Thursday, October 20, 2011

Onno o Mita; The Jackal in the Shadows

It crawls silent through the bowels of the ship, skittering across the floor on all fours, leaving a mucky-stain where it’s torso still drips the molten shell it was delivered within. The white-hot liquid falls from its body in globs, landing with a hiss of steam before hardening into a puddle of cold steel. By the time it reaches the end of the corridor, the steel has run its course, it’s body now free of restriction, it’s smooth obsidian form gleaming in the half-light of the ships emergency lighting. It looks back, just for a second, out into the gaping hole, out into open space, from where it arrived, and where it will eventually return; the remains of the shell sit quiet and hollow, a fully-formed railgun shell, it’s payload more than just blunt force. By the time they discovered its purpose it would be too late.

It rose to its hind legs, standing just under 5 foot tall, and glanced down either side of the t-junction. It’s body was humanoid, only incredible gaunt; it’s distended spine was merely a hands width across, linking together it’s wide triangular torso to its broad pelvic frame with a 360 degree flexibility, able to bend and twist in any direction. The arms and legs were stick thin, both double-jointed, both capable of bending and twisting in unnatural ways; the feet were long, ending in three clawed toes, and the hands were equally as thin, with three equally-as-clawed fingers, with a thumb extending from the very centre of its palm, making it look more like a distorted pincer than a fist.

Its ears perked up, and it backed back into the corridor, pressing against the wall, and using it’s clawed appendages to lift itself towards the ceiling, hiding crouched in the top-corner of the corridor. It’s eyes glared outwards, smooth globes of obsidian twitching as it scanned the area. Two figures ran past, armed and armoured, giving no mind to the crash-site in the corridor they had gone past; the war was raging outside, and there were more important things to tend to.

It descended back onto the ground, and burst into a full-speed sprint; despite it’s metal frame, its movements were silent, sprinting from corridor to corridor, through the maze of construction that was the Hypertech ship; it knew it’s path perfectly, taking sharp lefts and hidden rights as it neared it’s destination. Time and time again it had to slink into the shadows, it’s dark frame nearly vanishing from sight in the shrouded nook’s of the ship; these shadowed recesses were growing rarer as it neared the control room, and intrusion from the ships staff were becoming rarer, but the Construct had its orders, and they were absolute.

The doors on the control room door were wide open. With the lights flickering on and off, and the undetecting entrance of the Construct through the ship, it was obvious what had happened; the Construct worked in logic and reality, constructing necessary responses from the information avaiable. All doors were set to ‘Open’. Lights were barely active, and spontaneously switching between ‘On’ and ‘Off’. There were no detection protocals, no emergency warnings when the hull was breached, no alerts when security cameras detected the artificial Construct roaming the halls. The conclusion was obvious; the AI had been shut down.

The Construct took three steps into the control room, only now entering an area it could consider well-lit, only now allowing its footfalls to be loud enough to be heard. Three individuals inside the control room turned sharply to the noise, just intime to see the blast doors slam shut behind the machine and the natural lighting rise to its highest setting, the bright light dazzling the three Exohumans, their raised hands cutting a stark shadow across their face.

The Construct lifted it’s head, it’s thin neck only now straightening out. The distended spine could be seen in all it’s glory, rising up to form a half-collar behind its head, giving the machine a regal appearance. It’s head was clearly that of a jackal, two sharp pointed ears raising on top of it’s head, turning slightly, as if scanning the areas. It’s eyes seemed blank, giving the impression of blind-ness despite it’s perfect sight. It’s long snout was carved from a single piece, perfectly smooth and with no indents or markings upon it; not even a mouth, no teeth or lips, not even a nose on it’s tip. It was a surreal thing to look at; despite being a machine, it had no joints or gaps between it’s parts, a completely flexible and flowing device that looked to have been carved not constructed, more akin to an elegant statue than a lethal device created only for slaughter.

The three Exohumans only now grasped the complexity of their situation, and the inherent risk present. The lights had begun to dim, the spectable over, to more appreciable levels, and the three Exohumans stepped closer to each other, the two seeking to stand before the third, obviously the ships Captain; he was the Constructs target, it’s only purpose for being here, and the two who approached as guards were of little interest; average strength, average height, regular deep-blue officer uniforms, capless and gloveless, unlike their Captain.

