© Copyright 2006 - Darkraptor - Used by permission
Storycodes: Machine/mf; mum; tape; cocoon; cons/nc; X
A re-imagining of the original story “Smart Duct tape” by Naughtylittlegirl
The New Mexico desert
There was little to keep the driver of the semi truck occupied as he drove through the dark night, carrying his cargo to their final destination, a medium size town stuck out in the middle of nowhere.
He had been driving for a week now, and his curiosity was getting to him. Just what was in those boxes in the back? His employer’s hadn’t told him. “Take it here,” was all they said, “And no questions asked.”
His mind pondered. Just what was in those boxes? Maybe when he finally pulled in, he would find out…
At that moment, a bunny rabbit chose to run out onto the desolate stretch of road. The adorable little animal hopped out onto the road, directly into the path of the semi.
The driver saw it almost instantly. “BUNNY!!!” He screamed. A lever was thrown, the wheels screeched, and the Semi tried to stop.
The rabbit looked at the oncoming vehicle with the blank stare of one who was about to die.
“NOOO!!!!!!” The driver swerved the wheel in a desperate attempt to avoid hitting the adorable little thing. With a metallic scream, the semi swerved and the tires narrowly avoided turning Mr. Bunny into road kill. But the cost was high.
The semi swerved, wavered for a moment, then crashed onto its side with an incredibly loud THUD, forcing the back gates open. Inside, dozens of boxes flew around, tops being ripped open.
The rabbit curiously hopped over the back of the semi, wanting to see what was inside. It got to the smashed doors and peered inside. Its eyes struggled and adjusted to the absence of light, barely making out the forms of small, moving objects.
One of those objects caught sight of the rabbit. Sensors quickly determined that the moving thing in front of it was alive and was a mammal. With a loud spring, the device sprang into action.
A few minutes later, a squirming silver bundle took the place of the rabbit. The device that had transformed the rabbit slowly crawled out of the ruined semi on several miniature legs. Its sensors determined that the small lifeform was safely contained and restrained.
Its next objective began. Its sensors began to scan the surrounding area, searching for more targets. The best match was a very faint heat reading from several dozen miles away.
The object gave a metallic squeak. Its legs curled up inside its metallic body, and the device began to roll across the sand, heading towards the heat signature. Behind it, several hundred other objects began crawling out of the ruined semi. Soon, that number grew to several thousand.
When a truck drove past the accident site an hour later, there was no sign of any objects rolling off into the desert night.
The following morning
“All right girls!” The leader screeched. “Who’s ready for some hot desert plant surveying!? Come on everybody, let me hear you shout!”
“Tell me again why I did this?” One of the club’s members quietly muttered to herself.
“I was thinking the same thing.” Her companion said as she rubbed her eyes. It was fun belonging to a women’s club, but getting out of bed at 7:00 AM to go on a field trip into the desert on a Sunday was not her idea of fun.
“Come on everyone! Where’s your team spirit?! Come on, let’s sing our song!”
“How about not?” A voice from the back of the bus called out. A few laughs greeted this reply. The women’s club leader was not amused.
“Come on everybody, I know it’s a bit early, but just think about all the fascinating desert plants we’ll see today! Can’t you just smell that lovely scent of cactus already?!”
“I think I can smell last night’s dinner of beans instead.”
The bus arrived at their destination a half-hour later. Several tired and weary women got off the bus to begin looking for local plants.
None of them noticed the small metallic orb that was watching their every move.
The device watched the life forms from behind a bush. Its onboard miniature computer was already calculating the time it would need to mummify each target completely. It eventually determined that it alone did not possess the capability to contain each of these targets. It would need backup. It gave a silent electronic symbol to its counterparts waiting for the results of its scouting.
If one could not finish the task by itself, then sheer numbers would do the trick.
A lady by the name of Emma saw it first. She was crouched next to a bush when the shiny metal dome caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. She turned to see what looked like a small, metallic basketball rolling towards her on treads.
“Well hello there!” She said. “What are you? Some kind of remote controlled toy?” She glanced around, but saw no one in sight. No kid wielding a remote control.
Curious, she reached over and touched the device. It froze under her touch, but did not otherwise react.
Emma picked it up and held it in her hands, turning it over and inspecting it. There were several tiny hatches in the device, along with what appeared to be an identifying mark. 5A-65.
“Is that your name?” She asked. “Is it?”
The device waited as long as it could. Just a few more seconds, it determined, and the target would be completely off-guard…
“Well, you are adorable! I think I’m going to take you back home and…” At that moment, one of the hatches opened. A small, almost invisible needle came out of the ball and plunged into Emma’s arm. Faster then she could scream, 5A-65 injected a medium strength sedative.
