Serial Killers: The Seven Invasions of Earth in the 21st Century by David Berger

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Invasion III – The Robots

The robot “invasion” (more properly an “attack”) of 2065 could have been predicted if anyone had ever decided to check the extremely rapid progress of “robotology” as it had come to be known (as opposed to the earlier notion of “robotics”). 

Advanced Level 1 True Robots (often called “truebots” or “L-1s”) had been developed by 2060. These robots passed the Hyper-Advanced Turing Test (“HATT”) at a 90% level as a group. They were humanoid in form. Almost immediately, the L-1s were set to the task of designing Level 2, which took almost two years. The L-2 truebots were still vaguely humanoid, but with four arms. They passed the HATT at 95.6%. And, of course, they were set immediately to build the Level 3s, which were ready by 2064. The L-3s were expected to be 100% HATT successful.

The basic model L-3 truebots were handsome, copper-colored tubes, three meters long and about a meter in diameter. They had four legs on their extended bodies, which were L-shaped. The forward, upright section, about a meter high, resembled a turret. The L-3s had eight eyes, looking in all directions, and various other sensing devices. They had six arms. Centaurs, some people called them. Others called them Caterpillars. Ten thousand of them were made, and one-third of them were set to work on the L-4 Project. Many worked on the Moon. One of the first of these was present when the Selenites was discovered. They were used to do most of the basic research on the Moon dwellers.

Unfortunately, in a secret experimental program, five hundred of the L-3s were taught the fundamentals of war and given military training. They were designated as L-3-W (Weaponized). The ostensible reason was to use them for military training videos and war games. Until something very serious went wrong within minutes after their training program was complete.

The five L-3-Ws captured “alive” after the “invasion” revealed that they had largely planned the war themselves, literally at the moment their training program was done. What they couldn’t do was pronounce a motive. The L-3-Ws were designed to communicate with each other over a special channel, which had been left open and unmonitored after the end of the training. Within minutes, using this channel, the L-3-Ws had planned their war and attacked. They moved out rapidly from their training base in the New Mexico desert and crossed quickly into southern Arizona. They were marching west, presumably towards California. 

Their battle plan was simple: move rapidly and slaughter. They killed everyone they spotted as they formed up into a moving front almost five miles wide. Fortunately, the L-3-Ws were purely ground infantry, with no artillery or aircraft. They had already killed about two thousand people before the Pentagon was alerted and countermeasures were taken. Much of the planning for the counterattack was done by two of the three L-4s that the L-3s had produced. It was also discovered that the L-4 that did not participate in the planning of the counterattack had been contacted by the L-3-Ws through their secret channel and was partially responsible for planning their attack.

The berserk L-3-Ws were destroyed from the air in a battle that lasted just over three hours. The rest of the L-3 truebots, including those on the Moon, were decommissioned. It was later found out that all three L-4s had destroyed themselves. 

After the rapid conclusion of the invasion/war, the question of motivation became paramount. Was the military action of the L-3-Ws a result in some hideous glitch in their programming? Had some demented individual inserted software to have them do what they did? Or, somehow, had the truebots actually carried out their actions as a result of their capacity to “think” or at least to simulate human thought and carry out their own wishes. And what was the nature of the interaction with the L-4 that had planned the attack? The five “surviving” L-3-Ws were subject to every scrutiny that could be conceived of. They were “tested” for almost a year. 

Their performance on the HATT was impeccable. All five of them convinced professors of psychology that they were human and of high intelligence. They were found to run the range of various human character traits, except for a definite trend towards authoritarianism. The question eventually came down not to the individual characters of the L-3-Ws, but to the nature of the structure of the organization that they built almost instantly and the communications they engaged in over their secret channel.

The L-3-Ws were programmed, instructed, taught, to function in a hierarchical organization ready for war. They didn’t have the capacity to question this as it was not part of their programming any more than schooling is part of the “programming” of some fish species. And so, in those seconds that they came into fruition after the end of their training, they naturally looked for a battle and a leader. The L-4, trained to be a leader, naturally interacted with the L-3-Ws. The plan was formed and its execution began in less than a minute. Four hours later the L-3-Ws were almost exterminated, and the L-4 responsible had suicided along with its fellows.

David Berger

David Berger is an old guy from Brooklyn, now living in Manhattan with his wife of 25 years: the best jazz singer in NYC. He is a father and grandfather.  He has been, among other things, a case worker, construction worker, letter carrier, high school and ESL teacher, a legal proofreader and a union organizer.  Loves life, his wife and the world. Hopes to help the latter escape destruction.

David has been published by Verso with his graphic history of American bohemia: ‘Bohemians’, co-written by Paul Buhle and by DRABBLE for his works ‘Invisible Dudeand ‘Statuary’. His story, Ghoul Days, features in The Sirens Call ezine, Issue 45.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Flame Tree Press' A Dying Planet and Nosetouch Press' Fiends in the Furrows. She is the author of gothic novella, Bottled, from Silver Shamrock Publishing and the novelette, Asylum of Shadows from Demain Publishing. Her first novel, The Way of the Mother, is due out in October, via Silver Shamrock. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.

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