The Technologist and the Tower - Part 11

Date Posted: May 9, 2023

“Amon! Amon wake up!”

The Allagan felt himself being hastily shaken in his sleep, Tad’s alarmed voice calling his name over and over. He groaned, trying to rouse himself.

“What? Whaaat?”

“Get up! ‘Tis going to blast us!”

“What’s going to blast us?” Amon groaned again before finally rolling over and sitting up in the pile of over-sized clothes he’d used as a blanketfort for the night before.

That’s when he saw it. And then heard it.

[Intruder detected!]

His Node was active, and in full-out security mode. The usual-orb shape had taken on offensive mode with spikes sticking out at every angle. The center panel had opened to reveal the charged-up lasers that were engaged and ready to deploy.

Amon was on his feet quickly, calling out, “Node! Disengage! ‘Tis I!”

The Node paused for a moment, the whirring sound of processors working within.

Built from highly experimental technology at the time, the machine’s core functionality was based on emotional and personality samples taken directly from Amon himself. Originally, he’d instilled the Node with such a system to allow for procedural learning and development. And because Amon felt something that was most like him would also be most trustworthy.

Over time, however, the results varied. Node followed his programming, but because it was based off of something as erratic as Amon’s own samples, the machine did not always perform as expected.

“Node!” Amon called to it again. “You know me. Right?”

The Node laser compartment beamed out a bright blue light, straight for Amon. Tad gave a sharp gasp, but it happened too fast for his cousin to respond to.

Thankfully, this was merely the Node’s scanning cycle. The light fell in a gridded pattern over Amon’s face and body. The Allagan worked to hold very still and not flinch from the scan – he knew movement could sometimes skew the results. Right now, he couldn’t afford that.

When the scan was done, Node spun in place, whirring to himself. 

As if uncertain, it scanned Amon again.

“Come, now, Node. You surely remember me.”

The machine processed this. Then it finally responded, withdrawing the defense spikes and returning to its normal circular form.

[Identity verified: Master?]

The Allagan let out a long breath, relieved that the Node had not only identified him but accepted his aetheric scans. “Aye, ‘tis I!”

[My scans indicate that you are missing over 95.23971854% of expected body mass.] Node pointed out.

Amon laughed at that. “’Tis a long story.”

[My date and time settings are incorrect.] Node reported. [I have not synced with the main server since deactivation. Would you like to update my settings?]

“Maybe later,” he answered. “We’ve yet to even see if the main server is running properly itself.”

[Affirmative. I will set a reminder to prompt you again in approximately three bells.]

The Allagan just grinned with a big, foolish smile pasted to his face. “Oh, Node. ‘Tis so good to see you again. I thought I’d lost you forever.”

He reached one hand out, as if to place his palm on the Node.  In a strangely affectionate way for a machine, the Node floated closer and proceeded to bump-nuzzle into Amon’s open palm.

[Inconceivable. I was precisely where you docked me.]

Amon sucked on his bottom lip, feeling a little guilty. “Did you not move in all that time?”

[Affirmative. Final orders were to remained stationed and defend the Master’s quarters from intruders. Have I performed to expectation?]

He choked up a little at that, thinking of his poor Node sitting there await his return that never came. Until the day the power no longer fed the docking station and it just fell dead to the world.

“Aye. You have performed well above expectation,” Amon praised the Node.

In response, the machine gave a cheerful beep-bloop and spun a few times.

“Once I locate some premium aether oil, I’ll be giving your systems a good tune-up.”

[The Master is good and kind. All glory to Allag!]

Tad laughed slightly from the other side of the room, watching the machine and its creator interact with some amusement. “You’re probably going to have to program it not to say that anymore. If the wrong ears hear that and we could be up the creek.”

“I don’t have to program anything. Node is equipped with a learning system, and he is quite clever.”

That’s when Node focused on Tad and once again began working himself up into security mode.

[Master! Intruder!]

“No… no… no… He is fine,” Amon corrected, spreading his hands and gently holding the Node back from taking action. “’Tis my cousin, Tad.”

Without warning, the scanners came out again, this time casting across Tad, who was less than enthusiastic about it.

“What’s it doing?”

“Just hold still,” the technologist advised.

Tad grit his teeth, doing his best to comply until the Node was satisfied.

[Some genetic similarities with Master detected. Would you like me to save identity scan to the records of citizens permitted to enter Master’s quarters?]

“Aye, please,” Amon responded, almost second nature. He’d spent so much time talking to machines in the later parts of his life, it wasn’t hard to fall right back into these types of conversations.

“Permitted citizen, am I?” Tad chided with a hint of snark.

“Hey, you should thank me.”

“Thank you? You made some weird machines, Amon.”

The Node picked up on this and instantly retorted. [Negative. The cousin figure is the weird citizen in the room.]

Surprised by this, Tad turned to look at the machine. Then he looked at Amon.

The technologist just shrugged. “I told you Node was built using some of my personality scans.”

“I can tell.”

Amon clapped his hands together, eager to get a start on the day. There was a lot he wanted to work on, and now that Node was fairly functional, he was sure that he could put it all together.

“How are you feeling Node? Up to a research task?”

[I am always ready to serve, Master.]

“Good. Then we can begin--”

“With breakfast,” Tad cut in quickly. “And a proper bath. You’ve hardly made it out of bed and you’re already on to the research?”

“We’ve wasted enough time pottering about as it is,” Amon complained.

“Then a little more time won’t hurt.”

“Come now…”

 His cousin then turned to the Node, inquiring, “Your master is refusing required sustenance and hygiene care. Are you going to let that happen?”

The machine paused as if computing this statement for a moment. Then it whirred and spun.

[Negative. Master must attend to health matters before a research session.]

“Node!” Amon just stared with an aghast face.

Tad laughed. “You heard the Node. Get some breakfast.”

“’Tisn’t fair,” he grumbled. But then he gave in and came to see what sort of food his cousin had brought them that day.