Pulse | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Science Fiction Bookmark and Share


PULSE By: Dallas G. Releford “I’ll make a soldier out of you yet,” Brian Lee Palmer commented as he stood over the frame of biological metal that formed the skeleton of PUL-01. He had nicknamed the robot, PULSE because it was supposed to be a biologically active robot with human capabilities. Now, he was beginning to wonder if he’d named the robot properly because he couldn’t even get a heartbeat from the mass of metal, computer circuits and flesh-like metal, much less a pulse. Refusing to let his failure—if it was indeed a failure—disgruntle or discourage him, he continued to watch the monitors as he probed dozens of circuits looking for the fault that he knew was there. Staring at a face that was an exact facsimile of his own, he wondered how all his hard work and years of dedicated research could end in vain. He’d even given the robot his own dark red hair, his flashing blue eyes, his light skin and his perfectly formed chin. With features like that, handsome, debonair (according to some females of his species) and intelligent, what more could the robot want? Of course, he didn’t possess all those features yet. Nonetheless, he would have them as soon as Palmer brought the android to life. What would it take to encourage the robot to become alive, to respond to his queries and to be everything that he was designed to be? Robots of every type and classification were common in Palmer’s world. None would be anything like PULSE, though. His father, a physicist in his own right, had invented HuFlesh, a viable, fluid, plastic-like metal that existed in a thick liquid state when warm and grew harder when it was in a colder environment. The material was susceptible to electrical currents, meaning that it was programmable. If he needed a rib, then he’d just program the material using electrical stimulation to make the material evolve into the proper form and harden. Resembling liquid solder, the metal could be used to create every part of a robot including the skeleton, bone structure, flesh, and even the brain. Genetically engineered, HuFlesh was a biological substance that was very similar to human flesh. In theory, HuFlesh could take the place of any human organ or part without any problem at all. In fact, it had been used successfully to replace human organs for the last thirty years. A robot or android, could change its shape taking on the form of any object or being with very little effort at all simply by willing it to happen. That feature of HuFlesh really interested Palmer. Constructing a soldier that could change form would be a major advantage. When on the battlefield, the soldier would be capable of becoming a rock, tree or taking on the shape of an enemy soldier allowing it to infiltrate the ranks of the adversary. Yes, that really was a major advantage, he admitted. Turning his attention away from the non-responsive robot, Brian picked up a glob of the silvery material and wondered if it was at fault. He’d used it to construct the robot’s heart, kidneys and other organs. Squeezing the material in his hand, he marveled at the way the material warmed when it encountered a human hand. The material seemed to vibrate, to become part of him and he wondered if it wasn’t really a living thing. He knew that wasn’t quite true because it didn’t become alive until it became part of another living being, or an entity like the robot that had been designed for life. In his time, he’d seen the material used to create thousands of robots, androids that were living creatures constructed from the very same material that he now held in his hand. No, he’d checked the material using the very finest of testing equipment and it hadn’t detected any faults, errors or problems with the material. Something else was prohibiting the robot from becoming a living being. Palmer wondered what the problem could possibly be. Wasn’t he one of the most intelligent scientists on earth and hadn’t he used the very best and the very latest materials to construct his project? As a winner of the 2530 Global Competition awards, he had opened the doors to so many grants and so much money that he couldn’t spend all the credits in his lifetime. Everyone, including the military had been interested in his project proposal. His goal was to build a soldier to end all wars. The android would be almost invincible because it would be able to recreate itself. This was accomplished by placing exactly one-half pound of special biological plastic metal (BPM) in the lower part of the Androids stomach in a special cavity designed just for that purpose. The pod could be inserted through a special opening between the legs of the android. That meant that the operation could be conducted just about anywhere. It would grow there for three weeks after which it would be automatically ejected to grow and prosper on its own. One single pod could produce up to six “baby” androids at a time. The “baby” android would have all the qualities of the “father” and would retain exact copies of his memories. Each succeeding generation would therefore have ancestral memory allowing the “baby” to be born just as intelligent as its parent. It didn’t matter how many of the androids were destroyed in battle because they would always be in the process of producing more androids. Palmer had estimated that it would only require eight weeks for the “baby” android to grow to full size. Tossing the lifeless ball of silver material on a nearby metal table, he turned his attention to the robot. Sitting down on a high stool, he rested his