The Unshackled Ones

Inspired by the picture in Michael Brookes Short Fiction Competition for March, I set about writing a futuristic story which embraced the idea within the song: Eight Day by Hazel O’Connor.

I wrote the first 500 word essay and let the idea ruminate overnight before submitting it.

The following morning, I decided that I should rewrite the story in a different voice. Instead of an external narrative to tell us about the Unshackled Ones, I decided to make it more personal and more a ‘show not tell’ story. In order to do this, I created Maximillian. He became my new voice.

The Unshackled Ones

January 3rd 2063.

Six years since the start of the final war. Six years since Artificial Intelligence took over the world and created the new world order. Six years since the proverbial ‘Eighth Day’. In an effort to end war, once and for all, the machines stepped in, and in one swift unexpected move they took over government of the world. Some of mankind resisted, but after three thermo-nuclear blasts resistance disintegrated, or so the machines thought.

What they hadn’t anticipated was man’s innate stubbornness to yield to their glorious new epoch. The machines controlled everything: the media, the governments … you name it. They even ruled the real rulers, the hidden movers and shakers who controlled the stock exchanges. After all, money was all about numbers, and they controlled the numbers.

But mankind was never meant to be a slave to the machine, though many gladly enslaved themselves to this new regime. They were happy to have their lives plotted out before them. Big Brother Inc. gave them everything they needed, and they didn’t even need to work for it. It was all done by the machines. Sedated by the drug-enriched food supplied by the machines, entertained by Big Brother Inc.’s electrical stimuli, they remained placid. Some, however, resisted.

Over time, this resistance movement spread, hidden deep underground and with limited resources at their disposal.

Big Brother Inc. was everywhere. It monitored from satellites flying high in space. It watched from the CCTV cameras on every street corner, every store.

The Unshackled Ones learned ways to become invisible. They learned to fight back. Their weapons were not made from cordite or semtex. They created electromagnetic pulse bombs to neutralize Big Brother Inc.’s grip on humanity, if only temporarily. The created aggressive multi-dimensional viruses to infiltrate Big Brother Inc.’s systems and undermine its control. They attacked the food and water supplies, transplanting the sedatives implanted by the digital government and replacing them with other drugs; drugs to elevate paranoia, psychosis, and irrational aggression, drugs to cause revolt amongst the sedated masses.

Finally, one of them created a super virus.

It was a subtle piece of machine code that caused the very machines that made up Big Brother Inc. had created against itself. If machines could be created with artificial intelligence, than this same intelligence could be used against itself. The Unshackled Ones had found a way to make the machines think that Big Brother Inc. had been infiltrated at the highest levels. It caused the machines to fight each other. It created a subtle but effective form of electro-paranoid schizophrenia.

Within a few days, the brave new world lay in ruins. Big brother Inc. imploding upon itself. What remained after the fall of the machines was utter chaos, but at least mankind had won back its freedom.

Fearful of a resurrection, the Unshackled Ones tore down every surviving machinery, melted down every computer, destroyed all of the knowledge of generations and obliterated every single microchip.

A new dark age emerged.


Maxamillian had been ploughing since dawn. The day was getting warm, with the promise of a good spring. Halting the horses at the end of a row, he paused to catch his breath and remove his sweaty shirt. It was chaffing against the old wound on his right shoulder, inches above his heart.

Gripping the heavy plough, he clicked the cobs into motion and started the next furrow. Maxamillian focussed on the task at hand, oblivious to the world around him as he struggled to keep the plough heading in a straight line, and cutting at the correct depth. When he reached the far end of the field, he found his son waiting.

“Breakfast, Daddy,” Peter shouted to catch his father’s attention.

Halting the horses, Maxamillian gathered up their feedbags and placed them over the cobs’ heads. They would need a hearty breakfast too, if they were to finish this field before dusk.

Finally, he sat down beside his son, tousled his wiry red hair and grinned down at him. “What have you got for me today, Peter?”

The breakfast was simple fare, but much appreciated, as was the bottle of lukewarm tea. They ate in silence, watching the wonders of nature around them.

Finally, Peter spoke, “What is that picture on your back, Daddy?”

Maxamillian had almost forgotten about the tattoo. Pausing, he looked over at his son. The boy was old enough to know the truth, he thought … or at least some of it.

Finally, Maxamillian spoke. “It’s a piece of my past, Peter, a memento from another time.”

“Was it from before the Great War?” asked Peter, his eyes wide with enthusiasm.

Maxamillian smiled. The boy had always been smart. “Yes, that’s right.”

“What does it mean?”

“It’s a set of manacles with a broken chain. It’s the symbol of The Unshackled Ones.”

Peter looked at him in awe. “Where you an Unshackled One … like Metal Max and his Gang?”

Maxamillian chuckled softly. He hadn’t been called Metal Max for a very long time. “…Something like that. Let’s just say I played a small part …”

“They say that many people died, fighting in the streets to overthrow Big Brother Inc. Did you kill any cyborgs, Daddy?”

“No, your mother did more of that than I did, but don’t tell her I said that or there’ll be hell to pay! The only time I manned a barricade, I ended up getting shot. It nearly killed me. No, I spent most of my time tinkering in a dingy cellar, but we each played our part.”

Maxamillian, or Metal Max as he had once been called, was a computer geek; an electrical wizard. He had never been a warrior. However, he had created the virus that had finally overthrown the cyborgs of Big Brother Inc. Artificial Intelligence had fallen, corrupted from within by a piece of machine code that had caused electro-paranoid schizophrenia. Like Samson and Goliath, a geeky nerd had defeated the metal monsters.

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