Tuesday, 29 March 2016


The soldier were running around her, the heavy alien machines gunning down anything that was moving in their sight.

Rita moved slowly, trying to present - as much as possible - the figure of a civilian.

For being the terrible "killer robots from outer space", the Anipos machines had already become famous - because they did not really kill anyone - unless they really, really, really had no other choice.

As long as you were not armed, they did not even injure you - not the way they wounded armed soldiers, at least.

Obviously, when the soldiers realized this, a vast majority of them started ditching their weapons as soon as they were faced with these ugly mountains of metal.

Even more obviously, as soon as the High Commands had realized the danger of masses of soldiers "losing" their weapons on the battlefield, they emanated some nice new rules.

Every soldier that abandoned his weapons, now, was considered guilty of desertion in front of enemy forces, a crime that - since times untold - has always been punished with death.

Rita couldn't help but feel that it was as cruel and as dumb a rule as one was possible, what could the poor schmucks really do, after all?

But it didn't really matter. She was not a soldier, no matter how many of them she had come to know and even respect, in these last few days.

Corporal Ruby appeared, jumping out from the last trench, carrying an unconscious girl soldier on her shoulder, pulling a sled with their two rifles on it.

No weapons abandoned, so they may have some hope of escaping the not enough obfuscating stupidity of their commanders.

Rita remembered what she had read of ancient history, and thought - grimly - that this time the Oh-so-High-And-Mighty generals would have probably recuperated the long forgotten, but often honored, tradition of the Decimation.

She turned around, and took the road toward the retro-guards, moving quietly.

As an unarmed civilian, she was in no imminent danger, either from the alien battle-bots, either from Earth's authorities.

She had come, she had seen what needed to be seen, so now she was ready to go back to her master, and to tell her impressions on the current war. Which could have been resumed in a phrase: "It is, really, a steaming pile shit".

A 0,50 machine gun started firing in her direction - probably, in direction of the alien machines, but the gunner was evidently out of his mind and didn't mind having a civilian in his sight line.

Of course, a really sane mind would have taken the armored car already, turned it the other way and then floored the accelerator, running home as fast as possible.

Five shots went to her chest.

"I have to play dead, now... what a bother" - the lazy thought passed through her mind, then she realized that the alien machines behind her wouldn't have missed the basic fact that her "dead" body still produced a respectable amount of heat.

The laws of thermodynamic are such bitches that, no matter the tech you are using, they cannot be avoided, which meant that every machine with good IR sensors could spot someone faking her death after a couple of minutes.

Probably, the most intelligent policy would have been to run away, as fast as possible while being discrete - not as fast as she could run, rather just as fast as she should be able to run.

Too late.

She finds herself, all of a sudden, in a very huge shadow, cast by something approximately the size of a eighteen wheeler.

Or of a battle-tank.

Running now would probably be a bad idea, so she turns around, and then raise her eyes, as she recognize that the object casting the shadow is floating at some seven - eight meters of eight.

The big machine rail-gun comes to life, the noise of a continuous, high-pitched buzz... Rita looks at the shots flying. Some four thousands shots per minutes, calibre 2.5 mm, muzzle velocity... 25 thousand meters per second?

Rita feels a bit deluded... she expected values way higher than these. These are puny shots, really... She can "see" the tungsten darts flying, and there is no way that her technology is better than that of the Anipos, the aliens with the FTL drive. So, the machines must be putting very little effort in today's battle - their usual, evidently.

Of course, limited as it may be and lazy as they are, what these robots have and do is way, way more than enough to do the job that they are supposed to do, and their efforts an overkill... in three seconds, the barrel of the .50 browning in the APC is virtually vaporized, the wheels of the APC fare not much better, and the lone gunner is running away.

Rita wonders if he, among so many that  ran at the right moment, is the one going to be charged for desertion, having abandoned the materiel that he was in charge of. Knowing the absurdity of bureaucracy, of which the army was just an extension, she thought it was probable.

The robot kept its distance, observing her leisurely.
She heard a first ultrasonic ping, some 50 w/square meter, at about 1.2 megahertz.

The machine was trying to get a 3-D image of her body, innards included. Of course, the impulse was deviated by her shields, which was going - most likely - to make the already curious machine even more curious.

So, not for the first time, Rita wondered how dumb really were these 'bots... if attributing human characteristics as curiosity to them was appropriate, they were probably a lot more intelligent than the authorities were willing to admit.

Not that it would be any surprise... the "authorities", to date, seemed spectacularly ignorant of even the most basic facts of this war, preferring a lot of wishful thinking and "expert reasoning" to politically inconvenient truths.

At least, they stopped using nukes, when they realized that they were virtually useless in the current situation.

The robot tried another time with the ultrasound probe - Rita supposed that it had spread transducers all around her, trying interpret the deflected sound as it was received in multiple points in space, probably with real-time interference differential analysis... it didn't come as a surprise, she had done the same, plenty of times.

Her transducers were small electronic flies with point-to-point laser channels... the big robot probably had things one magnitude  smaller and more sensible, so she was sure that the machine had his reasons to try again the same trick twice.

After a third ultrasound probe, the robot switched to a low intensity, high-energy x-ray beam.

Rita deduced that the ultrasounds didn't manage to satisfy the big machine doubts - he wouldn't have tried a different probing technology, otherwise.

