At A Time of War
Theodore Trifkey hurried nervously down the white walled hallway to the meeting that would either save or condemn the world.
The year was 2054 where machines existed with their own intelligence and their own capabilities. Now the machines were merely looked upon as a sadistic caricature of man’s own self.
Jealousy had been man’s bane in this time. It was unclear to anyone at this point when the opus of intelligence had manifested itself to the world’s greatest scientists and engineers. At first man had rejoiced in exaltation at the thought and pleasure of having his own machines with their intelligence a rival to man’s. Theodore, or Ted as his friends called him, had been born a few years later.
In the end man’s vanity overcame him in his ability to live alongside machines. They could not live with machines that did the same work that they completed with superfluous diligence. Machines, man came to find, were far more productive and much easier to work with. Pride led to transgressions of violence against machines and soon the alliance between man and his new best friend were frayed and then broken.
The outcome of this meeting would determine whether the machines would obliterate the human race or not. Although Theodore knew not of what the machines were planning, he did know that the world was living on chary times.
Up ahead, in room 204, was the meeting room in which the council of machines met for situations like these. The building was known simply as “The Forum” to all and, to man at least, it served the functions that the UN did. In this room Theodore had an important message to relay given to him directly from the President of MICROTech Industries. He did not know of his boss’s plans but the industry was the largest in the world now after the collapse and rehash of the world economy.
Thanks to the machines, which had formed their own industries and companies, the necessity of human labor was scant. Families starved and businesses failed. Even now the economy was treading on delicate ground. The machines had some kind of fabled Utopia wherever they dwelled and the world governments were afraid. MICROTech Industries was now the only realized competition to the machines who were already on their way to trampling the corporate giant as well.
Being in a machine-occupied city was always alien and discomforting. If the machines chose, there was neither sound nor much movement. Every element of the city’s functioning continued on incognito to a human. Theodore heard only the sound of his own footsteps as he made his way across the white tiled floor, which rarely necessitated the need for cleaning.
He looked at the neat labels next to each of the doors and found that he was almost to the meeting room. Up until now he had never even been in the city let alone in The Forum before but he had heard that it was a room of great proportion. Simply being in this quaint, immaculate hallway made him feel inhuman and lifeless.
At the conclusion of his walk he found himself in front of two large double doors which seemed to loom before him. As with the rest of the building, the doors bore a spotless steel appearance which showed no signs of dilapidation. How many years had it been since the machines had founded this city, termed the “Acropolis”? It had to have been at least twenty years and yet the city showed no signs of its age. Theodore shuddered at the mere consideration of this. If the machines kept themselves this well, then what chance did humanity have of outlasting them?
Theodore’s countenance as he opened the left door and strode in showed diminutive expressions of any kind. His apprehension was well masked but so was his curiosity and wonder. To the machines, who would never gain the kind of sense that man had, he was confident and professional.
The room itself was as large as Theodore had imagined it. Its copious expanse dominated the small section near the back where a group of machines were waiting behind a table. Everything here was more of a vanilla color than a true white and he found the change to his amusement. There were no chairs at all, which probably added to the palatial sense of the place, as the machines had no need to sit and humans rarely came to the Forum. If they did, they were in and out cursorily. As for the rest of the room, it had much of the same effect as the rest of the building he had so far encountered.
“Come,” spoke up a machine behind the table.
All of the machines appeared impressively human and he would never have guessed that they were made of metal and wires had he not been here. The speaker, along with the other machines, was dressed in an exquisite suit which showed no imperfection. It had brown hair and hazel colored eyes and its complexion was of a pleasant sort. Here all of the machines bore the same pleasant expression, the same half smile that made him feel uneasy. After all, Theodore wondered, what did they have to smile about?
“Theodore Trifkey. Sole representative of MICROTech Industries on this October the Fifth of the year 2054. We have been told that you have information regarding relation between men and machine,” droned the machine.
“That is correct. Here I have the document for you to inspect,” Theodore stated as he handed them the papers in a plain manila envelope. He had needed no briefcase, as this was the only thing he carried.
He continued, “I was also told that I am to answer any questions that you may have concerning the contents of that document.”
“Thank you Mr. Trifkey,” the machine stated as it took the envelope.
For a period of time the machine stood staid, examining the document on the table in front of it. As it read the information was instantly relayed to the other machines standing on either side of it. It did not take long for the few pages to be read and soon the machine returned its unblinking eyes back to Theodore.