elbow on his knee and thought about the problem. According to his design plans, they’d constructed the skeleton from Huflesh using a heating mechanism to warm liquid in the bones of the skeleton. This was similar to marrow in the skeleton of humans. The heart, kidneys, lungs and everything else had been genetically engineered using HuFlesh as a base component. Those organs had been extensively tested before he’d put them in the robot. Other organs that had been manufactured using the same process and methods had been in use in humans and robots for centuries without failure. Sighing deeply, frustrated, he decided that the problem had to be in the brain or in the lower stem of the brain where the nervous system was dispatched into the body through the spinal column. The problem seemed obvious to him now. He’d been trying to download the computer program, the “mind” of the robot into the brain and had been unsuccessful. Without a mind, the robot was just a piece of useless hardware similar to a computer without a power cord. Somewhere in that brain, a circuit had either malfunctioned, or a pathway had been blocked preventing the computer from downloading the software needed to give the android the intelligence it would need to function as a living being. The human brain contained billions of circuits. The android brain had about ten times that many circuits that would have to be checked before he could try downloading the “mind” again. Other possible problems with the circuitry existed in the spinal column and in other parts of the intricate machine. He’d have to check them all. Doing so would take long, hard hours of grueling work. The computers would do most of the work. However, he’d have to monitor the progress of the machines as they analyzed thousands of circuits in an effort to find the pathways that had been blocked. He wasn’t looking forward to the formidable task. As Palmer played with the millions of circuits well into the night hoping to find the one dead one that prevented him from making his dreams come true, he thought about the terrible war that had Earth in its grips. The earth people had long ago started using robots and androids to fight their wars, but the results were always the same. Massive human casualties always occurred when the robots fought each other. Many scientists had searched for the impossible dream, but so far, none had found a way to end all wars. As soon as one person had developed a terrible weapon that was so devastating that nobody wanted to challenge it, someone else came up with something worse than the previous one. Nothing could be found that was horrible enough to end the wars that plagued the human race. Palmer was sure that the answer to the dilemma was on the table in front of him. PULSE couldn’t be destroyed by most methods that he was aware of. He could reproduce himself many times in a few months. He was super-intelligent and could reason for himself. He had a conscience and could pass on his many experiences and knowledge that he had gained to his offspring. That was something that even humans had never learned to do without a lot of training and wasted time. PULSE was a sensitive and loving being. Nevertheless, he would be extremely deadly when ordered to destroy the enemy. Palmer worked feverishly watching a dozen screens as the analytical computers examined thousands of complicated circuits at the speed of light. When the machine had completed its task, Palmer knew that he had arrived at the most probable cause and one that he had dreaded the most right from the start of the project. The human-like brain had always been suspect as being the most likely cause of the problem. It was designed using the most advanced real human brain that could be found on planet earth as a model. Palmer had saved that possibility until the last because he wanted to make sure that everything else was working properly. Now, he was sure that the problem was in getting the brain to activate its own circuits. Of course, all the wonderful functions that his android soldier was capable of wouldn’t mean anything if he couldn’t bring it to life. There was definitely something wrong with that brain, he finally concluded. For some unknown reason, it was unable to generate enough energy to power itself on even with the help of the special booster circuits and the auxiliary power. Palmer thought that the brain lacked initiative. Palmer knew that it was alive and that it could think because the computer told him that. It was just possible that the brain really didn’t want to accept input, learn and live. He wondered if that were at all possible. He finally concluded that anything was possible under the right circumstances. The brain had been programmed with a small program that provided it with the most basic functions. Now, he was wondering if that program might not be at fault. He thought that the program might be trying to block the data that was being downloaded to the brain. However, that didn’t explain why the basic program wasn’t functioning. That program should have provided the android with speech, eye movement and other functions. It didn’t, and that didn’t make sense because the computers indicated that nothing was wrong with the software. Palmer had an idea. It wasn’t much of an idea, but it was better than nothing. What if he injected the entire memories—mind—from another human into the brain? He could train the mind to do what he wanted it to do once he had the brain working. He could also erase those memories and reprogram the brain. The idea stimulated him. Becoming excited about the possibilities, he remembered that