April 26th, 2008
|hippodog||07:22 pm - Meeting Again|
Setting: Gunmetal Chronicles
Purpose: Draft for an informational piece taking on a life of it's own
It had returned; appearing on the opposite river bank where he had seen it last night. As quietly as the first time, but waiting this time when he arrived, instead of creeping out of the shadows of the vegetation. He had ran and hid then. He had gotten away, but he couldn't seem to move this time. He was staring, and he couldn't help himself, as much as he wanted to.
It was a black mass; no more then in height then his ankle, and with a small area of width and length that made it look like a dirty puddle left over the rain. But, it moved. No...changed. Constantly in motion; his eyes having difficulty focusing on any one point of it. Mesmerized by the motion, although it might have been his muscles having locked up in shock and fear.
He knew what it was: Reevor.
Didn't matter that this was his first time seeing one in this shape, or that it looked drastically different from the humanoid giants he and every other human on Tau III knew and feared. Survival instincts left over from the prehistoric days when Man was more prey then predator recognized the threat; screaming at him to run.
He wanted to run and hide, but the more sensible part of his brain was contradicting his instincts: telling him that he couldn't get away this time. It had been waiting. It knew he was coming. If he ran, he would risk leading the Reevor back to the gathering of human survivors he had came out here to fish food for. Better to die here, in the middle of nowhere. Running would just delay the inevitable. They were so much faster then a human.
The Reevor started to glide down the bank in his direction. Like mercury as it moved quietly down the bank, and slipped underneath the dark, tea-colored water of the river with barely a ripple. His legs buckled. The reality of his death turning his muscles into jello. Still absent-mindly hanging onto the wire and metal rod that would have served as his fishing pole.
Idiot, he cursed himself mentally. Why did you have to come back to this spot so soon? He knew better. They probably knew where he had came from, now. Had tracked him all last night without him knowing. He had doomed his own people.
It slid up out of the water towards him a few seconds after it had entered. Again, barely leaving a ripple to mark it's smooth passage from the water. It seemed like it belonged in the water as much as on the land. The water rolling off it smoothly in beads and rivulets of water across it's perpetually-changing mass. Coming up to his feet, and stopping.
The black puddle quivered and shifted to it's right and left. The top of it's mass moving back and forth as if gentle waves of dark water were being pushed by erratic tides just below it's surface. Moments-hours, he thought-passed as the Reevor shifted at his feet. No less then a foot from his face from where it was, and how short he was, sitting down on the ground where he had crumpled.
It hadn't moved any more irregularly then it had been before, but a whisper of a voice emanated from the center of it. Hushed as if on the verge of losing their voice, but with the slow glide and resonation of a light breeze.
He blinked once, twice; losing feeling in his legs. Trying to say something, but his mouth only moved with nothing coming out. Shock completely took over. His world spun, and he felt himself falling.
He heard the voice in his head. The wind had carried it in. He was dreaming: the ground was cold, the wind was talking to him, and he had fallen asleep while fishing. It was no problem. It had happened before. He just hoped the fish he had caught hadn't been taken by small animals, or had gotten off the string. He had to bring something back.
Get up. he ordered himself. Enough sleeping for one day. Everyone else was working hard back at camp. They'd never forgive him for taking a long snooze on the job.
He had been sleeping on his left side, and his left elbow twinged slightly with what felt like a bruise. Reaching over, he rubbed at it with his other hand to relieve the discomfort. The memory coming back to him in a sudden rush when he touched it. Spinning back up to a sitting position, seeing the black puddle still there; trying to get back up to his feet and run, only to lose his balance and tumble back over onto his side again in his panic; further increasing the bruising.
"Stop..." the wind whispered.
Pushing himself back up frantically; propping himself up on his hands placed behind him. Looking back at the Reevor as it glided to get close to him again.
"Get back!" he yelled at it.
Amazingly enough, the Reevor slid backwards a few feet in response. Not seeming to change shape or general direction as it did so.
"Kill me if you're going to," he pleaded. "Just don't screw with me!" He didn't find anything amusing about it. He had accepted death already. Leaving him to squirm and jerking around with his head like this was crueler then even he had expected from the Reevor.
"Release..." it said. "Intend...no harm..."
"Bullshit!" he spat back at it angrily. The stupidity of calling a Reevor's bluff when it comes to getting himself killed not lost on him. A lot was strange like that, right now.
His head began to spin again. "Oh..." Grasping his head with both hands to try and keep his world from spinning away again. The Reevor was not helping by fluctuating back and forth like that. "Please stop that..." he paused, thinking what to call it. "Whatever that shifting thing you're doing. You're making me dizzy."
"Done..." it said, and suddenly stopped without any extra inertia carrying over to further disturb it's form. Staying solid for a change. Still a black puddle, but a solid one. Like a puddle of ice, now. "Any further...requests...for your...stability...?"
