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August 17, 2009

Filed under: fiction»writing»quote

The Lazy Guns

There had been eight Lazy Guns. A Lazy Gun was a little over half a meter in length, about thirty centimeters in width and twenty centimeters in height. Its front was made up of two stubby cylinders which protruded from the smooth, matte-silver main body. The cylinders ended in slightly bulged black-glass lenses. A couple of hand controls sitting on stalks, an eyesight curving up on an other extension, and a broad, adjustable metal strap all indicated that the weapons had been designed to be fired from the waist.

There were two controls, one on each hand grip; a zoom wheel and a trigger.

You looked through the sight, zoomed in until the target you had selected just filled your vision, then you pressed the trigger. The Lazy Gun did the rest instantaneously.

But you had no idea whatsoever exactly what was going to happen next.

If you had aimed at a person, a spear might suddenly materialize and pierce them through the chest, or some snake's spit fang might graze their neck, or a ship's anchor might appear falling above them, crushing them, or two enormous switch-electrodes would leap briefly into being on either side of the hapless target and vaporize him or her.

If you had aimed the gun at something larger, like a tank or a house, then it might implode, explode, collapse in a pile of dust, be struck by a section of a tidal wave or a lava flow, be turned inside out or just disappear entirely, with or without a bang.

Increasing scale seemed to rob a Lazy Gun of its eccentric poesy; turn it on a city or a mountain and it tended simply to drop an appropriately sized nuclear or thermonuclear fireball onto it. The only known exception had been when what was believed to have been a comet nucleus had destroyed a city-sized berg-barge on the water world of Trontsephori.

Rumor had it that some of the earlier Lazy Guns, at least, had shown what looked suspiciously like humor when they had been used; criminals saved from firing squads so that they could be the subjects of experiments had died under a hail of bullets, all hitting their hearts at the same time; an obsolete submarine had been straddled by depth charges; a mad king obsessed with metals had been smothered under a deluge of mercury.

The braver physicists--those who didn't try to deny the existence of Lazy Guns altogether--ventured that the weapons somehow accessed different dimensions; they monitored other continua and dipped into one to pluck out their chosen method of destruction and transfer it to this universe, where it carried out its destructive task then promptly disappeared, only its effects remaining. Or they created whatever they desired to create from the ground-state of quantum fluctuation that invested the fabric of space. Or they were time machines.

Any one of these possibilities was so mind-boggling in its implications and ramifications--provided that one could understand or ever harness the technology involved--that the fact a Lazy Gun was light but massy, and weighed exactly three times as much turned upside down as it did the right way up, was almost trivial by comparison.

Against A Dark Background, Iain M. Banks, pages 135 and 136.

Future - Present - Past