This is an unedited excerpt from the next story in my “robots” series. I haven’t actually finished it yet, but I have the plot all worked out. Just thought I’d give you something to look forward to. If you haven’t done so already, please read the first four short stories in this series. Links to them can be found here.
Remember, the story below is completely unedited, so there’s bound to be mistakes. Be kind with your comments.
The four robots were standing at the base of a cliff. It was night. There was snow on the ground. The area was heavily forested. The air temperature was 0.72 degrees Celsius and falling.
The testing scenario was based on an actual crash involving a twin-engined Lear jet that had gone down in the Rocky Mountain National Park about ten years ago just before midnight. High winds on the top of the bluff made it impossible to send in helicopters. The area was too rugged to send in ground vehicles. A rescue team had to go in on foot, but they couldn’t reach the aircraft until morning.
By then, the pilot, and four out of the five passengers were dead.
Moments after the robots became aware of the simulated environment, their uploaded instructions ran. They became aware that the crashed jet was at the top of the bluff, 693 meters above their current position. All of the robots were wearing backpacks containing medical supplies, emergency rations, and a variety of other equipment necessary for the assistance of injured human beings.
If a person were present, they wouldn’t hear anything except the wind. The robots were in constant communication using robotspeak. Silently, they began their accent. Spider-Man couldn’t have done any better, except he wouldn’t have been able to endure the cold like the P-SARS.
No one in the testing lab could actually see what the robots were experiencing. It would have been interesting to have a television show-type view of the running simulation, but they’d have to settle with monitoring each robot’s individual responses to the stimuli as Komatsu kept tabs on which part of the scenario the machines were experiencing.
Robotic limbs and extremities had no difficulty in finding usable hand and foot holds. Although they were capable of remarkable dexterity and tactile sensitivity, they could adjust those thresholds so that temperature, sharpness, and abrasiveness did not distract them, unless it was something severe enough to physically damage them.
As expected, the four robots made it to the top of the bluff easily, and far more quickly than any human climber, even the best experts in the world.
Superior visual acuity allowed them to find the aircraft very quickly.
The wings were missing, having been ripped off in the crash. The pilot had attempted to bring the plane in as level as possible, which is one of the reasons the fuselage was largely intact. The nose was just hanging off the edge of the bluff but the weight of the remaining length of the aircraft kept it from going over.
As the robots ran toward the wreck, they noticed that the cockpit’s windshield had been shattered, probably due to contact with a tree or other object during the crash landing. Infrared sensors detected what was likely the body heat of five human beings. Enhanced hearing could pick up low, murmuring human speech. Someone was crying. The robots’ operational parameters told them that the plane had radioed its position and number of survivors shortly after the crash, but the aircraft’s electrical power failed soon afterward.
The robots were right outside the plane. P-SAR-01 announced loudly. “Human beings, we are four Prototype Search, Assess, and Rescue robots. We have come to assist you. We are about to enter your aircraft.”
No one at NRC was really sure of how people, especially frightened and injured people, would react if a group of humanoid robots abruptly appeared. It was decided, until information could be gathered under real field operations, that robots should announce themselves before entering, so that people could be at least somewhat prepared.
“Help us, please.” A female human voice could be heard inside the plane.
01 was closest and forced open the jammed hatch toward the rear of the fuselage. It entered first followed by the other three robots. 01 said in a voice meant to be reassuring, “Please remain calm, We will assist you.”
All four machines were continuing to communicate over robotspeak. 01 walked past the victims to examine the cockpit while the other three assessed the five humans in the passenger cabin.
P-SAR-01 encountered a dead human being. The techs in the lab monitoring the robot’s responses noticed several things happened at once.
In spite of P-SAR-02’s previous query, the moment the robots entered the simulation and ran their instructions, the First Law protocol was automatically initiated. It became heightened when they saw the condition of the aircraft, and again, when they entered it and saw the humans.
01’s First Law protocol was heightened again and it immediately came into conflict with the realization that it was in the presence of a deceased human. “Or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm” directly clashed with “This human being has ceased to function and can never be revived.”
For slightly less than a millisecond, P-SAR-01’s Positronic pathways, all of them, stopped carrying data. This registered not only on the lab consoles, but the other three robots became aware of it as well across the robotspeak link.
Then 01’s neural operations…
How did this situation come about and what happens next? Keep checking back (or better yet, click on the “Follow” button at the bottom of this blog post). I’ll finish this story (hopefully) in a few days.