The Robocaust

I once bought a novel, Robopocalypse (2011) by Daniel H. Wilson, at an airport bookstore for a fast, time-killing read and while I wasn’t totally disappointed with it, it left me once again tackling the question about this robocalypse that everyone is fearful about.

As for the book itself…

It’s about robots taking over the world.

The narrative unfolds via the use of archives of electronic media recordings chronicling the fall of human civilization at the hands of this belligerent AI named, Archos R-14. Each chapter is or tries to be inventive in finding a unique point of view, ie surveillance cameras, blogs written by characters, making the book perfect for killing time on long flights, vacation interludes, stopovers. This format, linked short stories from different perspectives, allow the reader to pick up the novel at any time without losing too much of the flow. It’s a mindless activity facilitated by minimal creativeness or inspiration within the pages.

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The chief nemesis was a major letdown. Archos felt bland, a cliche of all the other cliches before it. When one is familiar with other maligned A.I’s like Proteus (Demon Seed by ‎Dean Koontz) and Bomb #20 (Dark Star by John Carpenter) and the “the Zookeeper” from (Ghostwritten by ‎David Mitchell), yeah and of course HAL, and how can I forget the robots and AI’s that populated the (Fred Saberhagen’s Berzerker series), one can’t help but feel that a big opportunity was lost here. I found Archos predictable and boring and somewhat unthreatening. Which is sad, because the rest of the writing here was otherwise fun and enjoyable, and the premise even more so.

Image result for Bomb #20 (Dark Star
Bomb 20 – Dark Star (1974)

Same with all the robots. Sure they were all kinda spooky and frightening acting as representations of Archos but none had their own personality. Robots should have personality; even the dodgy B1 battle droids from The Phantom Menace possessed some personality. Another missed opportunity. As for the human character’s; the testimonies and transcripts felt a little unnatural.

Still, a good airport novel, and even though it was the only scifi book in the airport newsstand it was worth the buy.

Four Steps from Robogeddon

So an artificial intelligence wants to wipe out human civilisation. I believe this is highly unlikely that such an entity would go down this path, but let’s just say Archos did decide to do it. The book describes, in great detail, how it would instigate and execute such an eradication program. But before we even get to that stage, what technological environment would Archos R-14 require to be able to embark on such an operation

For any robocaust to occur, the following parameters must be met before some ‘sentient’ artificial intelligence can instigate the rise of machines.


An artificial intelligence must be able to modify or reprogram itself, and keep this ability and subsequent modifications secret or hidden from human engineers.

Proliferation & Dependence

The communication and operating system within the global infrastructure must be unified. Every chipset must run on the same platform that the artificial intelligence can access. Every single human network must depend on this universal platform.

Backdoor Mesh

The artificial intelligence must be able to create backdoor access into every human system, integrate it into its own communications mesh, and be able to conceal this from humanity.

Design and Production

The artificial intelligence must have overwhelming control over design and production. It must create generations of machines with hidden capacities and dupe humans into using them and the new systems they operate in.

It will be our laziness that will ultimately allow such a malevolent cyber-entity to get away with such an operation. Our desire to automate everything and future economic model will push us towards such a scenario.

We won’t only be handing over physical labour to these things, but also our creativity. Algorithms will be able to design and create independently. They will be designing new (but bland) architecture, products; they will also be able to write books :(.

In the begining, we will be specifying to these artificial creatives what we need and want.

But in the end, with algorithms already telling us what news, food, travel or content we want, constantly telling us ‘you might like this… ‘ and getting it right, then all human labour will vanish into history, forcing our political/economic paradigm to evolved to accommodate this new state of humanity.

Under these conditions, Archos R-14 can achieve its goals. Or at least cause a major extinction-level headache.

Year of the Dog

Year of the Dog

An excerpt from the book “The Blood Ring.”

“I’m gonna feed you to the dogs,” said Fred Greenway brandishing a cleaver. He brought it down and cut into the young punk’s thigh.

Doctor Gus flinched even though he’d seen this a hundred times. Having taken a Lava pill, his brain perceived the high-def images on the screen as real. The narco-psychotic was formulated to assist with augmented reality training. Mindject users take the drug to help them form neurological pathways inside their head so they can perceive artificial imagery or sound. Ingested without a mindjector, Lava forced visceral emotions to merge with one’s logic. The end result is exhilarating for some users, terrifying for others.

Year of the Dog

“Piece by piece,” growled Fred, the self-styled actor. Dogs barked in the background.

