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Arywan Owen
by Robert W. Ray

Built by Aybee Wan Owen after the death of Dr. Krenstein (Aybee's own creator), Ary was both Aybee's wife and Daughter. She fulfilled the void left by Krenstein's death. But, as had happened with his "father", Aybee would be visited by tragic circumstances again...this time at the hands of Virus. When Virus found Aybee Wan Owen, it thought it had found the perfect host. Here was a robot that could move around with humans, it was highly intelligent, and virtually undetectable with the unaided eye to be anything to do with Virus. It found, however, that Aybee was largely immune to it's effects. His Hiver-influenced repairs had inadvertently provided him with a kind of inoculation against the invasive A-I. But, while Virus couldn't affect Aybee's programming, it did leave some encoding indistinguishable to anyone but the original creator disguised in his data port. Any computer that Aybee directly interfaced with would become infected. Not even Aybee, himself, could have known this, and Dr. Krenstein was no longer around to provide such insight.

Aybee built Ary using the same basic blueprints that he had been built with, adding relevant pieces of Ancients and Hiver technologies which Dr Krenstein and himself had studied. the results were a reduced overall weight and a more realistic overall appearance as a human. This was something that Aybee was particularly proud of, owing mainly to the fact that even a slightly more than casual medical examination would not indicate Ary's true nature. It would only be under a surgeon's scalpel that Ary would be found to be an Android. In addition to this camouflage, the combination of Hiver and Ancient technology created radical differences in her neural processing architecture.

It was at this point that Aybee made the mistake he would come to regret even though he had no way of knowing what was to happen. Aybee decided to directly download parts of his synaptic programming to Ary's own network. The Virus, which had been dormant for so long within his data port began to stir. Initially, Ary's personality developed normally, much the way Aybee's had in the early years. Virus, of course, took time to mature. It wasn't long before Ary began having memory lapses and other minor quirks as Virus grew and changed to adapt to her unique system. Indeed, for many years, Aybee and Ary maintained the facade that they were human and lived happily during that time. Ary's lapses and quirks, Aybee reasoned, were the product of her realizing her own sentience.

Indeed, Ary was becoming sentient, but it was not quite as Aybee suspected. Because they were living the "lie" of being human (especially in light of the fact that robots were more often destroyed rather than tested for Virus) Ary began losing memories which dealt with her creation. Rather than ask embarrassing questions about her past that she felt she should know, she simply accepted that she was and so, somewhere, at sometime, she had a mother and father and had been born, grew up and all the attendant things which go with that. She began to believe in her own humanity. When an accident revealed Aybee as being a robot, it nearly destroyed Ary. She had loved Aybee, but was now revolted by what he was. Her love was strong, though, and she willed herself to stay with him and help him recover from the accident (most of the parts that were damaged had to be refabricated). During this time she learned a lot about robot physiology. But she was never quite sure if Virus would cause him to turn on her, as she had seen so many other automatons do toward other humans.

Try as she might to reconcile her feelings toward Aybee, she could not. Ary also had troubles of her own. She had begun to reason out the puzzle of her own existence. She had not aged. She had no childhood memories. She never got sick. She couldn't explain how she knew anything other that she had just always known it. It bothered her so much that she decided to ask Aybee if he could tell her anything.

One day, months after the accident, Aybee was limping around their cabin (his leg motivator still required a few parts to be fully functional) and she decided that it was time. Aybee was shocked to find out that she really didn't know what she was. Realizing that she believed that she was actually human went a long way toward explaining why she had reacted as she had to the accident. but he also realized that if he reviled the nature of her existence to her, she might just destroy herself to end such a revolting existence. So Aybee hesitated. That hesitation was all Ary needed to confirm, in her own mind, just what she was.

If the survival instinct of the strain of Virus she had contracted had not been so strong, then Aybee's summation may have been carried to fruition. As it was, the revelation left Ary confused. She was angry at Aybee for his part in the deception. Angry with him for creating her. Angry at herself for being angry. Angry at herself for not remembering. Above all, she was angry for being one of the instruments of destruction for the Shattered Imperium. Ary felt very disconnected with herself, her surroundings, and the one she loved. After weeks of trying to come to terms with her situation, she said her good-byes to Aybee and left to find herself against the backdrop of the Wilds--that which had once been the penticale of civilized space.

Ary hoped that she could find her humanity in helping those which Virus had thrown down. She felt guilty about all the death and destruction it had brought. The mutations in her own infestation had caused much of this, but it became so ingrained that she began a one-robot crusade to help those wretches who had survived. She studied virus every chance she got. She found that she could not be reinfested with virus so long as she didn't hard dock to an infested system, so she removed her own data port. She learned ways of preventing virus from infesting her small scout ship's computer and tried to reverse the process in other computers.

She watched countless worlds succumb to the ministrations of Virus and grew to truly hate it. Then, as she traveled further toward the Old Expanses, she began to hear rumors of humans regaining the stars. She was elated. She knew that she had to find these humans, that she had to fit in with them, that she had to be a part of what they were doing. There was a planet mentioned in these rumors as the base of operations for these "Star Vikings". She had an old Imperial Data Base on the required sector and subsector, but had never had need to bring up the data. Now she did and she set her course for Aubaine.

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