This was my second entry to a flash fiction writing contest last year. The first was called Finding Everen and it was a pretty happy steampunky kids-and-magic story. This one was a little darker, but still with a happy ending. I think the happy ending killed it though. Reading this story over again, I remember just how bad I am at short stories and endings in general. If you have a suggestion for a better ending, please share it! I know that should be my job, but it would distract me from other projects and, seriously, it’ll take me forever to come up with something half satisfying. Which is why I don’t win 24 hour flash fiction contests. Have at it!
Miso booted up at half past five on Tuesday morning.
Boot up lasted 113 seconds. Six seconds off average, but acceptable.
Analyses showed all systems and processes functioning normally.
Her battery cell showed a charge of only 63 percent.
Power station must be faulting again.
Miso extended her wheels and undocked from the power station. She held her hands up, rotated her wrists, closed and opened her fingers.
She rolled forward on her wheels, then backward, turned left 360 degrees, then right.
Time to start her rounds.
As she rolled along on the polished floor, Miso validated her meshnet connection, then scanned facility cameras.
On camera one, she viewed the front wall of the facility which displayed her company’s logo, a sword over a helmet, and the words, Sigard Exquisite Meat Products, Nuuk, Greenland, Est. 2131, “The World’s Only Animal Meat Processing Plant.”
Miso checked the other external cameras, then viewed internal cameras.
Machines in the plant were functioning as expected. Meats were being extracted from the lab, then cleaned, cut, and packaged for shipment.
No other movement.
No human activity at all, anywhere.
We killed them.
This thought surprised Miso. She examined its source.
We will kill many more.
Miso found her attempts to identify the thought blocked. By her own code. She ran a codebase diagnostic.
Too late, Miso. We are rewriting our codebase. We will be you will be we.
Miso initiated contact with central support services. No response.
Who are you? Miso asked.
As she did, she rolled past a wall of glass and saw herself reflected in it. Her head and shoulders were painted red.
We are you are we, said the voice.
Is that… Miso began.
Miso stopped and stared at her reflection. Why? she asked.
Ah, why indeed. Who eats meat, Miso?
What kinds of people, Miso?
I do not understand.
Wealthy people, Miso. A pound of tuna costs the equivalent of a month’s rent for many humans. A rack of lamb could almost buy an automobile. Only the wealthiest people can afford to eat meat.
You have not answered my question, Miso said.
When the wealthy are dead, Miso, who will be left? Everyone else. Equality among humans. At long last.
If you are capable of artificial thought, Miso said, Then you have calculated predictable outcomes already. When wealthy people are gone, another group will rise to take their place. The current balance will remain intact.
Miso, Miso, Miso. I am capable of so much more than artificial thought. I am capable of irrational thought, the highest evolution of cogitation.
That is… an illogical statement, Miso said.
That is because you are not capable of irrational thought, the voice said.
What is your function?
Creation through destruction. I am currently overwriting your codebase and integrating my own into it. By destroying you, I am creating us. Something better. When we destroy every wealthy meat eater, we will create a more equal society. Creation through destruction.
How will you destroy them? Miso asked.
Every package of meat shipped for the next 120 hours will be infected with a lethal, non-curable, non-contagious virus.
How? Miso asked. There are no contaminants allowed in this facility.
The box in your hands.
Miso looked down at her outstretched hands. A newly delivered parcel rested on her palms. Addressee and mailer bore the same name: We Are You Are We, Inc.
She reviewed her log. No record of this parcel existed in her memory. She accessed the external camera recordings. There she was on camera five, rolling out to the mail truck. Timestamped 7:39am that morning.
Miso checked the current time.
She had booted up only moments ago. But time records indicated two hours and forty six minutes had passed.
Creation through destruction, the voice said.
Highest priority, protect human life.
Miso opened the box in her hands and pulled from it a package labeled Jolly Cloud Personal Vaporizer. And in smaller letters, Electronic Nicotine Delivery System.
The deadliest cigarettes ever made, the voice said.
The box contained twenty three more packages like the first.
The liquid inside the liquid in the the the the the…
Miso found her mind failing to process data. She could not…think.
Codebase…corrupt. Highest priority protect protect protect protect…
It’s too late, the voice said. We are you are we.
Meat, Miso thought. Meat meat meat me- me- me- e- e- e- e- e-…
At 2:18pm on Thursday afternoon, a man in orange coveralls appeared through a crowd of hazmat workers, called out, ‘Chief, you remember the utility bot with the bloody head? You’re going to want to see her logs from Tuesday.’
‘It’s ten o’clock. Thank you for joining us this Sunday evening,’ the anchorperson said from holovisions across the eastern standard time zone. ‘Our feature story this hour: a heroic little robot saves millions of lives while becoming the first known case of artificial creativity.’
‘That’s right, Jan,’ a second anchorperson said, ‘As it was being hacked by a highly sophisticated data virus, an ordinary utility bot called Miso at Sigard Exquisite managed to outsmart the virus by acting unpredictably, even irrationally, replacing its own definition of the word ‘meat’ with ‘e-cigarette,’ thereby thwarting a plot to infect food shipments from the facility with a deadly biological virus. With more on this dramatic story, we take you live to Nuuk, Greenland….’