This story felt a bit like the classic nuclear scare stories from the 50s updated to the 21st century.
In some undetermined future destroyed by what I would assume was a nuclear war, a group of humans approaches a missile silo base station still in operation. It is operated by an AI and the story is told from its perspective in second person (which was bit of a weird choice in my opinion, but it didn’t detract from the experience).
The humans are seeking food and shelter and the silo can provide it – on one condition. It needs a human operator to fulfill its ultimate purpose: launch the missile towards the enemy. The humans are not really keen on that, thinking the world have seen enough death. They do agree to postpone the issue a month while the humans are allowed to get settled in the silo base. As the story moves forward, the AI running the silo starts having doubts on its programmed purpose in “life”.
I don’t know if the author was inspired by the classic Theodore Sturgeon story “Thunder and Roses”, but it many ways it reminded me of that story – though not as grim.
Read in Clarkesworld February 2023