Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

All six of my previous brothers had gotten past this point with little difficulty. The smoldering remains of my crashed lander blended in nicely with the gray hillside behind me. My atmospheric and biofunction readings continued to flash in my view screen as other red-lettered warnings popped in and out.

Here was the first one I was waiting for. “Motion detected nine-point-five quadrant.” I already knew that this was the troll that had decapitated clone one. I ducked and twisted just like my five other successful brothers had done before me, and felt the wind blast inside my helmet as the slicing plasma sword narrowly missed my head. Before it could turn around and regroup, it was neutralized into a pile of burnt carbon-encrusted ooze.

I pushed forward, up a rocky trail past fissures that spewed toxic gasses, glad for my breathing apparatus, and made ready for my second deadly challenge. Clone two had been sniped from behind a rock high above. Clone three had ducked but had still been pegged off in retreat. After that, my remaining three brothers and I had all successfully managed to dive into a nearby gully each in our own turn. And like my departed replicas, I too managed to cut around and creep up behind my assailant, slitting its throat with my plasma knife. I continued onward and upward.

The rockslide that had taken the life of clone four was an easy sidestep for those of us remaining. I moved up the safe, secondary ridge toward the tower. I knew there were a few one-eyed muck-mongers hiding behind black stumps above, but just like the other two of my remaining brothers; I dispatched them to their makers with little difficulty.

Approaching the gate of the stronghold I faced the killer of clone five knowing full well that there were no guarantees. Just because clone six had defeated this giant in a previous battle didn’t mean that I would. For all the maker cared, we could all start back at square one. But it was our religion. I prayed to it and believed it to my core.

The goliath stumbled toward me, its massive spiked club raised high. I sprung off to the right, mindful of the loose stepping-stone that had almost foiled six, and rolled away to safety as the club came crashing down into the dirt. By the time the hulking killdroid had spun around I managed to release the heavy launcher from my cloak and hoisted it upward, its butt-end nestled firmly against my shoulder. There was an explosion as I tapped the trigger, and when my eyes reopened I was on my back, looking up, as smoke billowed from the now headless collapsing form of the killdroid.

I scrambled to one side and avoided the tons of crashing steel. Then as I stood and faced the tower, the dust cleared. All I needed to do was follow six’s path up and over the wall. It was almost as if I were merely floating along in a dream now. I needed only to follow his footsteps. And this held true until I got to the spot along the top of the wall where the polymer arrow had pierced his heart. I dove off the wall a second before the shot arrived, and crashed down into the brush below.

I stood up and stepped out of the shrubbery. I heard a thump, and looked down just in time to see the grenade roll up to my boot. Damn it! Eight would have to learn from my mistake.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows