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Evolving a Competition
Since she could remember, Kirelna had known competition by the scruff of its neck: a floundering, writhing creature of life throwing all the knives and calling all the shots. It was easy to say that competition controlled Kirelna’s life. Everyday, she strived to gain or win something by defeating or establishing a superiority over others who were trying to do the same, whether it be by getting to class the earliest or by making the majority of points for her team’s win in an undefeated season. Kirelna tried to balance herself between the categories she chose to participate in. She devoted thirty percent of her time to academics, thirty percent of her time to athletics, and the rest of her time to the arts, more specifically music. Since the discovery of her precocious mind and prodigal ability at the violin at age four, Kirelna had no trouble placing all of her focus into a single event and watching proudly as her hard work unfolded something truly magnificent. Though her mental ability was far superior to her peers, Kirelna still felt a void of emptiness growing larger and larger inside of her as she continued competing. On a dreary November day, Kirelna thought she found the root of her inexplicable troubles.
Returning from another successful day from school, Kirelna greeted her mother, who was leaving for work, without the usual hug and retelling of her day’s events. “Mother,” Kirelna said curtly. She stopped, suddenly unable to find the right way to convey her news.
“Kirelna?” her mother asked, patiently waiting for an explanation in the sudden change of tradition.
Having found her words, Kirelna continued on, “I want to inform you that I will be withdrawing from all of my academic and athletic activities, save the routine exercises, starting today.” Kirelna watched as her mother expectedly struggled to deal with her sudden change of plans.
Her mother spoke again, “And what exactly do you plan to do? You know, you have been gifted with an extraordinary mind, not to mention how much effort you have put into perfecting your mental capabilities, and to think that-”
Kirelna interrupted her saying, “I am aware of the positive changes in the society that I could induce in the future, but I have a plan. I am going to focus solely on music. I didn’t tell you this before, but I have been accepted into Albéniz Academy of Arts and Music. I received the letter yesterday-”
It was mother’s turn to cut her off, “Kirelna! Do you not think as a mother that I should have some influence on your future career? Why are you making this arbitrary change anyways?”
Kirelna sighed. “I just feel like I am perhaps spreading myself too thin by focusing on such a wide array of things. Last month, I won the National Athlete Award, and just last week, I competed in and won the Annual International Physics Olympiad. I even raced a blowing leaf on the sidewalk on my way home. Competition is making too large of a presence in my life, and because of that, I’m boring!” Kirelna exclaimed, growing livelier with her unpredicted discovery. “Yeah, that’s what I am! Boring! I don’t even have a special field of interest, one that is truly specific to me because everything is specific to me! That’s why I am going to end with music, the same thing I started with. I want to be a concert violinist,” Kirelna finished.
“Kirelna honey, you’re only sixteen. You do so well in everything you try because you truly care about them. That doesn’t make you boring. It makes you an individual; your creativity flows through you when you compete because that’s how you express yourself. Besides, you haven’t had enough experience to decide what you truly want to be,” said her mother.
“What are you trying to say?” asked Kirelna.
Her mother laughed. “I’m saying that you can go to Albéniz, but you are absolutely not dropping out of your academics,” answered her mother.
Kirelna grew frustrated. Why couldn’t her mother understand? She absolutely needed to focus all of her energy on music. She didn’t need distractions from varsity swimming or quantum mechanics, and she absolutely loathed having an unexplainable vacuum gnaw at her bones.
“Mother, I am sure you don’t understand. I won’t need what I’m doing in school for playing music. I don’t-”
“Kirelna! I thought you of all people would know the importance of a higher education! I’m not sure when you’ll realize that, but right now, I have to leave, or I’ll be late for work. I don’t know what suddenly got into you! I thought you enjoyed doing what you did,”
“I do! I love it, but-”
“Then no but’s. You just made an uninformed decision concerning your future. There are many productive members of society, such as scientists, who shine in the arts as well as the sciences. I am telling you, your mind would be much more valuable in a STEM field than in the arts,” lectured her mother. Before Kirelna could argue any further, her mother hurriedly grabbed her coat and purse and left the house.
Unable to get anything else out, Kirelna hopelessly called, “But I leave tomorrow for Albéniz!”
“Then you better be done packing before I come back from work!” replied her mother from the driveway.
Angry that her mother didn’t understand the importance of music to her, Kirelna left to her room. As she pulled out her dusty suitcase from beneath the bed, a violent tremor shook her body. Her mind blacked out as two more tremors completed their course. She reeled backward and then forward as if her body were trying to get rid of some sort of invisible army of parasites. Her eyes lost their shine as she stiffened into a robot-like stance. Her jaw and vocal cords moved in sharp, jolted movements as she uttered monotonously, “Autopilot off.”
