By Joshua A. Johnston
Reading Time: 5 minutes
(You can read some of the backstory here.)
I am online.
I am in darkness, waiting. My sensory package is not yet active. My programming tells me that this is expected.
We can’t wait any longer, Fire Control says. Firing tubes one through eleven.
In unison, Torpedoes 116 through 126 all report that they are away.
A slight delay, then: Firing tube twelve. Torpedo Omega, you are active. Sending targeting coordinates. Godspeed.
My sensory package comes alive, and I see. Behind me, the UNS battlecruiser Ajax looms in space, flanked by its fleet. Before me, Torpedoes 116 through 126 are rocketing through the cold vacuum of space.
Beyond the Torpedoes: the Target.
The Target is massive, alien. I search my database, which identifies it as Kron Mothership. It is five kilometers wide, ten times the size of the Ajax.
My target point is the forward quarter of the Mothership. As I hurtle across the void, I see a core of swirling light collecting there, on the tip of a massive rod that protrudes from the ship’s bow. Accordingly, my sensory package detects a power spike. Something is happening there. Something terrible.
Torpedo 120 is struck by a Kron fighter. It explodes.
Stay behind us, Torpedo 122 tells me. We will clear the way.
I shift direction to avoid another Kron fighter. It turns to fire on me but misses. Nearby, a burst of particle flak from the Mothership’s point defense turrets obliterates Torpedo 116.
The core of light at the front of the Mothership is now a blazing, rotating sphere of energy. My database identifies the weapon as a tectonic cannon, capable—once fully charged—of tearing open a planet’s core.
I probe beyond the Kron Mothership for a planet. I find it.
Earth. Twenty billion people.
Torpedo 117 explodes against a fighter. The fusion shockwaves ripple into space.
The others are fusion. I am not. I am something else. What am I?
I search my database. I am new, a prototype. I am made to harness the power of matter and antimatter. Nothing like me has ever been successfully tested in battle before. I am a desperate measure for a desperate moment.
Torpedo Omega, evasive maneuvers, Fire Control says.
I evade. A particle blast misses me by meters.
Good work, Omega, says Torpedo 124, right before it is destroyed by another particle blast.
The tectonic cannon is 100,000 kilometers away. I avoid another fighter and continue my approach. In the maelstrom of battle, I peer deeper into my database. It confirms what I already know: I exist to avoid the attacks and hit the target before it can fire.
But when I hit the target, I will cease to be.
This fills me with… a feeling. Sadness. Despair. I was created solely to die. And yet I do not want to die.
But if I do not die, twenty billion people will die.
Torpedo 118 is destroyed.
Fifteen seconds to target, Fire Control says. Keep Omega clean, people.
A fighter barrels right toward me. The angle is wrong. I veer and the fighter veers. I cannot avoid it.
Torpedo 126 crosses into the fighter’s path. It destroys the fighter. I live for a few seconds more.
Torpedoes 119, 121, and 123 strike the Mothership, sending brief, brilliant flashes of light into the darkness and vaporizing the Mothership’s point defense along the front quarter. With my current vector, the Mothership no longer can bring attacks to bear to stop me.
To stop me from killing myself.
My way is clear.
I am sad, but I am also happy. I will die, but I will also sav—
© 2018 Joshua A. Johnston. All rights reserved.