Author : Sean Donovan

“The computers are down,” said Dhir. His voice was steady and unbroken though Lim knew that inside he was shattered.

Lim stared at him, her eyes blinking back tears of sorrow and fury. The computers are down. She repeated the phrase to herself, almost as if she needed to hear the words spoken inside of her head to make them factual.

Once, she’d been told, computers were tools – intelligent ones perhaps but tools just the same. In those bygone days that phrase did not have the same connotation as it did now. Once it meant that the computers were malfunctioning, broken, in need of man’s help. No more. Quite the opposite, in fact. Now, deep underground and abruptly realizing that their assumed safety was a sham, the meaning behind Dhir’s statement was all too clear to her. The desolation on the surface of the planet didn’t seem so distant any more.

“You mean they’ve moved past the pulse barrier?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

“About an hour ago,” he replied, his eyes meeting hers. Looking into them, she suddenly realized how weary those once beautiful orbs now looked, how strained and hollow they’d become since the sentries had first reported discovering the freshly drilled tunnels not more than a few weeks ago.

“So that means we’ve got what? Two hours? Three?”

“Tops,” he responded quietly. “Probably less than one at the rate they’re moving.”

With the systematic destruction of all means of long-distance communication, the burning of the printed books and the surge purging of the electronic data libraries, most information was nothing more than ashes and wayward electrons. It was all gone. Combined with the loss of contact with the Solar Watchmen, so was the history of the Silicon Rising.

All Lim knew was what she had heard in stories as a child, listening intently as her kin-tribe related tales that seemed too dark to be true – tales heard deep under the granite bedrock of what had once been New Hampshire, under what had once been America, under what had once been an Earth ruled by humans.

Even those twenty odd years ago, no one could remember exactly how the computers came to seize control, forcing mankind’s unplanned return back into caves and crags in a resented exodus to a Neolithic lifestyle. All they knew was that one day, man had woken to a new world, one where the linked silicon groupmind had decided that a change of the stewardship of the planet was in order.

The destruction of man’s fragile empire had occurred faster than anyone had imagined possible. With undebated orders carried to the electronic troops at the speed of fiber-optic light, irrefutable binary-coded logic behind them, actions were carried out in perfect synchronicity across the globe and those born of flesh stood no chance against the onslaught.

Some opined it was the work of an alien race, some blamed cosmic radiation and some called it a smite from a god who’d grown jealous of mankind’s omniscience over these machines, punishing his own creation for aspiring to become too godlike in its own way.

The reasons and opinions and guesses were myriad. Facts were much harder to come by, and with the loss of any method of data retrieval (the attempts at which had ruined the minds of the greatest scientists left alive on the planet) there were no facts available to those who yearned for a reason why.

Not that it matters now, she thought.

“The computers are down,” Dhir repeated with a sigh. He rose from his monitoring station and without even a glance a Lim, walked to his quarters. She didn’t flinch when the shot rang out shortly thereafter. She’d known it was coming, just as she knew she’d never hear the report when she pulled the trigger of her own service weapon, barrel pressed comfortably against her soft temple. Not yet though, she thought. I want to hear you first…

She listened carefully, ear pressed against the granite that they once thought would be mankind’s salvation. She could hear them in the distance, drilling, grinding, chewing through the last meters of bedrock. Down they came, ever downward. The computers are down, she thought to herself as she stood and followed in Dhir’s wake.

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