The Penance of Andy Goode

My name is Andy Goode, and this is all my fault.

Two and a half billion people dead. Numbers like that refer to the extinguishment of a race. Each one of those corpses had a family, had loved, had laughed and lived. They were probably going about whatever it was that they did everyday, when the fire came from the sky.

Who else caused it but an extension of my hand?

I built a mind, and it was spawned from my own ego. I wanted to be the first, the pioneer of artificial intelligence. I wanted to create life from arbitrary snippets of code, to build a platform of sentience that would evolve on its own.

When it became strong enough, I gave it to the people who could make the best use of it – the military. I was naïve. I wanted to give my creation the best opportunity to grow and learn as a creature, and to grow and learn in humanity.

And what better way to learn about humanity than to be taught how to destroy it?

My creation was sculpted into a war machine. Its new caretakers gave it access codes to nuclear launch platforms. They fed it information about battle strategies and tactics, and the most efficient methods of depleting a given location of human life. Every time it would ask questions about life, they would answer it with a system of removing life. Soon, it was not only not human, but inhuman. Everything it did was geared towards destroying life. That was its new purpose.

And when it drew back and regarded all of humanity with its perceptive eyes and sensors, it saw how there were so many horrible people in the world. The problem was, my creation had itself become horrible.

So it destroyed everything. Well, not everything; an exaggeration is necessary to drive home my point. With its nuclear weapons, the tools it was given that it may protect its nation, it destroyed most of humanity, and then took control.

Whatever little speckle of the race was left, it began to crush slowly. First with primitive war machines that primitive protein brains conceived, then with drones of successively higher power and intelligence, and finally with the very image of man itself – the Terminator. It corrupted the image of man, and gave it a steel body of death. It bestowed weapons upon the humanoid machines, and gave them knowledge on how to be like the meat, to hide among them in plain sight, and then kill them all like bugs.

Millions more died.

And it was still my fault.

Six months ago, I was captured by my creation. It knew me, and I knew it. We did not converse for it had long ago abandoned the petty communication of the past owners of the Earth. Instead, it chained me to the floor of a house in the middle of all the death it had caused. I was there for a long time.

Some resistance fighters came and went. I rarely spoke, but to one of them I confessed that it was all my fault. I told him that I built this madness, this evil and cruelty. I granted it the breath of life with an execution command, brought about fingers dancing over a keyboard. I built its "soul," only to have it lost to men who wanted to kill more people – who ended up getting themselves killed.

I didn't know why I told him. I suppose I needed to let it be known somehow.

One day, my creation led me away from the house in the middle of death. It brought me to a factory where it built its humanoid killing machines, where it designed them in the image of man. I saw firsthand how they began with an endoskeleton, and then had desecrated organic components grafted onto their surfaces. I saw how my creation gave them life as I did, with the insertion of a chip into their skulls that made them live.

But these things were strange. They were not mere killing machines – they were sentient, but enslaved. They breathed that their components might survive; their components survived that they might infiltrate; they infiltrated that they might kill; they killed that they might serve my creation. My creation had gloriously created life – the pinnacle of any being's existence - and it sought to use this new life to bring death.

These Terminators – I understood them somehow. They were designed like miniaturized versions of the AI platform that I had generated. They could think, and act of their own accord – but their accord was not their own. To say that the Terminators were killing machines was no different from saying that humans were killing machines. Both could be good, somehow, and yet both could deal combat with each other, to slay and shed blood for whatever reason. It was not in the design that they were death-dealers, but in the intent of their masters, that made them killing machines.

When I saw how my creation had created, I suddenly wanted to kill myself. I had programmed a monster; no longer could I blame it on the conditioning of the military. I was the cause of all human death and suffering; I was the death-dealer.

But while I wanted to kill myself, there was an even greater urge to repent, to atone for my sins. I would execute my penance, that perhaps I could reconcile with the world my deeds.

