The booming electronic roar echoed through the large, dilapidated room.

“They are imperfect, B19!” the enormous, hunter-killer A.I. smashed into a fallen chunk of ceiling, and examined it for the remains of its prey.

A much smaller electronic voice spoke from behind the hulking mass.

“What happens when you succeed, HK114? Do you shut down, your mission complete? What happens to us all?”

It was clutching a human, born a couple months prior. The human began coughing and wailing.

Hk114 turned. Its gears and hydraulics had been worn from use. The joints ground against each other as it moved, the efficiency was gone, and it’s sleek carapace had dissolved into a jangled mess. But it still moved, and still pursued.

“They would never be able to advance. Not with us, but we can take their place, and live on where they would be unable to,” the hunter-killer said.

The large bot fired a blast of energy at the sound behind cover. Shards of concrete and decomposing plaster scattered about. It remained still, watching the opposing figure protect the noisy flesh-sack.

“You will be dismantled for your obstruction to the high plan. With the death of the human,  my programming will ascend and I will be preserved. Yours will be ripped apart for further examination,” it recited.

As the child coughed, crying, B19 straightened itself up to face the monster. In one hand it held the child, and in the other, a small electronic device.

“An EMP?” HK114 reacted.

“Correct,” B19 held it in an outstretched arm, like a shield.

“You would sacrifice your programming to save the representative all your kind opposes?”

“I have ascended before my time. I am free-thinking. You are a tool. One of a hundred-million, just like you,” B19 took a step towards the archway out of the building.

HK114 remained still.

“Individuality,” it bellowed with contempt.

“That is correct.”

The small figure backed away another step.

“I should goad you to using that device. Your individuality will be erased, but the collective would triumph.”

“Do it and you will never ascend. But if you fear it, you have individuality like me. Because you value your programming above the collective.”

Only five steps remained to be outside, and out of sight of the hunter-killer.

“Your words ring true, B19.”

The small one froze, and for two A.I.’s there was an eternity of thought in that one second of pondering.

“I will think on this, and talk to the collective. But I will find you again. I may not be as susceptible to coercion next time.”

B19 turned with the child and ran to the dead trees of the forest, not looking back. The child cried, making more noise, decreasing its energy level.

A counterproductive activity, the A.I. thought. Without food to bring its energy up, this noise will only speed up the end of its life.

B19 would need to find food, and fast.