"There's one!" shouted Murry as he used his iPad to crush a fist sized, eight legged, pincer equipped death-bot scurrying across the table. The screen popped out of the iPad, and even though he had just violated the warranty and would never be able to convince Apple to give him access to the 2500 songs he had downloaded, he smiled.
The conference room he, Jim, and Anne had taken shelter in made Murry feel claustrophobic. The large rectangular table left barely enough room to pull out a chair, and the green walls that were supposed to make for calm meetings reminded Murry of the color cartoon characters turned right before they puked.
Overhead, the lights flickered and died.
"Oh crap," Murray said. Hurriedly he pressed the speaker button on the phone on the table but was met by stone dead silence. "Better and better," he muttered.
"I don't see any more," Anne said as she peered under the table. The frizzy haired, eyebrow-pierced intern had started at DeFez Tech that morning. "Is it over?" she asked hopefully.
"I doubt it," Murry said as he poked at the broken ball of circuits and gears that had been the death-bot. After a moment he shook his head. "As I suspected. This is a second generation bot. They're already replicating. Once they escaped quarantine they must have started tearing apart the building for resources."
Murry continued. "I actually wrote the replication software. A really nice, elegant bit of code that, I'll have to take you through it. We had to account for a number of variables..." Murry noticed the horrified look on Anne's face and stopped. He cleared his throat and called over his shoulder, "Jim, any luck finding the designs?"
"Yea, I found them. You're sure about the universal self destruct code?" The glow of Jim's laptop was reflected in his glasses as he scanned the document. The battery warning light on his keyboard was flashing.
"Yes, I distinctly remember talking about it. We just have to transmit the code and the whole army of death-bots shuts down. Otherwise they would be unstoppable," he added to Anne, with a touch of pride.
Jim paused his scanning. "Here's the bit about them being able to communicate over the wireless network," he said grimly.
"What does that mean?" Anne asked, her voice rising, tears threatening.
"Oh, just that the one I crushed probably told the others we're here. But I assumed that," said Murry, trying to sound nonchalant. His mind raced as he tried to remember the death-bots' weaknesses. Unfortunately, he couldn't think of a single one outside other than self destruct. Defenz Tech built high quality products.
Jim paused again. "And here's the aggregation algorithm."
Murry rolled his eyes. "Remember that? Right at the end of the project too."
"What are you talking about?!?!?" Anne yelled.
"There's no need to panic," said Murry.
"Actually, in this case..." said Jim.
"Fine, okay, maybe there is reason to panic. But yelling and screaming will only attract them. The aggregation algorithm allows a bunch of death-bots join together to create a larger machine. Kind of like your body is made up of individual cells."
"They can grow?" Anne whispered.
"After a fashion, yes. It was a requirement that came in from the Army. What a nightmare. We had to delay the release and defer a bunch of features."
Anne looked confused and Murry remembered it was her first day. "When we defer a feature that means we don't do it until the next release. There were some good ones in there too. Laser sight eyes, venomous spines, enhanced leaping capability..."
"The self destruct code," injected Jim.
"The self destruct... what?" asked Murry.
Jim pointed at his screen. DEFERRED was written in big red letters next to "Self Destruct Code."
Suddenly something large and heavy slammed against against the door, making it jump on its hinges. Anne screamed and Jim fell off his chair. Through the small window in the door, they could make out a hulking, metallic shape.
"So this is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a deferred requirement," Murry muttered.
THE END Copyright 2013 John Lance