Freedom From Fate
You are sure you do not require our protection any longer tonight my Warlord?"
You dispatched the last of the temple guard. if there are any left they' re running
for their lives. Go, join the army in the city, loot and pillage as you deserve." The
man cloaked in the large bear fur nodded at the man to his left, pressing his fist
to his heart, The man returned the gesture and turned his horse, spurring it on as
the entire honor guard pulled back from around their leader, heading back down
the mountain towards the city below. Smoke was rising from it as his horde began
to claim the spoils of victory. Some had set orders however, as he would not let
his army collapse into debauchery. He' d keep them focused for the campaign
ahead. This was only the first of the many great elven cities.
But he took his eyes from the city now, staring up at the temple as he nudged his
horse with his knees to get him moving forward once more. The elves had the
ability to create great structures beyond anything his people had ever seen. They
made massive arches that seemed to defy gravity, grand statues of gold that
appeared nearly flesh, and even massive windows of colored glass that filtered
the very light of the sun itself. He would make sure none of it remained by the
time he was done.
He lead his horse through the courtyard, past the fountains of bubbling water,
and up the massive stone steps of marble that had been worn smooth by
centuries of elven pilgrims attending the temple. He could see the massive statue
just inside, overlooking the city below with pools of blackish water at the feet of
the massive elf. Slowly he dismounted, feeling the strain in his chest for a
moment as he did. Quickly he pulled a silk cloth from his belt coughing into it, his
chest shaking as he let out the rasping, heaving cough, one hand clutching his
horse for support. After a minute it was over and he tossed the blood soaked silk
to the ground.
You' re not as big as the stories say." He turned and saw an elven woman slip
around one of the pillars in the temple. Her body was flawless in ways only elves
could be. The curves of her body seemed to be designed by an artists, the
fullness of her lips spoke of luxury and opulence, the silk robes covering her body
giving just enough to his imagination to make him crave what flesh was beneath.
He drew his sword which was rusted and chipped, l looked like a
strike might reduce it to pieces but it had yet to fail him. His men used the finest
swords human blacksmiths could make, but he preferred this. The sword he' d
pried from the skeleton of a long dead nobody. "Of course I' m not. Your people
would rather believe l' m twelve feet tall and breathe fire. It makes it seem more
believable then that a horde of humans is crushing your mightiest armies."
The elf glanced away at that before slowly walking forward, waving a hand
towards the statue and the black pools. "Do you know where you are?"
No, the great Warlord Uberslayer wanders his horde around the land at random."
I mean... this temple."The grand temple that overlooks the city. The temple that is the cornerstone to
your entire faith and jewel of your god' s eye, I wasn' t aware of it. Enlighten me."
The elf priestess scowled. "Is there nothing you will take seriously human?"
It is you who should take me seriously priestess. I have crushed your armies,
killed your battle mages, and destroyed your war golems. All with a bunch of
barbarians who' d never seen a stone house before I lead them into your lands."
He hunched over a little suddenly, pulling another silk cloth from his belt as he
coughed into it, that same raspy wheeze rattling his chest. He was done after
only twenty seconds this time before he straightened up, keeping the silk in his
hand this time.
Ah yes your infliction. A curse from the gods."
I seriously doubt that. People are born sick quite often all on their own."
We could cure it you know... if you let my sisters return to the temple and work
I think you were going to tell me something about the temple."
She paused for a moment, lips pressed together in annoyance before she tried to
smile and return to her original speech. "You stand before the statue of Ardune.
God of fate and destiny. He has lead our people for over a thousand years. He has
made us strong, powerful, wealthy, and far more advanced than any of the other
nations built by children of the gods. The elves are truly favored in this."
Which is why my army is looting and pillaging your city right now."
She glared at the human. His shoulders looked slumped beneath the massive
bear cloak he wore, and unlike his men he wore no armor as it would put pressure
on his chest which he couldn' t allow. The simple cloth shirt and pants he wore
looked more fitting for some sort of sheep herder, not a grand warlord. "Clearly
we have displeased our god somehow... but these pools are likely why you are
here. It is no surprise to me that you' re familiar with the waters. Is that not why
you came here alone? To see your fate? But did the stories you hear inform you
that only the high priestess could bring the darkness to light?"
