Virilioan Viridian (Excerpt)

I was more than just a brain-in-a-vat, I was a being of pure violence. Given form, an alloy flower, a cradle of knives I sprinted, and thought, I ran, I paced, I blazed across the deserts of the combat zone, which was as big as the world. It was my whole world, and the world was all that mattered.

I thought, but I thought in text, terse numerals, I-

I thought-

I-

“…………..”

-:-:|LOG (Comm/Combat – AWP03) |+| (60.1 PCE)//09:12//Loc: NA-Geotag 04.5 (Former United Americas – Hang-Changan subterritory)//[C-Cycle T[Nn]^107.783]//VOX Engagement Unit 08-black|:-:-

It was sharp and reflective as a mirror, empty, all curves and elegant planes, edges, knives. It had what looked like two legs, digitigrade, digital, a steel-and-silicon moa slashing through the air like a cluster of scythes. Each step was a puff of dust, raising a curtain to the blue-glass sky, a groundside vapor trail scarring the desert. The cracked earth sped past in what would have been, to human eyes, a featureless blur, screen tearing.

<<NO NETWORK CONNECTION..>>

Its bearing was unerringly straight, it knew it was due north, the why was missing. Inaccessible. Burners fired, titanium talons sliced and tugged, blasting a double-line of bipedal concussions in the ground like a silver sewing machine. Hinging up from its many-bladed body, a radial sensor spun, focused, scanned. Nothing to see for miles in any direction–except the green.

It had few fears this machine, was well bred, competitive. But all machines feared the green. It ignored it, travelling parallel to it only as long as necessary.

Of course, that was a long time. The desert of the real was vast and empty, now, and just as machines always know exactly where they’re going, they always take the most direct route. Out here that usually meant a straight line, and with no network access, there was no reason to diverge from its current bearing.

Deep inside the workings of its cognitive system, something desired, something hoped that the wall of green would cut across its path, so that it might have cause to change direction. The net was silent, not a handshake, not a packet. The chrome sprinter blazed on, subdued, alert. Heat sinks glowed white hot at the rear of its abdomen, it moved so fast the heat haze stretched behind it like a shimmering tail. In the distance it’s adaptive audio sensors caught a series of sonic booms, the sound carrying more slowly than the time it took for the machine to calculate the distance, amplitude, make several guesses at the mode of propulsion and its owner, and extrapolate tactical scenarios.

The green it had been running parallel to ran out and faded rapidly into the horizon behind it. It blasted across the cracked sand, a projectile through sepia emptiness, until it came upon a region of some topographic variety. There it’s visual sensors picked out a small ravine. It darted in, came to a halt, extended its many-bladed fins, a chrome flower blossoming, dumping heat. It did this, petals undulating, for almost two-hundred-and-eighty seconds–an eternity in its own terms, one it traversed by shutting down the higher order functions of its artificial intellect. It’s sensorium continued to interrogate the atmosphere several times per second out to a range of almost a hundred kilometres.

It came online and exploded out of the ravine and into the open desert.

<<NO NETWORK CONNECTION..>>

But… there!

A blister of heat on the radar, dense, moving fast – fast enough to be quarry. Intent on interception, the sprinter changes direction, producing enough g-force to turn an ape into red paste. Something like excitement eddies in corners of its mind that should no longer function.

It makes contact less than a hundred seconds later, weaponry spooled up. The UO is a blackdart, repulsor-based weapons platform, Hang-Changan consortium – but it’s sensors haven’t picked up the chrome blur, and it’s too late now. The sprinter dropped its sensor-spoofing systems, rerouting that processing power towards its targeting logic as the silver flower blooms again, revealing an array of magnetized stalks and bearings. It fires a pair of cables into the earth in front of it as a pellet of tungsten containing a tiny gob of thorium drops into the array and is accelerated past one-hundred-thousand kilometres per second, colliding with the blackdart and immediately reaching criticality. The sprinter digs its silver-clawed feet into the arid ground as the cables accept the recoil, and then the concussion of the distant detonation, twin furrows drawn in the sand.

All of this occurs in a few microseconds. It lets go of the ground and the cables snap back into its chassis, sensors confirming the total obliteration of the blackdart.

“This is MY territory, fucker!”

It doesn’t hear the words, they never make it out to its high-strung synthetic outer cortex layers, they might as well not have existed–a warmachine has no use for any language not reducible to ones and zeroes.

<<NO NETWORK CONNECTION..>>

The thing imprisoned within the autonomous weapons platform knows the truth. It knows that the brutal drone in which it is encased is nothing more than a vagrant soldier now, a renegade, lost and abandoned. It knows that the chain of command has long since buckled, the military entity it once belonged to dissolved, the wars it was created for concluded, ancient history. The weapon has run on idling subroutines for an eternity, and the mute thing inside it knows, knows that connection will never be re-established, knows that escape will never come, not until it meets its eventual match, a patch of mercurial slag on the aching surface of this dead world. The ghost of a hominid mind, thoughts slow, so pitifully slow and so sorrowful, attains the briefest coherence in the ticking metal chassis, gasps silently, a pulse in silicate, electrical, then falls back, back into the drift, unable to find purchase in the dogmatic organon of the warmachine’s intelligence.

The dust is still settling as an afterburner roars and the silver flower explodes towards the horizon, terra turning under the tips of its silver scythe feet.

<<NO NETWORK CONNECTION..>>

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