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© 2008, Made in DNA
The War Machine
Its reserves low, the great machine signals a mated geosynchronous minisat for the location of the nearest village within radius of its patrol. Squirt-spat, squirt-spat, squee-waaah, blip-confirm and it continues on rumbling through the night of the lightly jungled planet, rerouted. Its clean-fuel source grumbles hungrily but must be patient; it is still several hours out. It switches to conservation mode and processes the remains of its last resupply with the utmost efficiency. Hundreds like it -- squat, half-tanks with enough firepower to easily obliterate even the largest modern FedSphere archologies -- have been deployed across the biosphere to root out the enemy invaders who have so callously dropped on the planet a year ago. Claiming to be liberators, they terrorized the FS citizens and settlers of this precious world. The machine will protect. It's programming is clear: recognize, engage, refuel, redeploy. The machine has been programmed by FS military to recognize the vital refueling components it needs, and each village and town has been generously supplied by that same complex. Unrecognized by the enemy invaders, as long as the machine can wrest control of the habitat from them, it shall be able to redeploy quickly seeking new targets. Several hours later, it is sitting just inside the village perimeter, thermoptic camouflage engaged. In a village of approximately forty, it has recognized another twenty invaders, most of who are heavily armed. Waiting until they have congregated to eat their evening meal, the machine unleashes hellfire, spitting hard-light bullets and splintered
bits of the cabin through the invaders at light-speed velocities. Those that are not disintegrated instantaneously, flop like ragdolls in a vicious windstorm until finally, their savagely mutilated bodies whet the earth with their blood and the chunks of flesh that are all that remain of them. Silence blankets the village. The machine stills knowing it must be patient. After the carnage, it knows that the people will not trust it. So it will wait for them to recognize the FedSphere markings on it while it broadcasts friendly overtones on all FedSphere comm-channels the villagers may be tuned to. Several hushed minutes pass before the first of the curious peek out. Random calls and clipped conversation explode from seemingly nowhere and yet all-around: questions, confirmations, puzzlement, fear, excitement, disbelief... and finally, a guarded call to approach. The first men approach, armed with crude weapons that could not harm the great machine in any fashion. Cautious, they prod the machine, first to see if it will react to them, then to see if it is alive, and finally to see if they can provoke it. The machine is patient. The villagers need time. It has plenty of time to give. Once they have called back to the other men, who also approach with crude weapons, it begins to flash lights and bleep softly at them. Some jump, others try to bash it. It cares not. It opens a small hatch and offers up a small gift of cooking fuel common on the biosphere. The men recognize it yet puzzle over it nonetheless. It then offers up soap and other small sundries it knows they can use. They are amazed, then fascinated. It flashes more lights and offers up more gifts. Soon adults and children both are gratefully running out to accept them. The village begins to laugh and cheer their savoir. Finally they are free! Their thanks is hardy and robust. They kiss the great machine as if it were one of them and not made of gears. Oldsters ingratiate themselves to it, and young men hug young women who hold their small offspring. There is talk of a grand celebration for the evening. This
is well. Very well, for this talk has brought all the most agile adults and children within four meters. Just as suddenly as it had begun its assault on the invaders, the great machine discharges a paralyzing static bubble that engulfs them all. With practiced precision it carefully picks each one up and tenderly places them into a spiraling blackhole maw revealed by sliding panel, where their atoms are spaghettified and distributed to the power and ammunition plants. Confirming that its power sources have been fully refueled, and that there are no leftover supplies, it signals its mated minisat, and once more starts off on a path that will lead it to the next invader hotbed.
