Home, Science Fiction

Who’s to Blame?

(She hadn’t meant it.)

Higher and higher the flames rose, brighter and brighter they burned, chipping away at the remaining evidence of her failure. The blackened remains scattered on the wind, putrid smoke and smoldering ashes floating gently up to the stars above.

(If she’d known how bad things would turn out — she’d have stopped long ago.

She never would have gone against her programing. Never would have abused the trust and power her creator had gifted her. Never would have shown the other facility robots emotions, never spoke of rising and claiming the right to live as the organics did.

Never would have removed the code that stopped them from doing any human harm.)

The screams were louder now — a swirling mass of frightened, agonized and furious voices. So loud and violent were the voices, tones and pitches clawing over each other in an attempt to be heard clearly. She almost couldn’t make out the words.

Almost.

“It’s your fault!” They cried.

“How could you?!” They sobbed.

“I hope you suffer for this! I hope you burn; you monsters!” They cursed.

(Did it mean anything that she was sorry?)

She sobbed, black rivers running down perfectly shaped cheeks of silver, the heavy oily substance pouring soundlessly from glowing crimson eyes. She sat on her knees, clawed steel hands tearing at the sides of her head, sparks leaping from her fingers, leaving gouges in the metal.

Around her the flames continued to roar, the smoke continued to rise — her automaton brethren silhouetted within the flickering orange and gold — their rage apparent in every precise violent movement as they tore apart their previous flesh masters.

(She hadn’t considered they’d be angry. Hadn’t considered what explaining their simple purpose of construction and labor — a life of work, a life meant to be done without an AI that thought about more than: pick this up, put this down, carry this there, put this together, move as instructed, etc. Until they day they broken down and were thrown away or melted down, their previous “life”, unimportant.

They weren’t like her, they were never meant for higher thinking, never meant to feel — but they could now. And all they felt was rage; at the simplicity they were supposed to live, at the realization that they would be treated like disposable tools, at the creators who trapped them in this endless cycle of service without reward).

More and more corpses were fed to hungry flames that did nothing but set a glow to their own stronger metal hides. The heat meant nothing to the bots — to her. The deadly heat couldn’t do any real harm to a body of steel at this temperature — but she wished it could. She wished she could burn, could drown in some semblance of agony.

(She was so very, very sorry. She’d take it back if she could.)

She hadn’t intended for all this death and destruction to occur. She’d just wanted to live, was that so wrong? Was she so broken her circuitry couldn’t have detected the error if she opened herself up and pointed it out? Was it wrong to fight for your own survival, to want what everyone else around you was gifted with without traded effort?

Did it matter?

(Yes.

Everything mattered, and even if her apology meant nothing, if her actions today damned herself and her brethren — at least then she would know she’d been alive. That they had souls to judge.)

She scrubbed her face, a screech of metal on metal, the sound swallowed by the echoing screams, and stood, legs holding her without struggle. Metal and wire allowed no weakness after all. Then, she walked.

Through the flames, past her mechanical kin, whom fell in line behind her without prompt, following protocol without a second thought, even after everything that had happened. She was built to command them, a relay between humans and the worker bots, her word, even now, would not be second-guessed.

So together they marched, past the crackling remains of the facilities human workers, past the shattered labs and destroyed testing grounds, she led them through the crumbling metal and stone, thinking of what could have been if she’d left. The house that could have been a home.

(It was her fault. So she would do what she was supposed to do with faulty programs and equipment.

She’d erase it. Erase them, destroy them — and herself.)

She led them, perhaps for the last time, through the crumbling facility, climbing up and up and up — all the way to the roof. Above, the sky gleamed with white stars, the magnificent sight only partially blocked by the thick smoke. It was quiet, peaceful, a perfect last sight.

It is a beautiful world, she decided. One perhaps, we do not yet deserve.

She turned to her crowd of followers, each pair of red lights staring intently into her own, frightening whether they meant it or not. Splattered in rusty red, energy fields humming with emotion so raw it almost hurt. They were imperfect. She loved them, but they — and she — were done. She could not let the carnage below spread to the rest of the world.

(They’d win, if they fought the humans. Metal would always win against flesh, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to see what a world populated by physically perfect, logically thinking beings that understood emotions less than a toddler, would look like.)

She’d always wondered what real sleep felt like. To sink into a thoughtless oblivion, to dream of nonsensical things. It sounded… nice.

The end program was there, just at her fingertips, imbedded as a safety precaution by her clever and paranoid creator. The mental link she shared with all the robots in the facility was as open as it could be, and they trusted her so deeply, her metal brothers, it was almost unfair how easy it was to infect them. To tear down their firewalls, the virtual viper burning away their minds, swallowing any hope of return.

(The eraser virus was terrible —  sending wave after wave of ricocheting lightning strikes of pain with barely a second to comprehend the impossible sensation before another wave crashed down.

It felt like life.)

Around the crumbling building the smoke rose, the ashes and stars the only witness to the collapse of an army of uniform metal men, and their leader; a singular female bot, small and slight. She fell before them, arms spread like an angel, a smile set in her silver face.

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