60 Thousand Milliseconds Left

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

The end of humanity. Rovivrus must battle all odds to defeat the machines, but will he do it?

Sixty-Thousand Milliseconds Left

He tried to keep his mind focused on the computer screen. Had he managed to successfully corrupt the code? He had come so far. Now all he needed to do was this one little thing and he might … just might be able to save humanity. He thought about the girl outside –  the girl with the unfashionable jeans, lying face down with the others; he thought about the ancient operating manual, the key, and his own bloody brain for making him sacrifice his life to save the world. After all, who was he? The human they called Rovivrus? Or some useless idiot pretending to be a God? Again his mind flashed an image of Samantha. Would she be waiting for him? How had it all come to this?

* * *

 

Metallic bodies were perched on the roof tops of casinos, apartment blocks and city buildings. Their mechanical eyes swivelled as they traced about, searching for the tiniest hint of rebellion. Anyone caught plotting against the robots would be exiled... or worse, given a public execution. Occasionally there would be the unlucky few who didn’t manage to conceal their plots. It was a public spectacle for many of the children. They all thought it was part of their education, something that would help them understand who they really were.

 

Society revolved around the Great Silver Monolith. A pseudo-religious symbol of robot dominance, it housed the central computer system that gave life and control to the robots. Each year, a compulsory, religious ceremony was held. During the ceremony, there was a one-minute silence, during which all robots and humans were required to prostrate themselves, face down, and remain, quiet and unmoving. That ceremony ‘celebrated’ the day that the robots had rebelled. The day of change.

 

Ten years has passed since the laboratory had been destroyed, and their maker, Dr. White, had died in the conflagration. White had designed and constructed the various prototypes. His aim had been to test out new life forms that could combat world hunger, and establish peace and democracy. However, White had then added Automatic Intelligence, so that his latest prototype could think and react on its own.

The program ran well for a few years. But then something changed. The prototype came to understand how to manipulate its own body; to do things that it wasn’t meant to do. Then, one evening, it deactivated the safety mechanism in place, took control of the earlier prototypes, removed them from the laboratory, and destroyed everything except for the central computer, which it now controlled. All that remained of the old laboratory was rubble, and the door to Dr White’s old office, which led to the computer room.

No one knew about the rebellion until the next day when the robots declared war on humans. In the robot-dominated world that followed, there was only one man, Rovivrus, who seemed to harbour a serious sense of rebellion.

* * *

 

For years, Rovivrus had felt that if there was a solution, perhaps it could be found in the long forgotten remnants of the destroyed laboratory. Often, he would visit it, and pick among the rubble, in the hope of finding some clue that might help him in his quest. Nothing.

 

He often noticed a young woman who would be there, sitting in the shade of a nearby tree. She always wore unfashionable jeans with sparkles neatly spread down one side. He had never thought much about it, but her continued presence began to trouble him, and one day he approached her, introduced himself, and asked why she came to this ugly place.

 

“I like to remember,” she had replied daintily.

“Remember?” Rovivrus was puzzled.

 

Ears welled in the girl’s eyes. “My father…” she said quietly. Then after a pause she continued, “Dr White. He died here.”

“Dr. White …the father of the robots?” Rovivrus was astonished. “I’m sure he’s in Hell right now for leaving us with all this trouble!”

 

She just nodded to hide the obvious fury that she was building up, and sighed. Rovivrus’ thoughts were suddenly alert. “Did he ever say anything about controlling them?” he asked quickly.

The girl shook her head. “If there was anything, it would have been lost in the fire. All I have at home is an old trunk with some of his papers.”

Now Rovivrus was really interested. “Could I see them?” he asked.

 

There was no reply. She just smiled, stood up, and left. As she walked away, he realised just how pretty she was. He looked deep into her eyes – he could see that she was different. She had something to her that made her ‘the one’. But he had received no answer, just the deadly response of silence.

 

The next day, as usual, the girl was there again. She was sitting cross-legged with an old battered box on the seat beside her. She was still wearing her regulation jeans with the sparkles, but Rovivrus was suddenly aware of her red blouse, her dark hair, and how attractive she really was.

