Achilles’ Heel


Through dust and ash and metal and blood, IMP17 surged forward on the battlefield.  Men who were not genetically improved as he was lay scattered with the cyborgs.  Cracks and booms and high-pitched whines reverberated from every direction.

The four cyborgs that attempted to outflank him uttered nothing.  They didn’t need to, for the cyber-neural link that interconnected their battery allowed orders to be directed with a thought.  The shouts on the killing ground were launched from the unimproved people, but shrieks erupted from both opposing troops.

IMP17 sprang to the side to prevent their surrounding him.  The same instant he fired off well-placed rounds from the blaster he gripped.  The cyborgs were slightly more machine than flesh, requiring precision in his targeting.

He spied the blue, artificial eyes of the first soldier, and shot him in the left thigh to obliterate the Central Control Module that operated his technical framework.  The second opponent had a broad nose, so his CCM was located in the right hand.  There was a dimple in the chin of the third foe, so IMP17 shot him in the right upper arm.

The appearance of the fourth cyborg presented a problem.

All the features that designated where the CCM was located were on the face, and this one no longer had a face.  The organism was already dead, but enough of his head remained that the neural link was still in communication with the module’s Artificial Intelligence.  The machine part of him remained vivacious and continued fighting.

IMP17 knew strategy involved each soldier of that team having the CCM located in a different area.  The possible locations totaled five.  With two possibilities left, he had a fifty-fifty chance of hitting the fourth cyborg’s module.  Without hesitation he shot him in the left lower arm.

His guess was incorrect.

It took less than two seconds to place those four shots, and IMP17 had to spring to the side again as all four combatants fired their blasters.  The ground where he just hesitated erupted into chunks of dirt and sprayed brittle grass.

His next shots didn’t have to be as precise, so while darting back he fired the next volley at the heads of the first three cyborgs.  They whirled as they dropped, their faces as unrecognizable as their fourth companion’s.

A searing pain flashed across his right shoulder.  Faceless Four had squeezed off a round that connected even as IMP17 shot at the cyborg’s left foot.

The thwump from his blaster revealed it was out of ammo charges.

Throughout the battle IMP17 had been snatching up derelict blasters and emptying them at his opponents.  He’d saved on some charges because organisms could also be killed by stabbing, bludgeoning, or snapping.  CCMs, however, could only be electronically disrupted or physically severed.

He surged toward the fourth cyborg, leaping to avoid the next blast and ducking so that another shot missed.  While low, he swung the blaster like a club against the cyborg’s shins.

His opponent toppled, and IMP17 pounced on the nearest blaster dropped by a felled cyborg.  He rolled as he grasped it because Number Four immediately began shooting at him.  Then he sprang up three meters to dodge the low volley.  His foe had scrambled back up, making that crucial left foot accessible.

Still airborne, he fired three rounds, hoping to at least disable this combatant in case he’d been wrong about their strategy.  The cyborg collapsed as he landed nearby it.

He spun around to assess his next movement of attack or defense.  There were roughly half a dozen cyborgs left.  Before IMP17 joined the battle, their troops were practically massacring the men.  But after he entered this arena and slaughtered most of the enemy, the remaining men outnumbered the cyborgs.

The humans were ganging up on their opponents with blasters blazing.  These soldiers had picked up on where the CCM could be located, so they made it a point to hit all those normally nonfatal areas as well.  The remaining cyborgs were already crumpling.

IMP17 took a step toward the nearest squad to assist them … but his legs buckled and he had to catch his balance.

His heart started to pound from a reason other than combat.

This was the first day he fought cyborgs instead of men.  The enhancements made to his biology couldn’t compensate for all the blaster hits, gashes, and lacerations a more formidable adversary had given him.  He knew what was happening even though he’d never been this injured before.

As soon as his brain acknowledged combat was no longer necessary to stay alive, his body began shutting down certain functions to stay alive.  The agony that now racked him almost provided distraction from the chill seeping to his core.  Despite the increasing lightheadedness that promised a respite from this torment, IMP17 struggled to remain conscious.

