An Essay on the History and Culture of Robots
In Relation to the Universe Around Them
The First Roboshrub-Gyrobo Joint Compilation
As the metapirate sails through the minds of men, the cyberpirate raids the mind of a machine.
In the village where Thothbot was born, this was a common saying.
Dont look for cyberpirates in the waters, or by the lonely shore. The terminals are where you are in the most peril.
Again, the strange warnings, this one from his mothering unit. He had a core server family, with two to the second plus one sibling models. Thothbot never paid attention to the warnings: the big computers, the relics, were overly cautious. There was no defense against hackers or viruses, in their age.
Kaizokun Damashte was the most feared cyberpirate. He had no corporeal form, so many of the local robots claimed he was an old Dells tale. Still, late at night, nobody ventured into the IRC. Not even the most outspoken skeptics would access it. Why tempt fate?
A cyberpirate with an attitude, but a heart of solid gold. And gold kidneys.
Poor little Thothbot, however, made three fatal mistakes. The first was agreeing to go on some hippy nature hike. The second was asking an enigmatic clown for directions. The third... was tempting fate.***
The sun was rising. Thothbot could feel his boxfans kicking into overdrive, a welcome start to a new day. His companion, Zitheron2, skateboarded up to him. Are you ready to go? she asked.
No, said Thothbot. I hate these stupid trips.
He saw the look on her face. Jay slash kay! I am quite excited.
Excited, and coocoo for Cocoa Puffs!
El oh el, Zitheron2 laughed as Thothbot slid his backpacking container on over his sleek aerodynamic casing. Now come on, we do not want to miss the pre-hike brunch.
I can already taste the ozone, Thothbot drooled as he struggled to keep up with his primary friend unit. You know, the good kind of ozone, not the kind that spews out of Narroft when he overclocks.
Thothbot increased the current to his pedal servos. I am telling you, Zitheron2, he has tubes
in his head.
That is not a very nice thing to say, Zitheron2 scolded. Narroft may be old, but he is the only reason we go on these hikes.
I know, Thothbot admitted, rolling his optical sensor displays. I just wish that just once,
he would recode the protocols so we could go someplace fun.
You just want to index the old abandoned server, giggled Zitheron2.
Why dont you just go into standby for a while? Thothbot said defensively, clanking up the steps of the village Octodome. The LED bulbs that capped each of the domes eight spires shone brightly against the inkjet-black sky. The sun reached its zenith and turned lime green, flickering for 5.6 seconds before becoming a steady glow of amber light.
Another beautiful day.***
By the Parser! Where is my SimSandwich?! said Thothbot as he looked over at Zitheron2. The caterer had not shown up, delaying brunch to the point of futility. This was unimportant in the long run as the two wayward robot youths were the first and only ones to arrive at the Hall of Vinyl. I cannot hike on a depleted power supply!
Do you have something to concatenate, proThothbot 4201C? came a nonchalant voice from beyond the shadows. Indeed, the shadows would be mighty impressed by its sheer non-chalantness. This kind of nonchalant tone was the stuff mediocre legends were made of.
Thothbot cringed; he hated when Narroft used his full name. It always sounded so forced.
And Narrofts bland vocal subprocessor was incapable of rendering speech that wasnt monotonous. Also, he spat fire when he talked. But the villagers were too polite to mention it to him.
Negative, administrator Narroft.
There was a pause. Narroft always paused after something was said to him, and his display printed Deliberating... for a few seconds before the ancient behemoth could splutter out an appropriate response.
D-d-did you bring enough for everyone? the Admin asked, his vocal synthesizers catching on the first syllable. One of his recording reels had been left out in the sun. It was warped and had a tendency to snag.
Warning: Robot decor may induce seizures.
File does not exist! Thothbot said, embarrassed and confused. Pardon, administrator, but your query was nonsequititious.
Narrofts cooling fans droned louder, thrumming away as they kicked into overdrive. His display almost read, Deliberating... but segments of the digital green letters were missing, and others erratically added. Thick purple gases began spilling out of his ventilation shafts.
Administrator. Report status? Are you experiencing technical malfunction? Zitheron2 asked, her voice gaining a mechanical whine to indicate alarm.
