I hated war. I hated the stench of battery acid staining the desert. I hated the neurosynaptic spider that crawled out from behind the wreckage of a battle bot. I grabbed the spider, slapping peace jelly on its receptors so the bristling rockets beneath its carapace wouldn't fire. I spun like a man throwing a discus. The neurosynaptic chip was a good aerodynamic and the spider floated out of sight. I logged the battle bot as a casualty.
"Peacekeeper, your report is due."
I hated my commanding officer. He wasn't any better than the flea-bitten bureaucrat who'd proposed using robots to fight proxy wars. I figured it was better than my fighting on the front lines, but jotting hashmarks for casualties was a brain killer. As well as my calves. "The bots no longer stand still. They chase all over the place. I've only tallied half the valley. Whoever is programming these things needs to teach them not to run."
"Whining won't speed the report. Get cracking." The radio crackled out.
The smoking remains of a three-story tall leg towered over me, the torso shredded by rockets. Second-generation tech no longer won wars. I counted the casualty, this one might lose them the war even if I didn't mark another loss against them.
Something flickered, I didn't get a good enough glance to tell what it was. I hated the war. I might not be fighting, but I'd heard too many stories of peacekeepers letting their guard down. I might not be the enemy, but the robots didn't seem to care.
A squad of neurosynaptic dragonflies divebombed me when I came around the corner. Behind them, I saw the jerky motion of a spider. The carapace oozed jelly. I should've known it would find friends.
I buzzed the command and control center, but no one answered my hail. Bullets strafed my position. One of the barbs cut through my battle armor. My arm exploded with pain. "Stage two. Stage two! Someone get me out of here."
I rolled across the sand and found an iron scrap I could use as a bat. I swatted the first dragonfly that followed me. It sputtered in the sand. I slapped more jelly on it, but this time instead of letting it escape, I connected a wire to its micro-USB port. I downloaded a standard interrupt pattern and the helicopter blades spun up ready to defend me. Who was I kidding, one droid wouldn't save me.
"Peacekeeper, follow standard operating procedures."
Dragonfly bodies spun to point in my direction. They had heard the radio. I ripped the swatch from my wrist and threw it at them. It hopped across the desert as they fired at it.
I wished they would outfit us with weapons, but that wouldn't have made us look like peacekeepers. Instead, I was supposed to use this jelly and my tally log against these creatures.
The interrupt pattern blocked the dragonflies as they flew closer. I watched it fly, timing my swing outside its pattern to temporarily stunned another bot into the sand. My hands flew repeating the interrupt procedure.
Iron tapped against the hard bone of my neck and I rolled over finding myself face-to-face with the spider. It pricked my skin and the spider's joint hissed as something hot and stinging shot into my bloodstream. I rammed my head forward pinning the thing into the sand.
I rolled away and trailed the USB cable connected to the second dragonfly. I was wired and I used its weapons to fire on the spider. The other creatures pulled back, all except the two dragonflies that were mine now. I suppose I was an army of three.
The maps I'd downloaded from headquarters before heading into the desert showed a cave up ahead. It wouldn't be long before the next proxy war, and I might be able to upgrade some of my own fighters. Free agency seemed like a good plan. Much better than working for my boss who evidently didn't care much about my life. I was going to like working for myself. And maybe, I wouldn't hate war after all.