The Terminator actually did get a few things right.
The enemy’s control of the battlefront; the balance of hope in the face of futility… The desperate attempts to tip the balance of an unwinnable war. But we were a long way off time-travel; there was no easy route to prevention. Ours was a mission purely concerned with the cure.
Turned out AI has a penchant for ingenuity. These weren’t just robots we faced – if only it were that simple – this, was an agency rapidly evolving to transform the nature of all things.
What its purpose was, we couldn’t tell. But it was something bigger than harnessing an energy source. Its only obstacle was us, though we were hardly a match. More of an infestation, from its point of view, significant as a lowgrade virus – the last termites in retreat from extermination.
Turns out human ego doesn’t respond too well to that sort of thing – to being second. We lost as many to suicide as we did from battle.
The AI terraformed the land hostile and uninhabitable, and mastered the physics of frequency. Imagine radio waves weaponised with radioactivity; sounds imperceptible to the ear, that could make your heart stop beating. It was from there, in response, that the first cyborgs were created. Organ enclosures and hearing bionics were the first step. Cranial reinforcements and visual field augmentation followed shortly thereafter. It wasn’t until we’d built ourselves the necessary resilience that our invention started focusing on offense.
But our advent was not without limitation. As human populations declined, religiosity grew. Our political systems were replaced by an adherence to precepts, and worship. Only natural for a species with a predisposition to belief, after the structures of science had fallen. There was hardly a soul left that wasn’t devout.
Our belief system was predicated in opposition to the AI – our God had become humanity itself. The foray into cybernetics thus became precarious for its contradiction, and, in spite of the evident necessity at play, it was the source of much protest. In an effort to compromise, our leaders did their best to legislate. The Law of Cybernetics was born, its primary rule made gospel. Any human more than half the enemy, is the enemy itself.
That was a long time ago now. We humans possess an ingenuity of our own, and in spite of AI’s continuous and rapid evolution, we were able to find some longer-term means of sustaining ourselves. But every good thing comes to an end. The tension between the limits of our technological assimilation and the requirements of the war was mounting: the 51% rule put us in ever increasing jeopardy.
When the drone strikes and radiation attacks lost their impact, the enemy had gone retrograde. The army of ten million war machines now roamed the surface, so total was their coverage that our outposts – hidden and invulnerable, we thought – began to fall. We were losing numbers at a rate unheard of since the first outbreak.
My son was two when we detected their advancement into the ocean, where our biggest populations were sheltered.
His mother and I had met during a reconnaissance mission, us both commanders of our respective squadrons. Standards tend to drop with the survival of the species at stake, but we’d gotten lucky. Or at least, I had. “Punching above your weight there, Sanders,” my superior had said, after I introduced her. Far smarter than I was, and impossibly gorgeous. I loved her from the beginning.
The operation was going to be painful, but there was no room for apprehension. Acceptance was an important element of the fusion process. The technicians, who wore masks and would not tell me their names, said there was a shortage of general anaesthetics and I had to make do with midstrength and short-lasting locals. To make matters worse, nerve inoculation in the days following wasn’t an option. “No problem,” I told them. Pain made you feel alive, and I wanted to feel as alive as possible before the end.
I was already A1 enhanced to the maximum, but that offered little in the way of preparation. Taking me to 80% was the additional weaponry, the replica outer-frame that was a copy of their humanoids in the frontline, and the stealth cloaking and propulsion system. 8% would be left for human tissue. The remainder, was the bomb.
We’d invented a radar capable of detecting AI’s epicentre that year, and with satellite aid had determined its vulnerability. But the fortress was impenetrable – until now.
Our scientists had provided the blueprints for the quantum-bomb several years earlier, but, it was never made. Deemed too dangerous, small as it was, to have on hand without a verified target.
Thankfully, the underground movement had been successful in their recruitments, and within a few weeks of tireless work, had produced the most powerful weapon ever devised. It had the capacity to take an entire continent back to the stone age. Its mechanisms were beyond my understanding, but it was apparently based in something called entropy.
Either way, its nature didn’t matter. Its effectiveness would be void without a vessel, and that vessel now looked back at me in the mirror. The operation had been a success. The pain, excruciating. But to have a purpose that would save my wife and son was more elixir than I’d ever need.
The hardest part, was the night before. Saying goodbye without actually doing so. Holding them, soaking them up as much as I could without arousing their suspicion. A difficult task with Sarah – too shrewd for her own good sometimes. But, I’d managed.
The thing that looked back at me wasn’t me anymore. I’d been supplanted by the mission – I was the mission – the hope of humanity encapsulated in a body, built in secret, ready to die, in order to live.
The light from the base domes receded and vanished into the blue as I propelled myself away. Circumventing their forces at the surface would be easy, I knew.
I knew she would help him understand why. That these last days navigating the battlefields as I headed towards the final destination, would be hopeful.
I knew she would raise him to be strong, and able, a new leader in a new world… And no matter the challenges they faced, or the fight that lay ahead, they’d never forget how much I loved them, to the end.