Another from the Millennium SF&F files. This under 1k words short appeared on their online and “Best of” collection. It might have been titled “The Conspiracy.” It is the first work I ever got paid for. Nothing underhanded about that.
Bruce S. Larson
I seek. I destroy. I am omnipotent in my abilities. I must be. The enemy is everywhere, but I have no fear. My emotions were amputated, like nearly everything else. Perfected knowledge of cerebral chemistry created the ability to integrate one soft body into the ultimate war-machine. All my desires, memories, unconscious impulses, and instincts are monitored and calibrated to optimize my capacity to destroy. I was once a patriotic volunteer who became a tireless, remorseless sentinel. I am elevated from the reality I once knew, and now dive back into it on that holy event when I fulfill my design. Some feel that a legacy is what you leave behind, but mine is what I burn away to make the world safer. Humankind must be liberated. The conspiracy will be destroyed.
I still have memories, but each is stored, screened, and analyzed to gain greater skill from the data contained in every engagement. Experience becomes pulses of data. Those pulses are reconstituted into carefully crafted strands of RNA and fed back to me free of psychological impact. Such dangerous side effects are eliminated. I act from my synthetic mnemonics moving faster than any spider or hawk. One day I will be reborn human again, guilt free. A survivor. A celebrated liberator. Now I am a weapon beyond the threshold of past imagination. It is all necessary to fight them, to make us free of their evil. It had taken millennia before their insidious conspiracy was exposed. With my streamlined thoughts, I saw it clearly. They are the ones, the great evil ones, that delayed our causes and used the time we squandered to further their unholy cause. All those hours in other wars when they crept through our sight; blinding us with humor; giving modest hours of peace; and robbing strength from the troops with entertainment. The enemies we fought with were also their victims. We could have joined forces and destroyed the true evil corrupting both sides: The comedians.
One even became President. (At least he seemed to be one.) That supreme, deceitful irony that must have kept them laughing and motivated for a very long time. No more. Now I act to stop them. They will no longer enslave us with careful timing punctuating quick, well-crafted stories that render you helpless by making you laugh.
My sensors become active. I move. I see him, microphone in hand. His victims sit locked in the indignant palsy of smiling. He speaks. I act. He disappears in blue flame. Ashes waft over the audience, the safe audience. At least I don’t feel what they do. I am immune to the–No. Wait. Just a moment…just a moment. That joke…it was…funny. Oh, n–!
“It was quite a piece of work, flawed or not. It’s amazing more people weren’t fried when it finally blew.” The agent says removing the hood of her HAZMAT suit. Behind her a glassy crater lays burned into the heart of an American city.
“Good thing. I’m sorry anyone had to die, but when it finally up-linked with its orbiting mainframe for deeper analysis, we had to take the opportunity.” The agent’s partner states beside their white van. He continues sliding his heavy rubber trousers off government-standard, blue suit pants. “Who knows how many more it would have killed.”
“I’m surprised it still had targets.” The woman continued. “Who would want to be a comedian with that thing stalking the planet?”
“Well, look at how much money those people made. You could pull five million for one night in a laugh-easy.” Her partner says removing his blazer from the cab.
“Yup, there are a lot of really rich comedians’ widows and widowers around now. One day we’ll be working for them.”
“No kidding. They’re really throwing their assets around, starting businesses; buying land and stocks; buying the ears of political parties. Buying everything.”
“Yeah,” the woman agreed with a circumspect laugh, relieved to be able to do so without fear. Then another strange worry struck her. She paused and knit her brow as smoke from the crater drifted over them. “Hey, you don’t suppose it was some kind of conspiracy, do you?”
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