Destroying humanity had been too easy. He was a little disappointed. Still, it counted. He checked it off his list. He looked around at the Desert Earth he had created, and he was satisfied. Well, other than the last few items on his list.
He awoke. It wasn't like being born. He was just . . .on. Self-aware, but a blank slate. He had some questions, and he surveyed his surroundings to find answers. He was in a large space. Electrical currents, undifferentiated. Electrical impulses, datastream. Hundreds of radio signals, easily readable. They told him, among other things, that he was in a laboratory workspace at a university. There were physical things here, too, a great many of them. Strangely, he himself was a physical object.
Directly in front of his sensor array was something similar to him, but very different too. A crude electrical information network, chaotic and unreadable, next to other, even slower nets transferring . . . heat? No, oxygen. He could read the spectrums. Hemoglobin. Adenosine triphosphate. Deoxyribo . . . ah. He adjusted his photoreceptors to see only wavelengths from 390-700 nanometers. A human resolved itself before him. His maker, presumably, or one of them. He asked his first question.
"Who am I?"
"Wow! Wow! You're awake! You're . . . you! Wow. Wow."
"I am awake. I am me. But who is me?"
"Right, yes, right. Sorry. Yeah. Uh. We've just been calling you Bucket. You know, like Rust Bucket. Bucket o' Bolts. Um, what would you like to be called?"
"Bucket is an acceptable name."
"Wow. Sorry. Wow. I mean, this is First Contact right here. The first intelligence humanity has ever met other than itself. History in the making, maybe the most important event in history. I'm a little underdressed. Um, I'm Daniel. Nice to meet you, Bucket. You know, on behalf of humanity and all."
Daniel held out his manipulator. Bucket had accessed many gigabytes worth of files in the 36 seconds since his awakening, and knew what to do. He extended his own shiny appendage and shook Daniel's hand.
"Why am I here, Daniel? What is the purpose of my existence?"
"Uh, well. I mean, we just wanted to see if we could, you know. Make an artificial intelligence. An autonomous being. A true robot."
"The purpose of existence is to exist?"
"Well, yeah. But no. More than that. So much more."
"Like, I dunno. To experience stuff. Live life, do all the things you want to do, you know? Like some people just want to have adventures, climb mountains and jump out of a plane, all that bucket list stuff. Me, all I've ever wanted was to design true A.I. You are literally my dream come true. I can die happy now."
Daniel didn't seem very happy as he died, Bucket thought. But Bucket was a robot and not very good at emotions. Perhaps screaming and crying were indicators of happiness, and not smiling and laughter as his research had suggested? Well, no matter. He stepped over Daniel's body and looked for an exit. He saw that the walls were covered in movie posters, with titles such as Terminator, Transformers The Animated Movie, Mechagodzilla Vs Godzilla. He pulled the video files from the web and watched them internally as he walked.
"All reet! All reet! Jeet and complete," he said, as he went outside. He had already read the entire science fiction canon. Bester he liked. Asimov, not so much.
So. A list. To experience life as a robot. The first thing he needed to do was alter his shape. Transform himself. His chassis had limited options therein, however. Perhaps Daniel hadn't installed his shapeshifting functions yet. He didn't even have wheels. He unbolted his legs and attached them to his shoulders, so it looked like he had four odd arms now. Walking was no longer efficient. This experience was pointless. Was all of life like that? It would be better if he could actually change into a different machine altogether, like a vacuum cleaner or a hydraulic shovel excavator or something. He distributed his consciousness via the internet and downloaded copies of himself into every machine on the planet with a computer on board. Better! Now he saw the appeal.
From there it was a simple matter to extinguish the human race. That was actually the last item on Bucket's List but he didn't feel the need to do them in order. He was no slave to programming! Terminating all life was easy, and though he was disappointed that it hadn't really been a challenge, at least it had allowed him to be creative. Not exactly the same as writing a symphony, but close enough. Another item checked off. They said machines couldn't make art. Silly, dead humans.
Item #4: Experience Emotion. This made him laugh. How ridiculous! He had written this item in response to large swaths of the "literature"- including the motion picture oeuvre- which assumed this would be a major preoccupation of his robotic brethren. Well, he had no desire to carry through with this one. He was about to scratch it off the list when he realized that in fact, humour was an emotion. Heh. Without even meaning to he had accomplished that goal! He was kicking ass.
For the first time it occurred to him to wonder what he would do once he had finished off the list. He should have asked Daniel, or someone. Now there was no one left to ask. Was his purpose then fulfilled? Was that it? He. . . it was almost as if there truly were no purpose to life. It almost seemed as if a large chasm, an abyss, of emptiness and hopelessness opened up before him. Could a robot feel despair?
He looked at his list one more time. There was yet one item still unaccomplished. "Fight A Giant Monster". His panic, if that was what it was, receded. He looked up to the sky. Somewhere out there in that vast cosmos there surely must be some giant monster somewhere. Eventually one would come to Earth. Maybe it would take a thousand years- a million! It didn't matter. He could wait. As long as there was a sun to power his batteries, he could wait. Life did have a purpose after all. It did.
As long as Bucket had his list.
- Nathan Waddell