Of course I remember the day that I found them. No one could forget a day like that. So strange. It was July. Hot as hell out. The markets hadn’t taken off, not yet. Trade routes were spotty. If you needed something, you were better off scouting for a hardware store somewhere north of the city that hadn’t been cleaned out. I was out of something – something crucial. Nails, I think, just regular carpentry nails. Feeling helpless. Dell and I’d come up with the idea to split up the city among a bunch of us, but it wasn’t going well. I didn’t even like the name we’d settled on – judges? Two of the guys had actually been judges, but not me. I was the son of a security guard. Who the hell was I to judge anybody? I couldn’t even find a box of nails.
So I was taking a walk down on the docks and just randomly opening stuff. Looking for whatever. I found a couple of crates of SPAM – it was a kind of processed meat. Pink and salty and cube-shaped. Before the fall it was considered pretty disgusting, but canned meat afterwards was a delicacy, no matter what shape it was. So I was feeling pretty high about that even if I didn’t know how the hell I was getting it home. Then I started looking in the big containers. I knew some of it would be useless – computer parts or whatever – but I thought, who knows, right? I got lucky once, maybe I’ll find some nails. Or screws. Or duct tape. Whatever.
So I made myself a kind of crowbar and I wa working my way through shipping containers. Well most of them had been raided already. It’d been over a decade since the fall and I wasn’t the only dumb-ass around with a crowbar, you know what I mean? But I found this one that was kind of laying at an angle, not all the way, just a little, but kind of bent in the middle, too. It must have been about noon because I can remember how high up the sun was and how it just beat down onto these shipping containers and the light hit this one just right. It was like a spotlight and I was almost blinded by the stupid thing. But I could see that even though it was kind of compromised, it’d never been open. And I just knew – I was gonna find a whole hardware store in there. It just felt right.
So I opened it.
And a guy stepped forward. He was six-three, physically stacked, carrying a 45, and I figure my time on Earth has come to an end. It’s been a good run. I survived past the end of the Earth – what else can a guy ask for?
“What is your name?” the guy asked. He’s black-skinned, black-eyed, black-garbed. Big, deep voice. Wearing a suit a lot like mine. Nice black tie.
“Alexander Jackson.” I tried to put a little authority in my voice. “I’m the 7th judge.” It was the first time I’d introduced myself that way – everyone just called me Lux and I hadn’t even decided if I like being the judge.
The black man took a knee. “We are the MSNGR1.2 units. We have been sent to obey you, Alexander Jackson.”
I don’t remember what I said after that. It was a hot day and I was confused. I do remember the whole group of them filing back to the castle – all 200 of them, one after the other, each one different, each of them carrying two boxes of SPAM. 12 cans per box. We served processed meat and green beans for lunch for a solid month. Never got tired of it. But after that, they just never stopped following me. They wouldn’t say who they were intended for – just that they had been waiting for me. I guess who ever was supposed to receive that shipment needed some security. I tried to teach them to shoot, but they ended up teaching me. Taught to do construction and whatnot, but then Dell had the idea that they could be our protection. So we split them up between all the jds, 25 or so per judge, and that’s it. At first they said they could only obey me, but then I convinced the first one that obeying the other judges would be like obeying me. By proxy. And that was that. Now we’ve had the messengers for almost two decades now and I don’t care where they came from anymore. Maybe they weren’t originally meant for me, but at the same time – they were meant for me.
It’s crazy, though. I mean, we had bots before the fall. Some really cool ones. Celebrity impersonators. House cleaners. Definite security workers. But you could always tell. Something wasn’t quite right. These guys – well, you’ve seen them. You really can’t tell the difference until they start pushing their limits. They just look like big, scary guys.
If you want my theory, I think they were military. Federal, probably So what were they doing sitting in cargo? It makes me wonder if someone knew what was coming.
But I guess we’ll never know.