The sequence ended mid-murder, cutting to Fred’s point of view walking through a crowd of partygoers. Every shopfront he passed displayed sordid videos of overt erotica. Doctor Gus knew the location, even when he saw this for the first time.

Robot sex alley.

The place to go if one wanted to experience lovemaking with something that was not quite human. Doctor Gus had frequented these vendors in the past and also owns a second generation sexbot. The newer version still held his fascination. Each upgrade went a step further towards breaking the uncanny valley curse.

Fred entered one of the shops. A female humanoid approached him and spoke, “I’ll need a man for sex. I am ready to be your partner. I guarantee hot sex. I like doing a blowjob.”

“Where’s Kenny?” growled Fred.

The sexbot’s face reacted, programmed to mimic being confused, yet coming across as distraught.

‘How can I help you, buddy?” said a short, plump techno-pimp who’d walked up to the camera.

“Where’s Kenny?”

“No Kenny here, bud.”

Fred reached out and grabbed the guy, bringing down a baton onto the techno-pimp’s head. The sexbot stepped in and shielded the stunned guy from the next blow with its arm. The baton smashed the limb, bending it into a right angle. Fred again struck the sexbot on the temple, sending out a spray of orange fluid, splattering the techno-pimp. An oily substance, Doctor Gus recalled, circulated via microtubes within the rubber epidermis to give warmth and colour to the fake humans. The sexbot’s reaction, the way it instinctively moved to protect a human being, intrigued Doctor Gus. Was it programmed? Or did it respond under its own volition? He could not tell, even after repeat viewings. This video was the only evidence to ever show such behaviour.

The dogs barked again but were nowhere be seen. Doctor Gus knew those familiar canines.

Cinderblock and Madness.

He wondered what had gotten his pups all roused up. When the barking persisted Doctor Gus switched off the screen and headed out into his small backyard. His hip-high Labrador Retriever whined, while his Staffordshire Bull Terrier barked up a relentless frenzy, killing his sore ears, “Shut up! Fucking mongrels.” His loud and coarse voice shut up the boisterous dogs but their alertness remained.

Over the fence, he spotted a parked sedan, a dark green senator. When he saw the Psychomax fugitive pacing behind it, panic quelled a short-lived glee. He knew he had no choice but the hand this guy over to the Black Dragons. Yet, doing so also threatened his standing with the Blood Ring. He began to regret springing this guy out of the facility.

“That friend of yours brought me a lot of trouble,” said Doctor Gus after he leashed the dogs and exited from the back gate.

“What friend?” said the angry-looking fugitive infamous for his role as the Bad Samaritan.

“What am I bloody supposed to do now? Is your friend. You know, I can’t sleep at night anymore. Shit, I ‘ate been hassled. Look at you, you’re not even concerned.” Doctor Gus stepped back, pulling his over-excited dogs away from the increasingly distraught fugitive. He felt he was in over his head, especially if the Black Dragons were involved. He now officially regretted taking on this particular Blood Ring assignment. Doctor Gus could have remained an acolyte indefinitely, selling and distributing Lava and other narco-psychedelics to all the organization’s secretive members, earning good dash. Yet the promise of ascension into the darker echelons of the cabal hooked him. These lucrative assignments were given to the topmost rated acolytes. The ranking, measured in loyalty, plus the infamy of The Bad Samaritan, swayed him to take on the mission. Doctor Gus perceived little risk at the time. When Steve Bastione and his slumfucker companion got involved, his mission took on a whole new complexion.

“I need a place to stay,” said the fugitive, panicky and irate.

“Fuck no,” said Doctor Gus. “Don’t come here? Don’t come anywhere near my place. How the hell did you find me?” With his anonymity blown, only one option presented itself. Appease the Black Dragons.

The Valeria Coast gang were new to the game while their main competitors, the Tatars, had abandoned the drug trade for snuff. The north shore gang filled the void left by the Tatars, however, the Black Dragons ended up dominating a fading industry. the legalisation of drugs put a huge dent in their business model, so the gang was always seeking new revenue streams. Doctor Gus figured it a good ploy to get them onside. If the Blood Ring were to go to war against the Tatars, having affiliations with a large gang made sense. He felt convinced the ring members would go for it. He suspected Bastione would get on board, he could see the envious greed in his eyes.

So what to do with this guy?

“You promised us sanctuary,” said the Bad Samaritan.