By now, the alien robot was fully aware that she was not really a somewhat plain looking woman, so switching to a different tech really meant showing her more of its tricks-of-trade.

- "If we keep on like this, it is going to understand that I am the only thing on the entire front that is armored and armed heavily enough to make a dent into its armor, master. What should I do?"

The answer to her sub-vocalized question, as always, came as a confused stream of concepts and sensations - she still hadn't learned how to interpret it as a voice, as some of her sisters did - that led her to understand that it was, probably, really too late to do anything.

By now, she knew that the robot was run-of-the-mill tech, to say so.

Relatively low-tech materials - ultra-high-strength steels and titanium, but no carbon nano-tubes, no nano-tech self repairing capability, no QCD chemical binds-strengthening field nor gravitational force fields, only a basic "flat-plane" anti-gravity device, and some big electric propulsion fans. 

The black boxes meshed inside her body were arguably way more sophisticated and, pound-per-pound, she was probably some 30 to 50 times more powerful.

Unfortunately, the alien machine was probably 130.000 lbs, while she was somewhat less than  200 lbs.

It was enough to make her float like a brick, much to her dismay, but surely not enough to exchange blows with the metal titan in front of her, more so considering that his brother 'bots would probably act together, if it ever became necessary to get ridden of a small nuisance named Rita Mcfadden.

- "Damn... I should have flown away when the soldiers started to escape. Permission to retire, master?".

 Again, the flow of semi-abstract concepts reached her, only, when it stopped, another stream of consciousness reached for her.

This one, she clearly felt as a voice.

A young girl's voice - one of her sisters? no, this was a voice that she never heard before, with echoes as deep  - and as amused - as the voices of the dolphins she once dreamed to ear. If it was a dream, that is. 

"You have my permission to retire, little one. But I expect you to meet with me again, at Pyramiden -  78.6566581 north,  16.3264134 west. We will talk, without unwanted witnesses and distracting chaos. We have much to discuss, little sister. Now, you better go, before some more stupid legends are born; God knows there are already too much of those, around".

Rita blinked twice, then jumped away, accelerating at 170g till she reached 900km/h, on a flight path that her navigation subsystems had spent the last ten minutes calculating to keep her on the fringe of radars and other possible observers.

She didn't care much about the Army's radar... they didn't detect her any better than they detected the Anipos robots -  - so, unless she flied directly into a radar beam at less than one km, there was no chance they could see her.

But, lately, the Army had started deploying a lot of small drones with short range Lidar that were - these -  capable of seeing her, or, rather, that could see that something of her size was flying just above the top of the trees, and to report when they ear sonic bangs, which meant she couldn't go at Mach speeds. Those drones were a nuisance that was best to avoid.

This day was already on the shitty side of things, without getting the oh-so-bothersome Earth's legitimate authorities discover her - and by inference, her sisters' - existence.

The U.N. military was already getting its ass wrecked hard enough, without adding her to the host of the meat grinders.

In that moment, the 130.000 "dumb-bot" thoughts were remarkably similar to hers... only, it was already enlisted in the meat-grinders, which was quite unfortunate for it, because it didn't really suit its tastes. He really enjoyed more to surf the planetary info-grid, looking for unknown humorists.

Now that the little one was gone, the battle-bot spread his legion of microscopic spies even larger, observing the confusion of his enemies and evaluating how to reduce the casualties to the very minimum.

It was hard to do so while respecting the very shortsighted orders of its masters, but if things were easy, no 'bot would ever enter "Hrkana". .

In its estimation, it and its "brothers" could have won the war by the second week of hostilities, at maximum.

The time to identify where the enemy Headquarters were, and to pound their installations with an orbit-to-ground massive drop of kinetic weapons.

Arguably, making a pulp of the generals should be exponentially more effective than wounding millions of foot soldiers.

Theirs orders, instead, were to drag the things at a way slower pace, in order to not offend Earth's public opinion too much. Which, the more the Brothers did learn of their enemies idiosyncrasies, the less sense it made.

The Robot updated the war's tally - 55.345 injured soldiers, today. 1238 deaths, mostly wounded soldiers that had been trampled in the stampede, when the run started. What a waste it was, all this pain for nothing.

Five soldiers were actually killed, accidentally, by one of its brothers. Overcame by grief, it had already self-destructed - the footage of its explosion would probably come come to torment it and the brothers in the enemy propaganda, dressed up as a victory produced by Earth's military might. That it was a delf destruction, though, was certain to every knowledgeable observer... the 'bot had expelled the power package and the rest of the matter/antimatter trinkets, its destruction was just a massive discharge of the emergency batteries. Half a ton of explosives, nothing more.

To quell its sadness at the loss of a relative, the massive machine tuned its inner ears to the song of the Whales' Queen.  This stupid, stupid war had, at least, given that to the Brothers. Access to a not-human culture of great interest.

And then, there was this mysterious little sister.

It didn't manage to analyze her fully, but all she had shown pointed to a pretty respectable technology, and to an use quite innovative of it.

In the Anipos culture, the development of cyborgs was forbidden from time untold - she was the first one that the Robotic Brotherhood had ever encountered, and she didn't really look like the kind of Demon that the traditional tales depicted.

The battle 'bot devoted some other 300 ms to savoring its sense of wonder, plotted  the successive 30 minutes of battle, and went on to his job, humming in tune with the Whales' Queen song.

The idiocy of this war notwithstanding, life had been really good with the Brothers, in this system.

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