
A reporter announced:
“He was an outlaw, a trespasser. Yet, the weak adversary didn’t even put up a good fight until the very end. He did scream a lot, so that should earn council points.”
At Angazia’s homecoming, teenage girls in the drumline presented colors and a little girl came up to Angazia, speaking softly, “I loved the way the cyborg screamed when you ripped out his heart.” Angazia smiled an insecure smile and patted the little girl on her head.
Hypatia’s outstretched arm held a silver chain with a heart-shaped locket, and when she chanted, it opened and a green beam projected onto the smoke-filled air. It played a recap of her kill of the beast and her kill of Fibian. It showed scenes of exiles cheering, children cheering, and even the Queen watching from the royal palace. “See! Our daughter has honored us!” After Hypatia adorned her neck with the heart locket, Hypatia’s face turned pale and cold and flushed of all life. Distant Mother Amelia pushed her aside and snatched the chain from her neck, screaming, “Dishonor!”
Angazia stood there sweating and panting; it suddenly dawned on her that tears were streaming down her face. Amelia screamed, “You dishonor our House!”
And with that, the drums stopped, the cheering ceased and seemingly out of nowhere, Council Mother came swiftly zipping through the throngs riding a gravity board. She drew back her staff with her old weathered hand and struck Angazia on the side of her head. Blackness and silence followed.
For three days, Angazia slept within the Womb of the Earth as her body healed. And as she slept she had a vision of Fibian and the world being united in peace. During this time, her mothers would discuss whether death or exile would be her fate. Later, Angazia argued at her trial that she had proven valor. She claimed the cause of her tears was the pain of her wounds, not any weakness or feelings for the beast or the man she had killed.
The Council found her guilty of dishonor and condemned her to death; however, her mother and the other sisters of her House fought for her and she was given a choice: death or exile. She chose exile and was cast out into the badlands where she started a new life. A year later, she gave birth to a son, Fibian. She named him after the cyborg who had saved her life and who had given his life for their son. She told her son the story of his father’s honorable death and how he had died to save all life on Earth and how Fibian was the last hope at unifying the world. Fibian took his mother’s words to heart and, when he was older, he became a great leader and united the world under one banner: peace.