Freeman Craig69sofine dug his toes into a crack in the asphalt and swore. He could still hear the hypnotic thrumming of the Friendroid that pinned him behind the cracked remains of a vehicle, but it was nowhere in sight. Any other time this would be a blessing, but he had run out of scramble grenades and he was sitting duck for any droid that rolled up, be they bookFriend or *chan. He hefted his analog periscope, inherited (along with his screenname) from his father and his father before him, but could see nothing.
It had all started innocuously. In the dawn of social networking, one man had a dream: connection. But unlike others with that same dream, he had severe mental issues, a genius IQ, and more money than god. By the time governments caught on to his particular brand of lunacy, he had already constructed the first Friendroids, then passed off as vehicular apps that kept you road-safe while you chatted.
That this breakthrough came at the expense of the health and sanity of several employees was apparently lost on the multi-trillionaire, who sent viral “basilisk” ascii to every government computer on-line at the time. They retaliated by liquidating his assets and sending forces to his private island, in the middle of a man-made lake carved out of most of the state of Ohio. When they arrived they found a Gordian security grid that took several bunker-buster missiles to crack, and by the time they made it into the vast pharaoh-style burial chamber/home office, the architect of man’s demise had taken his own life.
In his wake, he left one final protocol: make friends.
The implication of his orders became clear when the president was cut off mid-speech on the steps of the senate and quarantined into a proto-Friendroid. After much monetary and human cost he was extracted again, now completely mindless. The father of the country spent his last days dribbling onto his suit jacket. It was too late.
By that time other droids had been dispatched, scooping up other persons of interest, and installing their prone bodies within their depths. Their true capacity for horror became clear once the Friendroid that had scooped up America’s favorite pop star returned fire after being hit with several barrages of anti-tank ordnance: they were improving. Worse, they were improving themselves. While incapable of independent thought, the droids were able to self-renovate exponentially in pursuit of their single-minded goal. Smaller, more intricate frienddroids spawned and snatched up every day folk.
Sadly, this was merely one front of the apocalypse. On March 24th, millions of netizens woke to a message in their inbox from a friend, their company, of a family member titled only “hey, watch this.” The video was scoured from YouTube, Vimeo, any other site dedicated to streaming video, but new iterations popped up like toadstools after a rain. The powerful memetic virus seized the higher brain functions, leaving viewers tidily indisposed to resisting pickup by a firendroid. Those “rescued” from their brief stay were unable to function independently ever again, and expressed great longing for the robotic prison that had broken them
Once the addictive nature of the enslavement was known, government forces expended every resource not dedicated to military offence to net upkeep, but the virus proved insidious, maneuvering through the deep web to get around government blocks. Those that worked directly with computers were at ever-increasing risk of being exposed to the virus and compromising the remaining governmental forces, until the fateful day the remaining functioning facilities were spammed with a web pathogen tailored specifically to the government agents. What few were left standing after the onslaught ran outside the bunkers, directly into the arms of the new Frienddoids produced in the conquered Ford factories.
All this was lost on Craig69sofine, who, like every freeman alive, was a creature of the moment. History had died in a hedonistic scream of ecstasy, what little collective knowledge remained survived as minor superstition and rituals. What little he knew had been passed down from his father and his father before him, as they clung to existence in the wilds of Minnesota.
His father had long ago left when Craig69sofine was a boy, in search of analog pornography that had become scarce since the Friends took up recycling national resources. While chasing a sunfaded Hot, Wet & Wild page, Craig69sofine sr. had run smack into a display runner, the bane of the feral suburbanites. It exhibited an ever-unfolding panorama of smut linked to electric impulses picked up by the bot’s neurokinetic sensors.
In the infancy of the movement the Friends had relied on various sensory stimuli to assault the human mind on all fronts, until they found that the human attention span, now drastically shortened, grew desensitized to even the most hardcore erotica eventually. To get around it, they developed an ever-evolving erotica, shape-shifting, hundreds of times more powerful than human-induced titillation, developed to keep humanity fed but never sated. Craig69sofine sr. took one fatal look at the tower of genitalia and various scatological ephemera and was lost.
Craig69sofine lay on his belly, fingers curled into the dust. He knew that if he could get to a terminal and direct the Friendroid’s onslaught towards it, he would be safe, though he could not explain why. He crabcrawled to a nearby sewer grate when he felt something heavy fall across his calves. Too late he realized that the new whisper-quiet model had been circling around him, and now it had him.
He was wrenched upwards in a great metal clamp capable of bending steel and brought to face the droid. The helmet was a overlarge stylized smiley face, meant initially to look goofy and nonthreatening, but overtime they had gained an aura of menace. A small canon popped out of the left “eye” and Craig69sofine broke into a sweat, but the device aimed instead at a nearby building. It projected a large cat macro, poorly animated, meowing a signal to its fellow Friendroids. Another friend was detained. Replying howls sounded throughout the neighborhood.
The Friendroid turned it attention to its captive, and Craig69sofine braced himself. Four identical—though smaller—claws emerged from recesses at the bot’s sides, they took a hold of each limb and wrenched backward. Craig69sofine screamed a curse, his first spoken word in months, as his limbs were broken and neatly reset—backwards. The job was finished with a neat metal brace over each limb. If Craig69sofine ever escaped confinement, he would never be a freeman again. He would be like the rest of those cursed with backward limbs, the Wiki-walkers, free from the net but unable to kick the addictive ephemera, traversing the great underground digital libraries like spiders.
Craig69sofine spit out no great defiance as the Friendroid rotated 90 degrees and opened the hatch, he had no final human truth on his lips as he was slid into the cushioned and air-conditioned wombspace inside the droid, his mouth fell slack as the interior screens booted up and hurled an endless bombardment of images and sounds designed to keep him in memetic thrall while his biomass was harvested. Craig69sofine was a Friend.