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"...a market economy is essentially a genetic algorithm for solving resource allocation problems..."
- Charles Stross

Knife Missile  
  A sharp-edged weapon that can maneuver in space.  

One of the warriors roared, brandishing his sword and lunging towards the door of the inn.

He managed two steps. He was still roaring when the knife missile flicked past him, field outstretched.

It separated his neck from his shoulders. The roar turned to a sound like the wind, bubbling thickly through the exposed wind-pipe as his body crashed to the dust.

Faster - and turning more tightly - than any bird or insect, the knife missile made an almost invisibly quick circle round most of the riders, producing an odd stuttering noise.

Seven of the riders - five standing, two still mounted - collapsed into the dust, in fourteen separate pieces. Sma tried to scream at the drone, to make the missile stop, but she was still choking, and now starting to retch. The drone patted her back. 'There, there,' it said, concernedly. In the square, both of the inn-keeper's daughters slipped to the ground from the mounts they had been tied to, their bonds slashed in the same cut that had killed all seven men. The drone gave a little shudder of satisfaction.

One man dropped his sword and started to run. The knife missile plunged straight through him. It curved like red light shining on a hook, and slashed across the necks of the last two dismounted riders, felling both. The mount of the final rider was rearing up in front of the missile, its fangs bared, forelegs lashing, claws exposed. The device went through its neck and straight into the face of its rider.

On emerging from the resulting detonation, the machine slammed to a stop in mid-air, while the rider's headless body slid off his collapsing, thrashing animal. The knife missile spun slowly about, seemingly reviewing its few seconds' work, then it started to float back towards the window.

From Use of Weapons, by Iain M Banks.
Published by Hachette in 1990
Additional resources -

Compare to the hunter-seeker from Dune (1965) by Frank Herbert.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Use of Weapons
  More Ideas and Technology by Iain M Banks
  Tech news articles related to Use of Weapons
  Tech news articles related to works by Iain M Banks

Knife Missile-related news articles:
  - R9X Hellfire Missile With Long Blades Kills Queda Leader

Articles related to Weapon
LANIUS Loitering Drone Munition Scouts And Maps
Israel Deploys Sharp Shooter AI-powered Robot Guns
Drone Loiter Munitions Now Available
Anduril Lattice Anvil Counter Drone System

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