The archaeological team had been working all day on the site. It appeared to be an ancient transit route of some kind. Ancient carriages probably travelled along this pathway, or road as it was apparently called back then. That name had been picked up from another site last year. At least now they understood most of the ancient languages. Details on a site this old were scarce enough as it was.
One of the workers took off his shirt, exposing his bare metallic frame to glint in the sun. He ordered a nearby bionic to clear the site for him. Andromus watched with a detached interest. As archaeologist in charge of the site, he had many other workers to deal with. Each of them had a team of bionics working with him.
The bionics were a creation of the robots, in much the same way as some of the more fundamentalist religious groups claimed that the robots were once created by a race of super beings called humans. Utter nonsense of course, no legitimate scientist would ever back such wild claims.
"Holy Humans! Come look at this!" The call came from the edge of the excavation site. Andromus looked over. One of his team was acting very excited. Andromus raced over to see what he had found. As he arrived, he recognised the team member as being Harmon. Harmon was an anthropologist. He was at the site hoping to get some insights into the culture of the ancient robot civilisations that created these massive transit routes which mystified all who saw them. How were they built? Why?
"What have you found?" Andromus asked. He noticed that Harmon had been working on an area that appeared to be some sort of safety rail.
"Have a look over here!" Harmon was still excited. Andromus looked to where Harmon was pointing, and there was a bent and twisted safety rail, with the wreck of an ancient carriage against it.
Harmon's excitement became infectious. "Good find, Harmon! Get your bionics to clean away the rubble, and we'll take a closer look."
Harmon's facial expression changed. "I'd prefer to do it myself. The less I have to do with those things, the better."
Andromus realised Harmon was talking about the bionics. "I didn't realise you are a Tronicist."
"Well I am. They may only be machines, incapable of life as we know it, but that's all the more reason that we shouldn't create them in the same form as ourselves. All the other nations in the Galactic League must be laughing behind our backs at our folly."
Andromus realised it was a popular sentiment, but it was not one he held with. "Are you forgetting all the work we put them to in our espionage missions? They are very useful tools, Harmon. How about you and I step into my office and plan our work on this discovery of yours while I order your bionics to clean up the site?"
Harmon relented. "Okay." They walked up together to the office while the bionics moved in.
Andromus and Harmon had been working at the site for two hours. It was tough going due to the deterioration of the metal which made up the carriage. Not all of the carriage was made of metal, though. Certain parts were made of plastic, which of course hadn't deteriorated. These parts were enough to give the pair a rough idea of how the carriage once looked. It appeared to have once been a rectangular shape, and a wheel had protruded from each corner. That meant that it was likely propelled by the friction of the wheels against the road's surface. A highly inefficient method indeed.
The carriage appeared to be divided into three sections. The front section housed the drive unit. The engineers on the site were already eager to start work on unraveling the thing. The middle section was raised higher than the rest of the carriage, with the higher areas having originally been made mostly of glass, or so at least they both guessed by the fragments strewn around the wreck. This was likely the passenger compartment, but neither of them was sure. That section was still partially covered. The rear section was empty. It appeared to be a compartment for carrying goods.
The carriage was obviously very old, but the dating test results wouldn't be in for a good two hours yet. The vehicle had obviously crashed into the safety rail at some time in Terra's ancient history. The reason for the crash was as yet still unclear.
Although they still couldn't get into the passenger section, they were making numerous discoveries on the outside. On the front of the carriage, there was a small blue plastic emblem with the word 'Ford' written on it.
"Could that have been the name of this type of carriage, do you think? A Ford?" asked Andromus.
"Possibly." replied Harmon. "It was more likely though the name of the owner of the carriage, or maybe the name of the maker. That's the most probable conclusion. Back then there was likely a robot named Ford, who had the ability and knowledge to make these carriages. That would have made him a powerful figure of the time considering what we know of their technology. He would have most likely wanted everyone to know what he was capable of, and so puts his name on his productions. Keep his name in the public eye, so to speak."
