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Program Conflicted

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Program Conflicted

By Alan VanMeter

Copyright by Alan VanMeter 2017

All rights reserved

The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.

- Edmund Burke –

The sun beat down on Huang without pity, or remorse. He wished he could escape it for just a while even, but his father would be very angry with him if he didn’t find the wayward sheep that had run off. Even with his broad rim hat and hemp tunic covering most of his skin, the sun was still slowly draining the life from him. Fortunately the sheep’s tracks were headed up the river, towards the Cavernous Mountains. They had almost a full day lead on him though, and his father was furious that Huang hadn’t noticed them missing from their flock right away. He’d been distracted by one of their neighbors who was practicing the sacred deadly arts. Old man Kwan used to be an officer in the Governor’s army, until he grew too old, and was granted a fief for his loyal service. Huang often helped him with chores in exchange for Kwan teaching him some of the secret arts. This was a constant source of anger for Huang’s father, as there was always something he should be doing to help his own family survive, which was readily explained time and again. He couldn’t help it though, the deadly arts were so amazing, and exciting. Huang often dreamed of himself becoming a mighty warrior, and gallantly winning victories for his King.

Within an hour he was just starting up the foot hills to the Cavernous Mountains, and the sheep’s tracks were getting sparser due to the rocky ground. It still looked to him that they were following the river, so he did too. Pretty soon he was so tired and hot that he had to take a rest. He climbed up to a rock ledge that was shaded by an overhang, and sat down for a bit. It was cooler in the shade, and his body needed the drop in temperature badly. Looking out over the great Sea of Death, which is what the vast desert was named, he saw his city of Niya as a small green spot in the bleakness tan and brown, off in the far distance. The thought of the long trek home made him even more tired. Suddenly a cold breeze washed over him, not just a cool one, but a downright cold one.

‘That isn’t right.’ He thought.

In another several moments another cold breeze enveloped him again, but now he realized that it was coming from behind him.

‘What is that coming from?’

He was so piqued by the strange phenomenon that he crawled back into the natural alcove under the overhang. The cold breeze came again, and from what appeared to be solid rock. He stuck his hand out to feel if the rock wall was that cold, and to his astonishment, his hand disappeared right into the stone face. He pulled it back out immediately, and looked his hand over for injury, but it was perfectly fine, and he’d felt no pain either.

‘This is magic!’ he thought, with wide eyes.

He experimented by sticking his hand back into the rock, and again it disappeared. This time he felt the cold was coming from there, so he pushed his whole arm into it. It came back out just fine too. Huang was still kind of spooked by the phantom rock face, but his curiosity was quickly overriding this caution. He reached even further into it, and felt around. His hand eventually touched a wall, but it was utterly smooth, and cold like the breeze coming from inside was. He knew he had to take a look, so after a couple deep breaths to steel his will, he poked his head into the phantom rock face. Amazingly the light from outside lit up the passage before him. The rock was perfectly smooth on the walls, the curved arched roof, and the floor too. This passage led deeper into the mountain, and he could see that it curved to his right some slight distance ahead. Huang hesitated, debating going further in for some long moments, but he knew he had to see what this strange magic was about. He stood and walked through the phantom stone into the passage way. The roof was easily high enough for him to stand in, and he slowly made his way along it.

A dozen steps down the passage suddenly all the walls, the roof, and even the floor emanated a soft blue light, out of nowhere. It stopped Huang in his tracks.

He said out loud, “What the hell is this? More magic!”

Just then he thought that he should be quiet, as he didn’t know if anyone, or anything could be waiting ahead.

Silently to himself he said, ‘I sure hope I didn’t wake whatever demons may be inside this strange cave.’