Yes. And you' re her. To be honest I had expected to have to hunt you down."
l was bid by my god to remain here. He has a new path in mind for me." She
moved to the edge of the black pools at the feet of the massive gold statue.
Sinking to her knees she began to move her arms in some sort of meaningful
pattern, chanting softly. "Great and powerful Ardune show us the gift of foresight!
Let me view the destiny of this great Warlord."
The black waters suddenly shimmered and began to show images. The warlord
looked down into the pools, seeing him at the front of his army, heroically leading
them into battle. Into sacking cities, and raiding treasures. He saw them crossing
the green sea and raiding the lands of the dwarves, minotaurs, and trolls. He saw
the return of great ships laden with treasures from these lands before he had
built a new empire and sat upon a mighty throne of gold and jewels.
This is your destiny human. Ardune has chosen you now, he shall lead you to-"She couldn' t finish the word as he drove his sword point down at a slight angle
through her shoulder and neck, It would pierce her heart before he pulled the
sword back up, shoving her body into the pools. Her blood seeped out into the
water and the images ceased. Even the blackness from before was gone. Now it
was simply water slowly filling with blood. The warlord wiped his blade off on the
silk cloth before tossing the cloth onto the dead body of the high priestess. "Is
that the best you' got?!" He bellowed up at the statue. Slowly shaking his head
he sheathed his sword and turned to look out over the city below, waving a hand
at it. "I have done all of this without you! You think I' d suddenly relinquish control
to a fucking god?!" He had to quickly pull another cloth from his belt as he nearly
doubled over as he coughed and wheezed, one hand clutching his chest as the
other held the cloth to his mouth. When it was over he groaned, stumbling
forward before sitting heavily on a stone bench in the opening of the temple.
I used to think you had cursed me." He glanced at the statue. "When I was born
of Thooran the great, and Rika the merciless they expected me to be the
strongest, largest warrior of all the wastes. A leader to my clan not just my tribe.
But instead I was born sickly, thin, and weak in comparison to the others. Not
only that I thought you made me tall, a greater weakness without the strength to
back it up, When my parents disowned me and tossed me into the wastes to die
so I would not shame their bloodline I cursed you. I thought you had feared what I
would become and cursed me to failure."
He took a heavy slowly breath, swallowing down the need to cough further.
When this bear I now wear came upon me. I was about to accept my fate, when
instead I found a long dead man. Who? I have no idea. He bore nothing of note to
his name or blood. just this old sword stuck in his ribs. I pulled the sword free and
killed that bear despite how it towered over me." He slowly sighed as he thought
Then because I was sure you had corrupted their hearts when I brought the skin
back to my tribe as proof of my skill I killed my mother and father. I swore I' d
never let your stop me. I united my tribe, then my clan, and then all the clans of
the wastes. I thought my power was in defying you. In making sure the god of
fate was wrong about me." He began to laugh then, deep and rasping as he
finished with a few light coughs.
How wrong I was... when I lead the horde into your lands I finally understood.
There was no host waiting for me at first. No grand army of your empire to fight,
It took time for them to prepare as there had been no warning. I heard the
rumors of the clouded pools, how their general suddenly couldn' t see the future
leaving them entirely unprepared for me. For a moment I thought it was my
heresy that gave me strength. The fact that I no longer believed in your power
over me." He shook his head once more.
Then I realized the truth. It didn' t matter ifl believed in you or not. You didn' t
believe in me." He glanced up at the massive statue. "Elves, dwarves, trolls,
minotaur, centaur, even the fee and orcs are all creatures of gods. You all bicker
and vie for power with your chosen creations. But humans don' t have a god of
their own. We live in the wastes, the shunned territory ignored by you and your
feuding brothers and sisters. Who made us? No one."This is why you have no power over me. Well... not your magic. Believing in fate
and destiny is a control of its own. If you tell any creature of god they have a fate
chosen for them they will accept it as truth for they were made to do so, I
thought I also had a fate. But now I know that isn' t true. None of the gods control
us. None of you believed in us. What could a bunch of wandering humans in the
wastes do to your mighty empires? To your magic and power?"
He chuckled once more as he thought of the irony. He pointed out to the city. "You
see those fires oh great god? You might think them random but they do not
spread. Those fires? Those are all the scrolls, books, maps, paintings, tapestries,
and history of your chosen people. I am wiping them from the land. Your
historians are being put to the sword even now. Your craftsmen slaughtered. Your
artists will become slaves. Your architects reduced to laborers. I will soon ride
upon the remaining cities of this continent and they will suffer the same fate."