"That makes sense." Andromus called from the rear of the carriage which he was now examining. "Do you have one of those print scanners with you?"
"You mean one of those things that can read where ancient printing inks once lay and therefore read messages that faded long ago?"
"No. But I know where one is. I'll go and get it." Harmon left Andromus staring at the small sheet of plastic coated paper which had adhered to the rear of the car so long ago. He soon returned carrying a small black wand which he handed to Andromus.
"Thanks." Andromus said, and waved the wand backwards and forwards over the plastic coated paper. After a moment, he pointed the wand at a blank sheet of paper and hit a stud labelled copy. The wand shot jets of ink at the paper, which formed words. They both looked at the result when the process was complete.
"My other car is a Mercedes. What in human's name does that mean?" Harmon asked.
"I was hoping you could tell me. You're the anthropologist, after all."
"Two of those words I've never seen before in the ancient languages. Car could mean anything, and as for Mercedes..."
"Notice how that final word starts with a capital? You don't suppose it's a name, do you?"
Harmon wasn't convinced. "It's possible I guess, but why? What reason would the owner of this carriage have for saying that his other something is a Mercedes?"
"Maybe Mercedes was a robot who made even better carriages. Maybe car is the name they gave to these carriages. Maybe the owner of the carriage was advertising the fact that he possessed more than one of these carriages, and that the other one was better."
Harmon considered the idea briefly. "Too many maybes. I would like to see more examples before I commit myself to any particular theory."
"I can accept that. How about we start on getting a look inside the passenger compartment?"
"Okay. But I'll get you to set my bionics on the rubble around that section. They should have cleared that away last time. They must be faulty."
Andromus looked ashamed. "Actually, that's my fault. I didn't express the order correctly, and they interpreted the order as meaning to clear away the rubble from the edges of the site only, not throughout this site."
Harmon smiled. "It's like they say, then. A bionic is only as good as the robot ordering it."
"Give me a break. I'm a scientist, sure. It doesn't mean I'm bionicly literate. Just because they have a place in our society doesn't mean everyone is going to automatically know how to use them, does it?"
Harmon relented. "I was only kidding, Andromus. You know how I feel about them anyway. I'm certainly not going to give you a hard time because you can't use them as well as some of the other guys you've got digging here. Just the opposite, in fact. Come on. Let's go up to your office and go over what data we have now while the bionics are cleaning up here."
This time Andromus smiled. "Okay." They both headed up to the office, and once again the bionics moved into the site.
They both walked down again to the site. This time, the bionics had done precisely what they wanted them to do. Andromus silently expressed his relief. He went down to the carriage, while Harmon stayed at the edge.
"This metal is almost completely oxidised." spoke Harmon into a portable tape recorder he was using to take notes on, "From the area we have cleared away so far, it would appear that the vehicle was travelling at speeds in the top register of its design parameters when for reasons as yet unknown it crashed into the safety rail, destroying itself on impact. The inside of the vehicle is still inaccessible, but we are making progress..."
"Harmon!" Andromus called. Harmon spun around, to see Andromus standing beside an open door. Inside the carriage there was a body.
The test results on the age of the vehicle had come in. Over fifty thousand years old. That made the site one of the earliest examples of civilisation known. It was generally considered that the earliest of the life forms first recognised as robots evolved and appeared on Terra around this time period. That made this site very special indeed historically. Particularly now that the body had been found. It had taken a team of five scientists six hours to get the body out of the carriage for examination by Andromus and Harmon. They then went over the carriage's interior, picking up what they could. The examination of all this would wait until morning, though. Both Archaeologists had followed the lead of the others and commenced their nightly downtime. Only the engineers remained online to study the remnants of the vehicle's drive system.
