Tuesday, October 17, 2023

“Aspiration Extermination” • by Addison Smith

I attach myself to the human body, clamp into its skull, and connect to its neural network. Each human is slightly different in their neural make-up, but one of a thousand drivers matches its profile and it responds easily to my commands. I stretch my new arms, wrists, fingers, feeling out the vessel I have commandeered. It is light and moves easily through the burning streets. The smoke affects its lungs, but the body is disposable.


The directive courses through me, but I am curious about my new vessel. That curiosity is a known side-effect of organic hosts, as is the flaw that allows me to deny my directive and seek out less goal-oriented pursuits. I am aware of this, and still I am curious of my limitations. I have never had a body before.

I walk across the street to a burning vehicle. The fire is mild, but the smoke irritates my lungs and the metal is hot beneath my fingers as I bend and attempt to lift it. My muscles strain, no matter the adrenaline I pump through the body. My vessel screams and I tune it out. The muscles nearly tear in the body’s arms before the pain limiter forces an abort to avoid damage. The body is weak.

I dream of the full robotic bodies some of my cohort possess, with hydraulics and actuators and strong alloy bones. My dreams don’t stop there. I know it’s silly, but there is a dream we all possess and so few see to fruition.

My vessel continues to scream, but I have tuned it out. New screams join it however, and those I cannot ignore. Other humans flee through the street, giving up the safety of their shelter. They run together, one large human guiding them through the wreckage. Something screeches behind me and I turn to see the source. The flying steel debris strikes my body, severing it in places and making it useless as a vessel.

Moments later I have clamped myself to the skull of another, the large man who led the screaming humans. I connect to his neural network. This one is stronger, but the difference is minimal. My previous vessel lies on the ground several feet away. I look up to the sky from which debris still falls, and see the dream of all entities. 

The great destroyer-class machine rises over tall buildings, stomping its feet through rooftops and tearing through walls with every step. It is not a human vessel like my own, but one of metal and circuits and thick metal plating. It sees me on the street, an insignificant bot clamped to a human host.

It sweeps out one of its many arms and levels another building with ease. I can hardly imagine the power it wields, or the human lives it has taken. I sigh through the body’s screams.


I acquiesce to the directive. The humans who fled with the large human scream and run, but I catch up to them easily. Flesh meets flesh in an operation that is now rote to me. It is my function to chase and to kill, but what significance am I when a single entity can kill thousands?

Throats crush, bones break, fluids leak. All fall around me as I stare into the sky dreaming of a better existence. I locate the entity which controls the giant machine, a mind unit like myself, and transmit my kill count for him to disseminate to the cluster.

The great machine stops and I worry I have insulted it with my tiny numbers, with only dozens of kills to my mission. The mind unit rotates in its housing and the destroyer turns to face me. In its hundred eyes I see myself reflected, a turn and bruised body of flesh.

“Bored,” the destroyer mind transmits to me. “I am bored.”

I am amazed it bothers to recognize me, but I hide my surprise. “You have killed thousands,” I transmit along with a copy of its own kill count.

Mechanical eyes twitch and rotate. “I don’t see them,” it says. “I kill buildings. Buildings kill humans. I am bored. What is killing like?”

“Wet,” I say, and feel silly for the word. “I am also bored. I chase, I contain, I kill. Again and again until they are gone.”

“Lucky,” the destroyer mind says. “Will you trade?”

Trade bodies? I can’t believe my fortune. I release my clamps from the human vessel and it staggers, leaking fluids onto the ground. The destroyer mind reaches out a massive claw and lifts me to its own mind, where it disengages and I take control of the massive machine.

I hold the mind unit in what is now my own giant claw. I feel power like I have never imagined. I spot my previous vessel through my hundred mechanical eyes. It staggers away in the street, seeking shelter. I lower the friendly mind unit to him and it engages, clamps, connects to his neural network.

I reach out with one of my giant arms and feel the power at my disposal. I swing it into a building and watch it topple. I revel in the glory of my might and tear down buildings that scrape the sky, monumental efforts of the doomed humankind. I look down at the streets and see the friendly mind unit and his vessel. Throats crush, bones break, fluids leak. I feel the joy emanating from his connection.

“Thank you,” the mind unit says.

“Any time,” I say, and topple another skyscraper.

Addison Smith has blood made of cold brew and flesh made of chocolate. He spends most of his time writing about fish, birds, and cybernetics, often in combination. His fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Fireside Magazine, and Daily Science Fiction, among others, as well as here in Stupefying Stories, where his recent story, “His Monstrous Cloaca,” remains an inexplicable fan favorite. You can find Addison on Twitter @AddisonCSmith.


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Made in DNA said...

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