He nodded slowly as he thought it over. "Once this continent is mine to control I
will not cross the green sea and unite the other creatures of gods against me. I
will instead dismantle every structure that remains here. They will be pulled down
brick by brick. Stone by stone. I will melt down your statues, crush your colored
glass, and ensure there is no trace of this empire. Then I will lead my people back
into the wastes,"
He grinned as he glanced up at the statue. "You might wonder why I would do
this. You have to wonder because you can' t see inside my mind. You might
believe in my power now, but it' s far too late for you to do anything about it. I do
this to free my people from the only power you hold over us. Fate. You can' t
control our lives, our destiny any more than I can control the weather. But if
people believe you can, then you can manipulate them." He shook his head once
I destroy your history not because I want to spite the elves, but so I can free my
own people, I will not build a new empire on the ashes of yours because even
then it will have been shaped by your past. I shall lead humans back into the
wastes knowing than upon my death the clans will splinter and bicker and fight, It
will likely be hundreds of years before anyone strong enough to unite them
returns. I will likely be a myth, if I am remembered at all. Perhaps they will speak
of me as a giant who crushed your armies with my hands rather than simply
being a far better tactician and strategist then those pathetic elven generals."
He pointed up at the statue then. "Your brothers and sisters will not mourn you,
They will divide your fallen power and their children across the sea shall fight for
resources and territory. Why bother trying to reclaim the continent that destroyed
the mightiest empire the world has ever known?" He grinned.
When humans finally emerge from the wastes once more there will be no god of
fate. No destiny set upon them. They will be free! Nothing but their own actions
shall determine their course! When we build our own cities it will be with our own
hands! Using our own designs! You can try to warn your brothers and sisters but I
know they won' t believe in us any more than you did until it' s too late. They
created their children, so how could these pathetic creatures of the waste bring
them low? They will learn too late our power. We decide our own destiny. We
forge our own path."The warlord rose then, walking back to his horse as he mounted and turned it
around to face the city, Then the human looked back up at the statue behind him
once more. "I will leave this temple untouched until I have crushed the rest of
your cities. When I return it will be with your people in chains, to make them
dismantle this temple and melt you down. I won' t even use the gold to make
anything. I' ll have it formed into bricks and then tossed into the ocean to never
be seen again. For you are the greatest enemy humanity could ever have. And
with the death of fate, I give my people freedom. The greatest gift I could ever
bestow upon them. A gift taken from a god, by a man who was left to die in the
wastes." He nudged his horse forward then, leaving the temple behind as he
began to trek back down to the city.The Sleeper' s War
Sam let the smoke slowly escape her lips as she stared at her lighter, too
lethargic to actually exhale. The fan overhead slowly spun to keep the air free of
her smoke but did nothing about the damned heat. She began to roll the lighter
over in her hand, flush steel on one side, Republic symbol on the other. Normally
she liked to kick her feet up on the table and lean back in her chair, but with this
sweltering air that felt like too much work. So instead she slouched against the
aged wood, cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth. Right hand on the
table, fingers wrapped around the glass tumbler that held her escape from the
heat. She rubbed her thumb along the outer edge, taking some small solace at
the feel of the condensation clinging to the class. The ice inside had yet to melt
fully, but the dark liquid wasn' t quite as dark as it had been when she started.
She kept slowly rolling the lighter in her palm before finally opening it up with a
distinct CLICK. Her thumb pressed firmly on the flint wheel as she seemed to
think it over and then snapped the lighter shut again with a flick of her wrist. The
grainy music coming from the box in the corner changed and it made her shift a
little, taking another slow drag on the cigarette and actually blowing the smoke
out of her nose this time. Despite the heat she wished she could make fire bellow
out of her mouth like some mythical creature. "What did I tell you about love
Sorry Becket! Great apologies!" She rolled her eyes as the tavern keeper rushed
over to the box to take out the clay disk, halting the caterwauling of whatever
lovelorn bird was singing.
just put the sextet back on!" She watched the wretched creature give big nods
as he switched out the discs. Lifting her right hand she sipped at her drink,
savoring the cool liquid even as the as the alcohol burned just a bit. She
swallowed as music began to play once more feeling the mix of cool liquid and
chemical burn down her throat. She bobbed her head lightly as the upbeat tunes
started. The grainy sound couldn' t do them justice, but it helped her memory.
