Arisa placed the last disc on the asphalt road, nervously glancing in both directions. Headlights winked into existence farther down the dark canyon.
“Are we good to go?”
The road was covered with a line of staggered discs like the one she had just put down. Arisa thumbed down the two silver buttons on the side of the bomb she’d just planted until it lit up.
“They’re armed,” Arisa said out loud. The comms built into her head relayed the message to the rest of the group.
“They’ve got the flashing green lights?”
Arisa sighed and replied with a terse affirmative. Drake was making sure everything was running smoothly. She hopped off the side of the slightly raised highway, her feet landing hard on the packed dirt of the Arizona desert landscape.
A different voice cackled in the radio.
“They’re about ten minutes out.” Nora was tracking the human convoy.
“Okay. Arisa, get up to the vantage point,” Drake ordered. Arisa glanced up at the crevice in the canyon wall that stretched up before her. The strip of starry night sky above gave just enough light to see the glint of moving metal in the cave. Drake was up there, along with Felix.
Arisa ran at the rocky wall and leapt.
Her enhanced steel-fiber muscles launched her ten feet into the air, and her metal fingers managed to dig into the rock wall before she fell back down. She grunted and threw herself up higher and higher with her robotic limbs until she reached the perch.
Felix’s steel frame laid eerily still as he aimed his sniper at the mines on the road below. Drake stood at the very edge of the crevice with his eyes on the headlights coming from the left. They multiplied into a string of escorts. All for General Cooper.
Drake gestured to the other side of their vantage point after he saw Arisa. “Watch that way for me,” he said distractedly. She walked over and crouched down, searching for any movements.
After a few long seconds of silence, Drake drifted over to her.
“Hey, about what I said earlier–” He started, draping an arm around her shoulder, “I’m serious. If you have the opportunity, kill him.”
Arisa tensed, resisting the urge to swallow. Wilson. Her human boss… their creator. She had known him since she had first booted up in his underground research facility.
“He’s siding with the rest of the humans, Arisa. We don’t have a choice,” Drake added, waiting for a response. Arisa just nodded.
“Three minutes out. Cooper is in the suburban two cars from the front,” Nora blurted, interrupting her thoughts. Drake stood up and assumed his position at the edge of their crevice.
“I see the car,” Felix said, flicking something on his scope. “Four heat signatures. Cooper, the driver…” He faltered for a second. Drake picked up on it and turned expectantly.
“Two little kids. Boy and a girl,” Felix reported, shifting to keep his gun aimed on them.
“Not a threat, don’t take the shot. We’re clear– Arisa, once they blow, you stay up here. Felix, keep eyes on me,” Drake ordered, crouching as the black cars approached. There were five, all in a strict line. They would hit the mines and cause a wreck; killing the humans inside—and if they didn’t, the team would finish the job.
Two little kids. Boy and a girl…
“There are kids in there,” Arisa muttered under her breath. Drake must’ve heard, because he glanced back at her.
“I don’t like it either, Arisa. But if we’re gonna win the coming war, we’ve got to do this– we don’t have a choice,” Drake said quickly. He was too focused on the big picture.
“Those children have done nothing wrong yet,” Arisa tried, louder this time.
Drake turned around and got very close to Arisa. He put a firm hand on her shoulder and stared at her dead in the eyes.
“Yet. That’s just the problem– they’ll grow up and become just like the rest of the humans. They’ll make our lives hell. They’ll keep killing us. Forget about the kids. Worry about your job and I’ll worry about mine,” Drake commanded with cold efficiency. Arisa was silent.
She was tired of being quiet.
Their engines echoed throughout the canyon. Arisa crouched at the edge of the cave. Any minute now…
She felt something twitching inside of her. This felt wrong, but she wasn’t sure why. Her heart rate was too high. She wanted to jump out of the crevice and run. Could something be wrong with her software?
Why was she acting like this now? She had known there would be casualties when she joined. But something was screaming at her to do something.
“Showtime,” said Nora as the headlights illuminated the mines.
Arisa crashed into the middle of the freeway, smashing into the front of the General’s car right before the explosions went off.
She took the brunt of the car crash with her right shoulder, gasping as she felt servomotors pop and her chassis ripping open. Alerts rang and sparks flew everywhere. Arisa automatically shut off her pain sensors, digging her heels into the asphalt below.
The black suburban folded around her initial impact, the hood crumpling and the tires screeching. The tinted windows shattered in slow-motion, the cracks climbing up the glass like a glittering tree.
Someone was yelling at her through the comms. Arisa screamed as she desperately tried to slow down the car before it crashed into the mines along with the rest of the convoy.
The sound was deafening for a moment, but then she couldn’t hear anything anymore. A brilliant flash of light, and then multiple tremors rattling Arisa’s every component.
Fire was everywhere. The smell of gasoline and smoke was overpowering. Arisa ripped open the car door and could make out the two kids huddled in the backseat. The General sat in the front, groaning.
They screamed at her, but she just scooped them up in her arms and carried them to the side of the road, away from danger. The other cars were mangled and melting from the explosions; Arisa had barely managed to keep the General’s car somewhat safe.
What did I just do?
Drake was beside her, furiously yelling something at her and pointing to the wreck. He took out a pistol and fired it three times into the helpless General, still stuck in the suburban.
He pointed his gun toward the kids.
Arisa desperately hugged the small humans tightly to her body and winced… Drake didn’t shoot.
“Please, let them go! I’ll get them a ride far away from here… Just let them go…” Arisa found herself repeating desperately through sobs. Drake scoffed.
“Get them out of my sight,” He muttered, lowering the pistol. The kids whimpered. Drake grabbed her by the chin and jerked her face up to his. “You need to pick a side, Arisa.”
Arisa barely caught hold of his words before shutting down.
“Nora, get repairs going on Arisa,” Drake ordered, still flustered from the incident. Arisa was too gentle. She still believed they could avoid conflict… No matter. They had completed their mission.
Drake turned to see the already-distant children running away into the dark, cold night.
“Felix?” Drake started. The sniper nodded.
“Take the shot.”
Legacy Trajectory won the Silver Key Award in the 2020 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. This was the first real award I got for my writing!
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