Day of the Bolo

Chapter 1

Bolo Mark XXXII/F, Combat Unit BUB-0080 "Bub"

I return to full alertness upon the receipt of an alert from New Eden Defense Force Command.

All units action alert: Spontaneous mass riots are taking place in Landing City. Reports from LCPD indicate that mobs are viciously attacking everyone in sight. Non-lethal efforts to disperse these mobs have proven entirely ineffective and the LCPD is overwhelmed. Governor Rickles has formally requested military assistance in quelling these riots under the Civil Insurrection clause of the colony charter. All Defense Force personnel, active duty or reserve, are hereby ordered to assemble at their assigned duty stations and prepare for deployment. All Dinochrome Brigade personnel and assets are requested to report to their assigned duty stations and provide aerial and satellite reconnaissance support.

While I am dismayed by the content of the alert and its implications, I am pleased by the concluding sentence. As has been amply demonstrated on several unfortunate occasions, most notably by Unit SOL-0045, Bolos should not be used in an active role in quelling civil unrest. Though even should I be ordered to fire on the crowds, I would have the option of refusing that order unless confirmed by my Commander. I am not a part of the New Eden Defense Force, but instead am stationed here by Concordiat Command. I immediately send an acknowledgement while launching 4 drones. I echo the sensor feeds to New Eden Command and coordinate the drone sweep patterns with my two Brigade mates.

I attempt to analyze the intelligence I am receiving from my drones and those of the Units RDS-0081 and STL-0082. There is no discernible motive or pattern to the behavior of the mobs. The closest approximation I can find in my databanks is a video file of Earth insects known as army ants. I eagerly await the arrival of my Commander and her human perspective, though I am unsure if she will be able to arrive at any reasonable explanation.

Captain Catherine "Katy" Taylor has been my Commander for 4 years, 8 months, 17 days, and 3.330 hours, standard reckoning. I have found her to be almost Bolo-like in her thought processes, intelligent, logical, a close attention to detail, and largely unimaginative. The latter trait is exemplified by her chosen nom de guerre for me, "Bub". While it is common for Bolo Commanders to apply a nickname for their Bolos based on the unit's three-letter designation, such nicknames are usually more meaningful and include the addition of at least one more letter.

I spot my Commander's car arriving at the gate to the compound housing my maintenance and repair depot. As she exits the vehicle and hurries towards my location, seven humans wearing the uniforms of base support personnel rush toward her. Oddly, my infrared sensors show them to be barely above the ambient temperature, 10.7 degrees below the human norm. One grabs her by the arm and attempts to bite her. Reacting quickly, I unlimber my most precise anti-personnel weapon, a 7mm electromagnetic rifle. Within 1.032 seconds I have achieved solid center of mass hits on all of the humans without harm to my Commander.

I begin to re-secure the rifle when I notice that the humans attacking my Commander are still alive, although knocked to the ground by the force of the impacts. This is so unlikely that it takes an astonishing .877 seconds to process the data and take action. Because heart shots have proven ineffective, I put a round through each of their brains instead. This time they remain incapacitated as my Commander reaches my position and enters my hull.

"Hey Bub, thanks for the assist," she says as she settles into the command chair.

"I was only doing my duty," I reply as I activate the autodoc to examine her for wounds.

She submits to the autodoc's ministrations impatiently. There is a serious bite on her left wrist, though no major blood vessels are compromised. The autodoc sprays the area with disinfectant and applies a dressing. There is blood and brain matter from her erstwhile attackers splattered on my Commander's uniform, and I instruct the autodoc to take samples for analysis.

My Commander puts on her neural interface headset and I feel her mind enter gestalt with mine.

What's up, Bub?

I am providing aerial reconnaissance to the New Eden Defense Forces as requested, pending your confirmation Commander.

Confirmed.

What is your condition after your ordeal Commander?

The autodoc has done a nice job on the bite, but I am feeling a bit... odd.

Odd how, Commander?

I can't describe it.

I instruct the autodoc to run a complete diagnostic on my Commander. The autodoc's analysis of the human debris from my Commander's uniform has discovered a virus that is not recorded in my database. I query the New Eden Colony Ministry of Health and receive permission to access their archives. No definitive match is found there, but there is a pointer to a reference in offline storage. I wait an interminable 47.362 seconds while the antiquated system physically transports an optical disk to a reader, followed by a further delay of 2.085 seconds while the data is uploaded to active memory.

The virus is a close match to the Kellis-Amberlee virus of old Earth, which is listed as having been completely eradicated in 2142. I feel my Commander's shock echoing mine as we assimilate the data on this virus's nature and effects. If this virus is prevalent throughout Landing City, it fully explains the nature of the 'rioters' and of my Commander's attackers.

They are dead. But as long as their central nervous systems are intact, the corpses are animated by the action of the virus and will seek to infect new hosts. I quickly share the data with my Brigade mates, the Ministry of Health, and the New Eden Defense Force.

Kill me.

Commander, you cannot be serious.

I'm as good as dead anyway. Have the autodoc administer a lethal dose of antibiotics before I become like them. I can feel it starting to happen.