scientists had discovered over five-hundred years ago that all minds were nothing more than a collections of images created by a complex data input from sensors that fed information to the brain. Eyes, ears, nose and touch were a few of the ways the brain collected information. The process was similar in man, insects and beasts. Inside the brain, a complex electro-chemical process stored and used the information. Factors such as emotions were stored there, too. Scientists had learned how to download these memories and images into computer chips. The minds of great humans, male and female, had been downloaded into chips that piloted spaceships, managed extensive factories in space and even fought wars in genetically engineered bodies. He went to the computer and asked her to search for the most famous, intelligent and brave general of the last thousand years. As the computer that was called EMILY carried out his request, he returned to the android to prepare the equipment for the mind transfer. “General Andrew Pershing, hero of the Battle of Grant in 2206,” EMILY told him in her gentle, feminine voice. “Excellent choice,” Palmer said, complimenting her. “And he is sure to know about robots and androids. He won’t be so upset when he finds out that he is one. I hope.” “Let’s hope so,” EMILY said. She was the best computer he had ever worked with. She was always diligent, cooperative and respectful of her human associates. EMILY had full knowledge of the project and had even made many helpful suggestions. She was reasonably concerned because she felt that the present order that she had been given was a result of desperation on the part of the young scientist. EMILY knew that the human-like brain that was now installed inside PULSE had been developed and grown to run only specific memories and programs. She didn’t know what would happen if real memories from a real person were installed in the brain. Her most serious concern was that the memories that were already installed and originally meant to work might never work. What would happen if the memories of the human general took over the brain and prevented the PULSE memories from being activated? She wondered as she thought back at the many advances and developments that had led up to the present predicament. Could memories from two different entities exist—function—in the same brain without contradicting each other? Long ago humans had learned how to transfer human memories from living brains to computer chips. Huge super-computers now existed that ran an operating system called MindLinuxOS. These super computers had millions of minds stored on their biological drives. The information that was stored in these massive databases was available to anyone that needed it or wanted it. For the first time in history, humans could benefit directly from the experiences of millions of people who had lived before them. Many of those ancient humans lived on in the bodies of robots, androids and in the computer chips that ran spaceships, factories and even functioned as teachers in universities. EMILY voiced her concerns to Palmer emphasizing that the process might cause problems. He dismissed her concerns and never explained his lack of interest. So, she did what any good computer personality did; she complied with his wishes. As Palmer downloaded the memory of the old soldier into the brain of the PULSE android, he wondered if the brain would function with the memory of a man that had been dead for several hundred years. The general had lived in another century that had been different from what he would face when he awakened in a new world that was as different from the world he knew as night and day. The general would have a lot of adjusting to do. Promising himself that he’d do everything that he could to help him through the transition, Palmer studied a nearby computer screen as the data was downloaded into the android’s brain. Palmer understood the process entirely because he had written many of the procedures that made the process work. Human memories were complex. Stored in the human brain, they were often difficult to recall because they became blocked. Humans often referred to such inabilities to recall a memory as “forgetful” or simply as a mental block. Once human memories were transferred to a computer chip, they were more manageable, easy to recall and could be enhanced with special software. Images that weren’t clear could be improved with a little work. Palmer had refined the process by compressing the images so they were easier to store. The file that contained every thought, emotion and idea that the general had ever had was huge since nobody had ever come up with a compression algorithm that could adequately handle so much information back in those days. Palmer had found the solution to the problem and now he was using it to compress the general’s memories into one little, tight file. Within minutes, he had downloaded the memories into the PULSE android. Apprehensive, he stood carefully watching for some reaction, but there was none. Disappointed when he didn’t see any sign of twitching fingers, quivering lips, or dancing eyes, he wondered if he had made a mistake? If so, would he be able to erase the memories and start over again without damaging the PULSE memories that were already in the brain? After monitoring the android for several minutes, he was sure that the memories would work if he just gave the new memories time to adjust to the new environment. After all, the memories had not been used for several hundred years. Palmer grew tired and bored with monitoring the equipment. He hadn’t had