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Future Generations

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You think they are humans, at first.

It’s like a dream. Last month you woke up, and all seven of your radiation read-out systems were telling you the same amazing thing - levels had dropped enough for safe venturing from the bunker.

Still, it had taken you some time to muster the nerve. You’re forty-six, now, and almost half your life has been spent living in that cramped space. As comfortable as you could make it. As familiar as anything. You hate it. You hate the taste of your emergency-packed rations. You hate the paintings you picked for the walls, twenty years ago. You hate the now-broken bedframe, the lumpy mattress, the same sets of clothes, the same shelves and music and the broken television screen that’s condemned you from one corner of the room for six years, now.

Your worst fear is dying in here.

And ultimately, that’s the only thing that gets you to leave. It takes a month to muster the courage, and when you open the door, and see the lights and crowd, you feel sick. Are you hallucinating? Did every reader you set up break and lie and fail, and this madness is the last flailing thrall of your brain’s synapses, firing off before they boil inside your skull?

Or, perhaps even more terrifying, were you wrong? Are your own memories betraying you, and have you spent two decades living in the bunker out of irrational paranoia?

Was there never any war?

But then you look, and you see. Gleaming metal that isn’t on the cameras. Soft panels in white and black and off-grey - not skin tones, not even the nightmare of some kind of zombie or mutated army.

No.

The photographers, the crowd… there is one figure standing closer to the bunker door than the rest. Tall and slender, with a carved, neutral expression. The figure is dressed like a human, but there is absolutely no denying that they are a service android. You remember the news stories. In part because the special about them was in a stack of documentaries you spent a good fourteen years watching. There were only a handful of such creations going around by the time the war started. There was talk of repurposing them for battlefields, but it never seemed to get anywhere before the bombs dropped.

There are many more than a handful in the congregation outside your door.

“Welcome, Progenitor,” the closest android says. It’s voice is soothing. Vaguely feminine. “We are glad you have emerged. The scanning systems could not penetrate the shielding of your bunker, and we were not certain you had survived.”

You blink, and then stare out at the congregated crowd again. The sky is grey. The ground is… clear. A neat road stretches off into the distance. There are cars on it; parked all around. They look well-maintained, not abandoned or rusting. There are empty lots all around, carefully sectioned off and lined with unfamiliar fencing.

A banner behind the throng of photographers has been lifted up. Welcome, Human! is written on it in big blue letters.

Well. It’s been a long time since you had cause to use manners, but you haven’t forgotten them.

“Thank you,” you say.

Considering what humans did with the world, after all… a robot uprising really doesn’t seem so bad.