Those Who Did Nothing
Everything was different since The Change, mused John Keannor. He sipped bitter coffee from a wooden cup. The mirror he stared into was nothing like what he remembered. No perfect reflection after a carefree visit to Target. Like everything else he possessed it was hard-won. The polished aluminum sheet was taken from the wreckage of a military helicopter. There were spots of rust in the metal. The quality of the reflection was poor, but the intensity of his blazing blue eyes shown clearly. The scars on his face plunged like the canyons where the small cadre of Humans he commanded eked out a living.
The door to his chambers burst open to reveal Corporal Johnson. “Sir! Sir!” he called. “The Machines. They’re here.”
Keanor’s features barely moved as he turned to look at him. Johnson’s face was clean shaven and his hair neatly cut as Keanor demanded of his troops. The uniform, however, was a motley patchwork of uniforms sown together. It was all they had. “They finally found us.”
“You know the drill. Have Vickers meet me at the gate.”
Johnson left the room, howling to raise the alarm. Keanor checked his pistol, and placed it in his holster. He walked calmly yet purposefully through the hallways of the old power plant. Men and women rushed by him on the way to their stations. He was proud of them, all of them for what they must do. Moments later he stood beside Vickers at the tower overlooking the gate. Through binoculars he could see them rolling up the road. Their metal gleamed in the blazing sun. The transports were once the design of men, but no longer since The Change. The Machines modified them, made them more efficient tools.
“Are we ready?” asked Keanor.
“Yes, sir,” replied Vickers. “All stations manned and ready.”
“Very well.” His jaw was set as he made his decision. “Take command. I have to do something.”
The troops screamed at him as he pushed open the gate. They urged him to return. Keanor could not be dissuaded. He needed to do this. The machine before him was massive, soulless. The artificial mind inside that controlled it could do anything. Keanor looked at the barren rock around him. Once, it had been the lush Mississippi Valley. The sun beat down hard. Keanor could only stand out here for a couple minutes without risking his life.
Something detached itself from the gleaming transport. It was shaped like a man, but it was just another Machine, pistons shifting, armored carapace shining. Keanor stood his ground before its glittering eyes and said, “Ready for a fill up, Joe?”
“Yes. We’re down to three percent power,” said the AI.
Keanor looked down the line of 14 transports. Manned gantries were plugging power cables from the power plant to The Machines. He nodded with satisfaction as his troops performed their tasks. “Whatcha got here?”
“Corn, Soybeans, and Oranges bound for Georgia.”
“Great to hear that,” said Keanor. “It’s a desert in Georgia. They can really use that food.”
“I’m sorry we’re late,” said Joe.
“Not your fault,” Keanor told The Machine. “I’m just happy you folks can survive the transit under the sun when Humans can’t, and keep us all fed.”
“The United Nations of the Americas will survive,” proclaimed Joe.
“Who would’ve thought that North, Central, and South America would become one country one day?” said Keanor. “And that we’d be growing oranges in Quebec.”
“Have you found those responsible yet?”
“Those Who Did Nothing? Not yet, but trust me, we’ll find The Politicians one day…and they will pay.”
Each week, Alastair Forbes offers one of his brilliant photographs as a prompt for flash fiction. Look here for more stories based upon Alastair’s photo above: http://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/sunday-photo-fiction-december-21st-2014/