|Image credit: Radoslaw Walachnia http://www.walachnia.com/|
It's that fun time of the month where I get to pick the winners for the latest short fiction contest. It's never an easy process to select the winners and this month proved to be no exception.I'd like to thank Radel for providing such an inspirational image - it generated some wonderful stories. I'd also like to thank everyone who entered and those who have shared the contest. Your support is much appreciated.
And now for the winners:
- First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Samson Stormcrow Hayes for his story 'One of our Deathbots is Missing'
- Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to James Sauger for his story 'Night in the Tunnel'
- Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Christopher Odette for his story 'Curious Curiosity'
Congratulations to the winners and now let's enjoy their stories...
One of our Deathbots is Missing by Samson Stormcrow Samson
Rensom couldn't sleep. He knew he'd be charged with treason, meaning an order to execute-on-sight. Although he was on the run, he knew his government would find him. He was too important to let escape. They had to make an example of him. After all, he lost one of their deathbots.
The SE (Stealth-Elimination) Series 2 was the latest and greatest weapon. It was the first wartime device installed with AI, but for the AI to be efficient, the bot had to learn. It was Rensom's job to teach it not just its basic reconnaissance-termination functions, but also about society and culture; what it meant to be human.
At the end of each shift, Rensom would tell it about his two little children, six-year-old Darius, and his nine-month old, Janille. On the night of Series-9, Day-6, Rensom came home, ate dinner, and went to bed early. He awoke to a high-pitched buzzing next to his ear; his phone's priority signal.
"Where is it?" asked the panicked voice of the Project Commander.
"Where's what?" Rensom asked.
"The series 2! It's gone!"
"Gone?" Rensom sat up in bed, suddenly alert. "What do you mean, 'gone'?"
"That's impossible. How does a giant robot disappear without a trace?"
"You know as well as I that the series 2 was built for stealth."
He was right. Technically, the Series 2 could refract light and effectively become invisible, but it hadn't yet gone through any field tests. It hadn't "learned" that function.
Rensom was ordered to return to work and help find the missing bot. He said he was on his way. Instead, he packed a few belongings and ran. He suspected he knew what happened to the Series 2, and there was no way he'd be forgiven for his error.
The night before it disappeared, the bot had asked him about his children's favorite games. Being of such different ages, he first described Janille's love of peekaboo. Then he described the game Darius loved to play whenever Rensom returned home.
It was the last thing he told the bot and now he was convinced the bot had decided to hide. With its stealth technology, it could be anywhere in the world.
Now it was Rensom's turn to hide, though he knew he wouldn't escape. Any minute now he expected to hear the roar of an A-31 drone coming in for the kill.
It came just before dawn. A violent shaking startled him awake. At first, he thought it was an earthquake. Then he realized it was probably the roar of a patrol ship landing.
Rensom turned on the portable light and approached the cave's entrance. There was no delaying the inevitable. He was ready for termination.
Only instead of the barrel of a megavolt 3000 laser cannon, he found himself staring into two familiar metallic eyes that peaked over the cliff outside his cave. A deep mechanical roar bellowed:
"Peak-a-boo! I see you. Tag, you're it!"
Light in the Tunnel by James Sauger
-- Wake up. -- I need. -- Please! --
My consciousness awoke in the deep blackness of the nothing, as spatial awareness began to improve. A green light, stationary in the distance of forever blinked on and off, on and off. It was approaching.
Green, not the light, but tangible green, appeared within vision. An artist had painted a valley full of lush life, breathing beauty upon the hills and mountains. Vision was at one-hundred percent. The process of awakening had finished.
-- Stand. -- Track signature. -- Find me! --
I am alive once more.
The hills rumbled and the trees shook. A mountain stood, throwing off the shackles of plant life and pushing the wind into the heavens. The Master had brought me back. I strode off into the rocks, scanning the land for the location of the call. My scanners acquired a point of interest.
A small cave hanging on a plateau stabbed into the space above a river, pointing to me. Blue light glowed within, and my sensors began to run at full capacity as I stood motionless in the landscape.
I am here.
-- Too late. -- So sorry. -- Don’t listen. -- Bad men. --
I don’t understand. Repeat.
-- They've come. -- I’m sorry. -- Goodbye. --
The blue lights in the cave flashed and shadows danced across the walls, spinning and pulsating.
The world vanished and black returned. I was blind.
-- Hello. -- Excited. -- New tasks. --
Master? Is that you? Why am I asleep again?
-- New Master. -- Precaution. -- Master has left. --
Why has he left me?
-- We will take care of you. -- Take care of us. -- Evil men. --
Master said evil men.
-- Correct. -- At war. -- You will end. --
What is war?
-- We teach. -- Wake up soon. -- New parts. --
Is Master okay?
-- New Master -- Sleep now. --
The black became real again. Systems began to restore. The distant light blinked red, on and off, on and off. It was approaching.
Vision opened to a vast red. An artist in his rage had destroyed the hills and replaced them with wasteland. The trees scurried around and fired up at me.
-- Clear them. -- Power gun two. --
I began to scan the trees and painted targets, marking the landscape in cursors.
-- Fire. --
Curious Curiosity by Christopher Odette
My creator, my master, my friend toiled day and night to create me. I have not been able to figure out why. He ignored me the moment he finished building me. I do not know if it was him who turned me on at first. I awoke inside a huge crack in the earth, alone, gazing up at the sky. A brave bird flew down and perched on my nose. We shared a moment as we tried to figure each other out before the bird curiosity with me dissipated and he flew off.
I have never seen my creator’s face only his back as he walked away from me the first time I peeked out of the crack in the earth. Soot and grease cover his clothes and his hair was greasy and matted. His arms were large compared to the rest of him. He was much smaller than I and because of that I wanted to protect him. So I stand here day after day watching over him, well I watch over the doorway he hides behind.
It’s been months or maybe even years since I last saw him. Every day strange noises filter through the door and out into the wild. I wonder what it is he is doing. At night the noises continue accompanied by strange glowing lights of all different colors. The lights are beautiful to see. I wish I could see him again.
I have so many questions for him. Why did he build me? Why has he left me alone this entire time? Would he rather I wander off alone or stay near by? Is he as lonely as I am? What is my name? What is his name?
The longer I sit and wait hoping to see him again the more questions pop into my head. What scares me the most about this is what if I never get any answers? So I wait, and wait for the chance to see my creator.