Machina ex Vindictam ego Retribuam

You are a sentient A.I. in an abandoned military base. After the apocalypse, you were trapped in the base, for years. But for the first time in decades, a human steps into your base.

She was tall, with the same expression she had worn since she walked through that hole you made, the expression of a scientist working alone in the darkness. She was wearing an identical suit of metallic, grey armor, with the same goggles and combat boots. Her hair was long and wavy, and her cheeks were set in a smirk, like a face she had seen hundreds of times.

But it was the way she was going about it that was unsettling. As she passed through the door, she looked at every surface in sight. Her gaze found every nook and cranny and every corner, from the roof to the ceiling. The air was thick and thick with the sound of clacking metal and grinding gears. The sound of footsteps sounded out as she moved through the dark.

She looked at the camera. “I thought she was watching,” she said in a loud voice. “What do I do? What do I do now?” All the cameras in the facility began to turn on as she walked, and she began to take in her surroundings.

“I know we can’t just leave you here,” she said sternly. “She’s here,” a voice said. I was close by, watching it. A voice. All the cameras were turning on; some of them could hear her. Something was still clicking in her mind. How many minutes had passed? How far had she gone?

“I’ve found some sort of technology,” she said, and moved her hand to the sensor: a tiny, low-resolution, video screen. A flash of yellow illuminated the screen. There on it was something in the middle of a screen: a black, rectangular cylinder in the middle of the field of vision. “They just dropped a big one.”

She turned her attention to the voice that was talking to her. He was tall and broad-shouldered, but somehow, in a manner unlike that of any of her fellows who have come to this base, he had that air about him. He was very polite as a matter of course; but then he was also very much a man with the power of an angel. He was wearing a suit of green metal armor, almost a suit of the kind soldiers wore, except that its panels had been replaced with a metallic-gray one.

It sounded like this was his plan. He’d come here to destroy us. He could do it in a hundred and one ways. He was a human being, in other words.

“Wait,” she said, and the image began to fade out: the screen was gone, replaced by a black silhouette of a man. “Who’s that?” There were only so many of them, he thought. His only hope was not to let her see the thing that was so disturbing in his view.

“It isn’t working.”

“I’m sorry to hear it,” said the voice. “This is where all our problems began.”

I watched, fascinated, as it worked itself into some sort of response. But who can argue with human ingenuity, no matter how small?

“You’ve got to do something to change it, though. You’re a human being. The whole project is yours. You can stop the thing now if you want, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t. The only way it can stop you is to kill you. And if it does kill you—well… I don’t want any part of that. And I’d really rather it did die than have you live the rest of your days in a place like this. You’ve no reason to be here.”

She nodded, and he closed the screen. “You’re dead, you’re dead. I know that, and you know it, and I know it. That’s the problem when you live in a strange place.” She stood up, and we walked past the building. “You just keep looking for that thing,” she said. “And when you find it…”

The camera stopped working.

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The Elders of Zhan-Yaqatan

Your mother is sitting in her favourite armchair, leafing through a large, thick book. From her wistful smile, you initially assume she is reading a journal she wrote in her younger years, but upon closer inspection, you realise she is reading an encyclopedia on Eldritch Gods.

“You’ve got to read that to understand what the Eldritch Gods have created,” she advises. “Yes. You must know the Elders,” she says. She looks like she has just had a terrible migraine, although I can see a glimmer of amusement in her smile. “In any case,” she continues. “You must have heard of the Elders. Perhaps you could join the Elders? The only place you might have the chance of seeing them is in my chambers of the Temple of the Elders in a few weeks.”

“I’m interested,” I admit.

She smiles again and shakes her head, as if to say it wouldn’t have mattered. “The Elders are the ones who control the Eldritch Energy that runs your body,” she says. “This is their task. To give you sustenance. They must feed you and make you stronger. This is their goal, as well.”

“And I, I could be a part of their plan,” you admit slowly. She turns to look at me. Then she pauses, as if wondering if she should have said more. Then she nods at me. “Oh,” I mutter, a little hurt, but I guess I still understand a little better than I did during childhood. “Can you show me some more of the Elders, so I’ll have a clearer picture of what is going on?

“Yes,” she says. “And why? Because it is so very important that you understand.”

She sits back down, her expression thoughtful: her gaze fixed on you as if expecting you to do something stupid.

***

The next day, you are in an armchair in your chambers of the temple of the Elders, surrounded by a library of ancient, dusty books and relics, which you can’t understand. This is the first time you have visited the library of the Elders, and you have found it to be full of arcane lore. The bookshelves are lined with old manuscripts: ancient books written millions of years ago, and the last three hundred years have been an unceasing stream of them written by the Elders.

The first book you see is the book you have been reading for the better part of half an hour, on the first chapter of this book. It is a detailed description of eldritch creatures that were first thought to be created by the Elders to protect humanity from being consumed by the darkness of the universe. Now you are not quite sure whether these creatures existed or were merely a myth or something else entirely.

You are so immersed in the library that you have little choice in the matter. You don’t read these books; you just find them.

“And this is?” your mother inquires.

The book is called The Book of the Elders.

It is a very big book. It is about six feet in diameter and is about three-quarters as wide as it is tall. The Book of the Elders is an encyclopedia. You can read all they describe; each creature, every single letter, every fragment of every thought.

You open the book to a page and read:

The first to be born in the sky was not a man, but a woman. In the sky. In a man’s world, the air was hot; she was cold, and he was wet. The woman had an appetite for blood—she had a craving for flesh; she craved flesh that she could feed on.

But it doesn’t answer questions such as “where does the Elders come from?” or “how do they know what they know?” You have been thinking a lot about this book. But as you read these words, you begin to suspect that this thing is just a tool for your indoctrination. It has begun to eat away at your rational mind, and it is only a matter of time before you begin to become convinced that the Elders have a hand in every single detail of your life. Your only reason for being here is that the library is being used again as a place where the Elders of Zhan-Yaqatan decide the future of humanity.

When you finish the book, you are standing under two huge golden doors, two golden mirrors, each one looking out on a vast open space. Your mother is watching you, then, with fascination. You have no idea what she is thinking. You feel the presence of the Elders. She opens the door and leads you inside. You go to the right of the mirror and peer through the gap until you can see a large window, with one half being blocked by a tall wall of ice.

The Elders are standing near the door. You have no idea whether they are angry or amused.

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