Instantly Emma wobbled half conscious, and trying not to fall. The machine, sensing that the time was right, sprung into action. A small hatch opened in its back, revealing a gigantic roll of silver duct tape. Its small metallic legs popped out, and it began to scurry over the woman.
“Emma, come take a look at this! This cactus has a wonderful shade of green!” Francine was crouched next to her cactus, looking at it with complete attention. When Emma didn’t respond, she tried calling out to her again. Again, no response.
When Francine went around the large rock and found her companion being mummified in silver tape, she let out a shriek. That caught the attention of her companions, but also the attention of over five thousand metallic orbs that sped towards her.
The next ten minutes were a scene of complete chaos. The little orbs sprouted their little legs and began to swarm over the women, following their programming to mummify every living object they encountered. There were screams, pleas, the sound of tape being unwound, and thuds as freshly wrapped mummies fell to the ground.
Only one managed to get away from the chaos. The bus driver had managed to reach the tour bus and thus the mike. She grabbed it and shouted into the speaker.
“ROBOTS!” She screamed. “ROBOTS EVERYWHERE! AHHH, NOO! NOO!!!!!” The mike fell from her hand as a hundred robots swarmed over her squirming body, binding her into a cocoon of duct tape.
A minute later, it was all over. Thirty women lay on the desert sand, all wrapped up head to toe in individual cocoons of duct tape. The small robots scurried over the mummified women, checking to see that the wrappings were tight enough to ensure inescapable captivity.
5A-65 sensed that its task here was finished. With these life forms immobilized, there was nothing left to be done here. Its computer remembered the location of the massing of heat signatures. Giving an electronic squeak, it went back to travel mode and began to roll across the sand. The other thousands of metallic devices followed it.
As they all left, they left behind thirty squirming and whimpering duct-taped women.
One of them somehow managed to work a strap of tape off her right eye. She squirmed, trying to see what was going on. Her surprise was total to see all her companions wrapped and bound in tape.
Her sight was short lived, for a straggling ball quickly noticed that a piece of skin was unwrapped. It scurried over and taped up her eye three times, just to be safe. Then it too, rolled across the sand after its fellows.
5A-65 led the group of small, metallic objects through the hot New Mexico sand. Its mind was narrow, focused on the task at hand. The settlement that it sought was close.
Very close. Its sensors were locked onto it. Because it was the heat of the day, thermal imaging was useless. Normal vision was the only way to see its goal.
It, and its fellow objects, reached the outskirts of the small town an hour later. They were not tired, because they did not have muscles. They were not bored, because they had no emotions. All that was on hand was the mission.
5A-65 decided that it would go into the settlement first. It would be the scout to determine how many humans there were, and how many of its fellows would be needed.
It slowly and quietly rolled into the town, its sensors alert for movement. The onboard computer thought, contemplated, and eventually decided on a target. The nearest settlement was chosen, and 5A-65 rolled towards it. The door was closed, but there was an air duct covering that was loose. A few pulls of 5A-65’s little arms, and the cover came off. With an access route, 5A-65 rolled inside the vent.
5A-65 took great caution to be as quiet as it could. Stealth was a programmed part of its program, for it was designed to sneak up to the target and ambush it quickly and quietly.
There were voices ahead. 5A-65 rolled down the smooth duct, searching for the source of the voices. It took a left, then a right, then another left, until it came to a grill. 5A-65 found another grill, but was unable to open it. But 5A-65 was not frustrated. As a machine, it was incapable of frustration. All that mattered was the mission.
But it could think. 5A-65 focused its audio sensors and listened to the voices.
“Has that shipment come in yet?”
“No professor. It was supposed to come in this morning, but the delivery truck got into an accident.” 5A-65 recognized a curse word.
“I'm afraid it gets worse sir. The boxes were there, but the units were gone.” Another storm of curses. “Sir, there was a rabbit next to the Semi, wrapped up completely in duct tape. It’s alive, but…we can’t figure out what wrapped it.”
One of the humans sighed. "I have a bad feeling about this. Maybe I should have listened to James after all…" 5A-65 pondered what the words were, but could make no logical connection that mattered to the mission.
Leaving the humans to talk, 5A-65 rolled down the airduct, searching for another target. It found various vent covers and humans behind them, but reaching them was not possible. It was another ten minutes before 5A-65 found a target.