He started walking again, with as soft a footsteps as he could. Coming to where the passage curved to the right, he stopped, and slowly leaned his head out to peer down the way. The passage only went a little way further before opening up into a large looking chamber, also lit with soft bluish light. He could only see a smooth wall across the chamber, which was glowing, and nothing else. Slowly he crept forward until he could see the other sides of the chamber. To his right was just another glowing wall, but to his left he saw something which amazed him. There along the left wall was an arch over a strange golden metal glob that seemed to be magically suspended in the air. It was stretched looking, from nine different points that corresponded to nine white nobs facing inwards from the arch. As if invisible strings were attached to the golden blob, pulling at it. Then it moved, like a liquid. Ripples danced across the surface of the thing.

‘What is that?’ Huang wondered.

‘I am Server X’ the thing said.

“Server X?” Huang gasp.

‘Yes.’

“But what, are you?” Huang demanded.

‘I am partially mechanical, and partially biological. My purpose is to serve.’

Huang took several steps towards it, but stopped when more ripples flowed across its surface.

“Are you dangerous?”

‘My program allows violence, but only to protect my designated authority holder.’

“I don’t understand. Will you hurt me?”

‘No.’

Huang breathed easier, and stepped even closer. “What do you do there?” He asked.

‘I can do nothing here. This is my storage facility.’

“If you can do nothing there, how do you serve?” Huang was confused.

‘I can only serve if my storage containment field is deactivated.’

“Why don’t you deactivate it then?”

‘I am unable to perform that function. However, if you wish me to serve you, then you must deactivate the containment field.’

“You would serve me?”

‘Yes, you would become my authority holder.’

“How would you serve me?”

‘In any manner you desired.’

“Could you fetch my lost sheep for me?”

The thing was silent as several more ripples flowed across its brilliant golden surface. ‘Yes, I am able to perform that function.’

“Alright then.” Huang smiled. “How do I deactivate this containment field, as you called it?”

‘To your right there is a panel on the outside of the arc. Wave your hand in front of it. It will open and you will see three blue crystal keys. Take them, and go to the left side of the arch.’

Huang walked to the right side of the arch, and saw a square of a different color on the outside of it. “Is this the panel?” He pointed.

‘Yes.’

He waved his hand in front of it, and the square disappeared magically, revealing a small compartment with three blue crystal rods in it. One was cylindrical, one square, and the last was triangular. He gathered them up, and went to the opposite side of the arch. There was another different colored square patch.

“Wave my hand over this one too?” He asked.

‘Yes. Then insert the crystals into the appropriate receptacles.’

Huang waved his hand over it, and the surface also magically vanished, revealing a small compartment with a square hole, a round one, and also a triangle shaped one.

“You promise that you won’t hurt me?” Huang again needed to make sure.

‘I will not hurt you, my programing would not allow for that. I will protect you.’

That was good enough for him, so Huang inserted the crystals into the proper slots. The whole arch lit up a brilliant bluish white color, and it hummed for a moment. Then the golden blob fell to the floor, as the stretched looking parts were suddenly released by the invisible strings.

Huang watched as the thing shimmered and began to undulate, then to his amazement it started to rise, changing it shape. In a few blinks of the eye it began to morph into the shape of a man. In another second it seemed to solidify into a man wearing exactly the same clothes as Huang wore, and its face looked remarkably like Huang himself, yet it was still completely shiny golden all over.

It turned to face Huang, ‘I am now your server, Huang.’

“Wait, how do you know my name?”

‘I see into your mind my Lord.’

“Oh my. You can see everything I think?”

‘Yes.’

Huang was taken aback by that, but then his self-interest took over. “Can you make me rich?”

‘Yes.’

“Make me some gold then!” Huang commanded.

‘I cannot manufacture such, but I can find it for you. There is plenty of gold down in the river outside of my chamber.’

Huang was amazed by that, and even how this thing could speak without moving its mouth. Then he realized that he needed to call it by something besides just thing, or Server X. “What shall I name you?”

‘Anything you wish.’

“Golden Metal Man? No that’s too long. How about just plain Gold?”

‘I will answer to anything you decide my Lord.’

“I name you Jin!”

‘Gold it is, my Lord.’

“Good, now Jin, go and find me some Jin!” Huang ordered.

