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A Sentinels Tale, Part 1: 023
Posted By: Brendan Caldwell<hawkster2001@hotmail.com>
Date: 26 September 2004, 8:11 PM

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A Sentinels Tale, Part 1: 023

Zeros and ones. The basis of a computers existence and the basis of Sentinel 023's existence.
023 awoke from its state of deactivation and allowed its primitive CPU to run the start-up sequence so it could begin translating 343 Guilty Sparks complex commands into simple zeros and ones.

Initiate mass sterilisation procedure.
Run flood control program.
Task: Initiate sweep of designated area.

Sentinel 023 hovered out of its storage cell and began to line-up with some other sentinels. 023 was the leading sentinel in its squad as he was the only machine from its former unit to survive the last outbreak. An image seemed to flash in front of its visual sensors of the small creatures that had taken the squad by surprise and left all but 023 immobile. It queried this for a moment with its limited A.I but it simply recorded the flashback as a glitch within the rustic memory of the age-old machine.
Dozens of lines of sentinels were created in perfect formation and each line flew smoothly away like segmented flying worms to their designated area in order to carry out their master's command. 023 was in charge of the line destined for Floor 3, section H2 of the facility they were currently in but suddenly its blue, spherical master appeared in front of them in a flash of rippling gold air.

"I have a special task for your squad 023" he quirkily announced, "You are to accompany me to the main Flood containment facility, it seems there has been another outbreak. Once there you will use all means necessary to contain the infection forms and any...assimilated beings."

Sentinel 023 processed its orders and received them as zeros and ones as it always did, but there was something else in Guilty Sparks request, something that perplexed 023s small A.I unit. "Assimilated beings". 023 had successfully fended off hundreds, if not thousands, of infection forms and sentinels had only really had trouble when they came in vast uncontrollable numbers, as they were known to do sometimes. 023 had never encountered anything different. How would the sentinels recognise these "beings"? How would they cope with them? The same way they did with infection forms? Guilty Spark detected 023s distress.

"Poor lone survivor" patronised Guilty, "Created in a confused time. Not quite old, not quite new. But you will learn. After all, we all learn." He chuckled as the golden light washed over the squad of machines.


The time it took Guilty Spark to navigate the teleportation grid and bring the squad to his intended destination would seem extremely short for any naturally intelligent being but for a machine like 023 these times are an eternity. During this time 023 quizzed its A.I components for an answer to his questions. And more questions kept appearing all the time. When was I created? What is old? What is new? What does 343 mean when he says that I will learn?
The A.I struggled with its answers but not because it did not know them but because of the horrendously difficult problem it faced trying to tell 023 what he wanted to know. It had to first figure out "How exactly do you tell a machine, that understands simple 0s and 1s and nothing more, intelligent answers?" The A.I in 023s frame was not used to handling such large amounts of intelligible information and relating it back to its CPU in easy to understand bitesize chunks. It was designed to provide 023 with what humans would call "common sense" and the 3 fundamental machine instincts: Survive. Adapt. Reproduce.
The questions kept pouring in. The A.I realised that 023 was risking over-heating his CPU to question so much and to receive so many answers. The A.I couldn't allow this to happen, it could melt his so-called "thinking" circuitry and render 023 completely inept. Or worse, it could consume all the movement circuitry and leave him totally paralysed. And all machines knew what happened to those who were unable to fulfil their purpose. The A.I therefore believed that if it was to give answers to 023, and therefore keep it functioning, it would have make him adapt to understand them.


When the squad arrived at the swamp in that golden flurry of light they found that their leader, 023, had become very, very still. He remained hovering though, which removed any possibility of interference from the teleportaion sequence. The other sentinels floated around their sub-commander and their A.I.s exchanged suggestions to 023s condition but none were correct when they guessed.

023s A.I had come up with a way to answer its questions and to keep him functioning normally. Well...almost normally. Naturally a few sub-systems had to be sacrificed in order to execute such a momentous adaptation but it believed it was nothing of critical importance.

A light blinked on sentinel 023.

Improvised adaptation nearing completion.
Re-boot of all systems and sub-systems.
Error: Sub-system 98b unable to run.
Error: Sub-system 104f unable to run.
Sub-systems considered non-essential by A.I.
Re-boot continuing...
Re-boot successful. Adaptation fully complete.

Sentinel 023s sensors came online and he heard a voice inside him say:
"Welcome to the real world zero-two-three."