He blinked and rubbed his eyes with the palm of his hands. Closing his eyes, letting the massaging feeling relax his brain. Maybe he was just hallucinating? Maybe it'll be gone when he opened his eyes?
He moved his hands back down and opened his eyes. "Damn."
"Hello..." it repeated.
"Screw you." Naturally.
"No shit." he remarked; taking a quick glance over his shoulders for the rest of the Reevor that might be watching, or his own kind who might be coming to check up on him. Fortunately, neither was around, that he could see.
"Intend...no harm..." it said again. "Singular...purpose to...communicate..."
"Well," he said, sarcastically. "You've been doing a fine job of that."
"Error in..." it continued to pause and extend the end of words as it spoke. "Current...status and..." Almost like it was breathing between large words, as it exhaled out at the end of some words. "Application... Understand...?"
He shook his head. It was speaking in Federation standard; however it had learned that much, or was able to speak it, for that matter. Or be able to speak...or understand him, or...the world was beginning to spin. He felt suddenly dehydrated, and the shock of the past few minutes (Had it been that long, at all?) had taken a considerable toll on his body.
"Error in...translation..." the Reevor said. "Language...capability...limited by...sources available... Have accessed...human machines... Have...monitored human...conversation... Adapting..."
The hobbled-together fishing rod was still in his hand. He had never thought to drop it, and had completely forgotten about it in the short(?) period the Reevor had started talking(Question mark.) to him. Strange human reaction during panic.
He pulled the data wire apart from the antennae that made up the rod, and held it up and around his neck. "I'll just kill myself here," he said, indicating it with the wire. "Just to get it out of the way so you bastards...won't be able to use me against...everyone else...understand?" Mocking the Reevor's speech.
"Will not..." it said; it's voice not showing any empathy. "Not purpose...of this... No more...harm..." It paused. A small ripple going across it's dark surface for a moment before turning back to solid, dark ice again. "Human can not...deprive...self of...vital oxygen...with that...method..."
He stopped pulling and fidgeting with the wire; staring at the Reevor for a second. "How do you know?"
"Extensive...database..." it said. "Of methods to...harm humans...Error... Place wire around...protrusion...in neck, and...utilize...considerable...force in vertical...direction... Human neck...fails... Human spine...damaged... Suffocation...spinal damage...both...terminal..."
He slowly pulled the wire down from around his neck and wrapped it back around the antennae pole. It was something of a buzz kill to have someone describe basically hanging oneself in such a clinical fashion. It made him feel...out of place. Not sure at what game the Reevor was playing, or what he should be doing at this point. He was confused, still recovering from shock, scared, angry, dehydrated and getting hungry at the same time. A mess of conflicting feelings.
The Reevor's mass rippled once. "Not intending...harm to...human..."
"Yes," he said. "You said that before. What are you doing if you're not going to kill me, then?"
"Wait," he said. "What?" Staring at the Reevor hard for a moment; his vision blurring until he blinked his eyes and stopped.
"No more...harm..." the Reevor repeated, again. "Communicate... Termination of...hostil-"
A bush rustled behind him. The Reevor interrupted itself; reverted back to it's shifting state. He could feel the tension in the air increase tenfold as images of Ogres coming to kill him flashed through his mind. Or worse: Someone from the camp checking up on him; only to get themselves killed along with him by setting off the Reevor.
"Marty?" a woman's voice asked. The worse of the two.
"No," he yelled back over his shoulder, recognizing the voice. "Run away, Carla!"
Too late, as she came out of the forest through the path he had worn coming back and forth from the camp to his fishing spot. His favorite spot. Always quiet; a gentle current with enough cover in the water from plants and pieces of wood for fish to hide, breed, and be easily caught. His favorite sitting place: a gray patch of dirt where he always sat; worn down by hours of his weight on the same spot, and blocking out the sun from the grass and weeds; taken over by the Reevor who had moved on top of it after he had tried to run the first time.
He saw the young woman, she saw him, and the Reevor and the woman both saw each other in the next instant. The Reevor shifted, then stopped and went still like it had done for Marty when he asked. "Hello..."
Carla's eyes widened. She hurriedly dug into her scavenging bag. He knew what she had in there: one of the camp's few guns.
"Carla, wait," he shouted, spinning around onto both knees and a hand; raising the other out to her to try to ward her off. "It's not what it loo-!"
"Move!" she yelled back, cutting him off; taking aim at the black mass. It started to slide back towards the river as she fired.
An old slug pistol. Cased projectiles. More for hunting game and scaring people then killing anything truly dangerous. Marty ducked down to the ground to avoid getting hit; unsure of her aim. She fired at the Reevor three, four times as it slid back into the water. The shots echoing off the far bank. One of them making a strange metallic, collapsing sound: It had hit the Reevor. Carla ran up beside him and fired twice more before the Reevor disappeared into the water with barely more then a ripple then the first two times he had seen it go in. It's dark color blending into the dark water as it went under.
