From AKAELA (the Mayake Chronicles Book 1), Prologue:
The most dangerous parts of a droid are its hands. That’s the first thing Athel and I learned. They’re also the most precious components, with state-of-the-art microchips and the fastest nanobots ever made.The above is my Sunday snippet submission for the Weekend writer Warriors (you can find the Snippet Sunday group on Facebook, too). Make sure you check out all Weekend writer Warriors participants, it's a fun way to find forthcoming books -- all genres welcome, there's something for everyone's tastes.
Like human hands, they can flex, grab and hold. Unlike human hands, they can be fired off their body as explosive projectiles. The scavenger M3 we’ve been tracking down the gorge has three-millimeter caliber rifles embedded over its knuckles. So long as its hands are busy collecting samples from the ground, we’re fine. But once those hands point at us, we stand little chance against its bullets.
Luckily, Kael, our trained falcon, has no problem dodging fast-flying bullets from scavenger droids. As I climb higher along the wall of the gorge, I raise my head and watch the falcon circle the sky, his black feathers shimmering against the harsh sun.
“So, here’s the plan,” Athel messages me through our Wi-Fi connection, his words forming on the right corner of my eye. “Once you reach the top, you signal Kael to attack the droid. The M3 will fire first. They usually deploy their rocket hands as a last resort.”
“We’ll make sure it doesn’t have a choice,” I send back.
“It won’t, once it exhausts the magazines. As soon as the M3 fires its missile hands, you jump. Make sure the droid follows you and not me.”
I swallow. Right. Easy peasy. Sometimes I wonder why I even listen to my brother’s crazy ideas.
My left foot loses its grip and skids, sending pebbles tumbling down the wall of the gorge. At the bottom of the ravine, the M3 freezes. It elongates its neck with a subtle whir and slowly pivots its triangular head in a full circle.
Good thing it didn’t look up.
Athel waits with our two mares just outside the gorge. He sends me a new message, his anger flashing in capital letters on my retina. “Do not screw up!”
I bite my lip, find a new handhold in the rock and climb farther up, careful not to make any noise this time.
The droid’s lenses zoom out of their sockets, examine the length of the gorge, then retract back into its head.
“It smelled the horses,” I reply to Athel, the words forming on the right corner of my retina. “Keep Maha and Taeh away!”
“Let me handle it,” Athel shoots right back at me. The message flashes a few seconds longer then fades away. A gust of wind travels down the gorge, making my skin tingle.
Twenty feet below, the M3 seems unaware of our presence. Its treads scrape the ground and roll over the rugged terrain, adjusting to its uneven contour.
Athel’s words careen on the corner of my eye. “I can see you now. Twenty-five feet from the ground. Five more to the top.”
He can measure how high I’ve climbed thanks to his built-in inclinometer. Five more feet and I’ll reach the top of the mesa from the bottom of the gorge. My bare fingers brush against gravel. A glaring sun peeks down from above, the sky a pale blue hazed by the smoke of the Gaijins’ fires. I stretch one arm up and grope for a new handhold until I reach the top of the ridge and climb over the edge. Up here, the M3 scavenger droid can no longer spot me. It will keep scraping the rocks in search for titanium-rich sediments and other metals, robbing our volcanic land of its richness.
I scan the horizon. Kael hovers above me, his shadow drawing black circles over the solar panel fields. Beyond the fields, the forest brims with tension, naked trees retracing the snaking path of the Kawa River. I raise a hand and feel the ridge lift—the wind hitting the cliff side of the mesa—blowing up.
Time to set our trap.
“Now!” I message Athel. Kael catches my signal and swerves down into the gorge. The M3 droid spots it immediately, its thermal imaging sensors built to detect the slightest rise in temperature within a radius of five hundred yards. Its lenses zoom out of their sockets, trained on the falcon diving down between the high walls of the gorge.
The droid lifts its right hand and balls its metallic fist. Its decisional algorithm has deemed the threat worth shooting. I crouch over the edge and watch, grinding my teeth. The first rounds zip through the air. Just as fast, Kael dodges them, his cyborg reflexes fueled by nanoelectric impulses traveling down his brain. He swoops over the droid and then lifts up again, the M3’s bullets trained on his movements yet failing to catch him. Three more clicks and then the gunfire ends. Kael makes another dive, and this time he gets so close his talons claw at the droid’s head. The M3 zooms both lenses, rotates one hand and points it, its reflexes slow compared to Kael’s.
Come on. Fire the darn thing!
And then comes the blast. The droid’s right hand shoots out of its metallic arm and arcs up in the air.
“I’ve got it!” Athel types on my retina. I hear the horses jump out of their hiding spot, but there’s no time to watch them gallop away to catch the missile hand before it explodes. I run to the edge of the mesa and dive off the cliff, wind whipping against my face.
That moment when time stops, suspended in the breeze. That brief moment when I could crash down and die and yet I know I won’t.
That moment when I’m as alive as any creature could ever be because I feel.
And yet I’m not human. And I’m not robot.
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