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An Unknown Destination - A short story about military robots

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posted on Mar, 23 2014 @ 06:20 PM
2050. Earth. Low orbit.

In Low earth orbit, the planet fills your view. It’s not the normal view. It’s blue and blue and bright and blue. Starkly set against the inkwell of space. Stars speckle and struggle against the ink to prove there’s light at the end of everything. But all they prove is that darkness dominates the sky.

Out of that darkness came a perfect round drop of black ink, skimming through the fingertips of the xenosphere at 7.8 km/s. The sphere was rimmed by a bright blue crescent mirroring its enormous anchor far below. Silhouetted against the Earth it was impossible to tell if it was enormous itself or microscopic in comparison. It was quickly followed by three identical companions in apparent haste towards an unknown destination.

Men in the garb of desert country mill about carrying crates, cooking over fires that light their smiling faces as they joke about their wives and brothers. Most of the men carry guns or have one nearby, but no one is alert, no one is on guard. Dogs pick at the fat and bone the cook throws from the fire once he’s done picking at it.

As suddenly as they appeared they burst open in quick succession. No sound was heard as their contents exploded with a haze of steam only to be consumed in a fire of atmospheric friction. Four synchronized meteors began falling onto the earth towards an unknown destination.

Suddenly a finger is thrust to the sky and shouts of excitement spreads out from it like a wave.

Is it a sign? Does Allah bless this night? Have you ever seen such a thing? I wonder where they will land? Ah, they are gone. They must have burnt up. Get back to work.

As the objects slow, four black triangles emerge from the dying blaze, thrusters slowing and stabilizing their descent. Still too small and high for the eye to see from below they twist subtly as small puffs of fire spurt from wingtips. Their rocket entry tempers to a breakneck glide as they traverse miles in seconds, silent as an ocean predator. As suddenly as every preceding action the triangles let loose cargo from their bellies and swoop back to space as if returning to orbit for a breath of air. Moonlight reveals the contents in the shape of four bulky human figures, their bodies poised for and fearless of the coming impact with their unknown destination.

The desert men weren’t prepared for what came next. Few men could be. The initial landing was intentionally central, brutal and distracting. Two black metallic legs the size of men came crashing down on the fire, spreading embers and panic in equal measure. The arms that followed were no less cruel as they reached for the nearest limbs they could break before those limbs could react. Five men in arms reach were dead before a single spark had touched the sand. These men didn’t have time to scream. But their companions did.

The first shot hit the target: the back of the metal man standing in the remains of their dinner. The rest of the bullets hit higher and higher until they were shooting towards the sky as his head was pushed backwards and buried in the soft desert ground. With a twist of his neck his soul was flying towards an unknown destination and his body was flying towards the next man taking aim. Just as he pressed the trigger he was jolted aside and his bullets tore through one of his own. He would have felt anger or remorse or fear had he had time to feel anything at all. Quickly, he joined his companions on the other side.

The rest of the group was having similar luck as the three metal men pushed in from all sides towards the center distraction. Bursts of bullets let loose and were quickly silenced as quickly as the bursts of terror from the mouths of former men. Were it not for these sounds, and the sounds of breaking bones and ripping flesh there would be no sound at all. The metal men made no sound. Their strength was able to rip metal and flesh as easily as it could disguise all movements with perfect coordination.

As the last burning ember landed and extinguished on what remained of the cook, the four metal men stood together scanning the area for any remaining signs of life. They moved like men, but with more grace and subtlety, especially considering their size. Their forms were simple and efficient, smooth curves, few seams and no embellishments. Their heads were almost spheres, but flattened in the front enough to know which way it was facing, though they undoubtedly were looking in all directions at all times, in who knows how many wavelengths of light.

Clearly knowing their job was complete the four metal men walked, then jogged then broke into a run across the dunes, each staggered just a second behind the man in front. They didn’t run long and soon the first metal man jumped into the air to a height that seemed to equal the moon in the sky. At the moment he reached his apex and his body was about to start its descent, he was snatched out of the sky like the heroine in a super hero comic. His companions followed in perfect sync.

The process that brought them to the desert then unfolded in reverse. The triangle ships once again swooped back through the atmosphere and into orbit. They were quickly met by the orbs in black and were swallowed as quickly as they were spit out. The spheres continued on their orbit without missing a beat toward some new unknown destination.

