Archive for robots

Carrier Bird System

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by javedbabar

Sharon watched Pinku rise into the sky. She always felt a pang of sadness when a bird left her hand, knowing there was a chance that it would not return. They were trained to return, the same or next day, but you couldn’t be sure. Birds were a blessing to the humans remaining.

It was hard to believe that people had once eaten pigeons – beings whose brave adventures now kept us connected in far-flung territories. The flatlands were all taken; humans who had not escaped were captured and killed.

Communities remained only on the mountains at each end of the Lucerne Valley – the larger one in the meadows atop Mt Alba, and smaller one in Mt Negra’s caves. They were in regular communication by CBS – the Carrier Bird System built upon an aviary bequeathed to the village. The tropical birds were beautiful but not sustainable, and were a luxury in difficult times. Their flesh was eaten and their feathers used for decoration. But the pigeons, hawks, and eagles proved useful. They were nourished and trained.

Sharon wondered if a hawk would have been better for this mission. The message had seemed important to her, and she had alerted her commander upon its arrival. The Signal Corps were meant to relay “but not absorb” messages’ contents, so if they were captured no secrets would be betrayed. Her commander had said to send a pigeon.

Her brother had built the coop himself. Its design was ingenious. When a CBS courier arrived, wires sounded a bell, alerting the guard. Then he or she would remove the steel canister from the bird’s neck or back, decode the message, and relay it upward.

She’d heard that carrier pigeons had flown only one way originally, towards home; hence the common term for them, homing pigeons. But the Signal Corps had trained them to fly both ways, by making them feel that Mt Negra was home and Mt Alba was their feeding station. Hence they flew happily between them, managing the 160 km round trip in a day.

Pinku hadn’t returned by dusk. She began to worry, and again wondered if she should have selected a hawk. She had seen some hawks during her surveillance of the valley; even eagles back early from their winter sojourn in the Gulf. Could a hawk or eagle have got the better of Pinku? It was unlikely. He was a smart bird, always flying close to the tree line, not leaving himself exposed. She had a worse thought – were they cultural, rather than natural, predators? Maybe enemy forces had trained their own birds.

She’d better send a hawk. She prepared another coded message and selected Bubbly to deliver it. As she saw him rise into the dusk sky, she saw an eagle rise with him. Hawks were faster, but eagles were smarter and stronger, and generally got the better of any fight. She knew right then that Bubbly was gone.

Sharon prepared a third coded message, and called forth Azeem. You couldn’t treat eagles like other birds. You had to treat them like people.

She said, “Azeem, my beautiful bird, my powerful companion, I have a request for you. Would you please deliver this message to Mt Alba by daybreak, and then return safely home?” Azeem stood still as she affixed the steel canister, and then was gone. She saw his back shine silver in the half-moon.

The next morning she saw glittering air in the valley. At first it seemed a flock of birds reflecting sunshine, but then she realized that it wasn’t birds. They moved too deliberately, taking no advantage of winds and thermals. If anything, they were pushing against them.

But one shape among them moved differently, and dodged from side to side, dropping down suddenly and swirling. It was Azeem.

When he dropped heavily beside her, she saw he was injured. His breast and wings were bloody, and his feathers tattered rags. “What happened to you, brave bird?” she said as she opened his canister. As she unrolled the hand written message, she had a brief recollection of digital technologies. They were now of no use to humans; 100% too dangerous to use.

The message when decoded read, “Urgent. The machines have adapted. They are no longer confined to land and water. They can fly now. Evacuate immediately.” Sharon looked up and saw a swarm of small aircraft, all remotely controlled like toys, but deadly ones, seeking out humans.

Funk Patrol

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2012 by javedbabar

The child has a computer! The child has a computer! The child has a COMPUTER! Hunza’s instinct was to run but that would draw too much attention. Instead she walked towards the child and sat down nearby. Maybe it wasn’t a real one, she thought, it could be a toy – but even toy computers were forbidden in the Black Zone. They were allowed in the Brown Zone, and of course real computers resided only in the White Zone. Hunza could walk away, pretend she’d never seen it, but it was too late. A camera was sure to have seen her. She had no choice.

She said, “What are you doing, child?”