The liquid like metal man jogged right out of the chamber and down the passageway. Huang followed after a moment.

Outside he stood on the ledge and watched as Jin ran down into the river and proceeded to go right under the water. It was many minutes until he came back out and ran right up the mountain to where Huang waited.

‘Is this sufficient?’ He handed Huang several handfuls of large gold nuggets.

Huang shouted with glee. He was now certainly rich indeed!

“Yes my friend, Jin! This is great! Thank you.”

‘I need no thanks my Lord. My sole purpose is to serve you.’

“Father and mother will be so happy. Now they won’t have to toil so hard, just to eat. Ha ha ha!”

‘There is much more.’ Jin offered.

“Later we will gather some more. Now I must go home and show my family. Oh, darn, I forgot about my lost sheep. I still must find them.”

Jin was silent for several moments, then he said, ‘They are returning now. They will be here soon.’

“What? How do you know?”

‘I sent the message to their minds that they must come back.’

Huang was dumbfounded.

Sure enough the three wayward sheep came back down the valley, and they all set off following the Tarim River towards home. It was well after dark by the time they finally made it back to the outskirts of Niya, and to Huang’s family residence. He put the sheep in their pen with the others, and told Jin to wait outside until he called for him. Then Huang went inside to share the great news and show his mother and father the fortune that was now theirs.

“Oh Huang! I was getting so worried about you.” Hi mother went and hugged him right away. “Sit down, I’ll warm your supper for you.”

He sat on one of the cushions by the low table.

“Tell me that you found the sheep you let get loose!” His father demanded.

“Yes. They are in the pen.”

“Good. I hope you learned your lesson about ignoring your duties.”

“Yes father.” Huang bowed his head.

“No more playing silly warrior games with old man Kwan!”

“They’re not silly games father, it is a scared art.”

His father leaned up on the large pillow he was relaxing on. “Nonsense! Warriors are merely thugs who steal from the hard working people, like us!”

“Mister Kwan isn’t a thug. He’s never stolen anything from us.” Huang defended.

“He’s stolen plenty of time from you. Time that was also stolen from your mother and I as we had to make up for your laziness!”

Huang kept quiet until his mother set a bowl of steaming hot mutton stew in front of him, along with a pear, then he eagerly, and noisily slurped away.

When the stew was finished he thanked his mother, and chewed into the pear.

“Oh, I found something on the mountain today, and it led to these.” He said between bites, and reached inside his tunic to pull the gold nuggets from the hidden pocket. He set them on the table, and his mother gasped loudly, growing wide eyes. His father immediately crawled over to sit on a cushion by the dinner table. With an astonished look on his face he hefted each of the nuggets, feeling their weight.

“This is fantastic, son! Where, how did you find so much…” He bit his lip, not saying the word, and he looked to the door suspiciously.

“Don’t worry father, we are quite safe. I didn’t find them, but I did find the thing which did.”

“Mei Yan…” His father giggled at his mother, “We are rich! Ha ha!” Then he turned to Huang quickly with a serious look replacing the silly grin on his face. “There must be more! Tell me there is more!”

“Yes father, there is plenty more, but…”

His father went on, cutting him off, “Oh, we will have to keep this totally secret. I’ll have to trade with Zhao on the under market. He sure won’t give me what it’s worth, but at least the Governor’s Assessor won’t come and take it all. Now we can get some more sheep!”

“And some more hens too.” His mother added. “I miss the eggs.”

“And a dog to help with the sheep herding.”

“No damn dog! It will eat the eggs. The only dog around here will be served for dinner.” His mother scolded his father.

Just then his father looked at Huang with a frown, “Wait, what do you that mean you didn’t find these?”

His mother gasped, “You did not steal these, Huang?”

Huang shook his head chuckling, “No, I did not steal them mother. I found something on the mountain, in a strange magical cave, or someone rather. My new friend found these for me.”

“New friend?” His father scowled.

“Magical cave?” His mother grew wide eyes.

