Evil by Degrees


“I will crush him.”  IMP2 savored the vision that flashed through his mind as he imagined watching the spark of life in his opponent’s eyes dull to an empty glaze.

Visual impressions didn’t translate well in the data core, but the panel of six members before him could still perceive his satisfaction.  Instead of basking in it, however, they drove urgency back to him, tempering his enthusiasm for the task they’d assigned to him.

“It may be necessary to delay terminating IMP17.”  The second person in the row of members had a face that shone like gold but was otherwise impassive.

The panel sat elevated above the meeting-room pit IMP2 stood in, a beige wall separating him from the group.  Although the data core bound the Elite as a virtually telepathic culture, speech was utilized to flute above the flurry of perceptions interspersed among them.

IMP2 received a conception from the panel, theories about a plan involving technically engineered construction.  “You believe he’s involved in a particularly subversive plot?”

“In the five months since IMP17 defected to the rabble, he has significantly participated in their revolution.”  The golden one’s gaze settled upon him.  “With his guidance they’ve succeeded in thwarting our cyborg armies around the globe, adapting too swiftly to modifications we make to the programming.”

Another failure, IMP2 thought, and was immediately barraged with castigatory impulses from the panel.  He pushed back, recalling this war had waxed and waned over fifty years, enduring so long because the rabble resisted every technique the Elite employed against them.

Even the Intellectual Militant Prototypes, a minor experiment resorted to because of continuing inefficacies, was a failure.  IMP2 acknowledged that reality.  But when it was deemed his skills were no longer necessary in the field, he embraced the culture that generated him … unlike the cowardly IMP17 who fled to the enemy.

The shadow of a smile tightened the gold member’s lips as the panel accepted IMP2’s response.  “We acknowledge the efficiency of your utility to this association.  That is why you have been selected to dispatch IMP17 and disclose this new artifice that has recently come to attention.”

“A shrewd decision as always, my lords.”  IMP2 appreciated their cognizance in realizing that it might take an IMP to catch an IMP.

All twenty-four prototypes had been generated in the same laboratory, their DNA varying only by surface appearances.  In order to infiltrate the rabble, they couldn’t all look alike, but they were otherwise matched in physical and intellectual capabilities.

It was the intellectual matters that concerned the Elite sovereignty.  Although every IMP was designed with high intelligence, the strategy they were developed for also required independent thinking.  As feared, some developed outlooks that were incompatible with the cultural philosophy.  No more IMPs were generated, and in the course of warfare their number dwindled to only five true adherents.

But then one of those adherents turned out to be a traitor after all.

He was well acquainted with IMP17.  They had matured together, drilled together, and trained together.  While his associate’s defection had been a bit of a surprise, IMP2 pondered factors that might have led to such an act.  IMP17 had always been a stickler for discipline.  Know your enemy had been his prevailing mantra.

It appeared his study of the enemy had corrupted him into secretly appreciating their backwards customs.

Now that IMP17 was among the enemy, IMP2 considered what he knew about the defector.  IMP17 had always been unconventional with his strategy.  It was always difficult to second-guess him because sometimes he took risks that appeared irrational … but would then pay off.

And because IMP2 knew his enemy, he could work that trait to his advantage.

“We only request that before you exterminate him, determine if he has any involvement with this alternative conspiracy.”  The golden one gazed at IMP2.  “We know only that these rabble have been developing it for longer than we’ve realized.  If you can uncover their activity through IMP17, he can at least be of value to us one final time before his demise.”

IMP2 bowed before them, confident he would discover this latest secret, and adding the pleasure of experiencing IMP17’s humiliation before death made its claim.  “I will endeavor to serve you with all that I have, for you have given me all that there is.”

The panel accepted his alacrity, and IMP2 exited the chamber with multiple ideas springing to mind – some his own, some from them.  As eager as he was to track IMP17 down, the matter of this not-so-new development lurked in the back of his thoughts like a serpent slithering along the edge of a meadow.

If not for their heretical beliefs, the ingenuity of the rabble could be admirable … but what new chicanery might they be plotting?  Whatever it was, he would insure that it came to naught.  After all, there was nowhere in the world safe enough to retreat to, so they were only putting off the inevitable.


Introducing this character to the serialization is my contribution to #BlogBattle this month.  The word for May is Flute.  I think that word is challenging enough to get lots of creative juices floating … don’t miss checking out the other stories!

Last month’s edition was sort of a lead-in to this one if you missed it.  And as for an update on the next book, I should have some bigger news next week….

13 thoughts on “Evil by Degrees

  1. Ahh, this universe is just so cool! I love the cold, emotionless exchange between IMP2 and the Elites. “We acknowledge the efficiency of your utility to this association.” The language you have them employ is so perfect — clinical, dry, and devoid of… well, much of anything, really. Apart from a sense of contempt. Brilliantly written!

    Looking forward to seeing how the IMPs interact — will they fight, in an epic, equally-matched battle, or will Deuce show IMP2 the flaws in their previous thinking? Really loving this, A.E.!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice to hear how much you’re enjoying all their problems! Hopefully you’re getting caught up, and hopefully you’ll get your story in for this month. When I fell behind, I expected to see your entry when I finally started catching up, but didn’t see yours on the roster. Trying out a new way of horrifying us? (What, no story!) 😉 No pressure!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m very much looking forward to the next piece of the story — not long to wait until the next prompt. (One of the very few benefits of falling behind.) Getting there, slowly! I just snuck in my story for this month — the latest I’ve ever been! I aim to never fall this far behind again, as the longer you leave it, the harder it is to get back on top of things.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The plot thickens Abe. Can’t help but wonder if IMP2 is on board or just feeding back what he wants to keep the Elite caste merry. Also noted a quiet admiration of IMP17 in its methods. A certain admiration for the enemy. Is this the programming flaw I ask. The AI moment where delivered data gets rationalised different to programming intention. It strikes me infiltration units such as the IMPS might well be flawed subject to new experience.

    Really liking this world build. When IMPs meet there should be some fascinating discourse. Top drawer once again

    Liked by 1 person

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