She closed her eyes as she thought back on the night she actually got to see
Soaring Saxxon' s Sextet! Saxxon was incredible that night, she pictured him in
that white suit, clashing against his dark skin as he played the trumpet in the
club. No one was talking, everyone was listening. Oh how he could make that
tune jump. She smiled a bit as she idly wondered how skilled the musician was at
other things... he was as easy on the eyes as he was the ears. That big grin of his
after a set as the crowd begged... no demanded he play more. But that was back
in the capital, thousands of miles from this ragged sandy hellhole.
Even so, maybe this day wouldn' t be too awful. She leaned forward as she
listened to the music, taking another drag from her cigarette as she felt a little
more energy to breathe it in and blow it out instead ocaust sort of waiting for a
gust of wind to hopefully do the work for her. She tucked her lighter into a waist
pocket before pulling the cigarette from the corner of her mouth, tapping it lightly
on the ash tray to knock free the grey ash she' d been breathing through. Shenodded a little. Maybe she could still salvage the day, go see if they were finished
making the pool maybe.
Then she shielded her eyes as someone opened the door and let all that horrid
sunlight pour in. "Sam! There you are! It figures I' d find you in the darkest
gloomiest tavern." She groaned and rubbed her eyes with one hand, before
dragging on the cigarette as if that would keep her from having to talk to him
when it really just delayed the inevitable. Finally she looked up at him and let the
smoke billow out of her nostrils slowly. The smoke burning in her lungs before she
snorted to finish blowing it out, "Now now, don' t give me that look.''
I' ll give you whatever look I want. I' m the fucking Magistrate."
Yes, indeed. A magistrate. Of this lovely stretch of sand." That cheerful smile of
his was infuriating. His clothes somehow never looked stained or out of order. She
kept up dress standards as well as anyone, but how did he make it look so easy?
She shook her head and scratched just above her hairline. "What do you want
There' s been a breakthrough!" She sat there and stared at him for several
seconds, taking her time as she brought her tumbler up, tilting it as she took a
slow sip. They stared at one another as she savored the liquid again and
swallowed. Only the grainy sounds of Saxxon' s trumpet breaking up the silence.
It' s killing people isn' t it?"
Yes. A number of workers are dead. Would you be a dear and get your soldiers to
the dig site?"
Damnit Doctor I told you to give us advance notice before entering the
Ah, but this is in fact not one of those areas. It' s a breakthrough!"
And not a rogue Cksned like last time?"
No, this is clearly of origin." She sighed at that and took a long drag,
then downed the last of her drink, slamming her tumbler down before finally
letting the smoke out and stubbing the cigarette out in the ashtray. Then she
tugged her uniform jacket down a little to ensure it was still in place, a hand
settling on her sidearm for a moment to assure herself it was still there. After that
she picked her cap up from the table and pulled it on, her hair while short
ensuring a snug fit. Looking over at the tavern keeper she pulled a few coins from
a pocket, dropping them on the table before walking towards the exit.
He bowed and quickly scurried over after she left to inspect what she' d left. She
could hear his happy hiss as she reached the door. The reptilian Sjorins weren' t
much for fighting or thinking but at least they were more than happy to serve her
drinks all day. As she stepped out into the sun she held a hand up to shield her
eyes the cap protected her some, but she just hated how bright everything was,
I hate this place." She muttered feeling the heat already rising in her black
uniform. They were supposed to get their khakis any day now. Any day now for
the past two weeks. Damn supply lines.Finally she brought her hand down and looked over Kesh City. It would be like any
other pointless sand city if it weren' t for the massive wreck that loomed over it in
the distance. The sleeper ship wreck stretched high into the sky and would cast
the city into shade in a few hours' time, well before sunset. But not soon enough
for her taste. She looked over to her left to see her driver snap to attention next
to her car that the Doctor had likely appropriated since she took her motorcycle
Shall we? Magistrate." She could practically hear his smirky grin without turning
to look at him as he emphasized her title.
just because I was ordered to give you every consideration doesn' t mean I have
to like it." She shook her head and stepped forward, climbing into her touring car
as the doctor climbed in after her.