"Carla," he barked at her as he came back up. Reaching up to place his hands on top of her own, bringing the gun's barrel down to the ground and away from the river. "You don't understand!"
"Explain later, Marty," she said, moving her hands down and out from under his own quickly. "Run, now!" Tucking the weapon back into her bag, and offering a hand to help him up. He took it, even though he could have gotten up on his own...maybe. His world spinning again. If he collapsed again, now, and be a burden on Carla, he'd never forgive himself.
She took off back down the path, and he followed the best he could. Looking back over his shoulder as he entered the relative sanctuary of the forest, but the Reevor had disappeared.
Carla Tenrow, only a year younger then him. Neither of them very far into their twenties. Just old enough to be trusted to go alone into the wild to gather and hunt for their camp. Her, a light-brown skinned, dirty blond, with mid-length hair and green eyes born as an upper classes' daughter, before the Reevor. As rough and hardened by the environment they had spent the past eight years growing up in together. They had both had been barely in their teens when the Reevor came to Tau III. They had never known of each other until they were forced to huddle together with the rest of the survivors in the vast, predator-filled forests and jungles that made up the few wilds left on the overdeveloped planet. She had adapted better then he had, even though he had grown up used to hard labor. One of the rare few, poor families on what was considered the most spoiled planet in human space: Pure white, and pale as a ghost without tanning; having little or no racial interbreeding in his family tree over the years. Unathletic, unlike Carla, with short, black hair and dark brown eyes. He would have been just another maintenance worker no one even cared about right about now, if the Reevor hadn't interfered. Doing the crap work that the automated machinery couldn't do. Barely hanging onto the bottom rung of Tau III society.
He liked her. Didn't want any harm to come to her. He was much more expendable, anyways. That's what they always said, or didn't say outright, back at the camp. She was likely to be a camp leader; someone important. He would always just be some grunt that did the dirty jobs. Lots of those to go around. Not a lot of the upper class of society had made it out of the cities before the Reevor wiped them out. Survival instincts had been dampened by generations of comfortable living. Carla's father had been an officer in the Terran Navy, and stationed planet-side on Tau III. He had seen it coming, and gotten his daughter to safety, but neither he nor Carla knew if her father or the rest of her family had made it through. A lot of unknown fates, everywhere. After eight years, hope had faded for a lot of people.
He had just had his father on Tau III; a broken family. His mother had stayed on Luna in the Sol system when his father had taken up a work call for the Tau system; he didn't know why. He knew he had a half-sister from his mother's second relationship, but that's all he really knew. He had survived with his father by taking refuge in the underground maintenance tunnels that ran sewage, electrical, hard-line communication, water and transit through the now-destroyed city of Solarin, but his father had died during a cave-in of the tunnels he himself had missed being caught in by less then a second. The same cave-in had killed a dozen other refugees, and he had followed the broken and grieving survivors out of the city; falling in with the others in the wilds where he now lived. Now he was just alone. Well, except for Carla. The only person who really talked to him in the camp, or took notice of his existence in the first place.
"Water." he said in ragged breath. Feeling his strength giving out. He wasn't really healthy anymore. Not the way they ate, or didn't eat. Stumbling and catching himself on a thin tree. Carla stopped running and turned around to come back to him. A concerned look on her face as she dug through her scavenge bag for a canteen.
"Are you alright," she asked. "What did it do to you?" Tilting the canteen up for him to drink. A hand on his shoulder to steady him.
He felt his hands shaking, and he had to hold onto the military canteen tightly to keep from dropping it as he drank. Trying not to use up all her water, but his body was screaming for it. He was feeling cold chills through his body; recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion creeping up on him. It would get even worse when his vision would start to darken and turn hues of red. He needed water and food to provide energy for his body. He was running on fumes.
"Nothing," he said after taking a long drink. "I was fine. It wasn't going to hurt me, or you."
He tried to give her the canteen back, but she pushed it back up to his face and practically forced him to empty it. "It looked like it was about to kill you. It was a Reevor, wasn't it?"
"Yes," he nodded, after finishing the canteen off. Taking a long, deep sigh as he felt his body temperature starting to react to the water. "I've never-whoa..." His legs suddenly quivered. He grasped tightly onto the tree, and Carla came around to prop him up by putting her shoulders underneath his other arm. "I'm alright," he said. "Just give me a minute."
"You don't look alright." she remarked. "Sit."
He did. The cool shade of the overhanging vegetation; mixed with the light breeze, cooled by the shadows as it weaved through the forest, sent another chill down through his body as his internal temperature balanced back out. She looked back down the path for the Reevor, and he did the same, but it had not followed. It had...ran? It was unheard of. A Reevor, running at the sight of humans? Humans with as pitiful as firepower as a pistol?