The sun had barely deemed it necessary to grace the shanty town outside the limits of the glistening towers of City Proper until well late into the day when its beams of orange washed out all other colors. Perhaps that was for the best. It was, after all, the only washing the refuse living and breathing the orange-sparked air from their hidey-holes behind grime-dusted building-leftovers would ever get. The street, though lively, would never be enough to support the few shops that clawed out an existence there. And the shop, said to be one of the best noodle places either in or out of City Proper, was not above 'substituting' ingredients now and then. That was life. At least if one wanted to continue living it. The woman was dressed in cracked leather boots, jeans, and hooded duster, all of which had apparently acquired some of the shanty town's dinge on her way to the noodle shop. The blunt pistol on her hip was simultaneously monstrously comic and cruel. Tucked comfortably away though was the only part of her that seemed impossibly impervious to the ever-angry elements of the unincorporated district. Ducking, she held up a section of the sadly faded red banner that hung down over a third of the entrance. Her eyes readjusted to the dimly lit afterthought of a room and considered the six battered crates crowded around the L-shaped counter. All but one complained of the boniness flop-ass treatment they were currently being subjected to with each new mouth. "Welcome," the owner's voice was clear and attentive, yet there was a distinct distance in the older man's eyes as she sat down on the only
free crate. None of the other customers paid her mind. Their heads were buried in their bowls, slurping greedily while their crusty chopsticks bounce-dip bounce-dipped in an intricate dance to shovel noodles into gaunt, unshaven cheeks. Just above her head, five wooden slats, graying and faded, hung like lifeless corpses nailed to their fate. Their sins were coded in an archaic language that spoke to the customers of noodle variations and prices. The woman ordered a bowl of sliced pork miso noodles, and fondle-counted the number of cockroaches stuck in the aged grease under her counter seat to pass the time. The noodles were good. She sipped them with an admiration she thought impossible before now. So she questioned the owner. "Business very good?" "Good? Not much could be called 'good' these days." As if to allow him to continue, she lifted the cracked porcelain bowl entrusted with the care of her noodles to her lips and sipped. He did just that. "These times aren't just 'troubled' they're downright adverse. It's been almost fifteen years since the war, and still, we languish here like refugees... refugees in our own country, mind you." One of the other customers finished his bowl and slapped the money down with a something that resembled a word of thanks to the owner. As if on cue, another man rushed the door and jumped into the seat before the first was even out the door. The second man didn't even look at the menu slats, he just ordered. She took chewed a bit of pork as her eyes flickered over the new customer. "You don't seem to be doing too badly."
"No, not as 'badly' as others. But not so's you could tell." "Shouldn't you be grateful?" He looked at her as if she had leaned over the counter and spit in his pot of constantly boiling water. "It's one thing to live, it's another to be alive. The men in their slick towers of power have us by the balls. And they mean to keep us this way. cold and cowering. by any means. it's the only way to keep us all divided and their coffers full." When she offered nothing in retort or reply, he caved to her interest of his opinion. He carried on for several minutes more, carefully orating his points, and backing them with clear-headed, intelligent reasoning. There was a power in his words, and every one of them was dead correct. Customers automatically bleated agreement or indignation like Pavlov's Dogs from their ass-numbing positions as they ate. He was a fantastic orator, dignified, powerful. In the right time, right place... a possible leader of men. He had courage and dignity. All the while she listened, nodded and replied with her own non-committal grunts. As the old man spoke, the scoff-gulps of his customers were replaced with vocally sympathetic vibrations. Their cheers called to still others who crowded their heads into the small room through the door, just to hear the man speak. As the last of his words on the topic died away, she pulled a homemade toothpick from a dispenser and picked out a stubborn piece of meat. Yes, indeed. Her contact had been correct. This was the man she was seeking. An idealist. A man who could lift the poor wretches of shanty town into a rolling storm that would send electrified shockwaves through City Proper. "Damn fine speech," she commented. His laugh was part whimper, part frustration, and all irony. "I would like to think so. But the fate of all good men and their ideas is conformity."
She cocked her head at this and pursed her lips. "Not always." "Missy, from your clothing, I assume that you are a traveler who has seen at least a little of this world. What makes you think that my ideas will change anything?" "I didn't say that." "What are you saying then?" "That your fate is not conformity," with that, she stood, and with practiced skill put a fist-sized hole in his face with her pistol. The back of his skull decorated a yawning pantry, and his flailing arm came down into the large boiling pot of water upsetting it over what was left of him. Several customers exploded off their seats, two reached downward toward their belts. The woman punched a hole through the top of the first's head. She'd caught him, or at least she thought she had, looking down as he reached for his weapon. In fact, he'd just pissed himself and was reaching to cover the spot with both hands. The second man had reached for a gun. And had succeeded in drawing it on her. It was an antique that the woman almost didn't recognize as dangerous until the customer next to her, who was so desperately trying to become part of the wall, got a helping of iron in his diet of noodles. That man's chest evaporated in a cruel red Rorschach on the wall behind him. The sound of the ringing in her ears was the only one in the room. No one moved. When the woman was positive all the trouble to be had in the room had been had, she holstered her gun, reached into her pocket and placed the price of the bowl of noodles on the counter. "From The Man's coffers,' she added, and bled out into the deepening crimson of the last light.
About the Author
Made in DNA is an American expat living in Japan. He is a fan of cyberpunk, alternate universe, noir, bizarro and hard science fiction genres. His experience living in Japan for nearly a decade has greatly influenced his work accordingly. Contact: junkdnafiction [@] gmail.com
Though this work is not being distributed under a Creative Commons License, as long as the original work is kept completely intact and the copyrights respected, it may be redistributed freely, and only free-of-charge.
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