Today he joined these men in battle.  But before today, he had been as much of an enemy to them as the cyborgs.  Today he tried to establish trust with these men, but it was extremely fragile.  They could still decide terminating him would settle their problems for the day.

The training and discipline that kept him going earlier failed, and IMP17 toppled to his knees.  He seemed to collapse in slow motion, trying to brace himself with one arm, but sank closer to the ground stained with blood that probably included his own.

His mind roared to his body that he might need to defend himself as two men approached.  But his vision dimmed and all he could focus upon was their boots.

“Is it still alive?”  The soldier’s voice sounded distant.

The toe of the other’s boot nudged against his ribs.  “Yeah.  You know these IMPs don’t die that easy.”

Darkness descended, and nothing IMP17 tried would keep it at bay.  He had no idea what he would wake up to, assuming he woke at all.


Here is this month’s contribution to #BlogBattle, and this time the prompt word was Vivacious.  Yes, quite an interesting word for this sort of story….  Check out the other entries for February and see how other writers got lively with this prompt!

This is the fifth installment of a serialization I’m doing, so if you want to catch up you can find the previous story here, and at the bottom of it you can link to the first three stories.

22 thoughts on “Achilles’ Heel

  1. I do like this concept Abe. Certainly running like it’s got a book to tell now too. Great tag to the prompt word too. I figured this months might prove a shade tricky. Probably more so for horror writers like Joshua ha, ha!

    Keep this going, it’s got a strong feel building now. Plus I want to know what happens to IMP17, I’m getting quite attached to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! The challenge to writing these serials is getting them to have the structure of stories, not chapters, yet once they’re compiled they’d work as chapters. I’m a glutton for punishment….

      I got to read Josh’s submission and he worked the word in quite nicely, especially since I figured his monster would be the vivacious one (I was wrong)! Quite a challenging word this month, indeed. Hope you’ve found a good use for it, which I look forward to seeing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I believe many a book has been written via blog serialisation so keep going Abe. I ended up with 70k of backstory just by doing assorted writing prompts. That’s almost a full book or prequel to the main WIP! Well, once I get hold of it and write it that is. These do sound like you know the characters and battle arc really well already too. Linking them together should be pretty easy if I’m right there. A man of your talent should have a good grasp of a story arc…even if it does seem like pulling teeth. No pressure though 😂😂

        As soon as Josh went closet monster I figured that was antonym use. Probably skewed by the way I tackled mine! I should really have pursued the gothic horror one, but I’m thinking of a novel there now…. seems we are both gluttons for punishment!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very true, at the very least we are on the same page there. The community aspect of writing based prompts is also very much appreciated too. They say writing can be a very isolating experience… whoever “they” are 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, this was action packed! I felt like I was holding my breath whilst reading it. It was awesome to see IMP17 in action — and, pardon the word, what a badass he was! I really like the idea that only destroying the CCM can permanently put these cyborgs down, and that their location differs with each cyborg. The faceless robot was quite grim, too — even if he was more machine than man at that point. I can see why the rabble would have trouble with such a foe, they’re lucky to have IMP17 on their side… I look forward to seeing what happens to him when he wakes up — hopefully his actions in this latest clashing of arms will sway the rabble into forming an alliance with him. Great writing, as usual — nice job on working the prompt in, I imagine it’s not easy to keep the same story going, not knowing what the next word is going to be!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, that was a great bit of sci-fi action and had me on the edge of my seat throughout. I’m a monstrous fan of Ghost in the Shell so this was right up my street. Loved the targeting challenges. I was back playing Fallout 3 for a minute. As others have said, Kudos on working in a tricky prompt. I look forward to the next instalment.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A great continuation story, more IMP 17.. still interesting seeing it develop. I started a series linked to blog giving sentence prompts.. This month might be part 7 on Ruby and Freda.. it’s hard keeping the story going and holding interest.
    Yours is certainly holding interest!

    Liked by 1 person

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