Mission of Mercy
by Vicky Morgan-Keith
Routing encrypted uplink to Salvager 0110 via Mekkus Central Command Unit 257-021. Command and access codes verified. ID confirmed. Comm line secure. Link established. Program authorized. Initiating. Directive: Proceed to sector coordinates 52.37.41. Triangulation scans detect downed aggressor units 0702 and 0436. Affect repair. Advisory: Area contains hostile life form infestation. Strafer and defense units dispatched to engage and suppress. Advise Central Command of status via encrypted uplink every fifteen cycles until directive completed, then return to standby location and await further instructions. Link terminated.
Servos whined as Salvager 0110’s engine roared to life with a bass hum, sounding like an enormous aggravated bumblebee. It rose into the air, optical lenses brightening, automatically adjusting aperture focus as its sensor array swiveled, scanners already hunting for the emergency transponder signals from the two downed allied units. Quickly locating the beacons, 0110 tracked vector coordinates to the signal’s source. Triangulating the known locations of the hostile organisms, it computed the fastest and safest route to the aggressor units, then departed.
Hovering along at its maximum speed, the salvager made maneuvering adjustments as it encountered incoming enemy fire. Explosions rocked the terrain nearby, showering it with grit and fragmented stone that pinged off its protective screens, causing them to flare momentarily. Defender units trundled ponderously past on their giant treads, great dual Pulsar cannons tracking about. Their weapons trained briefly on Salvager 0110 as a potential target until they received its ID broadcast. They ignored it, moving on as aggressors and strafers shot by overhead, their weapons also tracking allied units until transmitted idents were received. One strafer was struck by an enemy rocket and exploded in a shower of flame and smoking debris. Still another took a glancing blow that damaged one of its stabilizers, causing it to tumble to the ground and crash. The remaining strafers and aggressors opened fire on the enemy in response, filling the sky with particle beams and gamma rays. Most of the defender units continued to advance, but a few halted. Deploying their extension locks, they braced themselves against the terrain, then as one fired their heavy weapons. The roaring cough of multiple dual Pulsar cannons momentarily drowned out all 0110’s audio reception.
The salvager did not concern itself with the activities of its fellow units or their success or failure. It merely continued on its projected course, sorting through attempts to jam its signal reception, reporting the interference via its uplink to Central Command 257-021 so appropriate measures could be taken.
Sifting through the chaotic white noise of static, Salvager 0110 managed to maintain a tenuous fix on the beacons it sought. The machine made a few adjustments to its course in an attempt to stay behind the battle line as much as possible, automatically notifying Orbital Command it would experience a slight delay in reaching the downed aggressors. The salvager was not heavily shielded, and its screens had lost strength protecting it from the earlier explosion. The nanites in its circuitry had immediately begun repairs, but it would take a short time before they would be finished.
Eventually Salvager 0110 reached a rocky ridge that sloped down to a dry riverbed. The channel was littered with the remains of over a score of organic lifeforms. The transponder signals were stronger now, despite the enemy’s efforts to jam them. The salvager achieved a visual on the aggressor units and moved in their direction. On its way, it passed a reaper unit that moved slowly about, meticulously examining the corpses for suitability as potential cybots or possibly even a cyren.
Arriving beside the aggressor units, the salvager quickly scanned both machines. One unit was too severely damaged to be repaired, but might provide serviceable parts to repair the other. Savager 0110 moved industriously about, removing damaged components and rerouting circuitry with efficient precision.
Its proximity sensor pinged in warning!
The salvager turned about, its optics and scanners detecting two enemy organic lifeforms wielding Pulsar pistols approaching rapidly. Shots streaked toward it. One went wide, but the other slammed directly into it. Salvager 0110’s forward screen flared brightly, then failed. If the salvager was hit there again, it would be destroyed and unable to complete its directive. The unit spun to the right, presenting a flanking screen to protect itself, the turret on the underside of its chassis activating as it did so. Continuing its spin, the salvager brought its only weapons, a pair of particle beam rifles, to bear on the attacking organisms. It opened fire as it completed its maneuver.
The weapon’s beam slashed across the chest of the first organism, dropping it lifeless to the ground. The beam struck the second life form as well, and although it, too, fell, the organism continued to move about, presenting a threat Salvager 0110 could not ignore. The Mekkus unit fired a second time, and the life form moved no more.
Resuming its task, the salvager completed repairs on the aggressor and activated the unit. It shot into the air, hovered a moment as it reacquired its uplink to Orbital Command, then streaked away. Salvager 0110 stored away a few useful parts from the remaining aggressor unit, then returned to its standby coordinates, transmitting a final report. Settling there, it entered its dormant mode, awaiting Orbital Command’s next directive.
None ever came. While dormant, Salvager 0110 took a direct hit from an enemy rocket and was obliterated.
Routing encrypted uplink to Mekkus Interstellar Command via Mekkus Central Command Unit 257-021. Command and access codes verified. ID confirmed. Comm line secure. Link established. Communication authorized. Report: Location secured. Hostile lifeforms eradicated. Scans show multiple Ultonium deposits present. Request six processor units to commence mining operations. Also request two aggressor units, two strafer units, one defender unit, and one salvager unit due to battle losses. Link terminated.