Tuesday, 5 March 2013
Drinking and Thinking about Robots
I invented these Mechs for a game I'm playing with some friends set in a distant-future mars. Somewhere in the middle it turned into a lecture from a wise old caln advisor to a young heir.
Orcneas is a flat smooth oval of unknown origin and design. It was clearly designed to brave the tides of some alien sea, or the core -winds of a Jovain Giant. But some remark on the thickness of its hull, the inexplicable strangelet-scarification swirling in momentary iridescence in the red Martian light, clinging sparks of unknown shade waving and rippling in violent fractal curls just as the creature skylines in the dying sun. They say Orcneas went somewhere terrible. That it was never meant to return.
The limbs are of more recent design, only a few thousand years old. Eight titanic monomolecular spider-crab limbs, flaking endlessly in paper-thin confetti-shards. Children keep the discarded metallic curls as good luck charms. The limbs are renewed slowly from within by some forgotten process fed by the still-humming core. The power still flowing over uncounted millennia, engineered for a timeless watch somewhere beyond the sight of man.
The two front limbs have four-fingered hands. The front legs walk on car-sized knife-bright claws. Within the shell, the Signal blade.
SIGNAL is the only still-legible word on the energy projector inside Orcneas. Its beams gash gold-vermillion and the blade itself is named in the death song scratched in mono-carbon ruins in the shadow of Olympus Mons. What work it did there long ago no-one can remember.
Frost-Fetter is old, as old as one of the great cyclic terraforming events of Mars, perhaps the first. She is a tall tripod, moving with unnerving grace on delicate tips. We know she was not made to kill, but to work great crafts upon the planets living flows. Yet we must use her so, and be glad of it.
The tripod core houses a lance of ice. A burning ray that freezes all it strikes and that cannot fail. Legends speak of Frost-Fetter surviving hordes through her speed, her dancing legs and her inexhaustible freezing light. On each side of her canopy are nests of prismatic tractomorphic tentacles. These can spiral and combine to form burning prisms that bleed fire. Some think that Frost-Fetter was made to mould and shape glaciers. Though not intended to, Frost-Fetters tentacles can be used as a man uses his hands, to hold and wield. An unexpected advantage. Much valued, and kept secret to the best of our ability.
Storm-Wife guards the Tempest and holds the Star-Stone. Like Frost-Fetter he was not made to kill, but to preserve. Bards sing of a day when our hands are returned to their purpose and do not hold the sword. Perhaps those days have already past.
Storm-Wife was born in the night above the sky. Men walked there once. He was built to rescue those that fell, to preserve the traveller and safeguard the weak, an honourable design. His smooth white limbs, shaped like a man, and his delicate human hands were built to hold and preserve. Other houses may mock his frame. Remember the design. We have armoured him in crude steel, welded around his snow-bright skin and helmeted his pilot-dome in five-times-riveted metal cold. We have given him the Tempest, the greatest cannon we possess, the storm is crude some say, but this is a technology known to us. Her hundred-cal rounds give a sermon that will not be forgotten!
We have given him the Star-Stone. A fragment of ruined earth. Blasted into the darkness and plummeting into the Martian soil. The stone is meteoric iron. Burnt into runnels and channels by her blazing descent. Scooped and shaped in wild peaks with the covering rock scorched away. We have sharpened her, burnished her edges till they glow red like our sun. A haft we have long sought, and found. The black spindle-steel, it made the ruined helix that long ago reached up to the stars. We have traded much for this invincible metal. Now Star-Stone is ready. A mace like no other. Should Tempest fail, the stone shall answer.
But remember the design. They laugh at us and call us scavengers. But hidden in the war-shells hasp is the memory of the past. Of what we were, and could be again. He was made to guard lives. Do not dishonour his purpose.
Weep-yet-I-die you know. A scratch-built mining rig with nothing left to mine. Her drill-bits blunted, broken and abandoned. She is a work-horse now, as she has always been. She carries and labours while others fight. Four stout legs and her one rambling arm.
She has secrets yet though. One day soon you will go deep into her core and listen to the message hiding there. You will know the secret of her name.
A man long ago spoke of a ship, noted in war and preserved against time. He said that even though each part of this ship rotted and fell away that this ship itself, the pattern, remained. He said this was the secret of identity, not pieces contending against each other, but patterns, repeated and renewed. Selfhood.
Weep-yet-I-Die is the oldest of out Mechs. She has been replaced and renewed in every part but she has remained. Perhaps her lesser nature has saved her from the eyes of the powerful. Her lumbering stumbling gate is still fast enough to dodge the eye of history. She has been there. In every war, through every cataclysm. She has survived. Not always the same, but always in part. She is out true link to the past. The death message recorded inside her, from one of her first pilots, long long ago, can barely be understood. Men have changed much since then. But you will know those words when the dead men speaks them. Weep-yet-I-die. Those have not changed.
Tell no-one this.