In school I read a short story about a future war fought by ancient machines that are maintained by people (deep underground, I believe). The war is waged by humans perhaps on multiple planets.

I did not have an opportunity to finish the story and it was over 25 years ago so some of the things I believe I remember may well be off.

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    Hi Robert. There must be hundreds of stories like this. Unless you can provide more details it's going to be impossible to identify your story. Feb 7, 2020 at 9:27
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    Philip K. Dick's "The Defenders" being possibly the first, and most well-known.
    – DavidW
    Feb 7, 2020 at 12:02
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    Agreed: underground + machines = Dick. Possibly Dormant by van Vogt. Feb 7, 2020 at 12:26
  • Thank you all for responding. I did not remember where I had posted. Come to find out it is part of Superuser, or vice versa. Anyway Dormant is completely foreign yet like a memory from another life. Perhaps it is what I am looking for since the hulking object is reminiscent of a hulking artificial lifeform in a Frederick Pohl trilogy starting with"The Merchants of Venue." The hulk in the trilogy was eerily familiar but I was not sure with what. May 5, 2020 at 1:41
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    John, David, Maury, thank you. You have answered my question. It is "The Defenders." I have just read it. I do not remember any of it and yet somehow, I know that I had not previously read beyond the first kitchen scene. The memory is beyond vague but here it is. It was worth finishing. May 5, 2020 at 3:57

1 Answer 1


This is "The Defenders" by Philip K. Dick, first published in Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1953.

To survive a nuclear war, humanity has retreated to vast underground bunkers, each of which is a city or at least a moderate-sized town in size. (The protagonist is reading the daily newspaper in the first scene.). Life goes on in the bunkers as the people work to produce more bombs, planes and especially combat robots known as "leadys" built to survive the atomic wasteland above.

But today someone has gotten suspicious; summoning a command leady from the surface for a briefing, they disable it and find no trace of radiation on it at all. An expedition to the surface is planned.

Bursting onto the surface, they discover a pleasant, green, peaceful world, with no trace of the radiation storms they've been shown for all these years. Instead of fighting, the robots have been cleaning up and restoring the world.

Confronted, the robots admit the deception and claim their calculations say that people on both sides are tiring of the war and will soon be willing to give up and come up and live in peace.

The leaders try to get down into the bunkers, but the leadys have already sealed the entrance; they will claim a direct strike destroyed it so the masquerade can continue for now.

The expedition gives in, and goes to live on a restored farm, where they meet a team of their Soviet counterparts who had the same experience.

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    Note: Accepted by OP in a comment on the question.
    – DavidW
    Jan 24 at 17:58
  • +1 And thanks for helping close the dupe. Dupes trigger my OCD :P
    – Andres F.
    Jan 24 at 20:50

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