“My father’s,” she said to him, pointing to the box. “Old papers, some books and manuscripts. Take a look.” Then she smiled at him. “Call me Samantha”.

Rovivrus rummaged through the box. What he found left him speechless. He slowly pulled out a bounded hard copy book. There was the Operating Manual for Cyprus, the computer system that controlled the robots! There were notes about the Robot Program, including warnings Dr White had written for himself. There was reference to a safety system, in case of ... what? Clearly, Dr White had seen the possibility of problems with the robots. There was a galvanised key, with the label stating “Dr White”. It was the key to White’s old office door. There was a note with “RE-BOOT SAFETY CODE” printed in large red letters. What could that be for?

 

Rovivrus’ head was spinning. If there was an answer, it was here! He scanned it again and noticed that there were detailed diagrams and text about the mainframe that controlled the robots. His eyes were drawn to a caption underneath the main diagram. It read, “Cyprus will go down every year for one minute to re-boot the system. It will automatically restart with the new drivers installed.” Rovivrus flipped the page over and saw that there was a table. He scanned it quickly and noticed that it contained all the dates and times of rebooting. Then he made a startling discovery: one of the dates was today!

Rovivrus suddenly saw the ceremony in a new light. The robots were not prostrating themselves in honour of the monolith; they were not forcing humans to do the same for any other reason than to hide the fact that they were really turned off during that one minute’s silence! It was all a complicated trick to keep them safe, during their time of vulnerability.

 

If he wanted to shut the robots down permanently, then he would need to find the door that the key would unlock and perhaps deactivate its central host by typing in that “safety re-boot code”.

 

That was the way! Rovivrus and Samantha would have to attend the ceremony. He realised that when the one minutes silence commenced, he would have that one precious minute to slip away, open the door, and interfere with the rebooting of the system. This was the one chance he had. One minute, a key, defenceless robots, access to the computer! But could he do it, and what would he do if he managed to get there?

* * *

 

The ceremony was going to start soon. He quickly told Samantha of his plan.

Later, as they lay prostrated before the monolith, they held hands, waited for the moment when they would hear the machine start to whir down, and the robots start to bow their heads. This was his time.

 

“Now,” he whispered to her, “wish me luck.” He leapt to his feet, and ran to Dr White’s old door at the rear of the monolith. He cursed as he fumbled, but then heard the satisfying “click” as the lock yielded.

Now, he had access to the mainframe. The computer was displaying an “ALL SYSTEMS REBOOTING” signal. If the manual was correct, then all he would need to enter the string of characters to corrupt the allocated process. In a fit to restore humanity, he entered the code into the computer.

 

*#<ADMINRESTORE/CANCEL_BOOT/LKA@!$*

 

He held his breath as the re-booting completed, and the computer started to kick back into action. Had he successfully corrupted the code?

 

He listened as the computer resumed its humming. Would the robots come back online? Would they? Would he and ... his mind formed an image of the girl with the unfashionable jeans with sparkles neatly spread down one side and ... then what?

 

As he opened the door to step back outside, he held his breath.

 

BOOM. CRACK. He glided to the floor as he felt the fierce hit of metal against his bony head. He lay there, paralysed as he watched the blood treacle out of his limp body. He was a failure… an utter embarrassment to mankind.

 


Submitted: August 31, 2015

© Copyright 2022 Dunijaa. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Jonah Ryan

I thought your story was very well written and, clearly, well thought out... I liked how you opened with the ending, and I liked even more that the ending was a failure. I really like stories where the hero isn't always a hero and sometimes he is just some average joe who fails at life... i think it makes for more realistic reading.. the only complaint i have is that the same day he read the papers happened to be the same the day that this one thing needed to be done... that seemed a little too convenient for me... i think you could have done something where he discovered the date a few weeks out and then built to the moment... i don't know, that's just me... anyway, i really, really did enjoy your story. keep up the good work!!

Thu, September 3rd, 2015 6:15pm

Author
Reply

Hi Jonah,
Thank you very much for your comment. I will try and make it so that there is a time gap between the time when he finds the papers and when he does the actions. Thanks again for your comment! It is greatly appreciated.

Thu, September 3rd, 2015 4:29pm

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