The Sentients: Making an Exception

A quick story I had to write for my Mobile Robotics class. We had to write a Sci-Fi story involving a team of mobile robots.

Making an Exception

A swarm of robotic creatures, known as Sentients, is the sustaining force behind our planet’s civilization. They are responsible for transporting and moving everything on the planet to its destination. They are small and modular, run off the energy transmitted by the sun, and have a device in them that cancels the planet’s gravitational effect on them. This allows them to fly very efficiently.

One Sentient could easily fit in the palm of one’s hand. It has a small hand like claw with full degrees of freedom in any direction. It looks like something between a human hand and the tentacles of an octopus. When larger deliveries were to be made, say for example delivering and moving a piano, dozens of Sentient robots would form an enclosing structure around the package, and in unison, pick the item up and deliver it to its destination.

These creatures, although no one knew who created them, had enough intellectual capacity to easily follow directions and properly place a piece of furniture in a room, for example. In a sense they were like well-trained animals. The one great exception to the animal kingdom was that these little machines could not be tamed. They had a sense of morality and would never do something that could or would harm someone. At night, when they had no energy source, they all disappeared. When the orange rim of our slowly dying sun peeked its head over the horizon at dawn, the whirling buzz of the Sentients would be heard and the world would come back to life.

How these beings were created, repaired, or died (if they ever did), no one knew. It seemed that they were indestructible. Sometimes teenagers would attempt to shoot the Sentients with a Particlegun, but none of the pellets could damage it. It was as if some force, maybe the same one that was neutralizing gravity, was also protecting them. Whether they wore out and “died” was also a mystery. Since they all vanished in the hazy dusk, no one knew if they wore out and were replaced or simply immune to time itself. All the Sentients looked the the same, although on close inspection, each one is covered with a golden holographic shimmer representing unique fractal patterns.

The Wise Elders of the planet had set out repeatedly throughout the millennia to study them, but no one could understand the mystery of the Sentients. Common people took them for granted and believed they were a gift from a reclusive Wise Elder named Nicholas Tieslat who lived thousands of years ago. He was supposedly exiled by his contemporaries that all worked for the Evil One, Isiah Edisoll.

On a cool summer evening, Ladrick Vermilliona was leisurely walking to Lake Seneca when he found a single sentient lying upside down on the sailing team’s pier. There seemed to be no motion in it. He picked it up, it was quite heavy for such a small thing, feeling like it weighed as much as 5 liters of water. The little creature was motionless. Somehow it didn’t escape into the dusk.

He decided to take it home. There was a strange irony carrying it. They were always there, ready to carry something at a human’s request. It was long rumored that the sentients were energized by the sun. Not in the conventional way, but rather by recently discovered gravitational waves with sub-yoctometer wavelengths. Some of the Wise Elders believed that these waves came from the sun and was emitted by elemental constructs of all that exists.

By the time Ladrick got home he lost interest in the Sentient and decided to leave it on his kitchen table and go to bed. Tomorrow was Saturday and he would have all day to look at it.
Ladrick’s morning alarm’s soft whir woke him up. There was a hot cup of coffee next to his bed. He picked it up and smelled the rich earthy aromas. The coffee was from Angola, the best coffee the planet has to offer. Some unknown sense alerted him to some other presence. In the doorway to the kitchen was the Sentient he had picked up. Its faint whirring sound alerted his senses. He felt a sense of relief and disappointment. No one has ever seen an inanimate Sentient. The Sentient must have made him coffee. He got up, coffee in hand to inspect the Sentient a little closer.

The room started to spin. All of a sudden Ladrick’s body was racing towards the floor. The Sentient came quickly to his aid, but his weight was too much and he hit the floor with a loud thud. He momentarily awakened as the Sentient’s single gripper softly dropped his phone on his cheek. It was dialing 1009 for the emergency response. The Sentient then disappeared.
“Good Morning, -” the operator answered.
“Help! I passed out and fell on the floor...”
“We’re sending an emergency team right away,” the voice replied.
Ladrick blacked out again and 5 minutes later a group of several dozen Sentients appeared in the doorway ahead of the EMTs.

Days after Ladrick’s surgery to remove a brain tumor, he kept wondering how he’s alive. Doctors say the tumor blocked blood flow to his brain and if he had called 1009 any later, he would have died. Why or how he was able to dial is a mystery to him. But in the back of his mind there was something bothering him. Some memory of the night before, now missing due to his surgery, that could provide the answer as to how he’s alive.


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