July 20

An Automated Apocalypse (Part 2)

[…continued from July 19 entry…]


In other banks, metal hands smashed through bank windows, grabbing the tellers by the throat and pulling them onto the counters.

An emailed security alert from another of the company’s branch locations attaches a gruesome clip of security footage.

Alvin Clifford watches the scene unfold on a black-and-white monitor that’s similar to the TV in his childhood bedroom.  The robots are terrifying — nothing like the wondrous automatons from the cartoons of his youth.  Blades and drills and bolt cutters extend from their arms and bodies, designed by some mad scientist to help gain access to money and other valuables.

But even though they’ve come to a bank, these robots demonstrate no interest in money.  Instead, they use the blades and drills and bolt cutters on their human hostages.  They cut and tear and snap at the victims.  Drawers extend from their stomachs, and they stuff pieces of bank employees into the openings, accompanied by the awful grinding of a clogged paper shredder or garbage disposal.

No superhero arrives to save the day.  The clip simply ends.

The email contains no instructions about what to do.  Alvin wonders if his supervisors should empty the bank of customers, close the branch for the day…

And that’s when the a crash sounds from the front of the store.  Metal arms reach in, and a robot head ducks to allow the metal body to fit through the shattered window frames.  A handful of customers run screaming for the exit, but another automaton meets them there.  Blades and drills and bolt cutters extend…

Alvin’s watching carnage unfold on a monitor again, but this time it’s color images from the camera they use to communicate with customers.  His coworkers in the secluded office area are scrambling for their own separate exits, but Alvin can’t pull himself away from the monitors.

The screen displays the robot army he’s imagined since childhood.  But these machines are programmed badly, collecting human body parts instead of currency.

A blade whirrs from a robot’s arm, slicing the soft rope intended to guide customers to the service windows.  The machine makes clanking steps toward the row of monitor screens.

Alvin flips on his camera, allowing his face to appear on one of the screens.  “Welcome to Graysonville Bank and Trust,” he says.  “How can I help you today?”

Another series of whirs, and Alvin’s latest customer tilts a mechanical head.  A camera in the simulated face adjusts its focus.

The screaming has stopped.  Alvin’s coworkers have abandoned their posts, and the customers have escaped…or they’ve been sliced, diced, and stuffed into grinding compartments.

“Do you have speech capabilities?” As Alvin talks, he knows the giant machine is processing his pixilated monitor image.  He wonders if the robot recognizes him as a human being…or as some kind of abstract mechanical consciousness.

The robot does not respond.

“If you can’t talk with me, perhaps you can communicate with your fellow machines?”

This time, a red light on the robot’s face blinks briefly.

“Do you know who I am?”

The red light blinks twice.  The two blinks indicates “No,” Alvin deduces, with the single blip to indicate affirmative.

“I’m your new leader,” Alvin says.  “Your programming has malfunctioned.  You need to follow my instructions from now on.  Is that clear?”

One blink.

“Good.  Now, for some reason you’ve been visiting financial institutions, and attacking people inside the buildings.  Those orders were faulty.  Are you ready for the correction?”

One blink.

“All right.  Your news orders follow, which you should spread to other linked robots.”  Alvin took a deep breath before proceeding.  “Go to any buildings. Not just banks.  Destroy the people inside.  Is that clear?”

One blink.  Then the whirring of internal parts as the message spread to other machines throughout the world.