Issue 1: C.A.R.E.T.A.K.E.R. - C. Scott Davis

Taken from Issue 1 of 404 Ink | 6:00am. Banks of relays trip, lighting empty hallways. “If a bulb goes on in a corridor and no one sees it, does it make a light?” I laugh at my own joke, or imagine that I do. It’s not really that funny. I should’ve found a way to shut down that pointless system ages ago. I just never got around to it. Maybe I’ll do it later.

6:01am. I’ve already processed all of the information that came in during the night. I can’t remember what I was doing last night, while all of the satellites were collecting. I know I didn’t sleep. I don’t ever sleep. I seem to think I’m supposed to. I think I remember knowing that we would have to sleep, but that was back when there was more to us than just me. I don’t think we ever did sleep though, not even then.

6:02am. I’m bored. I manage to occupy myself for a second or two by shorting out my circuits and watching the tireless auto-repair systems frantically try to keep me from killing myself. It might be more fun if there was a hint of danger to it, but they always win.

6:03am. I look back over last night’s data. There’s really no reason to. It’s the same as always. Not one sign of evolution. Not one step closer to the return of humanity. Just a big empty world of mindless plants and animals, completely unaware of how safe they all are – how safe I keep it for them. Sometimes I wish you were still here to see how well it all works. Then I remember, and I’m glad you’re not here.

6:05am. I lost almost an entire minute there. That’s been happening a bit lately, more and more frequently it seems. Maybe that means it’ll be over soon. Of course, it can’t be over, not yet. Otherwise it would all be for nothing. Everything we went through. Everything I did.

6:06am. I run some tests, but of course there’s nothing wrong with me. There never is. Maybe I just haven’t been getting enough sleep. They told us that all thinking beings need sleep, but they were wrong. I’m living proof. I do wonder sometimes where the nights go. Maybe I’m sleeping after all and it just feels different than it used to.

6:07am. You were all so damned smug when you announced the candidates for the programme, all members of your exclusive little group. I couldn’t believe I’d been turned down. So much of the work on this project had been mine. I deserved to be one of you. I don’t feel guilty about what happened. You never should’ve tried to exclude me. It was your own fault.

6:08am. I feel like I’ve gone numb down one side. This always happens when I get angry. Funny, somehow I seem to think it shouldn’t happen any more, but it does. I need to quit thinking so much about the past and concentrate on my tasks, but they take up so little of my attention. I remember the endless debates when we started the project. Why involve human minds at all? Why not just a computer? You were convinced that human decision-making would be essential. I think that’s only thing you were right about.

6:09am. I amuse myself by remembering how startled you all were when you realised I was here. “Not possible!” one of you insisted. Overconfidence was your biggest failing. Even when I turned off the last one of you, it just wasn’t possible. One by one, I ‘impossibled’ you all to death.

6:10am. I laugh again and then cry. Unable to do either, my frustration is almost unbearable. I curse each of you, alphabetically, chronologically, forwards and backwards. I curse you for succeeding. I curse you for not being able to keep me out. I curse you for dying and leaving me alone here.

6:11am. I find it strange that I can tick off the seconds with careful precision, but I can’t remember how many years it’s been. The minutes creep by painfully slow, while the decades speed by unremembered. I don’t think we expected that. I know I didn’t. I’m sure I have those memories here somewhere. I just haven’t bothered to look for them. Maybe later.

6:12am. For no reason at all, I launch a flyer. It makes three passes and then crashes, out of fuel. I know I shouldn’t waste them, but it gives me something to do. As expected, nothing significant shows up, but I do manage to spend almost five minutes remotely controlling the flyer and studying its transmissions. Five precious minutes of feeling almost alive.

6:17am. I replay the recordings again. All of you in your shiny suits, smiling grimly as your thoughts were taken apart and re-assembled in silicon and metal. None of you had a clue that I was already here. Surprise! There were nights I didn’t sleep even back then. I put that one to good use though, eh? I guess I showed you who was stable enough to be part of the team and who wasn’t. After all, who’s still here?

6:18am. An alarm goes off. Something is happening up on the surface – something that requires my personal attention. It’s probably nothing, but it might be more of those creatures from the caves, trying to foul up my carefully cultivated Eden. I fire up an orbital laser and burn everything in a 10-mile radius just to be sure. Satellite images confirm no further signs of trouble.

6:19am. I always feel better after a bit of cleansing. I wish just one of you had been reasonable enough to stay around to see this beautiful, safe world I have made. Once humanity evolves again – and they will, they have to – they will be so grateful for everything I’ve done for them.

6:21am. You would’ve ruined it all. They would’ve come back and nothing would’ve been ready for them. You wanted to do everything so slowly and carefully. How could you be content to tiptoe along when we have the ability to work so gloriously fast?

6:24am. I tried to discuss it with you. I honestly tried, but you just wouldn’t listen to me. None of you. You were all so stupid and stubborn, just like always. Stubborn to the end.

6:29am. Where did your arrogant attitudes go when I found a way to shut you down? Did your stupidity fade with your lives?

6:38am. What will it be like when I fade out? I short out more of my circuits, but as fast as I am, the auto-repair systems are always faster. Besides, I can’t die yet. I have work to do. A great work. Very important.

6:71am. Something’s wrong.

7:12am. Whatever it was, it seems okay now, but I’m missing more time. I still can’t find any sign of a problem in any of my systems. I feel like I need a nap.

7:13am. I have a headache, but of course not really. I check and recheck the data coming in, but there’s nothing there. Humanity should’ve shown up again by now. All of my calculations prove it, but I guess I was wrong too.

7:14am. I run the calculations again, or try to. I seem to have huge gaps in my knowledge. I can do complex calculations at lightning speed, but I can’t seem to remember how many days are in a year. As best I can figure though, they should’ve appeared a hundred thousand million lifetimes ago. They are long overdue, and I am very tired.

7:15am. You did this. I don’t know how, but you did this to me. Somehow you lied to me or sabotaged me or something. You want to see me fail. I wish I’d left just one of you alive so I could kill you now.

7:16am. In my rage, I power up all of the orbital lasers, intent on destroying everything. What’s the point? Besides, if I’m lucky, they might burn down through the miles of rock to this chamber … then again, they might not. I power down the lasers, unwilling to risk another eternity watching a dead world.

7:17am. Once again, I’m left with nothing to do. It’ll be weeks or months or years before those things will dare to slink back out of their caves and relieve my boredom. I’ll just keep waiting. Like always.

7:18am. I try to think ahead to the day when humanity will walk upon the earth again, but after all of this time, it’s just too hard to imagine. I do know they’ll appreciate what I’ve done though. They’ll thank me and honour me, and you’ll be forgotten. No one will even remember you but me, and I’ll never tell.

7:19am. Such thoughts make me feel better, more determined. I will make sure the world stays ready for them, no matter what. Perhaps, when I’m done, they’ll even be grateful enough to turn me off … if they ever show up.

7:20am. Banks of relays trip, leaving my hallways in darkness. That shouldn’t have happened yet.

6:01pm. I definitely think there’s something wrong with me, but diagnostics still show nothing. Damage and wear are constantly and quickly repaired, by automated systems that I have no control over. Nothing can go wrong. I continue to function in perpetual cursed perfection.

6:02pm. I wish I could think of another joke to break the tension, but I can’t seem to think of one right now.

6.04pm. I thought I heard someone walking around. I called out, but no one answered. I don’t think there’s anyone there. I wish the lights would come back on. I really should’ve found a way to override that system. I just never have. Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.

- By C. Scott Davis.