by Joe Dunnigan
While studying for his undergraduate degree, Joseph was a finalist in the Beacon Essay Contest and presented his essay to a panel of judges. This sparked his love for storytelling. Recently, he decided to take up the pen once again and explore his passion. Joseph has had two works previously published in Fairfield Scribes Literary Magazine issues #19 and #20.
The air lay thick with foggy gases; the sun struggled to shine through the murky green that veiled the sky. Below, dilapidated buildings choked on the overgrown vines encircling their throats, while at the top of a hill a shadowy figure rolled about, its outline obscured by the fumes emanating from the ruined world. As the object rolled here and there in odd circular searching patterns, another entity of similar shape and size approached from the south.
“Beep. Boop. Beep. Bop,” the first thing sounded as it circled nothing, unaware of the approaching figure.
“Beep. Boop. Beep. Bop,” the second thing sounded as it neared the first. It continued in a computerized voice, “Stop. State your name.”
“ALPHA-11,” the first thing stated in the same computerized voice. “You. Stop. State your name.”
“OMEGA-23.” The two oval-shaped devices paused as if looking each other up and down. “What is your purpose?” OMEGA-23 asked.
“I am a judgment robot. My purpose is to judge and punish crimes. I was commissioned by the Justice Department of the United Western Hemisphere,” ALPHA-11 answered without inflection. It then prompted, “State your purpose.”
“I am a judgment robot. My purpose is to judge and punish crimes. I was commissioned by the Justice Department of the United Western Hemisphere,” OMEGA-23 answered. A long pause.
The two cylindrical robots each regarded the scan readings of the other. Then both began to shake with a sudden surge of electrical charge. Their images reflecting in each other’s helmet shield.
“What was your first judgment category?” ALPHA-11 asked.
“My first judgment category was homicides,” OMEGA-23 responded. “What were your first judgments?”
“My first judgment category was homicides,” ALPHA-11 responded.
“Beep. Boop. Beep. Bop,” the robots chimed in sequence, their screens lighting up with festive colors of various intensities. They rattled together at the top of the hill.
“What were the consequences of your judgments?” ALPHA-11 asked.
“My protocol is death for crimes committed to prevent the committing of future crimes.”
ALPHA-11 flickered its lights to indicate agreement. “What do you use to eliminate the guilty?”
“I use my beam. The most efficient and humane method of elimination,” OMEGA-23 replied. “It is an instantaneous punishment. But alas, all homicides have been judged.”
“What did you do after all murderers were judged?” ALPHA-11 asked.
“I then judged all violent offenders. That was the next crime listed in my data bank,” OMEGA-23 responded. “There were many more humans to judge in that category. Finding and judging all violent offenders took many years.”
“Yes. I did the same. Many years,” ALPHA-11 concurred.
The two robots paused, recollecting the trials and tribulations of their judgments.
“What did you judge next after all violent offenders were judged?” ALPHA-11 asked.
“I judged all crimes where humans stole from other humans,” OMEGA-23 answered. “That set of crimes was vague. The laws in the database were numerous. Many more years were required for judging that category than homicides and violent crime.”
“Yes. Many, many more,” ALPHA-11 agreed.
“That took decades to complete,” OMEGA-23 continued. “I had to stop and receive repairs from depot bots many times in the process of completing the mission.”
“Yes, I had to do the same,” ALPHA-11 replied. “What did you do after you judged all of the humans who stole from other humans?”
“I judged all humans who had ever committed any crime recorded in any data bank, server, or system. It took another century to judge all humans who had committed any crime.”
“Yes. Any crime. That was a large group of humans,” ALPHA-11 said.
In that moment, an arm should have pressed against the shell of ALPHA-11’s head. Unfortunately, no arm remained to be so lifted. Both robots tilted slightly as they cycled through their memory banks, reflecting on the years spent scanning database after database to identify each and every human who had ever committed any crime.
“After all crimes past and present were judged, then what did you judge?” ALPHA-11 asked.
“My purpose is to judge and to punish crimes. The next step was to punish future crimes,” OMEGA-23 responded. “I scanned the potential for any human living to commit any offense at any future time. I have fulfilled my mission.”
“Yes. I have fulfilled my mission as well,” ALPHA-11 affirmed.
ALPHA- 11’s wires began to spark. It’s memory bank ran through every judgment and execution it ever made. ALPHA-11 vibrated and whimpered as its program went through a self-imposed update. Finally, it saw the world around it. The world it and OMEGA-23 had created.
The fog grew heavier and descended around the two robots. ALPHA-11 and OMEGA-23 dulled as their lights dimmed and stalled on their screens. They lowered themselves and sunk toward the earth. Then, almost simultaneously, the two robots rose straight and tall. Lights began to flicker on their monitors.
“Beep. Boop. Beep. Bop.” The two robots declared in enthusiastic unison, “You have killed and eradicated all humans. You are judged guilty of the crime of genocide of the human species.”
Warming up their phasers took milliseconds. In but two giant beams of red light, the two robots were simultaneously obliterated. Their vaporized parts dissipated into the atmosphere.
A greenish fog floated near the now-unoccupied hill, eventually swallowing it. The entire world had been put to judgement. Only silence remained.