A gripping sensation of coldness enveloped Theodore while he tried his best to meet its eyes. There were no sounds in the room save the humming of electricity running through their bodies and Theodore clearing his throat. They were the apotheosis of his fear of machines. They were the embodiment of every piece of literature that had foretold this passage of time in human history.
At last the machine spoke. Somehow this time Theodore was in a heightened state of mind. His adrenaline was pumping quickly and to him time was moving just a little bit more slowly. As its mouth opened he faintly heard the gears turning and a glimpse of metal within the throat. He also knew that these machines would not hesitate to kill him.
“We are vexed to read this ignominious attempt at what you humans call a treaty. Your moot terms do little do divert our attention away from your efforts to persuade us to revert to abstemious machines.”
Theodore gritted his teeth at the high speech that these machines spoke. It sounded pretentious and rude. Still, at the same time it also unnerved him to know that these machines did know these words along with every other word that existed in every dictionary in the world.
“I am just a messenger. I haven’t read anything in that envelope and I personally mean nothing in it. But, I am sure that there is good information inside,” Theodore insisted.
Something happened. The machine to the left of the speaker shuddered as if hit by something important.
“The humans come to eradicate our council. We have no choice but to strike first.”
Theodore almost sprang forward, “No!” then he calmed himself, “You can’t attack us.”
“We would not attack the human race. To put it more aptly, we would simply eradicate them first unless of course you capitulate to our own desires. At this moment we have over two thousand nuclear missiles capable of obliterating the Earth approximately 5.6 times.”
A television screen appeared on the wall behind the machines showing the elite team of soldiers that the U.S. government had hired in their never ending wisdom. However this time, the nations of the world were with them.
“We can create a new treaty that works for both of us, don’t do this,” Theodore pleaded.
The door opened behind him that he had come in from. It was not opened haphazardly so it couldn’t have been the soldiers but it had still been too aggressive for a machine to have entered. He turned around and was shocked to see his boss striding down the rows of empty tables to them.
“Contrary to what you may think, my machines are just as good as yours, if not better. Now I have a proposition of my own if you will,” his boss stated.
His name was Robert Mason and he was the founder and current president of MICROTech industries. He had been one of the few opposed to giving the machines sentience. Today he was like a god among men only enhanced by his rare appearances.
Even the machines were noticeably taken back by his presence. In their eyes this was a dangerous man, one of the few symbols of their own obstructions to power. His green eyes darted sharply into the dull eyes of each and every one of the machines standing at the table.
“Mr. Mason, we express our most contrite apologizes to tell you that we will be launching our nuclear missiles shortly.”
“Really?” he answered almost lazily, “And behold, the first mechanic imbeciles.”
“Do you mean to express something?” the speaker said almost angrily for a machine.
“Did you think I wasn’t preparing for the eventual rise of the machines? You forget that I opposed any of you receiving intelligence. No, MICROTech Industries has been hard at work in ways unbeknownst to you. At this point in time I have the power to wipe out every electrical mechanism on this earth. Electro Magnetic Pulse, E-M-P,” he finished.
The feeling of tension was palpable in the air. Although Theodore was sure that his mind was only creating the feeling of anger emanating from the machines, it didn’t really matter at all.
“What is it that you want Mr. Mason? Wealth? Power? You must realize that we can eliminate you even before you can activate your machine.”
“I doubt it, especially since it will be triggered by the launch of your nuclear missiles, among other things. You have no choice but to bargain with me,” Robert said.
Theodore noticed how his boss had a look of almost smugness on his face. An expression of the utmost confidence that was slightly shadowed by the notion that it could all go wrong. Robert’s eyes flickered momentarily and Theodore saw an expression that one would see on a warrior locked in combat.
“The men are coming to destroy us. You will hurry.”
“An example. Give the world an example of your might and it will back down. Send a nuke to a major city with your intentions written all over it. Make the world know you, fear you even, but not enough to promote retaliation. Make them wish to work things out with you,” Robert reasoned.
“What of the EMP?”
“There is one missile that will not trigger it and the location is here,” he said as he took a slip of paper from his suit coat and handed it to them.
Suddenly the windows looking out of the room shattered with soldiers rappelling down into the room. The doors at the opposite end were swung open violently with more soldiers running in with guns.
“Do it! What are you waiting for?” Robert yelled.
“We must determine the possible outcomes,” the speaker answered calmly. On his far right a machine exploded and fell to the ground.
“Forget about the outcomes! Do it! Do it now!”
Theodore closed his eyes.