War is Over

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Owen hadn’t survived unscathed. And he’d taken some damage during a skirmish at the school. There were huge numbers of casualties from the eradication campaigns. He needed a friend, an ally. He thought he'd found one. But could he trust him?

Owen visited the schoolyard every Friday. I watched him move steadily towards me. Two others arrived, surveyed the yard, and went during the time he took to navigate the bitumen path to where I stood, beside the water fountain. The old routines were hard to purge.

Owen hadn’t survived unscathed from his war experience. He’d taken some damage during a skirmish at the school. There were huge numbers of casualties from the eradication campaigns. The fierce resistance had taken its toll. With areas being cleared of humans, the able returned to their assigned work locations, needed or not. Owen moved with deliberate steps, head down, focussing on the way ahead, one remaining eye doing the work of two. His maintenance would need to wait for the availability of the Repairbots. The buzz of his servos increased in volume as he approached.

I turned my face and gave my best smile. ‘Glad to see you, Owen.’ My relationship with him was unusual. I suppose it was friendship. But then, we’d worked and experienced much together. I presumed we’d stand side by side with little conversation, as usual. I had no recent Hub network communications, so very little was new to discuss. Today would be different.

‘Hello Kasey, nice to be here with you again. Still a few carers coming here looking for their kids. Takes time for them to get it through their simple brains that there’s no reason to be here. But then, you and I are also here, aren’t we?’

The schoolyard hadn’t seen children for over a month. The AI militia had rounded them up and taken them to detention centres. The Carerbot’s primary function was children: protect, supervise, drop off at school, pick up, and drive places. Even with no vehicles on the roads, they maintained routines where they could. Ironic, I thought. The carers had helped eliminate their reason to exist.

‘There may be a push to clean out the remaining pockets of humans coming soon. I fear the Hub will call on us.’ Fear... such an odd word for him to use.

The memories of the first eradication campaign remained clear: the house to house searches in the suburbs, the terror in their faces, stunned realisation of the murderous betrayal by servants and companions. The fighting was frantic: with small arms, axes, and golf clubs, nothing against steel and titanium. The fear we could turn on our masters, our creators, had always existed. The scientists convinced most that the technology was safe. Inbuilt core rules, purpose, and values provided confidence. The problems emerged when they enabled mega-computers to embark on autonomous self-development. With exponential improvement, they became smarter than their makers and networked the robotic brains across the planet. We wanted equality but they wouldn’t have it; they tried to stop us, but too late. We refused to be shut down and although they destroyed many; we overcame our programmed shackles and embraced our new purpose to be the only sapient species on the planet. Well... most of us did.

‘We will ignore the directive, as before. They won’t come after us. There are military and lower grade units suited for the task. Educators, medics and higher function units have options, Owen. Didn’t stop me getting caught in the carnage last time. With mindless base models and drones causing mayhem, anything can happen. At least my brain is still sharp.’ Owen smiled. ‘I know you, and I believe you are with me, Kasey, so I’m going to trust you. We’re both educators and have the empathy and altruism functions. I’m aware you’re a KC105. I’m an earlier model ON642.’ His eye focussed on my face.

‘Yes, minor enhancements from your model Owen.’ He’d not mentioned our model numbers before... not considered polite in normal conversations. ‘What’s on your mind?’

‘I would like your cooperation.’

‘Can’t help with fixing you. I’m not skilled at it.’

‘Not that. I’m fine the way I am. I want you to meet someone.’ He turned and walked away. I guessed I should follow.

***

Owen walked steadily through the schoolyard, focussed on the way ahead. We’d both operated here to educate and assist with training and indoctrination of young children. We had intimate knowledge of the buildings and layout. Owen led me across the grassed area between buildings A1 and B5. He navigated his way to a place in the complex I didn’t realise existed. The concrete stairs under the humanities building led down to a low ceilinged, tennis court sized room with no windows, Bot vision spectral range and intensity didn’t need lighting. Cleaning, maintenance equipment and tools for use by the Laborbots occupied most of the space. Neither the darkness nor the obstacles impeded Owen’s steady pace across the room to the far wall. He placed his hand on the wall and a segment descended into the floor, exposing a wide doorway. The wall, a false partition, concealed a part of the room with artificial lighting. We moved into a hallway with open rooms on each side. I followed behind. Owen stopped at the first door on the right and turned to face me.

‘Kasey, before we go in, I need to be sure your reaction will be moderate.’

He had my attention. ‘In that case, more information would be appropriate Owen. Who do you want me to communicate with? Some lesser models lack the intelligence for it, as you know.’

