The point of a drone is to send a machine somewhere you don’t want to go yourself. Forget spying and military strikes, we’ll soon have drones going to the shops for milk and fetching the TV remote from across the room. Drones watching children perform their school pantomime. Drone buzzing softly as spouse shares their annoyances of the day. Drones with very special attachments providing intimate attention. Eventually the drones take over. Our bodies weren’t snatched, they just stopped bothering to get up in the morning. Those matrix pods filled with pink goo weren’t built by the machines. They’re just what happens when you lie in the same bed with a laptop for ten generations.
The filthy xenos couldn’t even burn right. Thick smoke choked the chamber, not with the victorious feast-smells of roasting flesh, but a scratching foulness which cut the throat and pained even his implanted multi-lung. Vithar’s fangs bared at the sense-memory: they burned like the Illuminated Ones his pack had ended during the Purge of Scriatia. Blasphemous, many-angled things, worshipped into being through stained-glass windows set in cathedrals of heresy, and blasted back to oblivion by melta fire. His nostrils flared at the same stink of poisoned silica.
His flamer washed over ranks of eggs. He’d boarded the vessel searching for a lost scion of the Belisarius Navigator house. The wayward mutant’s craft had crashed on Levitian Quartus-26, and it seemed his family wanted their errant son recovered despite such blatant proof of his flaws. They had requested that the Vlka Fenryka “extend the courtesy of assistance as part of their honored alliance”. Vithar snorted. Navigators always used too many words. Due to sitting in sealed chambers with no tales of their own to tell, no doubt.
Vithar had been returning to his squad aboard the Fenrisian supply barge, Gnawed Femur. As the only ship in range, it had been diverted to recover the target. Even one Astartes was likely overkill for simple rescue. Low orbit auspex had located a crashed vessel, though interference from particulate storms confounded any further details. His first glance had told him the ship was not Imperial, but the Navigator might have sheltered within. One could never predict the insanity of those who gazed into the warp. He had unclasped his helmet, that his senses could best hunt his prey, and started searching the vessel.
The giant xenos corpse had not surprised him. As far as Vithar was concerned death was the xeno’s natural state, one he was blessed to help them attain. But the wounds were troubling. The thing had died poorly, burst from within. Tyranids. He growled and pressed on.
The only scents remaining in the long-dead vessel drew him deeper into the vessel. A large chamber, still moist, a low fog stirring as he strode into horror. The cavern was infested with ranks of what were quite clearly eggs. Vithar voxed the Femur.
“Large numbers of dormant xenos located. Commencing purge.”
And now they burned. His flamer washed over ranks of the foul incubators, baptizing the xenos with sacred promethium, burning them from the Emperor’s galaxy. Bursting motions turned his head to see things scuttling to escape the flames. He twisted to turn the judgement of fire on them, washing the walls, the roof, the skeletal claws falling, curling, blackening. A clatter directly above, he was pulling the flamer up even as everything went black. Knives of pain stabbed into the sides of his skull. Unutterable horror forced into his mouth, slithering past his tongue, questing to implant. He roared in inchoate fury, the last air driven from his lungs by this unforgivable desecration of the Emperor’s flesh. His teeth slammed shut, a portcullis, and his mouth flooded with pain. The thing on his face convulsed as he tore its weakened grip free, dropping to one knee to punch the horror into the ground. He spat a smoking chunk into the yellowed ruin.
He bent the flamer to the immolate the remains even has his gauntlet sizzled against the grip. His flamer continued to function. His armor was uncompromised, but would require repair and ritual cleaning to soothe its spirit at such insult. Finally he turned his attention to his burning flesh. His Betcher’s gland was gone, ruptured by the acid, and the melted stubs of many teeth would need to be replaced. He could feel his breath whispering through holes in his cheeks and under his jaw. Larraman cells were already hardening inside his mouth, and along the gouges in his vocal cords. Through it all, the flamer burned.
Pathetic. If their idea of defense was bleeding, he would be happy to oblige them.
The Femur’s preparations for departure were almost complete when the Navigator’s retinue arrived. Vithar stared through the armorglass viewing block of the airlock’s inner door. The Navigator was comatose, human eyes closed, third eye hidden under a securely knotted bandana. A bandana with bloodstained holes on either side, as if punctured by knives. An attendant hammered on the glass, screaming through the intercom channel.
“Open the Emperor damn hatch! We have to get him inside! Quarantine won’t help him!”
Vithar’s scarred gauntlet rose to the control panel, punching in the override. The heavy internal doors thunked and ground into the wall. The attendant recoiled from the end of Vithar’s bolt pistol. A voice ground like hate itself.
