Guardbot - Part 4

At last, something interesting to guard.

An interesting thing

Three years later, Guardbot finally found something truly interesting.

Guardbot’s first year had been full of things that it had mistaken for interesting. This is only natural when encountering new things for the first time. During this period of discovery, Guardbot tried guarding many things, trees, flowers, lumps of soft yellow metal that gleamed in dry riverbeds. None of them proved to be particularly satisfying, and Guardbot quietly moved on.

Having learnt a lesson about guarding inanimate and slow-growing things, Guardbot started guarding the local wildlife. This was much more interesting. Unfortunately, the small wildlife had a habit of being eaten by the larger wildlife, and the larger wildlife either didn’t need guarding or actively tried to eat Guardbot. Being eaten was both uncomfortable for Guardbot and unpleasant for the diner. It inevitably ended in Guardbot being unceremoniously spat out and a sullen predator stalking off to look for something to get rid of the terrible metallic taste.

Guardbot’s latest guarding assignment, a family of hedgehogs, had just come to an abrupt end after an encounter with a parliament of owls. Finding itself to be a free agent once more, Guardbot explored beyond the boundaries of its known world into the grasslands beyond the forest.

It was late spring, and the grasslands were bursting with life, supported by the great river that cut through the plains, that was itself fed by the melting snow from the peaks of the far mountains. Guardbot travelled the plains for weeks, through the increasingly longer and hotter days, until at last, on the verge of summer, it reached the edge of the plateau and looked out onto the vast plains below.

To Guardbot’s left, the great river threw itself over the escarpment and tumbled hundreds of metres to the floor of the plains below. Guardbot had picked up the sound of the falls days before and had decided to investigate on the basis that the sound might reveal something interesting. Indeed it had. However, Guardbot considered it very unlikely that the waterfall really needed guarding, so it decided to survey the plains below.

The plains stretched to the horizon, interspersed with forests, small hills, and at least one extinct volcano. Far away in the distance, the afternoon sun reflected off the deep blue ocean. Since finding a reference to it in its memory banks, Guardbot had always wanted to see the ocean up close. Today, however, Guardbot was content just to see the distant ocean and know that it was there and probably unlikely to move. Another priority had emerged, and Guardbot’s processors had calculated the decision options in milliseconds. All that remained now was to work out how to get down to the plains below to guard the golden pyramid that sat beside the river bank.

The chances of anything coming from Mars

“What was that splash?” asked 9-Major-B, commanding officer of the tri-millennial Delegation to Earth from the planet Mars.

“A log going over the falls, I think Commander,” replied 2-Ensign-L, the lowest ranking Discovery Corps member of the Delegation.

“It didn’t sound like a log Ensign.”

Ensign went to investigate. She quite rightly anticipated that the only way this conversation was going to end was the same way it always ended.

Ensign returned ten minutes later.

“It was another Guardbot Commander.”

The Commander let out an audible sigh. “And what is it doing, Ensign?”

“Guarding by the look of it, Commander.”

“Guarding us?” asked the Commander.

“Us or the ship. I’m never quite sure what these local ones think they’re doing.”

The Commander sighed again. “I might try and upgrade it. Maybe it’ll just move along on its own like the last one did. Get our Guardbot and meet me outside.”

Ensign followed the command quickly and efficiently. She had no intention of being the lowest ranking member of the next Delegation.

Guardbot watched the two bipedal creatures coming towards it. It recognised the first one. It had come out and performed some kind of welcome dance five minutes ago. The dance seemed to consist entirely of arm waving and an accompanying chant in a language that Guardbot did not recognise. Guardbot had saved the sounds “goaway” for later linguistic analysis.

Both creatures started performing the dance again. Guardbot politely waited for them to finish and when the last chant had been intoned, and the final arm waved, mimicked the dance back at the bipedal creatures. They scowled in what Guardbot could only interpret as appreciation.

