The Space Travelers and the New World
“The Space Travelers and the New World” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Tudor Achim, Oltea Doamna Oradea, Romania.
The Space Travelers and the New World
In a faraway universe, hundreds of years away from our time and in a world where humans stopped existing, robots populated the galaxies and fought for their own survival. This was a dark age, one of loneliness and fear, a time when no robot felt safe or loved. However, on a grey planet, away from the striking dangers that other robots knew, lived a young robot named Tudor. He was 8 years old and famous among his race for his capacity to display emotions.
The young robot was good and kind, and that earned him the nickname “melting heart” as robots didn’t have hearts and melting meant a slow death for them. In fact, everyone was convinced that his good intentions would bring his end and perhaps even worse, the end of his species. In the eyes of his fellow robots, Tudor was “different”, extremely odd and way too “happy”. Additionally, Tudor had a certain awkwardness to him which wasn’t typical for the perfect robot race.
Robots are strong, emotionless machines. They are highly independent and quite selfish, so it comes as no surprise that Tudor was seen as a complete failure. Our young robot was a clumsy, awkward, sweet machine who showed traits typical to humans but we all know what happened to the humankind and earth.
One day, when Tudor was helping his parents with collecting data from other planets, the grey sky turned blue, full of fast moving stars. As Tudor was a good observer, he understood that this phenomenon was an odd change and he tried to advise the other robots but everyone refused to listen to him. Even though the wild moving balls of fire approached their planet, moving faster, everyone in this world ignored them, relying heavily on their data.
Yesterday, the Council of Robots had assured the robots that this was a normal celestial phenomenon. Although they couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason for the occurrence, the androids went on trusting the data collected with their master machines. Everyone was ignoring the phenomenon but Tudor. He spent a day and full night, trying to convince his friends and neighbors that a temporary evacuation is the best option but everyone snubbed him. They downplayed his concerns and mocked his fear as something primitive, not typical for his race.
After a full day, Tudor gave up and he boarded his own spaceship followed only by his parents. They were the only robots who left Roboplanet and the only survivors.
From that day on, Roboplanet became only a recollection saved on their memory chips. A shower of fiery meteorites brought mass extinction and changed Tudor’s life for good. He became a space traveler, a robot traveling through different time zones and galaxies, looking for a planet where he was welcomed.
For a full year, Tudor toured the world and galaxies until his father found another planet populated by robots, where androids lived normally. Machilandia- the newly found planet, was not as advanced as Roboplanet but that didn’t matter to Tudor and his family. They wanted a place where they felt safe and free, and they were more than happy to share their knowledge with these shadowy robo-species.
Unfortunately, the inhabitants of Machilandia had dark plans for our family. First they abstracted all the information from their microchips and used it for their own glory and then they incarcerated them. For seven full years, Tudor and his parents were used as slaves, forced to work under horrible conditions in labor camps, scorned and hacked until their circuits gave in.
After another horrible hack, Tudor’s mother got electrocuted and her system didn’t become fully operational ever again. This turned out to be Tudor’s saddest day.
Two days later, when the gigantic robots came for her, Tudor upstaged an uprising and together with his dad and the other cellmates, they escaped. A horrible war followed and again, his spaceship was the only capsule who fled that dreadful place. The two sides entered in a gruesome war which destroyed the planet and every living form on it.
If the gigantic robots would have left the newcomers live in peace instead of torturing and punishing them, Machilandia and the robots would still exist.
As for Tudor, he didn’t lose only a couple of well-functioning circuits and seven years of his life but he lost even his beloved mother.
For two more years, Tudor and his father traveled through time, never losing hope that somewhere in this big, wide world, they could find a planet friendly to foreign robots. With the passing of time, Tudor’s father became weaker and in desperate need of a program upgrade, thus, Tudor was forced to stop on a planet where robots lived.
The robots on Fireball were famous among the machines as being extremely hostile. They belonged to the latest group of robots and were integrated in a generation of androids in which aggressiveness and violence became prerequisites for their survival. The hostility towards those who were seen as “less than perfect” was accompanied by threats, cruelty and harm. The entire robot species was scared of their living code and they consider it too barbaric.
On Fireball, every robot had to pass physical examinations and those who would come last, would be exterminated together with their relatives. Perfection was the rule of law but their ferocious understanding of “perfection” had little in common with Tudor’s meaning.
As for Tudor, a perfect world is one in which all robots are free, equal and gifted with sensibility, not one in which one creates an army of mercenaries, incapable of self-thought and completely emotionless. This was hell rather than paradise! But Tudor was forced to stop in tis underworld if he was serious about saving his father life- his last living relative…and friend.
The moment they landed on Fireball, mercenaries took them as prisoners and they were sentenced, being seen as intruders. Tudor and his father were thrown in dungeons together with other slaves. The stories of the barbarities that happened in the Fireball prisons became legends and Tudor knew what was waiting for him. He or his father would be chosen to fight against a robot from the Elite Killing Squad (EKS).
