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At first, the people supported their leader. They had not asked for this war, certainly hadn’t expected an army to lay siege to their city, but morale was good. There was enough food stockpiled to last a long time, and their army was keeping the enemy away from the walls.

They trusted in their leader to protect them. He assured them that the rest of the army, those who had not been retained for the city’s defence, was already out there taking the fight to the enemy, that they had strong allies and the siege would soon be lifted.

They believed him until they started dying.

The people were already accustomed to the propaganda bots sent into the city by the enemy. They were harmless little machines, similar to a child’s toy or an automated room cleaner, with broadcast units attached. They played out lies, claiming that there was no ‘rest of the army’, that the defence units were all that remained. They claimed that the people had no allies, that their Leader lied to them. They had been a regular sight since the siege began, bumping about in the streets, playing their recorded messages until somebody kicked them to pieces or smashed them with hammers.

When people started getting sick, it took a while to make the connection. It was a curious schoolboy who realised. He picked up one of the propaganda bots and took it home, to take it apart and see how it worked. When he found a spray unit, and a bottle inside labelled “Caution. Infectious.” in the enemy’s language, he ran through the streets shouting a warning. He died soon after, one of many victims.

People started calling the bots Infectons. They hid in their homes, afraid to go outside. The familiar little whir of the bots became a sound to strike terror into the strongest heart. Many died from the sickness. Others sealed their homes to keep the infection out, and suffocated. Others starved, to afraid to even go out for food.

In his palace, safe and protected from the Infectons in his tall tower, their leader did nothing.