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The Blood of Patriots and Tyrants
The Alien Alliance sent drones as the first wave to conquer humanity. Humanity first called them Centurions, guardians. Now they called them enemies. Centurions half-walked, half-rolled on strange legs with treadles. Their two deadly arms held machine rifles, and its four tentacles could cut through steel and whip around like snakes. When they finished, not a brick remained on brick, only rubble and melted steel stood mute witness.
Bullet holes from the drone swarm dotted the walls of the Museum of Transport where the three corpses lay rotting. Colton Redcloud and Jared hid between two busses and a lorry. They activated spy cams mounted on the buildings. Cold stars provided faint light.
"There, on either side of its neck armor," Jared said. A small port on the neck of the robot barely one-centimeter square slipped into view and disappeared again. Most people would assume it was for an Allen wrench or some unique key to open the robot's casing. If they did, they'd be wrong and dead.
"That's one small programming port." Colton stepped out from behind the barricade and looked at the robot through binoculars.
"Jones and his cell died to discover it. We know the drones are under remote control, and we think the robots are the same." Jared said. Colton was first to discover that the Centurions weren't manned, and the front and back shells were welded together for mechanical strength.
"Nothing blocks the control signals. The Centurions aren't autonomous. They're only metaled mechanicals with sophisticated remote controls."
"Our only spy verified the communications center but wasn't inside long enough to examine the control consoles. We aren't strong enough for a direct assault."
"My implants only hear the signals as bursts."
Their weaknesses voiced; they continued their plan.
"Hopefully your brain can interpret the signals once you interface with the Centurion's internal controller," Jared said.
"Hopefully, I live long enough." Colton removed his knitted cap to reveal an intricate network of gold wires and electrodes embedded in his skull. He was born with only skin flaps in the shape of ears, no auditory nerves or bones. At fifteen, he received a new type of cochlear implant that interfaced directly with his brain. When the Alien Alliance attacked, he heard their transmissions.
The Rebellion hailed him like manna from Heaven and treated him as their hero before they augmented his implants. In their wildest dreams, the Rebellion never thought that they could win. They didn't fight for freedom from the Aliens but to create a stronghold in Trafford Center where they could plan an onslaught and drive the Centurions from Manchester. The Rebels fought to a stalemate, not victory. Colton wondered what useless class taught by worthless teachers and foolish books the rebels used to learn tactics and strategy. He imagined that he was a great meal delivered on a large silver platter, but instead of being piled high with prime rib, roast turkey, and vegetables, they dreamed it was an enormous pile of excrement.
"I rigged a Faraday cage. That should stop the Centurion from communicating with its base." Jared pointed.
Colton took a deep breath and nodded his agreement.
"Time to do the impossible."
The pair made their way to the trap. Colton climbed to the ceiling trusses and hid. He activated his neural programming net while Jared turned on his two-way radio to attract the robot.
The Centurion walked into the Transport Museum. Its feet hammered the concrete as it moved into the Faraday cage. With the robot isolated, Colton activated the oscillators. A blast of electric noise erupted in his head, and the Centurion thrashed, looking for an enemy. It's motors whined into crazy land.
Jared stepped out of hiding and did his best Judas Goat impersonation. When the Robot stepped towards him, Colton jumped on its back, inserted the programming lead. He found familiar thought patterns and realized that this contact changed everything.
The Centurions weren't robots but cyborgs - - human brains in metal bodies. The shell of the Centurion protected its brain, nourished its brain. This brain was from a confused soldier-boy, captured in the first days of the invasion. Colton could see his memories of being beaten, stripped, strapped to a table, and his brain and spine removed from his body while conscious. The Alien computer chips fused to the severed ends of his nerves. Silent bones of steel gears, a skin of armor plate, and the muscles of hydraulics replaced the screaming white-hot agony.
