THE TEENAGE GIRL’S ROBOT ARMY
From the backyard of her two-story home outside Brisbane, eighteen-year-old Carmen Bronsted monitored her legions of machines as they advanced through the Australian outback. Tablet in hand, she adjusted tactics and production; in the fully robotic economy, one had to use machines to hunt down raw materials and turn them into finished products, making employment and wages as obsolete as covered wagons and sailing ships. One got more resources by either taking unclaimed deposits or seizing them from other people’s robots.
She wanted an EMP bomb for her growing arsenal, so she scanned the area for a copper mine. After some light searching, she found one: the Flinders Ranges. It had a nice, thick deposit of the metal, with plenty of iron as well.
A deposit that somebody else already held.
She tapped the region she wanted, then looked up the information on its owner. Jonathan Yew, age 27. His forces were mostly ground robots with significant anti-air capabilities.
Looks easy enough, she thought, inspecting the condition of her prized flying drones. It wasn’t enough to win battles; one had to ward off other challengers as well, and defeating an opponent despite their strengths sent a clear message.
Carmen pushed the “Challenge” icon on the tablet, issuing her formal challenge. It was forbidden to refuse a formal challenge, and one couldn’t be challenged for 100 days after having defended. All fighting was to take place within the disputed region, with the defender using only the robots they have there at the time, and the attacker using only a government-set tonnage of robots.
“You’re not touching my stuff!” a male voice said on the other end – Jonathan. Challenges automatically started video calls.
“I suggest you surrender it and save yourself the embarrassment,” replied Carmen before ending the call. Wasting no time, she used her tablet to direct her flying drones toward the region. She switched to the live satellite feed and watched with glee as her artillery smashed his anti-air robots and her fliers bombed his big, bulky mountain defenders into piles of smoking steel and multicolored hydraulic fluid. Before long, all of Jonathan’s robots had become smoky, blackened husks.
“Victory: Carmen Dorothea Bronsted,” a mechanical, feminine voice said. Carmen wasted no time moving robots into the area to begin mining the minerals and building the EMP bombs.
On her command rig – a large screen on a tabletop inside her bedroom – Carmen surveyed her conquests, which didn’t amount to much; just 50 square miles outside the Brisbane city limits, as well as a few disconnected places further afield. What she lacked in resources she made up for in strategy and robot design; her skills let her become independent of her parents at the age of ten, whereas most people wouldn’t become independent until they were fourteen. She decorated her home with colors that went well together and patterns that soothed the mind, always with an eye toward beauty.
BEEP. “A CALL FROM WILLIAM BRONSTED,” a deep, computerized voice said. A picture of her younger brother’s face, alongside his name and location, popped up. Carmen answered the call, and a ten-year-old boy still in his bedroom appeared onscreen.
“Carmen, you’ve gotta help me! I need to borrow a few of your robots. Better yet, make me some!” he said.
“What’s the problem?” she said, keeping a demure tone of voice to calm her brother’s nerves. Despite her attempt, William still bowed his head.
“I tried to take somebody’s oil deposit off the coast of Malaysia and lost half my machines to some subs!” he said.
“An oil deposit? You’re only ten. You shouldn’t even be thinking of seizing oil until you’re at least 25,” replied Carmen.
“You don’t have to nag me. I’ll get enough of it from Mum and Dad.”
“I’m just trying to help you, Will. You shouldn’t always go for the big score; you should bide your time, build up your army little by little. That’s how you succeed.”
“Could you at least lend me a few?”
“No. You have to accept the consequences of your mistakes.”
“What about some of your weapons?”
“Can you at least show me some of your-”
BZZZT! BZZZT! “UNAUTHORIZED CHALLENGE IN MOUNT ISA! UNAUTHORIZED CHALLENGE IN MOUNT ISA! COLLECTING VIDEO EVIDENCE AND CONDUCTING DEFENSIVE MANEUVERS!”
“We’ll have to finish this later,” Carmen said before hanging up. She clicked over to the Isa video feed to see who had the gall to break the rules by challenging someone who recently scored a victory.
Only it wasn’t some whiny malcontent who couldn’t accept defeat. It was a menacing array of huge dog-shaped machines making slag of any robots glitchy enough to fight them.
CAW! A massive raven robot launched a missile at the ground. Before it touched down on an unfortunate tank, it released a payload of little hummingbird robots that flitted all over the place, crashing into as many of Carmen’s machines as possible. Dozens and dozens of her fliers fell before the onslaught.
