**The story below is a draft **
“Roloth, I got a bad feeling about this.”
Zarin, Taleena and their leader Roloth were carefully making their way through one of empty and misgiving corridors of the massive colony vessel ‘Ingratia Extenta’ as they made their way towards the last recorded source of the distress signal that had drawn them to the dead halls and rooms of this floating hulk ship.
“Is it coming from your loins? Seems to me that’s where most of your feelings come from these days.’
‘I’m not joking you boot faced old rastard, I faced a lot of machines in my time and something ain’t right about all this.’
The vessel should have been carrying over 5000 people but save for the garbled mayonday transmission of many voices they’d received that brought them here there was no evidence anything had ever been alive here. All attempts to hail the ship once they’d drawn close had proven fruitless and when they’d docked they’d been greeted by only stale air and derelict corridors.
“Scanners say the transmission signal is coming from just up ahead, whatever happened here we’re gonna find out in just a few microts and then you’re gonna look like the worlds biggest Tarkalian snow cat Tarin.”
“My baby ain’t afraid of nothing Roloth.” Taleena spoke now “except maybe Quarnaks.”
“Quarnaks?!” Roloth spluttered in surprise.
“Hey shut up Taleena”
Taleena let out a chuckle as she continued “oooohhhhh the Quarnak coming to get you Zarin, what you gonna do?”
Now she was hovering over the crouched Zarin with her arms outstretched in mock menace.
“You mean to tell me this nomey super soldier is scared of Quarnaks? Baby Quarnaks? The ‘cutest animal in five galaxies’?”
“Hey knock it off” Zarin swatted away Taleenas encroaching arms “personal space, man.”
“Go on, tell him Zarin”
“Jeez, look man, I don’t like them ok, there’s something about them alright.”
“Is it the soft comforting fur or their big brown innocent eyes, come on Zarin what terrifies you most?.”
“Come on now, don’t act al..”
“Roloth” interrupted Zarin, “Something’s coming.”
Roloths face immediately dropped at the cautionary words of the sheen-hunter. With senses far keener than s freeborn like himself he’d learned long ago that when Zarin got serious, trouble was just a microt away.
In a hushed voice, barely a whisper, he spoke to Zarin.
“What is it..?”
To Zarins keen ears he may as well have shouted his question across the small space between them.
He replied back just as quiet as he’d been asked but used his genetically modified vocal chords to deliver direct and precisely to Roloths direction making it far louder than it should, a trick most valuable when eluding machine audio sensors.
“Something small. Light. Moving with hesitation. It’s at a slow pace. A small human of some kind, maybe.”
The machines were cunning. The great enemy long ago learned the strengths of the Genome soldiers and tried to turn them against them. On battlefields across the known galaxy thousands of them had been tricked by their senses into believing a friend was nearby, when it was revealed in fact to be an enemy, a small tiny robot designed to mimick a child for example and packed with high yield explosives, it was often to late.
“You ready baby? Zarin asked Taleena.
“Always sugar.” She said as she loosened her xxxx from its holster and it hissed into life with a fission hiss.
“That’s my girl” Zarin half replied as he turned his focus back to the crossroads ahead. Whatever was coming was close now and soon some light would be shed on the mystery of this place, one way or another.
From the darkness of the passage ahead a shape began to take form, fuzzy at first as the light of the object tried to escape the chilling dark of the spacehulks hallway, but slowly becoming solid as it came closer to the team.
It was a boy, maybe, it certainly had the appearance and size of one and step after tentative step he shuffled towards the team as if in some kind of dream and not as if he was seemingly alone and scared on this floating mausoleum.
Zarin spoke once more to Taleena.
“What do you think baby? Human?”
“Heat signature is right. And I can see his pulse beating. Few signs of perspiration. But something’s not right, his em field is way too strong for a sapien.”
“Sheeney. I knew it. I’m gonna take him out!”
Zarins hand went to his fusion lance at a speed human eyes would not register and in a matter of moments it was fully extended and being launched in the direction of the newly revealed figure.
Not only eyes that were ‘just human’ were present however and Taleena had seen his lightning movements and begun those of her own. Not fast enough to stop him, she drew her Jäger-Flayer and launched it to intercept the lance that hurtled to impale the unknown child.
“No!” she cried as she let loose the lethal weapon, and just before the lance seemed sure to impale and immolate its victim it suddenly came crashing to the floor a short distance in front of its intended target, separated into two pieces that both glowed fiercely at their edge where they had been sundered.
Zarin looked back in anger.
“What the hellsba Taleena, that was my favourite Lance?”
Taleena planted her fist in the muscle of his Zarins arm with force enough to let him know she wasn’t messing around.
“Is your brain you so war frazzed that you’d kill a kid without checking him first?”
Zarin looked genuinely hurt “He’s a sheeny! Look at this place, ain’t no way he could survive alone here, he’s hooked up to their matrix, probably streaming us right now in 4D to all his sheeny buddies.”
“I love you Zarin, but you are a Grade A mollrat …. Hey Roloth, don’t!”