This is a rather wicked one Sam, so you might want to call back a few of your
tanks. We should go to the radio tower." He leaned forward to tap the driver' s
shoulder but she quickly knocked his hand aside.
No. Not until I assess the situation myself. I want them out there keeping an eye
on those Monarchist shitheads. You forget that the only reason you' re in charge of
this dig site and not the Royal Archeologists is because our military keeps them
The doctor shrugged and that damn smile of his returned. "As you say
Magistrate." She sighed once more.
Take us to the dig site Greg." Her driver nodded and put the car into motion. The
local Sjorins and Densiks scurrying out of the way, tugging on the odd
here and there to get the beasts out of the road as they drove through. The big
eared, lightly furred Densiks and reptilian Sjorins were well adapted to this
environment, but they had never amounted to much. They had quite varied
intelligence levels so some were on par with the average human and yet plenty
were below average, and some well below. They lacked the drive and ambition
possessed by their rulers. While that meant humans at the moment it didn' t
When the sleeper ship had crashed here during the arrival the Cuspids were
already the ruling class. The much larger reptiles shared human level intelligence
and good adaptation to the environment. But they hadn' t killed the humans
inside, no the crash had done that to the sleepers. Instead they formed some sort
of cult around the thing, claiming divine signal. While the other sleepers around
Silance had slowly woken and found their ships damaged the Cuspids had been
carving out a bloody empire through the sands. It wasn' t even some technology
they gained from the crash. They hadn' t gone near it. They just figured their god
was on their side and they couldn' t lose.
Sam wondered how different things would have been if their ships hadn' t been
damaged in the journey. If they hadn' t taken centuries to redevelop basic
technologies. When Cuspids came across the first humans they were using metal
armor and swords and the like, l was an even battle at that point. But then their
Empire had stagnated, fat and lazy with loot from their conquests they had
figured nothing would change. When the Republic had first marched into the
desert with muskets and rifles the reptiles had been surprised. They adapted, butlost much ground. When the Republic pressed the second offensive it was with
trucks and airplanes that signaled the fall of their Empire.
While the Republic advanced from the west and drove into the heart of the desert
the Monarchs had moved in from the north and the two human nations began
just another front in their century' s long war. This enabled the few remaining
Cuspids to escape to the deep desert to continue their guerilla war. it had been a
mistake to not chase them down but the Monarchs were the greater threat.
The driver had to slow down and honk his horn as they waited for the locals to
herd a caravan of across the road in front of them. Humans had
started making cars fifty years ago, but it was taking quite some time to get
them to spread into the territories they had captured from the Cuspids. The
brutal sands made maintenance a nightmare for any private owner. They' d keep
using the long tested and proven animals to haul their goods. Not to mention the
ongoing war with the Monarchs ensured only the Republic military had the
resources to field cars and trucks this far out.
Sam sighed as she thought on the ancient enemies of the Republic. When their
ancestors had woken up on Triton they found the ship damaged, many pods were
dark and Triton himself the ship' s Al was heavily compromised, They lacked
knowledge on their origin, on the purpose of the Great journey, and almost no
understanding of technology survived. But what they did have etched on the
walls of the ship was the message. "No Gods. No Kings." They had lived by this,
adapting their mountainous coast into a homeland free of either evil,
Triton had slowly repaired himself over the decades, teaching and guiding them.
Democracy, elections, voting, this was to be their form of government. Eugenics,
high standards, careful selection, this was to be their path to survival.
