18 Interlude: Mechanized Warrior
In the forest, nature ruled. Birds tweeted in the air. Squirrels hid away nuts. Ants ate the dead. All this despite the strange heap of metal that had appeared deep within several days ago. The forest had yet to come to terms with this small hill: it smelled too much of humans, so they avoided it. It had first appeared two days ago but had yet to exhibit any strange signs suggesting it was a predator.
An acorn dropped on the gleaming heap of metal. Finally, a curious squirrel, clambered over it to reach the precious treasure. A small green light blinked, but the squirrel didn't notice. Just as it reached the acorn, the huge heap of metal began to shudder. With a terrified squeal, the squirrel dropped the acorn and scampered up a tree, warily observing the once more still metal heap. Within though, thousands of commands were being processed every second.
Cezar opened its Control Center upon recognizing a change in its environment. It felt a burst of excitement, or at least as much as one of its kind could exhibit, its wires conveying some digitized form of emotions throughout its body. A gentle whir began as his fans cooled his Sensors for the first time in… Cezar looked into his BIOS. Last time since initialization: 50 years.
Cezar felt a pang of regret. He had been… discarded because he had become obsolete. Now, though, his country had called for him once more to defend its people. "Systems initializing. Location: Sensing… Sensing… ERROR: No Satellites detected. Activating Spatial Sensing: Sensing… Sensing… Error: Space-time fluctuations detected. Location: Unknown. WARNING! Low on resources. CRITICAL ERROR: LACK OF POWER!!! Entering backup mode. Time Remaining: 7 days." Testing his motors, Cezar managed to slowly unfurl himself. He had seven days to reach the nearest Fortress center before he would become useless, completely unable to defend the lives of his people. He'd be a failure. "Detecting strange substance within the air. Turning off air flow. Warning: Presence of Possible Hostiles! WARNING!!! Estimated Power Level of Hostile: Unreadable!" Cezar turned wary. Could it be that all his people had died? Had some strange supernatural being destroyed the entire galaxy inhabited by humans? Internally, Cezar decided he would take revenge whether or not his AI chip later told him it was not the best move for the straggling survivors of the human race. He felt a brief pang as if he were breaking some type of Rule set into him by his programmers, but he figured it's what they would have wanted.
A squirrel threw an acorn at him. Perhaps this squirrel was an agent of the Hostile. After scanning it to make sure it didn't conform with any organism from his home, he decided it was an enemy. He could collect it as a sample and research exactly what had occurred in the last fifty years. Aiming a laser gun at it, Cezar activated the battery and frowned. Nothing happened. He scrolled back through the logs. "Unable to perform action: Lack of energy." With as much exasperation as a mechanized warrior could exhibit, he took off the giant sword strapped to his back and swung it at the squirrel. With a chitter, it leaped off the tree and fled into a nearby one's foliage. The tree fell into the forest with a thud, settling the age-old question of whether a tree falling in the forest without any humans hearing it actually made a noise.
Preparing to swing again, Cezar found his body stopped. He growled again, looking back through his system logs. "Unknown Hostile inhibiting motion. Please be aware of your surroundings." Cezar warily looked around. Was there a MagniCanon of some sort affecting his motions? This seemed like a very normal forest, but it was possible he had already been captured by a hostile advanced alien force and was in a display of some sort. Cezar felt very flummoxed: situations like these had never occurred in his AI training set. Two acorns pelted his head. Cezar's sensors focused on two squirrels that seemed to be mocking him. He swung his sword at them again and found he could move once more but was stopped again before he could take even a step toward them.
Cezar reflected on what had happened. It seemed like he'd had even less time than before. Cezar tried to move once more and found he could. Setting up a timer he waved his sword, ignoring the squirrels that shot acorns at him every few seconds. He discovered that every nine seconds, a cycle would happen. He'd be able to move for the first three, then one squirrel would shoot an acorn or run around, then the other. Moreover, every time a squirrel did some type of targeted attack at him, Cezar would be able to move for around half a second.
He frowned. It looked like this hostile being had some strange rules. Nevertheless, the mechanized warrior had to admit that this being was more than powerful enough to set up these absurd rules. Cezar calculated that it was highly likely this strange being wanted to watch him fight these squirrels. Deciding to play along with its implied desires, Cezar used one of his turns in a cycle to tense up his joints. An acorn shot toward him. Immediately, after the second squirrel's turn ended, he shot forward, slamming his blade on one, smashing it into a pulp. The first squirrel shrieked and fled through the trees, dropping all the acorns it had collected.
Cezar sat down in the small clearing he had made and tried to process his next actions. "Alert: Possible electromagnetic signal detected. Technology level: 1950 AD Earth." Cezar perked up. Could it be that some remnants of his home remained despite having regressed hundreds of years? He reasoned that it would make sense for the few survivors to restart technology from basically the stone age… Perhaps he'd have to perform espionage to figure out what to do. As a mechanized warrior, he'd never actually received formal training for such things, but he'd been shown enough of human culture to know how James Bond, a cultural icon that had lasted for centuries, successfully completed his missions. With a tie and a suit, he was sure he'd blend in anywhere.
Cezar frowned. He was getting ahead of himself. What if the Hostile was watching and tracking him to see whether he would lead the Hostile back to his people? If his every action risked killing his people would it be best for him to terminate his processes if it were the optimal solution? After nearly an hour, he stopped because he realized he was wasting his limited remaining 165-ish hours, not to mention that he'd much rather be alive than returning to his dormant state.
Should he try to fight the Hostile or save his people? This seemed like a conundrum that his people would have said to leave to the fates, but he was no being merely pushed by the whims of fortune. No, he was a being made of pure logic and function.
Allowing himself a small moment of satisfaction, Cezar flipped a virtual coin and got a two. It looked like he'd search for the last remnants of humanity in this world. With a sigh, he started trekking south. His great journey had begun.