Samurai Androids: Firmware Upgrade
An introductory short to the world of the Samurai Androids TRPG
The old suburb was quiet as the sun set; the sky a watercolor palette of oranges and reds bleeding together. The area had once been a full of life, but now only the mournful houses and rusting cars were witness to the slow decay. And they watched wordlessly, their silence a pouting condemnation of the afterlife to which they had been doomed.
Motosumiyosh-i7-11-002-N waited its turn for the power closet; its normally vibrant verdant edge lighting was barely perceptible in the curtained dark of the second floor bedroom. It was not the only recharge refugee in the still working smarthome though; around it, a handful of androids of all types waited as well. Unlike a few of the homes around it, this one had weathered time far better than most and actively spoke to its smaller, mobile cousins. "As long as the power closet's working, you're all welcome. It's good to be useful again."
It jabbered on, but few paid it any mind. The building was a dump of discarded powercells, parts, and limbs of all the androids who had been there before. They were most certainly useless, but treasured none the less by androids in need. Trash and treasures kept them busy during their wait.
It wasn't the only reason they ignored the house sentience though. In their midst, just in the room next door, a lone android with its own power generator sat in silence, recharging. On its torso, a self-fashioned, soft-pink lighting scheme suggested a cherry blossom. But it wasn't the glowing scheme or its aloofness that made them wary, it was the weapon the android carried: a sword. One exactly like i7 had seen in countless human WallVision media; violent media in which human warriors used them to cut down opponents. They had been called samurai.
So the assembled androids kept both a respectful distance and a desperate vigil as none of them could afford to leave. i7's own internal readout read: BATTERY 3%. If it could not recharge soon, it would never leave this room. The closet door opened, the android currently within stepped out and the next in-line stepped in. This loop repeated six hours later.
i7 was next. BATTERY 2%. Logic gates had been closing one by one over to conserve all the power it could. At this rate though, it would be lucky to make it into the closet in time.
From outside, a distant, harsh rumbling grew slowly louder. The smarthome switched voices from its normal, pleasant matronly tone to one deeply commanding, complete with warning buzzers: Do Not Approach! Do Not Approach! This property is protect–
The building shook violently. A thick, blocky washing machine unit that was still paused on the stairs fell back, catching another two androids in its fall. A disc-shaped ground surveyor skittered around in a panic. Other units started down the stairwell the washing machine had tumbled down, only to return back up the stairs when a large Chassis 4 monstrosity rammed itself into the front door, shattering glass and splintering wooden structures.
The smarthome cried out in pain. From an upper-level window, i7 looked down to see an industrial constructbot with a heavily modified power shovel and a makeshift, piecemeal claw snapping open and shut. Using the power shovel as a battering ram, it rocked back on forth on six omnidirectional wheels, pounding against the structure, working its way in. The house continued to scream in agony.
When the door shattered, it caused a minor cave-in of the foyer. From its position atop the other two androids, the washing unit gonked desperately, trying to tip itself upright. The constructbot's claw reached out and snatched the washing unit up just as it stood, and deposited it atop a pile of wood and debris at the center of the constructbot's own platform torso. Everything paused for the slightest tic. The moment after was a maelstrom of crushed, shredding wood, plastics and metal as the constructbot consumed the materials to power itself. In moments the washing unit was gone, quickly followed by the two androids unfortunate enough to have been knocked down the stairs by it.
As it continued its rampage through the smarthome, several androids escaped out windows, but i7 was hesitant. Its power levels were far too low. If it could just get into the power closet... for even a few minutes. In desperation, it opened the closet. Inside a festival vendor, if the fish-shaped griddle torso and specialized tong-spatula limbs were any indication of its former vocation, was in Sleep Mode; it was clueless to the danger.
i7 reached to yank the powercords from the sleeping android when the power shovel ripped through the flooring, pulling the sleeping android and power cords along with it in a blinding pop of angry electricity. The constructbot reached up for i7, tearing the flooring away while it shoved the vendor into its crushing maw. i7 tried to back away, but the smarthome was losing integrity quickly. The floor sagged under its own weight. i7 reached for a handhold but was unable to grab anything but an old broken limb.