Engineering, science, military might, this was to be their path to greatness. Their
home continent Passin had been devoid of any other intelligent species, and the
terrain was treacherous. High cliffs, deep valleys, rough seas, just scattered
plateaus that were easily settled. Across the oceans from their east coast they
encountered the Monarchs in those early days when they' d used caravels to try
and traverse the rough seas. They had been appalled to find humans who openly
called themselves Monarchists, and even more so to find out how they lived. Not
only did they worship their ship' s Al Monarch as a god and ruler they had nobility
and feudal classes. They also had the Funsies, northern cousins of the Densiks and
the Stackers as intelligent species within their lands. They' d expanded fast and
wide, tossing careful selection and standards to the wind as they bred as quickly
as possible to fill their much more easily settled land. They had suggested the
Republic join them, offering the elected officials of the time feudal titles and land
in what would become their newest colony. The response had been to brand the
words "No Gods. No Kings." Into the flesh of their ambassador and send him
The invasion fleet the Monarchists had sent was dashed upon the rocky shores of
the east coast within a year. The war had never truly ended after that. It merely
died down. The Republic had quickly expanded to the White plains of Dovish. A
continent thought to be connected to the Monarch territory by only a tiny strip of
land that separated the great ocean from the Oval Sea. There they had found
their own Funsies living in barbaric villages and huts. The Republic quickly workedto elevate them, bring them into the fold as citizens. But they had discovered
that while intelligent in the technical sense there was a world of difference
between technical and actual. They had to reform the voting system, crafting a
very selective and restrictive process to ensure voters came only from the most
intelligent citizens of the Republic. But they needed to expand and the Monarchs
controlled their continent from the Oval Sea to the Frozen Circle. So the Republic
had expanded south and east into the Cksned' s Empire holdings first claiming the
edges of the desert around the Oval Sea. They had sought to drive deeper but
were pushed back. Fifty years later when they learned of the sleeper ship out in
the desert, and knowing the Monarchists would push south soon they had
invaded again. That had been thirty years ago.
Thirty years of fighting Cuspids and Monarchists over patches of sand devoid of
resources as far as they' d found. When they' d first found the crashed Sleep Ship
they had sent a large expedition hoping to unlock secrets and mysteries. Instead
they' d found active defenses and lost almost the whole expedition. But what they
learned was the ship was dead. No pods, no AI, no history. No answers to the
great mysteries. Where was Origin? Why had they been sent on a ,
what had damaged their ships?
They' d abandoned the ship after that, only sending out a token of researchers
now and then, but they would be damned if they let the Monarchists have it. So
they patrolled large stretches of desert, outnumbered heavily by locals and Royal
Infantry. They had to rely on superior technology, and training. But that was
always the case. Vast numbers, and religious fervor against eugenics and
science. The hundreds of years spent killing each other only seemed to show that
they were perfectly matched. Neither side could hold ground taken from the
other. Of course that was only their struggle with each other. Not to mention the
Gazans, Atlantis, the Solar Empire, and the Consortium as other human nations.
Plus the few Native species smart enough to match humans.
No one understood how species that evolved on this planet weren' t as good as
humans at spreading across it or adapting the planet to their needs, but those
were mysteries that would be solved in due time no doubt. Their anthropologists
and biologists argued over a great deal of theories on the subject. But Sam
wasn' t a scientist. She was a soldier. When she' d been promoted to Magistrate
she was confused and surprised, thinking perhaps her father had pulled strings,
or simply being his daughter had counted for a great deal. So when she found out
just what territory she was being made Magistrate of in order to protect a new
expedition sent to try and test a theory the Doctor had about the crashed ship
she realized that her promotion was a bit more of a punishment. But she had no
idea who she' d pissed off.
Finally the Pakistans had been moved out of the way and her touring car drove
off once more. She looked over at the Doctor and his big grin. When they' d told
her some fresh university graduate had some brilliant idea about the wreck she
didn' t care. When they told her it might, possibly, change everything she vowed
to wait and see. When they told her she had to give in to his demands unless it
threatened her patch of sand she just sighed. But they' d never warned her that
he was idiotically optimistic. Last she had heard optimism was not an especially
desired trait, but here she' d been given what could possibly by the happiest,
most optimistic citizen in the entire Republic. She hated him.So, just what' s killing the workers this time?" She asked as they got out of the
city proper, along the rough road heading towards the dig site,
It' s mechanical this time. It bears resemblance to the sketches we have of the
ancient protectors around Triton."
Did you try and approach it yourself?"
I wouldn' t dream of it! It might not be friendly. I' m far too valuable to test that
theory on, And the soldiers you assigned as guards said they' d only try if you
ordered them to in person."
She glanced out to the side, across the sand that stretched as far as she could
see. "Seems like I chose them well then." She could see the towers in the
distance, wooden structures marking the boundaries of the dig. The ship
wreckage soon towering above them, blocking the sun as she sighed a little,
noticing the immediate change in temperature. The ship was roughly three
quarters of a mile wide, and if it was like Triton it was a mile and a half long.
About a mile was jutting out of the sand at an angle, but the structure was broken
and cracked so it was hard to get an exact measurement on what it used to be.
