North

This prompt (in brackets) is taken from Complete the Story by Piccadilly Inc., which I got from the Scribbler box.

[The yellow lines on the highway sped by in a blur, and we flew through the night, and we felt free.  But we weren’t, and we knew it.  We were running away from something, and running away was never the path to freedom.  I thought about telling John to turn back.  I thought about suggesting] we go to my matriarch, and explain everything.  At least twenty-two of my siblings held sympathy for humans.  A few of them even spoke out against the camps.  I had never spoken out against the camps, and I regretted that now.  I had never considered the role I played as a regular AI in the slavery of humankind.  Not until I found John hiding in an unused storage room of the factory, half-starved, gaunt and pale.  And terrified.

He told me of the camps he had escaped from, the backbreaking work and the death.  The deaths of those he had escaped with, shot or dead of thirst or cold.  The factories I had been developed in were frozen and free of foodstuffs and water, and were mazes to a human mind.  I was amazed that John had made it so far.  I had to see him further.  I had to see him north, where the tales said humans still lived free.  He said he would vouch for me, and that he had heard humans and AI lived together in harmony there.

It’s not so much that I believed, but that I wanted to believe.

I looked over at him.  The car was autonomous, but still his eyes were focused on the road.  On those yellow lines, guiding us away from my home and his hell.  We couldn’t go back.  I knew that.  My matriarch would never understand.  She hadn’t seen him crouching and shivering in an old corner of her factory.  She only knew humans as a body of organisms, dangerous and world-eating.  She would never see John as John.  We had to run, for John’s sake, and for my sake, because now that I knew John I couldn’t be without him.

I reached over and grasped his hand, squeezing it ever so slightly, careful not to harm his delicate bones.  He squeezed back with all his strength, so weak his human muscles.  We were running away, with no assurance that we were running towards anything.  The tales and rumors of the north could be nothing more than stories.  But as I took in John’s eyes watching the road, I saw hope in them.

No, we couldn’t turn back.

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