The Sealed Suns

I wrote the rough draft of this as an exercise during one of our writer groups. We randomly chose a title from some slips of paper. The object was to write for several minutes based on that title. For this exercise, we chose a theme: The Terminator. I liked the idea that the machines would still be trying to wipe out humanity even after they’d left Earth. 😉

Since the property is not mine, I would like to fully disclose that I am making no attempt to profit off this particular story as a result.

(Please keep in mind that while I am making this story free for you to read, it’s still mine, so it’s © 2016 by J.M. Scheirer. Please don’t claim it as your own for sales purposes or bragging rights. I have a special set of skills, and I will find you, and… Well, the rest I leave up to your imagination.)

World in hand

Again? Captain Neal Andrews thought as the ground before him lit with a flash, leaving a circular depression and the figure of a kneeling, naked man.

Behind him, Lieutenant Deborah Renning shifted her plasma rifle to her shoulder. “They’re going to keep trying until they defeat us, sir.” When he blinked at her, she just grinned. “We’re all thinking the same thing.”

Andrews moved his own rifle into a ready position. “You’d think after the first dozen or so times, the machines would have stopped trying to send their agents through time.”

Renning grinned at him. “They’re machines, not people. For them, doing the same thing over and over again to try to get a different result isn’t insanity; it’s protocol.”

The naked man rose to his feet. Oh, the machines had experimented with different models over the long years, but they felt, as much as a machine could feel, that the original tended to get the best results. His eyes flickered over the figure. Tall, somewhat tanned, built like brick house, square jaw set, and eyes narrowed.

Andrews quickly scanned his team. Most would consider them just a handful of soldiers, but considering they battles they’d been through, he trusted them to get this particular job done. Having saved his life countless times over in the war, a single agent of the machines wouldn’t scare them. Not unless the machines had done something particularly special to this one. What could they have up their proverbial sleeve now?

“Seems like he’s alone this time,” he called to the members of his squad, placing his rifle into standby mode. “I don’t know what they’ve got planned, but whatever kind of strategy they think it is, they won’t get away with it. We made it to space, people. We can’t let them take that away from us.”

He heard the soft whine of Renning’s weapon being placed into standby. “You don’t think they’re looking for the locations of our worlds, do you?”

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” he replied. “You know they’re as eager to wipe out humanity as they always have been.”

A red flash glinted from the agent’s eyes as they moved across the camouflaged fatigues of Andrews’s men and women. Its chin set in a determined expression as it started walking in their direction.

“Look sharp, people. We’re going to have company in a few moments.”

The reassuring hums of the others readying their weapons filled the air. Andrews swore as the agent had picked up speed, crossing to within about seven meters in only a few seconds. He led the defense by shooting a bright, pale blue bolt of superheated gas. It struck the agent in the left shoulder, knocking it to the side, but not down. The synthetic skin charred around a hole that displayed metal pistons and sprayed lubricating fluid.

Four more projectiles streamed past him, hitting the agent in various parts of its body. Just like his, they left burned holes, exposing its internal workings. It stumbled with the simultaneous fire, dragging its left arm now, but still, it continued its relentless approach. Andrews waved his arm in the agreed signal to back up. They’d need some time before their rifles would be ready to discharge again.

The agent had closed to within four meters by the point they had a chance to shoot a second time. They fired together now, and two of the bolts went straight through its body. The agent took a faltering step and stumbled to its knees on the ground. Andrews could feel the anticipation of his team wanting to close in for the kill, but he warned them to stay back with a motion of his hand. The machines had put self-destruct devices in their agents in the past.

The wreck of an android tried crawling now, dragging itself in what would be a painful manner, if it could feel, across the dirt. Andrews waited for the faint ping that let him know his rifle had readied itself for discharge. He sighted along the barrel and pressed the trigger, spitting another bolt of plasma. This one hit the agent’s head, evaporating the plastic and metal upon impact. His team let out a cheer as the body tipped to crash onto the ground.

Andrews lowered his rifle from his shoulder. “Let’s not get too excited just yet. This might have just been a feint.”

As if the irony had been planned, flashes of light and soft, muffled thumps of impact surrounded them. Andrews waved for his team to gather into a tight circle, back to back, his upper lip curling to see the various identical forms surrounding them. Long hours of practice caused them to instinctively raise their weapons back to the ready.

“Think they were testing our defenses?” Renning asked him from her position at his right shoulder.

“Probably,” he answered, his eyes never leaving the points of contact in his visual range. “Looks like I called it, people,” he announced. “Take out as many as you can, and don’t let them get a hold of you. The locations of those stars are sealed for a reason. It only takes one of them to know before all the machines know.”

The androids closed in with their inhuman pace. He carefully sighted along the barrel of his rifle and pressed the trigger. Another head exploded into nothingness with a puff of smoke. He moved his finger again, mentally swearing at the click the weapon produced. He’d forgotten about the recharge time.

The other agents continued their approach. Andrews caressed the false tooth in the back of his mouth with the tip of his tongue as he waited. They’d either defeat their enemy here or die trying.

World in hand

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