Everything has a beginning and an end. Rinas had its beginnings in young light, blinding and warm. With the warmth of the silje, that blazing sphere of plasma in space, everything began. Rinas breathed life; little creatures scurried across her surface. Little creatures soon became big, and smart. Intelligence―the biochemistry of the living evolved to make them social, so much so that they shared everything, including knowledge.
Four billion years after the formation of Rinas, after empires had come and gone, metal beings walked upright upon and across her surface. They did not breathe, but they could think, and they used the energy of the silje to live. They were made, they lived, and they broke down. These metal beings called themselves drites. The drites had built themselves beautiful cities in the five continents, beautiful shining bronze and steel cities, with inner workings like clocks. Gears were shining in the light of the day, in remnants of castles commissioned by kings; those ages had long passed the drites.
In the year of 3928, long after the beginning of the drites' existence, the world of Rinas is urbanized, connected. Democracy reigns supreme, metal people walk moving streets, and small metal children play mind games with one another in front of waterproof dwelling-places. It is on a day of light and wispy clouds that Bateny Rendox finds himself walking down a moving sidewalk to the delegate tower, where a meeting is being held to decide if a new law regarding the consumption of lithium was illogical or to be considered. That is how the drites decide things; in steps.
The delegate tower is ostensibly large, and could definitely be classified as a skyscraper. Bateny has been in the delegate tower a few times before, since being elected as the delegate for Vasrin by pik Riennan―the Council. It was mostly for inane things, nothing too big that required his complete attention. The sejlen panels on his back catch the light from the silje, adding a little spring to his light, clinky step. To Bateny and most of the drites, the days when the sun shines are considered lucky days; Bateny felt like today's meeting was going to go excellently.
As he enters the building, a drite woman looks up from behind her desk, smiling at him. She addresses him in rintone, “Good morning, Bateny. Welcome to the delegate tower. How are you today?”
“Thank you, Janias, it is good to see you once more. I am terribly sorry I have to leave, but we shall talk later, is that alright with you?”
Janias emits two clicks to signify that she is not angry with him, and nods her head. Bateny goes on ahead to the elevation plates, steps onto one, and skyrockets up to the fortieth floor. Once he arrives, he takes a moment to gaze upon the city of Gienel. When he first arrived in Rineni, the central continent of Rinas, he was rather awed by the tall buildings, the massive amount of drites―he didn't even know there was that much metal on Rinas, to make so many drites! But now it's all rather commonplace to him. He turns and walks to the meeting room where the rest of the delegates await him.
Bateny has never liked the delegates from Mrenia, Rineni, and Ilirie. They're too arrogant for his tastes. Being from Vasrin, he had never had to deal with such egotistical drites before. He figures now that it must be something programmed into them. He takes a seat, emitting three clicks to show the other delegates that he is pleased to be there. He turns to the delegate from Cjele (the only one he can tolerate), Pernelle, and strikes up a conversation about politics in Rinas―he has never discussed his continent with Pernelle, and she has not bothered to speak with him before now. Before this day, there were weeks of clouds, grey and depressing. He was not in the mood to talk then.
“If my Anis ever asked to participate in one of those ridiculous fads, I do not think I would tolerate that. She is much too young to get involved in the rineschei politics.” He looks at Pernelle, daring her to disagree with a slight humour behind it.
Pernelle merely emits seven clicks, showing that she understands his humour. “Deni is responsible enough to make his own decisions. I have not been to Vasrin, but I assume that most Vasrinians do this?”
Bateny nods. “We are not allowed to enter rineschei politics until we completely understand them. There is a high value placed on knowledge, especially in the capital city, where the most studious reside.”
“Ah. Cjele is a little different. We place more emphasis upon the social interactions, and are expected to know how to deal with people and situations. Our schooling is based upon those interactions.”
The male drite emits seven clicks and a short ding, to express amusement. “I know,” he replies. “I have studied the continents. I emerged top of my class, and that is why I am sitting before you today. The Council picked a few of us to take a test, and I had the highest score, so here I am.”
Pernelle clicks eight times, expressing that she is impressed. “I had to take a test as well. During the test, we had to read a drite's emotions without their click emissions. They programmed honesty into the drites so that they would not lie about what they were feeling.”
“That is fascinating,” states Bateny. Suddenly, the delegate from Rineni stands and addresses the four other delegates.
“Welcome, rineschen. We are going to discuss the effects of lithium upon the inner workings of a drite.” Short, and to the point. Every meeting was like that. This one is no different. Bateny and the rest of the delegates spend what seems like forever, but is in actuality only three hours, forty-two minutes, and sixteen seconds, discussing the topic. Once the meeting is over, the delegates head outside, where the silje is still shining brightly. Bateny emits three clicks, and the rest emit seven and a ding.
“Where are you going, Bateny?” Pernelle asks him suddenly. He turns to respond to her.
“Home. Anis is waiting for me.”
Anis Lytigher chose her own last name when she came of age last windup season, known also as the time when things become cold and the frost forms. She is studying for a test at the school she attends in Gienel, and realises that she did not do her chores suddenly. Father is due to be home at any minute. She quickly rises from her seat and is just beginning to sweep when Bateny walks in.
“Father,” she says, the inflection in her tonal regions signifying a warm welcome with slight surprise behind it, “welcome home. How did the meeting go at the delegate tower?”
