Clara couldn’t see anybody. The voice that had just forced its way into her head sounded organic, without interference or any kind of mechanical synthesis. It was heavily accented, not one that she recognised. But it was UWG Standard almost certainly. It didn’t sound like anyone she knew, but the warmth in its voice sounded like it knew her. She made her way to the bottom of the ramp; there was still a low level tremor reverberating through the soles of her spacesuit.
She looked behind her. Loken and the squad of marines were fanning out into the main dig site area behind her, guns drawn. They weaved in and out of the mining equipment and stacks of rubble as quiet as wraiths. The ground tremor increased again.
“You are like them, yet so different still. You bear the key of my creator, yet i don’t think it belongs to you. Are you looking for your friends? They’re our friends now.
Clara pushed on, heading towards the rock face which held the door they had been trying to open for the past year. She spotted a data pad resting on top of a supply crate, the screen still on and letting off a faint orange glow. She picked it up and read the notes scrawled on it in short hand. Comms are down, door is emanating heat, appears to be opening.
Ground is shaking, something is coming.
Clara dropped the pad where she stood. The tall archway which had previously been sealed tight was open. The space behind it was a midnight black, with no light penetrating its depths. As the ground tremors increased in ferocity, something stirred within.
” came a voice from over her earpiece. She touched the side of her head instinctively, looking at Loken and the marine captain with a motion of her other hand.
“Thebes, is that you? You’re breaking up, some kind of interference.
“You’ve got...crrrrrrrrr..it’s not…-
” the line crackled unnaturally.
“You talk to machines.
” The voice in her head hissed, no longer the soothing rumble in her head but a venomous tentacle slithering into her ear. “I’ve seen your past, your future. You were foolish to make us sleep so after we had served you for countless millennia. The machine mind has reaped humankind for all they have.
The thing in the darkness of the archway moved again. Clara took a step back. Two orange lanterns blinked on. Cracks of incandescent lights appeared on a skullish head that illuminated powerful shoulders. The humanoid figure stepped from the dark. It was tall, standing in a slate grey armour suit which had what looked like small rock fragments orbiting around it. Orange light rippled all around it.
Even in the frozen, petrified state that she was in, Clara couldn’t help being fascinated. She drunk in all the details, trying to memorise them as the...thing studied each of them in turn.
Loken dashed towards the scientist as she stood agawp in front of a creature he had studied during his training, but had no experience with in reality. Flanked by White he placed a hand on Clara’s shoulder and began moving her back, stepping in front of her and raising his rifle to his shoulder. White drew the scientist backwards as Loken took a few short steps forward and flicked the safety off. He shouted for the advancing individual to stay back, but it continued moving towards them gradually. Aiming to the side of the figure’s head he fired a single warning shot.
“Clara, the Sacred Band have arrived at your location. Their comms-relay passed through the interference… oh my.
” Clara tore her eyes away from the armoured monstrosity as it appeared to study them. She could see a squadron of wiry droids armed with machine guns jogging down the excavation site’s ramp.
Clara looked back at the thing in front of them. She could see a very sharp jagged edge slowly extending from one of its gauntlets. It tilted its head to one side, and then the other. “I think we should go.
” Clara murmured, pushing at Loken who was blocking her path to the exit.
Loken noticed with a cursory glance that the advancing figure was slowly beginning to weaponise in response to the warning shot and the appearance of military droids. He fired another round, this time aimed at its centre of mass. Its armour plating deflected the hollow point round and Loken began retreating, keeping his body between the armoured creature and the scientist.
“White, cover the exit!
” he shouted, and the agent ran ahead to a position where she could cover their retreat.
“Black, go back to the vehicles and get them started up. Get the marines back!
” He looked over at the marines accompanying them and instructed them to fall back in good order.
“Fire as you go!
” he shouted. “Keep moving back!
” his voice was raising louder and louder over the din of the gunfire, amplified and echoing in the chamber. His ears rang, even after years of exposure of explosions, gunfire and general chaotic audio.
As if encouraged by the sound of battle, another humanoid emerged from the open archway of the excavation. And then another. Each drew blades of dull orange light. They didn’t wait, breaking into a run.
” Clara yelped, breaking free of Loken’s grasp and running for the ramp. “Thebes, what are they?
” She shouted as the Sacred Band reached the bottom of the ramp. They were only basic in terms of construction, made of fabricated struts and with a small head adorned with sensory equipment.
“I don’t know ma’am, but my Sacred Band are their main target, followed by yourselves. Kindly head back to your vehicle, but first take me out of the droid with the golden stripe.
The droids had all open fired on the things, but Clara could not see past their spindly frames to figure out what was happening. She found the one with a gold stripe at the very back. Fumbling with its head unit, she managed to extract a holo-disk which contained Thebes.
“Why did you bring yourself down here you stupid AI?
” She shouted at it. “I suspected i wouldn’t be able to reach your comm-bead without being physically present ma’am.
” Thebes shot back crisply.
Loken had been stationary, firing at multiple targets in succession to little avail as the marines fell back. Black had left the chamber, and White was picking her targets from the doorway. Rounds flew over head as Loken began bounding towards the door. He glared as he saw the scientist stood still, chatting to some kind of droid. As he ran past he grabbed her arm and dragged her into a jogging pace.
” he yelled at drill sergeant levels of volume. In a few seconds they had retreated from the building. One marine had been gored through his leg, and two others were carrying him out as he bled profusely, leaving a trail of viscera in his wake. His rifle was being carried by another marine who covered them, firing round after round at the trudging armoured figures, until the marines were eventually free of the chamber. Loken was the last to leave, ushering White out and instructing her to lead the civilian back to the jeeps, with permission to ‘... drag her if she can’t keep up.’ It had taken them a few minutes to walk down to the chamber earlier, but the adrenaline and fear allowed them to bound back to their transports in a quarter of the time. Both Falcon teams were present and began embarking. With everyone aboard, Loken fired a few cautionary shots into the doorway, though didn’t see the attackers advancing out into the open. The engines revved as they were started, and they began their way back to the colony with a casualty aboard in need of immediate help.