Doctor Gus looked at the withered man. He couldn’t decide whether to feel pity or disappointment. He expected some darkly charismatic auteur. Inside the Psychomax he showed promise, but when it came to shooting some basic guttersnuff, the genuine and notorious Bad Samaritan was all clumsy, pedestrian, and embarrassingly awkward.

Times have changed, he thought. Plus the diet of psycho drugs over four years didn’t help the man. “Here’s a news flash. You’re out. You’re on your own. That’s how it is. If you wanna go back to the Psychmax, it up to you. You wanna go back?”


“Then get the fuck away from me.” When the moment was right, Doctor Gus would feed him to Bastione to quench his thirst for retribution. Infamous or not, The Bad Samaritan was not his most favourite among the Forbidden Ten snuff films. Instead, Doctor Gus held The Year of the Dog in the highest esteem.

“You helped us get out,” whined the Bad Samaritan. “We produced the video together. We gave you an accurate rendition of The Bad Samaritan. I thought we were going to do this thing. We did our part. You do your part. You made money from this.”

I’m gonna feed you to the dogs, thought Doctor Gus, recalling a line from the high-octane snuff movie about a vigilante who kills gang members one by one, in uniquely gruesome fashions. When software designer, Fred Greenway, strapped on a Headshot G5 and headed down to South Valley to murder him some Tatars, he created what Doctor Gus believes, the most ethereal orgy of violence out there. Shot entire from a first-person point of view, Greenway hunts down and corners the culprits responsible for his daughter’s death in an epic home-made snuff production. Greenway fights, maims, bludgeons, kills, mutilates, dismembers twenty-eight targets in all, capturing all on video, then editing and publishing it to the masses. The scene where he feeds a well-heeled gangster to a pack of wild dogs stands out in Doctor Gus’s memory. Funny, brutal and grotesque, and all too real. “I made nothing. What you delivered wasn’t any good. Nobody liked it. Just stay away from me.”

The man’s face changed. “Bullshit! You lie. You sold my work to the Blood Ring and I want my money. I want in with that group. I want in, you understand?”

Doctor Gus began to feel a slight pity for the deranged man. “No such thing. The Blood Ring doesn’t exist in the way dat ya think, bro. It’s all a big fuckin’ lie we made up that shit to scare the Tatar boys, get them thinking they’re up against some hardcore organisation. They’ve been poaching our snuff business, that’s all. Now if you wanna play with these fuckers, go ahead. You might even like the skin art they dish out as punishment. It hurts, but fuck me, it looks great on a tha little screens.”

The Bad Samaritan went quiet, spending a half minute in deep contemplation, then said, “What do I do with this guy?” The psycho opened up the boot revealing a man, tied up and gagged, struggled to get free, presenting Doctor Gus with another layer of complexity.

“I don’t give a fuck, mate?”

“If I get caught, I am going to rat you out, expose you for what you are.”

“Are you serious? You are a fucking demented and certified idiot. You don’t even know who I am? And what I can do to you. Be very careful, asshole. Inside that head of yours, you believe you are this force of nature, something that should be reckoned with. No, you are absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. You are a powerless piece of shit. A non-entity. A fuckin’ nobody. Ask Francoise, he’ll tell ya. Ask him. Where is he? Francoise! Where are you? Tell this dickhead how inconsequential he is. Francoise, tell him, please tell him. Come on, where are you.” Doctor Gus turned and walked away, pulling his dogs with him.

“I know who you are. I found you, remember.”

Doctor Gus laughed and yelled, “Francoise, come and tell this idiot.”

I’m gonna have to feed you to the dogs, Doctor Gus thought and chuckled at the irony.

The Blood Ring
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Off Shore

This flash fiction piece took out the inaugural Punk Out: Wattpunk Contests and Prompt challenge.

Flying sharks? In the middle of the Bass Strait, the crew of an oil rig rescue a mysterious man. When the airborne killer- beasts arrive, there is no time for questions.

When the electrical generator housing got crushed, the power ceased, killing the lights and the offshore installation manager’s hope of sending a warning out to the other drilling platforms.

“There’s a satellite phone in my quarters,” said Owen Browne, the fear was detectable in his voice.

Les Dickson knew that the fear was well-founded. “One of those creatures is still down there. Want to end up like Chadsworth?” He struggled to shake away the image from his mind; those triangular upper teeth biting through her torso, the torrent of blood. Shannon Chadsworth didn’t stand a chance when that monster torpedoed into the dormitory, slapping its leathery bat-like wings against the steel floor and snapping its razor-toothed mouth around until it snatched the second mate by the pelvis. The winged shark-beast wiggled and chewed the screaming women effortlessly like it knew some trick on how to eat hands-free.

