By Jim Wegryn and Roland James
It’s the late 21st century and two great events collide — the introduction of the first truly thinking humanoid robot, and the apparent end of human fertility.
Oblivion's Children follows one family through the decades when humanoid robots become abundant while the human population declines. The story follows the socialization of Murl, the first such robot, and the bigotry encountered by his kind. This is a saga of the sins and whims of humans set starkly against the logic and obedience of the race they created.
There is more. Robots are merely machines… until they reveal that spark called free will. Yet, that gift of mind may be only an elaborate imitation — a product of programming.
But there is a way they can show their soul. If they were asked to help save humankind, could they?
If so, would they?
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— EXCERPT —
Bil Sykes paced as he argued in his mind. “Okay, okay,” he grumbled. He walked over to his captive, picked him up by the armpits and dragged him to the almost opaque front window. He pulled up the sash and placed the hostage so that his head could be seen by the outsiders.
Micael breathed in the fresh air. He saw Dawna and tried to give a brave smile. A few moments ago he was sure he was going to die. He now thought it might end all right. When Sykes pulled back on his head he had his doubts again. Neither hope nor despair would lock in.
Dawna gasped at the sight of her husband’s anguished face and called out, “Micael!” She came out from behind the vehicle and took two quick steps toward the house.
Dire turned to the false threat, raising the barrel of his gun toward the woman. Adam stepped to his mother’s side and held her back.
“Take a good look at Dr. Wyman, the great ginner maker!” Bil yelled out from the darkness. Only his bony hand could be seen in the window, clutching Micael’s hair. “My demands must be met or he dies. I swear I’ll blow this place up.”
Dawna gazed at her husband, at his scowled eyes, his cheek crushed against the sill. She inched forward… Adam grabbed her by the waist to restrain her. She called out, “Are you okay, Micael?”
“Dawna,” he answered, struggling to turn his head to see her. The hand glutching his hair yanked him back inside out of sight.
“Micael!” She tore loose from her son’s grip and bolted past Konti across the uneven dirt yard toward the house.
Dire rotated and aimed his shotgun at her. She did not stop, so he pulled the trigger.
Dawna’s foot hit a rut and her ankle twisted. The shot pellets flew past her falling body.
The deputies’ guns responded to the blast and Dire’s chest exploded. The genue bounced against the door frame and staggered into the house.
Bil Sykes panicked and reached for the detonator. Micael threw up his bound feet to stop him. Bil stumbled and fell to the floor grasping the wires that led up to the table, yanking the detonator to the floor. “You can’t stop me.” Sprawled, he pulled the device toward him and struggled to his knees.
The disabled genue teetered from one foot to the other, turning and bumping around the room.
Micael thrashed his legs at Bil. His heart throbbed, his muscles strained. All of a sudden death was real and near. His mind kept saying, “I’m still alive, I’m still alive!” If only he could continue to hear, see, move, feel, think, he would stay alive.
He heard Bil sneer, “Someone must pay!” He saw the man put his hands on the handle of the detonator. He kicked at him again. He felt exhilaration. I’m still alive, he thought.
He heard Bil grunt in pain. He saw him bounce against the counter. He was afraid. I’m still alive, he thought.
He heard the I-port tumble off the counter. He saw the detonator beneath it. He felt panic.
He heard the I-port bang on the detonator. He saw the handle move down…
It was as if someone had turned the dial of an old gas stove. Pillars of green and blue flame shot up from the ground on all sides of the house. Like a dancing picket fence, the columns of fire encircled the old structure, then quickly merged into a yellow wall that turned orange, then red. The high-pitched scream of Dawna lying in the dirt pierced the low-pitched roar of the conflagration. The other onlookers stood frozen in horror as the hot wind blew past them.
Konti began an analysis of the situation and concluded that Micael must be retrieved from the burning house. His own safety did not enter his thoughts. The goal was set and the means were obvious. He dashed across the yard, past Dawna, up the old porch steps, then disappeared into the inferno.
Adam rushed to his mother’s side and knelt beside her. The searing heat clawed at their faces as they stared in disbelief. Adam picked her up and carried her away.
When they reached the sheriff, he put her down and gazed back at the man-made hell.
Flames lapped at the sky from holes in the roof. Twisting balls of black smoke burst from the windows. Lumber crackled and screamed, mocking the growing crowd. In the distance wailing sirens grew louder.
Then through the veils of yellow flame, a living image wavered like a mirage. The shape of a genue holding a human across its arms flickered in the fire as it stepped in slow motion through the doorway. Sheets of flame lashed at the figure…