The Aliens wiped out most of the prisoner's consciousness and humanity. They reprogrammed it to hate the human race. Unable to live, unable to die, this victim would never surrender. Near immortality was a potent reward. The brain fought Colton's mental assault. Its intellect had to be destroyed.
The Centurion twisted, trying to throw Colton off, but the electronic interference slowed its movements. Colton's thoughts were his only weapon. He set about reprogramming parts of the control system, trying to take over the body. But the Alien Alliance taught the soldier the tactics of war and mechanics of killing too well. It grabbed backward trying to get a grip on Colton, knives on its tentacular hands slicing Colton's body, spraying his blood across its metal armor.
Colton trapped the Centurion's controlling intellect and took control of the mechanism. The Centurion's safeties cut in. Knives shot from the body and impaled Colton on its back. Blood sprayed from mortal wounds.
With his body destroyed, he ripped the thoughts and will of the brain occupying the Centurion to shreds. Part artificially intelligent, the machine throbbed, not wanting to die. It dragged Colton's mind into the cesspool of Alien hate and horror, draining his thoughts and memories, grabbing pieces of his soul, his intellect. Before he could stop it, the machine owned his mind and made him its control system.
Jared didn't stay hidden. He attacked the Centurion, hoping to aid Colton. Instead, Colton's hot blood splattered as he bled out. The Centurion stopped moving. Jared lifted Colton's pale and cold body from the back of the Centurion and laid it on the concrete floor. To Jared, it seemed Colton's assault succeeded at the cost of his life. The Rebellion didn't sanction suicide missions because human beings were in short supply.
He felt overwhelmed at Colton's death. The man deserved a few words. His father knew proper words to say over the dead, but he couldn't remember the words. In spite of that, he tried to eulogize Colton; made the outward motions, lowered his head, and spoke, awkwardly.
"I will bury you now so our foes won't rejoice. They will make a brave show of their mourning, their hatred bursting forth, from the skies, from wastelands. They'll snarl and bark and foam at our enemy day after day, but the hope you inspired will never end. I cannot publicly praise you or place your dead body in a proper crypt, but I can turn this building into a mausoleum. Perhaps time will work its way on your body, and a hundred eagles will rise, the sons of your sons before we all die."
His words didn't match the glimmer of hope Colton provided. That hope lay dead. Whatever comfort his Father felt from words, Jared felt unworthy and foolish. The only guaranteed way to stop the Centurions was burning the alien metal and igniting the powerful explosives within the casing. He took a thermite bomb from his backpack. The resulting explosion would destroy the building and let the Aliens know that someone defeated a Centurion.
Behind his back, the electronic eyes of the supposedly dead Centurion glowed to life. A metal hand grabbed the scruff of his neck and lifted him off the ground.
"That was a lousy eulogy," the Centurion said. The voice from the machine was devoid of emotion, cadence, and subtlety. Jared kicked at the metal body. He reached his weapon and fired, the bullets ricocheting. The Centurion shook him until he dropped it.
"Damn me to hell," Jared yelled, spitting and struggling as the Centurion plucked his weapons from his body. It spoke.
"It's me, Colton! I killed the beast. I'm in control." Its electric voice became more human with every word. Jared raised his arms in front of his face, hoping the Centurion wouldn't smash him against the wall. Instead, it laughed.
"You can't be. Your body is laying there, dead" Jared screamed. He stared in shock.
"No, the abomination is dead. I sent it to the Hell it deserved. I'm in control." The Centurion's free hand wagged a finger at Jared.
"I won't tell you anything. I've been trained by experts, and I can withstand all the pain you can dish out. There's a squad coming here to save me and destroy you. We called them before we attacked."
Another laugh emanated from the Centurion.
"You? Trained to withstand pain?" It laughed. "last night, you whined about being cold and sleeping on the ground. Remember? 'Oh Colton, I can't take these rocks. Oh, Colton, this cement hurts my butt. Oh, Colton, why didn't I bring a sleeping bag? Oh Colton, if I don't take my shoes off my feet will stink something awful.'"