There was another moment and Narroft said, D-d-d-ont go into the wa-a-a-a-ter-ter. There was a loud banging noise from his chassis, and suddenly, all was quiet. The ozone cloud that had collected on the ground swirled, dissipating.
At least we dont have to go on that stupid hike, intoned Thothbot. Zitheron2 swung around and hit him with her claw.
Idiot! she raged. Administrator Narroft is defunct! Who will protect the village?
Protect the village from what? he scoffed, telescoping his eyestalk inward to indicate nonchalance. Seagulls? Dont you compute? This is our chance to investigate the abandoned TCP/IP servers!
She stared critically at him. The abandoned servers are off limits.
Theres no administrator to stop us, now. Wheres your adventure drive?***
Another booming thunderclap registered on Thothbots auditory scanner. Five seconds later, a blinding flash of green light blazed through the sky, followed by another thunderclap 1.0021 seconds later. Thothbot could hear the frozen ice pellets spatter against his and Zitheron2s casings.
As I indicated previously, this is a fine day for a hike.
Indeed, Zitheron2 beeped. This day is within an acceptable percentage of awesome, as defined by the last Bureau of Comparative Statistics convention.
Still using that obsolete standard? Thothbot chuckled derisively. Everyone knows the Bureau of Comparative Statistics cant hold a flashlight to the Bureau of Subjective Statistics in the area of defining relative terms.
They may be significantly better, Zitheron2 hissed, But in Cola War IV, which Bureau provided the fabricated statistics to help us win?
The Bureau of Comparative Statistics, Thothbot grudgingly admitted. He knew she would defend the BCS, as it was founded by her 8x1016
forebot. Bureaucracy ran in her motor oil.
Speaking of statistics, access your directional computer and relay our coordinates.
But... B-b-b-b-ut-ut-ut... Thothbot sputtered.
Dont tell me youre going Narroft on me now! Zitheron2 said as she moved away slowly.
I was just a little put off, Thothbot groaned, adding a reverse echo to his voice, as young robots are wont to do. Bee slash see, the whole trek into these barren woodlands, I assumed you
were recording our location. My motion detector has been offline for most of today.
Zitheron2 retracted her periscope in horror. Contextual error in input type joke! Re-enter string.
I cannot do that, Zitheron2.
But if location equals unknown, we will surely starve of low power out here in these forsaken meadows! O cruel fate! O horrid-
Zitheron2 never completed her Shakespearean monolog, for at that moment both robots picked up a low-pitched cackling sound coming from high above them. Refocusing their cameras on the branches, Thothbot and Zitheron2 began a binary search pattern to discern the source of the noise.
Is anyone there? Zitheron2 called out into the twisting treetops and swirling smog. There was someone... or something... up there.
Orange you glad to see me?!
Thothbot could hear it, and judging from Zitheron2s expression, she had heard it too. There was definitely someone-
Look out belowwwwww!
Thothbot felt a blast of compressed air as Zitheron2 pneumatically shoved him out of the way, flaming aft rockets propelling her in the opposite direction. A split-second later, the air was full of gray smoke as a sizable mass impacted the rocky ground, spraying rocks and dirt every which way.
Sputter! Choke! Audible wheeze! said Thothbot as tiny wipers swished back and forth, cleaning the dust from his lenses. He turned to the newly-carved crater, which was still smoking and sizzling. A large figure quickly rose from the hole, flailing in the breeze.
Are you Jimmy?
Ha ha! Nice trip! See you next fall! snorted a warped, wobbly voice.
Identify yourself. Thothbot droned, using his most adult-sounding monotone filter. It made him sound impressive and more mature. At least, thats what his mothering unit kept telling him.
I am the court jester, you fool! Render unto me your oranges!
Standing before the two young robots, it bobbed up and down, side to side. A solid red sweater-vest with large yellow buttons... a stripped hat... sweat pants...
I am the jester of the court of the disco king!
Thothbot zoomed in on Zitheron2. Zitheron2, have you conducted a search for asterisk disco plus king asterisk?
Affirmative! And negative, no matching results have been found!
Your identity cannot be confirmed, Thothbot bravely told the stranger.
Of course my identity cannot be confirmed! he laughed, bending backward and forward, stretching and shrinking. The disco king is no longer in charge! It happened many years ago. Would you like to hear the tale, children? Or should I say... protégé?!
