KITH AND KIN
FILE NO. 1398
NEWS REPORT—JACOB LAWSON, BBC LONDON
Location: Regent’s Park, London, England
A twenty-story-tall metallic figure appeared in the middle of Regent’s Park this morning. Caretakers at the London Zoo were the first to notice it at around 4 A.M. Standing on one of the Hub’s football pitches at the north end of the park, the figure, or robot, bears a resemblance, in both size and shape, to the UN robot we now know as Themis. This new giant, however, appears to be a man, or shall I say is made in the image of a man. It is much more muscular than the slender feminine titan that visited London less than a year ago, perhaps taller as well. Its colour is also different, a lighter grey than the UN robot, and it is striated with yellow light, in contrast to the turquoise-veined Themis.
According to early witnesses, the robot appeared out of thin air in the middle of the park. “It wasn’t there, then it was,” said one of the zookeepers. Fortunately, the football pitches at the Hub were deserted at this hour, and not a single casualty has been reported. It is unknown, of course, whether this early appearance was deliberate, as we do not know where this robot came from or who sent it. If this is indeed a robot like Themis, and if it is controlled in the same manner as she is, there could be pilots aboard. If pilots there are, are they Russian, Japanese, or Chinese? Or are they from somewhere else entirely? We can only speculate at this juncture. There might be no one at all in this giant structure. In the four hours it has been standing here, it has not moved an inch.
The Earth Defense Corps (EDC) has yet to issue an official statement. Dr. Rose Franklin, head of the scientific division, was reached in Geneva, where she was to give a speech later this morning. She would not speculate as to the origin of this second robot but has assured us that it is not part of the UN planetary defence. If true, this would suggest that either a second alien robot has been discovered on Earth and kept from us or that this one does not come from our planet. In New York, the EDC has scheduled a press conference for three o’clock London time.
The Earth Defense Corps, which was founded nine years ago by the United Nations following the American discovery of the Themis robot, is tasked with extracting new technologies from the alien artifact for the benefit of mankind and to protect this planet against extraterrestrial threats. Only time will tell if we are facing such a threat today.
No word yet from His Majesty’s Government, but sources say the Prime Minister will address the nation within the hour. The British people will not have to wait to hear from the other side of the aisle. The official opposition was quick to issue a statement earlier today, immediately calling for the Prime Minister to offer some reassurances. Opposition leader Amanda Webb took to the air about an hour ago, saying: “There is an alien device with potentially devastating power standing in the middle of London and all the Prime Minister has seen fit to do is to restrict access to one city park. Can he tell the thirteen million people who live in the Greater London Area that they are safe? If he can, he owes the British people an explanation, and if he can’t, I for one would like to know why we aren’t talking about evacuation.” The former Foreign Secretary went on to suggest that Central London be evacuated first, something that, by her calculation, could be accomplished in an orderly manner in less than forty-eight hours.
Londoners, for their part, appear in no hurry to go anywhere. Perhaps as surprising as the robot’s appearance is the utter nonchalance the population has displayed since. The towering figure is visible from most of London, and while one might expect civic unrest, or a massive exodus from the city, Londoners, for the most part, have gone about their business; many have even made their way towards Regent’s Park to see this new titan up close. The police have closed off the area south of Prince Albert and north of A501 between A41 and Albany Street, but some have managed to escape their attention and found their way into the park. The police even had to evacuate a family that was preparing for a picnic, a mere few steps from the giant metallic feet of the intruder.
It’s hard to blame Londoners for seeing a creature similar to Themis as a friendly figure. They have been told that a race of aliens left her on Earth for our protection. Her metal face and backwards legs are on the telly almost every day and have made the front page of every red top for nearly a decade. There are Themis tee shirts for sale on every corner, and young Londoners have grown up playing with Themis action figures. Themis is a star. Her visit to another one of London’s Royal Parks a year ago felt more like a rock concert than first contact with something from an alien world.
This is a defining moment in the short history of the EDC. The fruit of a very fragile coalition, the organization has been called a public-relations stunt by its detractors. Many have argued that a single robot, no matter how powerful, could not defend a planet against an invader. By adding a second robot to its arsenal, or forging a formal alliance with another race, the EDC would come a long way in silencing its critics.
FILE NO. 1399
PERSONAL JOURNAL ENTRY—DR. ROSE FRANKLIN, HEAD OF SCIENCE DIVISION, EARTH DEFENSE CORPS
I had a cat. For some reason, no one remembers my having a cat. I’ve been picturing her curled into a ball on the kitchen floor, slowly starving to death while waiting for me to come home. I keep forgetting that Rose Franklin came home that night, that she—the other me—never left. I’m glad my cat didn’t starve, but part of me wishes she’d waited for me by the door. I miss her. My apartment feels incredibly empty without her small presence.
Maybe she died. She wasn’t that old, though. Maybe I got rid of her when my job became too demanding. Maybe she didn’t recognize the person who came home that night pretending to be me and ran away. I wish. She’d probably be afraid of me if she were still around. If there’s a “real” Rose Franklin, chances are I’m not it.
Thirteen years ago, I got into a traffic accident on my way to work. Strangers pulled me out of my car and I woke up on the side of the road, in Ireland, four years later. I hadn’t aged a day.
How is that possible? Did I travel to the future? Was I…frozen, cryogenized for four years? I’ll probably never know. I can live with that. What I’m having a hard time dealing with is that I wasn’t really gone for those four years. I—someone like me, anyway—was here. Rose Franklin went to work the next day. She did a whole bunch of things during those years. Somehow, she ended up studying the giant metal hand I had fallen onto as a child. She became convinced that there were more giant body parts lying around and devised a method for unearthing them. She pieced together a giant alien robot called Themis. Then she died.