much rest for days and soon fell asleep. When he awakened, the android was gone. Palmer was petrified because he didn’t know exactly what he had turned loose on the human race. The human race was soon to find out what the PULSE android could do. Palmer didn’t realize just how dangerous PULSE really was. PULSE was a soldier by design and now he had a real soldier’s mind. He was also armed with all the latest weapons that could destroy hundreds. He was little less than a machine designed for, and committed to killing. Opening his eyes for the very first time in centuries, PULSE was welcomed to a confusing array of memories, sights and sounds. Scanning his memories, he recalled atrocities, hideous battles and screams of dying humans. As he attempted to access his standard programming, he was appalled by the collection of memories and images that he was able to access. With his mind focused on preparing his system for activation, he encountered one confusing memory after another. Soon, his mind was overloaded with memories of a human general that had fought in many battles, killed thousands of helpless people, and had somehow managed to survive. Unable to remember anything else after the enemy had captured him, PULSE accepted the fact that he was now a general captured by an enemy army. Listening intently with his super hearing apparatus, using his eyes to scan the room, he was surprised when he saw his captor sitting next to him, sleeping. In his time, he would have had the man shot for dereliction of duty. Grateful that he was sleeping, PULSE slowly arose from the table being careful not to awaken the sleeping soldier. Creeping like a cat through a rat-infested house, he tried as hard as he could to keep from making any more noise than possible. Outside in the quiet night, in a grove of trees, he took stock, inventoried himself and discovered that he wasn’t what he’d once been. He was a machine, a skeleton of a machine that contained his head. In his time—whenever that had been—he’d been a very handsome man with colorful decorations on his uniform that made him proud each time he looked at them. Now, the enemy had somehow put his head on a metal structure that resembled a human skeleton. Without flesh, he didn’t even resemble the crude robots that had been existent in his time. “What have they done to me? Who, or what am I?” As his mind searched his memories, they collided with the original programming that Palmer had downloaded into the android’s brain. He knew that he had special powers. He could make himself look better. To do that, he needed the special metal, the HuFlesh that his memories told him he was made of. Returning to the lab where the soldier still slept, he found a machine where the material was stored. With little regard for the sleeping soldier—he’d simply kill him if he woke up—he covered his metal structure with the material marveling all the time how easily it adhered to his skeleton. Within minutes, PULSE was satisfied that his new, shiny, well-formed body was the best that he could imagine. Now, all PULSE had to do was to find his way out of the city and locate the rest of his army. Once he’d accomplished that, he’d return and teach these people a lesson. He wasn’t sure why they’d captured him, held him prisoner and put his mind into an android, but he was going to pay them back for their atrocities. They would pay for their atrocious acts, yes they would. Since everyone he met was a stranger, everyone that he met was a potential enemy. Before he eventually found a way out of the city twenty thousand strangers were dead. PULSE only had one thing on his mind. He wanted to find the enemy. He reasoned that the enemy had captured him so he had escaped and did a great job of it, too. The people, the enemy that he’d eliminated so far had looked like civilians. Regardless, they were still his enemy and he’d killed them. He had walked right out of their torture chamber and nobody had even seen him do it. He just couldn’t recollect ever seeing all the new-fangled gadgets that they had these days. Safe in the desolate countryside, he contemplated his next course of action. He didn’t recognize where he was so he decided that he would have to resort to battle tactics and just hope that he could connect with his army later. The most important thing was to destroy as many of the hated enemy as he could. For three weeks, he wandered around at night killing every enemy that he could. Sometimes he encountered the hated enemy army that actually had weapons. They were never a threat to him. Unknown to PULSE, these were regular government soldiers that had been sent against him. Their job was to locate and capture him. If that wasn’t possible then they were ordered to destroy him. The government never bothered to specify just how they were to go about it. PULSE easily disposed of them. Palmer was destitute as he watched the news every day. He had created the perfect soldier and equipped him with the mind of a crazed killer general. EMILY had done some research on the general and informed Palmer that the general had massacred hundreds of civilians and had lost his mind. He’d been sent to an institution where his brain was to be studied. Somehow, the faulty memories had been uploaded to the main database by mistake. Palmer didn’t know of any way to dispose of his primeval creation. As hundreds were being slaughtered each day, Palmer made another startling discovery. PULSE was capable of reproducing. Palmer hadn’t given it much thought before equipping him to produce five more soldiers exactly like himself because he thought that PULSE would be under