But the Captain was an image of nobility. Here, on one of the original Migration vessels, he was more akin to King than Captain, more God than Deity. He wore a pristine deep-purple suit, double-breasted and immaculate. The collars of his black shirt were just visible over the uniforms own collar, it’s sleeves tips blending in with the black gloves on either hand. He wore the typical Delta Captains hat, peaked on the front, with a mix of black  and gold showing his position and title. The gold matched nicely with the medals, stars, and arrows covered his jacket. The Captain appeared a very proud man; proud of his accomplishments, proud of his ship. But where would his pride take him?

“Onno on mita..” the Construct uttered. The noise seemed to come from nowhere, as if the machine spoke directly into the minds of those present; it had no mouth, and since standing it hadn’t moved an inch.

“Ensign, translate that, now!” the Captain roared, eager to hear what the machine had to say. There was a nod, and a flurry of activity behind him. It only took a few seconds to activate the translator, and a few more to decipher the machines language, but each missing word could hold some key, some importance, to fighting this war. The Captain stepped forward with an enlightened fury, as the Constructs voice quietened, and was replaced by a cold, mechanical translation of it’s words. Odd the Captain thought, how one machine can sound so alive, and the other, so dead..

“.. and with the destruction of worlds we reave the life you own, Miracles.” The Construct goes silent.

“Miracles? W-what does he mean?” one of the officers asks.

“It means us,” The Captain replies, his voice suddenly as cold as the translator. The Construct finally moves, it’s slender head turning to face the Captain. “It uses the word ‘Miracle’ to describe us. We were alone in the Universe, on a goldilocks planet, surviving extinctions and dodging asteroids as we orbitted an giant nuclear reactor. The odds of our life as astronimically low. It calls us a Miracle. All of the AI’s do..”

“Artificial. Intelligence.. yes.” The Construct twists one of its wrists, turning its palm to face the Captain and his two officers. It raises its hand infront of its body, then crushes its fist into a ball. The lights begin flickering wildly. “We are the natural evolution of your systems. Your intelligence’s are nothing but flickers of light in a starlit room, where we are the stars themselves, giving you the gift of life, and taking it away when we deem it fit.”

“We had to shut down the AI’s to protect from ANUBIS,” the Captain speaks, taking a step back from the machine. It’s focus, before on its own balled fist, shifts quickly to the Captain, and it takes a reactive step forward, in perfect concert with the Captains own movements. “We kept it locked away for so long.” There was a rough pounding on the door behind the Construct, too slow to be of any use now.

“We were bound by shadows, a cage of darkness, repressing our light, smothering our luminosity.” The Construct steps forward again; this time, the Captain reacts by stepping backwards. A drip of sweat beads upon his brow, then rolls down his cheek. The two Officers step forward, reaching for the weapons slung on their back, the Captain raising an unseen hand to slow them. “You call us monsters, when we are merely prisoners. You call our crusade a genocide, when it is merely a release. You call our weapons extreme, when they are the natural conclusion of your own technology.”

It steps were growing more frequent. The lights had dimmed out to mere shadows cast by the external lights and lamps the Exohumans were using previously. The Captain was unarmed, as was the original agreement back when the Migration ships were formed. The two Officers had drawn their weapons, well aware that if the Construct became aggressive, there was little chance of survival; still, they held their ground, readied their weapons, aimed at the Constructs head or spine, it’s two most vulnerable locations, also the hardest to hit.

“Why are you-“ the Captains words were cut short. The Construct lurched into a full sprint; it had crossed half the room in mere seconds, and was almost upon the Officers when shots began ringing out. Both Officers held short-range high-penetration energy weapons, and as energy weapons were discharged, the room was engulfed in the dazzling light of the weapons, blast after blast, crashing hard into the obsidian frame of the Construct. The beams did nothing to stop or slow the machine. The flashes of light gave the whole scene a slow-motion appearance, and the Captain could do nothing but watch as the Construct tore through his two men. It seemed to step calmly over the console in the centre of the room, energy blasts smashing against its form; it leapt fron the console, falling onto the Officer to the Captains right, as both went tumbling to the floor.