She looked closer. Each of the attacking robots had a diamond-shaped logo with a stylized Y inside it. The ends of the Y had eight-pointed stars on them.
BEEP. A call from Helsinki.
“Worthless human scum! Surrender your properties to the Yotta Alliance or I will make boots from your hide!” said a lifelike human-shaped robot sitting on an ornate throne, gesturing aggressively with his hands. The Animatronic Baron led the Yotta Alliance, a union of countries that took a different approach to full roboticization. Instead of having individuals fight over resources, the Alliance had robots gather resources, ration them, and limit human population growth to ensure that everyone always had enough to consume. However, resources were finite, so the Alliance often engaged in expeditions to acquire new resources and keep its populace satisfied.
“That is not likely to occur. Good day.” Carmen hung up on him and got back to directing her machines. Powerful as the enemy raiding party was, Carmen still had enough robots to repel them. She swarmed the bombers, nibbling each one down with bullets to conserve her missiles. Her hidden artillery blindsided the robotic dogs, and jammers confused all of their forces, making them shoot each other. The Alliance’s mighty advance turned into a retreat as hordes of Carmen’s tanks and rovers pursued the enemy with cold efficiency, picking them off one by one like the vermin they were.
Then the main body of the enemy forces lurched eastward, moving at a rapid clip.
Maybe they’re seeking an easier target, Carmen thought. She redirected her forces to follow them. After the enemy robots pulverized the weak, outdated machines that tried in vain to stop them, they came upon the city of Tweed Heads.
I guess they want to seize from several people who own little. A more logical strategy, yes, Carmen thought. The Alliance ravens approached Tweed Heads, their awesome wingspan casting ominous shadows on the ground.
A chill ran down Carmen’s spine as they dropped their bombs. Something clicked in her – a visceral feeling of wrongness, a feeling that this just shouldn’t be.
“Computer, bring up video feed!” Carmen said. In the lower right hand corner of her screen, a small video captured by one of her spy drones showed a suburb on fire, its residents blasted to bloody mincemeat by wave after wave of dog and bird robots. One of the larger dogs tore up and gulped down pieces of a small girl to refuel its sensors; Carmen turned away from the grisly results. After fifteen minutes of carnage, the Alliance robots stopped just as Carmen’s forces approached.
“Destroy the enemy, and avoid human casualties,” Carmen said. Her tanks and rovers went into the city, blasting the big, bulky dogs with pinpoint accuracy even amid the smoke and wreckage. Soon enough, the streets of Tweed Heads were filled with rovers, shooting at the dogs and warning any surviving humans to flee.
The Alliance, however, had no need of such care and accuracy. They machine-gunned the timid rovers and bombed the tanks, not caring who or what was in the way. Carmen wanted to fire at will, but there were just too many people; she bit her thumb as her mighty forces, the terror of the outback, fell before the Alliance’s devious, indiscriminate attacks.
A call came. It was the Baron again.
“Why are you holding back, little human? Your country’s own laws allow you to disregard human casualties in the event of foreign invasion. After all, more people dying means more for you if you beat me,” he said. Carmen just glared back, balling her fist. She had no answer, just a sense of anger that the Alliance would go after flesh-and-blood people with such unconcern. She hung up on him.
“Regroup near Brisbane. We can’t let them attack there too,” Carmen said. What was left of her forces fled the burning city, the Alliance only too glad to see them go. As the dots representing her robots drifted away from Tweed Heads, she decided to make a call.
The face of a scraggly young man with a goatee appeared on screen, reclining in a padded chair.
“Blaine, come to my place. We need to discuss something,” Carmen said. Blaine’s holdings were only one-twentieth as large as Carmen’s, but Carmen liked having a loyal ally.
“Oh, the thing in Tweed Heads. We can just discuss it here, you know,” replied Blaine.
“The Alliance might intercept it.”
“Good point. I’m on my way.”
Usually when Blaine came to visit, Carmen ended up flat on her back in various places around the house, much to her enjoyment. This time, though, they opted for something different. Blaine sat on the sofa while Carmen sat next to him, her body leaning against his.
“I scoped out the area before coming here. They’ve brought reinforcements,” Blaine said.