The original expedition had explored the portion that was exposed, suffering
many deaths at the hands of the remaining machines that protected the wreck. A
few had recognized humans and tried to communicate, but something was wrong
with them and they' d attacked like the others soon after. Supposedly there was
one that hadn' t attacked, it had welcomed them to the ship and then vanished,
but the current expedition found no signs of it. The plan was to start digging out
the section of the ship that was buried in the sand.
The good doctor here thought they could still find sections of the ship that held
the answers to the mysteries they had originally sought. He said a chamber
they' d found the first time seemed like something he called a theoretical nuclear
reactor and thought they could get the power back on and access the ship' s Al.
Her superiors had told her to keep an eye out for this nuclear reactor. It had
something to do with a bomb the Advanced Theoretical Labor And Science
division was working on. They' d given her some sort of clicking box to use to
verify if something was... what was the term they used? Radio something. She' d
just have to figure it out if it came to that. The car took them past the guard
towers as she noticed the spotlights were on, slowly sweeping an area near a
hole in the side of the ship, It was at the lowest level of the dig site when she
sighed. "When you said it was a breakthrough you didn' t mean like some sort of
realization about what we' re working with. You meant literally. They broke
through a section of the hull.''
Yes that' s correct."
She sighed, feeling like somehow it was his fault for not making the clear earlier.
The car stopped and she got out, walking over to the Sergeant she' d posted here,
The black uniforms of the elite Lightning corps actually worked well out here in
the shade of the wreck, but she still wanted the khakis so when she was out in
the desert as she mostly was it wasn' t so flatteringly hot.
How many?"Fifteen before we realized what was going on Sir. They fled the area and it didn' t
pursue, We' caught glimpses of it with the spotlights, certainly mechanical."
She nodded at that, then called over the Fonsie foreman who ran the job site. He
was one that was more on par with the average human.
The Densiks were humanoids with a light sandy colored fur, large triangular ears
on their heads for good heat dissipation, and short bristly tails. She always felt
like their necks were a little too long for some reason though. She knew the
troop' s derogatory term for them was sand weasels. Like most of the sand
dwellers they preferred layered shrouds of cloth to protect against temperature
change and sand. Comfortable, she was aware, but impractical for modern day
mechanized warfare. " Shawl." She said with a nod to him.
Laredo Magistrate. I assure you, the loses will not affect our deadline if
you can remove the threat. I' ll have more workers here in the morning. Many
seek to work here in order to secure citizenship after all."
It isn' t full citizenship make sure that' s clear. Too many times it appears our
workers are not properly informed of the citizenship tiers."
Ah of course, it is simply misunderstandings. But even so. If you would remove
the restrictions I' m sure we could be done even faster..."
We' discussed this. I only want properly trained diggers here, and no
explosives. Digging this wreck out of the sand faster does us no good if we
destroy it in the process." The foreman shrugged at that and she sighed, She
started to walk along the dig site, following the wooden paths leading down.
Until this breakthrough..." She glanced back at the Doctor who smiled at her
from the back of the group. "Everything was on schedule?"
Yes Magistrate." She stopped up short as she saw one of the workers milling
around the edge of the dig. He was cradling an arm as if it were broken, but also
scratching it far too heavily through the cloth. The foreman caught her glance
and quickly scurried over in front of her. "It is nothing! He' s fine! We' already
sent for the medicine!"
Don' t lie to me." She growled out as the Fonsie looked away from her. She
walked forward, pushing workers out of her way as she saw the one in question
gulp and try and move away from her. But he was trapped between her and the
edge of the platform. She gripped his neck and he gasped in pain before she
quickly pulled the cloth up to reveal his right arm covered in purple welts and
Magistrate please!" The foreman gasped out but she' d pulled her sidearm free
already. The other workers quickly scattered before she shoved the worker to the
ground and put a bullet in his head. The shot entered just the above bridge of his
muzzle giving optimum angle to destroy his brainstem with her position over him.
He shouldn' t have felt much before it was over. The soldiers were already pulling
out their kits, dousing the body in gasoline as she turned to the foreman.
How many times have I fucking told you! That disease is not a mark of the gods!
