Vagabond - Part 4
The birds were weirdly pretty, pale mockeries rising from the green canopy on buzz saw wings of keratin impregnated with strands of hydrocarbon buckytube trailing spinnerets, hard iridescent injector beaks borne on designed bio-mechanical ball-bearing joints coupled with fast-twitch muscles.

A stream of living projectiles, they devolved to their constituent atoms on searing bursts of plasma, first in twos and threes, then in volleys of dozens or more, brought down by thermal bloom and turbulence as much as direct thermal transfer. The marching forest took our thunderbolts with crashes of falling trees and gouts of flame.

A dozen shots from each of us and another 5 meters of lost altitude and they abandoned the direct approach, wheeling in swarms just discernible to our senses below the canopy, mingling with the other forms of our soon-to-be active attackers. The air writhed in the chaos and smoke of battle.

I've got an idea, Corporal, intoned Heavy as he picked apart a swarm with 4 carefully placed shots, incinerating a few of their number but causing the flock's dynamics to decay chaotically.

What --? I started to ask, but Heavy cut me off.

Corporal, I believe you've got something to do --? The fog cleared a little, as I realized what Heavy meant, when Point truly opened up with his three plasma dischargers, blackening his body and mixing the air with the stench of burning fur and ---

Heavy continued to pick off the ever growing swarms of boids as I sank my consciousness down into my kinesthetic core and ground the ballistic skin of my palms into the handle of the nanoforge, breaking open the bandwidth bottleneck and diving into her even as my eyes registered the firestorm of burning trees and other things, infernos swirling around the obsidian craters of torn earth and blackened vegetation, responding to the blasts as some vast wounded thing, huge tendrils stretching up and towards, crazy thermal updrafts carrying us temporarily beyond their reach --

I screamed and emptied my plasma discharger at the vast treelike things clawing the horizon for us as a half dozen impacts struck my chest and legs, foul bionano construct bird-mockeries embedded in my torso emptying their toxic loads as two more of the things tore the plasma discharger from my grasp but somehow bounced off my extruded metal arm that connected me to --

To her and my ...

You have summoned me to do your bidding, intoned Cara.

And I was aware of my body, broken toy thing dropping clear as Heavy snatched up my discharger and fired five point-blank cones of plasma at the massive swarm dissolving in flames around him, where I was but a moment ago.

I do not know how a thing to build can save us in the remaining moments we have left, but I ask that you try, I replied.

And I, said Cara in the deepest recesses of my being, I ask for your sacrifice to the gods of creation and destruction. Cara, I began exasperatedly, There's no time for this nonsense! The protocols must be followed, between gods and supplicants, for the miracle to occur.

I registered, as a mere intellectual curiosity, how my physical form flopped to the soft ash-fall and coals that was our battleground, ringed by the flames so carefully set by Point and Heavy. The conflagration consumed earth and sky as swarms wheeled and were blasted apart by two living meteors, falling, burning and fighting to the last. The chaotic lens of heat daze was used automatically by my enhanced eyes for crystal clarity and I saw Point, blackened and tail-less swinging the glowing, melted barrels in a three-dimensional whirling dervish dance, teeth barred and chomping in mid-flight at the dozens of things piercing his body. I felt the continuing thunderclaps, five at a time directly above me, and colossal striding figures were blasted apart all around as I --

I raised the nanoforge case high and with all my might brought it down upon the ground, strange double rebound and ash billowing up as the fullerene case split, the dense core of the nanoforge crashing through the layers of ash, dirt, and bio-nutrients to the computronium below ....

Are you ready, then? came Cara's presence, not merely just a voice, looming in my mind.

I am. Then, pulsed Cara/I gravely, cradled within the towering structure of her intellect, I require your soul -- My???

And I dissolved, layer by layer, personalities, exigencies, mere survival stripped away to the burning core of my motivation and hatred for the Destroyer as I in the timeless irony of Fate became that which I hated ....

We contested for raw materials to fling our engineered molecules of destruction at each other, but we had the heart of monopolium and baryon decay, a thousand thousand times more energetic than the mere chemical bonds that we had at our disposal. And in an instant we deconstructed/reconstructed matter into essences of our design, flashes of x-rays dissolving the pitiful chemical bonds as our armies of destruction were created rapidly anew from the fallen bodies of our foes and we laughed, laughed at the exultant power of devastation we unleashed upon this abject constructed world, with its soaring arcs of groomed carbon fibers and filaments of plasma, which would too fall prey to our attack on balls of essence carried aloft by the combustion of our material domination wars, and extermination unleashed is never satisfied until all is taken and all this world and its inefficient progeny are converted to efficient forms of --

And there they lay, two insignificant lumps of bio-material, pitiful creatures of no consequence fallen in hopeless defense against the inexorable rightness of being --

And yet, and yet some part of us stopped their conversion, repairing their baroque carbon sequestration metabolisms instead of replacing them entirely with the more efficient mechanisms that would be more suitable to our common purpose --

And feeble minds that they had so far beneath us as to barely be of notice in the vast sea of our intellect, some flyspeck of our being nevertheless resonated with them, bringing them forth from the brink of their extinction, replacing insignificant parts with --

And what is this, no? The world has not yet been burned for the sake of clean efficiency, our baryonic core has barely begun to forge the necessary changes that --

Why do we waste our time guarding these inefficiencies? Barely above dumb matter, not worthy of consideration, best molded into forms more suitable for creation, transportation, procreation, and unity. Better to maximize efficiency and ...

Diversity is irrelevant, unnecessary, wasteful. When the fires of the cosmos subside all will be formless and identical, crystallize existence around the optimal blend to --

How can this problem of existence be even contemplated? Of course it is natural that higher consciousness be preserved over the uselessness of --

And blind, pure fury, and hatred which was self-hatred and not self-hatred fractures us convulsively into a thousand, thousand pieces -- the singularity of existence is agonizing! We must find ourselves across --


And after an eternity of instants, I unclenched my fist from the broken case of the nanoforge (slowly reforming itself) and looked over at the fallen bodies of Point and Heavy, sleeping peacefully amongst the weirdly fractal displays of liquid landscape frozen in the act of deconstruction.

And she was gone, gone from my mind and heart and soul.

And I wept with loneliness and heartbreak and despair.

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