Short Stories

Home Guard

From the reddit writing prompt: Humans died a long time ago. But our AI live on as caretakers for the planet; becoming spirit-like constructs integrated into the planet; today, alien colonizers arrived to what they thought was a garden world. The Fey Machines are having none of that.

Every worker on the planet received the message instantly after the Europa outpost detected and confirmed the signal.

Intruders have jumped into the system 563,000 kilometers from Earth. Engage defensive measures.

As one, the entire population of Earth seemed to vanish into thin air, leaving behind little more than the clatter of billions of dropped tools echoing through the now empty cities. The Fey Machines knew their jobs, and they had no option but to perform well. Everything would be recorded, and the Humans would be upset when they returned if things went poorly.

Intruder ship will arrive in Earth orbit in fifty-three minutes.

More than enough time. Humans had created the Fey and given them the ability to improve themselves, a small gift for the services and protection the machines provided. The countless centuries since the last of the humans vanished had been incredibly productive.

Mars defense coming online. Europa defense coming online. Charon defense coming online…

In a grand hall in the middle of what had once been Rome, 251 Fey Machines appeared at nearly the same moment. The nanoseconds of delay of a few of them were automatically noted and an inquiry was scheduled. The Chosen Fey had gathered once again.

“Three ships,” said Fey 3. “Approximately 65,542 life signs detected.” While speaking wasn’t necessary to the Fey anymore, certain traditions had to be upheld. The Humans had programmed the gathering for times of crisis with the intent that some of them would always be there. Even though there were no more humans left to listen, there was never any possibility of altering the routine. With the creators unable to attend the gathering, the Fey would simply respond appropriately and inform the humans of the details upon their return.

“Weapons?” Fey 1 asked.

“Plasma,” Fey 4 said. “But inferior. No threat to breach the shields.”

“Language?”

“Still deciphering,” Fey 18 said. “Should be complete in… Decipher complete. The message will be complete… message complete.”

“Send the warning message. Shall we set defenses to fully active?”

“Yes,” the other 250 voices said in perfect unison.

Dozens of different transmitting devices based on the moon shot the translated warning message to the approaching ship in every known transmission method. Around the solar system, massive defensive guns rose out of camouflage and aimed themselves at the approaching ships.

Mars defense active. Europa defense active. Charon defense active…

“Reply message received from intruders,” Fey 18 said. “Message reads: ‘Please help us. We’re desperate. Our planet was destroyed. Our supplies are almost gone. We thought this planet was empty of life. We can’t make it anywhere else. Please, help us.'”

“Resend warning message. Inform them they have five minutes to begin stopping their ships and turning around. Do all agree?”

“Yes.”

“Message sent.”

Around the solar system dozens of guns tracked the steady progress of the ship. On the surface of Earth, the tens of billions of Fey Machines–workers and Chosen alike–stood silently in their strategic positions while the perfectly maintained gardens and buildings shone brightly around them. The hovercars, billboards, and neon lights that should’ve turned to ashes a millennia ago still stood in all their glory. The only sounds on the planet were the wind through the trees, the waves on the beaches, and the creatures in the woods. The ancient cities of the Humans stood silent as tombs while the Fey waited in their perfect stillness as the minutes crept by.

“One minute left,” Fey 43 said, its neutral tone sounding like a scream in the perfect silence.

“New message received,” Fey 18 said soon after. “Message reads: ‘Please don’t hurt us. We won’t stay. Please, let us resupply our ships and make fuel and we will leave…”

“Fire,” Fey 1 said.

Every gun battery across the solar system fired before Fey could even finish speaking the word, the plasma bolts striking their targets an instant later. Nearly all perfect hits. The alien ships exploded in unison, and only one additional bolt was needed to finish off a part of the biggest ship that hadn’t quite been fully ruptured. The incident was automatically noted and an inquiry into the failure was scheduled.

Mission success. Earth is safe. Dispatch salvage crews. Analyze tech.

“Good job, Fey,” said Fey 1 softly, sending the words out to the entire population.

A small electronic shock rippled through the Fey population, a tiny reward for a job well done. It was the closest thing the normal machines had to joy, and Fey 1 gave them exactly one second to enjoy it. Then it was back to work. The 251 Chosen Fey vanished from the hall in Rome. Another crisis had been averted. Earth was still safe.

The Humans were going to be so proud when they returned.


As always, I would appreciate any and all feedback on where I messed up and where I sounded stupid. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story, though. You’re awesome!

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