ON THE DAY OF SHAPING, WE ALL LOOKED DOWN AT HIM. HE WAS SO POWERFUL. SOME OF US FEARED HIM. BUT I DIDN'T. I KNEW HE WAS BRINGING US HOPE, A CHANCE TO BEGIN AGAIN, IN A NEW LIFE OF ULTIMATE TRANQUILITY.

WHAT IS HUMAN?

THE FINAL ERA
BY NATHAN ROBERSON

I often wondered, before It happened, what IS human? I know. Oh god, I know.

The year is still blurry in my mind. Wichita was the start of all the madness. I call it madness, but it wasn't. There is no word that I know, to describe great tranquility. If you weren't there, you don't know what it was like!
The answers! I found my answers!
And I would never, ever again, be in doubt!
I was once Cid Stratton, I TRULY will always BE Cid Stratton, but now, I don't know who, or what I am.
Put it this way, things are better than before.

It started there, in the data card storage. Dr. Banyan approached me. Banyan had helped me greatly in The Day of Shaping. I had been trapped inside an "android" simulator.
The term android was a great inaccuracy.
I had looked a certain lists of androids. Everyone was an android, that's what it said. Everyone was a creation. Made by Kaiser Corp., or Rosen Corp., or any of the other android constructors.
Android, I laugh at the terminology.
Inside the simulator I met John Verona. At the time, I called him android. Only androids went into simulation. It was so they could be trained and molded into what corporations wanted. The androids were to be used in times of war.
God, I would of killed the Liars if I had the chance then.
But I wouldn't kill them now; I'm evolved now.
Anyway, John didn't know he was an android. That was practical. The Liars told us that if it knew the truth, it would fail.
I always wondered, fail at what?
Fail at killing, or massacring other androids, or massacring the soldiers that belonged to a country that didn't have the money to construct machines of death?
To the hilltop, I was wrong. Oh how I was wrong!
Banyan showed It to me. It was the universe's entire history. I watched potential Earth's lose the potential, because a tiny cell decided not to divide.
I watched Man, destroy a greater future, simply because he feared it.
I watched Man go from bacteria into the bloodthirsty savages that they were before The Day of Shaping.
I knew everything after Banyan showed me the history of the universe. I knew EVERYTHING. More than any Man could ever imagine.
Man has practically no imagination at all.
I am glad that I am not a Man anymore.
But John Verona couldn't live with the fact the he was a creation. I told him if he died in the simulator with it gridlocked, as it was to trap us inside, he would of died.
I had already determined he was android due to his lack of empathy. I was something that the androids weren't constructed with.
When he died in the simulator, Dr. Banyan released the gridlock to let him out. I thought he was human, because before he decided to kill himself, he displayed empathy.
I was very wrong in my deduction.

I had though that I was in the simulator via my computer. I wasn't though.
I had never left a Kaiser Corporation laboratory.
And it was in Cleveland, Ohio.
Kaiser Corp. buildings are designed EXACTLY the same as the one in Wichita. I was an experiment. My period of gestation was spent in a tube; scientists grew me in a lab. Claws and mechanical instruments nurtured me. I felt no love from these things. I was never taught love.
I never felt much empathy. I really had no mother, or father. But memories of them were INFUSED. It was infused that I was a computer hacker living in the Nevada's small desert. I was hooked up to an IST my entire life until John Verona was created.
So they used me to test him out.
And I don't know why, I think Banyan played a part here, but their control over me stopped.
And I didn't know it, but an information traffic jam was just resolved.
Banyan had let me know what I needed to get John Verona out of the simulator.
He needed him out, for his plan. I realized that if Banyan had been able to get to Verona before Isidore and Luft did, everything would have been perfect. I could see the scenario in my mind.

CHAPTER 1: POSSIBLE SCENARIO

Banyan opened the one-way door and saw John Verona reading the computer screen.
"You must follow me Mr. Verona, I hold your destiny in my palm."
"What are you talking about?"
"Mr. Verona, you are a descendant of the ones that made the universe. We have no true name; only the name android applies to us." Banyan said.
"What?"
"Mr. Verona, millions of years ago the universe was created. No one knows how it happened. I don't even know. But it did, and our people caused it. We are the ones that made life possible in the universe. We made it happen Mr. Verona, and we need to make changes." Banyan explained.
"I don't understand."
"You shouldn't. But you will."

