Reclaimer: Episode 3

Miner crouched silently, his hand tracing liminal rhythms across the smooth stone-face which barred his way as if, from the elements, he wished to draw some deep and forbidden knowledge. Behind him, 400 stood with her arms folded about her breasts, her blond brows slightly furrowed as she watched the peculiar ritual unfold, attempting and failing to take the measure of it.

The stone over the mine-shaft had collapsed after the steel brace-wall had given way, Miner noted, but it had not collapsed entirely. A small pin-point of light shown through the amniotic blackness like a ghostly candle. At length he drew back slightly from the lump of rubble and gestured to the pinprick in the darkness without turning.

“That’s my lantern,” 400 noted soberly, “Unity energy cell still going strong; was one of the old issue ones, they just don’t make um like they used to; newer issues fail twice as fast.”

WE don’t make them like we used to – the praeteritum – UNITY at large makes nothing; only components produce; yet how often we repeat the fiction that every action transgresses the bounds of production itself and that the source is the whole, that no center for the work itself is to be found. From birth we have been taught that everything which is accomplished is for the whole, by the whole, of the whole; yet one cannot abstract the act from the man – the solis organize, the praeteritum build and the foras luxuriate. The state of things is undressed, but none dare brave to see, as if gazing thereupon were some bawdy exercise, a destructive Eros propelling the subject towards thanatropic density. Truth is a thing of the past; failing knowledge of this, the silent fiction of the present transmogrifies itself into the “facts” of the future. 

Miner was surprised by the sudden surge of vivid bitterness which arose through the marauding haze of his mind, saturated as it was with ana-gel, now subsiding. He was particularly confused at his inner choice of words, he felt their weight and understood their meaning but knew not their origin. He scribbled away in the whirring clockwork of his mind as might some fevered novelist penning his magnum opus under the auspices of the maddening moon.

So many words do I utilize without a firm understanding of their origins. My people, our very name, ‘praeteritum,’ wherefrom did this notation come, so peculiar and distinct is it’s nature; so alien, yet so intimate… 

Such sudden realization disturbed him greatly. He waxed grateful for 400’s earlier ineptitude, had she not nearly gotten them both killed, had the shifter not triggered his exo-gel-system, had he not descended to the abyss, trammeled through the darkness and traced the laylines of the stone he might not ever have struck upon the precise mixture of component parts to assemble the puzzle, the pieces of which he had carried about his brain for the entirety of his life without ever realizing it. Discovery of the puzzle left him rent, as if a hole had been torn somewhere within him, tracing out the dimensions of some realm beyond into which he feared to tread.

Balling his fists, steeling his mind and unfolding himself from his ritualistic pose, Miner set himself to the task of excavation and hoped the puzzle’s nagging would leave him to the stern detachment of work.

*

The earth-shifter’s sensors detected a peculiar form moving towards it at great velocity. It’s metrics took the precise measure of the thing which bounded across the smooth grey silt, exposing the brown-grey earth below, yet the measure did not match it’s pre-programmed index. The mapped object should have been human but it’s velocity was such that “human” as conclusion faltered.

Unity Com Officer V-4 turned with excitement from her console and spoke with dire purpose to the Magister Von Karr.

“One of our earth-shifters has detected a biological anomaly, Magister. You may wish to take a look.”

The Magister turned from where he stood over the edge of his desk, a container of ana-gel cupped delicately between his meaty hands. He was a large creature, ungainly and possessed of a stuttering voice far higher than his considerable size suggested. He moved slowly, like a wayward seal, gel dripping from his nose and his whole body trembling under it’s influence. At length he managed the arduous task of perambulating to his co-worker where she sat in her stim-suit, plugged into the control chair. He wished to think of her as his subordinate but such thought was anathema – he knew that if such bio-patterns were assessed he’d be summarily refigured, he might even, he inwardly gasped, lose his post. Such terror prompted another dose of gel and with it a quiver of muscles reposed. When at least his nerves were sufficiently suppressed he bent to study the screen.

“What zone is this, V-4?”

“Uh… the shifter is in… Zone 8-83, Magister. One of the newer praeteritum mines.”

“W-well, um, what do you want me to do about it?”

“You’re the one’s who programmed them so I thought-”

“I have no idea what that thing is – g-goodness it’s fast!”

“It looks… like a… man.”

The speeding humaniod figure dashed ever closer, the silt spraying up in it’s wake as if the very ground were being rent and liquidated beneath the creature’s majestic passage. It was now only around 100 feet away and a voice, vaguely human, sounded from the being. A warcry.

With one quick look back at the helpless, wheezing Magister, V-4 furrowed her brows and bit her lower lip, the only semblances of stress which could express themselves from the haze of the stim-suit bioflow.

“I’m actuating defense systems. Terminate exigent threats.”

“Y-yes. Good. Can’t have anyone i-interfere with the-”

“TERMINATE!”

The magister cowered at the crackling outburst of his typically docile cohort. Through V-4’s visor he could hear the crackling affirmation of the earth-shifter, “Executing protocol.” Through the crystalline com-screen, the great mechanical spider dispensed, from it’s upper thorax, fired off a volley of bullets at the encroaching runner.

