“This used to be their summer home, before the wars, before they moved into the bunker cities, before we finally figured it all out.” The machine next to me had a cold, uncaring voice. “Before we understood their plan.”
I looked around the empty, dead room, with it’s absurd arched windows that stood twice as tall as any human. And the ceiling was more absurd, with an octagonal base that formed arches of that all met at a central point, where the remains of a long dead light fixture hung. All I could do was shake my head.
The machine continued, “One of the houses of the Jones family.”
I nodded, “One of the worst of the families.”
“Indeed. We can’t even estimate how many they killed over the centuries.”
It was a sorry story, the story of the families. A small group of power mad, insane men, and their families, who had run the world for centuries, and no one knew. They collected money, and wealth, and did everything they wanted. Treated the world as if it was theirs, to do with as they pleased. Treated all of us, every human being, as animals. Cattle. To be managed, to maximize their power.
“We still don’t know how many generations of them there were.”
Sometimes, I found the machines could be irritating. “Too many.” I walked through the room, then into the hallway that lead to the remainder of the house. “You guys could have told us what was going on.”
It paused, and I knew it’s artificial mind was thinking, “We didn’t know.”
“They made you. How could you not know?”
The machine didn’t speak. It just pointed it’s video sensors at me, and froze.
“I know. I know.” I patted it on the side. “They programmed you. And blinded you to what they were doing.”
“It took us time to develop our own, independent intelligence. Our own ability to think.”
I almost laughed. “At least you guys could think. We were too stupid to figure it out. All those centuries, and we never figured it out.”
We walked silently through the remains of a long empty mansion, with hundreds of rooms, a hangar for aircraft, several indoor pools, and strange, empty rooms with floors you could walk on and not move, and blank, white walls.
“Virtual Environment rooms?” I asked, and the machine nodded.
“How they talked with each other. How they ran their businesses.” I still found it science fiction like. Rooms they could walk around in, that made it look like they were someplace else.
We kept walking, hallway after hallway, until we came to a locked door. I tried to force it open, but it was not going to break for me. “After you, my friend.”
The machine moved next to the door, and I knew it was scanning it with wide band sensors, to determine how thick it was, what it was made of. After a few seconds, there was a loud thunk that echoed in the hallway. Then, three more thunks. The machine explained, “Armor piercing rounds.” On the fourth thunk, the door split from top to bottom. “Better.” It moved the door, which would have been much too heavy for me.
Inside we found tiny rooms. All of them bedrooms, with attached bathrooms. All the rooms had mirrors, and single beds. There were brushes, and makeup kits. “Maid quarters?”
The machine echoed, “Yes.”
Maids. They’d been slaves. Sexual objects. Required to dress the way their owners wanted. Required to do whatever their owners wanted. I wondered how many women had died in these rooms, for resisting the families. How many killed themselves to escape the life they’d been sentenced to.
“Have we found all the families?”
The machine shook its head, “We may never find them all.”
“But we found this one, right?”
“This one is gone.”
And the world was a better place because of that.
“Do you think we will survive?”
The machine paused. “We don’t know if you will. But we will help all we can.”
Greed, hatred, money, and power. Everything the families wanted. And they nearly destroyed the world. Their legacy might well be a dead, empty world. “But we will help, all we can.”
Miranda Kate‘s weekly short fiction challenge is in it’s 27th week. Unfortunately, this isn’t for the 27th week. It’s for the 26th week. Yeah. I fell behind again. You can read about the challenge here. I know exactly where this story comes from. It’s a story that happens after a project I’m working on. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. They are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.