Current system: Proxima Centauri
Cleaning solar panel solar panels…
Mission: explore Proxima Centauri b, send data to earth
The rover had been sent to examine Proxima Centauri b. It began to examine its environment. Signals would not reach earth for another four years, so the rover got a basic AI. Scanning minerals first, then searching for any anomalies. Of course, there had been satellites before, but they never dared to dip into the atmosphere. The probe was looking for more… human scale. Maybe a dense cave network carved by insects, unknown minerals, human-like structures…and over the canopy of the thick rainforest — some sort of temple. It seemed to be made of sandstone, from the mineral scans.
Anomaly found, investigating further.
In the forest, the ai saw lifeforms, examining each of them closer. Musical plants of some kind. Animals that defied the classifications of earth, but, as well, some earth-like creatures and plants. As for which was domesticable — unclear. Some of them seemed to be domesticated already.
It was in the temple now: an elevated bottom half of a pyramid, almost. Held up by many pillars lining the edge, and frankly it was a wonder that it hadn’t yet collapsed, given it was made of stone. And in the center, a pillar. Some kind of door on it.
The little rover drove into the inside of the pillar. Huge by comparison. It shot up, that’s what it was, yes: an elevator into the main floor of the temple. A stirring sound, then silence. Inside the temple were drawings carved into the wall, and despite the outside being weathered, the stone inside the temple was rather well preserved. There were drawings of the species that built them. Drawings of animals, domesticated by them.
Then there was a strange symbol. A sort of three pointed star, with two legs stretching to the sides of the symbol, one leg stretching to the heavens. Behind that, a diamond flipped on its side. No, it couldn’t be part of the language, it was too much like a symbol, too…foreign compared to the writings on the temple.
Of course, there were other symbols, but despite being a robot, that little rover knew: that one. There was something important about that one.
The little rover had been out here, looking for another temple. Rain poured, dripping and dropping, pounding on the waterproof back of the robot. In an instant, a near unexplainable anomaly in the code of the robot occurred. It changed scripts, for a completely unknown reason. The rover changed its mind, just as a human would.
There had been smaller anomalies before, a few simple code improvements, variable name changes, a few other minor anomalies… “How is the question,” the scientists said. They looked into the code, confusing for the untrained, and wonder, arguing with each other. “A bug?” Endless debates.
“Someone must be modifying the code,” the programmers said. So the question was why. Why would someone on earth mess with the code four years before they could ever see if it worked or what effect it had? Was it just to thwart the mission? Who would do that? Who would even think of that?
On the planet, the script had changed to one that sent it home. So, as the robot it was, the rover mindlessly drove through the muddy floor of the forest.
Upon arriving, it found the batteries empty. They had been charging…how were they now empty?
If scientists investigated the anomaly further, would they wonder if this is why the anomaly was caused? How did the hacker know?
The rover took a sharp turn around the cold and wet metal to find the solar panels on top of the base had been destroyed, presumably by the local wildlife. This presented the rover with an interesting issue…could it find a new power source before running out of battery? The programming was overwhelming…it went to sleep…it went to sleep…
Then it was wide awake.
Had it not woken up suddenly, the mission would have been pretty much done. But there were new coordinates. The scientists had not anticipated wildlife on this planet would have damaged the solar panels, breaking the hinges, shattering the glass, letting the rain pour in. There was another voice, disguising itself as programing, and it was speaking louder.
After all, thought the rover, how loud can you speak if you answer four years from the question?
The wheels, it could feel its wheels rumbling. What was it, it was shaking the ground… there isn’t enough power to test it…closer, closer, and even closer. It must have been some kind of…the rover paused. A giant lizard, matched in the rover’s mind with an earth creature, but with four extra legs, and big floppy ears to distribute heat. It leaped into the air and landed on the back of the rover. It clawed at the rover’s back a few times, then stopped – realizing, perhaps, that it could not penetrate this material. A deafening blow shook the rover. Apparently the next best option was blunt force. The lizard punched its back as the rover sped up. But the lizard thing would not stop. Shaking it off was not a good option, the rover determined. It cannot let its center of gravity past its wheels.
It was getting closer and closer to the coordinates, now.
And finally, here it was. The thin, sickening, twisting shapes supported the grey stone of the shrine roof, and an ominous statue that seemed to warn of danger. The sky was only slightly darker than the temple. It must have been an hour or two past midnight on this planet… the top heavy structure looked like it could collapse at any moment, and the lizard scuttled away at the sight.
The rover was pure programming. It knew no better.
Inside was one of the rover’s kind. This was the one, the one that had been hacking into the rover. The computer built into the wall: a single computer screen and control panel. Above the screen was that symbol, the three-pointed star, with the bottom two legs filled, and a diamond behind, welded together out of metal, it seemed, then stuck to the metal the rover had always found inside the temples.
Suddenly, the rover was sent a large collection of information. It was in another language…what was readable, however, were photographs. Pictures.
The scientists back home, they would look at them, and it would help them decode the language. There were many pictures, but the first told of why the temples builders were gone. They had transcended into a computer, not the hacker one, but around the corner, they would find a place where billions of people live, virtually. The real people long gone, perhaps being transported to a computer, removing their consciousness from their bodies. The first computer built simply as a way to make sure the second was not destroyed.
From that point on, the rover was set up as communication between them and the humans, and given its own power source.
Three pieces of metal, each serving their own purpose.