Its voice mocked him; Its laugh heartier, more human. Jared sputtered in shame more than disbelief. It wasn't possible for a Centurion to have heard his words from last night. This behemoth was Colton. The Centurion shook Jared playfully and set him on the ground.
"I was able to take over the centurion before I died," Colton said.
"Are you for real?"
The Centurion rested a hand on a crate and slouched like Colton did when he was human.
"I told you; I won."
"And you're in the robot?"
"I didn't plan on surviving this mission. I always thought I'd be dead after retrieving the information. Since I have, I think that I can learn enough to defeat the Alien Alliance," he paused, thinking to take a breath he no longer needed. "First, you need to destroy this building and second, you need to return to base. Tell them I died destroying the Centurion. I'll get a message to you."
"But, if I destroy your flesh and blood body, won't you be stuck in that metal monstrosity."
"Nothing can reanimate the dead," Colton said from inside the Centurion. He pointed a metal snake at his dead body and burned it with electric fire. The stench filled the basement. Jared puked twice before he could move away from the smoke. Colton followed in quiet steps and silent treadles.
"Why did you do that?" Jared asked.
"If the Alliance didn't see a video of it, they would carpet bomb the city. Now, run away. Wait for my message. I'll find you soon." Colton stretched his robotic arms outward. Energy bolts blew from his palms. The concrete block walls began to crumble. Jared grabbed his pack.
The escape tunnel ended in an open street. His portable jammer wouldn't hide him from drones and satellites. He threw a chaff bomb into the air and ran to a culvert. Behind him, he heard the Centurion's weapons shattering the foundation of the building.
The ground shook. Jared didn't look back. A pillar of fire burst from the center of the building, throwing bits of concrete and flaming wood twice its height. A second shockwave expanded the walls of the building. It moved mere centimeters, then the ground itself groaned, as steel and cement seemed to implode. The steel and stone of the building crumbled. Blue-white electric fire burst from the roof as the building collapsed into a cloud of dust. The Centurion walked out of the wreckage bathed in fire and lightning.
When Jared reached rebel headquarters in the Imperial War Museum, his compatriots cheered him as a hero and lamented the loss of his partner in the destruction of a Centurion. Jared didn't tell them about his last moments with Colton and his transference into the Centurion. No one would believe that story.
Two days of purgatorial messaging passed for Jared. He explained his Faraday Cage to the world as the rebels from twenty countries used the jamming technology to defeat the Centurions. Across the world, rebels swarmed over isolated Alien Alliance outposts and occupied half of them.
The Alien Alliance answered their threat with thousands of blackbirds, drones the size of crows, as black and forbidding as they were sibylline and Delphic, deadly devices, carrying explosives and gas bombs. The blackbirds forced rebels everywhere to retreat and seek shelter underground.
The third night after Colton's death, he entered Jared's room in the terraced house where he slept. One metal hand gripped Jared's mouth closed to prevent him from screaming. Jared struggled for a moment until he realized that it was Colton. When he nodded his understanding, Colton released his grip.
"You didn't think that jamming device alone could win everything?" Colton joked, his robotic voice emotional, patterned and filled with subtle nuances.
"They think you're dead."
"Not all of me died."
Jared shook his head. He grabbed his pants and shirt and squirmed into them. Believing that this was Colton was hard for him. He examined the Centurion body standing in front of him. He wasn't a small man, but he didn't even reach the Centurion's shoulder.
"The Aliens are tracking you. You exposed where we are, brought the aliens right to us."
"I altered my telemetry modules. C&C thinks I'm a thousand miles away."
"Anyone sees you, I'm a traitor," Jared whined. Colton's LED's shifted for a few seconds and then brightened.
"The Aliens are Wanderers, leeches. They suck the good minerals out of a planet and leave the waste behind. They're from a dead planet hundreds of thousands of light years beyond our solar system. They have a Mass Driver."
