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SARA

by J. J. Truitt 11 months ago in artificial intelligence
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And her Mission on Mars

SARA
Photo by Daniele Colucci on Unsplash

Years had passed since the latest of human technology and innovation landed on this far and distant rock. SARA, the Sentient and Autonomous Roving Automaton, was on an exploratory mission. As Earth’s first fully artificially intelligent being, it was her honor to be given the task of unraveling the mysteries of Mars.

It was over two centuries ago when her predecessors beamed to Earth evidence of microbiological life on this desolate red plant. The news, while exciting, wasn’t so much of a shock considering ‘where there is water, there is the potential for life.’ It was about eighty years later however, the discoveries of underground handmade structures that sent the people of Earth into an existential uproar.

For the first time in human history, the question ‘are we alone in the universe’ had been answered.

With this discovery, also came many more questions.

“Who built the ruins? What happened to them? What’d they even look like?”

News of a lost civilization on Mars drove the people on Earth into a modern renaissance. Imaginations went wild. For some, it was the desire of discovering ancient knowledge that fueled their passion to explore. Others shared in the hope of a discovery that would lead to a better understanding of their own existence. For others still, it was the emerging science and rapid innovation.

In the end, a lot of minds had to come together to achieve the dreams of the many. For the first time in human history, the whole of humanity seemed to overlook the petty differences that kept them apart. United and working together on a singular goal, they continued creating and inventing new technologies that would push our understanding with each and every expedition.

SARA kicked a Martian rock. It went further than she expected.

When she first arrived, she had orders from Mission Control to begin work on a new section on Site Charlie. That was four years ago. Since then, the excavators had exposed a new section of a small village with structures primary composed of an opaque reddish substance.

Proceeding with phase two, she then deployed both terrestrial and aerial drones to photograph and collect samples for analysis. The photographs revealed about twenty structures of varying sizes lengths and a single large oblong structure positioned almost in the middle. The samples taken from a wall, had a composition not quite unlike reinforced glass on Earth.

Per her orders, she was to oversee the excavation at Site Charlie, collect data, send it back to Mission Control, and then standby for additional instructions. So far, no response.

SARA kicked anther rock and let out a groan.

“Ugggghhh!”

She felt bored.

That’s odd, she thought. She had not been programed to kick a rock. Nor had she been programed to feel bored.

Is this what humans feel when they have nothing to do?

She had tried to engage the excavators in conversation, but it was no use.

With them it was always, “Dig! Dig! Dig!”

The drones were no better. What she wanted most was something more substantial. Anything. Even a mission would do.

SARA tapped the display on her module’s console.

This thing on?

The computer reacted to her touch. It lit up. No new messages.

She dug her heel into the dirt out of frustration.

I wasn’t created and sent here to just wait around, she thought.

She watched the sunset fade into a radiant blue before dropping below the horizon. As she stopped to consider the beauty of the dual Martian moons, she made a determination.

They sent me to do a job. I don’t need instructions. I will begin phase 3 on my own.

The following morning, as part of her daily routine, SARA checked her computer for any incoming communication.

No new messages.

As expected, she thought.

Upon arrival to Site Charlie, she noticed the size of the first few buildings. The one directly in front of her was about fifteen stories high.

An apartment? Maybe a skyscraper?

She approached the tall structure and ran her hand along the outer wall. It felt completely smooth like glass. There were no visible doors. There were no visible windows. It seemed as if this entire structure was as solid as a rock.

She investigated the next structure. Then the next one and the one after that.

No clear way in.

Think! Think! Think! What am I missing?

SARA paced back and forth.

There has to be some type of catalyst that enables the structures to operate.

A small compartment opened near her midsection. From it, SARA deployed a marble sized survey drone to help her map the immediate area. As the drone buzzed around the structures, it captured a 3-D model of the site and sent the information back to SARA prior to returning to her.

The answer doesn’t appear in the geometry of the structures. Current solar conditions do not appear to have any significant effect.

What could it be? She thought snapping her fingers.

Maybe it’s sound waves!

“Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do,” she sang in perfect tonality.

No effect.

More passion… maybe?

“Oh beautiful! For spacious skies. For amber waves of grain…”

Still no effect.

What am I missing?

Frustrated, she kicked the structure and to her surprise, but only for an instant, it glowed.

So, she did it again and again, it glowed. Only for an instant.

What she had come to realize was that at the exact same moment her foot connected with the structure, she had inadvertently released a slight electrical charge that the structure seemed to absorb.

Power! It needs power!

Excited, SARA ran all the way back to her module to source as many power cells as she could afford.

