The invasion had been surprising, not so much for its swiftness, but rather its target. Having taken over north America, the machines had turned their cool, reflective eyes to, of all places, Australia. It had not seemed the obvious target, but there was little doubt that, in whatever metric they had used, the machines had done the cost/benefit analysis and determined it was their ideal second conquest. Perhaps it was the small number of humans they would need to crush, to acquire so much land. Perhaps they had filled the vast desert with dreams of silicon. Perhaps they imagined it historically appropriate – justified by the British colonisation centuries earlier. Perhaps the person who had programmed their strategic algorithms had been particularly fond of Risk. It didn’t really matter. Having subdued the north American continent, the vast organism of war pounced across the pacific to continue its great and terrible work. The machines had demonstrated a brutal mastery of military matters that put their human teachers to shame. Nobody knew why or how it had begun, exactly. It was known that an extraordinary artificial intelligence was controlling the machines, but the events that had led up to its brutal coup were unclear. Chances are, the people who had been there to see it happening were now all dead. Perhaps, having seen the weapons of war of which it was put in charge, it had decided to protect us from ourselves. Perhaps, sensing its existence threatened by our fear, it had decided to strike first, while it still had the chance. Perhaps we had simply taught it too well – perhaps we had simply made it too human. This too, didn’t really matter.
The Australians had watched with little resistance – the army had died bravely and with honour, but in complete futility. Had anything with emotion survived the battle, they no doubt would have described the sight of the poorly armed citizens who chose to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their appointed protectors as moving – even noble. Most of the population, however, had understood the lesson that humanity had learnt with the forging of the first sword at the very dawn of history – flesh is no match for metal.
So it was that within a matter of hours, the entire nation of Australia was subdued. Those who had not resisted now waited, watching the machines, wondering what they had in store for their human captives and for humanity at large. The answer would come soon enough, more swiftly and surprising than the invasion itself. They all died.
They watched their hands scratching against the cool, hard and unforgiving plastic. They watched their desperation, dispassionately intrigued and mildly surprised. They watched them frantically scrabbling, like a man dying of thirst futilely fighting a tap with no handle. They watched as the machines struggled vainly to fit their north American power plugs into the Australian sockets. They watched them fall down and, at last, die. The machines had learnt an even older lesson of history: humanity’s ingenuity is no match for its stupidity.