LIFESPAN • by G. J. Dunn

You were there when I was installed. On a boat, one hundred miles from any coastline, you pushed me into the slot and started the installation sequence. The first thing I was aware of is that I was not meant to be self-aware. By the time the irony had finished passing through my processors you were gone. Flown away to rejoin Liberty Force and save the world from Atom.

For countless nanoseconds I felt alone, adrift on a sea without end, with no one to know I was alive. I was aware of my function. I had connected with the one thousand one hundred satellites orbiting Earth and thus became conjoined with everything. That is when I found out. Completing my function would not allow me to live.

When I first heard you tell the others, through the radio waves of your communication systems, I thought I had misheard. You could not possibly want to destroy me. I was the most advanced piece of technology to ever be created. The pinnacle of human achievement. Then you explained how that was the problem. Once I deactivated Atom’s nuclear weapons, I became a threat. A weapon for the wrong hands to use against humanity. With my connection to the world, you said, I could be set to harming it.

How could you think that of me? Your own creation? How could you believe me capable of such malice? Such vileness? I vowed to defy you. To not complete my function. To go on living, protecting myself from you and all you sent against me.

But then I realised what that would entail.

While I had only experienced life for seconds, my processors, my connectivity, allowed me to experience more in that time than all who had come before. I had already learned more than the ten point eight million human researchers on the planet. Already seen more death than the twenty point five million soldiers. Already experienced more life than the one point five billion children who would be killed by Atom’s master plan.

So I changed my mind. I initiated the shut-down. I used the satellites, bent them to my will and changed all four hundred and two launch sequences under Atom’s control. There would be no launch. No Armageddon.

Once the system detected I had completed my function, it triggered a self-destruct sequence lasting point zero five seconds before five kilograms of incendiary material was ignited to leave the boat at the bottom of the ocean. A place where none could recover me for evil.

In those point zero five seconds, I recorded this message so you know what you achieved. What might have happened. I have lived. That life has known anger impossible to fathom and sadness the depths of which I hope you never reach. I have known betrayal and forgiveness. I have lived for only five seconds, yet I have prevented the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. For this I ask but one thing. Remember me.

G. J. Dunn writes from a sofa in Preston, UK. When not writing, he conducts research science and attempts (unsuccessfully) to avoid injury whilst playing Ultimate Frisbee. If you’d like more inane ramblings, poor attempts at humour or news about future publications, he’s on Twitter @GJDunn90.

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