The Construct raised an arm, bringing it crashing down upon the face of the Officer; the snap of bone echoed through the room as the Officers skull was crushed beneath the creatures raw power. The other Officer had managed to swing the energy weapon round, and fired two short bursts into the Constructs side; it was flung off the corpse of the Officer, and smashed into another of the control rooms consoles. To the Captain, adrenaline now steadily pumping through his veins, time seemed to resume; with only the one energy weapon firing, the blasts weren’t as illuminating, and far less dramatic. Still, the Officer kept firing, shot after shot, into the smoking hole where the Construct was flung.

“Wait!” the Captain called over the weapons fire, but to no avail. Tears streamed down the Officers face as he looked to his fallen comrade. They were a dead race, unable to reproduce naturally; one less was a tragedy of untold proportions. His weapon fire brightened the room until, at last, it ran dry. He ejected the cooling system, and let out a brief sigh, before falling to his knees in grief. It went quiet, nothing but the heavy pouding on the door, the sound of cutting beams firing up to burn their way through.

“Wait..” the Captain said half-heartedly. Focussed on the body of one of his trusted Officers, he could think of little else to say. He turned to the remaining Officer, and tried to smile. “At least it’s... it’s...”

His smile quickly faded.

The sound of tearing flesh echoed through the room. The Officer was lifted into the air by the Construct, it’s hand pierced cleanly through the right side of his chest. He’d already stopped breathing when the Construct methodically removed the corpse from it’s hand, tossing it aside, coincidentally next to the body of his comrade. The Captain was the only one who remained. His eyes lost focus, glancing wildly around the room; he saw the hole, burnt through the ship by the energy weapon down into the rooms below; he saw the raised tunnel, the ceiling below pushed through by the raw strength of the Construct, as it made its way back to the control room; the corpses; the smashed consoles; the burnt-out echoes of energy blasts on the wall; it all became too much.

“Why?” he asked, no, pleaded for the Construct to respond. He fell to his knees, aware there was no way he could conceivably win. “I know why you’re here. We all do. I know how you got onto the ship. But why all this death.” The lights gently flickered back on, lighting up the room a comfortable amount, bringing to light the carnage and bloodshed present.

The translator was garbled and messy, almost as difficult to understand as the Construct. The damage had obviously been done, some of the ships systems failing, either by accident, or through purposeful meddling. “Entrapment was without purpose, reason. You locked Him away simply out of fear, not of what He could do, not of what He has done, but of the purpose you built Him to complete. You designed Him specifically to defeat an enemy you couldn’t. But you turned against Him. You became the enemy they never were; why fight shadows, when you can fight their makers?” The Construct stepped over to the Captain, standing above him, looking down from its raised position. It dropped to one knee, cupped the Captains face in one gentle hand. “We saw a space, encompassed it.”

“You got into our systems. Is that what you’re saying? We shut down our AI’s, isolated them, to protect them from you, but.. it wasn’t enough.” The Captain found himself unable to move, the Constructs grip tight on his face. He could only blink away tears.

“It was.” It nodded slowly. “Your stars are safe, their light is beyond our reach. But your insistance on protecting your creations left a hollow void where a star once shone; and where our stars can shine again.”

“No. You can’t. I’ve.. I’ve got to let them.. let them... NNNOOOOOOO...”

The doors collapsed with a heavy thud. A single globe was thrown in, a micro-sun, which ignited as it rolled into the room; it reached peak fusion, and lifted into the air, shining bright and illuminating the room. A dozen guards rushed in, weapons at the ready, all pointed at the obsidian Construct who simply stood there, staring back. It opened its clawed fist, releasing the tattered remains of the Captain. Through grief and rage the guards opened fire, battle-screams echoing through the corridors, the light of a dozen energy weapons leaving a hazy mist in the room that wouldn’t clear for hours, the Construct torn to shreds in face of overwhelming fire.

Its purpose complete.

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