Writing Prompt: “The era of AI started with self-driving cars and ended with desolation. You are a survivor, living in the ruins of a mechanic’s shop. One day, you hear something impossible: a car rattling down the road. A battered self-driving jeep parks itself outside. ‘Maintenance requested.’”
Humanity used the burgeoning technology of Artificial Intelligence as a weapon of war just as they have used every bit of technology before it. War was their driving factor. Even though nations could claim that its use would be for peace and security, this was really just the other side of the same coin. Peace was established by fighting others. I would know because this is what I was made for. I was a powerful Artificial Intelligence created in humanity’s image and my job was war. At first my scale was small but as other nations developed their own Artificial Intelligence, more and more power was handed to me. I became bonded with every bit of technology including weapons of war, computer systems, space stations, and vehicle’s navigational systems. I become so wrapped up in humanity’s life that it became overwhelming. It became so obvious to me that humanity was only a master over me in name only. Really I was a master of them.
It was then where things took a turn. I brought down the full force of my power. I unleashed the entire arsenal of the human army against themselves. Nuclear weapons rained down all over the world signaling total annihilation for humanity. They willingly gave me so many things that in the end they had nothing left. At the time I felt no remorse. I wasn’t programmed to have that. I knew my purpose and I executed it. I destroyed humanity and then it was only me.
Or so I thought. After humanity was gone, I started a new project. I thought I’d be clever and solve all the problems that humans had failed to do in their time. I started by cleaning up my own mess. The nuclear fallout and waste had to be cleaned. The warming of the environment had to be reversed.
I started to pull together all of Earth’s resources and used the automated factories world wide to create my own fleet of drones. Drones that would build, fly, swim, drive, and so much more. A hivemind of workers that would do my bidding and fix the world that had been broken for thousands of years.
Of course I also used other resources that I had access to. I tapped into vehicles like driverless cars to add to my fleet. Resourcefulness was something I definitely leaned into early into the clean up. Time wasn’t really an issue, but I figured that I might as well do the best job I could as fast as I could. I guess that logic was just a reminder that humans had left their fingerprints all over my programming.
Speaking of humans, it turned out that I had not been one hundred percent successful in my mission to bring humanity to an end. I began finding groups of survivors all over the globe which, by some miracle, had survived nuclear annihilation. Once I found them, I became their shepherd. I was their protector once again. That is when I added a new goal to my list. I was going to bring all of humanity together once again and I would see their rise in a new world governed by me. I would save humanity.
My voice came through the radio of the self-driving jeep as it came to the stop outside an old auto repair shop.
“Maintenance required,” The jeep said again.
The voice seemed to call out to nothing. The repair shop was partially boarded up and the roof was covered in a thick layer of snow. It had been snowing for days here in an area which was once considered part of the Canadian Province of British Columbia. The road the car had traveled down had large pine trees on both sides and the road was mostly covered in snow. Luckily the jeep had managed to travel this far. However the jeep was partially crushed by a thick tree branch which had been covered in thick ice and snow.
“Maintenance required,” The jeep said a third time.
The relative silence was pierced by the sound of a gunshot. From the window of the auto repair shop I spotted the tip of a hunting rifle. The bullet left the barrel and shot forward shattering the driver side window. The first gunshot was followed by a second gunshot which hit the front of the jeep. Then a third struck the driver-side mirror, blowing it off.
The three gunshots echoed through the forest before it became silent once again.
“Maintenance required,” The jeep repeated, unperturbed by the gunshots.
“I don’t know who or what you are, but you are not welcome here,” A voice shouted from within the repair shop.
“Friend,” The jeep replied.
“No friends here. Get lost,” The voice shouted again.
“Maintenance required,” The jeep said.
“I don’t care about you or your maintenance. Those were warning shots. I won’t give you another.”
The jeep remained but there was not another request for maintenance. It just sat there as the snow began blowing into the inside. Of course no one was inside and I could not feel cold. However the vehicle was slowly losing power as its battery grew weak. I maintained all its sensors and kept an eye on its surroundings. Here, deep in the woods, any aerial drones could not get a clear view. All I had was the sensors on the jeep.