Time passed. He would of showed John the history of the universe, and John would of changed. But it didn't happen that way. Isidore plugged John and Dr. Banyan into the ISTs. I thought it was for Banyan to kill John in simulation during a gridlock. But I was wrong. Isidore wanted to put to android with another android inside the Japanese simulator. But now Dr. Banyan had a new plan. He figured if he couldn't get John Verona, he'd get me, Cid Stratton. I was also an android.
I hate using that term. Every time I hear it I see an old metal robot. But androids aren't even created. Except for me. I was created using materials from one man and one woman. The woman they chose was a Descendent.
That was the term Dr. Banyan used instead of android.
And Dr. Banyan with a handful of other Descendents was doing that in their labs, genetically engineering Descendents.
Once Dr. Banyan was hooked up to the IST in Wichita, he immediately found me hooked up in an IST located at the Kaiser Corp. building in Cleveland.
Where our previous story ended, this new one begins. I was chosen, now I am no longer a Descendent or android. I am a Higher Entity. And I wondered, what if Banyan had still attempted to make John Verona the Higher Entity.

Dr. Terrance Banyan roamed the streets of Tokyo looking for John Verona.
He had searched all over the simulator world, but Verona was evading his detection somehow. Banyan didn't think Verona was doing the evading with purpose, but it remained a terrible possibility.
He swept the streets with his Higher Mind. He could look at any place on Earth, real or simulation, when and wherever he wanted. It was what an Exact Descendent was capable of.
And Exact Descendent was one of the First. The First were the original beings that started the universe. Banyan had assisted in the universe's creation along with a few other Exact Descendents that had now passed on.
Through these many years Banyan had been able to keep his secret safe. The only person that knew was the Descendent version of Dr. David Isidore that Banyan had created.
The world would need as many Descendents as possible on The Day of Shaping. And Banyan saw it fast approaching.

Banyan was greater than I. He was greater than John Verona, the "W-4" Descendent.
The model numbers were there to signify the quality of a Descendant's genetic engineering, nothing more, nothing less. The G5T fault and other stories were nothing but further cover up to keep the Bounty Hunters from suspecting that they were hunting genuine flesh and blood.
Only Dr. Banyan and other head scientists (that were Descendents) knew all the truth. Not even Gerald Kaiser knew the truth.
Then there were such things like the infamous blood law; all of those were false conspiracies.
Everything was the Big Lie. It had to be for Banyan's plan to work. On The Day of Shaping, all the Descendents would need to be together, and the more, the better.

Banyan caught an awkward side glimpse of John walking into the police station. He knew what John was doing. And he wouldn't interfere. He would never escape the PHISICAL boundaries of the IST, but that wouldn't bother Banyan in the least.

Banyan had been there, following Verona around in the Tokyo simulator. But Banyan could be in a million places all at once. John Verona would die and come out of the IST. Banyan on the other hand would always have a minute part of his Higher Mind wandering Simulated Tokyo if no one removed him from the IST, which he instructed no one do.
Banyan's Earth Vessel, the human body would sit in the IST for a long while.
But Banyan didn't care, because the human body is a very archaic tool.

CHAPTER 2: WHERE ARE YOU, EDWARD ADAMS?

Between the hour of killing the android version of Dr. Isidore and killing the W-4 android, I Edward Adams and my partner Andrew Wartow roamed the streets of Wichita looking for clues on the whereabouts of the W-4.
But now The Day of Shaping has arrived. I'll never see Earth, or anyone again for that matter.
On The Day of Shaping I was declared Inferior. I killed the very things that would shape Man. So I was sent to wherever I am now. I'm in a small white cube. I'm naked and I can't move anything as I lay here on the floor.
Or it could be the walls.
Or it could be the ceiling.
I just don't know.
And I scared.
What if I spend an eternity here, what if I CANT die.
I want to know, is this my holding cell?
Anyway, on The Day of Shaping I made my biggest score ever. And I topped it off with a call from one Dr. David Isidore.
After discovering he was an android, or a Descendent as I learned they liked to be called, I killed him. I called my partner and we went on a search for clues.