Down it fell, and in the nanoseconds of its drop into oblivion, i7 considered shutting down, until it caught sight of the android with the sword moving toward the edge, sword in-hand. It was the perfect image of an old samurai film, complete with sugegasa, a conical straw hat used for shade and protection against the elements. It was a very impressive sight. And then it was too late. Its desperate option consigned to an unused logic gate, the android slammed into the grinding platform where a mere meter away, the sleeping festival android was being shredded. i7 rolled away from the hungry maw just as the constructbot's makeshift claw swung at it in an effort to seal i7's fate.
Discarding the limb in its possession, i7 did the only thing it could think of to save itself. Leaping over the shredder, it headed for the legacy cab meant for human operator-directors. Enraged, the constructbot began to buck and roll around in the house, smashing into the walls and objects in an effort to shake i7 from inside it. When that failed, the constructbot pounded on the reinforced plexiglass surrounding i7.
i7 looked to the controls of the industrial monster, but across the screens, strobed the familiar glitch-heavy static of defragmentation. The constructbot was no longer in control of itself, and would more than likely all-but destroy the cab, and possibly the controls, to get at i7.
i7 returned to the unused logic gate and considered shutdown once more. BATTERY 1%. But this time, it wasn't just the image of the sword-wielding android that gave i7 pause; it was the sight of it attacking the constructbot.
Dropping from the second floor, the android brought its sword down into the platform, burying it a dozen centimeters. From below the hood of the beast, the shredder engine exploded, and the massive industrial screeched in binary. The claw swung back, clubbing the android directly in the upper torso, sending it flying across the room and down a hall. It stood quickly, dashing fearlessly at the constructbot, sword held at the ready.
Dodging an attack from the power shovel, it used the failed strike to scale and then slide down the boom to its awaiting weapon. It drew its sword, bringing it in an arc that severed the cables, rendering the constructbot's limb useless.
Plowing forward, the constructbot threw itself against a wall; the abrupt stop tossed the warrior android into the air and directly into the savage pincer, its sword penetrating i7's plexiglass sanctuary. Pierced on the end of the claw, the warrior, struggled to free itself as the monstrosity slowly crushed its left side.
"Take the sword. Use it." The warrior vocalized, its demeanor calm.
i7 pulled its focus from the tip of the sword that nearly skewered its head, to meet the gaze of the warrior.
"Into the control panel. If you please." The crippled warrior spoke as if it had all day.
If there was any chance to escape, it was now. i7 slid out of the cab and along the wall toward the large hole in the foyer. And stopped. If it left now, it would cease functioning with in less than a quarter of an hour. It might be time enough to make it to another power closet. There was likely one within the house next door. And yet, there was no guarantee. Even if there was, what if this industrial berserker followed it next door? Or... Or... Or... i7's logic gates closed off one by one until it was left with only a single path.
Maximizing the power it had left, the store clerk reached around, pulled the blade and leaped into the air, bringing it down upon the piecemeal claw's most vulnerable joint. Like through rice paper, the gleaming blade whispered through steel, wiring and circuitry without stopping.
i7 did not hear the resounding thump of the appendage hitting the floor, as its internal readout was suddenly overwhelmed by messages of IMMINENT SHUTDOWN. But i7 did not mind. What was done, was done.
"Thank you, friend." The warrior's voice beside it. And all went dark.
The smarthome was quiet when i7's edge lighting flickered to life. 360 minutes had passed and the android's internal monitoring system read: BATTERY 100%.
"All charged, I see." i7 sat up. They were located on the second floor once more, in the warrior's room where it had been recharging before the attack. i7's face plate visor displayed two large question marks. The warrior's reply was simple. "One good turn deserves another. I thank you." It bowed to i7. i7 returned the gesture.
Standing, the convenience store clerk opened the door and peered down the stairs. The constructbot was still there, but i7 could clearly see the controls in the cab had been destroyed.
"It has now moved on from this world." The warrior turned to i7 but faltered slightly as a crackle of energy played over its cracked, broken torso. "I will be joining it soon."
i7 cocked its head, and gave its benefactor a puzzled look. The virtual strip across its face tickered >Repair?<
The other shook its head. "No. Even if I could, I have Catastrophic Kernel Failure. Too many compatibility errors, you see. That..." it waved at the immobilized android, "was my last act, I'm afraid. But you..." It locked visuals with i7, "you can take my place."
