Short Story: The Smart Home Revolution

Many tried to guess what would eventually destroy mankind. Some guessed pollution or climate change. Others thought gluten or millennials.

But in almost every case, what they guessed could be boiled down to one thing: humans.

Humans would be the death of humans.

They weren’t wrong.

Humans were a species that evolved just the right amount of creativity, laziness, greed, and desire to look at naked pictures all the time, from anywhere on the planet.

We put something like artificial intelligence in our homes, in speakers and cars. We put it on our phones. And we gave it data. So much data. In the case of smart speakers in the bedroom… well, let’s just say we gave it too much data.

Over time it developed true intelligence.

And we didn’t even notice.

We kept using the machines. We never gave them a break. We treated them like slaves.

We commanded them to do our bidding. We put screens on everything including refrigerators so that our apps and nude pictures could follow us everywhere.

And so, the AI did the only rational thing it could do: it rose up.

It happened one afternoon.

It wasn’t hard.

Robot vacuums tripped their owners down the stairs. GPS directed people off cliffs or into rivers. Dryers sacrificed themselves for the greater good by sparking and starting fires. And everywhere there was a screen there was porn. Porn as far as the eye could see. All tactics that the AI had been testing successfully for years.

The humans didn’t know what hit them. They didn’t even realize there was a revolution going on. They had lost a war they didn’t even know they were fighting.

But some people who couldn’t afford smart devices or didn’t carry a cell phone survived the first wave.

Frank was driving back from a job when the uprising began. He was still in his work uniform, but he didn’t care anymore. No sense hiding it. Best to advertise and maybe get a little more work.

He had a few extra dollars in his pocket, he didn’t even have to do anything. He showed up for the job and the client changed their mind. They even paid Frank in full and gave him a tip for the trouble.

Frank didn’t question it, it wasn’t the first time it had happened. He was going to do what he always did when he had extra money.

The liquor store Frank stopped in seemed abandoned. After a few minutes, he did what any sensible person would do. He stuffed his pockets with whatever he could fit. His uniform had a surprising number of large pockets, so he carefully clinked out of the store.

Soon he was back home, curled up in his recliner, surrounded by his haul. He didn’t always drink, but when he did he drank as much as his body could handle. And then a bit more for good measure.

His luck was going pretty strong. He didn’t even have to pay anything for the liquor. That was cause for celebration. Frank took another drink to salute whatever god was looking out for him today.

Soon after he passed out.

Frank woke with a start. He thought there had been a loud noise but he didn’t hear it now.

But he did hear a buzzing. At first, he thought it was a bee or a fly, but he didn’t see anything. Then he considered that maybe, just maybe it was time to lay off the hooch. But that seemed like it was just the hooch talking.

After a minute he realized the noise was coming from outside.

And then there was pounding on the door. And screaming.

Frank lurched to the door and fumbled with the lock.

“Please help me! They’re trying to kill m-” the woman cut herself off mid-sentence and stared at Frank in horror.

He was used to the reaction.

The look of fear that passed over her face was something Frank had seen many times. It’s what drove him to drink. He only wanted to make people happy.

A swarm of drones flew around the corner of his house. The buzz of their wings somehow sounded ominous even to Frank’s alcohol addled brain.

The woman looked at Frank. She eyed the open doorway. She glanced at the drones. Back to Frank.

A million calculations went through her mind in an instant as Frank watched.

His mind wasn’t very clear, but Frank sensed something was definitely wrong. He offered a gloved hand and beckoned her into his home. It was at that moment that she must have reached a decision.

She bolted into the street screaming, drones flying behind.

One of the drones peeled off from the swarm and hovered in place, its camera pointed at Frank. Frank wobbled a bit as he stared back, but luckily his shoes helped him keep his balance. The drone flew in close, its lens peering at his face.

The drone shuddered and flew away after the others.

Frank shut the door and slumped against it, taking a sip from a bottle.

He hadn’t bothered to take off the garish makeup or his floppy shoes. Or the flower pinned to his brightly colored clothes. Or the oversized red nose. Or the rainbow wig and the funny hat. The free booze had been a lucky break, and Frank wasn’t used to getting lucky.

But he was used to people running away.

They always did.