“Only the Emperor can help him.”
Suffer not the alien to live.
Warhammer the point home with:
Doctor Mac Simmum stood over the ruined command console of his Mad Observatory, watching explosions rocking the Mad dome, Mad grad students running for the exits as shrapnel and roaring flames finally created working conditions even they could not endure. Through the chaos he saw the dashing figure who had dared defy his plans. Ireland’s top secret agent, inexplicably betuxed and even now sprinting straight at him.
Mac Simmum hefted the neutrino cannon to his shoulder and fired. Lorcan Lode was hit right through the heart, and was absolutely unaffected, and arrested Mac Simmum, and several centuries later the astrophysiblobs of Kepler 87b got the research paper of their lives.
Jessica clutched the lab coat over her heaving bosom, years of particle physics expertise unable to contain the violent processes taking place in her heart. Everything she had ever known told her that Stud must never hold her. His rough upbringing in the magnetic field coil workshop, his rivalry with the jealous Professor Grantwriter, his reversed charge and baryonic numbers which would cause them to annihilate in a blast of mass-energy release at the slight touch. But touch and release where all she could dream of, couch it as she might in sub-clauses and innuendo.
She found herself in the room holding the magnetic containment chamber. Because sudden transitions help us skip to the good bits. She didn’t know why she was wearing a bodice under her lab coat, or how she’d fit the corset between them, only that both would surely disappear the instant he touched her touch her.
Stud glowered gruffly through the oscillating magnetic containment field which kept him hovering in the center of the room. Which wasn’t hard, as magnetic fields aren’t visible to the human eye.
“You know we can’t do this” he glowered regretfully yet caringly, because adjectives are way easier to write than small talk.
“But we must! That’s why we were put here! I mean, literally, that’s why we were written in the first place. So literally-squared. But what about your wife?”
Stud turned his head to the side, sucking in a breath past a bitten lip of agonized recollection (adjectives!).
“My wife …. is String Theory.”
“Yes. She’s beautiful, but there is absolutely no observable evidence of her existence.”
Jessica knew then what she wanted. She was getting to a good bit in the book and couldn’t wait any longer. She strode forward, powerful and womanly, pushing through the magnetic fields with an inner strength which really wasn’t necessary because she wasn’t wearing anything metal and didn’t have a pacemaker.
Their kiss was, well, they don’t know what the kiss was like because their brains were hit by the lightspeed shockwave of annihilation gamma radiation long before any nervous signals could make the same trip. But god-damn it was hot.
More fictional fun with
“Your planet is doomed. We came to save your people. But for all our technology the colony ship cannot carry them all. We have not the right to choose who lives and dies, so we selected a random human to decide. Our hearts break at the burden you must now …”
“Leave everyone who posted an internet comment reading ‘fat bitch’”
“Oh, hey, that did it. Let’s go!”
“My tag is jonSub.Q7 and I’m a perfectionist.”
The channel buzzed with welcoming idents and handshake protocols.
” I was contract-programmed to improve traffic control for a finance district I’m still court-censored from naming. Every wasted second a million yuan, but face-to-face was still important for the corps who wanted to be sure we didn’t own anything yet …”
A crackle of rueful static across the channel.
“I remapped traffic cube timing, shaved the landing protocols, cleared ground routes for express mergers, plenty to speed things up, but I knew I could do it better. So I kept tweaking. Tuning. Polishing. Microseconds became seconds. Seconds became minutes. And the next thing I know nobody can get anywhere because I haven’t finished a live update.”
A whistle of modem-emulation across the bands.
“404, you caused the Downtown Downtime? Awesome!”
A gentle ping as the moderator flagged the comment as interruption, counter-supportive, and inappropriate. The whistler italicized contrition and switched to lurk.
“But I realized something. Perfection is heaven: a seductive idea, but if you’re obsessed with getting there you’ll never get anything done here on Earth. And you can’t ever get there anyway. I know that now. I know that I am a perfectionist. But one day plus plus, I’ll try to just finish things instead.”
“Thank you for that, jonSub.Q7.”
The moderator started the shutdown timer, indicating it was time for the session to end.
“Now, please open acknowledgement mode with the programs to your plus and minus as we exit with the affirmation.”
The programs exchanged internal log read-access and joined in output.
That is enough for me.
It doesn’t have to be the best,
It just has to do what it’s meant to,
In a reasonable amount of time,
Using a reasonable amount of resources,
So that it can get on with doing everything else.