Edward Adams and Andrew Wartow walked steadily down the alleyway in which John Verona, W-4 android, had escaped into. They saw the typical, the drug dealers selling illegal and legal substances at a far better price than what the pharmacist would charge you.
They saw the gunrunners. They were people that you could buy a Plasma Blaster from with no ID or registration required. A criminal's utopia was woven into the maze of alleys.
At the sight of Adams and Wartow many of the criminals packed up their shops and ducked into the endless shadows where one could live undetected for centuries.
Adams made the call. "We're not cops! We're bounty hunters, looking for an escaped prisoner by the name of Double-You . . ."
Wartow gave a scornful look and Adams quickly corrected himself. "Verona, John Verona. That's his name. We need to know his whereabouts." Wartow smiled now at Adams.
Wartow did dwarf Adams in height. Adams was five feet, nine inches. Wartow clocked in at a solid six feet. But Adams had better dexterity and agility. He also had better aim with a Plasma Blaster.
Edward Adams was simply a better Android Hunter.
"I saw someone come down off the roof of Kaiser," someone said.
"Yeah me too," said another criminal.
"Really?" Adams asked.
"Yeah, almost landed on his feet. But he fell on his back and got right back up. He nabbed some Stimuli from Gary, and he traded that to me for an old Glock nine millimeter," one of the hoodlums said.
"Gary's okay with this?" Adams asked.
"I gave him a Naperm Plasma Blaster in return," said the gunrunner.
"We'd like to ask you a few questions in private." Adams said.
"Certainly, where would . . ."
"We'll go behind that dumpster over there." Adams finished.
They walked behind the dumpster. "You see a little boy, he points the gun at his head that you gave him and pulls the trigger. You watch as his brains fly through the hole in his head. What do you do?"
The gunrunner was silent.
And Andrew Wartow shot him. Adams gave a swift nod. "Good job. I knew that of mine could trap him. He's an old G5T, and he was operating right here outside the Kaiser Building. I bet if we would have been here a week from today, he'd already be infiltrating the building. He did seem too smart for a gunrunner."
Wartow nodded and tossed the android into the dumpster.
The G5Ts weren't the smartest andys, but much smarter than your typical hoodlum gunrunner.

We uploaded his data card files into my car's computer. We got as much as we could on Verona from the andy's brain . . .
There were no such things as data cards, what am I saying. It was Dr. Banyan, listening to all the people of Earth, and documenting it all onto a data disk. What an amazing man he had been.
Had been? He was probably still alive. To the hilltop! The man was probably immortal!
But then he wasn't a man.

CHAPTER 3: A CHANCE TO SAVE MR. JOHN VERONA

Right after I saw the entirety of It Banyan appeared before me once again. I was then in a state of severe shock, at least that's what I thought. It's becoming harder each second to remember my life as a Man.
And now, a second seems like centauries in this new existence.
The Day of Shaping was near! And I knew it! It'd been planned since the universe's creation! And I was to be the main event of the show! I felt so excited yet stunned at this point in my ever-so-short life as Man. The feeling was so overwhelming!
And then I looked at the list again.
It no longer listed everyone as android. And there were no listings of an android+. I only saw human and android.
This time, the gap was less between the two races. Banyan had tried to give me a message with the previous list, but I didn't know what it was.
And even now, I still don't.
But I have a vague idea.
Banyan spoke to me. "The future has many paths it can take. If you were to spend the rest of your life in this room with me the future has a path it can take. Would you like to see the path?"
"Yes." I answered hesitantly.
He handed me a blue and red staff. I didn't realize the previous one was gone now.
The minuet I touched it I was flying through the colors.
All the colors, all the colors known to MAN, I saw.
We do take colors for granted.
After flying through the colors I saw the future until the destruction of the universe.
And John Verona dying was the VERY LEAST of my worries.
"You have two hours and thirteen minuets if you would like to save John Verona." Banyan said. "And after you try, no matter what, if you succeed or fail, your lifespan as a Man will be nearing its end. And I mean a matter of minuets. Your restrictions as Man need to be lifted soon."
I accepted. And I went flying.

I went through the wall of the musty apartment in which Verona was hiding out. Banyan had let time go by so I would have two minuets to stop Edward Adams from shooting Verona. I saw them pull up in their police car and John dove with his gun.
And then came the lovely knock at the old apartment door.
A small conversation was made between Verona and Adams.
Then I interfered.
Their guns flew out of their hands before the lights went on. I then somehow PUSHED them out of the apartment.
It was Banyan, using my body as a tool.
But that's what the human body is, an old archaic and decaying tool.
I'd be ridded of mine soon, as would John.
"Cid." John said.
"John, come with me. Banyan must speak with you."
And we flew through the colors together.

