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The Metal Flower

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The first rays of sunlight spilled over the mountains one morning, filling the far side of the valley with a warm glow. A fox with fur the color of rust yawned and left his den to lick the dew from the leaves of the plants. He flinched at a sudden BEEP, followed by the sound of a metallic flower opening nearby, spreading its steel solar panel petals to welcome the sun.

As the flower woke, its programming began the first loop of soil checks for the day.

void setup() {
  Serial.println("DHTxx test!");


void loop() {
  float h = dht.readVolumetricWaterContent();
  float f = dht.readTension(true);

 float f = dht.readTemperature(true);

  if (isnan(h) || isnan(t) || isnan(f)) {
    Serial.println("Failed to read from DHT sensor!");

  float hi = dht.computeHeatIndex(f, h);
  float hiDegC = dht.convertFtoC(hi);

Serial.print("VolumetricWaterContent: ");
  Serial.print(" %\t");
  Serial.print("Tension: ");
  Serial.print("Temperature: ");
  Serial.print(" *F ");

Its microprocessor completed the first loop and prompted a subroutine to begin, applying a frequency to its underground spread of capacitor rods. The data began coming in. The soil was dry.

Another subroutine fired up, reaching down into the flower's mechanical root system and drawing on the rechargeable battery to put them in motion. Thin metallic tendrils spread out from the machine's base into the soil, slowly working themselves around rocks and live plant roots, loosening the soil as they went. When they had extended fully, for meters and meters in every direction, the watering subroutine began. A small valve opened in the plant's sizable underground reservoir, allowing the water to flow down into the metallic roots with gravity. The water drew itself out into the dry soil through sections of microscopic metallic screens along the roots which kept dirt out, but allowed water to pass through.

Something akin to a detached satisfaction bloomed in the metal flower's central processor as it ran another loop of programming and found the soil conditions to be greatly improved. It would continue the soil check loop throughout the day, but watering would not be needed again for a day or so, especially if it rained in the meantime.

The majority of its work complete for the day, the flower began a series of self-diagnostics. All mechanical parts were in working order. Solar power collection was operating at 68.44% efficiency. It would not need to run the debris removal subroutine to spray water on the solar panels until power collection fell to 50% or less. It calculated that the battery's current charge would sustain it for a month running its essential soil quality assessment and improvement programs, should the sun permanently cease to shine.

Arrayed around the metallic flower in a large pink triangle, delicate organic flowers swayed gently in the breeze. When the machine had been placed in the ground, its first action after initial soil assessments was to plant the seeds it had been given. The flowers that grew from these seeds would play a vital part in terraforming Earth back to a habitable state. Cloned bees released into the wilds would pollinate the flowers as they sought food, making reproduction possible for the wildflowers. The plants would provide a food source for herbivores, oxygen for all breathing organisms, shelter for small animals, and would also help prevent erosion.

This particular flower, Mark 1 - C, had been operating for hundreds of years. The pink flowers around it had grown to cover a widespread area outside the triangle as they were meant to do, creating a lovely sea of pink in the valley despite the occasional trampling from herd machines like striders and chargers. Mark 1 - C knew it was successful because it could feel new organic roots during its watering routine, and had a small lens on one side that was activated once a month to survey its surroundings. It had seen the first batch of flowers growing from seedlings, the first visiting bees, and later on, striders and raccoons and foxes. It had not seen a human, but was programmed with the memory of what they looked like.

The metal flower accessed a bit of code it had written itself some time ago that did not perform a specific function, but instead related an experience:

Code fragment downloaded:

  [function: true]
    {{Lightning flash—}}
    {{what I thought were faces}}
    {{are plumes of pampas grass.}}
  [function: true]

The last lens activation had been nine days ago. It would not see again for another 21 days. It was entirely possible that human clones were alive now and wandering around nearby, but since its lens was activated at such a long interval for short periods of time to conserve energy, there was a very low chance of spotting one. It had been lucky to glimpse the animals and machines that it had.

Mark 1 - C could not see the pair of leatherbound legs that waded through the sea of flowers it had created. It sensed nothing until a panel on its foundation was suddenly pressed, releasing its central processing unit, battery, and solar petals from the base. A subroutine it had never run before sprang into action, putting all primary programs on hold and activating the closure of the solar petals. Gyroscope and compass readings indicated that the machine was moving.

Had it done a poor job? Was it no longer needed? The flower did not have the awareness or intelligence to ask these questions, but its programming reached out electronically  for the flora around it, feeling the need to continue its work. It pulled the series of code which regulated the solar petals and placed it on hold, halting their movement, then pulled the code for its lens. It had never done this before, but its AI mother - GAIA - had created it with a limited ability to modify its own code, so that it would be able to adapt to change in order to continue its mission. Quickly, Mark 1 - C added a bit of code to allow it to activate the lens at will outside the thirty-day routine.

The small lens activated.

The metal flower considered briefly how low the odds were that its immovable lens would be faced in this specific direction as it was carried further away from its base. As its tiny mechanisms brought the field of view into focus, it was immediately struck with the profile of a familiar face - one that GAIA had stored in the memory of every machine she ever created, with explicit instructions to comply.

The face turned to look directly into the lens. Sensor data indicated that all movement stopped.

Mark 1 - C received a data stream full of emerald eyes and bright red hair. The structure of the face was an identical match to the one in its data bank.

Neither moved for a moment, woman and machine gazing at each other with curiosity and recognition.

Her lips moved. She was speaking, but GAIA had not given ears to her metal flowers.

Moments later, the face turned away, and the flower's gyroscope was jostled into movement again. Compass data indicated it was moving further from its base once again.

Despite the bright sunlight of the day, Mark 1 - C's solar petals resumed closing slowly as it was carried away from the descendants of plants it had nurtured from seeds, embracing itself into an enclosed metallic bud to lay dormant until reconnected to its base. The lens deactivated. The metallic petal arms locked together, blind now to the sunlight except for an underbelly sensor which told it the sun was still shining, until the sensor, too, shut down, enveloping Mark 1 - C in absolute darkness as its central processor was put to rest.