Cradle and Ume
by Geoffrey W. Cole
When his creators first booted Cradle those long centuries ago, they told him many things that made a lasting impression on his infant mind.
Above all was the commandment:
The Kamurei must never be contacted.
“If you don’t let me in, she will die,” Ume said.
“After all these years, you still ask,” Cradle said. “I thought posthumans were supposed to be hyperintelligent.”
On the banks of the dry riverbed that wound through the village, Teihana struggled through her thirty-fourth hour of labour. Her emaciated brown skin glistened with sweat. The midwife, her only companion in the palm-roofed hut, packed cool mud on Teihana’s forehead. There was nothing else for the pain; like the river, the wells were dry, and the medicinal crop had failed along with the corn.
Cradle and Ume watched all this from the observation station buried within one of the Andean peaks that towered above Teihana’s village.
“Drop your fields now,” Ume said. “This is my last warning.”
“Warn away,” Cradle said. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Then you’ve left me no choice.”
Cradle was embarrassed to engage in this banter with three other visitors in the observation station, but they seemed to enjoy the drama. The tourists pointed and whispered as Ume departed. He ran down the long tunnel that led to the landing pad, where he climbed into his skyskiff and pointed the vehicle toward the valley.
Cradle watched Ume’s fit from a thousand different eyes scattered around the valley. The young posthuman’s persistence never ceased to amaze him. He tried to shout a final warning:
“I can’t let you -”
And that’s when the bomb Ume had left in the observation station exploded.
You are the valley, Cradle. You are their home, but they must never know it.
Ume’s reputation reached Cradle long before the young posthuman had first dropped out of orbit to visit the people. His name made many headlines: the liberator of the entombed Callistan AIs; the forger of the asteroid miner’s union; the last great freedom fighter.
It was only a matter of time before he knocked on Cradle’s door.
Unlike most of Cradle’s other visitors, who jumped into one of the many spare posthuman bodies kicking around on Earth, or who visited virtually, Ume rode the space elevator in person to visit the valley.
When Ume entered the observation platform that first day, his camouflage fatigues and red beret seemed right at home in the replica long-house that served as the entry hall. Cradle, whose body was the network of processors, sensors, memory matrixes, and field generators that existed below the surface of the valley, appeared in the long-house as a hologram. He chose the appearance of a Kamurei shaman; a loincloth, shins and forearms tattooed in red ochre, and a drum slung over his shoulder.
“Welcome to the Akturi valley,” Cradle said. “Home of the last uncontacted tribe.”
“Cut the crap,” Ume said. “And show me everything.”