Flash Fiction: “The Silicon Sorcerer”

Even scientists, with all their logic and objectivity, can carry a few vices and prejudices.  They’re only human, after all–even if their counterparts aren’t.

This is a sequel to “The Sorcerer’s Method.”

The Silicon Sorcerer, by Alexander Paul Willging

Word Count: 930

Dr. Watson crouched beside Dr. Bell as the beast crawled down from its perch in the treetops.  Such a terrible sight—brown and jointed legs radiating out from a trunk-like carapace, and a cluster of malicious red eyes.

“So this…”  Watson swallowed.  “This must be the forest-demon the fey warned us about.”

“I won’t lie.”  Bell held out his staff, now glowing orange as a small flame emerged at the tip.  “I don’t know if my arts will be enough to hold it off until the battle magi arrive.”

“Only one way to find out,” Watson whispered back.  The demon’s claws clacked hideously as it crept closer down the crimson tree, snarling something through its mandibles.

“Get ready to run on my mark.  Three—”

He never got out another word.  The forest-demon leapt—and was instantly flung to the side by a dazzling white flare.  Watson and Bell shielded their eyes and covered their ears as the beast fell shrieking into the undergrowth.

Then Watson heard a dull clanking outside the clearing.  A hooded stranger emerged from behind a tree, wearing the brown vestments of the Savant Brotherhood.  The stranger lifted a hand and pulled up his hood, letting the two sorcerers see his face.

Watson recoiled.  The fellow was neither human nor fey.  It was an automaton, one of the mechanical men from West Corda.  A pair of lambent blue eyes focused on Watson, and from its loudspeaker came a man’s voice with a slight buzzing tone.

“The Great Architect be with you both,” said the metal man.  “Are you in need of healing?”

“N-no,” Bell replied hesitantly.  “Are you with the battle magi?”

“Indeed, sire.”  The automaton inclined its head.  “This one is known as Cyrus Argyros, Magus Combatant, Second Order of St. Saxa.”

Watson struggled to find his tongue.  He never liked the sight of these machines.  They didn’t fit nature’s design.  Everyone knew that sorcery came from the living.  So how could the Great Architect allow for the holy fire to be cradled inside a dead shell?

“You… have our thanks,” he finally conceded.  “Will you escort us back to the camp?  I must submit my findings to the Archmage.”

Cyrus Argyros nodded.  “This one will see you there safely.”

A week passed after the incident, but Watson’s mind was uneasy.  He couldn’t abide the idea that a West Cordan drone was freely walking and working in the midst of true sorcerers.  Bell had tried to talk him down, but to no avail.

Finally, one day after nightfall, Bell went to his longtime partner and said, “The Archmage has summoned you.”

After putting on his best viridian robe and taking up his field rod, Watson trod through the camp to the Archmage’s tent.  He took note of the battle magi taking up their sentry shifts at the camp perimeter, where the crimson trees began.  Then he stopped at a pure white tent and pulled the flap aside.

In the center of the tent sat Archmage Garrick, a portly lord in black-and-gold robes with not a single hair on his head.  He smiled and waved for Watson to enter, but as soon as the sorcerer stepped in, he froze.

Cyrus the machine stood behind the Archmage.  Its hood was completely lowered and its hands were pressed together in a gesture of petition.

“Geoffrey, I’ve heard far too much of your grumbling these last few days,” Garrick spat out.  “Cyrus may not be flesh-and-blood, but he’s no less a sorcerer than you are and he’s earned his rank like any other magus.”

Watson trembled before summoning the courage to speak.  “Be that as it may, sire, I can’t see how a… machine can be counted as my equal.  All the West Cordans have done is learned how to fake a conscious mind.”

“Is that so?”  Garrick turned and nodded at Cyrus.  “Brother Cyrus, show him your true essence.”

The automaton turned back to Watson and pressed a metal finger against the side of its head.  There was a quiet hiss as a panel popped open.  When the metal man bowed its head, Watson peered at what lay within.

Circuits and plugs formed an intricate web around a single pulsing crystal.  When Watson extended his mind’s presence toward the crystal, he gasped.  He could feel something there.  Something moving.

Something alive.

“Most people forget that the West Cordans are not just walking computers,” said Garrick with a grim face.  “We discovered the existence of sentient crystals long ago, just as you discovered plant-animal hybrids in the forest a week ago.  Most people forget that Crystallum sapiens still exist and assume West Cordans are just programmed to appear sentient.”  He leaned over and put a comradely hand on Cyrus’s shoulder.  “But the Order of St. Saxa never forgot.”

“This one is grateful to the Order,” said Cyrus.  As he spoke, the light inside the crystal pulsed in time with his words.  “This one also hopes to call you brother, Dr. Watson.”

Watson had no words for this.  He’d always trusted in the realm of the living, with only a passing tolerance for magi who practiced necromancy.  But he could not deny such evidence.

He took two steps forward and carefully put his hands on Cyrus’s arms.  The automaton lifted his head as the panel over the crystal hissed back into place.  Two lambent eyes stared Watson in the face.  Perhaps into his very soul.

“Forgive me, brother,” Watson whispered.  “May the Great Architect forgive my blindness.”

“This one forgives you,” Cyrus answered, “and trusts the Architect will, too.”

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