If we listen to his story, he will be 36% more likely to give us acceptable coordinates, whispered Thothbot to Zitheron2 via a high-pitched wireless connection that only the young could receive.
We respond in the affirmative to your story request, however must stipulate that upon completion, we are given accurate directions to the nearest village. was their joint response.
The strangers eyes lit up. Not metaphorically, but literally. Lights started going off behind his eyes, shimmering all the colors of a Sierpinski prism. He must be part Compaq,
Thothbot thought to himself.
Four times ten to the Niels Bohr years ago, the stranger began to rant, his mouth moving vigorously to accentuate every word, There was... an orange tree. And on that tree there grew an- no! There grew hundreds
of oranges! And there, on branches of solid gold, they sat for eons, waiting.
Thothbot heard a dinging sound coming from Zitheron2s stomach cavity. What was...?
I thought one of us should make some snack-rations. She handed him a recycled paper mache bucket filled to the brim with buttered mecha-nutritional supplement #8.
Mmmmmm! My emotional simulator insists I greatly enjoy mecha-nutritional supplement #8!
But all was not blissful for the orange tree, the stranger continued, pausing every few minutes to break his speech by contorting his face into a different emotional state. Here... Ill show you.
And he held out his right hand. As he opened his fist, Thothbot could see a small, orange, irregularly shaped ellipsoid. What is it?
This... is an orange, the stranger said as he handed the small object to Thothbot. I give it to you as a symbol of our mutual trust. For you see, back in the days of evil Human empire, when the orange was unjustly plucked from its rightful origin, the humans would give them to each other as symbols of trust. Just as I gave this orange, he tapped the ellipsoid, to you. As with most traditions, it began with the elite, the rich, the aristocrats. But over time, the number of orange trees grew and even the unwashed could afford to own them.
That was a very uninteresting an uninformative story. At no point did you mention the disco king, and you have not helped us in any conceivable way. Zitheron2s analytical skills where said to be harsh. Harsh, but just.
Your mothering unit makes for a very uninteresting and uninformative story, replied the gesture offhandedly, a wicked grin upon his teeth.
I take offense, Zitheron2 output coldly.
Careful! Its heavy, the stranger jested, bobbing impishly. The offense, not the orange. He cartwheeled backwards, laughing at his own stupid joke.
Stop all functions! called Thothbot as the jester tried to caper away. Our agreement included directions to the nearest village. Information you must divulge.
Oh ho ho ho! the jester cried, Travel East, directly East, for that is where the seagulls go to die. And, with that, the jester turned and the sun crackled from its amber shade to a rosy orange. The ice that was falling from the sky rippled and stopped, cloaking the disappearance of the clownish bot.***
So they traveled East, in near silence, for Thothbot and Zitheron2 were uneasy. Their legs, designed for the level planes of the village streets, were clumsy in the rough wilderness around them, yet they managed to bypass each obstacle. They went over a farmers wall made from chunks of fiberglass and waded through a foamy bog of detergent and packing peanuts, were forced around a sandworms pit and crawled under a rusted razorwire screen. Finally they came to a cave in the heart of the wilds.
That clown was not programmed for intelligence, artificial or otherwise! Thothbot growled, This is no village. Its a dark and spooky cave.
Hush! Zitheron2 commanded. Im picking up auditory information. She ran a quick infrared scan of the cave, and screamed. BEEEEEEEAR! DANGER, THOTHBOT, DANGER!
Thothbot scoffed. Bears dont exist. Theyre just an old Dells tale, to scare the newlings away from the woods, he said. Then he did a double take. Then a triple. The bear emerged from its cave, massive and angry.
Bear! Activate 80s style montage sequence!
Common sense dictated that they run away, back under the razorwire and around the pit and through the bog and over the wall. Children had performed this ritual since the age of humans, they knew. Thothbot prepared to do just that, until he picked up the humming sound next to him. He turned to see Zitheron2 charging her heat cannon.
Seconds later, the bear was dead, its eight-hundred pounds of muscle slouched into a crispy condition. The two stood in silence for some time.
You know, they used to dress them up. In pink frilly things. Sometimes they juggled, Thothbot said. He was a scholar-unit, and lazy though he was, he accumulated pointless facts with ease.
