Short Story: Invincible (Part II)

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And predict she did.

Hadaly slid between the incoming missiles like a burning butterfly—the sentry droids were fast, but she was so much faster. She felt giddy with alacrity. The first one went down in a shower of sparks when she tore through the rusting support struts beneath it. Predictors displayed a wild field of fire that intersected with numerous points in the room as the sentry fell to its death. Alive with motion, she spun out of the way like a ballerina on a razorblade ballroom floor, throwing herself through a thickly denied eigenspace—the fields of fire changed as sentries moved to take the advantage she’d given them.

Doing so, two of them walked right into wild projectile fire vomited from their dying sibling. They both went down in an arterial spray of orange coolant and frangible bits of endoskeleton.

The sentries, unlike the PR droid, looked almost like C3P0 in their construction. Eyeless, uncanny brass men with unmoving features; their guns appeared to be repeating rifles, styled after a Revolutionary musket aesthetic. Unlike the PR droid, they had armored exoskeletons—of course, they had been armed with armor piercing bullets.

The three remaining sentries closed from all directions, maintaining LOS in a collapsing spiral capture pattern. Simple. Efficient. Stupid. The hallmarks of the sentries.

Hadaly cackled aloud as she slid through a window in their closure, using the support columns of the warehouse for cover, and smote another sentry with a section of steel pipe.

With the loss of the previous sentry, the remaining two switched engagement protocol and jettisoned their guns. The jingling rain of gadolinium shells subsided, punctuated by the twin crashes of heavy sentry guns hitting the floor. The sentries’ arms scissored open revealing monofilament reciprocating saws set like Japanese fans. The nearest sentry twirled like a top, hewing through the support between it and Hadaly like an iron through warm solder; it’s companion, not content with its saws, raised a second, heavy-ammo gun, and fired a chain round angled to herd her into the lethal range of its cohort.

She slid beneath the wake of the chain round like a limbo dancer, avoiding the trail of corrosive microfilament wires in its wake; but not before the nearer sentry managed to score a hit across her arm with one of its saws. Alarms went off. An electric discharge followed the instant severing of several myocables, the joint lost motility as a dynamo went critical and ejected itself.

The dynamo arced like a flare away from her as she lost balance after stepping into a bit of powdered concrete and tumbled away. The second sentry, tracking for its next shot, mistook the damaged dynamo’s power output for Hadaly’s primary vector and fired again.

—and punched a chain round directly through its companion’s central mass.

The other robot stopped in place as if confused. It dithered a moment, pondering the tiny, smoldering hole in its exosekeleton, then spasmed as billions of tiny filaments of depleted uranium wrapped inside carbon nanotubes perforated its internal structure. The sentry’s armor crumbled into hot ash and its mechanical internal organs gave way to failure, vomiting out in a gruesome robotic disembowelment.

“Mano-e-macro,” Hadaly said to the final droid. “You want a piece of this? Come and get it.”

Not having the capacity for words—sentries never were programmed to be witty—the sentry responded with gunfire.

She turned on her heel and threw herself into a charge. The remaining sentry had cover, but she had speed and determination. She also only needed one arm to destroy it—but it also only needed one hit to her center mass with a chain round and she’d be finished. She dodged and weaved as it made its last stand, firing its weapon at maximum tolerance; she could hear the internal mechanism shearing and failing from stress. She predicted it had three shots left before it jammed, but by that time her simulations calculated she’d be upon it.

An object smashed through one of the high windows, tilting end over end as it fell. The sentry ignored it, exhausting its ammunition on Hadaly as she closed on its cover.

Then the object exploded.

Blue St. Elmo’s fire washed across every surface as an EMP cascaded over Hadaly and the sentry. Even with her most vital components shielded and safe under Faraday cages, she felt it hit her—breathing through her like a great numbing wave. Her limbs went rigid, then suddenly slack. Sightless—and suddenly consumed by a strangely sterile sense of terror—she crashed to the floor. She could only hope the same happened to the sentry.

Seconds later–a seeming eternity where her combat subroutines were able to do nothing other than speculate about how far the sentry could have moved in such a span of time–her shock-recovery systems dumped into auxiliary mode and her vision returned.

She sprang to her feet, ready to deflect a lethal blow; the useless limb dangled like a weighty pendulum, threatening her stability.

The sentry was down—not from the EMP grenade—but by way of the steel fixture. In her last moment of sensibility, Hadaly had managed to javelin the pipe. She won.

Shaking on faltering power, the auxiliary systems couldn’t sustain assault configuration, she staggered to the door of the warehouse and threw it open. To find Frog and Elaine.

Elaine appeared flushed and mortified. Frog simply looked smug and nodded her approval. Elaine held a disposable cell phone; she paused amidst frantic programming—another EMP grenade.

Without a word, Elaine dropped the phone.

“Sorry, boss,” Hadaly said when Elaine rushed up to embrace her damaged body. “I felt the need to take out the trash.”

“Promise me you won’t do that again.”

“I promise,” she said. “Can I go home now?”

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