Content warnings: police violence, guns (this is not a cheerful story! I won’t be offended if you skip it!)
The AMPs are chasing me, slow but inexorable. I sprint for headquarters, past all the nearby police stations I scrapped for parts years ago. No one goes there but me, but the damn robots didn’t turn themselves back on and people are dying. I don’t have a lot of time to turn them off before they catch up.
The barricades slow me down, can’t leap them like I used to, but the culprit is still at the computers when I get in, staring blankly up at the screens while devastation reigns across them. A kid with his hair half slicked back like I used to wear mine, some brat out of my own mold trying to end the world again.
“You got any idea what you just did?” I ask him.
The kid spins around so fast he almost falls onto the dusty keyboards. “Save–saving the world,” he stutters, and then his eyes focus and narrow. “From you.”
I told people to salvage the AMPs like I did, but there’s a reason no one listened. Like it was my fault society collapsed.
“World look saved?” I point to the feeds he was just watching. The kid turns reluctantly, glancing frequently back at me.
“Well,” he hedges, then trails off. I step towards the computers to turn the AMPs back off, but the kid spins and pulls an ancient pistol on me and I stop.
“No!” he says. “It’s just–it’s gonna help, once things calm down. No raiders anymore, none of the Guard zombies, everything is gonna be quiet again.”
The kid can’t be more than sixteen, and I’ve had worse than a pistol aimed at me, so I keep it slow and calm. “Things are quieter now than they’ve been since long before you were born,” I tell him. The feeds are bracketed by windows that overlook the old barricades meant to keep people like me from getting in here; the bright red lamp-eyes of the coming AMPs waver through the dust beyond them, and after all these years, they still give me shivers. I’ve got my hands up anyway, but once they get close enough, they’re only going to give me one brief chance before they shoot.
They’d have shot the kid already if they could see him through the screens. Which would give me time to turn the AMPs off before they reach us, but I want us both out of here alive.
The kid hasn’t even noticed them yet. “Grandpa was in the Guard, and he said–“
“Grandpa ever tell you why all his friends are zombies now?” I ask, keeping half an eye on those red lights.
“You turned off all their implants,” he accuses.
“You ever ask why they had implants in the first place? Or why turning ’em off left them like that?” I pause, pointedly. “No free will?”
He shifts in place. “Well what about the raiders?“
“I’m not saying there aren’t dangerous people out there,” I tell him slowly, “but the AMPs sure aren’t the answer. Put it down before they see you.”
That gets the kid to react, one half-step to get at the window before he thinks the better of it. He keeps the gun more or less pointed at me. It shakes.
“I’m helping them,” he says, like he’s really trying to mean it, but he’s seen enough of the feeds to get him scared.
“You’re trespassing,” I tell him, “with a gun.”
The AMPs outside flash red and blue and the first warning horn blares. I drop immediately and the kid doesn’t seem to know where to point the gun anymore, looking between me and the feeds and the broken windows that the AMPs will be climbing through any second now.
“We could–we could reprogram them,” he says weakly.
“No amount of code is gonna make a bunch of heavily armed robots less dangerous,” I hiss from the floor. “Put it down and I can turn ’em off before they kill us.”
“Down, kid!” I wave frantically to him as the flashing and the clunking footsteps come up to the first window. The kid drops the gun and it clatters to the floor as the first AMP folds in through the window. I lunge up for the computers–ow my knees–and the second horn blares. Hands on the keyboard. A bang–my leg jerks. I hit the enter key before the pain hits.
I collapse as gracelessly as the deactivated AMPs, one of them inside with us and three now slumped in the windows. We breathe, me and the kid.
“Damn,” he sighs eventually, bending over me. “You’re gonna live, right? They didn’t–“
“I will,” I manage to wheeze out. “Lotta others won’t.” It feels like one of the “nonlethal” rounds–now that’s nostalgic–but I’d be surprised if I wasn’t bleeding anyway at this range. I sit up slow and careful to look while the kid cranes up at the black screens, the feeds shut down with the AMPs. I want to say something about how to live around what you’ve done, but he’s old enough, as old as I was. He’ll figure it out on his own.
He’s seen now why I turned them off.