Nighttime in Zenon City: dark as death, neither a sign of life nor a breath of activity anywhere except for the large band of robots that has just arrived in a squadron of space ships shielded in a blurry, faint iridescent glow accompanied with strange, high-pitched sounds. Zantor has returned to Hyper-Dynamics Industries (HDI) where he was created but never thought he would have a reason to return from his presumed one-way posting to Mars.
Under dire circumstances, Zantor is confronted with the greatest challenge he has ever had to face. As he approaches the HDI plant, he is overwhelmed by what he sees: more than half the building has been obliterated. Amid the ruins, Zantor detects no sign of Isaac, Athena or anyone else. Assessing the damage, he thinks back longingly to the days when he worked at the plant with Isaac and his colleagues. But his reverie is short-lived, given the need to organize more than four hundred M2 soldier robots retrofitted with Zantor’s latest technological creations, which are now under his command.
Zantor tells the M2 in charge, “Dispatch three hundred soldiers to secure and guard a one kilometer perimeter of the area while we investigate the ruins of the plant.” While the soldiers are being dispatched, a small team of specially equipped soldiers escorts Zantor through the rubble to the inside of what is left of the building. “Carefully remove all the debris in these areas to access the interior,” Zantor says, “and keep a look out for any survivors or victims.”
Using their night vision, radar systems and demolition equipment, the soldiers remove tons of debris to gain access to areas that may hold clues as to what may have happened to the people who worked there. As they enter the ravaged building, Zantor drives out from the rear of his mini transporter truck to investigate remote areas and discovers that both stairways to the lower levels have been destroyed—filled and covered with broken glass, brick, concrete and steel. As Zantor proceeds further inside, he finds less obstruction at the elevator entrance and tells the M2 soldier in charge, “Clear out the collapsed column blocking the elevator shaft so we can access the underground levels. Since the bio-scanners cannot penetrate the shielding below, we will need to gain access and thoroughly scan each lower level, there may be survivors down there. ” Zantor’s team takes control of removing the wreckage. After the column is removed, the M2 soldier in charge tells Zantor, “The elevator car is crushed, filled with debris and wedged into the bottom of the shaft, blocking the second lower level entrance. It may take up to an hour to remove the car, but there is no obstruction at the first lower level.” Immediately, Zantor tells the soldier, “Stand by while I prepare to enter.”
Wasting no time, Zantor quickly drives up into the track receptacle in the rear of his mini transporter truck, locks in, and transitions from track drive to biped mobility. He steps out from the front of the truck, and dashes across the debris-strewn area and like an acrobatic feat, descends down into the elevator shaft to the first lower level, which is dark but has, apparently, been spared the fate of the rest of the factory. Once inside, Zantor tells the soldiers, “From what I can see, everything seems intact, there appears to be no damage. Continue your work while I survey this level and look for survivors.” Zantor advances with caution and uses his sophisticated sensory systems to scan for life signs and to navigate in the darkness to prevent detection of his presence from any possible unknowns.
Twenty minutes later, Zantor returns. The demolition team halts as he climbs up through the shaft to the ground floor and tells the soldiers, “There was no one down there, not a trace of anyone…” Zantor turns and pauses like he is disappointed by not finding any survivors, then he turns back to the M2 in charge and tells him, “The entire area is desolate, if the other level is the same, they must have evacuated… Dispatch a service team to remove an energy system from one of the ships. I will modify and use the system to provide electricity to the equipment in the underground levels.“ Within the hour, the soldier reports back to Zantor and tells him, ”The energy system is now being transported into the building, and we are pulling the last section of the elevator car out of the shaft as we speak.” The robots plan to use their track-drive mobility to move equipment in and out of the underground levels as they finish the clean-up of the elevator shaft.
Again, the M2 in charge tells Zantor. “The second underground level is now accessible,” he reports. “And the energy system is ready for integration.” Zantor steps closer to the edge and looks down into the cleared out elevator shaft, “Well done.” he says, “Stand by I will enter and scan for life signs.” Zantor quickly climbs down to the second lower level with anticipation of finding survivors. He enters in stealth mode while also using his bio-sensors. Within 15 minutes he returns to the ground floor and reports an update to his team, “This level is also desolate, there is not one person down there, not even a victim… but all the lab systems are still intact” The soldier in charge tells Zantor, “The energy system is ready for integration, when will you be ready to connect the power feeds?” Zantor turns and paces for a moment while he thinks about Athena and Isaac and wonders where they are, and if they are still alive. The M2 soldier in charge turns toward Zantor and asks him again, “Zantor, did you hear me? The energy system is ready for integration, are you ready?” Zantor snaps out of his memory recall and tells the soldier, “Yes, I am on my way to make the final connections on both levels, it will be ready in approximately thirty minutes.”