Dr. Nident closed the portal from the past with her watch. Why was her intern taking so long on the first test run of their collaborative time-travelling apparatus? The doctor examined her watch again, trying to gain a signal from Kirelna, but no such marker showed up. However, the marker for Dr. Aguilar was bobbing up and down with a label that read 6/14/1997. The marker stopped moving as the numbers in the label accelerated until they reached the current date. As if on cue, Dr. Aguilar appeared from a portal on the platform beside her. The crew in front of them applauded both on their successful journey as the government official supervising them unlocked their safety suits and took their watches away. The safety suit’s purpose was to prevent its wearer from creating any changes in the environment he or she chose to travel to while the watch was a source of communication between the travelers and the base.
“Well, how did you feel watching your favorite team win again?” asked Dr. Nident.
“It was just as heart-warming as the first time I experienced it,” replied Dr. Aguilar with a smile. Frowning, he asked, “Did you try to communicate with Kirelna? I couldn’t receive a signal from her.”
“I tried that, but I couldn’t get a signal either. We’ll give her a few more minutes before we chase after her,” replied Dr. Nident.
“Sounds good to me. Theoretically speaking, we could have the video camera of life in front of us. After all, life is a circle, so if we go back far enough, we could actually be at the very edge of humanity,” said Dr. Aguilar.
“It is very possible, but our time machine isn’t strong enough to do that yet. Since we can only travel to the past, we have a lot of research to finish if we want to go to the future as well,” said Dr. Nident. “And besides, our next job is to see if we can overstep the boundary that separates the future from the past.”
Another thirty minutes of anxious striding and unnecessary technical checks passed before the diagnostics crew failed to come up with an answer as to why there was no means of communication between the base and Kirelna. An informant called out, “It’s official; we’ve lost her.”
Dr. Aguilar turned to Dr. Nident and asked, “You don’t think she, uh, did anything to her suit and watch, do you?”
Dr. Nident glanced at the government official before answering. “Of course not. She took an oath, and she is a brilliant and hardworking scientist. She would know better than to cheat us. Besides, Senator Standish actually recommended her to the team after we spent four years working our butts off just trying to get a grant from him. And also, if she took off her suit, she would die in a matter of minutes due to the atmospheric conditions at her chosen destination,” said Dr. Nident.
“Ok, ok, but how are we going to look for her? Our allowance for today’s time travel is up,” said Dr. Aguilar. Both doctors eyed the government official standing in the corner.
Dr. Nident sighed. “The only and fastest way to get her back to base is by somehow getting permission to receive physical contact with the past. We could prevent sending Kirelna to the past altogether,” she said.
“Well, that brings Kirelna back, but it doesn’t explain why have a flaw in our project,” remarked Dr. Aguilar.
As if to answer his question, the previous informant who declared that Kirelna was lost called out again, “We have found a programming and calculation error in our time machine.”
Both doctors, followed by the government official, rushed toward the diagnostics wing as someone informed them, “The time machine port through which Kirelna left calculated three hundred and fifty point zero-zero-zero years as three hundred and fifty thousand years. Long story short, the decimal point was read as a comma used for separating digits.”
“So Kirelna is near at the point where humans are evolving. What help does that provide? We clearly defined our boundaries as the start of the universe to a Planck- time ago,” Dr. Aguilar commented. His remark then set off a line of proposals made by nearly every scientist in the room as to why they had lost connection with Kirelna. While they were heatedly arguing about a speculative error in the calculations, they failed to notice that the government official had discreetly exited the base through the large metal doors.
Senator Anthony Standish had just taken off his costume before he clumsily fumbled with his phone, trying to contact Angela, his secretary. Having found her number, he waited for the call to go through as reality crashed down on him in full force. His lucky streak was over; he had made a big mistake, and it was time for him to get off of the face of planet Earth before something dramatic happened.
A voice was emitted from the phone: “Hello, you have reached the office of Secretary Golden. Please leave your name-” Standish angrily snapped his phone shut and cursed at the fact that he had reached Angela’s voicemail. Things had taken a turn for the worst.
Standish frantically looked for the number belonging to the Aerospatial Travel Agency in the hope that he would be able to purchase a last-minute ticket to a shuttle that was about to depart to the moon before the whole world would be thrown back three hundred and fifty thousand years. Just as Standish was about to make his inquiry, a wave of vertigo hit him as if he were a sailboat being overtaken by a tsunami. Standish lost his grip on his phone as he saw the world around him spiral in circles. Oh no, he thought, it’s happening. Without warning, Standish’s whirling spell ended as he blacked out on the ground.