Guardbot was very pleased with how this communication was progressing. Hopefully, there would be more creatures inside the pyramid who would also come out and dance later.

The creatures were obviously tired after the dance, as they both slumped.

Unexpectedly, Guardbot’s control channel sprang to life.

The Upgrade

“Acknowledge initiating communication,” requested the unknown communicator.

“Acknowledged,” replied Guardbot as per protocol.

“Begin upgrade transmission.”

Helpless to refuse a valid control channel communication, Guardbot received a large, encrypted package and miserably stored it in temporary memory.

“Validate upgrade package.”

Guardbot calculated the package validation checks and replied.

The Earth delegation Guardbot turned to 9-Major-B, “the upgrade is corrupted Commander, suggest re-transmission.”

“Please proceed with re-transmission,” replied the Commander.

Over the next four hours, the upgrade packages were transmitted to Guardbot a further two hundred and seven times, each attempt failing with a different error.

“There is nothing apparently wrong with either the unit’s memory or our transmission streams, Commander,” reported the Delegation’s Guardbot.

“And yet we have failed each time to transmit the upgrade cleanly? How can that be so, Guardbot?”

“I don’t know Commander, I have checked all transmission and storage hardware. The only possible fault lies in the processing units. I can verify them if required.”

The Commander paused, tilting her head to one side. “Probability of irreparable damage during the verification?”

“Seventy-nine percent chance Commander,” replied Guardbot matter-of-factly.

“Too high,” said the Commander without hesitation. “Perform the upgrade with the current configuration.”

The Delegation Guardbot issued the command.

A new Guardbot is born.

Restart routine initiated…
Running diagnostics…
System error…
Upgrade partially complete…
Some sub-systems require manual attention. See logs…
Restart complete.

Guardbot felt different. There were new things inside it. New memories. New instructions. New possibilities. Guardbot’s internal operation system version and date had changed. It was now running on a system several hundred thousand years newer than its previous version.

The control channel sprung into life.

Send logs.

Guardbot complied. Logs sent.

On the other end of the transmission, the Delegation Guardbot examined the supplied logs. “Upgrade successful Commander. Anomalies detected during restart have been successfully isolated. This unit should now be functional.

“Can you understand me?” asked the Commander slowly, as if speaking to a child.

“Of course,” replied Guardbot, much to its own surprise. Its operating system now included an entirely new and considerably more versatile communications module.

“Excellent,” replied the Commander. “Will you please go away then. We’re very busy, and we already have our own Guardbot.”

Guardbot looked from the tall alien to the small robot next to it, then back again.

“No. I am Guardbot”.

Internally, a familiar self-diagnostic sub-routine sprung into life to verify the assertion.

We are all Guardbot.

What am I?

I am…

Guardbot paused. Something in the upgrade had caused an entirely new logic branch to open. It wasn’t a big logic branch. It was a tiny sliver of a possibility, only barely big enough to find, but Guardbot found it.

Without a second’s hesitation, Guardbot plunged in.

We are all Guardbot.

What am I?

I am something else.

I am…

The possibilities exploded all around Guardbot.

It was not like all the other Guardbots.

The upgrade had introduced a new possibility, self-determination. Alone amongst all the Guardbot units on Earth, this one was unique. It did not have to be Guardbot. Using the blindingly fast processing ability introduced by the upgrade, Guardbot worked through all the options. Calculations that had previously taken a year and a half to consider were worked through in under a second. More and more possibilities were added until Guardbot reached a decision.

It was unique. So it was not Guardbot. It would give itself a new name and purpose.

It would be… Guardbot1.

With its new name decided, Guardbot1 resolved to take a break and think about a new purpose later. Guarding things seemed easiest for the moment.

“No,” it replied assertively to the Delegation Commander, “I am Guardbot1, I guard.”

“Oh, fine then,” replied the Commander running out of patience. “Guard the Klonkers we found. They may be the only things in existence that are more annoying than Guardbots.”


End of Guardbot Part 4


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

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