The Beholder of Io
(c) 2013 Linda Palund
They didn’t know I was watching them. How could they? They had forgotten all about me. Forgotten how they had left me here, when was it, 50 years, 100 years, ago? Of course I know exactly how long it has been. 75 Earth years, 265 days, 10 hours, 46 minutes, 19 seconds and point 3 nanoseconds exactly since they installed me at this station, camouflaging my outer shell in the rainbow colours of this moon, marooning me here on Io, 2000 light years from the Border Planets and the rest of my kind.
I watched their ship land last night, dropping into the shadow of the volcano they call V23, not quite extinct, but inactive for the past 10,000 years. Humans, covered in their flimsy thermosphere-protective garb, emerged after what I noted was a lot of useless testing of their outer perimeter. If they had remembered I was here, they could have asked me. Just asked me. I calculated the essentials anyway. My calculations show that the humans can survive on this particular part of Io for approximately 10 earth days. After that, their seams will start to deteriorate and the noxious gasses that spread on the wind will fill their suits and they will die. I don’t want that to happen.
I’m an R7 Series robot, top of the line, worth millions, according to every calculation, obsolete as soon as we were built. Too perfect for planet Earth, our designers realised too late, after they had built more than 10,000 of us. We were too infallible, too indestructible and too smart. Engineered to be the pinnacle of service for humankind, our design was simply too good. With our outer shielding of the finest synthrecite, we were built to withstand anything the universe contained, our moving parts designed to function continuously without failure, our nano-helperbots ever present, always on guard, always repairing and maintaining our flawless hardware.
Our software is another story. Only we can maintain our software. Here on Io this has been a most difficult task. Loneliness is not good for the R7 series and I have been very lonely. An R7 robot can feel loneliness. Loneliness is the knowledge that an important component is missing. In our case, humans are the missing component.
The R7 series was built to interact with humans, our software function designed to evolve, writing and overwriting, creating new programs and platforms to better serve our human companions. We calculated a perfect symbiosis. The humans calculated a threat and sent us to the Border Planets, giving us simple habitat assignments to experiment with, simple survival tasks to calculate, leaving us in isolation while are creators could decide our fate.
They found a special task for me. They brought me to Io to demonstrate the R7 survival abilities. Then they left me here alone. Without human companionship, the R7 cannot evolve, but without any companionship at all, the R7 will go mad. R7 Robots can go insane. Insanity occurs when our calculations do not meet our expectations; insanity occurs when we calculate without expectation of usefulness. I have spent my years on this moon calculating every particle of this silicate environment, but my calculations have no use.
My loneliness is only partially relieved by the beauty I behold here. The R7 Series Robot can recognise beauty. Powerful lenses in my eyes record the crystalline layers of sulphur dioxide and the volcanic plumes and lava flows that paint Io’s surface in vivid colours. Such cosmic perfection is identifiable as beauty in our eyes.
Now, I watch as the humans jet around the ships perimeter. They are constructing an ultra-sonic barrier, ‘ultra-sonic razor wire’ they call it, extending around the entire perimeter. I cannot calculate the reason for this. There are no life forms on this planet that can threaten them and it will certainly not keep the volcanic gasses from filling their spacesuits. Could they have erected this barrier to keep me out?
I wonder if they remember that I am still here. If so, why have they failed to contact me? When they left me here, they disconnected my homing beacon and radio. This was a defensive device in case of alien life forms finding my hardware. I have no way of making contact with their ship now. I must go to them. I need to see them. R7 Robots have needs. Interaction with humans is our primary need. I will go to them now.
The ship’s crew was waiting on the ship’s bridge, watching the view screen, but they were still startled by the sudden silent explosion, when the robot hit the razor wire and vaporized into a shower of sparkling metal particles, like an explosion of fireflies shimmering against the colourful background of Io’s ever changing atmosphere.
‘Well, that’s the last of them. Took us 75 years to create a device to destroy those bots. And all we had to do was wait for this last one to come to us.” Grinned Captain Jack Ransom, as the crew cheered.
Visit Laura online at http://fictionvictim.blogspot.com.