“Ninja Assassin Death Robot Apocalypse,” by Miranda Ciccone

Aug 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Unit X-397 said, “Yeah, but this doesn’t fit the standard pattern at all. I don’t even know if you can legitimately categorize it as an apocalypse.” The mid-45th-century repurposed sex-bot waved one silvered, gleaming hand vaguely at the rift, and what lay beyond.

Bobby peered through the tear in spacetime at the acres of rolling hills and the distant mountains. The sky was blue. The effect was bucolic. He felt his heart sink, if possible, lower than it already was.

“Don’t let yourself be fooled by first impressions,” he offered, voice laced with a hope he didn’t feel. Unit X tsk’d at him.

“It’s not a first impression,” she rasped, stepping daintily through the rift and settling amid the waist-high prairie grasses. “Nothing in the air, audio or spectrum analyses suggests this world was ever inhabited by a civilization that made it out of the pre-industrial stage. Probably didn’t make it out of the stone age, Bobby. What are we even doing here?”

“We were assigned,” he reminded his partner primly, following her through the rift with less grace and clutching his outsized firerifle to his chest. “Something must have happened.”

“Something to require documentation by a PDPAC field team? Another Biblical flood, maybe? Eighty square miles of lakeside real estate submerged? I can’t take another one of those, Bobby. I will lose my shit.” She waggled a gleaming finger at him. “And don’t go mistaking any more wildlife for attacking zombies, please. I can’t handle explaining another perforated raccoon to the Initiative board.”

Bobby scowled and, if possible, clutched his outsized phallic symbol more tightly to himself. Unit X strode off across the rolling prairie, her chassis gleaming like an airplane in flight.

Bobby hurried after her.


The Pan-Dimensional Post-Apocalypse Documentation field team located their target—first target—about three hours into their trek. The sad little ruin of a village had been nearly swallowed up by the prairie, and the pair sifted disconsolately through the remains of a homestead clearly wiped out by some kind of unanticipated natural virus.

“Plague,” Unit X muttered, and flicked a potsherd morosely into the weeds. “Mini-plague. God, I miss the 80s. In those days you got hard-core apocalypses. Huge gaping rifts in the earth, boiling oceans, gangs of radioactive hyperintelligent mongooses roaming the badlands, the works.”


“Every day was a new horror. It was a party! Now it’s all biohazard crises or zombies or the epic grandeur of slow collapse into ecological entropy. Who knew we’d burn through all the good universes in a handful of decades?”


She kicked halfheartedly at a post, tilting it thirty-five degrees to the right.

“There’s no Grand Guignol left in the multiverse,” Unit X said sadly.

Bobby looked at her. “Your lack of empathy for the victims of these aforementioned cataclysms is truly staggering.”

She patted him gently on the arm. “It’s because I’m a robot.”


Three weeks later Bobby slumped into Unit X’s lifepod and blurted, “It’s true. Everything you said was true. The top brass is saying there aren’t any more post-civilization-related apocalypses anymore. The board contact told me that they’re shutting down our entire division. It’s all going to the eggheads now. They’re retiring us, X!”

Unit X threw her FauxWomen Monthly magazine on the bed and sat up.

“They can’t retire us,” she told him, “The Applied Post-civilization Ethnological Research Initiative hasn’t done that sort of thing since the Wasteland Mutant Monster Revolt of DysAp63. Helloooo.”

“I meant retire,” Bobby returned sullenly, “Like, really retire. In a non-euphemistic sense. I mean I was speaking literally.”

She snorted, digitally.

“Goddammit it’s true. Our days are numbered!” He waved his arms a little wildly. Unit X leaned away from the flailing. “I’m only 247! I’m in the prime of my life! How could this happen?”

“I’ve been doing this since APERI was three nerds in the QuasiLab basement hacking out Verse-splitter branecode,” the robot returned, “I don’t know how to do anything else.” She folded her arms and glared down at her shiny feet. “They’ll cover me with new plastiskin and send me back to the sex mines on Dystopia-582 with a complete memory refit and adjustable fleshtop theme.” She shook her head slowly.

“I don’t want to go back there.”

Bobby shifted from foot to foot. Forced obsolescence was a problem he couldn’t solve easily with a blast from his rifle. He was a man of action, and definitely didn’t have the words to comfort a depressed robot. He stared at the wall and Unit X stared at her feet, and the lifepod fell into a protracted, gloomy silence.

Finally, in a voice that barely made it above a whisper, Bobby offered, “We could go rogue.”

