The artificial lifeform named Mite was feeling the android equivalent of trepidation.
First, Jennifer Jones, one of the few humans to treat him as more than a talking toaster, left the Squadron Supreme apparently to lead a group that many of his teammates were afraid would eventually attack them. Then, six days, three hours, thirteen minutes and eleven seconds ago, Squadron electronic security was breached apparently by Jennifer Jones in order to entice an unknown number of Squadron members, himself included, to join her Squadron Sinister.
These facts in and of themselves were not the cause of Mite’s consternation. Ever since he had become self-aware on April 1, 1989 at 2:32:46 AM Eastern Standard Time, the shifting friendships and fragile loyalties humans created amongst themselves had troubled him. What was currently commanding an inordinate amount of processing power was why Antares, one of the core members of the Squadron, had asked him to keep AIDA under surveillance.
Mite had been in the Library explaining to Lady Sphinx, perhaps the most enigmatic member of the Squadron, 21st century cultural mores – in particular, where public nudity is permissible and why the many fountains around Millennium City should not be used for bathing – when Antares walked in.
“Mite,” began the sorcerer, his lilting Italian accent bringing inexplicable wonder to Mite, “I need to speak to you a moment.”
Although Mite’s linguistic sub-routine had no difficulty interpreting Antares’ utterance as an indirect request for privacy, Lady Sphinx was completely oblivious to its meaning and continued to lie on the plush couch opposite the teen-sized synthezoid preening her wings.
“Sphinx,” Antares began, his eyes finding hers, his voice gruff, “I would like to speak to Mite alone.”
Lady Sphinx rose with cat-like grace, her eyes fixed on Antares, “As what you desire to discuss is not for a Sphinx’s ear, I depart so that Antares and Mite may draw near.” With that, Lady Sphinx spread her majestic wings and flew through the door Antares had left open behind him.
His cape flowing behind him like an ebon cloud, Antares shut the door and walked to the now-standing Mite. The mage then raised his hands over his head and chanted a few words in a language defying all attempts at linguistic analysis. Within seconds, a coruscating bubble of cyan energy formed about the two. According to the database Mite maintained on members of the Squadron as well as those they had fought, Antares was apparently linked to the star Alpha Scorpii but the energy pulsating around them like a thing alive conformed to no known energy signature.
“Now,” said the sorcerer, his words slightly muffled within the energy dome “we can talk in private without fear of interruption.”
Antares then recounted the conversation he had had with Arcana the previous day about the Shroud’s recent cyber-attack on the Squadron and how he feared that AIDA, the Squadron’s android major domo, might have been a party to it. After a brief pause, Antares asked Mite to do the unthinkable – spy on one of the Squadron.
“I will, of course, comply with your request, Antares,” began Mite, “and will only report back to you alone as per your instructions. However,” Mite paused to calculate the best combination of words to express his intent without insulting the occasionally moody sorcerer, “should I not also report my findings to Arcana?”
Antares looked at Mite for a moment in what the android’s facial profiling software revealed to be great concern mixed with mild annoyance.
“Leadership is weighing heavily on Arcana,” Antares answered sternly, “and I would not wish to burden her further unless it is absolutely necessary. I want this to remain strictly between us.”
Since that conversation occurred five days, six hours, twenty-three minutes and eighteen seconds ago, Mite had done as he had been asked. He had monitored AIDA’s movements throughout Squadron Headquarters, reviewed her upgrades to the Squadron’s security protocols and recorded all electronic traffic to and from her neural net. Based on all available data collected, AIDA was functioning at peak efficiency and there were no indications of duplicity or subterfuge.
He would report his findings to Antares as soon as he completed monitor duty. The Monitor Room was one of the few places where Mite felt truly at home. There were no endless variables to consider while on monitor duty as was the case when interacting with human beings – if there was a crime in progress, he would dispatch a contingent to stop it; if there was a disaster, he would send aid and if a wrong was committed, he would send his teammates to right it.
He was interrupted from finishing his activity log by the soft swish of the pneumatic doors opening and closing behind him. He turned in his chair from the bank of monitors to see AIDA standing at the doorway.
“We need to talk,” she said in an inflectionless monotone.