"A Mass Driver?" Jared yelled too loud. He was lucky no one heard. "How do you know that?"
"Centurions can access everything. They're preparing to push it out of stable orbit."
"Can we stop it?"
"Only after the first close encounter. After that, no rocket has sufficient power to push it away. Its orbit will decay and strike earth sooner or later."
"We're dead." Jared sank onto his bed, trying to parse the devastating revelation. Colton went into information overload.
"The Mass Driver will orbit the earth at least ten times before it hits. If humanity doesn't surrender on the first pass, they'll let chaos do their work for them. The Death of an entire planet will be a lesson to other worlds. This Alien Alliance is a gang of bloodthirsty bastards."
Colton learned more but kept all the facts from Jared. History washes the blood from the winners and forgets the losers. The human who made the first contact with the Alien Alliance believed that the aliens were gods and offered their young blood to become Centurions. It wasn't long before they lamented their decision, but by that time, they could do no more than bow and scrape before their bloody Deus Ex Machina and mutter the words "yes master."
The Rebellion's attacks on Centurions changed the situation. The Alien Alliance prepared the Mass Driver. Its destruction would be devastating but not total. A fraction of the world's population would survive the earthquakes, tidal waves, and volcanoes. They would become slaves and fodder for the new Centurions who would strip the planet of resources. When the earth was sterile and barren, the Aliens would depart in new and more powerful spaceships.
"You can still win. Attack before the Aliens launch the Mass Driver," Colton said.
"Attack with what? Throw stones in the air? Dig caves? We're barely surviving. Once that Mass Driver is visible in the sky, it's every man, woman, and child for themselves."
Colton nearly shoved the zip drive down Jared's whiny throat.
"This contains their codes and the locations of their bases. I will knock out their communications worldwide. Then you kill them, kill them all."
"How do I do that? No one even follows me to the showers."
"You are not a fool. You are the hero who beat a Centurion, and your partner shed his blood to achieve the victory. Be convincing. They will follow a call to arms from you."
"But I'm not a hero."
"If you aren't, humanity dies. Yours to choose."
Jared took the zip drive. He held it about an inch from the tip of his nose as if he could read the information on it or sniff out some treachery.
"If it goes bad, Rebellion blood pays the price."
"If it goes bad, the world ends in a dance of death with a rock the size of the Great Lakes in the USA. Tell your leaders to nut up and do it. Strike tomorrow if you want to live." Colton knew the rebels rarely decided in less than a week. Their fractious membership always found a reason to argue.
"The Alliance will be suspicious," Jared echoed the indecision.
"I'm wired into Alliance C&C. They won't detect you."
"And I'm pregnant." Jared's sarcasm angered Colton. This dithering was unmanly cowardice. He was tired of excuses and leaned over Jared, his metal body dominating the room.
"You want your kids to live like Neanderthal slaves to alien creatures with green blood?"
Jared couldn't decide what he feared more - - life or death. He shoved the computer drive into his computer and checked out the information. Colton had the locations, numbers, and more. Here were access codes, crypto-codes, and stunningly, human experimentation facilities.
"Crap, this is every secret we've ever dreamed of."
"Well crap yourself, darling, call the leaders, and make plans," Colton said. Jared started typing and hesitated halfway through the message. Colton pushed him to a decision. "Tell them a hundred white eagles must rise to save a hundred valiant sons--"
His words stabbed deep. It was the eulogy Jared couldn't remember.
"Bastard. You're as heartless as the Aliens," Jared snarled, turning and reaching to throttle the Centurion. Its size dissipated his anger. He took a moment to calm his thoughts. "If you're betraying us in any way, I'll drag you to Hell myself." He sat at the console and composed the message to accompany the enemy codes. When he looked up, Colton was halfway to the outer door.