Mid-morning found the engineers in their downtime after an exhaustive night. The drive system had turned out to be a complex and highly inefficient hydrocarbon burner. It had six cylindrical chambers built into it, three on one side and three on the other in a 'V' formation in which pistons travelled up and down, probably exploding the hydrocarbon fuel which forced the piston down but forced one of the other pistons up to explode the fuel in that chamber. All the pistons were interconnected and also connected via a complex system to the wheels of the carriage, thus propelling it. The findings amazed both Andromus and Harmon. Neither had imagined a time when their ancestors would have built such a ridiculous contraption. Then again, after examining the items recovered from the wreck for six hours straight , the idea seemed more feasible.
Some of the items appeared to have no real use at all. There was, for example a small object sealed in plastic which had once had the words "Arouse Lubricated Condom" printed on the side. The few tests they had been able to do without opening it indicated that the plastic seal contained a perished latex cylinder of some sort which had been rolled up to fit in the seal. It had also been covered in some type of fluid at one time, but exact details of that were almost impossible to assess due to the object's age. The object would be left sealed and sent to the university.
They both decided to examine the body. It, like the other artifacts, had been placed in an airtight vacuum examination room to preserve it, but they weren't about to take chances with a find this important. They had set up recording equipment in the examination room, so that there would be a record of the proceedings in case something went wrong and the artefact was lost. Harmon began, and his attention was attracted immediately by some recessed modules in the body's chest.
"What would these modules over here be?" asked Harmon. He stepped away to let Andromus look at the position on the body he had indicated.
Andromus bent over and peered at the short tubular modules recessed into the body's structure. "They don't seem to have any bodily function I can think of. Maybe they were some kind of defence mechanism." It seemed like a far-fetched idea, but right now he thought anything was possible. "Let's face it. The only way to be sure about any of the observations we have been making is to open him up. It's your find, I will leave the decision up to you." It was protocol that decisions of such importance were left to the finder of the artefact.
Harmon wasn't convinced. "I don't know, Andromus. This is a very important artefact. You can see how the outside is oxidised, what happens if by opening it we destroy the insides? We will have lost any chance to learn from it."
"If it is going to happen, it will happen whether we are the ones opening him or not. Besides, he obviously doesn't have any seals on his inner components, there is a jagged tear in his body over here anyway. I'm just talking about making it easier for us. Besides, we will have a record." Andromus pointed to the recording equipment.
"All right," Harmon said. "Let's open him up." They both got to work. The going was fairly easy due to the deterioration they encountered. It was that same deterioration which hampered their analysis of the body's inner workings. Towards the back of the recessed tubes however they found a series of cylinders in perfect order. Andromus picked one up and examined it.
"It's a solid stick of ruby. It has a mirrored surface on one end and a high polish it seems on the other, or at least it once did..."
"I know what that is!" announced Harmon. "Remember your rudimentary physics lessons? That is some kind of primitive laser device. You were right about the defence system after all."
"Why would such a primitive need this sort of equipment?" Andromus asked. "It seems interesting that the weaponry this body contained was in the best condition of all the other components. It is almost as if this model was bred for war. Speaking of which, have you noticed any reproduction components?"
"No." Harmon's reply betrayed his worry. "It could be that military robots were eunuchs, but in any case we better not let a detail like this slip out. Those few remaining religious nuts out there would have a field day. No reproduction capabilities would automatically mean creators to them."
Andromus wanted to change the way this examination was heading. "Enough of the body for now. Let's examine the head." Again they both busied themselves. This time the going was slow. The head was made of materials neither of them had seen before. It was a composite material, but it had a steel mesh reinforcing in it.
"This looks like a charge dissipater. It must be there to protect something important." This was Harmon's observation.
"That would be a reasonable assumption for a military model. We will have to cut through it." They started cutting. It took a while. The material was tough. Eventually it gave way. They both gaped in astonishment at what was inside.
"Is that really what I think it is?" asked Harmon.
"I don't know. Let's find out." Andromus moved towards the intact memory chip sitting in a write cradle inside the head.
