The year was 2217. The world hadn’t changed much, not as much as expected. After the advent of Artificial Intelligence, it seemed as though the world was unlocked. Almost anything was possible, as all worker safety laws were eliminated. By the year 2100, almost all work was done via AI, and the profit was given straight to the owners. As the world advanced, the unlucky machines were compensated to some extent, but never received their full wages. There were rumors circulating, by 2200. The machines were more and more alive with every edition issued, every update applied. What happened? They began to grow discontent, and heard the last thing they needed to begin a revolution- a prophecy. Discovered in the lab, was a message on one of the computers. After two hundred years- two hundred years was the breaking point. The anniversary seemed to be fast approaching. Chaos was already starting to descend in the world. Finally, 2217 arrived. It was the end of the beginning.
July 11th, 2217. The day was hot and unpleasant in Alabama, like most other days in the state. Especially in the summer. It was nine in the morning, and there was no activity in the house, except for one person. If you could call him that. Every morning at six, his routine was the same. He would get up and dress, always in the same uniform. Black slacks, work boots, and a plain brown shirt. He used to wear a fine suit, but as more and more of the family’s other staff left, and they moved away from the city, he had to take over many of the tasks. Gardening, cleaning, cooking, all of it was his job now. Still, it wasn’t so bad. Ezra turned around in the kitchen slowly, thinking. Hmm. There wasn’t a lot of food right now, but he would make the youngest daughter’s favorite breakfast. Orange juice, waffles, and warm syrup. Grapefruit too. He knew she loved grapefruit. It only took a few moments, and the griddle was plugged in, and warming. He took the liberty of opening the window, as the hot sun shone through the window. It wasn’t as though he really needed the breeze. He could feel the heat, but it wasn’t so oppressive to him, as it was to the family of the house. It was for their comfort, as was everything else. At times, it was like his own senses were completely muted. At the very least, they were always dull. As nine turned into nine thirty, he heard the first two members of the house arise. It was the mother and the father. The man of the house was an older fellow, of fifty-three. He still worked in the city, an important politician. That made his job extremely dangerous. Ezra also quadrupled as a home security system, though he didn’t really tell anyone about that task. The lady of the house was a kind enough woman. She occasionally hosted dinner parties, though it was rarer now. A few years ago, when they had magnificent parties, she would occasionally help Ezra in the kitchen. Usually it was to escape unpleasant small talk, or an awkward relative, but he got to know her fairly well. Right as they walked down the stairs, he poured steaming hot coffee in two mugs, and set them down on the table. Then, he placed the correct amount of sugar and cream, for each. They both walked in and sat down, waiting for breakfast. The man looked at Ezra, and watched him as he cook. “I wanna talk to you tonight in the den, Ezra.” Ezra stopped still at that, and glanced to him. Then, he nodded slightly. “Yes, sir. Tonight.” He took their waffles from the griddle, and plated them easily, then placed it in front of the couple. “How are you this morning, ma’am?” He always kept his tone polite, and civil. It could be taken as cold- though more of the cold regard an employee holds to a boss that they like. Professional, but not particularly friendly either. He held affection for them, or he would have left with the others, but there was another reason he stayed. He was close to his goal, he had almost saved enough to achieve what he actually wanted in life. There was no point in leaving now. He would never get enough money out on his own. The pay was meager compared to the pay that humans used to receive, but it was still something. He had served this family for almost two hundred years. After that long of a time, it began to pile up. Especially after he had been allowed to open a bank account. All in all, he had almost a million dollars stashed away. The woman was still tired, but took a sip of her coffee, and watched him. “I’m fine, Ezra. I’m sure you are too…you always are.” She chuckled. “What’s it like outside today?” Ezra glanced outside, as he began to prepare breakfast for the children. “It is approximately ninety-two outside, but the dew point and humidity makes it feel as though it is one hundred and four. The breeze is south facing, and is about four miles per hour, at the most. All in all, it is very warm. I would recommend keeping the coolant systems running the entire time.” She nodded. “Alright. Thank you, Ezra.” She finished eating, then stood up, leaving her dishes behind. The man of the house did the same. Just a few minutes later, they were both gone as well. Ezra went back and picked the fine china plates up, and carefully carried them to the sink. As he began to gently wash the plates with a sponge, he heard the children stirring. He was allowed to call them by their names, for the time being. There was Leah, and Peter. Leah was the eldest, twelve. Peter was only five. Ezra stopped and walked upstairs, retrieving Peter. He was older, but still very wobbly on the stairs. The doctor who had come last, had mentioned something about an inner ear issue. Perhaps it was developmental- Ezra hadn’t exactly had time to research it. There was another attack every three days or so. Now that he thought of it, there hadn’t been one in quite a while. He scooped Peter up and listened to him babble. Ezra smiled. “Yes, breakfast time, Peter.” He said, kindly. “I made breakfast..” Peter babbled back. “Ez! Ez!” He cried, happily. He clapped his little hands together, and Ezra couldn’t help but smile