Writing Prompt: Humanity has died, having never escaped the earth. However, the war that killed us was fought with automatic machines which never stopped fighting. Years later, aliens find the earth, devoid of life, with the war that ended us still raging on.
We had developed a reliance on machines. A reliance that had in part led to the demise of humanity. In the wake of what could have been, under better circumstances, a Utopian Earth there lay instead ruined cities caught in the grasp of decay. And soldiering on through the rot of mankind were a species of machine designed to wreak endless war upon the world.
Earth was a meagre century away from other worldly contact. The Watchers in the skies had taken notice when the first fully Autonomous Artificial Intelligence had been built. Fashioned in likeness to the beloved C3PO, the affectionately named Poe was a far leap and a bound toward a better tomorrow.
At least that had been the intention.
Imagine it, Artificially Intelligent Machines that could care for the elderly, that could harmlessly fight fires, that could perform mountain, road or sea rescues without fear of death, that could even carry out the most delicate of surgeries with an infallible success rate. These machines, their capability for good was beyond endless.
That was, until the militant forces of Earth strove to replicate the designs.
If you could build a machine impervious to bullets, incapable of retreat, inhumanly fast, accurate and strong, the you could build the perfect soldier. But it didn’t end there…
C3PO’s son of science, Poe, became little more than an idealistic dream of what Intelligent Machines could do, could be. When turned to warfare the applications of autonomous warriors were somewhat more limited. But limited only by the scope of their purpose. To kill.
What proceeded Poe was known as the Terminator Two, a hellish exoskeleton designed to point, to aim and to fire. These machines were programmed to march in lieu of walking, and were built with the means to prevent interference with their programming. That is to say the enemy would have no hope in remotely operating another forces machines, nor could their directives be altered once entered.
If a Terminator was ordered to dispatch of a target, then they would do just that, only before dispatching of themselves. This was the means by which humanity meant to retain control, a self destruct mechanism that would engage once the mission was complete.
But when that mission became world dominance, and when all opposition had bid on and won the same technology you used, there would be no self-destruct, no mission success.
There were other autonomous weapons of war, derived from the Terminator Two and its Squadron’s; there were tanks that strolled the lands on walking legs, there were jets the size of birds of prey that carried minute warheads, there were bomb dispersal and disposal droids, mechanics programmed solely to repair, there were even flights of fancy such as the Chaplain’s who fought with staves shaped into crosses and expelled a blinding field of light from within their chest.
There was no need for humanity in humanities own war.
The end came when there was no end in sight. Knowing they could not deactivate the machines they’d waged in war, knowing that innocent civilians numbering in their millions had been executed in the border-less crossfire, the few powers that be remaining made the only choice they could. They unleashed nuclear Armageddon upon the Earth, hoping this would decimate the ceaseless machines of war.
It did not. In fact the Armageddon served only to clear the rubble of what little humanity remained.
And so the war raged, without purpose, without end, until finally the Watchers in the skies returned…
“Status report.” Skroll drew unintelligible lines across what appeared to be a blank screen. The screen flickered to life displaying firstly a count down – eight minutes thirty seven seconds – and secondly an image of what could only have been the Earth.
Earth. Skroll shook his head, closing his lone, crimson eye. What’s left of it, at least.
The planet on the screen was unrecognisable. A husk of molten rock and stark grey land. There was no water to be seen, instead, in place of the oceans that were, there bubbled blackened pits of tar. There was not a single sprouting of green upon the screen. The lands that remained were awash with putrid, acidic colours that burned away at what might once have been fields.
“They had potential.” Elessk hissed, “Damn shame what happened to them.” she was busy fiddling with what looked to be a thin piece of pipe work. The pipe was hollow, transparent, and inside a liquid foam spun gently round.
“Do you think there were any survivors?”
“Doubtful.” Elessk smiled, baring several rows of tiny teeth, “You couldn’t have known.”
“We should have stayed, observed for longer. We could have intervened.”
Elessk fastened a roll of tape around the transparent pipe, and at once the foam started to settle inside. She nodded to herself, satisfied.
“Computer,” Skroll beckoned the console back, “What’s the likelihood that there were survivors, on Earth?”
After a few short clicks and a loud thrumming sound the computer replied, “Naught point naught naught naught naught… (and many more)… one percent.” then adjusting its sounding board to offer a more sympathetic tone, “I’m afraid this isn’t a rescue mission, Skroll. Your orders are to observe only, and report on all major losses and damage.”
Skroll sighed, the screen flickered back to its countdown.
Forty two seconds remaining.
When those forty two seconds were up Skroll, Elessk, and the ship’s computer (transported by means of a portable hub) would embark upon a journey across the wastelands of Earth. They would document the damages sustained by the still roaming, ravaging forces of Autonomous Terminators, then they would calculate the total losses sustained to life, human or otherwise, and finally they would return to the skies to report their findings to the universe’s own powers that be.
When all was said and done the Earth would be commissioned for total annihilation by universal decree, and the only record of Earth’s prior existence would be that of a mere five lines of bureaucratic text in a poorly written documentation of its demise.
Copyright © K R Perry 2019