“We need to get to the next platform,” Dickson said as he crawled along the deck towards Doctor Ambrisian, who was huddled under the bulkhead.

Browne, the facility’s operations engineer, followed. “Hopefully, they haven’t been attacked as well.”

Dickson reached out and grabbed Ambrisian by the shoulder, pulling the strange scientist closer. “Now, I want you to explain to me what these things are.”

A few hours earlier, the helicopter pilot, heading back from the Kipper Oil Platform, spotted a man drifting in the cold waters of the Bass Strait. A rescue party brought him back, and when questioned, revealed only a tranche of information, mostly gibberish.

Ribonucleic acids.


Alternate timelines.

The man sounded insane, yet appeared resoundingly focussed.

Wearing a filthy white blouse under a brocade vest, Ambrisian looked up at Dickson and said, “That’s not important. What is important is that they are spawning in a nest somewhere out there. Their gestation period is fast. Their metabolism is fast. Their learning curve is fast. We have to destroy the nest.”

“Where is this nest?” asked Browne.

“Laboratory vats inside my research vessel. The Solarcus sank just out over the continental shelf, due south from here.”

“Sank? How?”

The man frowned, “We scuttled it. As soon as the first batch of Elasmopterons proved to be…” A horrendous scream cut him off, followed a powerful thud. “We need to get back and warn your people.”

“You created these sky sharks?” Dickson’s anger boiled, as he was beginning to suspect the man, with the mechanical copper watch and quaint beard, may be genuine, impossible as it may be.

Ambrisian replied, “Once the Elasmopterons figure out that there’s a coast full of carbohydrate snacks, they’ll be nothing stopping them.”

Through clenched teeth, Dickson said, “Then let’s get movin’.”

The three men scuttled toward the upper decks. Bloody guts and eviscerated humans littered the gangway. A dark cloud dominated the sky, sending down a thick drizzle. Dickson looked up and spotted the colony of bat monsters descending from the eastern heavens. With wingspans twice as long as their shark-tailed bodies, they looked more like flying foxes. Only when these beasts flew close did they resemble bull sharks. A hundred metres out, they folded their wings and dove into the sea. They went in and out, sailing across the platform, taking out anybody unlucky enough to have decided that that was a good moment to make a dash for the red Sikorsky S-76C waiting on the helipad.

Browne launched his arms into the air and waved at the helicopter pilot. Before Dickson can stop him, a sky shark corrected its course and snapped up Browne by the head, sending his body airborne. Mid-flight, the monster thrashed until it severed off the torso.

“We gotta go,” screamed Ambrisian.

Dickson looked at the waving pilot inside the Sikorsky. He ran, pre-empting Ambrisian. They both sprinted up the gangway to the helipad. When they got to the helicopter they were greeted with, “What the fuck is this shit?” The pilot’s terror added to the fear-induced mental paralysis Dickson felt.

“Get us in the air,” yelled Dickson.

The engines groaned to life. “Where?” said the pilot.

“Kingfish B.”

The pilot nodded and pulled the throttle. The blades above turned translucent as the Sikorsky’s engine picked up thrust. When the Sikorsky lifted off the pad, Dickson spotted a sky shark performing a nosedive above them.

“Get moving,” he yelled.

Before the Sikorsky could clear the helipad, the kamikaze shark collided into the rotor blades. The Sikorsky shook, its engines strained, losing torque as the blades shredded the half-tonne sky monster. Blood sprayed the occupants, soaking them, causing Dickson to say an improvised prayer. “Jesus fuck, where dead. God help us.”

The Sikorsky survived and stabilised, soaring above the waves.

“Head to the coast,” yelled Ambrisian.

“Kingfish B is closer,” insisted Dickson.

Ambrisian leant towards the pilot. “Don’t listen to him. Kingfish B is gone, just like Kipper, just like here. This flying machine can outrun these Elasmopterons. We can make it.”

Dickson looked back. The colony of Elasmopterons was pursuing them, but they were losing ground. “What about if they discover the coast?”

“What about it?” asked Ambrisian.

“You said it there’ll be dire consequences if they found their way to the mainland.”

Doctor Ambrisian shoved Dickson out into the void, sending him hurtling down into the grey sea.

“That is correct,” said Ambrisian as he turned his attention to the pilot.

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