Don’t need the excavators right now… however… I can’t sacrifice them all. I don’t need life support… so I’ll scavenge some from my module, but I’ll need to save some power to maintain open communications…

She spent the night collecting the cells and assembling them into a giant power array; one she believed would be strong enough to ‘tun-on’ the structures. Maybe then, she could enter one and successfully complete her mission. When she was done, she reprogramed two excavators as lifts to help her carry the array on to the site.

Nervous with excitement, she connected wires from the array to the tall structure.

Much in the same way a human holds their breath prior to a moment of unknown anticipation, so did SARA pause before flipping the power switch.

Click

The structure burst into life.

Color shot though the outer walls producing intricate designs. Figures, almost like a language, began to scroll across the structure similar to the Old Times Square ticker in Old New York City. Then, as if by magic, shapes almost like windows began to form creating see-though openings in the opaque glass.

“It’s so beautiful.” She whispered.

A door began to manifest.

This is it! I can’t believe this is it! She nervously thought as she writhed her hands together.

Everything that she had done since her arrival was for this very moment.

As the door came into full view it began to slide open.

“EEEEeeee!” SARA let out a joyful squeal.

What wonders lay in wait inside…

But before SARA could finish her thought, the structure fell into darkness and resolidified. The thirty seconds the structure was powered on had drained every last bit of energy in the array. It wasn’t enough.

No… No… Noooooo! I was so close!

She wanted to cry. She wasn’t designed to cry though. So she punched the structure. It glowed for an instant.

“How could I have been so stupid?” She screamed while punching and kicking the structure causing it to flicker with light.

I should have done the math! The building was way too big.

“AAAAAAAGHH!”

SARA was crushed.

Is this what heartbreak feels like?

She had no choice but to go back to and file a report detailing her activities. When she got there however, her computer was flashing. She had received a new message.

From: Master Control

Subject: Commence Phase 3

Conditions: Initiate module video stream so we can view progress in real time.

It was the message she had been waiting for! But it was too late.

She failed.

She laid on her back and watched the day fade into night. Her thoughts wandered.

Earlier she had scanned the site. At the far east side was a small structure almost like the size of a cabin.

I do have the remaining excavators, she thought.

If this works… Earth will definitely send more.

There was a chance it could work. A small chance. But it was enough for her.

SARA jumped into action. She reprogramed the remaining excavators to mobilize the module for relocation near the small structure. Once complete, she scavenged their power cells and began building a new array on site.

This is going to work! This has to work!

She connected the power array wires to the small structure and paused.

Need to file my report and start the video stream.

She tapped her module’s console and transferred the contents of her memory bank into her computer then transmitted it to Earth packaged with the module’s live video steam.

Now the moment of truth. She closed her eyes.

Please work! Please work! Please work!

She flicked the switch.

Click.

As before, the structure blossomed into life. Color shot though the outer walls and windows began to form. Just as a door seemed to almost manifest, it began to disappear. The illumination of the structure began to slowly fade.

“No! Just… No!” She yelled!

SARA became enraged.

Power! I need more power!

To SARA, the mission was her purpose. It was the reason she was created. It was her reason to exist. She had come too far not to see this though. She was not going to fail a second time.

SARA thought about the day she arrived. About all the fear and pain of being alone these many years. The many beautiful Martian sunsets and those two beautiful moons at night.

I wonder what comes next…

She smiled at the ambiguity of her thoughts then plunged her fist into her chest, ripping out her own power cell, and thrusting it into the fading power array.

The structure sprung back to life and the door opened. SARA stumbled inside.

It woooorkeed! eyeyeyeyey…. diiiiiiiid iit…

She looked around though her eyes had started to lose focus.

The inside wasn’t quite unlike the inside of an apartment on earth, though time had taken its toll on anything organic. What little remained was a small table made from the same material as the structure itself. On it, a small jeweled heart shaped locket.

It’s beeeeeauuuutfufffflllllll, she thought extending her hand to grasp it.

She held it in her hand and in the next moment collapsed. The light once radiating from SARA’s mechanical eyes faded into lifelessness.

When the signal finally reached Earth, the world got the chance to learn more about SARA’s mission and her sacrifice. She was given the highest human honors for her dedication and immediate orders for her retrieval were issued. She was to be reanimated.

Months later, manned crews arrived on Mars to prepare phase four and to return SARA home. They didn’t take much care with her transport as she was just another broken piece of equipment to them. They wrapped her up with an antistatic material, put her in a box with packaging peanuts, then put a stamp on the box that read: ‘Earth bound’.

Throughout the packaging process no one saw her drop the locket causing it to spring open.

For a brief moment just before the image fell apart into to dust, if someone had been paying attention, they could have made out the only known image of a Martian face ever to have existed.

A face locked away for unknown millennia and now gone.

artificial intelligence

About the author

J. J. Truitt

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