Then, a strange noise, like an electric-buzz and the ear-ringing after a grenade blast. The bullets tumbled backwards through the air as if blown aside by the breath of some fathomless beast as the humanoid figure’s velocity suddenly doubled and it shot up into the very face of the earth shifter with such force that the construct groaned, legs buckling neath the entropy of the assault. As the shifter fell to the silty ground a tan, scarred face, half-masked by a digimetric-visor, emerged into the machine’s sensor cams. He smiled and grabbed the cam with both hands, screaming.

“I’m coming for you, ya hear me, Unity scum? I’m coming for you all! First I’ll burn your mechs. Then I’ll burn your homes. Next I’ll rape your lovers, right before your children as you look on in horror, your legs, broken – arms, mangled – jaw, distended or torn free – unable to fight, or flee or scream. Then I’ll burn them too. One big fucking pyre. One city of steel-frames and marrow. A charnel tomb for charnel minds. But you filthy, backstabbing sonsofwhores… you needn’t worry, I ain’t gonna kill you lot, I’ll be keeping you around for a good long while. We’re gonna have ourselves a grand ole time, right up until the very end of it.”

Then, with a wild jerk, the man crushed the steel camera-frame with his armor-plated hands as the signal clicked off into nothingness. Slowly V-4 rose from her chair and turned to Magistar Von Karr with the expression of one who has seen the risen dead.

Karr mouthed but a single word and the whole of his body trembled with the uttering.

“Eidos… Kryos.”


 

 

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Reclaimer: Episode 2

Miner lay upon the ground, 400 lay beside him, her eyes saucer-wide like the eyes of some cephlopidic aberration, air going in-out from the rapid contractions of their billowing chests; hearts pulsing in roaring tandem like the kettling of some mangy soldier-boy, drawing out an anthem for some great and unspeakable war. Miner’s anxiety subsided quickly, pupils dilating and muscles relaxing as the ana-gel spread throughout his body, muting the frentic humming of his organs. The shifter had activated the remote sublimation process during the rescue whereupon the exo-suit had injected the anesthetizing substance into the veins and marrow, into the nerves and nodes of his quaking and sun-washed frame. Bio-leveling. Acceptable stress levels.

Miner rolled over slowly upon his side and gazed into 400’s wide, doe-like eyes. Once her nerves had steadied she turned toward’s her rescuer, brilliant blue eyes turning upon his emerald green.

“Thank you, 457.”

He nodded soberly, he wanted to lash out at her, to reprimand her for such profound foolishness, foolishness which had nearly costed both of them their lives. Yet the ana-gel had done it’s work and now a somber nod was all he could muster as his neurons sunk into rhythmic undulations of squalid bliss. A hollow joy.

Behind them the nearest earth-shifter sputtered, it’s great steel claws slicing through the silt-layer of the raw, red rock.

“457: Stress levels normal. 400: levels abnormal, do you require assistance?”

A ceramic-plated hand flew up instantly, “No, no. I’m fine. We’re both fine. Thank you, though.”

“Decision noted.”

Without another word the huge steely spider skittered off to one of the upper layers of the strip mine to continue it’s endless labor. Digging ever deeper. Ever closer to the precious ore which constituted their life-blood. Miner felt a pang of unease overtake him, cutting through the palling haze of the ana-gel which flowed throughout his body like fire through cobwebs. A implacable feeling of want. It was as if something was missing from the essence of his being, something precious yet he could not place what it was nor whether it had been forgot or stolen, taken by some malevolent foreign intelligence beyond his ken. At length he decided it did not matter. All that mattered was that he was still alive and there was much work to be done. A considerable amount.

Rising from the dusty silt-strewn ground, Miner bent to 400, extending his hand and hauling her up likewise. The duo then moved to the edge of the mining shaft.

It had utterly collapsed. The entire northern brace-wall had crumpled like jello. However, the rock-fall had revealed something, a gleaming something down at the bottom of the shaft.

400 sighed, staring up at the sky.

“Oh, how I do grow weary of this place. I cannot wait until tomorrow, to return to The Facade for our slated break. To see all our old friends, the Helos and the High-corps… are you alright, 457? You seem distracted.”

“Do you see that? Down there, at the bottom of the mine-shaft.”

“Hm, no I don’t see anyth- oh, there, yes. Yes, I see it. What do you think it is?”

Miner turned towards her with the faintest of grins.

“Only one way to find out.”

*

At at the edge of the mining pit three men stood gazing upon the blasted land. Visors covering their radiant purple eyes. The tallest among them spoke to his fellows in a low baritone without turning.

“The mine shaft has collapsed as planned. You weakened it most splendidly, Kyros.

Kyros smiled and moved to stand beside his leader.

“Now the treasure is ours for the taking. Shall we move in?”

“Yes.”

“And the earth-shifters and miners?”

“Terminate all Unity obstacles with extreme prejudice.”

Eidos Kyros flexed his sinewy musculature in the midday sun, his shimmering violet eyes wide and intense as those of a lion, crazed with the blood of a dying lamb. His heart beating like the drums of a ancestral war-band, a sonorous pounding; the hymn of war.

 


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