Kill the Hurkle!
by Alexander G. Tozzi
The Hurkle egg was some several yards off, beginning to wobble as it began to hatch. Lila curled her lip in disgust and reached for the blaster at her hip. It whined to life and she leaned over the lip of the crater, looking through crosshairs, now in glee. “Bye-bye, little egg,” she hissed, and pulled the trigger.
The red sky flashed purple from the light of her blaster, and there came a high ‘ping!’ as the beam ricocheted from the wobbling egg, and an explosion as the stray beam hit the low mountains to Lila’s side. Roars followed that explosion and an avalanche of orange rock tumbled down, followed by a wave of smoke, charging towards both egg and huntress.
Lila screamed and covered her face. The next thing she knew she lay dazed and confused in a pile of crumbling rocks. Shaking dust from her red hair, she raised a hand that hung from the wires of her broken arm. If she weren’t an android, she’d have been screaming. But she wasn’t alive, just functional, and she quickly welded her hand back, checking the rest of her body for metal injuries. A foot was twisted, and she had to hit it with a rock to get it back in place. Done, she rose on rickety legs to survey the damage.
It was as though the field had come down with some pox. All across was covered in pointy orange rocks, dust rising as if they were smoldering. Not a blade of blue grass was to be seen.
Lila smiled with teeth that gleamed like ivory.
Her sensors beeped a clarion call and she gasped. Swinging her gaze about the havoc, she saw that awful picture of a Hurkle egg, gently wobbling atop a precipitous perch of rocks. It was an unforgivable sight, that Hurkle egg, and even more unforgivable if she let it hatch.
Hurkles. How she despised them! They were a pestiferous beast with six legs, a bug face, and a purr which made the living itch. She had been programmed to hunt down any and all forms of xeno-pests, and none came closer to that status than Hurkles. This one would bite the dust.
Getting up at that pile would be a challenge, though. It was already wobbling like a stack of bottle caps in the swirling wind, and though she didn’t look it, Lila weighed a lot on this world. Still, it was her directive to kill the Hurkle, and she took those first tremulous steps toward the pile.
Climbing wasn’t so much a challenge as a puzzle. Lila had to analyze each hold for stability, and even after she grabbed one rock, the whole pile began to sway. The wobbling egg didn’t help much. Lila could feel it wobbling faster and faster now. Curling her lip she wished it would wobble over and do itself in. But even in the egg Hurkles have a sense of awareness, and this one would wobble just enough to crack its shell, not fall.
Lila pulled herself up a few more inches, rocking along with the pile. With a groan that sounded like grinding gears, the android pulled herself up and skittered up the pile like a spider. One determined push and she had made it to the top, the wobbling Hurkle egg before her. Lila curled her lip in disgust, and again armed her blaster. It whined to life, and she put the barrel right up against the egg.
Before she knew what was happening an egg shell flew in her eye, and she fell all the way down to impale her shoulder on a jagged rock. Sparks flew, and electricity flickered. The sharp eggshell was lodged in her eye, cutting off part of her vision. But there was function enough to see that unmistakable bug-face peer over the top of the tower of rocks.
Lila loathed that newborn Hurkle! Her blaster was just out of reach, and she struggled to reach it. Above she heard the Hurkle squeaking, and saw it slinking down the pile, effortlessly. It would be off to find food! Lila strained to reach the blaster, but it was too far away! With an agonized groan she tore her upper-body from the jagged rock, grasping the blaster.
Spinning, she aimed at the escaping Hurkle and pulled the trigger.
The red sky flashed purple and Lila smiled with her ivory teeth. The flash ceased, and some several yards before her stood the Hurkle, cocking its bug-faced head in puzzlement.
Blasters don’t work on Hurkles!?
Lila screamed a cacophony of digital wails and grinding metal. Half her body was gone, and the Hurkle had survived. It sprang over to her, purring like an Earthling cat as it pawed at her decapitated body, chased her flailing wires. Never before had Lila suffered, not even when she had been swallowed by a moon slug.
“It has to be done,” she whispered, accessing a program of last resort. A program which would cause her nuclear power source to detonate, killing both android and Hurkle. “It has to be done...”
Mere fractions of a pico-second before execution, the Hurkle abruptly abandoned her shredded body, squeaking as though saddened. Lila halted the program, eyeing the beast with great suspicion. What was it doing, digging around her dismembered limbs? Had it grown tired of her body, looking for a new toy?
It was... carrying the severed limbs over to her! Carefully gripped in its abdominal pair of legs, wincing from flying sparks, the Hurkle placed Lila’s leg before her, pausing to purr and brush up against her chin before it rushed over to retrieve the other leg.
Lila hastily welded her leg back, managed to become free of the rocky skewer. While the Hurkle trotted over, leg in paws, Lila seized the sharpest rock she could find. Balanced on her knee, the android was prepared to stab the beast, when her programming began to crash.
It was in conflict with itself.
Lila knew that when the Hurkle hatched, the creature, foul as it was, had imprinted upon her. It considered the deadly android its mother, saw her in pain, and retrieved her severed limbs! Even when the flying sparks brought pain upon itself, the Hurkle could not rightly let its mother suffer.
And Lila, being an android, designed to replicate human behavior, could not rightly kill this Hurkle. No, despite orders to exterminate any and all xeno-pests, Lila’s human programming won out.
Shaking her head to clear the static, Lila found the Hurkle at her side, vainly attempting to reconnect the other leg to her torso. Sparks were now singeing its scaly hide, and it whined in fear.
“Let me help you,” she whispered, and welded her leg into place.
Happy cries escaped the Hurkle as Lila picked it up to let it nuzzle her face. Eyeing the rocky remains of what had once been a verdant glen of blue grass, Lila disengaged her self-destruct program and activated the teleporter. As matter converted to radiation, the Hurkle began to purr.
Lila could have sworn she felt an itch.
Copyright © 2013 by Alexander G. Tozzi