Seeming to be disappointed and moving much slower than he did previously while climbing into the shaft, Zantor returns to the electrical room where he prepares the three-phase power bus for connection to the system. He completes the connections on both levels and determines that everything is ready to energize. He gives the order and says, “Prepare to activate,” and then, moments later, “Activate!” At the command, one of the soldiers triggers the control for the energy-system output regulator to provide electric power to the plant’s equipment.
Immediately, lights and sounds from below emanate up through the elevator shaft, a few minutes later Zantor announces that all systems on both levels are now operational. The soldier in charge confirms the announcement: “Yes, all systems are go, Zantor. Your abilities, energy systems and inventions are far beyond what humankind has been able to achieve on its own. Tonight, we have achieved much success!” But the modest Zantor dismisses the accolades and continues his work without comment. The reality behind his abilities, however, is much more complicated, as Zantor himself concedes. With his unique Hyper-Flex Ultra-5 hyper computer, Zantor is aware that he has developed into something a great deal more than the role of service technician for which he was created. Isaac and his colleagues kept a secret and let it be known that Zantor’s hyper computer was a proto-type, when actually, it wasn’t. It was a manufacturing mystery, an anomaly that even the greatest scientists wouldn’t admit to and would never be able to solve. Until the day when Zantor mapped and analyzed his entire hyper computer himself and discovered the source of the anomaly, he solved the mystery. A fact that he has not revealed to anyone, not even Isaacs colleagues or the other Zenithoids, only Zantor and his creator, Isaac know the secret.
Zantor thinks back to the time when he made the shocking discovery that makes his hyper computer unique and the capabilities he has, and how it has given him a heightened sense of awareness and authority. After solving the mystery, he knew that Isaac and his colleagues falsified the truth about his unique qualities; he remains silent for a while longer as he recalls the past. But his musings are interrupted as the M2 soldier in charge tells him that he has just received a message from Commander Zylor, who needs an update on their progress. He replies and tells the soldier he is reviewing the message. Zantor responds in a nanosecond and sends a report via wireless signal to Zylor about the ruins of the HDI plant, including the critical information that he and his team have been able to reactivate all the systems in the underground levels that are undamaged. To emphasize his point, Zantor recommends that the undamaged areas of the plant be used as their secret underground headquarters for their new directive, a recommendation with which Zylor quickly signals his agreement.
Scores of M2 soldiers continue with the cleanup of the ground floor while Zantor and a smaller team gather whatever is salvageable of the damaged equipment to be delivered to the lower-level testing lab. Outside, more soldiers arrive to assist in securing the perimeter of the plant. The situation may look bleak, but with Zantor’s pioneering creations in advanced technology at their disposal, the Zenithoids and their super-advanced army of robotic soldiers have made progress in their effort to reclaim what was once theirs.
Almost as if on impulse—“impulse” being a mental state foreign to Zantor—minutes later Zantor tells his soldiers, “I will be at my old telemetry station on the first lower level. If I am needed for any reason, contact me by wireless transmission.” The soldier in charge acknowledges and tells Zantor, “By your command, we will be working our designated routines and will inform you of any important findings or emergencies.”
Zantor returns to the first lower level, and, as he approaches his old telemetry station, is brought up short by Athena’s picture hanging on the wall. He remembers the day she gave him the picture and the times she visited him after school to help her with homework, then he wonders if she may still be alive. After a moment spent remembering past events, he connects to the telemetry system. In no time, he is scanning for signals, but there are none being received as there is no activity in the plant due to its destruction. Even some of the largest cities have suffered this dreaded fate. No one, including Zantor, would have ever thought anything like this would have ever happened. During this lull, Zantor remembers what it was like when the plant was functional, and he worked there, many years ago. All his memories from his time at the HDI plant and the creation of his first invention become extremely vivid as he thinks back to the very beginnings of his existence. . . .