Thunderdome: Meet Cute Future

(This one’s prompt was “Sharp vision prevents rash decision”.   I had a very clear idea of what I wanted out of this one, and I think I got halfway there.  I’ll probably edit and expand on this one at some point.  746 words.)

Acier did not have to drag their fingers across the glass surface they were skimming across to trace out the static electricity that had built up inside of it. Their physical body was not even required here in this particular chamber of the foundry. This tiny, humanity-laced action was justified in their mind as a way of signifying the action of discharging it as taking precedence over the thousands of other tasks being monitored. They let four insignificant robots disembark from under their fingernails and begin merging with the clear lattices of the structure, massaging the electromagnetic fields into cooperation. As Acier ascended from the depths of the power arrays, replacement robots slipped back into place without a fuss.

Reaching the flatness of the loading fields, Acier took moments to cycle through patterns of thought, tuning into them like radio-waves. The schedule was maintained. The next action they would be required to take would be several hours from now, when the process of selecting the components for the next outbound parcel would require a sentient mind to direct. Until then, Acier shifted away from consciousness and let the robots do the work. It was impossible to outpace this routine.

Minutes before Acier’s mind was needed, there was a disruption. Seconds before Acier shifted back into total consciousness, there was a sky ripping force penetrating the upper atmosphere. Imperceptible moments before Acier began sending dozens of robots out to analyze the event, there was an incoherent noise across all spectrums that Acier’s spinal cord passively sensed. Even light and gravity were warbling out a pattern too riot-like to translate and too purposeful to dismiss as a natural event.

With hundreds of robots within reasonable proximity, and thousands more providing what data they could from a distance, Acier was granted true three-dimensional sight. Not the merely human conceit of splicing a pair of two-dimensional visuals using some outdated hardware at the back of the brain, Acier could conceive of this new arrival from all angles. There was static, though. The bursts of light, shifting through colors, intensity, and strobing fast enough to hint at some encoded transmission, all sought to vandalize their ‘eyes’. Acier’s spine reacted to gouts of gravitational wells popping up and dispersing at random. Miniature black holes forming and sinking down to the core of the world to dissipate within millionths of a second. Was this an attack?

Legions of tiny robots chained together into circular belts around the anomaly, scouring it with simultaneous floods of data and sensory probes, hoping to pick up a reasonable reaction. Was this being from one of the many worlds Acier sought to autocolonize with their parcels? Was this some incalculably rare natural event? Was this some rogue machine, sent to scan Acier, or do harm to the routine? There was no way of knowing for sure, within these scant few seconds of contact.

The anomaly began sinking down into the generator arrays beneath the fields, and Acier sought to follow, taking a clever shortcut by distorting holes through bulk matter they knew to be functionless with one of their personal fields. There it was, the living static, circling around the cold reactor. One of the many beating hearts of the foundry. Was this proof of dangerous intent, on behalf of the anomaly? Acier switched on parts of their brain, relating to empathy and ethics. Could something this unknown be reasoned with? No, not without great personal risk. Acier’s systems resolved to take action.

Many of the robots in Acier’s fingertips began manipulating errant strands of electromagnetic force. Shearing through this intruder with uncountable particles and gauging the reactions would serve the dual purpose of analyzing and neutralizing the event. Acier was already considering defenses for future incursions as the beam began spilling towards its target. Now with all of their robots truly blinded by the discharge of such energy, Acier noticed that there was no reaction. The being had deflected all trace of it.

Acier switched on portions of their brain dedicated to curiosity and, not thinking it would do any harm or good, their own personal sight. With the two eyes active, Acier did not see the gravity swirls or jolts of radio-data. They saw a sentient being, not unlike themselves. Acier slowly raised a hand to scan the being with the robots on the palm of their hand. Part of their databanks reminded them that this was an early human greeting, as well.

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