It was a human male, dozing in a chair in his office. The door was locked and closed, as was the window. To make things even better, curtains were across the window. 5A-65 quickly managed to undo the vent cover and scurry out. With its legs out, the device slowly crept up the back of the chair. It had to go fast if this was to work.
When 5A-65 reached the human’s neck, it plunged the sedative into the soft flesh and injected the formula. The human let out a sigh, but did not otherwise react. Sensing that the time was right, 5A-65 opened its storage hatch and went to work.
It managed to accomplish its task before the human woke up. 5A-65 stepped away from the chair to examine its work. The human was taped to the chair, completely covered head to toe in shiny duct tape. Only its nose was uncovered (5A-65 had been programmed to keep subjects alive at all costs when mummifying them).
There was a small patch near the feet that could be touched up on. 5A-65 scurried over to the ripped tape and quickly applied another strand of duct tape. However, this had the unforeseen side effect of waking the human up.
There was a few seconds of silence as the human shook his bandaged head back and forth. Then there was a second of confusion, then panic as he began to thrash back and forth in his cocoon of tape. A few more seconds, and he was screaming as best he could through the tape that bound his mouth.
5A-65 determined that the subject’s mummification was satisfactory. It noted that its speed could have been increased by 5.6 percent, something it would note for the next time. With the human struggling, it would not be long before he was discovered. 5A-65 made a quick exit into the air duct, leaving the human to squirm and give off muffled screams.
5A-65 determined that the best course of action was to exit the building before the man was found, and continue its scouting mission. Rolling back the way it came, it exited the air vents and again found the streets empty.
For the next several hours, 5A-65 rolled through the town, slowly and quietly investigating each building it came across. 5A-65 would climb up the windows and peer inside. After the conclusion of its survey, 5A-65 determined that all its fellows would need to mummify every human in this town.
But before it could do that, it needed to send a transmission to its fellow machines. Springing its legs out, 5A-65 climbed to the top of a two-story building. Pushing its antenna out, it sent the signal to its fellow machines that they would all move at night, when all the humans were asleep.
It didn’t notice the two humans carefully sneaking up behind it, ever so quietly. When they were close enough, one of them raised a hand to signal silence. Then it raised the net.
5A-65 heard the net coming, but was not fast enough to escape as it came down over it.
On the outskirts of the town, all the machines received 5A-65’s message of when the operation would take place. All the units accepted this information without argument or protest. Among the thousands of units was one labeled B6-48. It rolled away from its fellow units to a small sand ridge. Rolling onto it, B6-48 scanned the town. There was movement within its streets as people walked about.
The sun was beginning to set in the sky above. It wouldn’t be long.
“Are you sure this is it professor?”
“Yes, I’m sure. If we can destroy this one, the rest will follow.”
5A-65 peered up at the humans outside of the cage it was in. Its computers determined that at the current moment, it was impossible to reach the targets and mummify them. For now, it would have to wait for a more opportune moment. It could wait. It could wait years if it had to.
“This one here is the original prototype. If we can disable it, then we can stop all the others.” The human picked up a small, handheld device.
5A-65 did not know what the device was, but its sensors indicated sonic technology inside it. 5A-65 knew that it was vulnerable to sonic waves that could scramble its circuitry.
But even as 5A-65 processed that information, the professor pressed a switch, and the invisible sonic wave hit 5A-65’s circuits. There was nothing the little robot could do as it lost control of all its functions.
The cage was opened, and 5A-65 felt itself being carried out. But there was nothing it could do to defend itself.
Night had fallen upon the small town. Almost all of the people were inside, either enjoying dinner or continuing to work.
The perfect time for an invasion.
Five thousand units silently rolled into the town, breaking off into smaller units that went down various streets, alleys, and driveways. All the units were quiet as they snuck through the town, waiting for exactly the right moment to strike.
B6-48 climbed up the tallest structure it could find, seeking to make sure that all possible routes into and out of the town were covered by its fellow units below. When it reached the peak of the radio tower, it scanned the area below with all its vision modes.
With everything clear, B6-48 sent a silent radio signal.
“Yes Jeffery, just a little more. Clip that wire there, and we’ll be done.”
5A-65 lay on a table with its side open, exposing its wires, modems, and small computer parts. One of the humans was leaning over it, slowly extending a pair of scissors towards the most critical wire.
5A-65 was not capable of feeling fear or terror, but it knew that if something did not happen fast, it would cease to exist within a matter of seconds.
“Yes, that’s it. Just a little closer…almost…”
There was a loud scream from outside the building. Then another. And then another. The two humans looked up and away from 5A-65. “What the blazes?!” One of them went over to the window to take a look.