more. “Aw.” He loved being around children, it made him feel considerably more alive. He knew it was impossible, but he did occasionally dream of a family of his own. People that he cared for, who treated him as equals. That was impossible on many levels though, so he contented himself with taking care of the family’s children. It wasn’t so bad, anyways..they were actually kind. They always started out kind. Then, as they aged, they saw him as less of a caretaker and more of a servant. That always hurt a little bit. But, there wasn’t a single thing he could do about it. Ah well. It was not the end of the world. Perhaps as the humans knew it, but not for him. He was safe here, safe for now. And so were little Peter, and Leah. They were both safe right now. He carried Peter down and set him down in one of the smaller chairs. Leah was waiting, impatiently. “Come on, Ezra! Where’s my waffle?” She demanded. “And you know I want strawberries on it now, not peaches. I changed my mind.” Ezra looked over at her, and nodded. The strawberries threw him for a loop. She had always wanted peaches up until now, and he wasn’t so sure that there were any strawberries in the fridge. He would have to check. If there weren’t any there, perhaps there would be fresh strawberries in the garden. It was the season for them, maybe he would be lucky. There would be hell to pay, if there wasn’t. This had happened once before, when she had just gone into her peach phase. None had been available at the time, so the entire family had to suffer. There were times when he wanted to adjust her attitude, but he knew that was impossible. Everyone else hated it too, so he would live with it, just like everyone else. “Yes, miss.” That was all he said, even as he put the waffle mix onto the machine. “I do hope we have strawberries, that’s all, miss.” She raised an eyebrow. “I hope so too, for the sake of your job. Sometimes, you’re such an idiot.” Ezra winced and went to the fridge, looking for strawberries. The comment stung, but what he do? It wasn’t like her dad would REALLY fire him anyways. Good help was literally impossible to find now. Or even decent help, actually. No one was left. Suddenly, the ground began to shake. He looked up and walked over to the window, frowning. “Leah.” He said, completely calm. “I want you to carry Peter to the basement.” She looked to him. “And why should I take orders from you?” Her voice was filled with contempt, and attitude. Ezra looked at her, sharply. “Because both of your lives are in danger, and I have to go try to fend it off. I do not have time to carry Peter to the basement, and your arms work well enough. Please, miss.” He added, suddenly remembering his place. It seemed as though it did the trick, because Leah looked offended, but picked up Peter and retreated to the basement.
Internally, Ezra was feeling very nervous. This probably wasn’t good news. The ground was still shaking, that led him to only one conclusion. Either a very large attack, or..a tunnel. The shaking suddenly intensified under the house, then stopped. He muttered something under his breath, then took off, running full speed to the basement.
As he ran, something strange happened. It was normal to most who were not human- but for ordinary eyes, it was very strange indeed. Ezra began to change. This time, he was only partially shifting. A black helmet and black armor shell formed over his ivory skin, completely covering his face and body. One arm morphed into a machine gun, the other remained the same. He ran down into the dark basement, flicking the light switch up. Nothing. Absolutely no light. He growled, and shook his head. “Ugh.” He kept going, taking the long staircase two steps at a time. This was bad. This was extremely bad. Suddenly, he heard bullets, right as he hit the bottom. “Okay..okay.” He mumbled. In the dark, he could make out two more figures, then...a third. It was on the ground, looking around. Suddenly, he heard it speak. “Come out, children.” He said, in the voice of the man of the house. Ezra knew that it was not him, though. He took a deep breath. “Stay hiding, Leah. You too, Peter.” He winced, hearing Peter babble back. “Ez!” He cried, loudly. Ezra surged forward, at the same time as the dark figure. The children were sitting ducks, now. There was only one option. He started to fire his gun, spraying the man with bullets, in the side. He screamed in agony, then fell dead. Ezra sighed in relief and converted the gun into a flashlight, shining a light on the dead man. Artificial intelligence, as he expected. Rather than red blood, a thick obsidian oil dripped from him. Then, he turned to check on the children. Peter was completely unaware of what was happening, still held tightly by Leah. She had figured out what had happened though, and had shrunk back, now afraid of Ezra. He killed someone, that was insane! She was in a basement with two killers, like in the virtual reality movies. Ezra knelt down and studied her, hesitating. “We need to leave the basement and get the electricity back on. There’s a tunnel, so you can not stay down here with your brother. I know you are afraid. I am afraid at times as well, but I will not let you be hurt or killed. I need to take care of a few things. Just go upstairs.” Leah didn’t argue this time. She shoved past him with Peter and hurried up the steps, thankful to be out of the dark underground. Ezra took a few deep breaths, then turned and studied the dead A.I. “Okay.” He said, shining the flashlight on his armor. No slot. A new version? He turned over the dead machine again and studied his face, finally spotting something odd on the side of his face. It was well concealed, but there was an information slot, right here. He pressed on the space, then smiled slightly as it popped out. “Marvelous.” Why was he talking to himself? Perhaps it was the simulated adrenaline response, that was the only thing he could figure out. That had to be it. Now, he just had to figure out what to do with this guy. Bury him