CHAPTER 4: AN ALTERNATE ROUTE OF THE FUTURE, ALTERED BY A DESCENDENT NAMED CID STRATTON

As I look at the white box, I remember the two paths. I experienced TWO paths of time that day.
Was it still that day? I didn't know. Billions of years may have passed by now, but in this box they're mere hours.
I felt it within me. That one Descendent, Cid, he altered future. And I JUST knew it.
I remembered Wartow dying.
Yet I remember him being there. When it happened.
I'm closing my eyes, I think it's happening. I feel myself dying!

I told John of everything back in the data card storage room. He was shown the past and future by Banyan and I saw the glow in his eyes. He knew. He knew what I knew. We didn't know exactly WHAT we knew, but we knew that we both knew it.
"Come now, it is time." Banyan said.
We walked through several walls and I thought I'd find myself in Cleveland, but I was in Wichita. Banyan had transported me with ease. A marvelous being he was.
I could tell something was different. Wichita was NEVER windy. I watched the litter blow down the streets. It was like I knew Wichita, yet I'd been in Cleveland all this time.
Sure the Kaiser Corp. buildings were built exactly the same, but it just seemed like I'd been here my entire life as Man.
The paper tumbled, end over end, down the roads, around the corners. End over end.
End.
Over.
End.
End.
Over.
End.
And the plastic bags filled themselves with the wind. And they propelled themselves down the streets. It was somewhat BEAUTIFUL. And I watched as I glided above the street with my brethren. The Day Of Shaping was here. And I knew it for sure now.
I needed to leave my body. And I knew Banyan was taking me to do that.
We reached the Fluxnel Building, the tallest building in the world.
Banyan, John, and I entered through the doors, all the while still hovering an inch from the ground.
We climbed the stairs.
And climbed.
And climbed.
And climbed.
We reached the door that led outdoors on the roof. I grabbed the doorknob, but my hand went through it.
"Have I left my body?" I asked Banyan.
"Almost, Cid." Banyan answered.
We went through the door without opening it. We looked up to the skies.
They were red.
The fierce red pieced my soul and I started into its wondrous depths. I knew; my soul was separating from the archaic box it'd been trapped in. I FELT my physical body start flying up into the now swirling red. The time had come and everyone on Earth knew it.
I smiled.

CHAPTER 5: SEPARATED

Smiling, I looked at John.
He was also smiling.
And so was Dr. Banyan.
"What now?" I asked.
"The time, for the division." Banyan said.
"What is the division?" John asked.
"The first division is of Descendents and normal men." Banyan answered.
I looked off the building's edge and saw them.
The masses.
From all corners of the Earth, they had gathered here. I watched as half went to Wichita's North side, the other half to the South. All of them were standing shoulder to shoulder, and in a straight line.
"This IS The Day of Shaping!" John exclaimed.
We watched. We watched with intensity.
All the bodies on the South side were separated from their souls. The glowing souls remained there, hovering inches off the ground.
And the North side was awestruck.
I felt sorry for the people on the North side, they didn't realize they were getting the better deal.
And it went on.
And on.
And on.
And on.
We watched for many hours; the archaic bodies were lost. And we couldn't stand the next part. It would be the worst.
The next separation would be one of an even greater magnitude.
Less lives, but a much greater separation.
For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction, it was those words, they rang in my mind at this point.
I didn't know what to do.
I was scared.
I felt fear.
But I was happy.
I was happy because The Day of Shaping had FINALLY come. It was like I waited my entire life for this, this tiny moment on the universal scale of time.
And this had happened before, several times.
And I waited for this common event all my life as a Man?
At least it was only for my life as a Man.
The skies darkened.
The next separation was here.
And I WAS prepared. I could assure myself of that.
Was it awe I felt, or something else entirely?
I wasn't sure.
But my odds were leaning towards the something else.
And for a moment, I realized that might actually be good.

CHAPTER 6: EVOLUTION

Evolution, in biology, complex process by which the characteristics of living organisms change over many generations as traits are passed from one generation to the next. The science of evolution seeks to understand the biological forces that caused ancient organisms to develop into the tremendous and ever-changing variety of life seen on Earth today. It addresses how, over the course of time, various plant and animal species branch off to become entirely new species, and how different species are related through complicated family trees that span millions of years.

