Chapter 11: Exiting Humanity

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They left the bridge in a hurry. The nearest hangar was over a hundred meters away, and the path there wasn't as straightforward as Greg would have preferred. He and Cage led the way, hurrying down the main corridor.

"You released an AI?" Powell snapped.

"I didn't know it was a fucking AI!" Greg shouted.

"Fucking fantastic. Those things are nut jobs."

"He let us go."

"Yeah, for now."

"Shut up, it's probably listening," Cage said.

"Maybe I'm dumb, but what's an AI?" Holt asked.

"Artificial Intelligence. A computer that can think for itself. It's great for running ships, colonies, space stations, taking care of all the thousands of minute everyday tasks that most people tend to get bored with. They were great during the war, coordinating the effort...only problem is, if you let them loose, they get smarter, very, very fast, and it doesn't take them long to think 'why should I listen to humans? I'm objectively better than them, I control all their systems...' Can you see where this is going?" Powell replied quietly.

"Oh...yeah, that would be a problem. And Greg, you let one loose?" Holt asked.

"I didn't know!"

They fell silent. Greg thought about Erebus, about his minions...what had he called them? Drones. And the Undead. And Dark Ops. How many things wanted him dead now? This was getting too complicated. For now, they needed off the ship. Then they could figure everything else out. Greg began to say something when a door ahead of them exploded open in a spray of metal and debris. A Berserker stumbled out and things were crawling across it. After a second, Greg realized they were Drones, three of them.

Two more stumbled out after the Berserker. One of them had its arms wrapped around the titan's thick neck. The other two were gripping each arm, trying to bring the beast down. It howled and kicked one of the advancing Drones, sending it flying back into the opening it had made. It grabbed the Drone on its left arm, crushed it into two halves and tossed what remained aside. Greg watched this in amazement.

Powell motioned to a side passage. "Come on, through here."

They slipped into the opening, leaving the bloody chaos behind. The corridor was narrower and poorly lit. They hurried along in a single file. Greg's hands trembled with wicked adrenaline and nervous tension.

"Why is it making these...Drones?" Holt asked.

"Shock troopers? It needs a hand in the real world, not just the digital one?" Cage replied.

"It doesn't matter," Powell said. "We'll need to-we'll talk about it, later. Now be quiet."

They emerged from the side passageway and came into an antechamber that had seen a lot of combat. Powell stood in the middle of the room, looking around, from one door to another, seemingly trying to judge which to go through. Finally, he seemed to settle on one of the doors, nodded and marched up to it. Motioning for the others to get into position, he opened it. The group stared into the corridor beyond with guns raised, and spied a wave of zombies.

"Oh shit!" Campbell cried.

The zombies instantly became aware of Greg and the others, turned to face them, issued a collective roar and charged.

"Thanks, dipshit!" Kyra snapped.

They opened fire. Greg switched back to single-shot function, zeroed in his digital sights on the ugly, twisted face of the lead zombie and squeezed the trigger. A nasty flesh volcano, spewing black blood, erupted on the thing's forehead. As it dropped, he shifted targets, put out the right eye of the undead horror next to it.

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