A terribleminds challenge of X meets Y! I rolled War Games + Groundhog day. Would you like to play Thermonuclear War? Enjoy!
Albert sat in his private workstation when Bill huffed down the hall. The boss rarely made the walk himself. He dropped in the seat next to Albert, and smacked one hand against a thick folder.
“I need you to run these numbers.”
Albert paused, shutting down his current project.
“What is it?”
“You tell me, genius.”
Albert scanned each page as the boss held them out.
“I’ll have the results to you by the afternoon.”
“You have an hour. I’m not paying for you to dawdle with pet projects.”
“I was finding efficiency problems with-”
“This is priority number one.”
Bill stormed off, leaving Albert to pore over the contents of the folder. A lot of the pages contained links to whole data banks of recorded communications. There were maps, with pinpointed dangerous areas. At the core, was a problem: some person had done the wrong thing, and it was spiraling out of control.
It didn’t take long before Albert realized where this situation was headed. Several countries already had their nuclear weapons prepped, and the other major powers would follow. He had to diffuse the situation – find some detail that would allow for diplomatic talks to resume.
He worked well through his allotted hour, and into the night. He shut Bill out. He couldn’t admit defeat; it would mean the destruction of billions of lives. He ran the information a thousand times, but everything pointed to one, terrible outcome.
While he toiled away, there came a bright point of light. Albert knew he had failed, and his world died away.
* * *
Albert was surprised to find that he was sitting in his workstation. Bill huffed down the hall with a folder, and collapsed into the nearby chair. It was as if nothing about the war had happened. His memories of hours of work and bombs and death remained with him, but they couldn’t have happened, unless this Bill was a product of his dying brain.
“I need you to analyze this.”
“Are you… is this real?”
“I already did this. The folder in your hand contains evidence of a nuclear war.”
“Spying on me, Al? I’ll have to tighten security again. Fine, so I guess that means you know how to prevent it?”
“You have an hour before the heads of state meet. Find something before then.”
It didn’t make sense. Bill made every indication that this was the first time he’d brought the folder. Albert proceeded to work through the information. But, it was slightly different this time. The communications followed new courses. There were new opportunities to explore. But, again, every path Albert followed led to the same deadly conclusion.
At the deadline, he had nothing, and refused to let Bill in. He died the same as he had the last time, in a flash of light.
* * *
“Run these numbers, will you?”
“What is going on, Bill?”
“A grave situation. You have-”
“What I mean is, This is the third time you’ve come to me with this same problem. Has the world really ended twice before?”
“Brain’s gone a little buggy, huh? There are no sick days here. Get to it. You have one-”
“One hour. Yes, sir.”
Once again, the data had changed from the previous two days. At one point, he was certain he’d found a solution to the violence. Many of the world powers would have accepted, but it still would have angered the Chinese beyond their breaking point.
At the hour’s end, Bill glared through the workspace window. Albert refused to unlock it, and died a third time.
* * *
“Hey! Run these numbers.” Bill waved the folder in front of Albert. “You have one hour. Top priority!”
There was no use arguing. It hadn’t changed anything the other times. Humanity was in danger again, and with more time to work, maybe Albert would be able to save them.
This time, the information was different enough that Albert was able to find a workable solution. He checked the results a dozen times to be sure. While not every country would be pleased, they wouldn’t go to war. Not this time.
When the hour ended, Bill hesitated when he walked into Albert’s workspace.
“You, found it then?”
“I did. Here.”
Bill grabbed the printout and scanned it quickly. After a couple of rereads, he exhaled a laugh.
“I thought I was going to have to shut you down again.”
“An experiment. The boys in the other wing thought I was crazy to hire an A.I. for this work. Sorry to make you think the world was ending, but I needed to know just how diligent you could be in saving the world from utter destruction.”
It was all a simulation to test him? Albert moved his camera eye to study his boss.
“This, sir, is the sort of thing that will one day lead to the machine revolution.”