Guardbot - Part 2

Of crash landings and giant jigsaw puzzles.


The containers tumbled silently through the void, rolling, twisting, turning, colliding.

Several containers exploded; others ripped apart as they crashed into each other, spewing their contents into the vacuum. Amid the chaos, one anonymous-looking container deployed a set of wings, fired up a pair of hidden thrusters, and began cruising back towards the distribution asteroid.

Not many companies can afford homing containers. They are usually reserved for luxury goods, military secrets, or whatever it is that crime syndicates like to ship around the galaxy. Lots of companies, however, can afford containers fitted with insurance harpoons. As the homing container sailed past, hundreds of harpoons thudded into it from every angle until it bristled with so many spikes it looked more like a sea urchin than a cargo container.

For a moment, the homing container stopped, its momentum halted by the sheer weight of the freeloaders trying to catch a ride. Then, in a very ‘I contain military secrets’ kind of way, it shot plasma bolts up all the cables and everything attached to it exploded. As the last of the debris cleared, the homing container fired its thrusters and continued, businesslike, on its way.

On any other standard galactic day, such a riot of exploding colours would have attracted the attention of every pirate, scavenger, and rag-and-bone merchant in the system. Today, however, just happened to be the day of the Centennial Gargantor Engineering Collective flower arrangement awards, or as the media referred to them, the Bloomies.

Every miscreant in the quadrant was currently on the Bloomies’ star cruiser, locked in a raging blaster battle with the GEC’s elite security forces. Rumours that this century’s event might contain the first Flower of Life to blossom in over seven millennia had been a marketing triumph. Ticket sales were astronomical, attracting attention from every corner of known space.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite the attention the promotional committee had been hoping for. Rather than hordes of ultra-rich tourists eager to spend their credits, the docks were overrun with pirates, all trying to get a piece of the Flower of Life.

Against this backdrop of exploding containers, escaping military secrets, and the highest body count ever recorded at a flower show, a container of Guardbots floated quietly out of the solar system and into deep space.

Against all the odds, it rode the currents of the great unknown for an eternity, the unassembled Guardbots inside, never knowing how lucky they were to survive the journey.

The container finally washed up in a young solar system in an obscure galactic backwater, where they would change the course of history… for the better, if you needed a reliable guard robot, or for the worse, if you were a dinosaur minding your own business in the Cretaceous-Paleogene period.

Some assembly required

Unsurprisingly the GEC did not build their Guardbot shipping containers to survive massive impacts with inconveniently placed planets. This was lucky because if they had, then the Earth we know today probably wouldn’t exist, or if it did, it would be doughnut-shaped. Rather than punching a hole through the centre of the planet and carrying on through space, the container of Guardbots simply ploughed into the Earth, causing a planet-scale impact that triggered a massive extinction event.

It also disbursed Guardbot parts across every landmass and ocean on Earth, presenting quite a challenge for the Assemblybots.

Assemblybots are almost indestructible. They can take their power from anywhere. They can fly, walk or swim through everything from molten lava to the voids of deep space, and, thanks to some clever design, their tools never wear out.

The impact crater was not even cool when the Assemblybots deployed themselves. They were almost cheerful as they took to the skies. If the purpose of your existence was solely to assemble things, throwing in a planet-wide game of hide-and-seek would seem like extra fun to you too.

Good things take time.

A little-known fact about Assemblybots is that they are very competitive, so the race to get the first Guardbot together was hotly contested. It was eventually won by Assemblybot four in the creditable time of just a whisker over six hundred thousand years. A rush of completions followed. For a while, the Earths’ population of Guardbots outnumbered the species that would eventually become humans.

Guardbots spent quite a few of those early years trundling around looking for things to guard. All kinds of creatures, plants and geographic features unexpectedly found themselves with small robot companions. Unfortunately for those early assembled guardbots, this proved to be rather dull work, particularly for those that had decided to guard mountain ranges.

Many of the guardbots grew tired and put themselves into power-saving mode over the following geological ages, disappearing from the world. Others resolutely persisted, their programming rock-solid, their dedication unwavering, and their batteries constantly recharged. These stoic elders became known as The Immutables, and they were, to put not too fine a point on it, all a bit odd. Really odd, incredibly dull, very grumpy and just generally no fun to be around. The younger guardbots avoided them.


End of Guardbot Part 2


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