I couldn't think of a way humans could hurt or wage war on one another without guidance, so (insert benevolent monster here)
As an abuse survivor, I can tell you that there are people who look like people, but are walking around missing the pieces of what it means to be a human being to the point where they can hurt, torture, abuse, and kill.
We need a way to keep large-scale weapons away from them. We need a way to address getting treatment for them, and what can be done to keep everyone safe. We need a cross-specialty look at what in our society is making things like this more common and what the solutions are, and we need resources to help our schools keep our kids safe (NPR has a great article here).
These tragedies shouldn't be common.
They shouldn't happen at all.
"Small Wars, Small Warriors"
They were walking around, aimlessly but not bumping into each other. They were stepping through dust as high as Colbee’s head. The clouds of it just whirled around them, caking their bodies everywhere but the tops of their heads. The tops of their skulls were missing, and even in the dust and the heat of the desert, their brains were always wet with red fluid.
This was the Nanite Gateway.
Colbee couldn’t lie to herself about being scared. The Gateway was scary. There were rules you had to remember, but nobody knew what happened if you forgot one because nobody was ever that foolish. She had rehearsed this in her head several times but had the feeling that it wouldn’t go the way she envisioned it. So instead she tried to remember her mother.
Remembering that made her sad and brave all at the same time.
Colbee went to the edge of the dust cloud and stopped. Nobody was supposed to walk any further than that. They all turned towards her. She couldn’t tell what they were looking at because their eyes were filled with dust and sand, but they all were facing her now.
“We can’t save your mother,” one of them said, “We can’t save the dead.”
“I’m not here for my mother. I know you can’t do that,” Colbee said.
“But that is why you are here.”
“No, I want the Nanites to do something else. I need to use them to kill people. The ones who came here and killed a lot of people.”
“They killed your mother?”
Colbee nodded and her white hair fell into her face. She played with her red beaded necklace, a gift from her sister, by twisting her thumbs into it and letting it go over and over again. It was a nervous habit that broke no less than seven necklaces a year, but it was worse now than it ever had been.
“You think they will kill other people? You think only this can stop them?” It was a different one talking to her now. A few of them swayed in a wind Colbee couldn’t feel.
“I don’t know,” Colbee said. “I think if they do it here then they can do it again. I think they hurt people. But I don’t know.” She was crying now. “I need you to know that. I need to know what to do because nobody knows what to do.”
“You should go home and stay safe. You should grow up quiet so they will pass your household over. If you do this, you will be the youngest. The youngest warrior in this desert to take lives. And you will be dangerous. And none will pass you over.”
And another she could not see in the dry dust cloud spoke, “There is no peace for monsters. There is no peace for those who fight them. There is no quiet in that world.”
“Never invisible. And never peaceful.” They were all talking at once, and they sounded less human when they did that.
“I don’t care,” Colbee said. And it was true. What did it matter if you could hide? Her mother was quiet. It hadn’t done anything. And the people who had killed so many in her village could do that to someone else quiet. Nothing was peaceful anyway.
The one closest to Colbee held out her hand and from out of the folds of her brain something was moving, making it shake like it would fall out of the open skull. It was too small to be seen until it formed a gray ball, no larger than a bead on Colbee’s necklace.
“You will return them at dawn after they have completed their task,” the one holding the ball said, and she held out her dusty and dead-looking hand to Colbee.
She tried not to touch the flesh of the hand, but it was impossible. It didn’t feel like she expected it to, it wasn’t cold the way her mother’s body became. It was warm and alive and shocking.
Colbee noticed the ball had a tiny hole in it, just large enough to be threaded onto her sister’s necklace. She untied it and quickly slipped the little weapon, a ball made of nearly invisible tiny robots that could heal the sick or kill the living or build an empire or destroy cities.
She turned the thing over in her hands and finally remembered to thank the Gateway before leaving. She would go to the murderers’ camp in the night, pretending to be lost, or to be sleep-walking, or to be looking for her mother if anyone saw her, and let the Nanites go and kill them.