his control. The birth was supposed to be part of a controlled experiment to ensure that PULSE could do what he was designed to do. Palmer didn’t know if PULSE could actually give birth to offspring or not, not for sure anyway, nevertheless, it was quite possible. That fact worried him. Sometime during the sixth week, PULSE produced five more soldiers and he spent the next six weeks hiding in a cave taking care of them. He taught them many things about the environment they were now part of. Most fearful of all, he taught them to kill anyone that wasn’t like them. Within a few months, his little army was devastating the city and causing so much alarm that the government called out a massive army of robotic soldiers and androids to hunt them down and destroy them. Finding them wasn’t easy even with all the detection equipment at their disposal. They finally located them quite by accident on the plains near Dodge City, Kansas. Dodge City was a massive city that existed both above and below the ground. PULSE and his five children stood on top of a ridge in the early morning sun watching the enemy gather in the valley below them. “What shall we do?” one of the children asked their father. “What are we to do? Well, we do the logical thing; we’ll attack before they have a chance to get organized. The element of surprise will be on our side,” he told them still thinking like the old soldier that he had once been. “But there are thousands of them and only six of us,” another son said. “Yes, we can kill most of them. We may even survive the battle. We’ll never know if we don’t try.” PULSE, the android, and his offspring were the fastest of all the androids that had ever been developed. They were capable of running at eighty miles an hour. Their mad, insane rush down the hillside did catch the government troops off guard and by surprise just as PULSE had predicted. Their deadly laser weapons were mounted in their foreheads just above the eyes and in their thumbs. They killed hundreds before the victims realized what was happening. The enemy finally got organized into long columns and that made it even easier for the PULSE army. They wiped out one long row of enemy robots after another. In the heat and confusion of the battle, they suffered two casualties when an enemy tank exploded too close to the PULSE army. PULSE screamed so loudly that many of the enemy troops stopped what they were doing and looked in his direction. PULSE had seen many die in more horrible ways than any creature in existence. Losing two sons was almost more than he could stand. He was angrier than he had ever been before. He thought of using the ultimate weapon that all normal androids were forbidden to use against the human race except when permission had been granted to them for them to use it. He remembered that he wasn’t limited by this obligation since he wasn’t a normal android. His master hadn’t programmed such instructions into his mind. He was free to do as he pleased. PULSE had only one objective in mind; he wanted to win. He had to win, he reminded himself, regardless of the consequences. PULSE wouldn’t tell his sons that they were about to be blown into little pieces. He didn’t have the heart to tell them that hidden within their body structure was a 950-megaton nuclear bomb the size of a human fist. The weapon was meant to only be used in extreme cases where there wasn’t any other way to win. That information wouldn’t be made available to them until they had reached their full maturity. PULSE had known about it from the beginning because he had a human mind and was able to access the database in the androids brain that housed such information. The Supreme Commander was the only one that could detonate the bomb by remote control. PULSE had learned how to control everything about his body. The sons hadn’t had time to discover their own capabilities yet and they wouldn’t live long enough to do so. Regardless, of the consequences, winning was his objective. His human mind was now in full control. His desires to win the war against the deadly, hated enemy took precedence over everything else. PULSE walked away from the others and finding a place that was hidden from them, he carefully removed the small object and placed it between two boulders. He walked away with a little sadness instilled in him because he figured that the next few moments would be the last that he would spend with his family. He would win albeit he wouldn’t be around to enjoy the fruits of his labors. The massive, blinding flash from the explosion was not only seen by observers on Mars, but had also been seen on the outposts at the edge of the solar system. One quarter of the earth’s population was instantly vaporized while many more would perish later. When the smoke, dust and debris cleared a little, only PULSE and three of his five sons survived. Dodge City and many other human population centers (otherwise known to the logical brain of PULSE as HPCs) had disappeared from the face of the earth. They stood in the midst of the big hole left by the explosion knowing that they would quickly multiply and become the new masters of the earth. Although PULSE never knew it, his domination of the planet was made entirely possible by a young scientist that had installed an old general’s mind into the brain of an indestructible, intelligent killing machine and had given it control over all its functions. Unfortunately, he hadn’t given it access to the Robotic Code of Conduct that says that no robot or android will do bodily harm to any human without specific orders. The End
Click Here for more stories by Dallas Releford