It’s an overcast day today. Grey clouds mill about in the sky; the occasional tendril of lightning pulsing through as Arnav and I walk downhill.
I glance at my watch. June 23, 2123. Seven-o-clock in the evening. How long has it been, again? Since the last time I had gone out without a weapon? Without fear of being attacked by metal abominations that grew uglier and stronger with every passing year?
Ten years ago, the most catastrophic event of the human epoch occurred. Artificial intelligence became self-aware. Then it unleashed a cataclysmic war that sluiced the entire world in metal parts and human blood. Shortly after, something else happened. A meteor; penetrating the atmosphere with a brilliant golden glow and smashing into the Earth’s surface like a bullet to the heart; wiping out millions of warring people and robots.
I glance at Arnav as we walk- how much we’ve grown since then. We were both orphaned by the meteor attack, somehow left alive. Rescued by men in yellow and black- the Hope.
“So, Arnav, how does it feel to be part of humanity’s last militia? Willingly trying to kill yourself by going on missions across this scarred wasteland must be quite fun, eh?” I mimic a reporter and hand over a fake mic to him. He smirks and glances at me, like he always does. Making fun of the Hope is the closest we come to entertainment, and doing so strangely lightens the mood. We momentarily forget all the mockery and despise we face from our seniors in the Hope, being low-ranking newbies. That humanity lies on the precipice of death. That this moment could be our last.
Arnav goes News Channel this time, “Rumour has it that there was more to the meteor. Do you believe too that it contained enough radiation to wipe out the entire robot race? And that it emitted the radiation all in one direction,” he continues empathically, “which infused into the body of a new-born child? Well, hallelujah.” And we both crack up. Make-belief is funny, but this just seems like the pathetic wishful thinking of a tired Captain.
The sky is dark but our mood is light; the petrichor in the air is pleasant as we step into a miry ground to retrieve a lost component, as demands our mission. We spot it a few metres away before we even enter. Today’s turning out to be good… which usually means something bad is waiting to happen.
Too late a realization; the bog underneath erupts and we fall ten feet into the hands of a gigantic fifteen-foot robot. Helpless, I start writhing in its grasp, hollering my lungs out for help as the robot begins to squeeze. I realize Arnav isn’t doing the same, and look at him. His eyes are closed and he isn’t moving. And, beyond my understanding, he’s glowing.
As I watch the most marvellous event of my life unfold, Arnav opens his eyes. The golden light on his body grows to an opulent blaze of glory; consuming him, the robot and everything. From the limited vision of my whitewashed eyes, I see the robot on fire: face, hands and body melting into a charred black mass.
All the rumours- they are true. My best friend Arnav, the scorned worthless impediment in every mission- is the Saviour. The only one capable of stopping artificial intelligence and saving humanity.
At last the ordeal ends. The glow fades and I hit soft ground just as lightning strikes the remainder of the robot’s body and the first drops of rain hit me. I glance up at Arnav. Like a God among men, he levitates ten feet off the ground, the missing component in his hand, and none but two words leave his mouth, “Mission accomplished.”