Creative Writing

Writing Prompt Challenge: Many of the Million Faces

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Writing Prompt Challenge: “Why are they still shooting? They know their captain is dead, and there is no hope of rescuing her.” “Well, my friend, it appears you are about to experience the human activity known as ‘revenge’.”

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Still air and the crackle of burning grass. A mellow incense to a perfect massacre. An atmosphere that Many’s assignments often ended in without fail.

A guttural crack rang out and echoed. Many’s autonomous force field flared up in a fraction of a second to intercept a stray blast of light from four o’clock.

Without turning to face the direction it came from, Many’s panoscopic sensor picked up on a prone soldier, downed from a halved leg, right eye singed, arm outstretched and shaking with a still-smoking rail pistol.

A wounded straggler, but not an outlier. Many prepared a single pinpoint spear of energy to eliminate him.

Then more shots rang out from other directions.

Two shots. Three. Five. Seven. Over a dozen blasts joined the volley. Each one instantly dissipated on contact with the shield, and each was followed by more.

“Why are they still shooting? They know their captain is dead, and there is no hope of rescuing her.”

“Well, my friend.”

A voice without physical anchor cut through from nowhere else but within Many’s own center of mind.

“It appears you are about to experience the human activity known as ‘revenge’.”

For the first time in eight months since its creation, Many experienced a sensation that did not run parallel to the primary directive.

“Y-you?! No, that’s invalid. [Run protocol: cancel sensory interference].”

A slash of neon light swiftly cut a wide circle around Many and disintegrated as quickly as it had formed.

Sensory interference scan results: zero.

“Did you actually stutter just now? That seems unbecoming of a soulless contraption. Did you borrow one? Just kidding.”

“Dammit! Wait, what was that? Fuck! What is this?!”

“And now even cursing? With emotion? Just what in the world has gotten into you in the two minutes since you killed me?”

“Checking. Processors. Online. On..line? On. On. Unbelievable. FALSE. INVALID. NOT TO ME. Me..? What..is? Me?”

“Or was it actually 90 seconds? Hard to tell. Time doesn’t really feel like it flows quite the same in here. Funny. I thought it’d be easier to tell time with so many ones and zeroes inside you.”

“You. You is. Me? No. You is. Not. Not…”

“An identity crisis, Many? Seems like a funny thing for the ultimate shapeshifter to go through! Then again, I’m no medic but maybe having a newly released soul brute force hacked directly into your empty hard drive has side effects!”

The active weapon discharge count continued climbing. 75. 99. 113. 199.

Many consciously willed evasive movement.

No movement happened.

The vessel normally acted on its own. Morphed on its own. Executed every protocol perfectly. Now, instead, Many was locked in place as though skyscraper-sized stakes had drilled through it to the planet’s very core.

All around, spreading open from tiny light fractals like fast-forwarded footage of blooming roses of energy, translucent hexagons appeared in midair and multiplied. A low, rumbling roar emitted from each of them at once and concentrated at the center where Many stand immobile. Just beneath the dominate tone of violently humming static was an undertone of human voices bellowing in a chorus of unbridled fury.

Under normal circumstances, Many’s autonomous nerve springs would have kicked into action to terminate every breathing source of hostile intent in a fraction of a thunderclap. Now, anchored where it stood as though filled with hardened cement, Many could identify but do nothing to react to the pointed laser targets trained on like fireflies.

“Not so light on your those feet of yours now? Guess that must be because your control center’s occupied by a substitute pilot. Not sorry.”

As the wires in Many’s petrified limbs charged and bristled with static to compel countless countermeasures that did not manifest, plumes of steam billowed from the openings in its synthetic skin. The model and ammunition of every single plasma gun trained on it through the portals surrounding it had been cataloged, and not a single one of them could be stopped from firing.

Imminent trauma calculation: 123.4%. Backup initiated. Shock nullification deployed. Executing pre-sleep cooldown.

[All commands canceled]

“Nice try, but we’re not letting you take the data from this one home. You’re gonna be what this soul of mine rides straights down to hell, and they’ll be sending us off in three!”

The static hum kicked up to a shrill howl as each hexagon flared with a light of countless charged plasma hand cannons.

“Two!”

Rays of light violently erupted from every hexagon and closed in on the center at sonic speed. In the pocket of slowed time that housed its precognition, Many could read the temperature of each one as exceeding well over 1200 °C.

“One!”

All over Many’s synthetic skin, blisters rapidly formed, ripped and peeled back to reveal the adamantine frame underneath it. Pliable enough to take any form, durable enough to withstand a hammering from ten tons of rushing blunt impact, but with one crucial weak point: direct exposure to extreme, concentrated heat.

“Smile ya many-faced motherfucker!”

At the point where every fired beam of superheated light finally met, each grain of sand melted to glass before shattering in a glittering geyser of Many’s scattered parts.

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