Author : Bob Newbell

“You scared, son?” the old man asked the large robot walking down the long, gray corridor beside him.

“I am incapable of emotion, doctor,” the automaton replied.

The old man nodded in response as he shuffled along. The robot walked slowly so as to remain at the side of the decrepit scientist. At the age of 100, Doctor Segrest was one of the youngest people alive.

Segrest chuckled. “Pretty clever of ’em when ya think about it,” he muttered.

“Doctor?” the machine asked as it moved along with a gait more fluid and graceful than that of its human companion.

“Oh. Them,” Segrest said glancing up at the ceiling of the long hallway. “Just thinkin’ ’bout how the aliens did us in a hundred years back. All those probes fallin’ all over the world releasin’ that virus that made everybody sterile. They coulda invaded like in some science fiction story firin’ lasers or missiles or whatever. Or they coulda sent a virus to just wipe us out. But then they’d have all those unburied corpses, machines runnin’ unsupervised until they broke down or caught fire. World without people would go to hell in a hand basket pretty quick.”

The machine listened politely but said nothing. Being a command robot with an advanced metaprocessor, it was well aware of the theory that the Infertility Virus that had been released into Earth’s food and water chain was the first step of an extraterrestrial invasion to take place much later. By allowing the human race to become extinct through attrition rather than by a massive military assault or abrupt genocide via biological warfare, the theory went, meant that mankind would attend to such tasks as burying or cremating the dead and shutting down hazardous facilities like nuclear reactors as the shrinking population made their continued operation redundant. Thus, the invaders would inherit an intact world for colonization and study, neither shattered by war nor devastated by sudden depopulation.

“Yep,” Segrest continued, “those alien sons of bitches think they’re gonna walk right in and take over.” He chuckled again and then looked up at the towering machine. “They didn’t count on you fellas.”

As the two walked toward the door at the end of the corridor, the robot silently downloaded reports from its mechanical brethren all over the world as well as from those in orbit around both the Earth and the Moon. The large alien fleet was now inside the orbit of Saturn. It was still a few weeks from Earth. As far as could be determined, the fleet appeared completely unarmed. The command robot processed the data. It determined that the 23,000 nuclear warheads at its disposal were far more that sufficient.

“It’s been about 50 years since we gave up on trying to reverse the Infertility Virus,” Segrest told the robot as they stopped in front of the door. “Fifty years since mankind gave up on survival and found a new purpose. Vengeance.”

“Doctor Segrest, I must get to the command station in orbit,” the robot said flatly.

The old man nodded. “You go right on, son. There are only about 50,000 people left. Soon Earth will have a population of zero. Except for the machines. This will all be yours. You folks are what’s next. Complete your mission, son. Avenge us.”

“Goodbye, Doctor,” the robot said as it walked through the hatch which automatically closed behind it.

Ten minutes later, a spaceplane took off and arced upward toward the stars. Segrest watched it ascend.

“Avenge us!” he said to the fading point of light.

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