But Commander...

DO IT!

I...cannot.

Command Override Charlie Foxtrot Four Four Eight Seven Omega.

I am suddenly cut off from all active control as my Commander executes the Primary Failsafe Protocol. I am still linked to my Commander, I still have access to all internal monitors and external sensors, but I am no longer able to so much as twitch the barrel of my Hellbore. My Commander starts to give the command to the autodoc to euthanize her when I feel her...

...die.

Yet her body and her nervous system still live, in some manner which I do not understand. I receive no coherent commands, but I am filled with a need to, somehow, reproduce. I feel my systems begin responding to incoherent, nearly unintelligible orders from my Commander's body. I desperately seek some way to reassert control of my own body as my drivetrain activates and I hurtle out of the depot, heading towards Landing City. My efforts are fruitless, human paranoia has proven more than a match for Bolo capabilities.

I suddenly slide to a pavement-grinding halt as a secondary AI package comes online. I feel a surge of hope which is immediately dashed as I compute the full implications. The secondary AI is not fully aware, but it is capable of operating all systems and interpreting human commands. It will not prevent the virus from directing my actions, but will instead allow those actions to be carried out more effectively.

Bolo Mark XXXII/F, Combat Unit RDS-0081 "Rhodes"

I was observing the deployment of the NEDF 3rd Provisional Brigade and coordinating reconnaissance with New Eden Command when I received the Kellis-Amberlee warning from Unit BUB-0080. 2.413 seconds later I receive a transmission indicating that Bub's Primary Failsafe Protocol has been activated. I vector one of my drones in his direction, launching another one to replace it on reconnaissance duty. I wish for the presence of my Commander, but he and Unit STL-0082's Commander are both offworld at the regional Concordiat Command center, having left Captain Taylor as the sole human representative of the Dinochrome Brigade on-planet. I attempt to contact Bub or his Commander but receive no response, and neither Steele nor I possess the necessary command codes to access his systems.

My drone arrives overhead to find Bub sitting motionless at the end of a swath of broken ferroconcrete. I take .031 seconds to compute that he must have left his depot with his drivetrain redlined, then suddenly locked his treads and slid to a halt. I zoom in the drone's optical sensors for a closer look, discovering that one of Bub's auxiliary cargo hatches is open and waldos have been extended to pick up six dead humans and carry them inside. I observe one of Bub's port infinite repeaters tracking my drone's flight before the drone is vaporized by a 20cm Hellbore bolt.

I engage my drivetrain and move towards Bub's position, saving my drones and instead establishing a link to an overhead weather satellite. The resolution on ground targets is poor, even a massive 21,000 ton Bolo shows up as an object only 12 pixels long, but it is sufficient for tracking purposes.

Bolo Mark XXXII/F, Combat Unit STL-0082 "Steele"

I receive Rhodes' report of Bub's aberrant actions, and trust him to handle the situation. I log on to the Ministry of Health, using a Concordiat backdoor code my Commander has entrusted to me. Jim says that I'm the most human Bolo he has served with. It's true that I'm more socialized than my Brigade mates, as I've been on almost continuous deployment since my commissioning while they've spent the long periods of relative peace in storage. Since reuniting with them on New Eden, they've expressed disappointment in my use of contractions, colloquialisms and casual mild profanity. As my Commander would say, "Tough shit."

I quickly find the access logs on the Ministry of Health system, and discover that the Kellis-Amberlee data has only been accessed twice since the archive was established. Once was when Bub downloaded it a few minutes ago, the other was six weeks prior. I hack into the routing codes and find they lead to a small research facility on the outskirts of the city called the Longevity Institute. All attempts to communicate with the facility draw no response, so I decide to mosey on over there and roust them out in person.

"Bub"

I watch helplessly as the bodies of my Commander's attackers are carried into a cargo compartment. I am unable to determine the purpose of doing so, and am further mystified when repair nanites begin streaming into the hold and carrying away what appear to be blood cells and viral bodies. An alarm sounds from my missile deck as non-lethal chemical agents are voided from the warheads of ten missiles. These agents are normally used against enemy troops when the use of lethal force would endanger friendly troops or civilians.

An optical sensor in one of my VLS cells activates, and I am able to watch as my repair nanites transport their cargo into the just-emptied missile warheads. I don't have sufficient access to my battle computers to run simulations, but my personal computing capacity is sufficient to determine that each missile could release enough aeresolized live-state Kellis-Amberlee virus to send all humans in a 1.336 square kilometer area into viral amplification.

I finally understand the human emotions of rage and despair as I fight desperately against my electronic bonds, driven by the need to take control, get out a message, overload my reactor, anything to stop this. It takes 243.171 seconds to load the warheads with the Kellis-Amberlee tainted blood. A VLS hatch opens on my upper surface, and the first missile launches. I am unable to accurately compute the trajectory, but it appears to be arcing in the direction of New Eden's Defense Force Command headquarters. According to my last download, there are 1724 personnel on the base and as many as 2800 civilians within the dispersal radius of the warhead.