Steal the Spotlight Winner (Science Gone Wrong)

250 WORDS

At thirteen, Elmira Fitzpatrick first posted details of her robots online. The code for her cooperative systems was brilliant.

By fourteen, she was being wooed by toymakers, universities and governments.

Elmira refused them all.

She usually didn’t leave the house. She had panic attacks and was still mostly deaf from the drone strike that took her parents.

Elmira liked solitude and routine.

Every morning she watched the news with Auntie.

…drone strike this morning took out a military facility in…

Then Elmira ducked into the garage to work. ’Bots skittered over her like eager mice. Soon everything felt right again.

Gradually, she stopped posting her ideas. She lurked.

§

At fifteen Elmira decided to save humanity.

She’d do it with robots: Self-replicating. Evil-hearted. Hers.

First a week of conflict and then — Bam! With the right stimulus her machines would learn love.

Elmira thought we could learn peace and fellowship from example.

§

By sixteen she had everything in position.

Bots clambered from manholes, cannibalizing cars, phones and escalators — anything to increase their size and numbers. They clawed through windows, lurched against doors. Metal groaned and half-merged parts dragged.

We ran. We hid. They pursued, slow but tireless.

But in the seven-month-war they never learned love.

Some robots attempted helpfulness. Others locked onto a human and became obsessed.

Most just stopped, depowering in confusion, affection lost in loops of error.

§

Humanity did band together. Briefly.

It’s what we do. Fellowship is coded firmly into our hearts, awaiting the right stimulus to awaken.

Loreen Heneghan lives in the Pacific Northwest. She shares a home under a tremendous sweet gum tree with a tall husband, an odd dog, and two fearsome daughters.

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