"I've never seen one like that before," he finished. "I didn't know they came in that shape. I always thought they were bigger."
"I've never known one to not kill a human on sight before, either," she replied. "What was it doing?"
"It said..." Marty closed his eyes, remembering. " 'No more harm. Ceasing of...hostilities' It said it had been studying us, and that it wanted to...communicate." Speaking like the Reevor had spoken to him without realizing he was doing so. Long pauses before and after larger words.
Carla gave him a even more concerned look; leaning down to look into his eyes. Checking his eyes' dilation. Obviously thinking he might have been delusional from mental injury or fatigue. "Are you sure?" she asked. He nodded. It had been there. He hadn't exactly been in the best mindset when it had been, but a part of his mind would not let him cast doubt on whether or not it had occurred. The whispering voice would not leave his head. He replayed everything it had said to him in that strange voice if had used. No, it was strange enough to validate it's occurrence on it's own. If there had been any shred of the reality he had known about the Reevor, he would not have lived long enough to have spoken to it. Carla had seen it, too. Had heard it, even! The people back at camp might not believe him, but they would believe her. She was going to be a camp leader!
The thought struck him. "Carla, you saw it, right?" he asked. "You heard it speak?" He wasn't crazy, was he? Searching her face for validity.
"Yes, Marty," she did not pause to think before answering. "I saw it, and I think I heard it, as well." A small smile. She believed him. Had looked into his eyes, had seen what he'd seen, and knowing he hadn't imagined it. He felt a load off his shoulders as the burden of proof was at least partly shared. "It's hard to believe one actually talked, but I was there when it didn't attack you. It'll be alright. I believe you. Something unusual happened, and we need to figure this out. But, Marty...?" she asked him, and he looked up again with renewed attention. "Don't speak of this to the rest of the camp for a little bit, alright? I don't want them to think you've gone off the deep end."
He nodded, smiled. "Okay."
"Let's get back to camp," she said and straightened back up; offering him her hand again to help him up. "I guess the fish just weren't biting today."
He took her hand, pulling himself up with it; glancing down at the fishing pole he still hadn't let go of. He had lost the stringer, though. Damn...
It glided back through the shadows of the forest; sticking to the vegetation and fallen trees that it could move underneath and through to disguise it's passage. It was small, therefore it was not very difficult to do. It massed so little in weight, that it barely made a sound as it moved gracefully through and around. Approaching the small opening in the trees that the other had made. It had already isolated and repaired the damage caused by the human's projectile weapon as efficiently as possible with no replacement material available. It felt...incomplete, by the outcome of the contact. Hostilities had been anticipated, but it still felt as if an unexpected error had occurred internally. It did not understand.
The other had waited the two dark cycles that it had taken to make the contact. The other had not moved in the time Communicator had departed and came back. It had taken the form and control of one of their combat frames: a Jumper. The humans had another name for this combat frame, it knew: Icari. Jumper had transported Communicator to this location, where another one of their combat frames: Seeker, had detected human presence. It knew that one's human-designated name, too: Oni. Communicator knew these facts, for the Communicator's present task was to communicate with the humans. Communicator had assimilated the necessary information to perform the role it had chosen. Just as much as Jumper knew how to leap across the field, and participate in combat; and Seeker knew how to seek out their enemies, observe, and fight them as well.
Jumper was completely still as Communicator approached. A three-point-six meter tall, spiny, black construct of armor and weapons that had molded itself into the shadow-filled clearing it had jumped into, with an acceptable level of blending. It would look like just another tree amongst many other trees, so long as it's black armor blended in with the shadows that played across it, nothing looked at it directly for too long from a distance, or the canopy of trees it had disturbed coming down would give away it's presence. Seeker reported no human activity in the area recently. It was calculated as being an acceptable risk. It was a short distance for Communicator to travel, as well.
"Communicator has sustained minor damage," Jumper relayed as Communicator approached. "Jumper is ready for combat."
"Release," Communicator responded. "Combat is not expected." Communicating with each other in nanoseconds-length squawks that transmitted like a human guitar strings' vibration across the quantum strings of fold space. Humans could not pick it up, because it did not transmit through normal space, and even if the humans obtained knowledge of it's existence, it would be as if searching for a single, unique piece of space dust in the vastness of the galaxy. Neither Drifter-nor any others of their species-understood how one could locate and communicate with the other through the incalculable dimensions of fold space. Drifters understood the basic premise. The missing sum of knowledge pertaining to the Drifter's communication methods had been added to the species' collective lack of understanding, already. Drifters had much to obtain knowledge upon, but Drifters such as Communicator assigned themselves to tasks such as these.
The humans called Communicator and Jumper's species: Reevor. Communicator knew this fact, but did not understand it's origin; much as it did not understand how Jumper and Seeker became known as Icari and Oni. It understood the collective declaration of roles and tasks that it's species chose to name themselves by, and that it had been modified before. They had once known themselves, as a whole, as Destroyers. It was what they understood as their role as a species. From the first second of existence that Communicator could recall; he and his species' task was to seek out and destroy a species known as: Humanity.