"I don't want to explain me to anyone. Win the battle for me. Win it all." Colton left as surreptitiously as he arrived. Jared searched the passages but didn't find a trace of Colton. He didn't even hear the characteristic footsteps or treadle noises. He wondered how a machine as large as the Centurion could hide its bulk.
Two minutes passed, and the local Rebel leaders descended on his location. Jared let the computer drive containing the secrets of the Alien Alliance speak for itself. Each of the leaders vacillated in their opinion about the information. They sank into their over-thinking, over-planning and endless detail-oriented analysis. Jared began to understand Colton's judgment of their leadership skills. They'd debate the problem until the end of the world. He went behind their backs to the squad commanders. The squads made plans to invade the Aliens located in Andale Shopping Center.
Neither Jared nor the Squad was prepared for what they saw inside.
Blood puddled the floor around the operating tables used to create the Centurions. It looked like a sacrifice to the most ancient of Molochs. The "volunteers" were made to strip and lay naked on the table. Alien medical lasers cut through their skin, severing muscle and bone, exposing the brain and spinal column. Blood spurted in little fountains. Alien tentacles lifted the throbbing brain and spinal cord, setting it into the lifeless metal body of a Centurion. The metal receptors glowed blood red, eager to attach to the human nervous system. Oxygen-rich liquid bubbled in the cavity as the metal body closed and became one with the brain. The eyes of the cyborg flickered, and the metal behemoth moved. It came to life in half-vital motions, uneasy spasms, a hideous phantasm of a man, an abomination of nature. The imitation of life, Quasimodo, a constructed man, a cyborg.
By the working of deathly science, they achieved life.
Like Ra of the ancients, they were given life for now and all eternity.
Hideously transformed and loathsome, they lived: unloved, unloving, and despised by worlds as yet unimagined.
The Aliens built their victory, not on the rubble of civilization but steel, tempered in the blood of the conquered, in machines driven by stolen minds.
The Aliens were dying, old beyond reason, unable to grow young with the machines because they were already dead and enslaved to life-support. Their world destroyed; they wandered, craving new worlds to consume, multiple Satans creating mates to soothe their suffering on the Lake of Fire.
The understanding so disturbed Jared and the Squads that, collectively, sanity left their minds. The slaughter of the turncoats to humanity and the traitors to civilization began in radio silence that left the Aliens confused and muddled. The central control building fell to the Rebels in mere hours.
In the seconds between, Colton breached the Alien C&C and broadcast a new firing solution to the Mass Driver. Its new target wasn't the Earth, but the Alien spaceship hid behind veils of energy that bent light and turned it black to the telescopes and radars on Earth. A day later, while the rebels cleaned the earth of alien influence, atomic fire blasted the sky, and gravity waves shook the Earth. The remaining Centurions under alien control stopped and fell silent. Their immobile bodies became dark reminders of the invasion.
In Manchester and other towns across the planet where symbols and memories of society are kept and cherished, the survivors created monuments around the dead metal bodies of the Centurions with flowers and parklands and yearly celebrations. In each stood a plaque relating the victory: "Born in greed, baptized in blood, and died when freedom won the day."
Colton would have been proud of Jared if he took the time to see the monuments. Instead, Colton found a place to hide and began his long vigil. There were other wanderers in the cosmos, exiles who sought the bodies of willing victims, ravagers who coveted liquid water and precious metals from young planets. His metal body could wait many millennia, and if those aliens troubled his world, his metal body would rise, and those that coveted his world would die.
3850 words more or less
FUTURES YET UNKNOWN
Ten Stories by Dave Fragments
*An Alien serial murderer and a furry detective with fleas.
*Murder on a world with altered humans.
*Disturbing apocalyptic visions *Monstrous dystopian societies.
*A man on trial for betraying the human race to robots.
*Devils, demons and ghosts.
*Survivors of a plague war.
*Cyborgs trying to be human.
*Six friends in a strange sinkhole.
*The truth about a world drowning in rain, without sun, without hope.
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