Unit X lifted her head. She eyeballed her long-term partner with bright, unblinking orbs.

“What,” she said flatly.

“I’ve been thinking, ever since that plague planet,” he began, voice low and fierce, “We could do it, couldn’t we? Go into business for yourselves? We—we could steal the in-house tech! Smuggle out the programming in your software—”

She held up her hands, “Woah there, now—”

But Bobby was warming to the topic. He lifted his head and a light filled his eyes. “We can discover new worlds! There must be hot zones, new apocalypses we’ve never seen! Places too dangerous for the board to authorize! There’s a whole grey market for that kind of data! We can’t go out quietly, X, we have to do something!”

In a low voice Unit X-397 objected, “But what if there aren’t any more real apocalypses out there? Except for the zombie worlds, I mean. What if…what if we’ve seen everything there is to see, Bobby? What if there are no more big, world-shattering endings?”

Bobby shook his head. “No. I don’t believe that. There’s always a new ending, somewhere.”


In the end, they found Bobby’s hot zone. It was beyond hot, in fact, and Unit X loudly reminded Bobby of that fact as they stood on a blackened field looking toward the far horizon and the earth rocked beneath their feet.

Ash and smoke filled the air. Enormous, indistinct shapes moved in the far distance. Dead hulks of ships told them they were standing on the plain of what had once been an ocean. The stink was incredible.

Unit X whapped her partner upside the head.

“You dumb shithead!” she hollered, “The apocalypse here is ongoing! We’re not supposed to be here until it’s over!”

Bobby opened his mouth, but whatever he’d been about to say in his own defense was lost in a scream of tearing stone and earth as one of the enormous, distant shapes moved that much closer to their position. A sudden break in the clouds let a shaft of watery sunlight touch ground, illuminating the nearest monstrous form. Bobby’s jaw dropped. Unit X made a noise of wonder.

“Ninja Assassin Death Robots!” they breathed in unison.

“I’ve never seen one live before,” Unit X added. “I’ve never…”

The earth shook again, toppling a nearby ship carcass into shrieking collapse. Bobby winced. There was no denying the fact that the monster robots were coming closer, wading across the dry ocean field in their direction. In the direction, probably, of the only living beings still on the planet.

He cleared his throat in what he hoped was a casual manner, and hefted his rifle.

“MCDC will pay through the nose for this kind of live data,” he told his partner. “I hope you’re recording.”

She looked at him.

“Ugh. The Meta-critical Database Collective? Spare me. Those guys are tools.”

“The information we collect here could be of immense value to the ongoing characterization and classification of the pan-Universe human condition and the answer to the Big Question, X,” Bobby tried, as he primed the huge gun and took aim at the nearest monstrous form.

Unit X fired up her onboard weaponry. “This goes against all the APERI guidelines, Bobby,” she shot back. Her armcannons came online with the noise of sleek, 45th century tech. A blue nimbus began to form around her.

Bobby grinned. He aimed at the approaching shadowy form as it emerged into the shifting sunlight, and fired. The resulting explosion blew away a shoulder the size of a city block, exposing wires and bathing the monster in green flame.

“We don’t work for APERI anymore,” he said, as sparks rained down.

X grunted, and launched herself in the air. She streaked toward the nearest monster ‘bot on a bolt of blue fire.

Bobby whooped, and sprinted after her.


Final Score:

PDPAC field team(retired): 857,220
Ninja Assassin Death Robots: 0


Afterward they stood together on the skeletal remains of what had probably once been a pretty impressive skyscraper, and surveyed the ruined landscape. A light acid rain was falling, and the breeze carried a perpetual scent of burning. The corpses of robots lay twitching in the streets of what was once a city. Unit X flicked an imaginary dust speck from her flawless chassis. Bobby was jumping around manically.

“What did I tell you?” he crowed, and Unit X favored him with a look of utter disbelief. Bobby ignored it completely, and in a fit of testosterone-induced idiocy he grabbed his partner around the waist in a one-armed hug. “This is the beginning of a beautiful adventure!”

“I didn’t say I wanted adventure. I said I wanted Grand Guignol,” X-397 demurred. But she looked out over the smoking wasteland and piles of charred corpses, and after a moment, grinned her metallic grin.


Defenestration-Generic Female 01Miranda Ciccone currently lives in Ohio and wastes a lot of time on the Internet. She grew up on Mad Magazine, Monty Python, and Douglas Adams, and it probably shows. Her stories have appeared in online publications The Harrow, The Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Underneath the Juniper Tree, The Cynic Online, and the ebook anthology Arcane II.

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