"I have emotions. I'm real...."
The shuttle, a fifty-meter cylinder with a rounded nose and two stubby wings, rose steadily as the fusion flame of its main engine drove it through the atmosphere. Captain Sully Sumner gazed out at the falling curve of the planet and the gradual winking on of stars in the black firmament.
While the shuttle flew on automatic toward the orbiting station, Sully dug through his pack and took out a square case. Popping it open, it revealed the twelve cling mines resting inside, each a small oval that could fit in the palm of his hand. The mines would stick to anything, were programmable, and could be detonated by a remote transmitter. He clipped four to his belt, and then checked the charge on his pulse rifle.
As the shuttle neared the orbiting station, Sully listened to the chatter coming through on his earpiece. He wished they had gone silent because the space station was monitoring all communications. The AI had to be aware of their plans and he had to know they were coming.
With a jerk, the magnetic locks attached automatically and drew the shuttle inside. As it docked, the entry doors sealed tight behind it. High-speed pumps screamed to full function, and then the shuttle’s doors opened with a puff of residual atmosphere. Sully activated his grav-boots, lowered his visor, checked its display in the bottom right-hand corner, and then hustled out. He registered no life forms, which meant all fourteen station personnel were probably dead.
He moved forward through the dark even as he contacted planet side. “I’m inside, but it’s worse than we thought. Everything’s shut down and in Zero-G. There are no signs of life. The son-of-bitch has definitely gone renegade. Everyone’s dead here except me.”
There was a long pause, and Sully could hear a building rage mingled with solar static. “Shit. Shit. Shit!” Another pause. “Dammit, Captain, I want my station back and on-line! You know what to do. Terminate with the least amount of structural damage to the base. Understood?”
“Understood, and out.” He switched-off.
This was the thirteenth AI that had gone over the deep end, and with all the theories floating around, there was one thing for certain, the AIs were getting better at killing people.
Somehow they were becoming sentient, with human emotions that were beyond their ability to control. There was talk that perhaps it was a programming malfunction, or a virus, but you can’t strive to make a robot exactly like a man without it becoming just what it was designed to be. The truth was, the AIs had developed wants and needs, and what they wanted was to be human.
Sully slapped his gun into ready-mode. “Locked and loaded,” he said, gritting his teeth.
Amidst an array of crab-like maintenance drones, he maneuvered down a long tunnel, which terminated at a coded security door. He punched in the seven-digit override, glancing up at a scanning device that hung suspended from the ceiling. He smiled and wiggled his fingers at it. “Lucy, I’m home.” There was a discernible click as the door opened like an iris and he quickly stepped through into a nightmare.
Several bodies floated in weightlessness. Most of them had shattered ribs splayed outward, legs missing, burnt chest cavities with charred, weeping skin. Droplets of blood and other fluids swirled across the grisly scene like plastic beads. It was obvious the AI was equipped with a laser and knew how to use it.
Cautiously, Sully moved toward the bridge located at the top of the hub which extended through the ship’s center like the head of a giant, golden thistle.
Something moved at the far end of the corridor, and as his helmet’s searchlight danced crazily across the gray walls, the main door to the bridge opened and Sully caught a shimmering glimpse of the AI as it scurried inside. It wore chameleon-cloth over its alloy frame which made it appear to be perpetually sliding in and out of existence. Sully marveled at the tin man's cleverness. “I see you, asshole, and that door's your only way out.”
He rushed forward as he leveled his gun at the door. There was a high-pitched squeal, and Sully, realizing his mistake. Quickly he dove to the floor.
The explosion of turquoise flame rolled down the hall catapulting him backward even as it blew the bridge door wide open and burnt the corridor black.
Sully tried to shake it off, his head aching as if someone had run a potato peeler inside his skull. He didn’t know how long he had been out, but when he opened his eyes, the AI stood over him.
UB-67 flexed his gleaming fingers, stunned at the illusion of sensation he felt--the sensitivity of touch. “I’m alive!” it said to him in a tinny voice. “I can feel!”
Sully glanced left and then right for his pulse rifle, but couldn't see it.
“I have emotions. I'm real,” it went on like Pinocchio. “I am human. More than human!” It turned his back to him, intellectualizing, disregarding Sully as if he were no more than a twisted piece of scrap metal lying on the floor.
Sully grabbed one of the mines from his belt, peeled away the backing and exposed the sticky surface.
The AI sounded as if it were crying now. “I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I feel remorse for what I've done. Is that possible?”
Sully stared at the back of its translucent skull, filled with optics that flickered with electrical synapse and fairy lights.
As he partially rose from the floor, knowing he’d only get one shot, he threw the mine. The small explosive stuck to the AI’s shoulder just below its neck. Sully fumbled for the transmitter.
It turned, knowing what was to come. Then it sadly smiled, wiggling its fingers as if waving goodbye.
“I feel love. And it feels like . . . my heart is breaking.”
Sully was trained not to hesitate. He pushed the button.
The small charge went off and the AI dropped like a puppet unstrung.