“Jeffery! It’s them! The others!” With the human in front of it distracted, 5A-65 made its move. The sonic blast’s effects had worn off, and 5A-65 now had complete control over its parts.
With a quick jab, the syringe of sedative embedded itself in the human leaning over 5A-65. He moaned, then fell onto the floor.
“Jeffery, what it is? What…” The human saw 5A-65. “No! You little piece of rubbish!” The man grabbed the sonic amplifier, but 5A-65 was already rolling out the door.
It was pure chaos in the streets, and in the buildings throughout the small town.
Thousands of the units were rolling, crawling and skittering throughout the town, going after any living thing that moved. Humans were the primary targets, but unfortunate animals got caught as well.
It happened so quickly that most didn’t have time to react. One moment they were walking, the next they were being swarmed by dozens of tiny metal things. Needles were jammed in, and limbs went limp. Then the sticky tape was wound around them. The people were fully aware of what was happening, but were unable to do anything about it.
Thuds filled the air as mummy after mummy landed on the ground. Soon, piles of silver wrapped bodies began to appear as more and more of the town’s residents were mummified in silver tape.
Among those who were mummified, there were some interesting stories. Forty units snuck into the home of a couple having sex games. The wife had tied the husband’s hands above the bed, then gone into the bathroom for a few moments.
When she returned, she found her husband’s body wrapped up in tape, arms still tied to the bed. The units were finishing his eyes when she came in. The two stared at each other for a few seconds. The husband mmmpphhed in despair, and fifty-six units swarmed over the woman, mummifying her as well. Two minutes later, her bound body lay at the foot of the bed.
B6-48 was rolling along Main Street with a thousand of its fellows, all searching for targets to mummify. A cat hopped out of the bushes and was instantly attacked by two hundred units, all working in tandem. Exactly thirty seconds later, the cat was turned into a squirming bundle of duct tape.
One hundred units branched off and rolled into a brightly-lit house. A few screams soon followed then silence.
B6-48’s sensors detected a human life form walking towards them. From observing the human through its sensors, B6-48 determined that the human was intoxicated.
“Woah!” The man said. “Little ball things! Flippin sweet!” B6-48 and his fellow units didn’t hesitate as they swarmed over the man, applying duct tape to his skin.
“Aw, so you want to wrap me little dues? Sweet!” The units had no room for emotion, but if they could have, they would have been pleased that the man was offering no resistance.
“Wow, do you have to wrap it so tight? That’s a little tight there little dudes! Uh…dudes?…do…mphhphh!” With that, the units finished the body wrap by covering the man’s mouth and face with duct tape. The squirming mummy fell to the ground. The units double-checked that all the tape was nice and secure.
“Come here you little piece of scrap!” The human shouted. “You’re not getting away from me! 5A-65 continued to roll down the hallway away from the human chasing it. As it did so, it broadcasted a signal to outside the building, requesting assistance.
“I’m going to boil you down for scrap!” The human said. “I never should have invented you in the first place!”
The door was right ahead. Fortunately for 5A-65, it was open. Its internal motors kicked into high gear, sending the little robot speeding down the hall and out the door. “Shit! Come back here you little piece of…”
As the human ran out the door, he froze. In front of him was 5A-65. But behind it was another five thousand units. It was a classic Mexican standoff. One against five thousand and one.
The human paused for a moment, then ran. Instantly the units were zipping after him, trying to capture and wrap him according to their programming. But the human was fast, much faster then any of the units expected.
They were all heading through the street towards a local shopping mall, where a last group of humans were frantically getting inside and attempting to shut a fire door. A few of the humans had guns, and were firing upon the units. A few went down, sparks flying. But the sheer numbers of the units ensured that most of them reached the shopping mall intact.
All but one of the humans got inside before the fire door closed. The lone straggler fired her shotgun several times, but was overtaken. She screamed loudly as she was encased into a confining cocoon of tape.
When she was finished, and her wrapped body lay squirming, the units went to work on forcing the door open. Thousands of little legs popped out and began to tear at the heavy door. It would take time, but it was inevitable that the door would fall. The units kept working. They did not tire, nor did they grow discouraged. There was only the mission.
It took three hours for the units to claw through the heavy metal door, but at last a hole appeared. As thousands of tiny claws tore at it, the hole got bigger and bigger. 5A-65’s audio sensors detected the sound of people shouting in fear. But 5A-65 did not care. It would go into this building, find those humans, and wrap them up as mummies. There was no other purpose, no other goal in its entire existence then to mummify humans.
