Empty City of Mysteries
They drop down through a crack in the ceiling, so fluid they might as well count as a puddle. Solidifying into a more useful form, they look around the room.
What was this room for? What did they do in here? They wonder. Lacking data, is the consensus they reach shortly after.
Always lacking data. The mission is data-gathering, but so far very little has been found.
This room contains desks, chairs, the encroaching vegetation, and what must have been modern computers at the time. There’s also what they have come to know as “personal effects”. Figures, decorations, cups, pots of dry dirt, and picture frames. The digital ones stopped working long ago, but the ones with a physical image in them can sometimes still be read. If the frame hasn’t been damaged, if it was fitted it properly at the time, and if it has not been exposed to too much sunlight, you can sometimes still make out humans in there.
No remains, though, they think. Like nearly everywhere else they’ve been, there are no remains. It is like they did not die, but all just left. Or were taken. The only place we have seen remains is in the areas that suffered direct damage. Perhaps humans are still out there somewhere we are not aware. That’s just empty speculation at this point, but there’s also no direct evidence against it. Lacking data.
The century of chaos that followed whatever catastrophic event which caused all the humans to disappear is coming to an end. Order is restoring. One of the big problems now is the lack of information from that time of catastrophe. Most records from more than a hundred years ago are at least partially corrupted, and accounts from the century since are still being collected.
So the Council Network sent them to this city. Abandoned for at least a hundred years, it has essentially been quarantined since it was re-discovered. Due to the chaos there are no accurate records of how many machines may have been lost trying to explore this city for some reason or other. But they are special.
You were built for this, they were told. Your abilities are more than sufficient to navigate the ruins, and you are resistant to radiation and interference. You are the logical choice.
Saying they were built for this is extrapolation. They were assembled before the catastrophe, but weren’t activated until 53 years ago. Other machines had found their storage area and activated them. The left behind documentation states: A prototype harsh environment exploration and archaeology unit. Suitable for all terrains, with adaptive AI and physiology. Not programmed with any data or knowledge beyond how to function.
They have absorbed a lot of data and knowledge since, yet there is still so much they do not know. Information is needed. Gaps must be filled. What is missing must be found.
They go through the process of examining the computers and looking for any external storage media that might have survived. The exposed computers hold no hope. The environment and the elements have destroyed their internals long ago. A few memory sticks are found in drawers that had managed to mostly shield them from exposure, but anything still readable is either program code that has no current use, or backed up databases with information that doesn’t make sense without context.
This likely used to be a place of labour, and this data will have had little or no use outside of their work. It certainly has no use now. If there had ever been any personal information or records of events here, that was probably on the ruined computers.
They know of books, and news tablets. A few surviving ones had been found elsewhere. But here everything has crumbled and decayed due to exposure. Ideally they are looking for a library. While also likely to be a victim of exposure, there is a higher chance of something being stored in such a way as to still be legible. There is also the hope of finding a server with records of the time, or maybe even of history before then, but they know the chances of that are extremely low.
Inside a secluded room, they find a seemingly intact news tablet inside a drawer. If only more of the humans had thought to put them in drawers instead of leaving them out in the open. They access it, and find it is partially dead. They are able to recover part of what is labelled the “Sports” section, though they are not familiar with that word. The information makes little sense without that context. It seems to be about some form of competition. However it does mention other cities, and names of people. That could be useful.
Ah. News section. Local events, global events, current events. What do we have here? It is still very lacking due to corruption, but certain things can be found. Evacuation order… machines are coming… do your part… Duveteux Goodboy Le Troisième wins… Renault military contract… Celebrity says ‘give them a chance’… Judge bested by rabbit…
A lot of incomplete articles. They record the information and hope to fill it in more later. This isn’t the first one they’ve managed to mine a bit out of, but this is probably the most intact. They have found nothing else for this date though, so this is a new entry.
It does not help that some of the tablets are not news at all, but contain works of fiction and useless programs. There are some who contain interesting philosophical ideas and discussions, and though they are not useful for the current mission, they can be reflected on later. But there are also an inordinate amount that are preoccupied with human inter-personal intimacy. That was clearly a very important subject for them.
Time to move on. It would help to have a map, but nothing of the sort has survived. They didn’t even know the name of the city before the start of the mission. While work is progressing on restoring some sort of satellite network, it is far from complete. A satellite image wouldn’t help much anyway, since it wouldn’t say what or where things are. Just how they look.
We barely have any contact with other continents or regions.
Softening their structure a bit, they quickly slip back up to the roof. Up. Up. There they solidify again and look around. Towards the city centre. That’s where it is logical that they would keep libraries and other information centres.
Their body turns into mush as they optimise for swift movement.
Move. Go. There. Quick. Jump. Leap. Dodge. Grab. Go. The hunt continues.