Fall and Rise

Posted: June 8, 2011 in Fiction, Steel

Doing the personal stuff in the preface today. The good news is that I’m working on creating instead of reporting my own deficiencies. The bad news is that I know I still have a long way to go to deal with those deficiencies. I think I had a lot more to say, but it eludes me at the moment. Maybe there will be a bit of bonus narcissism later.

Sun glinted off of the heap of machinery. A cool breeze came from the east. For a moment the only sound was the turbine of the private jet inside a nearby hangar. Gears whirred and the chrome giant shifted on the tarmac. Servos chirped and the irises on the optical sensor suite refocused. Targeting software measured the jet’s speed and direction, calculating maneuvers for an array of possible responses. Hydraulics hissed as a pair of clawed hands splayed themselves on the ground and pushed. Two tons of machinery lifted from the ground. One leg scraped its way underneath the center of the mass and planted on the runway as the nose of the aircraft emerged from the yawning maw of the hangar.

Radio chatter filled the air. There were demands to halt take-off procedures. Overlapping those demands were swearing and mentions of the machine hauling itself to its feet. The machine recognized mentions of itself. Intelligence and interrogation algorithms analyzed the voices over the radio. Tone of voice was consistent with the words being said. The men in the cockpit were afraid. The machine balanced itself on its enormous legs. Four-pronged feet spread out to give the mechanical beast a stable base. Its optics remained trained on the jet. The jet crept forward.

Internal sensors informed the machine that its operator was critically injured. The machine attempted to ping the operator through the neural link cable. There was no response. Sensors reported a hull breach. The machine searched the most recent communications logs between it and the operator. Operator injured. Immediate medical attention required. The machine came as close to expressing concern as it could; it relayed this information and its location to the control tower with a request for aid. There was one other communication between the machine and the injured operator: Stop them.

The jet reoriented itself with its nose aimed at the end of the runway. The machine relayed another message on every radio frequency on which it could broadcast: Pursuing aircraft with unregistered flightpath. Crash probability high. Clear all runways. If the machine had a mouth, it might have grinned. The din of the turbines drowned out all other sound. To all appearances, the bipedal machine collapsed silently onto all fours and launched itself forward. Stainless claws carved deep furrows in the runway as stainless claws demanded traction from the tarmac surface. The jet accelerated, but too late. Like a tiger on its prey, the chrome giant pounced on the tail of the aircraft.

The added weight pulled the tail to the ground and the nose of the plane lifted prematurely. The turbines fought to hoist the mass of the robot and itself aloft, but in vain. The left hand punctured the aluminum skin of the rear of the craft and wrapped around the frame. The right reached up and tore the tailfin free of the plane. The radio was filled with frantic screaming as the pilot fought for control. Intelligence software kicked in, and a radio jamming frequency overrode the broadcast. That same software reasoned that the machine would be decommissioned if it came to light that it was acting without the direct instructions of the operator.

The machine pulled itself up the outside of the craft, kicking holes in the exterior of the plane to gain purchase on the otherwise smooth cylinder. The turbines fairly screamed, but the redistribution of the extra weight drove the nose back down. The robot reached the midpoint of the plane. With both feet smashed into the plane for stability, it reached down with its claws and twisted the left wing.



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