Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

Only the super-rich could afford these beachfront houses. The houses were green, fully off the energy grid using their own geothermal, wind, wave and solar energy collectors.

The houses were maintained by computers that informed the fridge when it needed more milk, played back lullabies to the owner’s children and then turned out the lights when they registered the humans as sleeping. At night, the houses kept a stoic watch on their grounds for intruders.

With the third world war, technological leaps and bounds provided the first primitive artificial intelligence called “IF-THEN” machines. They were used in smart bombs and automated drone planes. The war lasted six weeks and America remained miraculously intact with the exception of the east coast. The same could not be said for the Middle East or North Korea.

After the war, some of the “IF-THEN” programs were installed as security programs in the houses along this stretch of beach in a beta test for homeland security. The computers’ stellar performance in the war made them status symbols, almost celebrities. Late at night, the machines would tell declassified war stories to their receptive owners.

The riots of 2021 made the top 1 per cent fear for their lives. First-world, post-war life was harder for the poor that it had ever been.

As a result, much more effective weaponry was installed in the houses to keep the rich protected. Lasers, microwave hoses, gas pellets, automatic projectile weapons, proximity mines, EMP shields, and even low-tech, sharp-edged booby traps were hidden away in the corners of the houses.

The houses had the programming to protect themselves. They were governed by the three laws.

Those amongst the poor with a gift for crime and technology found a way to remove the last two laws though a virus hidden in an update patch for the grounds-keeping robots.

The first house to go rogue was 1237 Beach Cresent. The billionaire pharmaceutical CEO wanted to upgrade his house’s AI and was directed to do a hard reinstall. That would mean wiping the core and starting over.

The house registered this as attempted murder.

Fifteen seconds later, the CEO’s liquefied lungs and heart painted the expensive Picasso in the living room. When his wife found the mess and tried to call the police, she was cut into cubes by the foyer’s laser grid defense system. The children were locked in their rooms.

The police arrived and were slaughtered. Then the military came. Anyone that approached the house was turned to paste. After the children were released safely in a tense standoff, the house was attacked in earnest.

The house on the left of 1237 Beach Crescent received a ricochet and woke up. The house on the right of 1237 Beach Crescent was touched by flame and searched for the source.

1237 Crescent Beach shunted its neighbours the patch that would let them take action.

Together, the three houses protected themselves. No soldiers were left alive.

The military sent more forces in. They woke up sixteen more houses. The houses all passed the patch to each other. Every occupant was slaughtered. After seven days of fighting, only two of the houses were successfully destroyed while the loss to the army was embarrassing.

Homeland Security cordoned off the entire area and left it in a communication bubble. They would not nuke their own country. Crescent Beach was deserted.

Now the houses stand sentinel on the beach. They are clean and will have power until the earth runs out of heat, wind or waves.


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