“Eh? Something the matter?”
“Come! Quick!” His voice sounded anxious.
She put down the coffee mug and folded the newspaper back up. Her steps hasty but sleepy she left the kitchen and stepped out into the backyard. A cold breeze embraced her that bore the scent of lavender.
Her husband was in the onion bed. Crouched over a blackish object.
“O dear. Is it a missile again? Just leave it alone, I’ll call the base.”
“Nah. I don’t think that’s what it is.”
She stepped closer. The object looked deformed. It had a heavily irregular shape. Still, it looked like it had cracked open. What she assumed to be its outer shell was very dark, though not quite black. Its innards glistened metallic, but didn’t reflect much more light than the shell.
“So what is it?”
“Don’t know. Perhaps part of a new machine they’re testing at the base. But it sure as hell ain’t a missile.”
“Well, I’ll just go and call the base.”
“Hold on, I’d like to take a look at it first.”
“I’ve never seen a construct like this. It’s amazing. I really must analyze it in my lab.”
“No, you won’t.”, she said sternly. “You know that the army doesn’t like it if we touch their stuff.”
He laughed nervously. “Well, they don’t have to know about this, do they?”
At this moment the object began to hum.
“Get back!”, she shouted. “If there’s an explosive charge in this thing we’re screwed.”
He turned her head slowly towards her. “Can’t be that bad, can it?”
“Yes it can”, she replied cheerlessly.
The hum the object emitted climbed higher and higher until it crossed the threshold into the ultrasonic.
A few moments later it began to unfold. Violet tinged light bled out of the cracks in the shell. The machinery shifted.
She gnawed on her lip, fascinated by the object but terrified by it at the same time.
With a crackle the object collapsed into a dark sphere. She could only speculate but she guessed the object had undergone a self-repair process. One that lasted only tens of seconds.
Though now something was wrong with its color. It didn’t look like a perfectly chiseled obsidian ball or any comparable dark object, but like someone hat transplanted a piece of outer space into her backyard. Were these the famed cryo-arithmetic engines?
She shook her head. Cryo-arithmetics was only a theoretical suggestion, there wasn’t any proof that something like that could actually be built. Unless the army wasn’t quite as sincere with the public as the law demanded.
Suddenly she realized that she had erred. The object wasn’t a perfect sphere. Long filaments protruded from the surface. They were vibrating so fast that they had reached the edge of visibility. Which was why she hadn’t seen them before.
The object leapt into the air and began to spin. The filaments threshed the soil. Onion particles flew through the air. Her eyes watered.
She turned around and began to run. Next to her her husband did the same.
It was futile. The object extended a filament and dismembered his left arm. He stumbled and fell onto the lawn.
As she helped him get up, a sudden urge made her look up. She scanned the sky. A stealth bomber hung a few miles above them. Something flashed up below the belly of the bomber, illuminated its dark hull for a moment. Seconds later the elongated shape of a cruise missile became visible. She didn’t know where it was headed, but a shudder crept over her shoulders.
They sprinted through their house. Gathering a few belongings in passing. The object slowed down a bit, impeded but not greatly impressed by the brick walls.
Out of the front door. The gun sizzled in her hand. Blue arcs sprang from the muzzle. The smell of ozone flooded the air.
She was heading for the heavily armored tank that was slowly driving along the road. Her husband was meanwhile firing at the object with a shotgun. It didn’t seem to have any great effect.
Finally the tank driver noticed them and their pursuer. He sped up. The main cannon locked on to the object.
But before it could fire, a missile hit the front porch and blossomed into an ultraviolet flower that grew and grew until it swallowed both the house and the object. Then it collapsed into a cloud of black dust.
Seconds later a second missile hit. This time its deadly petals enveloped the tank.