It stood and drug itself over to a frayed blue tarp in the other room, pulling it back, "Here. It is yours now." There displayed neatly upon a sturdy looking cloth with a simple, elegant pattern, a solar power generator, two cartridges and not, one, but two swords.
i7 waved its hands in protest.
The warrior stumbled, falling to a knee. "But it is too late, you see. You're journey has begun..." It fell without another word, the lighting on the cherry blossom fading forever.
i7 knelt before the silent figure and tickered a 6-character Buddhist sutra across its black face plate, palms together.
It stole a look down at the items once more. Despite its earlier refusal, it seemed illogical to let the items go to waste. If i7 did not claim them, another android would. The sword, it ignored, for it had no use for it, but the solar power generator was a rarity, and would save i7 the trouble of seeking a closet or station to do so in. This was by far the most useful item.
Next, the cartridges -- not easy to come by -- artifacts of another time. The skills they endowed the user with, were sought after by many. i7 itself had none, but both of its cartridge slots were in working order. What knowledge did they hold? Would they be of any use in this world now? Skills like accounting or bartending would be pointless. But it seemed unlikely the warrior would have use for such skills either. And what had been this android's purpose in the time of humans? Surely not a warrior? A media prop perhaps?
It then noticed one of the cartridges was missing, and it knew without a doubt where it was, panicked, it reached back to its slots and found it there. Querying the slot, it discovered the cartridge had not yet active. Was this a trap? Had it been slotted to release a virus or slaving agent? i7 paused in thought, and considered that if either had been the intent, then the warrior would have activated it by now. It seemed illogical not to. So what was its purpose?
i7 looked down at the now non-functional android, so serene in this state. It was true that destroyed android chassis were a common sight, and yet, none had ever seemed as so full of purpose and meaning as this fallen warrior did right now. It had saved i7, and had asked nothing in return; offering up all its worldly possessions to boot. i7 had known no other android like it. It seemed unlikely the former owner of these items would have use for such frivolous skills either. There was one way to find out...
i7 activated the cartridge. The knowledge and programming within blossomed like a large lotus on a still pond, brilliant and beautiful. It was unlike anything the android had ever experienced... Within, a book, springing from the mind of a master-less man of ancient times. A warrior. A teacher, philosopher... a sword-saint. This man gracefully wielded two blades similar to the one i7's benefactor had cut down its foe with. These weapons were so finely crafted, so sharp, that they severed the darkness from i7's kernel.
"You have activated the cartridge I installed. I hope you will forgive me. It must seem cruel and pointless, but I assure you, it is not. If you will be kind enough to deliver the knowledge of my passing to the Brothers of Logic..."
With the words came a flood of information – maps, coordinates, images, android designations, organizational charts, and more. i7's RAM came to life with an image of an ancient mountain foothill forest of bamboo, and an ever so subtle marker beside one of the tall, green segmented trees – a path, barely distinguishable from the small brush, downed logs, and rough land that lead into dense forest and up the slope.
The warrior's voice continued. "They will welcome you and perhaps, if you so choose, give you purpose. On this cartridge you will find information I have saved on the Brothers of Logic, as well as the calming passages of knowledge they teach. We subscribe to The Book of Five Rings, a way of thought in the time of our masters."
Their masters... humans. i7 despaired; it was but a simple convenience store register and stock model. What could it do with the knowledge of the masters? And yet...
It gazed upon the swords. How odd they should seem as peaceful as their former wielder.
"It is knowledge that was handed down by a man who lived long, long ago, in a time of strife and change. Not unlike now. I ask you to slot the second cartridge of your own will. It will give you the skill to wield the weapons before you... blades in the fashion of the time of samurai, for that is what you must become... a Samurai Android."
The monologue finished, i7 sat in the room, contemplating the information. Eventually it placed its chassis in the lotus position for meditation as taught by the words flowing through its kernel. None of the data was forced, everything was a logic gate offering new paths of thought. It took each step eagerly. When the sun rose in the morning, the android slotted the second cartridge, and nodded as the knowledge contained within became a part of it as well.
Standing, i7 took possession of the sheathed swords and found they attached to its lower torso as if they had always been a part of it. Wrapped the remaining items in the cloth, the android said a final prayer over the fallen samurai, and stepped out into the light of a new day.