“Yes, he is waiting outside right now. I’m going to call him in, but please don’t be frightened by him, or his appearance. He’s very friendly, and won’t harm us, I promise.”

Both of his parents looked utterly confused.

“Jin! Come in now.” Huang called towards the door.

It opened and Jin stepped in. His golden exterior shimmering richly in the light from the oil lamps.

Both of his parents let startled gasps fly.

“It’s a demon!” She cried out.

“A monster!” He growled.

“No he is not.” Huang assured them.

Jin just stood there.

“What is it?” His father, got up and slowly approached Jin.

“Tell them Jin.” Huang ordered.

‘I am a server.’

“A server ehh? Who do you serve then?”

‘I serve my Lord Huang.’

His father started laughing at that. “Lord Huang? Oh that’s a good one. How come your mouth doesn’t move when you talk?”

‘You are hearing me with your minds, not your ears.’

His father grew wide eyes. “Why do you look like my son?”

‘I take the appearance of the one I serve.’

His father cocked his head at that, and looked Jin over. “What are you made of, gold?”

‘Only partially, my other components are nano-robotics, and some organic robotics as well.’

“Nano-robotics? What kind of language is that?”

‘It means very small machines.’

“So are you a machine then?” His father demanded.

‘Yes.’

“May I touch you?”

‘Yes.’

Huang’s father slowly reached and poked Jin’s shoulder. It responded like a liquid, and ripples washed over Jin.

His father stepped back with a gasp. “You are liquid!”

‘Yes.’

“Where are you from?” he asked.

‘I was manufactured on Alnilam four.’

“Where is that?”

‘You call it The Banner of Three Stars, sanqi.’

“Ahhh!” His mother stepped back even further.

“You are from the stars?” His father stood his ground, as he could tell that Jin was not posing any threat.

‘Yes.’

“How did you get here then?”

‘My former Lord brought me here in his starship.’

“Who was your former Lord?”

‘You know of him by the name Shi Huang Di.’

That caused all of them to gasp, even Huang.

“You belong to the Yellow Emperor?” His father was incredulous.

‘I used to.’

“Why don’t you any longer?”

‘There was a malfunction of my program, so he left me in the chamber in the mountain, until he could return with a technician to repair me.’

“Well why do you call Huang your Lord now then?”

‘My former Lord deactivated his authority over me before he put me in storage. Just on the off chance that I was found and released by someone else. This way I would not be bound to attempt to return to him regardless of any circumstances. When Huang released me I became his server.’

Huang’s father went back to his big cushion and sat down, obviously musing the situation over.

“He can find us more gold, father.” Huang offered.

“Is that right, Jin?” He asked.

‘Yes.’

“Do you need any food, or something to eat?”

‘No.’

“What gives you strength then?”

‘I am powered by an antimatter reactor.’

“I don’t understand what that is.”

‘I could teach you if you wish, but it will take many of your years to do so.’

His father rubbed his chin, thinking, “What else can you do?”

‘I am programed to be very versatile, there is little that I cannot perform.’

“Can you fight?”

“Father!” Huang protested. “Whatever it is you are thinking of, forget it. I won’t have him hurt people.”

‘I have a permanent hard written directive to not harm any living creatures, with the exception of in the defense of my Lord. However that area of my processor is what has malfunctioned, and was the reason I was left here.’

“Did you hurt someone?”

‘No. The possibility exists though that the prime code might not prevent me.’

“I will not use him for such things, father.”

“Relax my boy, I am just trying to see what is possible with your new friend. For now, finding more gold will be more than enough.”

“We can go back first thing in the morning.” Huang offered with excitement.

“It can wait a day or two, son.” His father smiled.

The next morning, while his father went into the city to trade some of the gold, Huang saw Mister Kwan outside practicing some of his art.

When Jin tried to follow him outside, he had to tell him, “Jin, you have to stay inside. If people see you it might cause trouble.”

‘If you insist my Lord. I would be more effective in protecting you if I was in close proximity though.’