Standish awoke shorty after to find himself being carried by some sort of strange animals. As he looked closer at the creatures behind him, he saw that they were almost identical to the evolving humans, a combination of the modern man with an ape that he had seen in a biology textbook: they were walking awkwardly and cumbersomely on two legs, and the arms of the creatures swung stupidly by their sides. The heads were pitifully smaller, even smaller than that of an ape or of any such creature for that matter; the forehead region of the fully-grown creatures seemed like they could fit on the area of Standish’s palm. They must have a pretty small brain, he thought. As he was processing his thoughts, he realized that it was that darned bacteria! They must have escaped from the injection’s vial. The immune systems of the evolving what-should-have-been-the-modern-humans-but-are-now-some-ugly-zombies were very weak. The bacteria must have spread like wildfire because the creatures were highly susceptible to any new bacterial infection.
The procession of the creatures continued until they stopped at some sort of nesting site.
There, Standish was roughly thrown to the ground. Some sort of netting was quickly thrown over him and secured to prevent his escape. When he looked up, he found the emotionless eyes of Kirelna staring down at him.
“Greetings master. Welcome to my home. Meet my family,” it said in a feminine monotone voice.
“Kirelna, Kirelna! Please help me! I don’t know where I am! And who changed your settings?” blurted Standish in puzzlement.
Without responding, Kirelna brought down a jagged rock on Standish’s wrist. He watched with mortification as his hand separated from the rest of his body, covering the ground with a pool of dark blood.
“Kirelna! What have you done?” Standish screamed with pain. Kirelna continued to mash the watch to pieces as Standish realized that he had just lost his hope of getting back to the world as he had known. Also, no one at base was even wearing a watch because he had collected all the watches at base to enforce his official behavior. Kirelna had created an unwanted ripple in the fabric of time. Base didn’t even exist. The time machine was gone, too. Dang it, he thought. If only he had used the watches more wisely, he wouldn’t have ended up in this conundrum.
“I have done myself a favor. These human-like mutations are a result of your idiocy. Because of you, they are an invasive species to this planet, and now, I am forced to live with them,” Kirelna said. The humanoid stolidly walked away as the creatures followed suit, mimicking a group of moths flying toward a light bulb.
“Wait! Don’t trust the robot! It has a virus!” Standish called out to the creatures. They showed no signs of understanding what Standish said. They continued to walk, leaving Standish to die in bewilderment.
As his heart sunk, Standish recalled the day in May that he had paced through the chilly laboratory, joyfully gazing at a needle filled with his secret weapon. His praying had done him right; his past seventeen years had seemed to be steps in the right direction. First, a group headed by Dr. Nident had approached him for a grant to aid them in the construction of a time machine. After explaining how they had succeeded in transporting inanimate objects such as a coin to and from the past, Standish was more than delighted to aid them; in fact he had provided seemingly endless amounts of money for them so that they could finish constructing a portal of opportunity for him, or as he had told the rest of the country, a valuable education tool for the people.
A few years later, a group that Standish had been following in neurorobotics had made an impressive breakthrough in the field and approached him for a grant. Once again, Standish had pretended to be uninterested, but eventually gave into their demands as he had seen potential growing in them. Once the money had been provided, the first-ever human droid had been created. The humanoid could age like a real human and carry out all of the metabolic processes common in an actual one; however, the brain had been an artificial intelligence programmed remotely at the command of Standish. The humanoid had then been deposited in its baby form at an adoption center, adopted by a kind couple, and named Kirelna. However, the daughter, as the parents later observed, had suffered from an over-competitive spirit, which the parents had tried to mend the best they could. In Standish’s eyes, the over-competitiveness had been a glitch, so he had made the group had fix it, causing a vacuum-like emptiness to take the place of the glitch.
When the humanoid was seventeen years old, the competitive spirit that had once been the worry of those who interacted with it seemed to lose its grip on the robot faster and faster. Standish had taken it from Albéniz, and made it apply as an intern to Dr. Nident’s research group. Around the same time that that had happened, the time machine had been finished, and the most important election of Standish’s life had been right around the corner.
The bacteria that Standish had been holding had been easily obtained with Standish’s affluence. All he had had left to do was wait for his humanoid robot named Kirelna to inject the opposing politician Jeremiah Brown’s three hundred and fifty year-old ancestors with the injection of the special bacteria that would have altered their DNA so that they would have been severely and mentally impaired for the rest of their lives. The altered DNA and genes would have been passed through generation to generation congenitally, thus eliminating Brown from being a possible adversary in politics for Standish. But due to the unforeseen glitch in the time machine, Kirelna was transported three hundred and fifty thousand years back where the bacteria had escaped and prevented evolution from taking its normal route by seriously decreasing the surface area of the cerebral cortex in all future humans. Now, Standish, the last member of the humanity he had known, was about to leave the Earth for good.