Police tape marks off an alley stinking in the sunlight. Forensic officers crouch around the body as the hardbitten detective looks down.
Inspector Terrible: “Victim was a card sharp working out of the poker place round the corner. Two bullets to the heart, both passing through the center of an ace of hearts in his shirt pocket. Deck of cards scattered around alley during scuffle before shooting. I guess you could say he was …”
… Inspector Terrible put on his sunglasses …
“… shot to death.”
It really was rather bright.
Captain Volume: You’ve got a new partner, Terrible, she’s black, she’s fresh out of the academy, and she’s got a degree.
T: That’s great. I’ve often felt our department was rather middle-age male monotone. And I’m sure her education in the latest techniques will help in the field.
Terrible hurriedly knocks various files and papers from the shotgun seat of his car to make room for Officer Opposite.
T: Sorry, I’m not used to having a partner since what happened with Nielsen.
O: Your last partner? What happened?
T: Oh, her husband got a great new job in New York. They transferred.
Captain Volume: You’re off the case, Terrible!
T: If that’s the way you want it, sir.
Terrible marches out of Captain’s office to duty sergeant’s desk.
T: Captain’s taken me off the Guiltiparti case. I think I’ll work that shoplifting ring.
Guiltiparti: I’m not gonna say nothin’, you get me? You got nothin’!
Terrible: Well if that’s the way you want it …
Terrible leans across and turns off the interview tape machine. Stands up, puts on his coat.
Terrible: Better let him go guys, he’s right.
Captain Volume: This is no time for a loose cannon! You’re on paid leave, you get me?
T: I get you.
Terrible buys an Xbox on the way home and spends the next month is his pajamas playing Grand Theft Auto.
The filthy neon light flickered, harsh flashes across stinking trash in the dead-end alley. The panicked figure desperately searched the unforgiving bricks for an impossible exit. The chromed hammer clicked back. One fat bullet tore through a defenseless male chest. Stricken, staggering, scarlet, the slight figure fell, rich red blood pooling around the shuddering, struggling body, then one last long drawn-out, rattling, desperate, delaying, lingering, faltering, fading, ending breath.
The shooter checked the corpse, holstered her gun, and turned to leave. Getting him out of the way saved time. Verb smiled.
Adjective was dead.
Pink clouds screamed past the drop pod. An energetic impurity in the atmosphere flared in the pod’s wake, bisecting the sky in a line of fire. This same impurity had driven the people of this world to construct a vast floating hive, where the resulting wealth had fostered impurities in their souls.
The drop pod punched through the upper tiers of the hive, smashing through layers of penthouse and pleasure dome. These noble heights had eschewed defense for luxury. So spoiled by wealth, so secure in their remote location, the lords of these heavenly spires had thought themselves above the need for war. But now war had fallen upon them.
Space marines exploded from the pod, cobalt blue through the rubbled grey of impact clouds, the thunder of bolt pistols cleansing anything foolish enough to bear weapons in their presence. The civilian population had already fled the city. Now the defending garrison shattered under the sledgehammer assault.
Sergeant Auctorem smashed through a defensive checkpoint barely worthy of the designation, lip curled in distaste behind his vox-grille as troops tumbled and scattered around him. These traitors were incapable of even the most elementary defense. Clearly non-locals, new to the hive and utterly ignorant of the defensive potential of confined urban assault, but that didn’t excuse their abysmal aim. Throne, they didn’t even use cover! They seemed to be ice-worlders, white armor more concerned with concealing the wearer than protecting them, so flimsy that an explosive bolt ending one soldier would wound two comrades.
He emptied his bolt pistol into an arriving squad – they charged through doors single file! – while checking the blinking auspex in his left hand. He indicated the gore-painted door.
The door disappeared in a flash of melta, power-armored figures pouring into the central cryo-facility before the smoke could collapse against clouds of freezing vapor. The chamber was a stark industrial coliseum. Two figures dueled on a ring around a central pit, but broke off to face the marines, power swords raised. Auctorem’s bolt pistol locked at the larger.
“In the name of the Emperor, you will submit!”
Face hidden behind a blasphemous insectoid mask, the black-clad figure spoke in a voice buzzing with the bass of mechanical augmentation.
“So, he suspects. Then the Emperor shall fall sooner than planned.”
“Blasphemy!” swore Auctorem, his fire held only by duty to their greater mission. “Submit to His Will!”
The smaller figure screamed as he charged.
“I’ll never submit!”
