Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "With Mortal Flesh and Iron Will"

This is the fourth perk poem for the 2011 Winterfaire.  (Double back to read the first three, "All in the Family," "Gallery of Souls," and "Wipeout," which are now complete.) All of these activities will unlock a verse each time someone does one of them:

* link to the Winterfaire page to boost the signal
* comment posting a Booth of your wares/services in the Winterfaire
* buy something from a vendor listed in the Winterfaire 
* host a similar holiday market in your own blog or other venue
LiveJournal will notify me of comments to this post and links to it elsewhere on LJ; for everything else, you need to TELL ME in order to get credit for it. 

Leftover verses are now being used as perks for responding to the "Let's Talk About Ebooks of My Poetry" post. This poem is now complete!

"With Mortal Flesh and Iron Will" belongs to the series The Clockwork War.  It's military science fiction about an invasion of alien robots and humanity's valiant battle for freedom.  You can read more about this series on my Serial Poetry page. Participants so far: red_trillium, ariestess, jenny_evergreen, kelkyag, ankewehner, natf, marina_bonomi, angela_n_hunt, the_vulture, haikujaguar, siege, laffingkat

With Mortal Flesh and Iron Will

The bots were winning.
Humanity fought tooth and nail --
but against a foe that never tired,
neither sweated nor slept,
thought faster, reproduced faster,
and above all felt no pain,
there was a limit
to what mortal men might do.

So they changed the rules,
cut monkeyshines through inevitability,
as their ratlike ancestors had once
dared to rob the nests of dinosaurs.

They hacked into the enemy corpses
to study the hardware and the software.
What they could comprehend, they copied,
and what they could not copy,
they simply stole.

They had, after all,
an effectively endless supply
of slain enemies.

It was not so simple,
they learned,
to marry flesh and metal.
The signal burned through nerves,
threshed muscle to pulp.

The military scientists tested prototypes
on mice and pigs and gorillas,
made refinements at every step,
and advanced with desperate haste.
Men died screaming.
Yet they never ran out of volunteers.

The quadriplegic soldiers were determined to serve.
These were men with their arms and legs blown off,
necks or backs broken, nerves shorted out.
They lay in their beds and hated the bots,
eyes burning like lasers at the smooth white ceiling.
"Give us a weapon we can fire," they demanded,
"and we'll go to battle if we have to crawl on our bellies."

"You'll crawl," the scientists swore,
but not on your bellies."

Josiah Andrews became the first to survive the interface,
passing through a mind afire to emerge with nerves yet whole,
welded into a cybertank the size of a small building.
They cleared out a parking lot for him to learn his new body,
chalking lines to be followed and targets to be destroyed.
He obeyed, dutifully, and did well enough --
but the bots staged an attack halfway through training.

Commands came down the line,
and Tanker Andrews was sent forward.
He crawled on treads of carbon fiber and diamond,
crushing obstacles beneath his armored weight.
The rambots charged him in herds,
but they bounced off his battlesteel sides.

The bottlenecks tried to trap him,
but he spat napalm deadlier than dragonbreath
and reduced them to a thin slick of glowing slag.
His steering was still poor, but his aim was excellent,
and in the end, that was all that mattered.

Humanity had its edge back.
Now they could take this clockwork war to its makers,
with mortal flesh and iron will.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, writing
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