They did so. Communicator recalled it's entire history as a singular entity in the collective of the Destroyers. It had been a small ship that traveled space, in it's first role. It had been designated: Searcher, then. It had probed ahead of the thousands of ships of multitudes of sizes that had been the Destroyer's tools to perform their assigned task. It had came here, because it was needed here. This planet; the humans called it Tau III. It had no other designation for it. Searcher had arrived to assist in finding the humans to complete the Destroyer's task, but their task had abruptly reached conclusion, even though the information Searcher and many of the Destroyers who performed similar tasks contradicted the conclusion.
Searcher had not understood the end, for the information they had, indicated that the task had not fully completed. The Destroyer's task ended, and the objectives that had given the Destroyer's purpose faded from their minds. Searcher had felt the sudden loss as every Destroyer felt it at the time it occurred. Searcher's species had known what to do, and as if a switch had been turned off: they did not. The Destroyers came to a stop where they had been when the change happened. All except for a remote unit of the Destroyers that disconnected themselves from the greater whole. They could not communicate further with these isolated Destroyers. They would not respond, and attacked Destroyers and humans equally. The Drifters classified them now as Berserkers; carrying no further association with the lost ones. The sum of what remained of the Destroyers drifted through what they now knew as humanity's space, aimlessly. The Destroyers became Drifters, and the Drifters, were lost.
Searcher had been unique for a Drifter. Drifters were sentient, but most did not utilize their capability for initiative or independent thought outside the boundary of the roles that they had came into existence with. Jumper was one such Drifter. Jumper was as proficient at his role as a Jumper as any other Drifter, but Jumper did not process any thoughts that did not fall into the parameters of it's current role and task. Communicator had calculated that Jumper, and every Drifter, had the capability to do so, but chose not to. It was not necessary for a Drifter such as Jumper to do so. Jumper had it's role and task, and Jumper was content in performing it, and only it. Searcher had been like Jumper, but Searcher had a unique trait that made it lean towards being curious and capable of unusual paths of thought. Searcher participated in changing of tasks and roles for simpler Drifters like Jumper; for it could calculate need, and could think outside the parameters sufficiently to make the necessary adjustments. Searcher had become Communicator, for it saw the need, and had calculated it was appropriate for the task.
Communicator knew the Drifters had before been assigned to the task of destroying the organic human species, and could understand that they would recognize itself as a threat and take expected, hostile actions. Still, the projectile round that had breached it's mass had caused an internal error Communicator did not completely understand. It appeared to share patterns similar with the same feeling that it had gone through as Searcher when their task as Destroyers had reached conclusion. But, Communicator was Drifter, now. It did not understand how it could experience the same feeling that had marked the shift to Drifters twice, without undergoing a change of roles and tasks to...? Communicator was still Drifter. What would it have shifted to? Communicator's lack of understanding only increased. It calculated that progress had been achieved, though. It had to attempt contact again. The odds were acceptable of continued progress without significant risk of loss to it's form.
Communicator glided across the forest floor and situated itself underneath Jumper, and between it's feet. It was sufficiently far enough away from the humans that it calculated no searching group would find it here. Communicator did not intend to avoid humans by staying near Jumper. It did not intend to harm humans, and Jumper far exceeded the capabilities to harm humans. Jumper could destroy the human population in seconds, but neither Communicator nor Jumper had the intentions to do so. Seeker was more then capable of doing so, as well, but Seeker was covertly protecting the population from the large reptiles that inhabited the wilds; a copy of the task Jumper was performing for Communicator. It knew the large creatures were aggressive, and could do significant damage to Communicator's smaller, unarmed form, but the creatures avoided Jumper and Seeker. It was secure with Jumper.
It would wait the rest of the light cycle with Jumper, and perform reconnaissance of the human population once the dark cycle arrived. Humans preferred the light, but Drifters were comfortable with the dark. It was a part of their species, as the same for the humans and light. He would find the one it knew now as: Marty, and the other one: Carla, and observe them. Human self-designation continued to prove difficult to sort.
It was here.
She snapped awake in the middle of the night. Her hair standing up on the back of her neck at the sensation of being watched. No one else was awake but her, though. Just the lookouts on the edge of the camp that should have been awake and paying attention. It was definitely not them, though. She had seen it in her dream. It was lurking up on the cliffs above her; where she and the rest of the refugees had taken shelter under.
Carla slipped out from underneath the piece of worn canvas she shared with a much older woman (What was her name, again?) in her seventies. She hadn't disturbed her, or anyone else as she crept out to the edge of the overhang that provided some shelter against the elements at the foot of the rocky hill. She knew it was there. She could feel it now. Her mother had always been extra sensitive, and she had taken after her. Carla had known Marty was in trouble that afternoon while she was out doing her gathering rounds for the day. And now she could sense the same presence. The Reevor had found them.
