1. What is a Killbot, and how does it differ from a Drone?
A Killbot is a machine equipped with a synthetic or viral intelligence and equipped with some sort of weapon that allows them to deal out lethal damage. The thing that differentiates a Killbot from other autonomous robots, or military equipment is that Killbots are specifically engineered and designed as anti-personnel and very specifically anti-civilian. Killbots are made to kill non-combatants rather than military engagements. The difference between a Killbot and a drone is that the Killbot is launched with it's instructions, and there is not a stage where a human operator controls the device. Killbots are genocidal/homicidal/omnicidal machines designed to kill either indiscriminately, or on a very basic level of selecting targets.
2. Boomers, Bangers, and Zoomers
The most visible type of Killbot is a small quadrotor or similar toy sized machine. It is technically a kamikaze type device as it approaches its intended target and self destructs, typically with the same force as a grenade or similar weapon. These tend to be high visibility attacks, and cause more fear and terror than actual casualties. As such, these do tend to be more terrorist weapons than highly effective tools of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Counters - anti-Killbot drone, birds trained to take down rotor drones, static defenses like walls and enclosed structures, point defense systems that use decisive friend or foe decision abilities tied to small pulse lasers.
Legacy - Boomers and similar Killbots have created their own genre of action/horror with the protagonists facing not a single one, but swarms of them, a variation on Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Heroes gun them down, arcology security systems sweep them from the sky with batteries of lasers, even firing EMP charges or massive airburst weapons to reduce the machines to clouds of debris.
3. Hoppers, Puppers, and Greeblies
The next tier of Killbot is a dog sized machine, typically a quadruped design. The machines will have a weapon system mounted on their back, typically something nasty and short ranged, to deal with people. These Killbots are intended to be used in urban environments, running through the sprawl, or surging into the bowels of arcologies, or even inside the guts of a ship. These favor shotguns, short range grenade launchers, and chemical gas lasers, and the largest limitation is ammunition for said weapons. Some are equipped with bladed weapons or spears, but the stabby-stabby slashy-slashy approach is more demanding on the machine's limited intelligence.
Counters - the largest weakness of the running killbot is mobility, basic walls can stop them cold. None carry the firepower to breach anything but the most cursory wall, and the act of attacking a wall is going to allow defensive forces to show up and shoot them. Being small, they are not massively armored, and a society that has police and law enforcement that have SWAT and anti-robot warfare are going to be able to deal with said problems.
Legacy - the Running Killbots are considered a viable threat out in the wastelands where they can be used as guard dogs, and the most effective are either the largest models equipped with ample weapons and ammunition or the most simplistic that are covered in knives and programmed to chase ankles and necks when their foes fall.
4. Rats, Bats, and Spiders
Where the previous versions of Killbots are blatant and aggressive, the Rat/bat/spider Killbots rely on subtlety and stealth. These machines are small, and their killing blow is delivered via hypodermic. Poisons are common and easy, but that is one stab one kill, and inefficient. There is no limit to what a R/B/S can deliver via it's stinger.
Counters - R/B/S killbots are the stuff of nightmares, and the fear of them is greatly elevated, but the common vision is a target being overrun by hundreds, even thousands of the things, swarming over people, stabbing them with cold steel. The typical encounters are basic cyber-security and anti-intrustion systems. All arco and ship based AISCs are self governing, and have their own version of an immune system, auxons that are part of their consciousness.
Legacy - the common perceived legacy of the R/B/S is negligible. Despite their fearsome reputation and triggering basic ick/creep factors, the average person has never seen one, and if they know about them, its as a sort of nightmare from a game or technohorror fetish film. The actual legacy is much darker. The most effective ethnic cleansing and genocidal campaigns in modern history can be attributed to R/B/S Killbots, and the fact that the machines can carry biological weapons to infect hosts, and cause epidemics in different areas. A common misconception is that the residents of arcos and ships are the most common targets of these machines, when its quite the opposite, the residents of slums and sprawls, and the lawless wastelands are the preferred targets of sophisticated genocidal robots.
