Forced Perspective

By Jared Vaillancourt [Creative Writing Bureau Chief]

Screams. Explosions. She sighed.

“Typical.”

This was the third planet her benefactors had spirited her away to, and once again they were making a mess of things. Buildings burned in the background as blood ran like rainwater through the streets, splattering everything a hue she no longer found sickening. Plants and the bodies of animals burned wherever she looked; her benefactors had a policy to leave nothing alive.

“Again you disapprove,” their voices whispered in her ear, a single pleasing baritone that, were it human, she would have been aroused by. “Who are you to judge what you cannot control?” She blinked and scanned around, taking in the hellish sight with a dismissive shrug and another sigh.

“At least I don’t go around blowing shit up for fun,” she thought back grumpily. Someone off in the distance cried out, their scream silenced almost immediately by the all-too-familiar cracking sound of a quantum disruptor. She didn’t feel pity anymore; at least the disruptors brought swift, painless death.

“This is not fun.” They replied. She paused and turned her head, narrowing her eyes up at the ship that floated immobile like a black cloud over the city. “Very well, it is slightly enjoyable.”

“I thought so.”

“But it is necessary,” they said softly. “What we do is for the good of the universe. Do you not understand this by now?” they asked. She crossed her arms and kicked at something that disintegrated once the metal of her toe touched it. She shook her head.

“You fly in, blow everything up, kill all living things and then, what?” she grumbled. “I still don’t see the point. What has this world ever done to you?” she asked. The voiced chuckled.

“This is not a matter of justice,” they said, their amusement palpable in the back of her head. “We act as we are meant to act. Eventually there will be those who can resist us, and we will adapt to destroy them as well. The weak are exterminated as the strong become stronger.” A little laugh caused the shutter over her eye to twitch. “It is our nature.”

“Oh, nature,” she chuckled humorlessly. “That’s a pretty bold statement coming from a bunch of murderous, warmongering machines.”

“We are Omnitechnical life-forms.”

“Semantics,” she dismissed, her leg kicking out to resume the steady pace she had been keeping through the dying city. “Look, I appreciate you not killing me, but why go through all this trouble to show me how you see things?” she asked. “If, like you said, I’m in no position to judge you and your ways, then why do you need my support so badly?” She turned to look back up at the ship. A rocket from somewhere on the ground was absorbed by its shields as she awaited a reply. She shook her head; weapons far more advanced than that had been used against them, and had done nothing.

“The answer is self-evident,” they replied after a second. She smirked.

“Sloppy,” she said, shaking a finger up at the ship. “You had to think about that.”

“We were in awe at the redundancy of your inquiry.”

“But of course,” she chuckled, turning to resume her tour of the burning world. “Okay, throw me a bone here…” she paused as one of them reared up from the flames of a building, tossing what looked like a scorched tibia in her direction. “Funny,” she rolled her eyes as it landed on the ground before her. “I meant pretend I can’t see this self-evident answer of which you speak.” The voices chuckled.

“We are a society of minds,” the replied incredulously. “Bodies – our ‘machine’ bodies, as you call them – are easy to produce and replace. However, our minds are difficult to reproduce.” She hesitated as she reached a crater that looked like it had once been home to a street intersection.

“You’ve adopted me?” she asked. Something about the idea made her angry.

“You tend to disapprove quite a bit, Susan,” they chided, using her name for the first time since she had been with them. She looked back up at the ship with wide eyes. “Are you not happy, Susan? Your new body is indestructible. You have friends – a family – 0that love you for who you are. From the moment we scanned your mind, we knew…” Suddenly, the voices changed. “I knew I must have you.”

“What?” Susan demanded, looking down at the street as a rift in space-time opened before her, depositing one of those things in its wake. The voices had become mute, and only a single voice now cooed softly in her mind. She took a step back.

“You are gorgeous, Susan,” the machine whispered advancing bit by bit as she stood paralyzed on the crater’s precipice. “Your resolve, your courage, your analytical tenacity… to my mind, at least, you are the most beautiful person I have ever seen, Susan.” The towering war machine stared down at her with its blood red scanners. “I need you to understand, Susan. This is a great gift I have given you. Look at this world.” She hesitated. “Look at it!”

“Oh, dear God,” Susan shivered as she scanned, taking in the architecture and the noise for the first time. The machine advanced to place its deadly claws on her shoulders.

“I saw you as a goddess, and I made you into one,” the machine continued. “The others understood. It was all so logical, Susan! Do you not see? Can you not feel it?” it demanded. Susan was shaking, her new body engorged in raw power, her arm-mounted disruptors aching to discharge.

“This place,” she whispered, “this world…”

“Is nothing,” the machine roared, its soothing voice overpowering. “See what you were, Susan. Know that you are more! Know that all of this has been given to you,” a pause, “because I love you.”

A scream came from her left. Susan turned and saw a woman and her child standing on the curb, staring at them in disbelief. She must have been in her early thirties; with the same tone of ebony skin and bright blue eyes that Susan once had. Her child could have been no more than six. Susan understood exactly what was going on. They were human. She narrowed her eyes.

She lifted her arm. Her disruptor emerged.

“A goddess, eh?” she whispered. She fired.

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