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.