5. Terminators, Infiltrators, and Detonators
These are humanoid creations, and bear some semblance to skeletrons, mobile mines and other murder machines. The difference is that these high end Killbots are intended to enter a built up/run down area and start their jobs of letting blood flow. The machines have the same basic problems and counters listed above, Auxon countermeasures, walls, basic security, and a society with the means to deal with cosmic horrors and rogue robots. Where they really succeed is as viral infestations. The best Terminators and Infiltrators are existing autons and other machines, infected with the viral intelligence. One minute the Rosie series 99 bot is making food for the wealthy household, an hour later its on on the other side of town slitting throats and stabbing people. Same goes for a repurposed auton going from working in a wasteland water treatment plant going T-800 and killing its human minders and setting the place to explode.
Counters - Basic security, firearms, thick walls and locking bulkhead doors.
6. Countermeasures in Depth
The greatest countermeasure to Killbots is that they are designed to kill civilians, and that limits who will use them, and who wont. For the most part, such devices are the tools are wastelanders, terrorists, and the smaller third world regimes. The first and second world powers aren't going to deploy swarms of killbots because they have access to standing militaries, fleets, and things like power armor soldiers, supersoldiers, parapsychics, and considering this is the Cosmic Era, flying aircraft carrier/battleships that can throw mock black hole missiles and fire beam weapons that generate kiloton range blasts. Killbots are tools of technological backwaters, the ingenious creations of terrorists, and are more effective for fear than actual civilian extermination.
Except for when a first or second world power creates a cluster of killbots to get rid of some-whom. These are either assassination jobs, or it's targeted exterminations that aren't intended to be shows of terror and power, that's what the power armor squads and heavy dropships are for. They are scalpels, or a sort of gleaming steal chemotherapy for the body of humanity.
The final defense against killer robots, are the robots that serve and protect people. This is the semi-sentient urban environment, the iCity that exists spreading out from a central AISC and through its connected CogNet nodes and network of things. Killbots are not part of this system, and when an outsider is discovered, the body electric responds, and this could be sending auxon robots to deal with the intruder (setting off a Roomba vs robot spider battle) or sending notifications to various human agencies and activating security protocols.
7. The Arcanotech Killbot
The Killbot is still not off the table. Sure, the vast majority are desperate weapons, used in asymmetrical warfare, or area denial operations. Don't go over there, that entire area is full of rat sized screamers that will bite your ankle and then go off like a grenade. It'll bust the foot actuator in standard armor boot, and if you've just got basic armor on, kiss that foot goodbye. There are super high tech, small size groups in the Cosmic Era, like the Anunnaki and the Glassenheim foundation. They have the tech, but they dont have armies, and don't have heavy industry, and don't have the ability to wage any sort of military campaign.
Arcanotech Killbots reach their targets and trigger Dimensional Fatigue Events. They infect hosts with virulent tailored diseases. Rather than being so petty to attach individuals, they will contaminate water supplies, infect food dispensary with prions, and carry out other infrastructure attacks so that a single Killbot can deliver a single payload and cause large numbers of fatalities.
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? Responses (4)
"Killbots are tools of technological backwaters" and then the use as traps or deterrents are my favorite use case. Love it. And very useful pointing out the counter measures explicitly. Great sub!!!
What Strolen said; with the added caveat that the Arcanotech Killbot is truly the stuff of nightmares. One of these nasties could easily bring down an Arco.
I am missing the anti-civilian use by the government itself. "Oh, you've become truly uncomfortable for us. The medical implant has become a homing tag for killbots, enjoy! We will chalk it up to another uncomfortable group." Such killbots would have the advantage of being ignored by the robotic immune system of the arcology, too.
In a pinch, a crate of well-calibrated killbots can find its way into the hands of a cancel squad, and suggestions on whom to cancel will come in the media soon after.
My response there is that the powers that have arcologies have better technologies for controlling and eliminating people, they control all the utilities, the doors, all the supplies moving through the building. Subversive element, lock that deck, bypass it on all the transit systems, and then turn off the climate control and water. Check on the them in a week and clean up the bodies. Renovation crews go in and the new deck is reopened