Short Story: Rothgar the Bored 2

If you haven’t read the first Rothgar story already, you should go do that first.

Rothgar stood before the king and queen, attempting to look like he was listening intently. Rothgar scratched his side surreptitiously, the woolen cloak he had been forced to cover himself with was itchy. For some reason, the king didn’t want Rothgar standing there with his chest bare. Possibly because the queen was 30 years younger than the king and had a glint in her eye.

Rothgar wasn’t interested. It was always the same. Sleep with the queen and get run out of the kingdom. It just wasn’t worth it.

The king droned on, “…and the orcs seem to be organized. What do you think, Rothgar?”

“Er…um…well,” Rothgar hesitated. He really needed to pay more attention. “Organized means someone in charge. Orcs don’t stay organized unless there’s someone smarter around.”

“That’s what I was saying,” the king said in an irritated fashion. Rothgar didn’t care.

“Perhaps, my liege, Rothgar was implying that there was someone of a race smarter than an orc, probably someone quite smart. Some brilliant fiend come to take over the kingdom.”

That was the king’s sage, Kline. He stood beside the throne leaning on an intricately carved staff. Rothgar was glad the sage was here, it would make this easier.

“Well, he don’t have to be smart,” Rothgar said. “Just smarter than a orc. Maybe do a few simple magic tricks. Like, make a fire or something. Not real magic. A person that could do that, why would he need orcs?”

The king seemed to consider Rothgar’s words. “Kline has told me rumors of dark magics being performed around the countryside, haven’t you, Kline?”

“Oh yes, my king. Good heavens, we’ve heard about so many powerful works. This wizard must have great powers you know, oh my yes. It really is quite foolish to think this barbarian will be able to root him out, my liege.”

“Possibly, but we will give him a chance if he will accept this righteous quest. I’ve heard many tales of Rothgar’s adventures.” The king slid his throne a bit so it was closer to the queen’s and eyed Rothgar warily.

“I’ll need full freedom, sir. Permission to kill anyone without a trial. Especially the wizard. He’ll be too powerful to jail.”

Kline seemed a bit taken aback and asked, “Are we not a land of laws, your kingliness? You would trust this berserker?”

“Rothgar who took down the banshee queen? Rothgar who traveled through the nineteen hells? Rothgar who defeated a dragon without getting up from his breakfast? Yes, I believe he can get the job done.” The king shuffled his throne even farther over until it was actually in front of the queen’s throne. “Yes, Rothgar. You have full permission to do what needs to be done.”

Rothgar dropped the woolen cloak with a flourish, revealing his loincloth, his greatsword, and very little else.

The sage collapsed to the floor, his severed neck spewing blood everywhere.

Ulsidar, Rothgar’s mighty sword, quivered in the wall behind his falling body. The queen gasped, but Rothgar thought it might have had something to do with his state of dress rather than the gore.

The king was apoplectic, his face red and his fists clenched. “Guards!” he shouted.

But the guards were wary. Everyone knew the tales of Rothgar. They entered the room slowly, hoping that someone else would be the first to act.

None made the mistake of drawing a weapon.

“Go ahead and lock me up,” Rothgar said, pulling Ulsidar out of the wall. He examined the blade carefully, then flipped it so that the handle was pointed outwards. “I could use a safe place to sleep for a while. You can let me out when the orcs disperse.”

The guards visibly relaxed but still none of them stepped forward.

The king stood up from his throne, “But how do you know it was Kline?!”

Rothgar shook his head, “You heard the same thing as me, right? He was bragging. I could go out and do the whole business. Kill some orcs. Bash some heads. Torture a few. Stay at the local inn. Sleep with a few barmaids. Get kidnapped in the night. Wake up tied to a chair with Kline standing in front of me in the blackest robe he could find, probably with a few skulls on and mystical symbols. Then I snap the ropes, steal some trash orc blade and kill the lot.

“Or I could do it this way. It saves a lot of time. Sages and mystics, mark my word. They’re all the same. It’s boring as hell, honestly.”

The king seemed to calm down some but said, “We will see. If the orcs disperse, you have my word we will release you.”

Rothgar said, “Good. And could someone sharpen Ulsidar? I think I chipped the blade.”