75% of human employees at a government compound named "Area 51" had been relieved of their duties a year before.
We were all gathered around a gated entrance, to a gated section of desert, in a southern part of a state that used to be called Nevada. It was me, my sign (which, in dark red writing, read "NO HEARTS FOR TIN MEN",) and another twenty or thirty men and women just like me. Our cars were parked in behind us, so if there was any odd activity during the night, we could watch the gate from our bonfire spot about twenty feet down the dirt road. We'd take turns idling every even car in the line up, then every odd car. This is something called consideration, something a computer chip can only take part in.
I checked my pockets to be sure my keys weren't lost, night was drawing near, and we'd soon need some light. I'd made a few friends among the group after sharing a few stories, a few jokes, offering some advice, and the three of them were standing in a circle with myself included. Some of the others were sitting on the hoods of their cars, wrapped in blankets to shield themselves from the desert winds, some were leaned up against the gate, their signs by their sides, in discussion with one another, some were even sleeping in their back seats, a luxury which I envied at an uneventful time like this (I could never go to sleep bored.)
But soon the blankets would be discarded, the sleepers would be awoken, and the signs would be raised in protest, because in the distance, in front of a tail of dust, a truck was fast approaching.
Their world of right and wrong is one made up of a series of trial and error tests. Sure they can learn, but what of true natural instincts? What about right and wrong? Good and evil? Surely these kinds of decisions can not be left up to circuits and switches.
The truck was still too far away to make out any detail, but a man standing behind me on the hood of a blue sedan with pair of binoculars could. He was wearing a parka and had a pac-sac on his back with water a tube which led down one of the straps and to his mouth, the kind of man who would predictably have binoculars ready to go instantly.
"It's a large Fisher Price, no escort," he called out.
A unit of energy travels down a long blue tube, into a tangle of red tubes, into a processor, then another unit of energy travels, and on and on until it comes out the other end as a simulation. A simulated emotion, action, thought, reaction, answer... A simulated being living in a simulation of a world, one so detached from reality, that the beings who live there could not possibly understand the difference between right and wrong, or good and evil. A world where they probably can't even grasp the artificiality of their existence.
The truck was near, and we readied our signs, some screamed obscenities, some screamed at them to turn around, and some just screamed with the emotion from the pit of their stomachs. We yelled and we screamed with everything we had, because it was a hell of a lot more than they could ever wish to have. If they can even wish at all.
When the silver block of a truck passed in front of us, something strange happened... Necklaces and earrings from those around me seemed to attract towards it, violently in fact, because the girl beside me yelped in pain and grabbed her ear lobes, to prevent them from tearing. I could hear the vehicles behind me creaking, I looked back to see their suspension fully loaded onto their front wheels. We all stopped screaming as everything around us was engulfed in dust.
I could hear the fence slide open as the truck passed through the gate, and then the loud metallic crash as the fence slammed itself shut.
No one knew what to make of the mysterious cargo the truck carried, but until nightfall, and even a little later, everyone shared their theories, their fears, some skepticism, and even some plans.
Late at night, when everyone else was finally asleep, I wandered from our dying campfire over to the vehicles, where I sat, pulled out a cigarette and laid myself out. I looked into the sky and wondered what was happening on the other side of that gate, and I started to grow anxious.
A company called "TNS" (The Next Step) were the first to produce a learning robot "with the capacity of a human." Their logo was a modified version of the evolutionary diagram of man's ascension from the apes. On the far right of the diagram, a man was on on knee with a welder in his left hand, performing what looked like the final touch on the "next step," the first intelligent android. A light formation above the gated compound took an S shape and I sat up, worried, I knew something was wrong.
Suddenly, a whirlwind of color formed around everything, I instantly felt more dizzy than I'd ever been as it spun me from my perch, and then blackness smothered everything.
When I woke up, I was laying face up underneath what looked like a vehicle. I could hear the creaking of hydraulic pumps and the grinding of metal. Everything was too bright to see, last I remember it was night time, but when my eyes finally adjusted I could see that it was about midday.
I spun around to direct my head towards all of the action. Under the front end of the vehicle, I could see that the gate laid on the ground, obliterated. Large gray robotic legs with starfish feet were stamping the ground in front of me, taking very large steps out towards our campground, following them were a number of different sized wheeled units. I could barely make out any detail, because of all the dust they were stirring up.
I looked to my left, toward the camp, but a blanket of dust, was all I could see.
I decided I had to get out of there, I would surely be discovered quickly. So I grabbed the bottom edge of the car door, poked my head out from underneath and tried to make out where I was in the lineup. Beside me was a white sedan, which I definitely remembered almost hitting with my door, I was under my car. I checked for my keys, and found the unmistakable lump in my left pocket.
Quickly, I raised myself up from under the car, scraping my knees along the sharp edge underneath. I forgot the pain quickly though, when I became aware of the scale of my situation. Machines three stories high were headed from Area 51, where to I did not know, but I knew they had to be warned... Our situation.
In the back of my mind, I knew that not only were these robots impossibly advanced for our time, but that the relatively small compound could not possibly hold that many units...
I jumped into my car and quickly turned on the engine. I slammed my shifter into reverse and backed away as fast as I could, then after putting it in drive I spun the tires in the sand as I headed toward civilization.
Strangely, none of the hundreds of robots to my right even bothered to gesture towards me. They just kept going down the road toward their destination. I wearily adjusted my course slightly right to see if anyone was left at the camp.
As I drove past I could see that the robots had trampled the entire area, sleeping bags strewn about which were once covered in flower and flannel designs were soaked in blood. Out of the tops of the bags, were unidentifiable masses of bloody meat, spotted with unsightly patches of hair, squeezed from the top like a red and purple toothpaste.
I continued to drive past the scene, much faster, as I veered away from the mayhem.
I couldn't bare to look anywhere but straight ahead, my face must have been a sickly white. Then I vomited a red stink over my shirt, pants and arms.
I stepped on the gas and with more purpose than ever, headed away from the group and toward a city. To warn them of the tyranny that approached.