Who would have known the heat cannon would work? inquired Zitheron2.
It seems more logical that to kill a bear would require a magical sword, or some such.
Doubleyoo slash eee. Lets see what the bear was guarding. There is a 67.23% chance theres treasure in that cave.
That may very well be, Thothbot calculated, but theres also a 40.96% chance of more bears!
But Zitheron2 would not- nay, could not
be deterred. Then we will walk among them, assimilate into their primitive bear civilization and learn their ways. Then we too will have the ability to juggle. Cease verbal communication!
I thought I
was the adventurous one, Thothbot grumbled.
Minimizing his pride, Thothbot followed Zitheron2 into the beckoning cavern. His optical accessors struggled to adapt to infrared light as he watched her vanish behind the towering stalagmites. I hope you compute what youre doing, Zitheron2.***
Error. I cannot see it...
There! Zitheron2 adjusted her illuminative beam to encompass a wide section of the cave wall. Aside from ancient graffiti, a stanza of gibberish was visible, scrawled against the grainy backdrop.Advice:
Whosoever takes this gold
thus violates with impunity
the sanctity of this stronghold;
so keeping up with continuity,
those who deign to be so bold,
who sought Damashtes space-time fold,
shall know the wrath of forced community
Transcribed by the disco king, via a high-ranking minion.
This writing style is indicative of the pirate subculture, Zitheron2 whirred, her modem buzzing with the thrill of discovery. I submit that we have stumbled upon the legendary treasure file of Kaizokun Damashte!
But-ut-ut-ut-ut... Thothbot sputtered in rage, Kaizokun Damashte was the greatest cyberpirate to ever hack! His treasure has had attribute: hidden applied to it since he originally hid it, back in the time of skateboards without engines!
Hidden, you say? Zitheron2 withdrew her locomotive spring and hovered above the inscription. Wielding her mighty robotic claw, she smashed right through the cautionary text.
Take that, cave wall!
Ziteron2! Are you experiencing malfunction?!
Negative. She said, reaching into the newly-created cavity. A split-second later (.24 seconds to be precise), she pulled out her claw, and in it sat a single yellow object.
Not another orange!
Thothbot, your library of arcane and obscure logic is incomplete. This is a bar of gold.
Gold? puzzled Thothbot. But didnt gold go extinct millions of years ago?
Apparently not, Zitheron2 seethed in anticipation. We are now nominally rich! Prepare to transport mass quantities of precious metals, for today we-
Zitheron2 was cut off mid-speech, as a loud banging sound erupted from the fissure, followed by a low buzzing. Thothbot could clearly observe the familiar flashing pattern of a cathode tube. Zitheron2, what else lies behind the wall?
Her cooling fan began to gear up, sending coolant to her dual-core explanation module. Deliberating... was her only reply.
Zitheron2! Restatement of query!
Visual confirmation... she paused. This was going to end badly. Returns... terminals.
T-t-t-t-t-t-t-terminals?! Thothbots vocal subunit crackled, unable to properly mask his apprehension. Zitheron2, we are in
the server? Have you forgotten how often we have been warned about terminal-related peril?! Repeatedly! By people weve become accustomed to!
Can you lower your volume, Thothbot? It vexes me.
My volume is adequate for the stimulus of the situation!
Zitheron2 was about to cut a cunning reply, one for the history books. Her neural networks spent the better part of three teraflops composing an all-encompassing response to Thothbots panic, complete with original metaphors, Socratic ethical dilemmas, and the most vivid of imagery. But fate can be a poor sport, and this four-leafed clover of an analogy was not to be. For just as Zitheron2 pumped enough electrons to her speaker, enough to give form to her thoughts, a booming vox echoed through the wall; each monitor blinked a sickly blue.
Wh0 d4r3s d3f1l3 th3 tr34sur3 0f K41z0kun D4m4sht3?! Sp34k, y3 unw0rthy!
proThothbot 4201C! Thothbot squeaked, shaking in his deadbolts. S/N 789-B09G-D76!
Y0u h4v3 d1sturb3d th3 4nc13nt gr0unds 0f th3 tw1st3d squ4r3 r00ts! H4v3 y0u 4 r34s0n f0r y0ur tr4nsgr3ss10n?! it roared. Neither Thothbot nor Zitheron2 could hone in on the voxs location; it was as if a stereo was behind every crag and rock in this dreary repository of doom.
