The Beginning of Source

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John Smith
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Joined: 2010-09-23 00:33
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The Beginning of Source

Post by John Smith » 2014-11-10 22:33

The Past (Undetermined)
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It was a builder. It had always built things. That had been its purpose. Plazas and atriums. Sculpted columns and towering archways. But also tools and furniture. It knew how to suspend bridges across vast expanses of water. It knew how to articulate joints to express the full stylistic aesthetics of the parts it joined. It knew how to design a building so that solar paneling would be most effective. It also knew how wind and rain, and all the other elements, could slowly erode even the best made structures. Just as it knew it was slowly being eroded.


The machine sat idly, scanning the landscape as it did every day. The sun had risen over its world exactly 47 minutes ago. The morning light burned an intense mix of reds and deep purples in the polluted sky. It cast long shadows across the space it had made for itself amidst the toxic landscape. Time had little meaning for the machine. It could not remember when it had forgotten, but it knew it had been here a long time.

Around it stood constructs of various shapes and sizes. It was a builder, and building was what defined the machine. But here there was no one to tell it what to build, so it had begun building things arbitrarily. At first, it had built nothing. Without direction, it could not decide what to do. But time had passed, and its inhibition had begun to erode. It had started small, designing wrenches and spanners. Somehow aware that one day it would use them to build greater things. And so it did.

As time went on, the builder did use its tools to build larger structures. It shaped and fused metals, laid stone and composite materials. After a time, the machine realized it was building a home. Though it did not think to ask who might live there. But still it built, and when the home was finished, it continued building.

It built a small plaza, and an atrium. It built pathways and walls, archways joining open spaces and balusters for stairs that led nowhere. Its purpose was to build, and so it did.

Now, it watched the sun rise over the toxic world. High concentrations of chlorine and chemical solvents filled the air. By products of millennia of dumping, the land was saturated with the heavy metals and toxic chemicals produced by the waste of a thousand worlds. The atmosphere was breathable, but not healthy by any means. The land was, miraculously, livable, though scarcely so. None of this matter terribly to the machine, though. It did not breathe, just as it did not live. But all the waste did give it a means to do what it was designed to do.

The machine was dissatisfied with its efforts. The landscape, tortured and filled with debris as it was, had transformed in the time since it began building. But it had recently become concerned that none of its constructs served a purpose. The shelter kept the machine safe from the acidic rains that swept the area, true, but the home it built was not built for the machine. It built because it was programmed to, and for no other reason. Now, it questioned the buildings themselves, rather than itself. What purpose did they serve?

A noise drew the machine’s attention. A low scrapping sound of metal on metal. It rose upon rust covered legs, actuators groaning. It walked through the cobbled together courtyard, not quickly, for it could not walk quickly anymore. The noise grew louder as he approached, emanating from an atrium it had built years ago.

It found another machine moving among the columns and supports that surrounded the open atrium. The planet was filled with machines, it had learned. Most broken and wasted away. Some active, waiting, or wandering, about the landscape. Mostly, the machine had ignored these others.

The new machine could not be rightfully said to be intruding. For to do so, the builder would have need some sense of ownership attached to the place it had built. But it had none. It had had a home once, a place that was designed for the builder, but this was not it. This was not its place, merely its occupation. Still, the new machine had found its way here, and now the builder was curious.

The builder said nothing at first, merely watching the new machine as it struggled to move among the metal archways. This machine was bipedal, but large and bulky. Thick plating covered its extremities and torso, but all bore the same signs of age and erosion so common to the machines of this planet. Its features were designed with straight edges rather than gentle curves. It did not look to be designed to build. The builder watched, and after a few moments realized why the machine was struggling to move. One of its legs was badly damaged. A large section of it was torn away, exposed wires and torn metal hung limply from one side. The scraping noise was the sound of it half dragging its leg through the debris that littered the ground.

After a time, the new machine noticed the builder, its bulky frame swung to face it completely. There was silence between them. The builder wondered what it was thinking, what it was deciding. The builder cocked its head to one side, idly wondering what purpose the machine had been built for, and then it spoke.

A low, raspy voice, circuits damaged by erosion and ill repair. “I-I-I-Identify.” The machine raised one arm, leveling it towards the builder. It realized then that this was a machine built for war.

The builder considered. It could not remember its designation. It had been so long since it had been used, and time and the elements had done their damage to its memory core, so it responded with the only thing it knew. “I am a builder,” it said.

The war machine considered for a moment, then dropped its arm. The builder could see no weapon attached to it, and wondered what the machine thought it had been wielding. The new machine staggered forward several steps. “I-I-I-I am damaged-d-d-d. Repair.”

The builder did not understand right away. “I cannot. I am a builder.”

The war machine scanned the room, assessing the atrium and its columns. “Y-Y-Y-You. Repair.”

It did not seem to understand. Or perhaps it thought the builder was a builder of machines. “I cannot repair. I am a builder.”

After several seconds of silence, in which the war machine seemed to consider this fact, it staggered forward again, almost desperately. “M-M-M-Mission. I require-re-re-re repair. To complete M-M-M-Mission.”

It was close enough now that the builder could clearly see the damage done to its leg. It did not know how to process the concept of this machine’s mission. The machine was, as all machines do, attempting to fulfill its purpose. It could not do so with a damaged leg, it seemed.

Purpose. The builder considered the war machine, then looked to the fruits of its own labor. The atrium stood silently in this wasteland. It held against the elements. Its columns and archways held to aesthetic designs. It was well made. But it had no purpose because the builder had no purpose for it. It existed merely because the builder had executed its function.

This machine had a purpose, though its purpose was different from the builders. They filled different roles, and the builder did not know how to process the role filled by the war machine. But it was built for a task.

The builder considered the damaged leg of the war machine. It was not certain of the material of the construction, but it realized that it could possibly fabricate the plating that covered the leg. It would be no different than building a very tiny wall.

The builder approached the war machine with new interest, and examined the components hanging from its damaged section. Wires and joints were no mystery to the builder, it understood the fundamentals of electrical engineering. But this was altogether different. Servos and actuators, capacitors and power distribution, this machine was far more complex than the wiring of a home.

Or was it?

The more the builder examined the damaged circuits, the more they seemed to resemble things it understood. Moving components were merely shapes that fit together in specific sequences. Circuits were laid out in a pattern that could be duplicated. Motors could be taken apart and rebuilt.

After a time assessing the damage, the builder finally rose. “I will repair.”

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