Miner lay upon the ground, 400 lay beside him, her eyes saucer-wide like the eyes of some cephlopidic aberration, air going in-out from the rapid contractions of their billowing chests; hearts pulsing in roaring tandem like the kettling of some mangy soldier-boy, drawing out an anthem for some great and unspeakable war. Miner’s anxiety subsided quickly, pupils dilating and muscles relaxing as the ana-gel spread throughout his body, muting the frentic humming of his organs. The shifter had activated the remote sublimation process during the rescue whereupon the exo-suit had injected the anesthetizing substance into the veins and marrow, into the nerves and nodes of his quaking and sun-washed frame. Bio-leveling. Acceptable stress levels.

Miner rolled over slowly upon his side and gazed into 400’s wide, doe-like eyes. Once her nerves had steadied she turned toward’s her rescuer, brilliant blue eyes turning upon his emerald green.

“Thank you, 457.”

He nodded soberly, he wanted to lash out at her, to reprimand her for such profound foolishness, foolishness which had nearly costed both of them their lives. Yet the ana-gel had done it’s work and now a somber nod was all he could muster as his neurons sunk into rhythmic undulations of squalid bliss. A hollow joy.

Behind them the nearest earth-shifter sputtered, it’s great steel claws slicing through the silt-layer of the raw, red rock.

“457: Stress levels normal. 400: levels abnormal, do you require assistance?”

A ceramic-plated hand flew up instantly, “No, no. I’m fine. We’re both fine. Thank you, though.”

“Decision noted.”

Without another word the huge steely spider skittered off to one of the upper layers of the strip mine to continue it’s endless labor. Digging ever deeper. Ever closer to the precious ore which constituted their life-blood. Miner felt a pang of unease overtake him, cutting through the palling haze of the ana-gel which flowed throughout his body like fire through cobwebs. A implacable feeling of want. It was as if something was missing from the essence of his being, something precious yet he could not place what it was nor whether it had been forgot or stolen, taken by some malevolent foreign intelligence beyond his ken. At length he decided it did not matter. All that mattered was that he was still alive and there was much work to be done. A considerable amount.

Rising from the dusty silt-strewn ground, Miner bent to 400, extending his hand and hauling her up likewise. The duo then moved to the edge of the mining shaft.

It had utterly collapsed. The entire northern brace-wall had crumpled like jello. However, the rock-fall had revealed something, a gleaming something down at the bottom of the shaft.

400 sighed, staring up at the sky.

“Oh, how I do grow weary of this place. I cannot wait until tomorrow, to return to The Facade for our slated break. To see all our old friends, the Helos and the High-corps… are you alright, 457? You seem distracted.”

“Do you see that? Down there, at the bottom of the mine-shaft.”

“Hm, no I don’t see anyth- oh, there, yes. Yes, I see it. What do you think it is?”

Miner turned towards her with the faintest of grins.

“Only one way to find out.”

*

At at the edge of the mining pit three men stood gazing upon the blasted land. Visors covering their radiant purple eyes. The tallest among them spoke to his fellows in a low baritone without turning.

“The mine shaft has collapsed as planned. You weakened it most splendidly, Kyros.

Kyros smiled and moved to stand beside his leader.

“Now the treasure is ours for the taking. Shall we move in?”

“Yes.”

“And the earth-shifters and miners?”

“Terminate all Unity obstacles with extreme prejudice.”

Eidos Kyros flexed his sinewy musculature in the midday sun, his shimmering violet eyes wide and intense as those of a lion, crazed with the blood of a dying lamb. His heart beating like the drums of a ancestral war-band, a sonorous pounding; the hymn of war.

 


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