Code of the Lifemaker By James P. Hogan

Code of the Lifemaker By James P. Hogan

Code of the Lifemaker By James P. Hogan






spacecraft’s designation as “searcher.” Unmanned, it was almost a mile long,

streamlined for descent through planetary atmospheres, and it operated fully

under the control of computers. The alien civilization was an advanced one, and

the computers were very sophisticated.

The planet at which the searcher arrived after a voyage of many years was the

fourth in the system of a star named after the king of a mythical race of alien

gods, and could appropriately be called Zeus IV. It wasn’t much to look at—an

airless, lifeless ball of eroded rock formations, a lot of boulders and debris

from ancient meteorite impacts, and vast areas of volcanic ash and dust—but the

searcher’s orbital probes and surface landers found a crust rich in titanium,

chromium, cobalt, copper, manganese, uranium, and many other valuable elements

concentrated by thermal-fluidic processes operating early in the planet’s

history. Such a natural abundance of metals could support large-scale production

without extensive dependence on bulk nuclear transmutation processes—in other

words, very economically—and that was precisely the kind of thing that the

searcher had been designed to search for. After completing their analysis of the

preliminary data, the control computers selected a landing site, composed and

transmitted a message home to report their findings and announce their

intentions, and then activated the vessel’s descent routine.

Shortly after the landing, a menagerie of surveyor robots, equipped with

imagers, spectrometers, analyzers, chemical sensors, rock samplers, radiation

monitors, and various manipulator appendages, emerged from the ship and

dispersed across the surrounding terrain to investigate surface features

selected from orbit. Their findings were transmitted back to the ship and

processed, and shortly afterward follow-up teams of tracked, legged, and wheeled

mining, drilling, and transportation robots went out to begin feeding ores and

other materials back to where more machines had begun to build a fusion-powered

pilot extraction plant. A parts-making facility was constructed next, followed

by a parts-assembly facility, and step by step the pilot plant grew itself into

a fully equipped, general-purpose factory, complete with its own control

computers. The master programs from the ship’s computers were copied into the

factory’s computers, which thereupon became self-sufficient and assumed control

of surface operations. The factory then began making more robots.

Sometimes, of course, things failed to work exactly as intended, but the alien

engineers had created their own counterpart of Murphy and allowed for his law in

their plans. Maintenance robots took care of breakdowns and routine wear and

tear in the factory; troubleshooting programs tracked down causes of production

rejects and adjusted the machines for drifting tolerances; breakdown teams

brought in malfunctioning machines for repair; and specialized scavenging robots

roamed the surface in search of wrecks, write-off’s, discarded components, and

any other likely sources of parts suitable for recycling.

Time passed, the factory hummed, and the robot population grew in number and

variety. When the population had attained a critical size, a mixed workforce

detached itself from the main center of activity and migrated a few miles away

to build a second factory, a replica of the first, using materials supplied

initially from Factory One. When Factory Two became self-sustaining, Factory

One, its primary task accomplished, switched to mass-production mode, producing

goods and materials for eventual shipment to the alien home planet.

While Factory Two was repeating the process by commencing work on Factory Three,

the labor detail from Factory One picked up its tools and moved on to begin

Factory Four. By the time Factory Four was up and running, Factories Five

through Eight were already taking shape, Factory Two was in mass-production

mode, and Factory Three was building the first of a fleet of cargo vessels to

carry home the products being stockpiled. This self-replicating pattern would

spread rapidly to transform the entire surface of Zeus IV into a totally

automated manufacturing complex dedicated to supplying the distant alien

civilization from local resources.

From within the searcher’s control computers, the Supervisor program gazed out

at the scene through its data input channels and saw that its work was good.

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