Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dirksen picked up the hammer again, quickly raised it and brought it back down in a smooth arc which struck the helpless machine off-center, damaging one of its wheels and flipping it right side up again. There was a metallic scraping sound from the damaged wheel, and the beast began spinning in a fitful circle. A snapping sound came from its underbelly; the machine stopped, lights glowing dolefully.

Dirksen pressed her lips together tightly, raised the hammer for a final blow. But as she started to bring it down there came from within the beast a sound, a soft crying wail the rose up and fell like a baby whimpering. Dirksen dropped the hammer and stepped back, her eyes on the blood-red pool of lubricating fluid forming on the table beneath the creature. She looked at hunt horrified. "It's... it's-"

"Just a machine," Hunt said, seriously now. "Like these, its evolutionary predecessors." His gesturing hands took in the array of machinery in the workshop around them, mute and menacing watchers. "But unlike them it can sense its own doom and cry out for succor."

"Turn it off," she said flatly.

Hunt walked to the table, tried to move its tiny power switch. "You've jammed it, I'm afraid." He picked up the hammer from the floor where it had fallen. "Care to administer the death blow?"

She stepped back, shaking her head as Hunt raised the hammer. "Couldn't you fix-" There was a brief metallic crunch. She winced, turned her head. The wailing had stopped, and they returned upstairs in silence.
- excerpt from The Soul of Anna Klane, by Terrel Miedaner