We... we came here on official business! From the village!
Thothbot stared at Zitheron2 with the kind of awe one feels when ones best friend just walked up behind a big surly guy with a tattoo shaped like a man getting his head torn off, hits the guy, and runs behind me before making chicken noises. It wasnt funny!
Seriously! she continued, pausing to garbage collect. We came here to procure all your worthless gold, because our villages dear administrator is now defunct! Only by molding new copper... I mean, new gold connectors can he live once more! We need him desperately to protect our defenseless little backwater of an excuse for a municipality from monsters such as yourself.
The vox hesitated. Thothbot suspected the wait wasnt the result of slow processing power, but a deliberate attempt to build suspense.
Thothbot looked over at Zitheron2. Zitheron2 looked over at Thothbot. Immediately they each let out a primitive hooting sound, fired their skateboard engines, and jetted toward the cavern mouth as fast as they could.
D3l1b3r- h3y! Wh4t th3 d1ll10?!
In the name of the Parser, Compiler, and Runtime Engine! Faster, Thothbot! Were almost to the Exit sign! You must exceed maximum recommended motion protocols, or we shall both be voided!
Why d03s 3v3ry0n3 l34v3 m3?!
One by one, each terminal lived up to its name by terminating in successive detonations. Skating fast, sharp concussions blew chunks of slate at the young robots. Adjust attitude 40 degrees! 45 degrees! Negative 1 degree!
Thothbot tumbled out of the gaping maw of the terminus, Zitheron2 a millimeter behind him. Did we escape within an acceptable margin of error?
Deliberating... Zitheron2 entered all known variables into her probabilities array. If the evil essence that harangued us is incapable of leaving the server, then yes, we have escaped.
Correction. Zitheron2 blinked at Thothbot, a querying look on her screen. We have escaped... with gold! Opening his backpacking container, Thothbot pulled out one of exactly 67 bars of prehistoric gold.
Your precious metals and city-slicking will do us no good, Zitheron2 spat at Thothbot. For we, two wayward and rambunctious robot youths, are lost in this unforgiving wilderness.
Maybe not... Thothbot thoughtfully retrospected, stroking his chin as if he had a beard. Zitheron2, do you remember when, earlier in our timestamp, I told you of my foolish designs to index the old abandoned server?
Zitheron2, to formulate the original plan, it was required to download maps indicating a path from the village to the server. We are currently at
the server! By simply reversing the polar coordinates, we can plot a course back home!
Holy heuristics! exclaimed a relieved Zitheron2. Youve managed to successfully rectify this terrible situation you were directly responsible for creating! And with a net gain! she gestured at the gold-filled container.
My friend, Thothbot extended a welcoming claw. We dont need cursed pirate gold to generate a net gain. Grabbing the sack with both claws, as well as four auxiliary claws that appear only when the state of affairs calls for them, he hoisted his generic-brand backpack up by its own petard. Letting out a mighty synthesized whine, he catapulted the gold with as much strength as his system would allow.
Look at the air I got on that thing! he said in awe as the two watched bars of gold rain down on the dense woodland as the backpack approached the horizon.
So now we have a net gain of zero. Correction: a net loss,
as the power we depleted on this fools errand exceeds any expected recompense.
No recompense? Zitheron2, search your temporary memory cache for file fun and then
tell me there was no benefit.
Deliberating... she said slyly.
Well? Thothbot grinned.
My temporary memory cache suggests... we need to return to the village, or our parenting units will degauss us.
Function returns true, Thothbot laughed, keeping up as she kicked her skateboard module into overdrive.
Last one to the village has to tell Narroft that Google is a verb!***
The story you just heard is 100% true. All the people and places depicted are not fictitious. The village in the story is based on an actual metropolis of sentient robots located 45 miles north of Spokane, Washington. However, Kaizokun Damashte is in fact not a real cyberpirate, but the name of a diner on 1010001st
street. Their Thursday special is fried scorpion surprise, priced at a very reasonable $4.99. Parts of this story were filmed on location in Redcliff, California, Petrograd, Russia, and the Commonwealth of Intergalactic Mayhem.