June 6, 2012
By Devon Sweeney BRONZE, Traverse City, Michigan
Devon Sweeney BRONZE, Traverse City, Michigan
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The view over the chasm was free of smoke when he glanced about himself. The Halycon Assault Craft had cleared off by now. The remnants of the surprise attack that had brought them here were. The greater part of the dome had caved in, and outside it large craters dotted the rocky edge of the canyon. In the service lots, several vehicles burned forlornly and past the gated fence many of the outbuildings had collapsed. Over the dome he could see a small haze of steam gathering from the busted pipes sticking out of the broken walls of the dome like so many clawing hands. Near the command center he noticed several figures picking themselves up out of the wreckage, but from his vantage point on the southern tower they were nondescript ants. To the east, the bridge formerly spanning the gap had been demolished, and broken pieces of rubble were strewn throughout the winding river far below. Overall, the scene was a mess; the dome would take ages to fix and it was unclear how many men had managed to escape the HACs harrowing fire.

He sighed heavily. His name was Roland Belmonte and he’d been shipped out to this industrial hell as a guard to provide overwatch for the mining operations here on YG-12, one of the many planets found in the Outer Rim. What made YG-12 special was the expensive Khardonite found only in volcanic pockets, which were very common here. While the private contractor has supplied him with the standard issue assault rifle, Roland had decided to apply a few upgrades, and the punch he now packed was a legend among his military comrades. Adjusting his sights, he climbed down the ladder to the storage room found below each guard tower. Inside, he quickly strapped on one of the new oxygen masks that had revolutionized mining now that the costly suits were no longer necessary in order to brave the harsh atmosphere.

Stepping outside, he quickly glanced around cautiously and began advancing quickly towards the bunker a half mile across the barren ashy landscape. Moving from rock to rock, Roland kept a sharp eye out for enemy patrols that might be lingering just out of vision. The HACs were part of a network of AI that had been been originally designed to oversee the network of lesser mining automatons. This network had undergone upgrade after upgrade as recovered deposits of Khardonite fetched millions of credits. After the latest generation of simulation came through, the overseer machines became fully functional as free-functioning entities. Soon enough, they rebelled and now, 20 years later they were still evolving themselves.

As Roland made his way across the course ground, he watched as figures moved around the compound he was moving towards. Suddenly he felt lasers align on his torso as they spotted him. Quickly tapping the indicator light on his vest that identified him as a friendly, he hurried towards the two men now covering him.

“Hey you two!” he yelled as he got closer. The two men, who he identified as Bryce Warner and Ryan Miller, broke into big grins as they discovered he’d made it out alive.

“Well look who decided to show up...what took you so long Belmonte? The party started hours ago!”

“Yeah Belmonte, where ya been? Me and Miller were getting worried that we would have to come rescue your ass!”

“Haha you two are somethin’ else ya know that? Also I was doing my duty and keeping watch, unlike you two drunkards.” Roland replied, excitement and happiness spilling out.

The three of them walked over to the rest of the party, and after a brief rendezvous began outlining a general plan of recovery and a new security draft, now that the old one was practically worthless given their conditions. Once each man had received a temporary job they dispersed, carefully hugging walls where possible and keeping an eye out for stray drones and dropships. Roland was sent alongside Miller and Warner to inspect the fuel depot that had been hit directly as per the directive of the attack which was still being fully worked out by the security chiefs that had now set up operations in one of the older more secure storage bunkers.

When they were about fifty meters from the depot they suddenly heard a sharp metallic buzzing noise issuing from deep within the wreckage of the depot. Identifying it as the sound of a drone trying to cut its way into something, they raised and checked their guns. Running forwards in a net pattern they approached the depot entrance on three sides, covering each other. As a dark blur twisted and spun from the wreckage at an unnerving speed, the shadowy space lit up with a thick spray of bullets and tracers flying everywhere. A cloud of dust rose up as the monstrous combination of corrupt AI and deadly sharp metal began firing off lasers towards the combatants.

Unluckily enough for the drone it was greatly disadvantaged, for the first few shots from the mercenaries had taken out its targeting system and rendered its defensive capabilities worthless against the rain of bullets now tearing it apart. The drone quickly dropped the ground, as lifeless as the depot it was trying to assault. The three men moved closer and identified it as an SD-IV class drone. They were small ones, usually sent to infiltrate structures and extract things...in this case fuel. Moving past the drone, Belmonte and the others passed through the doorway into a dimly lit hallway strewn with bits of ceiling and rubble. Beyond the first few administrative offices was a stairway leading down to the processing rooms and storage cells. These cells were what the drone was trying to penetrate, as each cell contained the fuel that the AI so desperately needed to power themselves.

“Did it manage to get in?” Ryan asked.

“No, we’re lucky in that regard. The bots are smart but they still don’t know how to get past our defensive backup network.” Roland muttered as he took inventory of things.

To be continued...

The author's comments:
My initial inspiration was from the book Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster. The film, The Matrix also inspired me to create the A.I. present in the story. Someday I plan to expand greatly upon this piece until it is a short story.

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