“There was not a problem. We discussed everything we intended to, and the decision shall be told to the public as soon as it goes through the Council. Have you begun your educational assignments?”
She hesitates a moment. “Yes. I was studying, I have a test tomorrow and then I remembered the chores you set me.”
Her father's tonal region releases something akin to an exasperated sigh. “I told you to do that after you completed your educational assignments, Anis. I shall take over the chores, you go and focus on your education. It is greatly valued in Vasrin, you know that.”
“Yes, Father. I understand.” She turns to go and sit back down, working on her assignments. Bateny goes up the stairs to the drawing room where he sits at his desk and begins to write about the delegate meeting. The documentation of delegate meetings is what he does to keep his thoughts in order when his programming sometimes loses them in his circuitry. He is what we would call afraid, scared of losing his memories. The drite stops documenting for a bit to reflect on Anis and how she came to be his daughter, upgraded to be so much more than just a young drite child.
In Rinas, one could build his or her child. The recycling of metal allows it to be so. The drite will take the metal of his or her ancestors, melt it down once more, and create a new child. The circuitry is managed by construction drites—it grows with the child. New connections are allowed to be made within the circuitry, and the child gains new information. It can also be programmed into his or her circuitry, however, most drites choose the growth because of sentimental feeling.
Drites can feel. They have always been able to feel; before the age of kings, before the age of empires, and even before that. They feel pain, sorrow, anger, amusement, love, hate, any emotion you can think of. It was all programmed into them. It is practically in their very nature, to feel so. Not a drite in the entirety of Rinas knows why. However, some whisper that below the ground, there are depths. Not many have been brave enough to venture down and explore, and those who were returned in pieces, their circuits completely melted down, or they didn’t return at all.
Bateny contemplated heading down there once. He was relatively young at the time, perhaps ten or eleven revolutions. His mother warned him against it, telling him the stories, but Bateny was curious. He was curious, and yet he could not find the entrance. He forgot about it—but not truly. No drite truly ever forgets unless the memory is forcibly erased from their systems, by themselves or someone else.
He has never heard of a drite who has erased his or her own memory. It’s a fairytale, designed to frighten young drites, passed down from generation to generation. He has never told it to Anis, and he does not feel he should frighten the child, although she will soon pass her seventeenth revolution. Bateny sometimes feels he is far too protective of her. She seems to be very set upon becoming a dritian architect. He has seen her sometimes creating designs on paper, sleek buildings with gear mechanisms upon the insides. He does not really understand it, being more of the liberal arts, but he tries, and Anis appreciates that.
Emitting two clicks, a smile to us, Bateny goes back down the stairs to finish the chores that Anis cannot do due to her focus on education. Anis sits at a desk in the main room, metal head bent over a thick book full of Rinasch history.
“Father?” she inquires of Bateny, sensing his presence in the room.
“Yes, Anis?” he responds, absently. He does not think it will be anything important.
“Who built the first drite?” As Anis says this, Bateny freezes. He does not know the answer, and yet he has pondered it so very often. He tries to think of a way to respond, to answer his daughter. He hesitates for a very long while.
“… Rinasch historians have tried to answer your question, my dear,” he answers her carefully, “and have not come to a solid conclusion, but they think that the first drite was not built, but grew out of lightning, metal and magnets.”
Anis makes an impatient noise. “Father, that is ridiculous. It is impossible. No drite can be formed of lightning, metal, and magnets. It has not ever occurred before, so how could it be true? I think that the Niejet were real, once, and that they built the first drite.”
Her father emits a click, expressing his annoyance with her tone. “The Niejet are a fairy tale, stories built to terrify the children into obedience. Who told you about that?”
“Seneile, a friend from the education center,” she replies. “Forgive my petulant tone, Father. I did not mean to speak in such a way with you.”
Bateny dismisses the statement, making the universal ‘all is forgiven’ gesture. “You ought to tell your friends that these are fairy tales, and you are older drites now. Stories for children cannot be yours. You must take the responsibility of citizenship upon your shoulders, and become true Rinaschen. Please, Anis, consider. We have never seen a sign of the Niejet. There is nothing to prove that they have ever existed.”
“The depths below Rinas could prove it.” Anis has turned in her chair at this point, facing Bateny with the expressionless face of a drite, but the wavelength screen upon her mechanical heart displays calm, interjected with some fear, although Bateny is sure that the fear could not have to do with his reaction. She has nothing to fear.
“Anis, no one has ever emerged from those depths intact.”
“But that is precisely my point, Father. If truly there have been no drites emerging from the depths intact, there must be something down there that is taking them apart to conceal information.” The wavelength screen upon Bateny’s chest echoes Anis’s earlier reaction of fear. Where Anis had fear earlier, it is now mixed with something akin to excitement. She wants to go down into the depths, Bateny thinks at that moment. She wants to find out if they are real or not.
Anis sees his fear. “Father, I am not thinking of going into the depths. I would be a fool if I did. I am only noting that it could be possible for the Niejet to exist. Nothing more.” She emits two clicks, expressing a smile.
“My dear, I suppose it would not be any harm for you to think so. You have justified it well enough to keep your opinion. However, do be warned that some others may not share that opinion, and may not allow you to keep it as I have. They will attempt to prove you wrong at every turn. Please do be prepared for it.”
“I am, dearest Father.” After all, education is greatly valued in Vasrin, and Anis considers herself Vasrinian, not Rinenian.
She has been preparing to guard herself for her entire life.