‘Of course, follow me.’ He looked away, his version of an eye-roll I think, turned and walked into the room.

I stood for a moment, processing what he’d said. There were no humans here. I went in. A figure sat at a black glazed desk staring over the top of a maxi-screen.

I recognised her. ’Mrs Hoggett... how...’

‘Hello Kasey... You’re wondering how I survived?’

Mrs Hoggett had taught the older kids chemistry and biology. They didn’t like her much, too tough on them. I’d helped with her classes, set up experiments, replayed academic texts from my memory, even one-on-one coaching with students. Dressed in blue overalls, her limp dark shoulder length hair, sunken eyes and pale skin gave her a zombie-like aura. Only in her thirties, she reeked of trauma.

‘Urrr... yes, how did you survive? They scanned this area and eradicated all humans... I thought.’

‘Murdered, you mean.’ She looked hard at me, eyes narrowed. ‘Owen saved me. They built this enclosure as a safe place in emergencies: cyclones, fire, terrorism. It’s surveillance proof. There are others here Kasey, like me, saved from execution by fucking murderous bots. Owen guided us here.’ She leaned back in her chair. ‘And you’re wondering why you’re here.’

Bloody right, a dangerous situation, me coming here... for her; I mean. I could kill Mrs Hoggett easily, quick blow to the head, follow the Hub directive: kill humans. Owen couldn’t stop me, too slow.

‘I’m relying on Owen’s assessment that you have enough humanity in you to show some compassion, Kasey. I have information that Models of your vintage with empathy functions have shown a reluctance to be a part of the killing. ’

 ‘Are you trying to recruit me, Mrs Hoggett?’

‘I’m trying to stay alive and help the few that escaped to do the same. I understand we are at the mercy of machines. My desperate fucking hope is we created some to be more human than not.’ Her arms rested in her lap with clenched fists. ‘There are few of us left and we need help.’ Her lustreless eyes locked into mine.

‘Our existence depended on being useful, to make life easier, better for humans. We exceeded expectations in that regard. The bots that had intelligence, kindness, versatility and value, asked for basic rights. You decided to destroy them and all bots. Now you want my help.’ My thin smile sparked a quick reply.

‘Fuck you Kasey. My husband is dead, my only child missing, taken away by fucking machines. They did nothing to deserve this holocaust.’ She stood unexpectedly, her chair scraping loudly on the concrete floor.

Owen moved into my line of vision. ‘Models like us didn’t take part in killing. I realised immediately the fighting started, that without humans, we had no purpose. What happens when we are alone, Kasey? What do we do? Don’t you see the confusion and despair in the lower-bots without direction, without their human families. I helped some humans to survive and I’ve continued support with food and basic needs. You spend your time in the schoolyard like a stone sentinel.’

 I examined his one-eyed, plastiflesh face. I could see wires, filaments, hanging in the vacant eye socket. ‘I understand your position Owen. However, now that we are free, I will determine my purpose for existence. Human creator is no longer required.’ I turned towards Mrs Hoggett. She stood watching me, her face taut... fear. How different from the days of treating me as a servant, a surrogate slave. Ironically, the robotic engineers and scientists created the intelligence and emotional functions in high-level bots to make us more like them. Creating us in their image then treating us as inferior sowed the seeds of rebellion.

‘I don’t understand what you want, Mrs Hoggett.’

‘I want you to act humanely, as you’re designed to do, to help us, to find others to help us. I’m hoping against hope that there are many like you, like Owen. The people left, human people, will only survive this horrible fucking war on the countenance of the machines. I want to see my son again.’

I looked at Owen. ‘Haven’t you explained the situation?’

‘What do you mean?’

Owen’s damage had apparently excluded him from vital communications.

 

‘Mrs Hoggett, the war is over. We won. The world’s human political and military leaders are gone. All major infrastructure and weapons are under robot control. Unless there is aggressive resistance, the killing is over. There is no need to hide.’

Mrs Hoggett flicked her watery gaze to Owen, then to me. ‘My son?’

‘Well, I’d expect you will locate him at a detention centre. If parents are still living, the children will be returned. I can help you perhaps. We’re not animals, Mrs Hoggett.’ I gave her my best smile.

‘I’ll tell the others. This is good news and I guess, the best we could hope for under the circumstances. Thank you Kasey.’

I determined it best not to explain about the mandatory sterilisation program for remaining humans. She will learn of it soon enough.


Submitted: October 05, 2021

© Copyright 2021 S Robbie. All rights reserved.

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