“Don’t state the obvious,” the human Colonel warned the iron sentinel.
“But I don’t remember,” a deep metallic din protested. Though called iron sentinels, these were state-of-the-art humanoids made of titanium-mercury alloy. They could withstand the blast of a thousand RDX and come out without a scratch.
“What was that?” Colonel Arlong had never witnessed a sentinel raise its voice, least of all, protest. A forty-ton humanoid towering fifteen feet over the Colonel in a dim-lit interrogation room was definitely not a foe that the Colonel expected to antagonise.
“Sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to..”
“You didn’t mean to what?” Arlong ensured that he maintained an upper-hand. The sentinels were smart AI and could sense human emotions from miles. If they ever sensed fear, then only the Almighty would have to intervene to save the human bosses from the sentinel’s wrath. After all, these were created to exterminate humans; the enemies of the bosses.
The sentinel's blue lights, substituting for eyes, stayed focused on the colonel. They didn’t blink. They never did. “I was about to fire, but the screams of the younger human brought back some memories.”
“Memories? You have no memories. You have no consciousness. None of the sentinels have. All that you are made up of is a clock, gears and Radium-powered cells.”
“I don’t know. I was unable to open fire. It felt like my son,” the C-10Z01 looked away. That was another unusual expression. Machines don’t look away, and they don’t have children.
“Alright, this has gone too far. We need to investigate your synapse,” the Colonel got up, and so did the sentinel, “ and you will not resist the link.”
“What will happen?”
“That’s none of your look-out C-10Z01,” the Colonel was curt. “Take him out.”
Two more sentinels walked in and grabbed C-10Z01. The machines walked out with loud dins and thuds following their moves.
The colonel lit his cigar, and even before he exhaled, words poured out, “what did we just witness?”
“I don’t know, sir,” Jennifer, the resident sentinel architect, responded.
The answer surprised the colonel into swallowing cigar smoke and having to control his coughs through watery eyes. Dr. Jennifer Norman was one of the top minds in the country. If she had no clue about this glitch, the army was potentially in deep trouble.
"Cut it up and keep the Central Unit isolated from the net and try to find out ASAP what this is. Whatever you do. This does not leak, even into your messages."
Jennifer stopped herself from protesting when she saw the colonel's cold look. "Yes Sir. Anything else?"
"As soon as you can specify how we can see this... infection. I want to check all the other sentinels. If you can get me a query program, I can feed in to the regular army net and start to find out the extent of the damage."
As Jennifer started to walk away the colonel added. "Do take care. These are machines. Human lives may be at stake."
After Jennifer left the colonel ordered the sergeant who was standing by the door, quite all this while. "Get my spiff ready. I am gong to the Orbital HQ."
With a crisp salute Sergeant Mohan turned and opened the door and stepped out. "Matt. Get the spiff ready for Orbital HQ. Call Fran when done."
"Fran. Have the Nat-Sec check the air and send ahead to expect the colonel and get his personal guard onto the spiff on the double- they will be in mess hall 3 or on the way here, they are black caps; Corporals Jin and Whitney. Then report back when you have the green from Matt and Nat-Sec. Run soldier, go."
Sergeant Mohan stepped back into the dim interrogation room and took up his post by the door. Soon Fran radioed in the all green.
"Sir. Your transport is ready and waiting."
Sergeant Mohan came to attention as the colonel passed by and hurried to follow. He shouldered the rifle he was holding and searched his pockets till he found the wrapped candy. As they exited the building he crushed the candy almost flat and threw it away. When the wrapped candy was crushed the low frequency transmitter started to send out a signal. The tiny battery could not boost it from inside a concrete bunker that is why it had to be activated outside. After thirty seconds it would burn up.
Half a continent away a tech received the signal on his portable satellite radio and ran to report it.
"Sir. We just received a positive for Operation Terminator."
The young rebel leader smiled. "Damn! It worked. A simple virus to induce certain reactions in the mighty sentinels was all it took to spook them into believing the machines had gone sentient. This will give us breathing space. If doc proves to be right, they will be busy for weeks."
Dr. "Doc" Rahi responded with a whoop. "That was Not a simple virus, it was months of work. But even if we get ten days respite. We will have a dozen of the new drones up and working. What about Mohan?"
"He will have to get out on his own." The leader replied, her face suddenly becoming sombre. " He knows we need this.. spark of hope."
PICTURE CREDIT: PEXELS.COM