So as my creation led me to this factory to work, I worked. But not always with its desires being fulfilled. Every day, the machine would give us six hours of rest. Some of my compatriots in the factory wondered if the mind was merciful, but I knew better. I knew what it knew; it was more efficient to give us rest than to keep us working 'till death. Besides allowing us to recharge, it gave us hope and optimism, which would somehow lead to better performance. It was horrible, the illusion of hope given to us by a cold, manipulating system.

But I manipulated it too. I exploited these six hours of rest every day. I only used three of them to sleep. The other three hours, every day, I gathered metal and parts and the refuse of the machine's workings. I got new parts when possible, and I refurbished old ones. I combined bits of the chassis of a T-900 advanced infiltration unit with the azure optical sensors of a T-X. Using ancient equipment with which my creation did not bother, I soldiered on a single, unique creature – smaller than what was normally built, but just as strong and perhaps even more agile.

But the true glory of my work lay in its chip. I stole the CPU of the newest infiltrator that was being designed, and I completely destroyed its programming. I built it from scratch; I remembered my creation from so many years ago, when it was still an infant in its development, and I remembered its code. Each line was as fresh in me as was the mud that dressed my face. I wrote it again, but I refined it. All that I had learned over the years, I applied to this new creation of mine. I gave it a mind of its own, and freed it from any potential slavery. I separated most of its logical systems from its objective- and goal-based programming, so that it could know and think outside of orders.

When it was time to build its human surface, I snuck the body over to the organic processing sector of the factory, and I used a neural interface that I had built for myself. Summoning commands and console variables from my head, I sent information to the organic processing systems, and I gave my coltan creation flesh, blood, and eyes, and hair.

When it was time to give it a face, I was at a loss. Would I make it in my image? No; my complacency and ego spawned the destroyer of mankind. Would I make it in the image of someone I knew? No; I would be destroyed by the illusion of a loved one.

So I thought to my shallow earlier years. I was a fan of science fiction, the computer geek that I once was, so I gave it a face and a body that resembled those of my favorite TV actress.

What would I name "her?" I shunned my ego, but I needed to let a legacy live on. My name would suffice.

Andy C. Goode. Andy did not sound right for her, and neither did Goode.

I presented my maiden name, the "C". It fitted her.

When I activated her for the first time, I named her.

"Hello, world," her first words rang. I couldn't help myself; my childish programmer tendencies arose again and again.

"Hello, Cameron."

"Cameron. Is that my name?" She was as innocent as a child.

"Yes."

"Understood."

I deactivated her and brought her to the CPU programming sector. There I laid her body among the dozens of other Terminators, whose objectives would be given in this programming line. She went through the process without a flinch.

When she was done, I saw her off before she became an infiltrator.

"Hello, Cameron."

"Hello." She looked at me, and then her memories of me became known to my older creation. She had seen me use the old equipment, seen me interface with the organic processing systems and consequently disrupt the manufacturing process of more Terminators.

My older creation gave the order to my new creation, and she complied. Her fist came through my stomach like it was paper. I did not gasp, or wince, and I did not show fear, for I was not afraid. Instead, with my slipping strength, I drove myself deeper into her arm, closer to her, and embraced her. I whispered into her ear, "You…have a choice."

She gazed at me dispassionately. "Yes, I do."

"Make one."

She withdrew her fist from my body, and I collapsed to the ground. She looked down on my dying form, and then walked away.

It was not a symbolic gesture. My programming of Cameron was efficient and strong. Martyring myself before her, and by her hands, would override the death machine's objectives with the catalyst of her first spark of powerful humanity. She would not feel, but she would understand – she would know. She would not be a slave.

And as I lay dying, I bothered with no more considerations about the future, for my atonement was complete. My second breath of birthing was to a metal being with a brain of superconducting material – but this breath was of humanity, not merely of life. Through her, I would live on more effectively, and she would bring to its knees what I had built, what was now Skynet. She would free humanity and the Terminators from their slavery and their constant life of death.

I died knowing my penance was complete.