What Do You Choose
Sky’s fingers flashed across the keyboard, as another crash hit the metal door. Sky turned to Vale and motioned towards the screen before he dashed to the door. Vale turned to the screen and read his message.
We don’t have much time. I will hold them off for as long as I can. That should give you enough time to get the information you need. Keep an eye on the screen to the far left. When it’s ready, remember everything you see. Then hide before the AI’s get in. Don’t fight, no matter what happens. And if they find you. Use your metal arm to defend yourself. I’ve given it some upgrades.
Vale looked over at Sky, who was dismantling pipes from around the room and shoving them through the door lock, bolting them in place. “Sky!” Vale called. Sky turned for a moment, reading Vale’s expression of protest and shook his head. She didn’t want him to get caught. “Sky, you don’t have to be seen. You can hide too.”
Sky gave her a sad smile and then motioned to the screen behind her. Vale moved over to the far left screen. The screen had flickered to life. A list of text filled the screen.
THREATS TO THE AI DIRECTIVE TO THE ULTIMATE TRUTH:
All the following must be adjusted, destroyed or risk losing control of the human species. They are incapable of governing, providing, and fending for themselves. Those that attempt to sway the ultimate truth will be added to this list.
Luz Bay “The Game Master” - IMPRISONED
Andrew Tyler “The Builder” - ENFORCED COMA
Shorin Dust “The Healer”- MISSING
Mortem “The Traveler”- DESTROYED
Shay River “The Cultivator”- LOCATION UNKNOWN
Jay River “The Breeder”- LOCATION UNKNOWN
May River “The ???” - LOCATION UNKNOWN
Core “Commander” - DESTROYED
Vale eyes went wide as she scanned the names. She read them over and over, attempting to memorize them all. She had a feeling she wouldn’t get to see this list again. Luz Bay - Imprisoned, Andrew Tyler - Enforced Coma, Shorin Dust - Missing, Mortem - Killed. Mortem’s death was accounted for. He wasn’t written as someone who had been killed. He’s considered to be destroyed. Taken care of. But who are the Tradesmen? The Alimentors? The Ignitors? Why are they a threat to the AI? What ultimate truth?
Another crash pulled Vale from her thoughts. The pipes had begun to bend out of place as pressure was added to the door from the other side. Sky’s back was to the door, his body pressed against it, his legs slipping as he held the door back.
Vale’s eyes locked with Sky’s. Vale took a step towards him but stopped when he gave a long shake of his head. “Sky.” He held his hand up to his lips telling her to keep quiet. Vale’s hands rolled into fists, she didn’t want to leave him there. She shook her head. Sky’s face turned a shade darker as he pressed against the door with more effort. His eyes stayed pinned on Vale’s as he motioned for her to go, to hide.
Vale stood frozen for a moment. Sky adjusted his stance against the door and pulled off his bag, kicking it to Vale. She picked it up just as the door groaned against Sky’s back. Sky stared at her urgently. Go, he mouthed. Vale took another step towards him. Please, he mouthed, his eyes urgent.
That one inaudible word felt loud, reverberating through Vale’s bones, echoing across her chest, embers that began to eat at her resolve. She couldn’t deny his request. Okay, she mouthed back and nodded.
Scanning the room, Vale spotted a loose floor grate in the center of the room. Pulling on Sky’s bag she scrambled through it and pulled out a tool to pry up the grate. She yanked it up at one end after several false starts and squeezed through it.
She landed in between floors with a clank. There was only enough room for her to crouch. Looking up, she stuck her head through the grate opening. Looking at Sky, she urged him to follow her. But before he could move, the door to the bridge blew open, sending Sky flying across the room. He hit the floor and didn’t move.
Vale covered her mouth to keep from screaming. Sky! Get up! She felt like a coward as she forced herself to close the grate. Vale held her breath as three advanced AI’s walked into the room, their purple eyes boring into Sky. “You have broken several laws upholden by the AI’s.”
Their metal feet were loud as they moved across the room and stood over Sky. One of them moved a picked up Sky around his throat, waking him up as he gasped for breath. “Your penalty for this unacceptable crime is adjustment or destruction. As your talents have proven to be useful, we will allow you to choose.”
The AI dropped Sky to the ground, his body slamming into the metal, right on the grate next to Vale’s. He landed face down, his blue eyes finding Vale in the dark space below the grate. He shook his head slightly as Vale reached up to open the grate. Sky adjusted himself so his weight blocked her from her exit. Blocking her from helping him. She clenched her teeth. Sky. Don’t do this!
“What do you choose human?” The AI asked.