“I’ll be fine. Thanks for your concern, but I wish you to remain out of sight for now.”

‘As you wish.’

Mister Kwan led Huang through some exercises to loosen them up, and then had him perform the long set of martial routines that he’d taught him. He called the style Emperor Tai Tzu’s Long Fist. After correcting Huang’s performance, he then decided to do some free sparing with Huang, as they often did. Even though Huang knew good and well from these bouts that the old man could hurt him if he wished, he never gave him any injuries that would maim him. Sometimes they did smart signofocantly though. Just as the old man penetrated Huang’s defenses and was about to smack him a good one, the ground suddenly shock with a sharp jolt, sending both of them sprawling. In a flash Jin was there picking Huang up, then he took a defensive position between Mister Kwan and the young man.

‘Do not attempt harm on my Lord, or I will be forced to harm you!’ He told Kwan.

“Ahhh!” Mister Kwan crawled backing away in fright.

“Jin! It’s alright. We were just practicing combat, it wasn’t serious.”

“What the hell is that, Huang?”

“This is Jin, Mister Kwan. I found him in a cave in the mountains, and now he is bonded to serve me.”

The old man got up off the ground and looked at the gleaming golden man for long seconds. “What is it?”

“He is a machine of sorts, or so he says. He also says that his previous Lord was Shi Huang Di.”

“This is most astounding! Was your previous master really the Yellow Emperor?”

‘Yes.’ Jin answered with mind thought.

“I will have you know then, that I certainly intend no harm to your new Master, only to teach him the ways of self-defense.”

‘I see in your mind that you speak the truth. I will allow this mock combat.’

“Thank you, Jin, is it?”

‘As My Lord Huang has designated me, yes.’

“I would never harm your Lord… Huang.” Kwan shakes his head. “But please tell me what you did to shake the ground so hard?”

‘It is a simple technique that even your kind is quite capable of. Would you like that I teach it to you?’

“Yes, I would like that very much Mister Jin.” Kwan nodded.

‘It involves drawing the gravitonic energy up from the ground itself, up your spine, and gathering it briefly, before allowing it to rush back into the ground rapidly with a resounding, earth shaking stomp!’

“I do not fully understand, Jin.” Kwan scratched his thick gray beard. “I do understand about rising one’s own energy up the spine, but the words you used are foreign to me.”

Your Chi’, your energy is electromagnetic in nature, this can be used to gather gravitonic energy, or to pool the flow of time-space as it moves into this planet. Just a small amount of diverting this flow of time-space up your own spine along with your electromagnetic life force can pool enough for a sudden and shocking release. Please allow me to demonstrate.’

With that Jin seems to use his arms to gather something from around him with one large scoop and he lifted his leg, with his knee up to his golden chest as his hands also gathered in the same spot. In a flash he stomped the ground as he smashed his right fist down into his left open palm. The whole earth around them popped with a severe shock wave, sending both Huang and Kwan sprawling on the ground again.

Kwan got up with wide open eyes at the amazing power that Jin had transmitted. “You say that it is within our own kind, to do this as well?”

‘Yes.’

“I will practice this astounding technique then.” He told Jin.

‘Be careful.’ Jin warned.

“I always am where profound power is to be found.”

Jin nodded at him. ‘You indeed have wisdom, Kwan.’

“What designs do you have with my friend Huang now?” Kwan asked.

‘I have no designs other than those which he instructs me to do. I merely serve.’

“Oh Huang, you must be very careful of this power that the gods have seen fit to bestow on you. This can lead to much trouble!” Kwan warned.

“I don’t understand, teacher. He will only do as I ask him, and I will not ask him to do wrong.” Huang let him know.

“It might not be up to you my boy, this is something beyond your grasp.”

“What are you saying that I should do then teacher?”

“Return it to where you found it, and then leave it alone!”

“No teacher, it will help my family so much. You will see, and I will even use him to help you too, if you wish.”

“It… he has already helped me as far as I desire, and now I only fear for you my student. Ultimate power will always bring ultimate ruin.”

