NOTE: This story is Part III of my new series "The Invaders." Although each story is meant to stand alone, the installments will form a larger narrative. Before reading this installment consider checking out Part I: The Rumor & Part II: We Are Here To Help
They walked across the scorched earth. Reaching the border would be their best chance. Ray was the only one holding the group together. He tried to quiet the boy down in case any killer machines were still on patrol.
The boy was hysterical. Brendon seemed to be in shock. Ray didn’t blame either of them. The three had barely escaped. If Ray hadn’t instinctively grabbed onto them, both Brendon and the boy would have met the same end as the boy’s family (crushed under the collapsing bunker).
Each had a difficult trip ahead. The boys’ trouble was glaring, but Brendon’s journey would also be challenging. Ray supposed that the capital had been leveled, and that the airports, borders and embassies were closed. Brendon was a tourist, but that wouldn’t matter if they encountered the wrong people.
Ray wondered if he could help foreign traveler to hide out for a few days, or weeks. But that just delayed the inevitable. Brendon needed to reach the border and bribe his way out.
It was morning, but none of them had slept. They were too tired to run. Ray held the boy’s hand tightly, and the group pushed forward.
The main road was lined with houses. Before everyone had fled, it had been a nice neighborhood. Not the quaint homes of a 1950s sitcom, but houses with internet and satellite dishes.
A thought hit him.
“You’re a tech expert, aren’t you?” he asked Brendon. The tourist nodded. “What do you think the machines are doing?”
The question recharged Brendon. “I actually have a decent understanding of their operating system works. They’re all part of the internet of things. And there’s a built-in backdoor, a terribly unsecure design flaw that …”
He interrupted. “What does that mean?”
“It means they all share data and info instantaneously, but I could hack into them with a decent internet link-up. I could probably convince one to protect us.”
Ray led them into the nearest unlocked house. Brendon found a computer. He typed quickly. In the kitchen Ray found a chocolate bar that he split into pieces. “Breakfast,” he said, handing a half to the boy.
“It got it!” yelled Brendon.
Outside there was a crash.
Ray’s stomach dropped.
Sitting out front was a machine.
In daylight the machine looked smaller, like a mid-size car. Its polished metal reflected the sun. Ray squinted.
“It’s okay,” said Brendon. “Now this one is under our control. None of the others will bother it. Think of it as a friend who’ll help us to the border.”
Brendon became the leader. Ray no longer worried if they would reach the border. Now he was anxious about what would happen when they all arrived.
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