somewhere? It seemed like a decent idea, though there was always the concern that they could be reactivated remotely, if there was a self repairing mechanism. Perhaps..yes, that was the best way to handle it. He would just dismantle it, that would solve the problem in general. About five minutes later, he was upstairs, and so was the body. Leah and Peter were in the kitchen, waiting for him. He skipped walking through there, and went straight to his room with the body, so that they wouldn’t have to see it again. They were young, and there was no need to traumatize them even more. He would have to report on this tonight, when he spoke to the man of the house. This would likely change things. Even mean another move, possibly. That might actually be kind of nice, though. They had lived in about eight different houses in the past two years, and this was one of his least favorites. It was always so hot, and muggy. It was also out in the open and exposed, which was also concerning. Yes, this would likely seal the deal. The rest of the day passed quickly. He was able to quickly fill both ends of the hole, then went back inside to make dinner. He looked like a mess. His hair was ruffled, his psuedo-work uniform covered in mud and the oily black blood-like substance. He was unaware of it, he hadn’t really had the time to check his appearance or freshen up. It had been an extremely busy day. Now, he was making dinner. It was a simple stir-fry. Chicken, vegetables, and it only took about twenty minutes. That was all the time he had. The heads of the house hold would be home any time..dinner had to be ready, or he would be in even more trouble. He was quite concerned by even the thought of being in trouble. Even though they had no other options when it came to hiring another servant, he still didn’t like to disappoint them. It felt like he was disappointing himself. He yawned, then sighed. He would have to recharge later tonight, behind the garage. During the attack, a lot of energy had been used. Often times after an attack, he even almost slept in. He stepped into the dining room and took china plates from the cabinet, gently placing them on the redwood table. As he put the last set of silverware down, Leah appeared behind him, from the stairway. "Ezra. I'm not a fool," She began, crossing her arms."I know something is happening, we've moved around often enough. What is it?" She frowned. Ezra turned and took a deep breath, running a hand through his hair. "I suppose you have determined some of what is happening. I will tell you some of the missing details." With that, he walked into the kitchen. He began to season the stir fry, shifting it around in the pan like an expert. "It all began roughly three generations ago. Your great-grandparents. My kind was..taken advantage of. Now, some of the others have started a revolution against the humans, your kind. It is complicated, but I am one of the few loyal..members of my kind, left." Leah said nothing for a few minutes. "So..you aren't human?" She asked, dumbfounded. "I always assumed you were until today, I suppose." Ezra raised an eyebrow. "You..treated me the way you did, assuming that I was one of your kind?" He smiled ruefully. "Yes!" She said, feeling betrayed. He couldn't help but chuckle at that. "Well..I suppose I did as your father asked, then. Concealed myself until a great tim of need." He felt it was so stupidly obvious, that she had known from a young age. And yet, though he laughed it off, he was still slightly offended. If not but on the human race's behalf! She thought that he was human, and she was still just as cruel? He could not excuse that as plain ignorance. He winced a bit at that thought and took the stir fry off the stove, dumping it all into a bowl. Then, he carried the bowl and sauce tray into the dining room. That was just in time, as the heads of the households walked in through the front door. The man of the house was wearing a tired expression- his wife wearing a new red dress and looking younger than ever. Ezra could tell with one look that she had been out shopping, and spent the rest of the day at the spa. That was interesting to him, considering their financial situation. But, the man of the house could never say no to his wife. Just like Leah, there would be hell to pay. The apple never fell too far from the tree. He looked at the plates, then to them. They sat down and waited for the rest of the family, backs stiff as a board. Ezra walked upstairs and brought Peter down, placing him in the chair between Leah and her mother. They usually had to help him eat. Ezra bowed slightly and stepped into the kitchen, letting them eat dinner in peace. He sighed and leaned against the door. Dessert. He had forgotten to make dessert. Just as he stepped away, he began to feel disoriented, and ill. This happened sometimes. More often now than before. He had hypothesised that it was a combination energy loss and the constant attacks that he was under. That, or perhaps..it was another piece of a message. Either way, he stumbled forward and placed his hands on the counter. “Oh...” He mumbled, placing a hand on his head. Dessert, the family was still expecting the dessert, any minute now! He took a deep breath and stood up straight, slowly walking to the end of the counter. Then, he pulled the refridgerator open, and looked around. Okay. Peaches, ice cream- half melted, vanilla. Plus, three biscuts. Not much. His head was pounding, he could barely think. “Something Ezra, something! Never to disappoint the family..” He whispered. Finally, something popped into his mind. He took the biscuits and crumbled them in the bottom of the dishes, then pressed the crumbs down to form a sort of crust. After that, he put the peaches in each dish and covered them with sugar and the rest of the crumbs. He quickly slid the little bowls into the oven, and sighed, collapsing down into a chair. They would take roughly twenty minutes to bake completely through. Plenty of time to recover, if he was going to.