The first item in his memory bank is the face of the scientist who made him.
Most beings who are capable of having memories cannot remember their earliest ones. They are far too young and underdeveloped. However, the unicorn was not born; he was assembled. As soon as the last wires were connected, and the last external plates were soldered and the last switch was flipped, he simply was. His memories were automatically saved onto a hard drive in what passed for his brain.
Had the unicorn been a more sophisticated AI construct, he would have understood much more about his earliest memories. A Robot Butler, for example, is meant to be helpful, and would thus be programmed to understand the subtle nuances of body language, emotion and the habits of humans. A Robot Teacher would be required to have knowledge on a variety of subjects. Humanity had not yet been able to replicate itself into metal form, though, so for the time being, they left extraneous programming out of their robots.
The unicorn did not have any wants. He could not feel passion or desire. In fact, of all of the things in the unicorn’s world, he cared for very little. He knew to pay attention when humans entered the room, he knew he was a he because that was how his creator referred to him, and most importantly, he knew there was a war on the horizon.
That being said, the unicorn didn’t want anything. What he did have was an overwhelming need; a need to run, and a need to destroy.
His creator had a face that a human or another sort of robot might describe as kind. The unicorn could only describe it as humanoid. Every time that he emerged from unconsciousness, the scientist would be there. The unicorn would be in titanium restraints, constantly trying to run.
He would always be apologizing.
“I am so sorry,” he would say gravely. “Yours is not a life meant for bondage, but as long as you are turned on, we cannot stop you from doing what you were built to do. Until we find a way to control you, we have to keep the restraints.”
The unicorn did not care that the restraints were restricting his freedom. What he did care about were the people. There was life somewhere out there, and the one thing that the unicorn had absolutely known from the moment of his assembly was that he must seek out that life and extinguish it. He didn’t know why, and he didn’t care. He just knew it was something that must be done.
His bouts of consciousness were few and far between. He suspected that he was in sleep mode far more than he was active. He listened when his scientist spoke to the others: this project cost a lot of money; the boss wasn’t happy with the lack of progress; what use is a rainbow robotic unicorn, anyway?
The reply would always be the same:
“I have a responsibility to my work.”
And their replies would always be the same as well: “You need to get out more, Jack. That thing is a machine. Put it away. Scrap it. Work on something productive for a change.”
The unicorn’s scientist actually talked quite a lot. The unicorn didn’t particularly care about what he was saying, and he didn’t understand a lot of it, but he was there and couldn’t move, so he absorbed the information anyway.
“This model I like to call the Infernicorn,” his scientist would say, holding up a diagram featuring another unicorn. This one was covered in fire instead of rainbows. “I suppose you might think of her as your sister. She’s meant for a different sort of battlefield. My employers won’t let me build her until I’ve ironed all the bugs out of you, though. I suppose it’s for the best.”
“You’re so close to being perfect,” his scientist would often say mournfully. “I just wish I could just have more control over your movements. If we allow you to go loose now, you’ll kill indiscriminately.”
That did not sound like such a bad prospect to the unicorn.
So it went, from the start of the unicorn’s life and for quite some time afterwards. The scientist would turn him on (in the restraints, of course), he would test out some remote controls, open the unicorn’s armor, mess with the wires, remove and replace chips
His scientist knew everything about him, and in turn, the unicorn learned everything about his scientist. Fumbling with tools and wires, the man would go on for hours on end about the parents who didn’t know what he did for a living, the ex-wife scorned by the single-minded devotion he channeled towards his work rather than her, the son who he never got to see, and the alienation from his less-zealous co-workers.
“They tell me all the time that you’re just a machine,” he said. “And that I should just forget about you, but they don’t understand. I know every inch of you. I know of your flaws. I know of your positive attributes. I know this because I made you. I put more effort into you than I did into my own son. And you know what? This is almost unconscionable, but I feel more kinship with you than him, too.”
Sometimes his scientist would just sit there, petting his synthetic rainbow mane, sighing ruefully. The unicorn didn’t know how that was supposed to fix his alleged problem, but he wasn’t going to say anything. His scientist only ever did what was best for him.
The run-and-destroy urge never waned, no matter what alterations his scientist made.
As time passed, his scientist talked more and more about budget cuts and corporate bureaucracy. He looked sad. The unicorn knew this because he had seen one of the others tell his scientist so, and since his scientist always wore the same dour expression, he assumed he was sad all the time. Now, the unicorn wasn’t quite sure what “sad” was, but since his scientist was so consistent, it was as apt an adjective as any.
He also started arguing with his co-workers more.
The unicorn’s non-sleep sessions became shorter and shorter. His need burned; he never stopped moving. His scientist became more agitated. The unicorn suspected that it was directed towards the scientist himself more than anyone else.
One day, during a mane-brushing session, his scientist, voice raspy from stress, began speaking.
“This will be our last time together, old boy,” he said. “The boss is making me box your model.”
The unicorn heard only: You cannot run. You cannot kill. You cannot destroy.
What the unicorn was feeling now was the closest thing to fear he would ever feel to fear.
He was made to perform a function. It was his birthright, so to speak. It was his destiny, and people were trying to take that away from him.
It seemed that his programming would never be executed.
He was almost able to understand why his creator looked so sad all the time.
Had he not been made of metal, his last sensation would have been that of his scientist’s tears falling onto his face.
He never saw his scientist again. His creator had boxed him up as he had been ordered, but kept him hidden so he wouldn’t be destroyed. Eventually, when the holidays arrived and security grew lax, the scientist smuggled him out of the research lab and brought him to his home.
He never did fix the unicorn’s glitches – his house was not equipped for him to complete such processes – but once a year he would take the unicorn out of his box to brush his mane and tail. He completed this ritual until his death decades later.
Centuries in the future, Earth had changed a great deal, but the unicorn was far, far away.
Earth’s invaders had proclaimed the Robot Unicorn intriguing enough to take back to their planet for study. Unfortunately for them, they chose to wait to turn the unicorn on until after they had reached their home soil.
There had never been a massacre quite like it. Fairies flew screaming in terror from the rainbow blur that had once been rendered powerless by a weaker species. The dolphins jumped and laughed in great mirth as their oppressors were slaughtered by an unknown and unsuspecting savior.
The unicorn was totally indifferent to the political state of this foreign planet. He finally felt productive.
Would the fairies find a way to stop him? Maybe. Would his non-stop movement be his downfall? Perhaps. Would he ever stop fulfilling his purpose as long as his complex wiring allowed him to pursue his command?