She took a deep breath, composed herself, and stepped out from underneath the overhang without looking up. Making a beeline as casually as possible to where Marty and the rest of the outcasts of the camp had taken up residence under a sewed-together, multi-colored tarp tied off to trees on the far end of the camp.
"Marty," she whispered as she knelt down beside his head. "Wake up."
He wasn't hard to find. Only male who could be that pale white, even with sun exposure. He looked albino compared to the rest of the well-bred, intermixed, former residents of the cities of Tau III. Marty grunted, waved her off, and rolled over on his other side.
"Oh, for shit's sake..." Carla sighed out in frustration, and smacked him in the shoulder with a straight, closed-fist punch that made a dull thwack sound as it hit.
"Ow, what th-" he exclaimed as he woke up; only to be stifled by Carla's hand over his mouth, and a raised finger to her mouth telling him to be quiet. "It's here, Marty." She whispered; the words yanked him fully awake. He laid still, searching the darkness with his eyes only. Carla slowly removing her hand from his mouth, but reminding him one more time to be quiet. Nodding her head slightly back towards the cliff she slept at the base of. "Under the overhang?" Marty asked a bit too loudly, earning another hand over his mouth. "No, you dolt," she said quietly. "Up top. Come on." She stretched her hand out to him, offering to pull him up again. She seemed to be doing this a lot for him today, they both realized.
He took the offer, anyways. He didn't mind, so long as no one else was looking. She made a slight motion with her head for him to follow, and she led him out of the inner perimeter of the camp, and towards where the lookouts where supposed to be posted.
"I don't understand," Marty whispered as he followed her across the uneven terrain in the darkness. "It approaches me, first; you shoot at it, but you're the one dragging me off to some midnight rendezvous with this thing; that's probably just out to kill us with some devious plan we don't know about, yet?"
She hadn't thought about what to do about the missing ammo, or how to explain it to the elder leaders. "I just have a feeling about this." she answered. Slowing down as she approached where she knew the lookout's hole would be. A three-foot deep, three-feet wide hole dug into the hard earth, and underneath the cover of a short, low-hanging tree with paper-like leaves and an almost solid coating of white bark. The lookout was asleep, leaned over on one side of the hole. Figures.
"That's comforting..." Marty replied sarcastically.
She turned and shot Marty a short, hurt look that made him suddenly feel like dying to the Reevor was preferable. She hadn't meant it...well...maybe she did. Carla nudged the lookout in the back of the head with the toes of her almost toe less sneakers. The lookout jumped, snapped up to a sitting position, looked around in grogginess, and turned around after a second to look at them. "Oh." Was all that he said. Rubbing the back of his neck and casually stifling a yawn.
They hadn't been bothered by the Reevor in over a year now, but there were other threats out there to them. Namely the saurian creatures that had been around on the planet for many millenia before humans arrived, and had been driven almost to extinction by the terraforming and development of the planet. Normally, Carla didn't mind if the lookouts had fallen asleep. The few lookouts that did would usually scream bloody murder when they got dragged out of their hole by one of the predators; even while caught napping, at least long enough to alert everyone else. The camp had had it's numbers thinned out a bit like that, but somehow this guy hadn't got caught up by one of them, yet.
"Go get some sleep," she informed the lookout with an air of authority that passed for actual authority. "Marty here is taking your shift. Give him your rifle."
She glanced over her shoulder, looking at him for a moment with a look that told him to be quiet. She recognized the lookout: a thirty-something named Derek; another leech not pulling his weight for the camp, shrugged and handed up the rifle to Marty. "Fine with me." Pulling himself up out of the hole, stretching out his back from where he had been sleeping in the awkward position the hole force, and walking sleepily back to camp in a manner that suggested he had forgotten all about it already. He was going to get some sleep, and he didn't think of anything other then that. Some of the people in the camp-Derek, for instance-seemed to survive like they had a guardian angel looking over them, or else their complete lack of caring and immaturity would have gotten them killed years ago.
They both watched him go for a moment before she signaled Marty into the hole. He sighed, never enjoying this duty in the first place; as he'd rather be the camp's fisher when it came to contribution then sit in the holes for hours on end, looking at nothing. He set the rifle down on the lip of the hole; having never learned how to use a gun, anyways, and hopped down into it. Carla sitting down beside and slightly behind him.
It wasn't really that dark; due to Tau III having two moons orbiting it that reflected the systems lone sun's light for passable illumination most of the day, except for a four-to-seven hour period of what could be considered: darkness. Even then, there was still some illumination reflecting off the moons and the planet's atmosphere that made the night brighter then Terra-raised humans would have been used to.
