Author : William Tracy, Featured Writer

A lone figure swung precariously from the side of a sky-scraping tower, painfully inching his way up a rope.

That tower and others stood in rows, crowding out the sky. Their sides gleamed silver, studded with large, black windows. The streets below were lit as much by flickering lamps as by the slivers of sunlight that scraped past the immense buildings. The dark streets teemed with bustling people clothed in rags. The occasional horseless carriage pushed through the crowd, horn squawking.

High above the metropolis, bloated dirigibles drifted lazily from one tower to the next. None paid heed to the tiny figure crawling up one of the great buildings, skulking in the shadows.

He smashed a steel-toed boot through a window. He rolled through the hole, and rose to a kneeling position. He paused, listening for the footsteps of golems—the dead reanimated galvanically to become the mindless servants of the powerful.

Satisfied that he was undetected, he moved swiftly through the halls and passageways toward his objective.

He opened a door to a teetering catwalk. In the vast chamber below him, rows of massive transformers and dynamos repeated on and on, bolts of electricity leaping from one to the next. A single steel column in the center of the room stretched from the floor to the ceiling, intersecting the catwalk. At that place was a knife switch. The lone figure walked forward and reached for the switch.

“I don’t think that you want to do that.” A sharply dressed man stood behind the lone figure, flanked by two golems bearing electricity guns. Two more golems emerged at the far end of the walkway, cutting off any escape.

“If you throw that switch, you will short-circuit the generators below you. The explosion could destroy the entire building.”

“Maybe that’s what I want.”

“Do you have any idea what I am doing here, and what is at stake?” The man in the suit searched the other’s eyes. “I am creating mankind’s ultimate invention. I am building a machine that will change history.”

“You are building a computer. A machine that can perform mathematics.”

“But it is so much more! I am building something unparalleled in human endeavor: A machine that can think! Can you imagine what this means? Our creations will do our work for us. Humanity will live by the fruits of its ingenuity, and we will create a new utopia.”

“Your machines will work for you, and replace us. You will have no more use for the poor, and will then destroy us.”

The man in the suit sneered. “The poor are not my fault. I built my wealth by my talents and my labors. I have given up my leisure, my health, and my family for it. It is mine for I have earned it.” He laughed without humor. “Why should the poor be entitled to what they have not earned? They have done nothing to deserve a better life for themselves.”

“I am doing something now.” He threw the switch.

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