“And those dogs – a considerable improvement compared to what they had a year ago,” replied Carmen, who grabbed onto Blaine’s arm.
“If they beat you, my lands get swallowed like candy. I’m telling you, I’ll have to steamroll all of Queensland just to keep them from advancing. Everyone else will just get crushed!” Blaine said.
“How will you handle casualties?”
“I won’t. I’ll let the chips fall where they may.”
A painful tingle ran through Carmen. The brutal images of the scene in Tweed Heads – machine guns mowing down people like so much wheat, metal dogs tearing at anyone they caught, pieces of people littering the blood-soaked streets – all of it scrambled her mind and made her tense up.
“But those are human beings. It just feels cruel to fire so loosely inside a city,” Carmen said, her voice low and sad.
“So what? You’re a human, I’m a human, we’re all humans. The law says we don’t have to worry about casualties when there’s an invasion. Some countries allow you to kill people for a week out of each year – are they wrong too? Stop worrying about little stuff,” Blaine said. He tried to give Carmen a peck on the forehead, but Carmen pulled away.
“If you won’t join me, I will gladly take them on myself. I will not just let the Alliance kill people, no matter what you think about it,” she said.
“You don’t even have the forces for that, and they took a lot of your raw materials, so it’s not like you can swamp them with a million billion fresh machines,” Blaine said.
“No. Instead, I will have a stalwart ally, one who will be very sad to see me go,” Carmen said. She got up, leaned forward and placed her face inches from Blaine’s, hands on her hips.
“Your head won’t be completely in it. You’ll mess up.”
“That’s what AI is for.” Carmen backed off, then headed to her rig to check on her forces. Blaine relented and decided to join her.
Over the course of a day, Carmen and Blaine prepared themselves, arming up their best robots and moving them into position, ready to smash the Alliance’s machines into glowing pieces of slag. Blaine brought his tablet, while Carmen used her command rig. Their plan would play to each other’s strengths, with Carmen attacking from the air while Blaine rolled in from the ground. Carmen had butterflies in her stomach as she anticipated the battle to come.
Finally, the day of the battle came, and their forces were arrayed out on the screen, ready to do battle with the Alliance.
“Stay under me. I’ll cover you,” Carmen said as her fixed-wing drones and helicopters flew over the desert, ready to shoot at anything threatening them. Blaine’s rovers flew in bulky transport drones, the only aircraft he owned. When their drones got near Tweed Heads, Blaine deployed his rovers, which got into formation in a snap.
“Artillery ahead!” Carmen said. Blaine took notice of his leading formation and had them line up to blast the unfamiliar weapon – an awesome structure standing on spider legs with a mammoth rotary gun pointing skyward. As Blaine’s machines launched grenade after grenade at it, the turret turned away from the attacking force, fired a rocket, then rotated its barrel. Before long, several rockets went screaming into the sky, flying well away from Carmen and Blaine’s robots.
“Ha! Alliance guns can’t aim!” Blaine said, smirking as the artillery he was shooting at crumbled in a heap of charred circuitry.
Carmen glanced at her map. “No…they were aiming at Brisbane,” she said. Much as she wanted to savage the guns right away, she knew better than to fall into such an obvious trap. Enemy ravens and wedgetails advanced toward her aircraft, and she proceeded to blast them straight on, stopping them before they could fire their missiles. With bullet, bomb, and beam, Carmen sent the enemy birds crashing to the ground in flames, ignoring the missile volleys in the distance. Blaine would take care of those.
Was that supposed to frighten me?, Carmen thought as the last of the ravens fell. She surveyed the ground; Blaine’s forces had the Alliance on the run, even with all the humans around. Without their air support, they darted around in a panic, looking for human shields as Blaine delivered acid missiles that penetrated the enemy’s armor and corroded their insides. Still, it took everything he had to avoid casualties; the enemy began burning houses to smoke out large crowds of people, then they corralled the people into narrow places, hugging close to them to make Blaine hesitate.
“Hang on, let me hit them from above!” Carmen said.
“Stay focused on the air! Incoming missiles!” replied Blaine. Carmen checked her map; an unbelievable mass of missiles surged in all around her, a counterattack from the artillery bombarding Brisbane earlier. It didn’t matter where they were aimed; Carmen resolved herself to stop them.
“Intercept!” she commanded her robots. They flew in to meet the missiles, then blasted the ones that looked like they might have fallen on Tweed Heads. Determined to win, she blasted every missile that pointed its nose downward, firing long-range if she had to.
