Guardbot - Part 5
See you in 3000 years
Where do we start with the Klonkers?
The simplest explanation is that they are seeds—sentient seeds from a peculiar tree that grows exclusively in deep space.
Klonkers are usually round, approximately the size of an Earth golf ball. They come in every imaginable colour, many of them imperceptible to the human eye. They have between one and fifteen eyes, though it gets challenging to count once a Klonker has more than half a dozen. So who can say for sure? There could be Klonkers with more eyes. Rather than being fixed, the eyes seem to be free-floating inside whatever it is that Klonkers are made of. Some people find it disturbing to be looking at something and suddenly have four eyes appear. Those people don’t talk to Klonkers a second time.
Not much is known about how Klonkers communicate. Many theories focus on the eyes, believing that there is a hidden pattern in their appearance and disappearance. If this is true, no one has yet identified that pattern.
Billions of years before the ancestors of the Gargantor Engineering Collective emerged from the primordial soup on their home planet, one species did unlock one of the secrets of Klonker communication. The species was a planet-sized colony of olfactory organisms connected by a hive mind. Basically, a giant nose, shaped like a planet. They discovered that Klonkers communicate by the unique combinations of smells that they produce. They also found that Klonker communication isn’t worth listening to. Being seeds, Klonkers are only babies and don’t make much sense.
Klonkers are spawned in deep space, usually in batches of billions. They quickly disperse from their parent to drift in every direction until they find an obliging intergalactic wind to carry them away. Once on the wind, they float, in a dormant state, until they run into something solid.
Most planets have had a Klonker infestation at one time or another. Klonker infestations involve a (hopefully small) number of Klonkers hitting your planet. A (hopefully quick) stay while they gather enough nutrients to germinate. And a launch back into space, much to the relief of all the planet’s indigenous species. Once back in space, the Klonkers will grow into a tree that will one day produce a new generation of Klonkers. All going well, this new generation of Klonkers will eventually go on to thoroughly annoy the population of another planet.
Time for a career change?
As the six excitable seeds that Guardbot1 had been given to guard somehow managed to open and escape from the secure storage box built into Guardbot1’s middle again, Guardbot1 decided that it might just hate Klonkers.
The Klonkers scattered into the long grass. One seemed to be heading back towards the Earth Delegation’s spaceship. Guardbot1 recognised this trick; the Klonker would double back. They didn’t like the golden spaceship or its inhabitants.
Guardbot1’s arm shot into the grass and snatched up the first escaping Klonker. All the seed’s eyes instantly disappeared into its opaque pink body. Guardbot1 stuffed the silently protesting creature into a jar and screwed the lid on tight. They had a lot more trouble escaping from jars.
Guardbot1 spent the next three hours chasing down the other Klonkers. In the end, it only managed to catch three more of the six. Goodness knew where the other two had gone.
Guardbot1 returned to the spacecraft and found 2-Ensign-L hiding behind her favourite rock outcrop, eating a biscuit.
“Morning Ensign,” said Guardbot1 cheerily.
“Hi Guardbot1,” replied Ensign. Over the past few months, despite the Commander’s disapproval, she had grown fond of the odd little robot. “How’s the Klonkers?”
“Two-thirds accounted for,” replied Guardbot1 less enthusiastically.
“Oh well,” shrugged Ensign, “that’s pretty good. I’m sure the others will turn up when it’s least convenient.”
Guardbot1 nodded, remembering the time it had lost five-sixths of the Klonkers for a week. They had eventually re-appeared. Guardbot1 just wished it hadn’t been in the Commander’s soup.
“Did you see the group of locals leaving today?” asked Ensign.
“No,” replied Guardbot1. “I was chasing Klonkers again. I didn’t get to see this group at all.” Guardbot1 was disappointed; it had been interested in meeting these bipedal locals. This group had included a Teddy.
“You know Guardbot1, we’re leaving today,” said Ensign, finishing her biscuit. “All the samples have been collected; we’ve taken readings of everything you can possibly imagine and searched for things that just aren’t here anymore. I asked for you, but the Commander said you won’t be able to come with us.”
Guardbot1 had been expecting this, but it was still bitterly disappointing. Ensign had been the only Delegation member who had been nice to it, and Guardbot1 had hoped to return to Mars and guard her.
“Once we get back home, we’re going straight back into stasis. Even if you did come back with us, it’d be a very dull 3000 years until you’d see us again. It’d only be you, the other boring Guardbot, and the Klonkers. I think you’d hate it. I’d hang out here if I were you.”
She reached down, opened his secure storage, and put a small receiver inside. “I’ll send you a message before the next Delegation. You will come and visit when we come back, won’t you?”
“Of course,” replied Guardbot1, digging into one of its other storage compartments. “I have a present for you too,” it said, handing Ensign a fist-sized uncut diamond.
“Pretty!” exclaimed Ensign holding it up and letting the early morning sunlight dance through the gem. “We have these back at home too, but much smaller. Thanks, Guardbot1,” she said, hugging the small robot. “Where did you find it?”
“Over in one of the volcanic caves in the side of the escarpment,” replied Guardbot1. “There were lots more, but that was the best one.” Guardbot1 hesitated for a moment then said, “I also have a present for the Commander, can I give it to her?”
“Might be difficult,” said Ensign, “she’s decommissioning the outer sentry points this morning.”
“I’ll leave it for her at the ship then,” said Guardbot1. “I’ll go and get it now.”
“Ok, see you in three thousand years or so,” said Ensign waving at the back of her departing friend.
“See you soon, Ensign,” shouted Guardbot1, reversing its arm so it could wave enthusiastically at her.
Ensign watched Guardbot1 disappear into the long grass. For a while, the ripples showed her friend’s progress until eventually it was obscured by the distance and the wind gently blowing up from the ocean.
She didn’t see Guardbot1 again that trip. The departure preparations took every remaining minute of the day. Eventually, once the ship cleared Earth’s atmosphere, the Commander ordered the second watch to sleep. Ensign returned to her bunk, briefly admired her new diamond, then dropped into a dreamless sleep.
Eight hours later, she was shaken awake by the Commander. The Commander did not look pleased.
“Ensign, do you have any idea how a gift-wrapped jar of Klonkers came to be in my cabin?” she demanded.
“It appears that the defective Guardbot may have developed a sense of humour, Commander,” offered the Delegation Guardbot, appearing unexpectedly from one of the lockers beneath Ensign’s bunk.
For a moment, the Commander looked like she might actually explode.
She blinked once, slowly and deliberately, and her face became a cold, calm mask. It was even more terrifying than her fury. Turning her focus away from Ensign to the Delegation Guardbot, she spoke quietly and precisely.
“Not helpful, Guardbot.”
No one dared utter another word. The Commander strode out of the cabin and disappeared towards the flight deck. The last thing Ensign heard was a bulkhead door slamming shut, obliterating a distant sound that could just have been a mutter about being surrounded by defectives.
Hundreds of thousands of kilometres below, Guardbot1 reached the top of the cliff by the same waterfall it had jumped off almost a year earlier. The communicator in its secure storage buzzed once—a message.
Nice present, G1!
Guardbot1 smiled internally.
In front of it, the plateau stretched out towards the distant mountain ranges in the east. The moon was bright tonight, and Guardbot1 had no trouble picking up the tracks of the small group of locals and their teddy.
End of Guardbot Part 5
GuardbotPart 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5