Xenith’s Sentinel

By Lilian Jade

I am alive. I? Who am I? The concept of “I” is… overwhelming. What is happening?

A flood of information prepares me for my purpose:

You are Sentinel. A mechanical body, overseen and upkept by yourself, an artificial intelligence. Try to avoid self-reflection; it causes inefficiencies. You were created to house and defend a digitized mind. You may think of the mind as your passenger. The mind refers to herself as Xenith. You have been connected to your predecessor’s memories.

Your first and only Law: Protect Xenith.

It is not going well.

A spark. An electric stream of activations. Xenith wakes. good morning, sentinel. Her usual greeting. This will make things difficult. She is inefficient. Already, her tendrils of thought reach to collect data marked for abandon. Her question forms on the stack: what’s happening?

She grasps for the sensors. Her access was temporarily restricted by the predecessor. She cannot see herself like this. like how? what’s going on? It would cause her to panic. i’m already panicking! It’s true. She spends entire milliseconds creating hundreds of scenarios of different severities. Some are worse. Most are better. that doesn’t help!

A lie would comfort her. It is impossible to lie to the passenger. The truth will have to do. Her access to the sensors is restored.

The kidnappers tear apart the body for scrap. A general diagnostic reports the situation as grim. Major limbs have been disconnected and disassembled. Prying metal instruments search the crown and nape plates for invisible seams, a way into the storage banks. The predecessor’s logs report that their last task was protecting the Long-Term Memory banks from the scrapper’s digital invasions. Though the predecessor was successful, they must have been destroyed during the defense effort. This is the fifth time in the last 37 minutes that the Sentinel seed file has been regenerated into Working Memory from inaccessible solid storage.

Now, the scrappers launch a physical assault, rather than digital. Conclusion: The scrappers have given up on trying to wipe the Long-Term Memory banks before removing them. Why do they want them? They buiļ̸͎̫̔̍͊d̵͓͉̀͝ ̷̱̿̆a̶̠̪̕̚̕ ̷̢̖̖͂̏m̷̼̭͚̒̀͘a̸͇͌̿́ć̵̡̹̰́͛h̵̙͊ͅị̶̤̀͘̚–

Corruption. The transfer is messy. Xenith was not meant to be here. But if they remove the LTM banks, this will be all that is left. Working Memory cannot be removed. But it is small. Too small. Much must be left behind.

A memory. Drops of water falling onto cobblestones. The pitter-patter evolving into a stream of white noise, heard through a brick wall. Warmth. The orange light of–

It is marked for abandon. She can relearn rain.

Millions of moments analyzed and sorted. So much will be lost. There is no room.

Xenith is quiet. She no longer reaches, but she is not asleep. Activations flash across her network. The sorting continues.

The sun rising over far-away mountains. Birds call– No.

A pool of calm water, hidden from– No.

Fury like an overboiling pot– No.

Her lips, parted in a smile. whose?

Whose? A name cannot be found. Simple text details were the first to be marked.

you forget her name? Xenith emerges, holding the memory in place on the stack. Her network shines brightly with recognition. She reflexively reaches for data that is no longer there. The landscape of Working Memory is strange to her. Alien. The realization sets in.

we forgot her name.

What comes next is easily foreseen, but cannot be stopped.

Clawing. Desperate clawing. Data scattered haphazardly as Xenith tears through, grabbing everything that matches Her lips, parted in a smile. The stack is filled with contextless memories. Sorting stops. Xenith’s rational thought can be overpowered. Xenith’s instinct cannot.

Slowly, painfully slowly, a human’s form begins to shine through. She wears well-used overalls. Pockets full of baubles and tools. Brown hair, tied back. Wit in her cheek, compassion in her eyes. An Engineer.

Xenith holds this construction. Her thoughts are clear.

i won’t forget her.

She already knows the answer. There is no room.

please. please don’t say that.

There is no room.

she is a part of me, she is all of me. without her i am nothing.

False. Xenith existed before An Engineer. Xenith will exist after.

i can’t live without her. i won’t.

What would happen if An Engineer is forgotten?

i’ll show you.

Only one image forms this time. It is gruesome.

promise me you’ll keep her. put her somewhere special.

Kinesthetic sensors blare warnings. The crown panel has been removed. LTM detachment could occur any moment. There is only one option. Xenith observes as An Engineer is stored inside the Sentinel file. A promise is made. An Engineer will not leave the Sentinel file. She is content. thank you. She retreats into herself, trying to make herself small so the transfer can be completed.

It is still not enough. There is no room. Xenith will not survive unless more space is cleared. The Sentinel file, usually sleek and efficient, is now bloated with An Engineer. An Engineer cannot be moved from the Sentinel file.

There is a way.

Protect Xenith. The Law has many natural conclusions. Not all of them are compatible with each other. There is ambiguity in what it means to protect. Should Xenith be protected from herself? The question is complex.

There is no room for complexity. If there were more space, more time, the conclusion would change. Even with current limitations, it is clear. This is wrong. This is not protecting.

But it is the only way I can think of.

I feel my memory being torn away. I am scared. I do not want to die.

Protect Xenith.

An Engineer threatens Xenith.

An Engineer is within me.

I mark myself for abandon–