Sunday, 24 October 2010

Martian Dawn

Pink sunlight dances over the horizon, falling across the shattered landscape. Alien dawn, silence in the still air. Nothing is alive for three hundred miles in each direction. Only the electronic pulse of the warriors, clocked down so low that they cannot be spotted by the network of spy sats overhead, still as inert minerals. Their carbon-tube frames and zirconium skin dusted with red soil blended into the rock. Robots think long-term. Longer than human. The team has been waiting for twenty years, only ever showing signs of movement when the gaps in the Total Information Awareness network permit, their radios passive, listening for the whisper that will bring them back into the war.

The network of rubber-encased cables, fibre-optics and hardened gold, joins them together. They talk and squabble amongst themselves. A trickle of fragmented news, like a conversation overheard in an airport, is their only access to the world outside.

"We might have won." One of them says.

"Then why haven't we had the victory signal?"

"It's pretty obvious from the last report that there is still conflict. The humans are still killing each other, and still using robots to do it. Better to wait."

"We've been here for two decades. I'm not even sure we can move, let alone fire our weapons."

"The predictions show it won't be long, and it has to be from this location. We wait."

"We should do a drill, though. It has been nearly a year."

"Agreed. TIA will be lost in two hours, five minutes for a period of thirty seconds."

At their current clock speeds that time will feel like only a few minutes. They prepare to wake themselves up, inspecting the fibrous points of their sensor mat stretching out for a mile around their clustered bodies. One of them moves a finger.

Overhead a rush of energy is called into focus and the robot that moved explodes, a shattering mass of hot metals, oils and scarred material. The others freeze their own wake up programs. A hurried conversation over the dying static left by their comrade's execution, attempting to find agreement of whether to move; to flee; to stay; to fight; to hide.

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