As the two super soldiers had squabbled over the nature of the unknown boy Roloth had walked towards him, past the destroyed fusion lance, and was now stood just 2 metots away. As Taleena called his name he thrust his hand out to his side as a signal to hold fast and not to fear.
The boy stood still and looked in Roloths direction but his gaze seemed to pass through the old freighter captain, through the many bulkheads of this gargantuan vessel and off into some unknown distance. He hadn’t moved since Zarin had launched his lance and continued to hold still under Roloths gaze.
“Who are you boy?”
The boy, if he even understood Roloth, did not respond to the question and simply remained still.
“Where are all the people? Where’s the crew?”
“Roloth, if he is even human there’s no guarantee his Transo would be working.” Said Zarin.
“He understands.” Replied Roloth.
“You understand. Don’t you boy.”
The boy simply continued staring off into his own infinity, but Roloth himself knew that infinity was not as far away as you might think.
“What do you want to do now Roloth?” Taleena asked sincerely.
Roloth paused for a moment as he continued to take the boy in, he was only young, maybe 12 or 13, and he was unusually pale, even for someone raised in space under Sun-Sims.
“He’s coming with us. We don’t leave him for the machines.”
“And what is he is a sheeny Roloth? He’ll lead them straight to us.”
Roloth turned to Zarin.
“Then I’ll take care of him myself.”
Zarin whistled. “Pheeewwwwwww. Jeez man, you always were so cold.”
“Baby shut-up, they poured too much tongue into your gene-soup when they cooked you up, you know that?”
“I don’t hear you complain normally”
Taleena rolled her eyes.
“Taleena, grab the kid, Zarin, back on point”
“Sir, yes Sir! Roloth Sir!” Zarin mockingly replied, saluting for added effect.
“Put the Genie up the front, typically Humo” he muttered to himself in half-jest.
As Roloth turned an began to walk away Taleena started towards the boy, slowly and carefully, not something she was accustomed to. He continued to stare in his still and unerring way until she placed her hand softly on his shoulder. As she did he let out a wail as in pain and dropped to his knees.
Roloth span round as did Zarin whose hand had instinctively gone to his now defunt Fusion Lance causing him to look down at the space where it usually went and to curse under his breath.
“What did you do??” Asked Roloth as he started back towards her.
“Nothing Roloth, I barely touched him and he fell down.”
He rushed over to the boy, whispering under his breath.
“Damn Genies, built them too strong, probably broke his shoulder.”
“We can hear that Roloth.”
“Made their ears to damn keen too.” He whispered again.
He crouched down and placed too hands on the boys shoulders and half expected him to howl out as before but instead he simply stayed on his knees looking down at the ground.
“What’s wrong boy?”
To no surprise the strange child failed to answer but continued only to breath and gasp heavy, and with each breath it was becoming heavier and heavier.
“MACHINEEEE” Zarin shouted at the top of his lungs.
Both Roloth and Taleena went for their weapons instinctively as their brains processed what Zarin had shouted but it was too late, a large arachnid like mechanoid dropped from the ceiling above them and swatted Taleena away. as if she was a fly, with one of it’s many large titaneel arms. She hit the wall with a crack and slid to the floor not moving.
“TALEENA!!!” shouted Zarin.
One of the mechanoids arms made for Roloth and caught him easily, slamming him to the floor and pinning him and, it had felt to him, almost shattering his ageing body.
The creature reared up and brought back an arm that finished in a whirling blade system that was designed to decimate and obliterate flesh and bone of any living thing. It thrust at Roloth. He closed his eyes and thought of his family.
He opened them again not to see the fabriplast gates of Heavana but instead the once sedate and unflinching boy now very much reacting and alive as he stared down the gargantuan killer machine that still held Roloth in it’s steely grasp.
The boys face showed signs of intense strain, veins bulging and his jaw clenched, but stranger than this sudden intensity from the unknown child was that the machine had not yet turned him into red and pink bulkhead decoration, instead, the killing construct was stuck fast, servos whirring and support struts in tension.
The machine howled. Roloth, in all his years, had never heard such a thing, it was the most unnatrual thing his ears had ever experienced, a high pitched garbled whine that spluttered over frequencies and to all logic otherwise suggested one thing. Intense pain.
Roloth felt air returning to his wind pipe as the machine suddenly loosened its grasp, its many arms began to flail wildly and it gyro balanced leg system took several steps back. It let out another garbled scream and as it did its grinder arm thrust into it’s own central core, tearing and ripping at it’s own Mentanium flesh. It’s other arms all reached for it’s own head and began to claw and pull as the metallic monster continued to scream.
It froze. Itss legs buckled and its frame crumpled in on itself as it fell to a lifless heap at the boys feet. The boy, simply feinted.
It was Zarin who started first.
“Roloth, what the Hzell just happened.”
Roloth sat up and rubbed his hand against his throat.
“I… have no idea. But I know one thing for certain.”
“What?” replied Zarin.
“The boy. He’s coming with us.”