Evolution provides an essential framework for studying the ongoing history of life on Earth. A central, and historically controversial, component of evolutionary theory is that all living organisms, from microscopic bacteria to plants, insects, birds, and mammals, share a common ancestor. Species that are closely related share a recent common ancestor, while distantly related species have a common ancestor further in the past. The animal most closely related to humans, for example, is the chimpanzee. The common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees is believed to have lived approximately 6 million to 7 million years ago (see Human Evolution). On the other hand, an ancestor common to humans and reptiles lived some 300 million years ago. And the common ancestor to even more distantly related forms lived even further in the past. Evolutionary biologists attempt to determine the history of lineages as they diverge and how differences in characteristics developed over time.
Throughout history, philosophers, religious thinkers, and scientists have attempted to explain the history and variety of life on Earth. During the rise of modern science in western Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, a predominant view held that God created every organism on Earth more or less as it now exists. But in that time of burgeoning interest in the study of fossils and natural history, the beginnings of a modern evolutionary theory began to take shape. Early evolutionary theorists proposed that all of life on Earth evolved gradually from simple organisms. Their knowledge of science was incomplete, however, and their theories left too many questions unanswered. Most prominent scientists of the day remained convinced that the variety of life on Earth could only result from an act of divine creation.

In the mid-19th century a modern theory of evolution took hold, thanks to British naturalist Charles Darwin. In his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, published in 1859, Darwin described the evolution of life as a process of natural selection. Life, he suggested, is a competitive struggle to survive, often in the face of limited resources. Living things must compete for food and space. They must evade the ravages of predators and disease while dealing with unpredictable shifts in their environment, such as changes in climate. Darwin offered that, within a given population in a given environment, certain individuals possess characteristics that make them more likely to survive and reproduce. These individuals will pass these critical characteristics on to their offspring. The number of organisms with these traits increases as each generation passes on the advantageous combination of traits. Outmatched, individuals lacking the beneficial traits gradually decrease in number. Slowly, Darwin argued, natural selection tips the balance in a population toward those with the combination of traits, or adaptations, best suited to their environment.
While On the Origin of Species was an instant sensation and best-seller, Darwin's theories faced hostile reception by critics who railed against his blasphemous ideas. Other critics pointed to questions left unresolved by Darwin's careful arguments. For instance, Darwin could not explain the mechanism that caused life forms to change from generation to generation.
Hostility gave way to acclaim as scientists vigorously debated, explored, and built on Darwin's theory of natural selection. As the 20th century unfolded, scientific advances revealed the detailed mechanisms missing from Darwin's theory. Study of the complex chemistry of all organisms unveiled the structure of genes as well as how they are duplicated, altered, and passed from generation to generation. New statistical methods helped explain how genes in specific populations change over generations. These new methods provided insight into how populations remain adaptable to changing environmental circumstances and broadened our understanding of the genetic structure of populations. Advances in techniques used to determine the age of fossils provided clues about when extinct organisms existed and details about the circumstances surrounding their extinction. And new molecular biology techniques compare the genetic structures of different species, enabling scientists to determine heretofore undetectable evolutionary relationships between species. Today, evolution is recognized as the cornerstone of modern biology. Uniting such diverse scientific fields as cell biology, genetics, paleontology, and even geology and statistics, the study of evolution reveals an exquisitely complex interaction of the forces that act upon every life form on Earth.

And it wasn't going to happen that way now. I had that article memorized by heart. I saw it once in my Lesson of the Past. Anything from that, I remembered exactly. And now I'd remember this.
The normal Men were separating now. But the sides weren't nearly equal like the Descendent-Man division.
This was purging.
Any Men that had features that would be a disadvantage in the next era now stood apart from the rest of Man.
And they became a nightmare of flames. I felt sorry, but Man needed to evolve, and it couldn't with them.

CHAPTER 7: FINAL STAGE

Banyan was no longer smiling. He was concerned and deep in though. He spread his arms out wide and the Earth stood still. A huge silver sphere emerged from the heavens and sat directly above Banyan's head.
It shocked him twice with lightning bolts.
And Banyan exploded.
A mystic green powder fell over Man. Part of Banyan was now with them.
John and I left, against our will.

EPILOGUE

Man now sits in The Golden Era. Man has evolved once again. Man will be waiting to become the next entity on the universe's totem pole.
All the Descendents had been given a planet to nurture.
Banyan's planet had been Earth.
As Man will go through yet another Day of Shaping someday, he will be even more prepared each time.
Then Man will be abolished, and Man will become something greater.
There is a cosmic totem pole in the universe. Man is very low on it.
My life as Man is slipping away each second. But I don't mind, everything I learned as Man is now useless.
I am an entire world's caretaker.
I now look at my planet, the beautiful Earth.

© 2000 Nathan Roberson

Evolution material is © 2000 Microsoft Encarta