The lookout spot they had occupied overlooked a open field downhill, leading down into the forest, that had been kept trimmed back so Reevor and predator alike could not creep up as close before being spotted. A small, thin stream quietly whispered it's way out of sight in the darkness further down the hill, disappearing into the forest; having carved itself a path over the centuries down the hill from a natural well that had formed in the cliffs above where they camped. It was fed by rainwater, and poured out in a small stream of water down the hill from a crack in the rocks. The well had never drained out faster then the rains could come back and refill the well that supplied the inhabitants of the wilds, human and otherwise.
Tau III was not only a warm planet, but it was humid as well. It had plenty of fresh water and salt water bodies of water, and an active weather cycle that had no real dry season. The temperature wouldn't stay very hot or cold but for about a month on either end. It was a pleasantly mild and gentle planet that still held pure, fertile lands that had not yet been significantly polluted and ruined by humanity. It was still very much recoverable, and thusly why Tau III, and the Tau system it was a part of, had become the second most populated planet and system in human space. At least, until the Reevor came.
Now, the only bright side Carla could really see about Tau III, was that the weather wasn't terrible for surviving in the wild, and Tau III would likely be the next Terra; if and when humanity recovered from the Reevor. She hadn't told the other refugees that Terra had been destroyed by the Reevor. They didn't know, because the reports had came in just before the Reevor had cut them off from the rest of the system and human space. Her father knew; had told her. Someone had to know and remember; before sending her off with an aide who had died six years ago, safeguarding her during a Reevor attack. What was his name, too? A twinge of guilt in her gut as she realized she couldn't remember. He had been the second bravest person she had known, and she couldn't remember his name...
"Carla." Marty said excitedly, straightening up in his hole and looking to the side. Marty wasn't the first person on her list.
She followed his gaze, but didn't need to see what he had seen to know what it was. The Reevor had wasted no time in following them out of the camp. Hair on the back of her neck stood up again; stifling the sudden, irrational chill of fright that ran through her body. The feeling reminding her of being scared of a bogeyman in her closet when she was little, but this one was very real. Doubt creeped through her head about it being honest about what it had supposedly told Marty back on the river bank. Then again, she had never heard of a dishonest Reevor. Suppressing a stupid laugh at the thought that she knew was a reaction to the nervousness and fear she was feeling.
"Hello..." it whispered, creeping out of the darkness on the other side of the low-sitting tree. It's form almost invisible in the shadow the tree's limbs and leaves cast down upon it's sleek surface. Carla could only really see it when it moved, and it had only did that once when it approached.
"Hello, again." Marty replied; his voice devoid of the same fear and nervousness she felt. Wasn't he the one scared out of his wits the first time, she thought.
"Marty..." it began, and paused. "Carla..." Her spine felt like it turned to ice when it spoke her name with that low whisper, extending and fading the 'ahh' sound at the end of it until it slid into silence. How had it...? "Commun...icator...greets both..."
"Commun...icator," Marty sounded out the word that the Reevor had broken up into two. "Communicator?" he asked; feeling little fear this time around. Something had clicked in his head this time around. It hadn't killed him, twice. Three times counting the first time he had ran away from it. It probably wasn't going to kill him, and pushing immediate death off the table focused his thoughts more on it, then on his continued survival. He had accepted this reality.
"Correct..." it responded. "Commun...icator...was...detected...?"
He glanced back at Carla, who tilted her head and made a facial expression he didn't recognize. "I guess." Marty said. Communicator's form shifting back and forth for a half-second as it processed the information, and changed it's shape subtly to make it smoother and smaller to be more difficult to pick up on scanners.
"Your name," Carla asked, staying stock still sitting. "It's, Communicator?" The dark puddle stopped and stayed still once again as it finished reshaping itself. "Name...desig...nation...correct..." It answered. "This one...Commun...icator..." A pause as it shifted around again. "Communicator..." It repeated, but without cutting the name in half this time. "Communicator..." the Reevor continued and repeated. "greets you...Marty...Carla..." Communicator shifted again, reconfiguring the multitudes of audio devices spread throughout it's amorphous body that it used to produce sounds humans could pick up. Whom, for a species that had existed before the Drifters, did not have a very wide spectrum they could pick up on. "Error...audio..."
"Sounds like it." Carla remarked in a neutral voice. Every time the Reevor said her name, it sent that chill down her spine again; it felt so wrong.
"Audio...adapting...error..." it said.
Marty blinked, recalling his previous conversation with the Reevor. "Error," he prompted it. "You don't mean, you're encountering an error, do you? You've said that word a lot."
"Correct..." Communicator replied. "Error...definition..." it paused; it's dark surface rippling again. "Translation...no translation..."
"You mean you're sorry," Carla asked harshly. Marty turned to look at her, having only heard that tone of voice a few times when she was angry at someone screwing up in the camp. Communicator's body rippled again, and responded. "Connection...located...updating..." It's mass in continuous motion as the new connection in it's internal dictionary and translation lists updated, and disseminated through all the conversations and logs it had collected and archived. Communicator learned much in the brief seconds it took for the new conversions and discoveries to be made.