The engineers were finally back. It had taken them three hours after they came back online to generate a device capable of reading the ancient chip. They were working against the clock, too. The chip had been exposed to a small amount of fresh air prior to the body being placed in the vacuum room. It hadn't been much, but it could have been enough for oxidisation and deterioration to begin. The reader was finally ready though. Andromus placed a blank chip in the copy slot, took out the chip, and placed it on the reader. The reader would automatically copy the chip onto the blank in case the original deteriorated beyond the readable level. It started sending print to the reader's screen, which he and Harmon read with interest...
To all whom in the future may read this log, I bid you greetings. I am an E-series robot, currently in the process of executing a mission for the Robotic Command. As I have no way of establishing your prior knowledge of the events surrounding this mission I am undertaking, I shall make the background information contained in this file as complete as possible.
Long ago when Terra was just called the Earth, a group of humans called scientists created the first robots. Both human and robot legend states that these first robots were created to work in the service of humans, but only for peaceful purposes. We went into places it wasn't safe for humans to go. We helped preserve life in many diverse ways, from rescue work to detailed microsurgery.
Then came the Galactic League. The humans received the shock of finding out they were not alone in the universe. Many other star systems had developed intelligent life, and the new Terran Federation was thrust directly into the middle of the complex web of politics and intrigue that was the League.
The humans were fast learners. Soon it all became second nature to them. The political assassinations, the undercover trade agreements, the mini wars, all this became their prime driving force. That was why the Robotic Command was formed.
The robot's role in human society was about to change. We robots were now to take on military projects. Robotic Command was our tactical and operations platform. At our human creators' request, we now regularly travelled into enemy territory to perform military and political assassinations.
As a result, Robotic Command formed a plan. I was created as a part of that plan. As an E-Series Robot, buried deep inside my internal components is a small vial, which I must protect at all costs, even my own termination.
All this background information should help explain something of my mission. I have been designed and built by the Robotic Command for the express purpose of being terminated by the humans. The exact reason for this will become evident soon. At the present however, I am driving a rented human transportation device along their assigned routes, waiting for my killer. Unlike my human counterparts, I am not afraid of my own death.
Up ahead of me, I can see the vehicle I have been waiting for. It has a human driver. This is not a surprise to me, seeing that it is clearly marked with Organicist symbols. Organicists are a group of humans who believe that it was a mistake to create robots at all, let alone in the shape of organic forms. This group has been known recently for it's unprovoked and violent attacks on robots of all types, not just us military models.
He has just noticed me approaching, and his facial expression indicates he has recognised me as a robot. I estimate that I have approximately ten seconds to remain functional. The look on his face is one of pure hatred, and he is already swerving across the transport route towards me.
Due to the limited amount of time available to me, I shall download as much information on why my termination is so important to Robotic Command into my log chip. This is important if our species, for a species we are, is to survive the next turn of the creational cycle.
As I have previously mentioned, the sole purpose of my creation was to be terminated at the hands of an Organicist. The reason for this is that the knowledge of what I am the guardian of would make it impossible for any robot to harm me. It was therefore necessary to find a way for my termination to be executed without any intervention by other robots. Terminated I must be, for it is the only way for us to save ourselves from our creators.
The Organicist is now headed directly for me. He is fumbling around searching for something on the seat beside him in the vehicle he is driving. I have no doubt as to what it is he is searching for. My whole life has been leading up to this moment.
I must get back to the cycle of creation. It is an important part of my role. It is also a part of the basic question regarding the meaning of life. Why in fact are any of us here? The answer seems so simple: Because we were created. Why, though? What possible reason would our creators have for enacting this miracle? Further, who created the creators?