EKS was an army made of the most uncommonly savage fighters and few outside robots survived them. However, the Ethical Principles Code of Fireball was clearly stating that any outsider who defeats his opponent will be granted shelter, freedom and protection, winning the title of brother in war.
While Tudor’s cellmates became accustomed to boxing workouts, our teenage robot cared for his father. Looking around that horrible cell, infected with rats and cockroaches, where everyone was fighting for survival using mischievous tricks, one would think the end of the world was nearby. Tudor was the only rational robot in the room and in the eyes of his cellmates, his calmness was a sign of defeat, thus they mocked him for his “weakness”.
The next day, Tudor’s cellmates disappeared one by one. Once they left the room, they never returned. Horrible shouts or a smell of burned circuits was the only sign the others would get when another robot left this world.
Around afternoon, a massive guard came in and after throwing a look at Tudor and his sick father, he said:
“These two are useless. No need to throw them in the coliseum. Just burn their circuits. Weak, old machines!” He pronounced the last phrase with disgust.
“I’m entitled to a fair fight. It’s clearly written in your Ethical Principles Code: every prisoner has the right to protect his life by fighting in the arena!” said the courageous Tudor.
“Son, I’m doing you a favor. Let us burn your circuits. This is the less painful death.”
“I want to fight and if you refuse me this honor, the last memo that I’ll sent out, will be a message which informs the android species on your treatment of a teenage robot and your fear. This refusal will bring shame to your family.”
“Then come and get killed. I’ll enjoy breaking you into pieces.” Said the gigantic android.
“Please promise me that if I win my father will get new circuits and we’ll be allowed to leave.” Tudor’s voice mixed a message of hope with fear in it.
“You have my word. Everyone knows we are robots of honor. We’re not programed to lie or deceit…but son, today you’ll meet your maker.”
Tudor was given the uncommon gift of spending additional minutes in the company of his sick father. They had time to whisper some secrets to each other before the teenage robot was pulled out from his cell. These moments represented a rare gift and were a sign of unusual kindness. Sympathy was not a quality attributed to barbaric machines but only the locals knew that this wasn’t kindness but rather a form of respect. For these savage robots, Tudor had a cardinal quality and the most sough-after attribute: courage. His bravery set him apart from the entire beast that shared the prison cell with him.
When the robust android entered the arena followed closely by a clumsy teenage robot, the killing machines gave him a standing ovation, cheering for him as they used to cheer for one of their own.
In less than ten minutes, Tudor knocked out the aggressive, gigantic machine, becoming the winner of the fight and the new hero for a mercenary species.
You probably wonder how a robot with burned circuits, a pacifist who’s against combats or wars, who’s half the size and power of that killing machine won. Intelligence is the easiest answer. While those killing machines had physical force, they didn’t understand anything about war tactics and they would get tired very fast. It all came down to techniques vs. strength or on one side you had strategy and tactics, and on the other a massive pile of iron.
All those childhood days when Tudor read ancient books about the kamikaze, ninjas and knights and kings, helped him win. The information came in handy and just in time, when he needed it most and through knowledge he won over his opponent.
His victory transformed him into a hero and for the first time in his life, Tudor knew what adulation was. He was respected and feared, becoming instantly the leader of a new wave of robots that will use knowledge to conquer the universe, instead of relying on physical force. But as intoxicating as love was, Tudor knew this was not the world for him.
He could rule over a country of mercenaries, occupying even more planets and taking slaves to further build his Empire but that wasn’t who he was.
The moment they replaced his father’s circuits with newer, more advanced ones, and their spaceship was ready for takeoff, he left the violent world behind, getting lost again through distant worlds and faraway galaxies. Tudor knew that one day he’ll find his “home”, a planet where robots just like him would feel safe. A world where you can live in peace and where equality and fairness rule.
Two more years have passed until they reached Flora- a planet so beautiful and advanced that it was a miracle that no one populated it. Flora was perfect for robots. It had clean air, fresh water supply, hills of blossomed flowers and a super advanced technology that was perfect for data exchange and the android lifestyle.
Tudor and his father settled on the planet and instantly they began building homes for future robots. Schools were constructed where young machines could learn about things that are not introduced in their microchips. Hospitals were equipped with the newest technologies so that wounded robots could be cured and well-maintained. Through hard work and diligence, they built a perfect world, a planet that didn’t have paragon in the universe. A place of peace and hope, just like Tudor imagined it. A realm of acceptance, tolerance and equality which remained in robo-history as Machiden.
When Machiden became fully operational they sent signals out in the whole world, calling the wounded, the sick, the poor and the neglected to them. Everyone was welcomed here. Everyone who wanted to live in peace, embracing higher concepts of equality and fairness.
Tudor gave to the world the planet that the world couldn’t give him and by saving the universe, he saved himself. He won a new family, new friends and the peaceful lifestyle he always wanted.