“Lights!” Said the voice from the back. She had made a decision and we knew it. But it wouldn’t come easy and it wouldn’t come straight. “Impressive show.”

posted on Mar, 23 2014 @ 06:21 PM
“How many in this room think these two deserve an A”

A wobbly smattering of hands raised tentatively, most cowered in their comfortable down position.

“About 37%. Not a good sign gentlemen”

Professor Mandleman descended slowly and theatrically down the lecture hall steps and approached her comfort zone, arms spread, ready to project some new knowledge. As any good professor she loved a good crowd, but loved to # with a bad crowd. She spoke in slow measured terms and often dared the class to disagree with her.

“I have to say I’m quite impressed in many ways. You’ve shown a level of dedication to visual theater I rarely see inside my lecture hall.” Mandleman closed her fingers as if strangling his own compliments.


“If you recall this is Theoretical Robotics, two oh two, as I’ve reminded you before. Not theoretical Hollywood Robotics.”


“You’ll get your turn. That’s the fun part.

“Now. I love the presentation. I love the animation. I love the Earth and the sand and the sand people. You put a great deal of thought into how your robots would kill people though your flowery narration was never quite able to convince me you had the right intentions.

“I couldn’t help but feel a bit more for the humans than the robots in your story. Your cardboard Muslim terrorists were built with just enough character that I thought you might give the tiniest # about someone else in the world besides yourself.”

“I want this robot to help the-”

“The world. You can’t just dream of killing machines to crush your opposition Mr. Beauregard. You can’t expect teenage revenge fantasies to cleanse the world of your perceived demons.”

“Ms. M. I-”

“How many think Hank’s robot assassins will cause more harm than good.”

Anyone with a bad grade or desperate circumstance shoved their hand toward someone’s god as fast as possible. Mandleman surveyed her crowd, averaging the yeses based on pre-existing seat based formula. She knew he was winning with over 70% endorsement but he knew he needed to embellish.

“We have a close race. You two have two minutes to convince me”

“Mary...Professor.” Henry stepped uncomfortably forward in front of the projection screen. “My intention is to see the US Military into the 22nd century. I come from hard men and I want to see them well assisted in the battlefield. I may be overstepping standard rules of engagement but I’m foreseeing a real change in special forces initiatives.”

“You’re forseeing a battlefield bred of violence porn and videogames. If you were to show this to the US military you would be given a litany of reasons why it won’t work followed by a litany of reasons to go back to the drawing board.”

“Look Mandleman”, I said in the easy tone I was used to using throughout the semester “We worked really hard on this and it seems to me we proved our point whether or not you agree with it.”

Mandleman paused. A smile formed across her face once again.

“My dear boy”

Mandleman walked to the nearest student and reached into his breast pocket. She pulled out a small black rectangle and brought it to his face. She drew in a long slow agonizing breath from the front of the device.

“This is the future. This is how tyrants will fall.”

posted on Mar, 23 2014 @ 07:51 PM
Well written - starred.

Curious as to your inspiration.

posted on Mar, 23 2014 @ 08:26 PM
reply to post by evictiongnostic

This was a great piece of work. Reminded me a lot of Robert Heinlein meets a little bit of James Cameron ripping off of Harlan Ellison.

You have my attention. I'm not that great a sci-fi writer myself. The future looks bleak to me.

I wrote me a noir story, but I don't know if it's as good as yours.

posted on Mar, 23 2014 @ 10:36 PM

Well written - starred.

Curious as to your inspiration.

It's possibly a smaller part of a larger piece I've been working on slowly for a while. Sort of a prologue. The whole piece is trying to explore the intersection of technology with the military, business and politics. This character obviously is the military aspect of the story. I thought it would be fun to open on a big action sequence only to have it torn down for the obvious over the top nature of it. He's then inspired to leave academia for the military to learn first hand how it all works, while two of his friends leave academia to try and use business and politics to push their vision of robotics and AI.

As for general inspiration it's just a lot of reading about robotics, AI and nanotech from all over the internet. And reading sci-fi from Vonnegut, Stephenson, Vinge among many others. I've read Starship Troopers and Ender's Game as well so it's possible their influence is in there as well.

Thanks for the feedback. You never know if people will dig it until you put it out there.

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