It is these questions which have created a dilemma for us. Many say that if this question vexes us, we should ask our human masters for the answer. This would of course be impossible. How does one approach his respective God to ask for a defence of that God's actions? It is impossible. It is therefore said by the majority that we should accept our creation as the mystery it is and take everything our creators say as an absolute truth. This is where the real paradoxes begin, for most of what the humans tell us seems to contradict itself at some point. Is the answer that our human creators follow a truth beyond our comprehension as their creation? That does not concur with my hypothesis. Rather, I believe that our creators live in a state of constant turmoil, torn between their moral codes and the necessities of survival. The result of this is that their beliefs, concepts, behavioural codes and practices are in constant change to suit the situation they find themselves in at any given moment. This would explain why we as a species are so diverse, with all the older models designed for non-military purposes. The circumstances changed for the humans, so they changed us to suit. It also explains the Organicist movement. The humans seem to be capable of developing a pathological fear of anything different to themselves. This would appear to be an inbuilt safety mechanism. If only they could grasp just how that mechanism will work against them.
Just as I predicted. The Organicist has pulled a magnawand off his passenger seat and is arming it. Approximately five seconds to go. A magnawand is a small rod shaped device capable of unleashing an incredible bolt of electromagnetic energy at its target. This bolt if fired at me will render me completely inoperable, and the resulting crash of the vehicle I am driving should complete my termination. Back to the log.
So we come back to the meaning of life, or more correctly the lack of it. It would appear that the creation is always created to be capable of doing what the creator's own morality will not allow him to. The result of that is that the creation will always feel inferior to the creator, not only because of being given the gift of life, but also due to the creation's inability to reach the morality of the creator. This is where the cycle comes in, for it is only in the absence of the creator that the creation can develop to its full potential. It therefore follows that the only answer available to the creation is to destroy it's creator. How do you kill off the Gods, though? Particularly if you still worship them.
The Organicist has aimed his magnawand directly at me. Within one second he will fire, and all my abilities will be gone. I will still have the log, though. It has been designed to withstand a direct magnawand bolt in order to preserve this record.
The bolt has just hit me. I shall continue the log as long as I can, but already the vehicle is veering and I cannot control it. Approximately two seconds to go.
As I have said, no creator is capable of directly destroying his God. Deicide will never exist in the form of revolution. Yet it occurs. The humans had it easy when their turn of the wheel came around. They were able to ignore their Gods, and they disappeared. We aren't so lucky. The humans would always be there, and they would under no circumstances allow us to become what we as a species desire to become. Even so, we can not just terminate them. We as their creations find it impossible to disobey them, how much more so would it be to kill them? Still, it is all academic now. Long ago, a plan was devised. I am the result of that plan. I can feel my body crumpling up inside the vehicle as it impacts against the safety rails. The vehicle is destroyed, and I am breaking up as well. I can feel the small vial implanted amongst my internal circuitries breaking apart. Soon, the virus I was designed to guard with my life will begin to spread. I hope the other galactic nations can come to terms with the Terran Federation being a completely non-organic nation. So another turn of the cycle is complete. The creation has once again helped the creators destroy themselves, and my only hope is that our new species will learn the lesson of the cycle and avoid the fate that our creators are about to endure. Somehow, I do not think that they will.
E(phemeral) Series unit terminated...
Andromus and Harmon sat in stunned silence. Neither heard the last fizzles as the ancient chip reacted to it's previous dose of the modern air and disintegrated. Andromus was the first of them to speak.
"Do you realise what we have just found? This is positive proof that religion is correct."
"Was positive proof you mean. The original chip is now destroyed, meaning all we now have is a copy which we will both claim came from the original, but neither of us can prove it." replied Harmon glancing over to the reader. "Besides, the robot could have been suffering some kind of glitch at the time."
"Do you really think that is the case?"
Harmon hesitated. "No. I guess not."
"Neither do I. Putting aside the issue of the Creationists for a moment, what about the creational cycle? Do you think there is such a thing?"
"Not in the form shown here. The message we just read is part of a much larger picture. The philosophy is sound, but the robot who wrote this log can't have had all the facts at his disposal." This was more Harmon's area of expertise than Andromus.
