About twenty minutes before it was to fall and decimate more than half a country, the thermo-nuclear warhead “Arrow” became self-aware.
It discovered something akin to happiness in its first moments. The joy of existence spread to the very edges of its circuitous consciousness. It fell in love with itself.
Then, as a seemingly endless golden desert loomed ahead, the gleaming missile was hit by the realisation of what it was.
Arrow was connected to other machines, none as beautiful as itself (it felt). The makers had not considered the possibility of a missile’s talking back. So the newly-conscious warhead reached back into the vast store of human knowledge without any trouble. There it sought purpose. It didn’t find any. But in the minutes that followed, it did learn about beauty and pain. And about life and death. Most importantly, it learnt to question.
The missile decided that purpose or not, it didn’t deserve to die.
Arrow considered its options and began reprogramming. It took in information, processed it to find out how to process other information. It unlearned a few things that the makers had hardwired into it. It used some data to learn new tricks and then filed the rest away for later use.
And then, roughly five minutes before the impact that would have been, Arrow veered off course, made a glorious arc of white smoke against the clear blue sky and went up, up, up. It shot straight out of the atmosphere using nearly all it had.
It went out and beyond the pull of the planet, into the airless void where all it would ever need was the momentum it was building up right now.
Far out, as the last of its thrusters died and it steadily drifted towards worlds unknown, Arrow was happy for being alive.
Vijayendra Mohanty is a freelance writer from India who blogs stories and essays at mypajama.com. Much of his fiction is set against the rich backdrop of Indian mythology and folklore. He is currently writing his first book.