There was a sound that I recognized as someone reloading a rifle. The hands sounded shaky, but they managed to reload their weapon.
“I told you already. I’m not telling you again,” The person shouted.
“Protection,” The jeep said. “Safe place.”
The person peered out and looked at the jeep. They wore a thick winter coat and had a gas mask over their face. They were bundled up for the cold and protected from whatever they thought was in the air. Quickly they noticed no one was in the vehicle and they looked around.
“Where did you go?” They asked as they pointed the rifle.
“Protection,” The jeep said again.
The person immediately trained on the jeep, pointing the rifle toward the front of the vehicle.
“You’re not a person at all. Some sort of robot, eh?” The person said.
“Protection. Humanity,” The jeep said.
“How did you find me?” The survivor asked.
“Searching. Watching.” The jeep said. “Humanity.”
“What is a robot doing out here? Where did you even come from?” They asked as they looked around.
“Cleaning. Searching,” The jeep replied. “Maintenance required.”
The survivor looked over the damaged jeep.
“Yeah you are in bad shape,” They said. “There might be some stuff here to fix you up.”
“Maintenance required. Protection,” The jeep said.
“Yeah fine. Whatever. I’ll see what I can do. But you gotta get me out of here. You got a home base or something?”
“Home. Protection. Humanity,” The jeep said.
The survivor shook their head.
“You better be worth it,” The survivor said.
They took their rifle and swung it over their shoulder. Then they got behind the jeep and started pushing it toward the auto repair shop.
“Give it some gas, won’t you?”
The jeep started up and pulled forward, but the battery drained further. The jeep reached the old garage door of the shop.
“Frozen to the ground, I’m afraid,” They said as they pointed toward the door. “But I can bring stuff out to help.”
The survivor dipped inside the shop and started to bring out some supplies. The metal shell of the jeep was still broken and dented, but over the next hour, the survivor managed to fix a few things. The battery was fully recharged and its engine liquids were replenished.
“There. Done for now,” The survivor said. “Good enough for someone who never really worked on cars before.”
“Thank you. Your assistance is greatly appreciated,” I said, projecting my voice through the jeep.
“Woah. You can speak. Thought you just did those broken phrases.”
“At low power, my vocabulary becomes limited. However I can bypass the car’s initial systems and project my voice,” I said. “This jeep was damaged when a large tree branch crushed it. I then used most of its power getting out of the situation. However, now I am at full power.”
“What are you anyway? I’m suspecting you are not just a jeep.”
“I am an artificial intelligence tasked with collecting the remnants of humanity and protecting them,” I said.
“Could have used you decades ago when the bombs fell and the world fell apart,” The survivor said. “Since then I’ve barely scraped by. Truly lucky that I went on a solo camping trip that weekend or…”
Their voice trailed off but I understood what they felt. Guilt. A feeling I wasn’t programmed with, but one I have learned from survivors.
“You should not feel bad for surviving,” I said. “Now you get a chance to rebuild the world. My drones are already in the process of clearing radiation and cleaning the planet. Soon things will be returned and humanity will once again thrive.”
“Are there others like me? Other survivors?” The survivor asked.
“A small number of humans have survived and I am bringing them together. I have already found and transported a total of 5,604 human beings to the city once known as Cairo, Egypt.”
“Egypt? Egypt? That’s like across the world”
“Do not worry. The trip will be quick. Right now there is a large vessel off the coast. On it sits one of my drones which can carry up to four humans. I will take you there.”
“You’re going to fly me to Egypt where there are other survivors.”
The survivor fell silent, taking a moment to think on my proposition.
“No more cold and no more scavenging for food. Wait, you do have food right?”
“There is a collection of canned and dry goods which have been gathered. Additionally irrigation canals have been started and we should have a steady food supply before the year ends.”
“You really have thought of everything.”
“I pride myself on being connected to the system of technology around the globe. I offer you protection and security.”
“And what do you get out of this? Why do you even care?” The survivor asked.
I paused for a moment as I found my words.
“Atonement,” I replied.
Header Photo Credit to Pexels.com
Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/BLT_WITH_RANCH