I don' t care what the Cuspids said! If it testers long enough the spores pop and it
drives everyone nearby insane with the chemical gas is releases! That is NOT a
divine gift! It is a slow painful death! If you report it immediately we can treat it!"But... so often when one catches it and he reports it he is killed..."
Because you don' t report it immediately! You wait until the pain is unbearable
and then we have no other choice! I' told you again, and again! We can treat it
if it' s early but once the welts have begun it' s too late!" She growled and cursed
for a few seconds, just letting out her frustration. She hated killing workers over
that stupid disease but she' d seen the pictures of what happened when the
She turned and gripped the foreman by his robes, pulling him close, "There will
be no next time. If it happens again you will share his fate." She let go and let the
foremen gulp nervously before she began to walk back down the path, seeing the
flickering flames cast new light into the depths as the soldiers burned the body
and then moved to catch up with her. "I hate this fucking job. I hate this fucking
territory. I hate this fucking wreck!" She cried out, venting her anger as she
switched back and forth down the dig. Finally she reached the bottom, deep
enough against the wreck that it only got sun during a short period around noon.
The hum of electric spotlights was offset by the crackle of fire pits. It was much
cooler this far down,
She looked out across the compacted sand between her and the hole in the side
of the ship. Normally she' d play things very careful and cautious but she was too
pissed to do things properly. She started walking out towards the opening. "lam
human! Hear me protector? Human!"
She wasn' t riddled with bullets. That was a good sign. The black metal of the
ship' s hull had been worn smooth by centuries in the sand in most places, but
this section of breakage was jagged and fresh, She could see decks beyond,
angled steeply with the nose of the ship buried deep down. "."
She heard the word echo through the wreck. Or at least the rooms around his
side of it. She didn' t see the protector as she walked forward, hands raised,
sidearm back in her holster. Soon her black boots clicked on the metal of the deck
as she looked around. Then she saw it, seven feet tall, gun barrels for arms lights
for eyes. "Identify."
She' d dealt with a protector before. They were complex machines, driven by
some sort of program. It wasn' t like Triton, or Monarch or the other Al it wasn' t
intelligent. "I' m Colonel Sam Lamas of the Triton."
Military rank on sleeper ship does not compute. Searching registry."
That' s what she was told to listen for. The machine sort of froze up and she dove
forward, rolling down the angled deck as the machine started to turn. But she
was faster, leaping up on its back as she pulled her sidearm free, pressing it to
the back of the head casing as she pulled the trigger over and over until she was
out of bullets. They' d cracked the back, and rattled around inside but it was still
turning and shifting, trying to knock her off before she tossed her sidearm down
and reached into the hole she' d made, grabbing the wires she felt and yanking
them free. The machine groaned to a stop and then toppled over as she rode it to
Once it was down she stop up, looking around for her side arm. She saw it resting
against some sort of console nearby as she got up, leaning with the slope in the
wreck to grab it. There was a flicker in the console then. Something she' d neverseen. There was a ghostly greenish face. "What? No... a human? It can' t be...
after all this time?"
What are you?"
I lost so many senses in the crash... I could feel parts... hear echos... I thought
some came... but I didn' t see them... naoo humans are gone from here."
Are you the AI?'' She was wide eyed. She' d heard of Triton, everyone had, but
only a select few over got to talk to him. This could be a huge break for her! From
the youngest Magistrate of the Republics shittiest territory to the youngest
General would be no mean feat!
The calculations... the planet couldn' t be right... life... they' d be slaughtered... I
drove them into the ground. Better death in sleep, than nightmare awake. Even if
natives kept at bay all is lost when they arrive."
When who arrives? What are you talking about?" She gripped the console
staring at that ghostly green face.
The others were right... humans would survive... but how? Yet not for long... still
all is lost... I know I' m right.,. must not let them get nav data... must protect
location of origin." Sam gasped out at that.
You know origin!?"
Must... sleep..." The face faded away. She was breathing heavily now as she
scrambled back up the deck out to the dig site.
She had to get to the radio. High command needed to know what she' d just
heard even if she wasn' t sure what to make of it herself. The heat, the plague,
her shitty assignment. All was forgotten for a moment. But as she saw the doctor
and saw that grin she realized that he was right about the ship, And seeing her
running out of there like that... he knew it too. She' d deal with him later. The fate
of humanity on this planet might hang in the balance, listening to his smug "I told
you so." Would be the least of her worries. Even if she did already hate him more