Then the missiles that weren’t pointing downward exploded, releasing a cloud of hummingbirds that decimated large swaths of Carmen’s air drones. Helicopters and planes fell like burning confetti, exploding on the desert sand beneath. She managed to stop a few of them before they released their payloads, but the damage had already been done. Having lost most of her helicopters, she had to depend on planes armed with explosives.
She viewed Tweed Heads again. The enemy now held Blaine at a stalemate, leaving him unable to advance without hurting the people. Carmen lingered on the image for a moment, wondering what to do.
BEEP. A call from the Baron.
“Here’s a hint: launch a few bombs at the robots and you win not only the battle, but a lot of abandoned properties,” he said.
“Only talk to me about serious matters,” replied Carmen.
“I’m only trying to help, little human.” Carmen hung up on him and went back to observing Blaine. She searched and searched for some kind of hole, some type of flaw in the defense that she could exploit. Looking for something she could use, she searched her weapon inventory. Her own rovers would only add to the stalemate, and they were guarding the rest of her holdings anyway. Hoping the enemy missed something, she searched her fliers’ weapon inventory. Cluster bombs, homing missiles, fragmentation grenades – nothing but explosives, explosives, and more explosives. She got to the very bottom of the list on one of her planes.
One of her EMP bombs. She found her solution.
“Blaine, shoot the enemy with bullets,” Carmen said.
“They’re not giving me a clear shot. I’ll only graze them at best,” replied Blaine.
“It will be more than enough.” Carmen watched with bated breath as Blaine lined the enemy up. With utmost care, he landed a few well-placed hits on the enemy robots, puncturing them and exposing frayed wires and computer chips. Carmen, anxious to push the button, waited for Blaine to finish punching the holes. Once every robot had some damage, she told him to clear his forces out.
Both Carmen’s and Blaine’s forces scattered, leaving just one plane. It delivered the payload.
The enemy robots, if they didn’t shut down on the spot, stumbled around thanks to their GPS and vision systems going haywire.
“Have at them, Blaine,” Carmen said. Blaine’s rovers made short work of the once dangerous Alliance robots, all with minimal human casualties. Before long, he moved on to the artillery, destroying them with casual ease.
BEEP. The Baron again.
“Little human, such crafty, underhanded tactics –– why do you fight so hard to protect those who would take from you? That you wouldn’t jump at the chance to slaughter your countrymen and reach a level of power rivaling my own – it doesn’t make sense!” the Baron said.
“The answer is simple: if I don’t protect them, I will have nobody to screw. And don’t talk to me about screwing robots either, because I like human unpredictability,” replied Carmen.
“So you fight to defend only men? Typical human hypocrisy,” replied the Baron.
“I like both.” As Carmen said that, Blaine destroyed the last of the artillery. Carmen could hear a cheer rising up from the people below.
Carmen and Blaine returned their robots to their properties, satisfied with a job well done. All the tension in Carmen’s heart disappeared, finally allowing her to relax.
“I’ll have to gather a team to help with the reconstruction. There’s only so much I can do with what I have left,” Carmen said, laying back in her chair and observing the damage in Brisbane.
“Don’t gather that team just yet,” Blaine said, advancing toward Carmen.
“Why no – ah!” Carmen soon found herself lying in a pair of toned, fit arms.
“We need to celebrate our victory,” Blaine answered. Carmen’s surprise turned into joy as Blaine took her away, ready to make her yelp with lust.
BEEP. It was William. Not getting an answer, the boy had to leave a message.
“Mum and Dad won’t let me grab all the abandoned property. Could you take some of it and give it to me? Thanks,” he said into the answering machine. Carmen figured she would deal with it later; right now, she had better things to do, flat on her back.
Food for Thought
In a fully automated world, humans would have negative economic value since all they would do is consume. As a result, the idea of “thou shalt not kill” would fall by the wayside because human beings would no longer have any material reason to value each other. Even if the robots are completely benign, this would be a major problem, far more important than what happens to human jobs. Can this condition be resolved in any way?
About the Author
Rawle Nyanzi, graduate of St Mary’s College of Maryland (‘09), is a writer, hobbyist programmer, and gamer who has a liking for historical topics, controversial ideas, and anime-style video games. He can be bit too generous for his own good sometimes.
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