The child was young – three or four – and not aware of his actions. That was good. It wasn’t his fault. It was faulty parents. No, not faulty – that was a Brown Zone term – more stupid. Yes, stupid parents. Oh My God! It was Brain Training! It was Brain Training! It was BRAIN TRAINING! Hunza couldn’t believe this was happening. She had found a child with the highest form of contraband! She snatched the child’s computer, and he burst into tears. When he’d stopped crying, she said, “Where did you get this?” and he burst into tears again. This wasn’t getting her anywhere, so she said, “Where do you live?” The child pointed towards a crazy mosaic tree house, 200 metres away. “Come on, let’s go.”

“You are this child’s parents?” Hunza said to the couple within.

“Yes we are,” they said, not seeming concerned. “What’s the problem Officer?”

“I must report a very serious offence to you. Here is the charge sheet. Your child had a computer.”

“He had a ‘puter?” said the mother.

“Yes, a ‘puter.” said Hunza.

“You are a puta!” shouted the mother. “A big fat puta!”

“A Cosi Fan Tutte!” shouted the father, his voice transforming into singing. A Cosi Fan Tutte! You are a big fat COSI FAN TUTTE!”

Hunza sang too, “Shut up or I’ll shoot ya! I will, I’ll shoot ya! Honest to God, I’LL SHOOT YA!”

The father grabbed a mandolin and began plucking its strings. The mother ran to another room, and returned banging bongos. The child was bemused at first, and then realized what was happening, and blew into a plastic trumpet, creating broken birdsong and a baby camel’s groan. Neighbours heard the commotion and ran to join in. A tall white man rapped about his “cracky homey hood”. An East Indian woman performed barely-perceptible, moving-nonmoving, Tai Chi moves, while her midget partner practised kendo. A black bodybuilder chanted the Kabbalistic names of God. A Chinese girl made yoga-bridges, almost becoming a hoop. A man in a wheelchair told racist jokes which everybody laughed at, while a woman on a drip and oxygen support mimed filthy porn. Hunza ripped up the charge sheet and threw it in the air, and as it fluttered down like snowflakes, began breakdancing. Everybody made a human pyramid, with the man in the wheelchair at the top, and the woman on drip and oxygen pretending to pleasure him. The pyramid soon collapsed with uproarious laughter.

What a fabulous community I live in, thought Hunza, so wonderfully eccentric, filled with every kind of art imaginable and the highest proportion of Crazies in the Valley. She was doing a good job, she felt, as a Senior Officer of the Funk Patrol.

She encouraged Crazies to join in with the Funk, but most stood on the sidelines. Every now and then a Wacky Wallflower would summon courage and share their inspiration with others – this was a big step in their returning to the fold. There was also a parallel movement of disillusioned Funksters drifting away to the sidelines, to remain there till their inspiration returned. Crazies were the most highly valued members of the Black Zone, and this crossing back and forth was precious. It enhanced their in/sanity.

“Funk Patroller!” shouted a man known to her, who had good form. “Have you considered changing your title to ‘Funk Petrol-er’? That’s what they called gas in Europe –

you know, petrol – before it ran out. Isn’t that your job really – to add fuel to the fire? To make it roar? I’ve been thinking about that a lot. The metaphor of fire. It’s an element that doesn’t exist of itself. It’s more a transformative state. A way of being free. If you…”

Hunza had to think quickly. This man was a poet, but was now becoming a philosopher. In the Black Zone, that was a truly crazy thing to do. Truly crazy! TRULY CRAZY! If he was thought to be logical, White Zone computers would see him as a threat. The cameras that watched them around-the-clock – as entertainment feed for the liquid brains in huge, cooled metal buildings – would pick up on it quickly. They would instruct slithering robots from the Brown Zone to come and deal with the matter. The robots would caution the local Funk Patroller and remove the Logical Aberration. Humans were retained for fun, not for thinking. The computers were much better at that.

Hunza snatched a bamboo pole from the midget kendo practitioner and bashed the philosopher on the head with it. He fell, clutching his temples, and shook on the floor, frothing and laughing. Cameras whirred nearby. Hunza wondered, “Did I deal that with that comically, not logically? I really hope so.”