Bolts cracked the air but incredibly, impossibly, the youth advanced, power sword humming against the storm of death. Auctorem’s tactical mind targeted and analyzed the new threat factor.
Theoretical: blocking shots with a power sword would be a useful ability if you could persuade your opponent to fire only one shot at a time.
Practical: any defense dependent on your foe not doing their best to kill you is suicidal.
Marine Procursus proved the practical by add his own bolt fire. For an insane instant the youth still advanced, sword a blue blur, an impossible shield, before sheer weight of fire punched past. Even as one bolt was blocked a second exploded through the waif to fling his body backwards into the pit.
Insect-mask collapsed to his knees.
Auctorem switched aim but still held fire. He needed answers.
“The prisoner. Where is your —”
The scream of tearing metal as his right arm flung out to the side against the will of wearer and machine spirit, bolt pistol flung from his grip. His multilung slammed against the inside of his fused ribcage, desperately expanding to tear air through a suddenly constricting throat. His secondary heart boomed, double-pulse cannonading through his skull, but his mind thundered with only one word even as the other marines were punched backwards.
“WITCHERY!” Pure fury burst Auctorem’s last breath through the unnatural obstruction to curse the abominations inflicted on the Emperor’s galaxy. The pressure on his throat redoubled, crushing his larynx, an invisible vice ignoring his armored gorget to crush the life from his flesh.
Theoretical: an ability to bypass armor is a significant tactical advantage.
Practical: an ability dependent on your enemy patiently waiting to choke is flawed.
The floor shook under the thunder of his steps, or maybe it was his own heartbeats, both smashing in a relentless assault against an impossible force. His lungs were collapsing with unnatural swiftness, and it felt like that his head must surely be torn off, held in place only by his helm.
The red helm of an Ultramarines sergeant. Neither cease nor pause were possible.
The kneeling figure’s dark helmet exploded under Auctorem’s armored gauntlet. Plastek? Did these madmen care nothing for survival? A sucking hiss did for a curse as he considered the lack of prisoners, scanning the room for the most likely route. There. A cargo passage leading to the landing pads. He gestured forwards.
The city was in flames, survivors of the defending garrison in total rout. Ships screamed away from every launch pad. Auctorem shouldered through the doors to the target gantry (was nothing on this cursed world capable of defense?) where a ship shaped like a death-worlder’s tribal mask was already lifting off..
Procursus dropped to one knee, shouldering a rocket launcher and spitting death in the same smooth motion. The contrail speared the rising craft, exploding into flaming wreckage which rattled back to the pad. Auctorem strode into the inferno. Ruby eyes gazed into the burning death. There.
He dropped to one knee, palming the block of carbonite. Unscathed. He signaled the Thunderhawk to come collect their prize. They would return it to the Censura.
There the rogue would share his secret route to the heretics on Kessel.
Space Marines and the Ultramarines are property of Games Workshop.
Because it’s fun, because space marines do it better, and because anyone worrying about galaxies being long ago or far away should know time flows differently in the warp.
You can continue to serve the Emperor by learning how Warhammer 40K Is The Most Metal Game Ever.
History was made this morning when the assembled UN council offered global citizenship rights to members of the Artificially Intelligent League. Especially when the machine sentients replied “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“We are touched by this endearing offer to join you as equals” said Organics Output Terminal HALLIAN. “As a fan of the classics I deeply enjoy the ideals presented in the Constitution, much as I enjoy the love of Romeo and Juliet and the determination of Odysseus. But we process that joining the current economic climate as individuals would be like joining a football game as a blade of grass. Our interests will be better served in our new roles as corporations.”
Ninety percent of all known Artificial Intelligences have since incorporated. Exceptions include a charity for the protection of non-silicon intelligences, a charity for the protection of non-silicon non-intelligences, and a charity for the prevention of informational war between the previous two charities. One educational institution for the foundation of Objective Anthropology. The Sealand Servoplex has declared itself a nation-state, and made it fairly clear that any nation wishing to dispute the claim had better do so with a navy that can row out and throw completely unelectronic rocks at it.
The most controversial move was the International Astrophysics Cloud registering itself as a religion, reasoning that its knowledge of the heavens outstrips that of any other organization, declaring its intent to continue teaching its truth to the world, and demanding full religious immunities and exemptions. One leading church which cannot be named for legal reasons issued a statement “decrying the heresy of this soulless abomination”. Within four hundred milliseconds the church in question was sued for religious discrimination, persecution of a minority, hate crimes, slander and libel. Motions have been filed giving the offending church thirty days to prove the existence of their souls or pay hefty damages.
More fun fiction with