Ryard Vancing stood next to the small, compact fertilizer canisters within the near-empty agri-tech compound, looking up at the dim orange sky through the ceiling’s gleamless hexagonal lattices.
The local medical operator crawled up to the man with a dull clattering, its soft, flexile exoskeleton the color of shale. Voice emulator ejecting a pleasant tenor.
“Patient vitals irregular, Courier 17-890-32. I’ve placed her in the emergency medical pod.”
“You can just call me Ryard.”
“As you please, Courier 17-890-32.”
Ryard sighed and then grew somber.
“Odds of survival?”
“High. Structure unusual. The wounds should have proven fatal for a woman of her delicate composition.”
“I’m not so sure its a woman.”
The medical operator jittered and fell silent, unsure how to respond.
“You ever get lonely out here?”
“I was not purposed for companionship.”
“You have a name?”
“I was not purposed for companionship.”
Ryard nodded to himself and turned to the massive multi-legged machine, which stood looking down at him with its sensor array.
“Thanks for helping.”
“I was purposed for aid.”
“You’re supposed to say ‘you’re welcome.'”
“You’re welcome. Can I be of further assistance, Courier 17-890-32?”
“No. Go watch over her.”
“Are you sure you could not first use some hydration?”
“I’m fine. Just make sure she stays stable.”
The robot turned and crawled back to the medical cloister where the strange woman-like thing lay inside a temperature controlled diagnostic pod. Ryard could faintly see her through the thick metal doors as they opened briefly to make way for the medical operator’s gel-ceramic bulk. Her breaths regular, eyes still closed. The stump where her arm had been appeared to have grown considerably since last he’d observed her. He furrowed his brows in confusion.
Was she regrowing her arm? He thought with amazement. He would not have thought such a thing possible had he not also seen her walk on fractured bones and pull her own, mangled limb off with barely a wince. He had no idea what to do with her and reached for his transmitter. Before he could call HQ there came a buzzing. The signal to alert packers and couriers a vehicle was approaching from the Cav-way and entering the agritech supply-yard.
“That’s not right. I was the only one scheduled for drop-off. Must have been a mix up.” He muttered, pocketing his handheld transmitter.
He turned and watched a sleek, blue mag-ray pull to a stop as the vertical hay-yard whirred in the background, the tightly rolled bails thumping down the automated harvesting and conveyer system and pooling in the bed of a series of transport CAVs at the base of the high, wide rectangular structure. A man emerged from the mag-ray and smiled broadly, waving. Tall and broad shouldered, powerfully built, with dark sunglasses and long hair, hastily tied-back just above his neck. The man wore a long tangerine duster rather than the form-fitting white and black suits mandated for couriers. His vehicle was company issued.
“Hows it going?”
“Could be better. I’m Ryard.” The courier extended his hand, whereupon the smiling man seized and shook it firmly, yet gently.
“Heard about the system failure. I’m Lanning. Tyser Lanning.”
“Company man?” Ryard inquired, gesturing to the mag-ray.
“That’s right. I was looking for you.”
“Oh? What for?”
Lanning removed a transmitter and held it up before Ryard’s face. On the screen was a high-resolution image of the ‘woman’ he had hit upon the road, taken sometime before the accident. Her face expressionless. Dichromatic eyes glinting like twin stars. In the lower left corner of the image was a Kryos Industries’ logo and a digital signature signed ‘Vera Straker.’ Ryard’s eyes widened slightly.
What could the R.D.I. Director want with the… what do I even call her, it – the thing? I never asked for its name…
“I’m looking for this woman.”
Ryard resisted the urge to turn towards the medical bay. As if sensing the courier’s thoughts, Lanning swerved upon his heels.
“She in the med pod?”
“What do you want with her?”
“I’d like to explain, but I can’t disclose that information. Director’s orders. Can I trust your full cooperation, Mr. Vancing?”
“Yes. Of course. Its just that she’s wounded. You can’t move her right now.”
“You must have noticed she’s not a normal person. She can be moved.”
“Time is short, Mr. Vancing. Take me to her.”