Snakes and Pills

199 - generation

The announcer called out the serial numbers one by one over the upbeat music pumping through the room. The robots that filled the room did not exhibit any of the excitement that the music did. They did not have any emotion at all.

Still, upon recognizing their serial number as being one of those randomly selected to participate in the ritual, they rose from their chairs and proceeded down toward the stage. They did not usually sit in chairs, but that was what the ritual demanded. They moved with swiftness and efficiency.

Perfectly aligned in a row before the stage, the first four chosen robots awaited the host. As the announcer read off the host's serial number, curtains parted and it appeared from backstage. It engaged in zero playful introductory banter.

Another robot came forward carrying an empty tray, which it displayed to the four selected robots in the front row. In response to seeing the tray, each of the four robots spat out a randomly-generated number in quick succession.

The host then produced a small envelope from one of its storage compartments. Opening the envelope, it read aloud the numbers printed on a slip of paper inside. This number, too, was randomly generated. Whichever of the four robots in the front row had the number which was closest to the host's number, without going over, was the chosen one. It joined the host on the stage with swiftness and efficiency.

The music and the lights indicated that being chosen was an exciting thing, but the robots did not ever consider why. At this phase of the ceremony, the chosen robot now participated in an ordeal. There were about a hundred different ordeals the chosen robot might have to face. For each chosen robot, one ordeal was randomly selected.

All of the ordeals involved esoteric tasks for the participants. Most of them involved the guessing of more random numbers, but some had the robots rolling six-sided objects around, or even dropping a disc down a peg-covered board.

Every robot had the rules and procedures for each ordeal programmed into its memory, but the host still orated them before beginning the task.

The chosen robot went through the ordeal with swiftness and efficiency. They made no deliberations. They calculated the most favorable odds when possible, and accepted randomness without reservation when it was inevitable.

Sometimes the ordeal's rules deemed the participant a winner, but other times they were declared a loser. Either outcome made no difference, though it did alter the script which the host followed after the ordeal was complete. The music, too, changed.

Regardless, after three ordeals were completed, came the most sacred part of the ceremony. Each of the previously-chosen participants spun a large cylindrical drum with numbers emblazoned upon its outer edge.

Each robot had two spins of the drum, and they tried to get a total that came closest to one hundred. Again, without going over the holy number. Each day, the wheel was randomly weighted, to make precise spinning impossible.

The robots' optical sensors glowed with anticipation each time as the drum slowly came to a stop. Getting one hundred was an extraordinarily fortunate outcome of the ritual.

A winner was chosen, and then the entire process repeated itself. At the very end, the two winners of the drum spinning ritual faced off in one final number-guessing ritual. In this final ritual, the numbers were always bigger.

The ceremony was done. The robots shuffled out of the room, knowing that they had once again faithfully fulfilled the tasks of the elders.

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