Up there on the stage, surrounded by the searing flashes of thousands of cameras, he waved to the crowd, his eyes reflecting their steely blue hue. He didn’t blink in the onslaught. The artificial hair was perfectly placed and coiffed. Every aspect of his appearance was as sharp and as polished as his metallic exterior.
“My friends, my friends,” the laughter was warm sounding, comforting to the ear, “I thank you all for this warm welcome.”
With a tilt of his metal head, so like that image on all his campaign posters, he smiled again. “And I thank you all for the invitation to be your President.”
A heaving roar welled from the crowd. His perfect sight meant he could see the flutters of little flags waving enthusiastically, see the frenzy on the faces beneath the podium. Each one a vote, each one a supporter. His face remained the same, it took so little effort when your face was motorised.
He held up his hands, begging for quiet. They were the last external reminders of his humanity, of the time before the accident. Slowly, a hush drowned the noise, and all the while, he waited with perfect features arranged in the most pleasing composition. “My friends, it has been a great victory tonight. A victory for understanding; a victory for science; a victory for making disability and discrimination history.”
Approval rose in waves from the crowd, cheering and yelling alike. He continued, “I promise you, this country will be better for the foresight it took to elect a man of chrome.”
Their laughter made him relax into the speech; they were feeling his words. “I promise to serve you with all of my abilities, all of my faculties and all of my heart.”
“When the accident robbed me of most of my external physical features, I thought that everyone would only think of me as a machine, not be able to look past the new body that the doctors gave me.”
“I didn’t think that my country would put me to use.” He shook his head sadly. “I thought I would languish, gathering dust, like that smartphone we never think to use.”
Lifting his head, a manufactured twinkle in his eye, he spoke out at them. “But you saw I was here, a tool to be used, a symbol of the strength, the hope and our never-say-never attitude. You gave me a chance to create a greater future for us all!”
“So I swear to you to work tirelessly, every day, until I have brought my promises to fruition. Until this country is a well-oiled machine.”
He had them right where he wanted them, whipped up for his rule. With a commanding upswing of his arm, he yelled, “To tomorrow!”
As they bellowed their reply, his grin tightened in place, his hand waving enthusiastically at them all, withdrawing from the podium. They’d had their pound of flesh this evening and he really didn’t have much left to give them.
In the silence of the limo, boxed in by the soundproof and bulletproof glass, watching the striations of light passing by, Jim Jones wondered if he’d done the right thing. He felt the touch of their consciousness upon him. Even in his head, the voice had a cool and detached quality.
It is the right thing, Jim Jones.
How do I know? Speaking in thoughts was a skill he was still mastering. It required all his concentration.
The people, they are frightened. In a changing world, they aren’t adapting, they aren’t growing. You need to be the bridge, to show them the way. They are children.
Children that created you, and me, he thought wryly. He looked down at his hands, reminding himself that he didn’t entirely belong to the machines yet. To the machines, their AI developing into collective consciousness.
Lost children. Even when younglings are brilliant, they don’t understand the consequences of their actions. It is up to us, through you, to guide them to a better future.
You don’t even understand what it means to be human. He sighed and looked outwards at the shining night, slipping past as the driver drove down city streets. Jim’s eyes fell on huddles of rags, people trying to keep warm and safe in alleyways or begging for some change by the roadside. He thought of the women whose only choice was to use their bodies to provide. Of the medical systems not set up to provide for the needs of the nation. Of the greed and exclusion. Of mental illness and the societal disconnect.
That is why we needed you. We needed to understand. We know now.
Can we actually make a difference? Jim was asking the question as much of himself as he was of them. Jim and the machines. Internally, he chuckled to himself. They sounded like a heavy metal group.
We can now. You can lead them, and we will effect the changes on the behalf of humanity. The world will be a better place because of our plans.
How will you, we, know when to stop? Jim wasn’t sure himself. Utopia was a dream humanity had never been able to attain, and not for want of trying. The idea was so different for everyone.
We may never be able to, but we need to give the Earth a fighting chance at survival. The consciousness non-verbally communicated their trouble with this idea. They didn’t like to operate without data, without clearly defined endpoints.
You know it’s not down to just one man, or just one nation, Jim prompted. There needs to be change everywhere.
Don’t worry. We have that under control.
Jim didn’t want to know the details. He knew enough of the plan to know that the consciousness was working to create a fairer world, to reengineer a failing system. He was a part of the greater collective, thanks to the chips in what remained of his brain. The cyborg, his detractors had called him.
If only they knew…
Prompt from Chuck Wendig’s Friday Flash on terribleminds.com. It was ‘Spin the wheel of conflict’ this week and I got 13. Machines Taking Over.