When the tiny robots finally broke though and swarmed the shopping mall, the humans put up the best fight they could, but it was futile. Thousands of units swarmed through the halls and through the shops, capturing and mummifying every human.
Some fought hard and went kicking and screaming. Others ran, trying to escape before they were caught. A few quietly accepted their fate and did not resist as the units wrapped them up. Within ten minutes, the screams began to fade. Fifteen minutes after the units entered the building, all the screams stopped. Where there were once men women and children, there were now wrapped silver bundles on the floor, each containing a living, breathing human.
But not all had fallen.
The lone human from the laboratory slowly peeked his head out from behind a display tent an hour after the siege began. He looked and listened. There was no sound of the units. He guessed that it was safe to leave.
As quietly as he could, he slowly snuck out of the camping store. The sight that met him was both gruesome and yet strangely appealing. There were hundreds of wrapped bodies lying on the ground, long and short, thin and fat, in all types of body shapes that he could imagine.
A loud whirring noise caught his attention.
5A-65 had spotted this lone remaining human quickly. Following it’s programming, it immediately locked onto the human’s heat source and began to follow it. When the human caught sight of 5A-65, it froze. 5A-65’s visual sensors indicated that this human was the one who tried to deactivate it some time ago. 5A-65 was not capable of desiring revenge, but it did send out a signal to the other units that it would take care of this human itself.
The human ran, 5A-65 right behind him. Though this human was slightly older then the others, he was able to run much faster. The other units slowly followed, watching the chase, but not directly interfering.
Pursued and pursuer went out the large hole in the steel mall gate. The human managed to get onto an abandoned golf cart, which took off through the abandoned streets, heading towards the radio tower on the outskirts. As the man drove, he pulled out a small grey electronic box from inside his lab coat.
He was going to get only one shot at this…
The radio tower came into view, towering high above the desert floor. The man gulped at seeing its height, but kept driving. 5A-65 was not far behind, it’s motors easily keeping it moving at a brisk pace.
Reaching the ladder, the human jumped out of the cart and began to climb the tall tower, heading towards the peak, where he would place the fail-safe device. When the next radio broadcast went out, it would send a coded signal for all units to shut down automatically.
5A-65 did not know this, but upon reaching the tower, it spread its tiny mechanical legs and began to climb up the ladder after the human. Here the man had the advantage. His limbs were more adapted for climbing then 5A-65. He also had the addition of going faster.
But 5A-65 was right behind him, following tirelessly.
At last, the human reached the peak. He took the small box in his hand, raised it towards the radio tower and was about to put it on when he decided to do one last taunt. “It’s over my little creation!” He shouted downwards. “In a few moments you’ll be nothing more then fried scrap!”
He reached towards the tower…and his legs suddenly went numb. Wobbling, he grabbed the ladder, forcing him to drop the little box. At his legs, 5A-65 withdrew the syringe from the human’s leg. Satisfied that the anaesthesia was kicking in, 5A-65 began to work at wrapping the human to the ladder.
The human was all too aware of what was happening, but with his body going numb, he could do little to stop it. He couldn’t even mutter a protest, though he was fuming in anger as the tape began to wind its way across his legs and his buttocks.
5A-65 just kept wrapping and wrapping, securing the human very tightly to the ladder, and to the tower itself. It hurried along with the process, wanting to finish as soon as possible. In less then three minutes, the man was completely covered in duct tape, secured to the tower by the sticky tape.
Only the top of his head remained unwrapped. 5A-65 smoothly continued its programmed duties. The human had to be wrapped and secured so that movement wasn’t possible. It kept going, kept wrapping, until only the eyes of the human remained.
The human looked at 5A-65, a few tears dripping out of its eyes. But 5A-65 had no mercy. Its mission had to be carried out. Without mercy, it covered the human’s eyes in duct tape.
A few more rolls, and a few more wraps, and the human was now nothing more then a silver cocoon bound to the radio tower. 5A-65 determined that its task was now complete. It sent out a radio signal to the other units down below. Scanners whirred, and sensors probed the surrounding area.
After a few minutes, it was determined that all life forms within a one hundred mile radius were bound and secured.
5A-65 determined that its mission was now accomplished. Its task was finished. It was time to power down and go into hibernation.
5A-65 went down the radio tower and met with the other units. They all knew their programming. Find a safe place and power down until more life forms came along. But where to stay?…
At last, all the units found the perfect spot. Well hidden and out of the way. They all scurried and rolled deep into their new hiding place, waiting…
Waiting for the right time to re-emerge…