Mother of the Machine

"The function of science fiction is not always to predict the future, but sometimes to prevent it." -Frank Herbert, Author of Dune

Prologue: Daily Hunt

The child panted heavily has he ran through the forest. Behind him, he could hear the unmistakable droning of a hover-platform with human voices on it, and then several gunshots ring out into the dark forest. As bullets ricocheted around him, the boy decided to change his course. There was a clearing several meters ahead, and the boy instinctively darted for it.

No sooner had the nine-year-old run into the clearing, than the hunters acted. From their hover-platform, they had an unobstructed view of the child. And also a clear shot. The first to act was Benton Caradog. Lining up the boy in his rifle's thermal-imaging scope, he slowly depressed the trigger. The seven-point-five millimeter round exploded out of the barrel of the bolt-action rifle, and bored itself into the back of the boy's neck, and emerged through his chest, striking his lungs and heart while inside. The boy feel down, and stopped moving.

No sooner had his body began to cool in the thermal-scope than the hunters began to cheer. "Great shooting, Benton!" one complimented.

"Thanks! You know, that boy was being quite sporting at first. He was running through the forest, where we couldn't get a clear shot at him. The mistake he made was the running out into the clearing. I guess panic makes people do stupid things," he shrugged.

"Well, if only his family was that sporting," another hunter chuckled as he slapped Benton on the back. "They just sat around pleading for their lives! Not sporting at all!"

"Well, they may have had a chance to run if you hadn't mowed them down with a machinegun! That's why I like my rifle. Sure, it's not the fastest, but bloody hell, it's reliable and still gives 'em a good chance to run!" Benton smirked as he held up his custom-ordered Tierra Corporation Matador five-shot bolt-action rifle.

"Drinks are on me tonight!" another hunter piped. "Let's go toast to our comrade, the honorable Mister Benton Caradog!"

The hunters on the hover-platform cheered, and headed back to the lodge for a break. Tomorrow, there would be another hunt, after all.