ORIGINAL FICTION: "The Last Gun Turret" by David Teach

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A clump of tumbled stones lay at the center of a small valley, far out in the arid desert; the remains of an ancient outpost, abandoned since the time of the last men. It was quiet and still, and it seemed all rather peaceful.

And so it was, while the gun turret watched.

A dog appeared, walking on the top of a nearby rocky hill. It was noticed immediately by the sensors of the gun turret. The targeting computer locked sights on the unknown intruder and prepared several firing options in case they were needed. The controlling program went through the decision logic and decided not to fire, yet. For one, the dog appeared to be healthy and normal; no traces of mutation apparent. Also, the ammunition for the turret gun was getting very low and priorities had changed when resources ran down. It had been a long time since the gun turret was fully functional and ready to defend the outpost, along side all the other automated turrets, hidden traps, and defensive fields. They were all silent now, leaving just the lone armed survivor as the final watcher.

The dog, knowing nothing of the fate it had narrowly escaped, searched around the fallen stones of the old outpost. The scent of man had faded but something stirred the feelings of the dog. This place felt like it could be home. There was shade, and a bit of denser plant growth around a small pool of water that was tucked away near one wall junction. He scented some small field mice and even a rabbit or two. Life could be good here.

And so it was, while the gun turret watched.

Some months later the dog heard some frightening noises. It sounded like a pack of mutant animals, a danger he had managed to avoid several times in his wandering. They seemed to be coming closer and he was afraid. If they came too close he would have to run away from his new home. Wait! He also heard the bark of a normal dog. Were they chasing something?

The turret also watched as the five mutated animals, probably descended from canines themselves but no longer looking normal or healthy, chased what appeared to be a normal dog over the hill toward the outpost. This time, the decision to fire was given, and the gun turret shot out five times. All of the mutant dogs fell sprawling, their heads exploded in a splatter of blood and flesh. The new dog that had been their quarry was not considered a threat.

The five gunshots, sounding to quickly that they were almost a one, scared the watching dog. He didn't understand, but somehow the mutants were now dead and a new dog was there. She smelled very afraid, and tired. After a while, when nothing more threatening happened, she tentatively approached the male dog near the rocks where she could smell water. He seemed accepting. Maybe they could share this new place. It seemed like it could be good here.

And so it was, while the gun turret watched.

The puppies were running around the stones, barking playfully, when they heard their parents both give out a low growl of warning. Some danger was coming. It didn't look like another dog, but they didn't recognize what the creature was.

The gun turret knew immediately, of course. It was a man. It had been a long time since men had been seen here. The last ones had left after setting up the final defense commands and walking away. Were they returning? Was there more than just the one human? He appeared to be clear of mutation and didn't seem to have a firearm with him, so the threat was minimal. There was no command to kill human intruders unless they posed a threat to the safety of the outpost. The turret watched and gathered more data.

The man, like the dogs, also realized that the clump of old stones and scrub was a good place to rest. He saw the old gun turret on the top of the crumbling stone wall, rusty and still, deciding it was just scrap now. He was more wary of the dogs, especially if they got protective of the pups. They did bark at him and growl, but it seemed that they were more curious than actually afraid. He approached a little closer and talked to them, calming the older dogs, who withdrew to the far side of the stones to watch. He drank from the pool and set up a campfire,which both scared and intrigued the dogs even more than his presence did. One of the pups, curious and braver than the others, came close. 

 

Wonderful, the man thought, as he grabbed it and cut its throat with his knife; fresh dinner.

Before the rest of the dogs could even react, there was a loud bang, and the man fell over dead into the fire, smothering it out. The gun turret had defended the only thing it had remaining to defend, because when the man attacked the dogs he finally proved himself to be a threat.

The new pack recovered and eventually grew strong and numerous. No more of those frightening bangs were ever heard. This seemed to be a good place they had come to live in; their home by the stones and the pool.

And so it was, while the gun turret watched.

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Copyright 2014, Dave Teach

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