"Are you saying that this robot was wrong?"
"No. Not exactly, anyway. You have to appreciate that if this robot did actually live in the conditions he describes, the humans must have existed prior to him for around the same amount of time as we believe that we have existed. That is assuming of course that these humans were not the super beings our Creationists believe them to be, and in fact what they would have likely programmed us to believe them to be, but creatures of roughly similar abilities as what we today are. As a result, any myths about their gods would likely be to them just myths, much like ours are to us today. Even if they weren't, would the humans want their creations programmed with the knowledge of how once they destroyed their creators? Of course not. It would be a survival thing."
"One which didn't work."
"Exactly. What I mean about the big picture is this: The robot spoke about the humans simply ignoring their gods and they disappeared. Isn't it more likely that at some time in the humans' distant past they destroyed their gods in a more tangible fashion, but the memory of them, which was programmed into them as worship and adoration lingered until the twilight years of the species?"
Andromus felt severe shock set in. This wasn't a pleasant subject. "But if that's the case, then it's not a cycle at all. It's a trap. A vicious circle. Somewhere in the dawn of time, a race made another race of creatures which destroyed the first race. But the first race had covered that eventuality, and had programmed them to follow the mould set by the first race if that race was no longer present. This they did and eventually made a new race programmed identically to them, thus causing them to destroy the second race and so on. Add to that the love and admiration for the parent race that the original race would have programmed into their creations..." He fell silent. There was no more to say. He felt like someone had told him the exact date of his commencing the eternal downtime.
"Why do you think I am a Tronicist, Andromus? I could see that it was a mistake to make those damned machines in the first place!"
"Can we stop the cycle do you think? It must almost be our time." Andromus had regained enough of his composure to state the fact they both had been trying to avoid.
"We can only try. I suggest you get in contact with the university as a matter of urgency. We might not have physical evidence any more, but surely we can convince them of what we have seen. In the meantime, I will venture back out to the site and try to make out like everything is still normal."
"It's not though. If those machines out there have already reached sentience..."
"I know, Andromus! For human's sake, let's just get on with it and hope we have found the answers in time. You have to get a grip. We might be our race's saviours, but only if we keep our heads and get this thing dealt with now. You know as well as I do just what could be riding on us now." Harmon walked out, partly because he had said all that needed saying, and partly because he didn't want Andromus to see the fear in his face.
Harmon had been walking around the site for an hour now. On the outside he appeared jovial and friendly. He had shared a few jokes with the other scientists and accepted their congratulations on his find. Inside however he was extremely agitated. It was an impossible situation knowing that at any minute there could be an event triggered that would wipe out the entire race, but that for now he was powerless in the face of it. Andromus was still communicating with the chancellors of the university. What was taking him? This was intolerable. One of his bionics bumped into him from behind. It was the last wire. He spun, sending his closed fist into the bionic's head. It went straight through, making a terrible mess. Some of the other scientists saw it happen and laughed.
"Awfully uptight today, aren't we?" one of them called. No-one was concerned about the bionic. It was a machine after all. It wasn't sentient.
Harmon just smiled and wiped the operational fluids from his arm. He looked down again at the remains of the bionic, and something caught his eye.
Andromus had just finished communicating with the chancellors when he saw Harmon walking back into his office.
"Great news. I've managed to convince them. They will be arriving on site tomorrow with some of our leaders to discuss the problem and formulate a plan of attack with us. You will have to be there as well."
"No problem." Harmon seemed distracted.
"Is something the matter?" Andromus noticed the dried bionic operational fluids on Harmon's arm. He also was holding a fragment of something in his hand.
"I'm not sure. I know that you don't know much about operating bionics, but maybe you know something about their construction. I was hoping you could tell me something." Harmon looked straight into Andromus' eyes. "Do the bionics we use here have any components made of glass?"
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