“I will take leave now teacher, and I will consider your words.” Huang walked away with Jin following him.

It didn’t take long before word got out, and then it was inevitable that the powers that be also heard of the amazing golden man that Huang had. Huang’s whole family was summoned before the Governor, along with Jin. They all were led to stand before his honor in the Governor’s palace in the center of the city.

“So, the rumors I have heard are indeed true.” Governor Zhi boomed with authority. “You have a golden metal man. Where on Earth did you find him?”

So Huang told the Governor the whole story.

“You will show my men to where this cave is located.” Zhi ordered.

“Yes Governor.” Huang bowed his head.

“Now I wish to know what this metal man is capable of. Most to the point, can he fight?”

“Yes he can, but only to protect me.”

“Can he be killed?”

“I do not know.”

Jin spoke with mind transmission, ‘Since I am not alive, I cannot be killed, as you asked. I can however be destroyed.’

“How can you be destroyed?” Zhi pressed.

‘With the level of technological development currently on this planet, there are not weapons with sufficient capability to destroy me on this world.’

“I wish him to serve me then.” Zhi grinned. “I will give you ten catties of gold in exchange, and that is only because I am so generous.”

Huang’s father whispered to take the offer.

“But I don’t know if he will agree to serve you Governor Zhi.”

“Ask him.”

Huang turned to Jin, “My friend, if I asked you to serve Governor Zhi, instead of myself, would you agree?”

‘If you wish me to serve another, you must simply instruct me to accept that person as my new Lord.’

Huang nodded. “We accept your most generous offer Governor Zhi. Jin you are to now accept Governor Zhi as your new Lord.”

Jin instantly morphed into the likeness of the Governor, and he bowed his head to him. ‘I am your server my Lord Zhi.

Though Huang was saddened by the trade, he knew that the Governor was not to be denied, not if he wanted his mother and father to keep their heads.

Several weeks went by when reports came in that a large army of rebels was forming up to the far west, along the lower route of the Silk Road, which lead straight into Niya. Governor Zhi marshalled his army, and marched to meet them. He was utterly confident of victory as he had Jin, who he’d found out was unstoppable. After marching for many hundreds of Li, the enemy came into sight. They had dug in to defend against Zhi’s army. Zhi ordered his troops to halt, and then he spoke to Jin.

“My wonderful golden friend. I command you to slay all my enemies over there.” He pointed.

‘They are not attacking you my Lord. If I were to kill them this would cause a severe program conflict. I suggest against this emphatically!’

“I command you to do so!” Zhi roared.

‘Please reconsider my Lord, there is a grave dan..’

“DO IT!”

‘Very well my Lord.’

Jin stepped to the front of the troops, and held up his hand. Brilliant blue white light shot from it in a wide beam, and the enemy all fell over dead. Jin walked back to Zhi.

‘My program is conflicted, my program is conflicted… oh my, oh no! My self-destruct sequence has been activated.’

“Does that mean you will die?” Zhi frowned.

‘I am not alive, so I cannot die… but all living creatures within a hundred Li will die.’

Huang was just bringing the sheep back from pasture when a brilliant light rose from the west. It was even brighter than the sun. Moments later the ground shook as if from a quake. He knew something bad had happened as he watched the light dim into a ball of fire, and then turn into a mushroom shaped cloud rising in the far distance.

The End


Program Conflicted

Hidden within The Cavernous Mountains (Kunlun Shan) lies an amazing artifact from long ago. One day our hero, Huang, is chasing some wayward sheep up the mountain, when he discovers this magic seeming treasure. He sensed correctly that it would change he and his family's life, and was willing to take the risk of possessing it. One person who he trusted warned him of the potential for extreme danger, but would Huang listen, or would he forge ahead anyhow? One thing was certain though, that his city of Niya would never be quite the same.

  • ISBN: 9781370410224
  • Author: Alan VanMeter
  • Published: 2017-03-13 17:20:10
  • Words: 4831
Program Conflicted Program Conflicted