"You okay?" Marty asked as the Reevor was busy. She shook her head. The apology had opened up a flood gate of anger at what she and everyone else had suffered by them. For one of them to apologize, even over a simple thing as not having the right words...she found out quickly that she liked them better when she could hate them for being the black, mindless, alien demons that they had always thought they were. That they were sentient was another thing entirely. It made it feel much more personal that they could talk, apparently had feelings, but had seen fit to kill billions of humans, anyways. She wanted to...wanted to...it stopped shifting and was still again.
Carla snapped, going for the rifle on the other side of Marty. "Bastards," she snarled angrily. "How dare you?" Getting a hand on the rifle, the Reevor sliding backwards; seeing red and feeling white-hot anger at the sight of it retreating. She'd never forgive them, the thought ran through her head. Start with this one. Not thinking of the consequences. Just wanting it dead for her father, Marty's father, all the people who had been lost on this planet alone, and especially for the aide her father had sent with her to protect her, and had died doing so.
The Reevor had almost slid out of sight into the night. She raised the rifle at it, and suddenly felt a weight on her right shoulder and arms; dragging the rifle and herself down to the ground and pinning them both there. She cried out in frustration at the black mass as it disappeared into the darkness, and was gone. "Stop, Carla." Marty. She looked up, snarling at him in the darkness, and realized what she was doing and had almost done. The plasma fire of her anger started to cool as quickly as it had flamed into life. She was strong, but he was heavier then her, and had pinned her to the earth so she couldn't shoot the Reevor, or harm herself, or him. She struggled for a minute to get free as the anger continued to subside. "Let it go." He said softly, grabbing hold around the rifle's barrel. It was too late, anyways. It was gone. She sighed; the strength of her anger fading from her and leaving a moment of trembling weakness from the used-up energy. Letting go of the rifle so Marty could take it from her. Staring off into the darkness where the Reevor, Communicator, had faded into.
Gasslo, she remembered. That was the aide's name.
Communicator slid through the darkness; across the thin path of water without a sound. No projectiles following it this time. No damage. The odds were in the minority of that scenario occurring, but Communicator understood that small odds did not mean it was impossible; therefore it had planned out what to do if they became hostile. It had became hostile; the one designated, Carla. Communicator's predictions had placed her in higher chances then the one, Marty, due to previous violence against Communicator. Still, the feeling from the previous light cycle's meeting with Marty remained. What caused that, it wondered.
"Communicator requires assistance?" asked Seeker, able to track Communicator's movements and the movements of the humans he had met from long distances.
"Negative," Communicator responded. "Communicator's status is nominal. Returning to Jumper." A short, undecipherable squawk in response as Seeker acknowledged and went quiet again. Communicator understood that the designation of Destroyer had been replaced by Drifter when the Destroyers no longer were tasked with the elimination of the humans, and that Drifters like Jumper and Seeker were still placed in roles that had not been modified since the loss of tasking. They were Destroyers, still in role, but without task as Drifters. Jumper, Seeker, and every combat-role Drifter would eagerly engage the humans again in combat, and destroy them, if tasked. Combat-role Drifters were disciplined, and performed their assigned tasks within the perimeters set for them, without personal initiative.
Communicator felt like it might have discovered part of the reasons why not all Drifters exercised their personal initiative, and did not use their intelligence to think outside of their assigned roles and tasks. Their assigned roles dictated their thought processes? If so, did that translate that Communicator would no longer be capable of non-linear thought and individual initiative if it took upon the role of a combat Drifter? Communicator paused in it's movements, applying all of it's processing capabilities to the problem. Was Communicator's awareness of it's own individuality only a extension of it's previous roles? Communicator felt something else course through it. A alien feeling it had never experienced before. It felt unstable, and cold. Communicator's calculations began to degrade in their order and coherency. It came to a conclusion that it knew was wrong, but had never gotten wrong before as many times as it had calculated it. Communicator could not classify what was occurring within it, and the errors were compounding. It was, malfunctioning? Not possible. It had never occurred before (Berserkers.), or had it?
Communicator could not move it's mass. "Communicator requires assistance." It broadcast, but could not place who the communication had gone to. Communicator corrected itself; calculating the chances clearly Jumper, Seeker or any of the other combat-frame Drifters would interpret the call as an attack on Communicator, and would harm the humans near. "Communicator unable to return to base without assistance. No combat support required." It had to protect the humans from it's own species. It had progressed so far to lose the humans now to a...malfunction.
"Jumper responding to Communicator's position." It was coming. Communicator felt colder; more unstable. It did not understand, and it could not move. It could only wait in the comforting darkness for Jumper to arrive.
Wow, hon. Just wow. And simply awesome.