The Gremlin’s Daughter, A Forsaken Stars Tale, Part One
This story takes place not too long before Issue #4 of Forsaken Stars.
The Gremlin’s Daughter
Kyton, Gremlin First Class, a minor demon, was lonely. He had created a small cadre of robots to keep him company, most notably his butler Horatio, commander of the army Achilles, and knights Belch and Ajax. There were countless others, and he was proud of all of them, except for maybe Caliban IV (one of his greatest mistakes), but the great emptiness could never be filled by one of his creations, no matter how intelligent or humorous. He missed his friends. He even missed his enemies. He had banished himself to the outer reaches of the galaxy because he believed eventually his secrets would become known, and what few friends he had left might as well count as enemies. He created a stellar mote of close to a billion asteroids and booby-trapped many of them and made his home on a planetoid at the center, Isla Mediterrano, as a nod to one of his favorite Shakespeare plays, the Tempest. And much like that play’s wizard, Prospero, Kyton had lost everything and everyone he had ever known and tried to make the best of it with his own kind of magic: infernal engineering. And he was good at it, after thousands of years of trial and error. But something was missing.
Sitting on his command chair on his spider crane, making his way through his Great Workshop, his tiny black heart ached. He found himself at the uppermost dome, the Greenhouse. He was less lonely here, surrounded by the most exotic living plants in the galaxy, brought here by his pioneer probes, the Marco Polos II-VII. They were discreet, taking circuitous routes over centuries to bring him colorful and dangerous specimens from Delven Prime and Gotham and the trash world of Nuggins. His favorites were the silicate flowers from the robot world of Mecha, but all of it gave him a flicker of connection to the rest of creation. Still, he looked up into space and he let a prayer escape his lips. “Lord, is this my final lot? Robots, rock and trees? Send me someone real, someone alive. Even if it’s for just a moment, a traveler, a passerby, anyone! I feel so alone.” He lowered his head and cried. He had almost forgotten what emotion felt like, other than the thrill of building a new chassis or the frustration of a blown processor. He looked up and the asteroids tumbled slowly, soundlessly above.
He turned and slunked down to this bed chamber. He lay awake for hours designing mazes in his mind’s eye until a dreamless sleep found him.
“Master, I have detected a Mechan Dreadnought drifting at the edge of the asteroid field. No life signs. Shall I have it drawn in for cannibalization?” Horatio asked, standing at the foot of Kyton’s bed.
Kyton blinked. “What? Hmm? No, I’m bored, let’s put a probe team together and investigate it where it lies. Dreadnoughts are impervious. I wonder why this one is dead.”
“You bring up a good point, Master. Whatever took it out might still be about. Or worse, aboard. Perhaps we should repel it and leave well enough alone.”
“No! A mystery may be just what I need to stave off this horrid loneliness.” Kyton stretched, his cyberlimbs whirring, his gremlin limbs creaking, and then he hopped out of bed.
“Then send one of the Polos. I believe VII just returned from a jaunt,” Horatio suggested, his one central eye lens glowing with concern.
“A good idea. Polo VII, Achilles, Belch, Ajax and myself, that sounds like a splendid group.” Kyton disappeared into his bath chamber.
“Master, what about me?”
“Horatio, man the control room. We’ll send out spider and angel probes and you can direct us from there.”
“That sounds like a job more suited to our Master.”
“Enough, Horatio, I’ve made up my mind. I’m going.” Kyton immersed himself in a hot oil bath and drowned out whatever else Horatio might have said.
“Yes, Master,” was all Horatio did say, and walked off shaking his head.
Kyton and his team stood atop the bow of his space yacht Cleopatra as it coasted up alongside the seemingly endless hull of the Mechan Dreadnought. Normally the hull would have iridescence, as if covered with a thin film of oil and water, churning in slow motion, red, blue, yellow, purple and green swirling against blackness as if alive. Now there was only blackness, devoid of all color or motion. Cold, like the vacuum of space that surrounded the team.
“Roughly fifty miles from stem to stern, thirteen miles high and twenty miles wide, it should be generating enough power to overwhelm our sensors and repel our yacht by its gravitic engine residue alone. But we are registering only the faintest power signals coming from within,” Polo Vii said, hovering between the Cloepatra and the hull of the Dreadnought.
“Enough to maintain minimal life support?” Achilles asked.
“Not even that. And it is rare for Mechans to require air or atmosphere to survive. Though they have been known to collaborate with flesh and blood, air-breathing species, I doubt that is the case here.”
“A Dreadnought hull is super dense. There may be life inside, yet. Our sensors, even scanning a ghost ship, even our phasic sensors, have trouble penetrating the shell, inert as it is. So let’s get inside, shall we?” Kyton said, gesturing for Polo VII to lead the way.
“We’re coming up on a waste material ejection port,” Polo VII said, pointing upward at a twenty-foot wide dimple in the hull.
“You mean like an arsehole?” Belch asked.
“More like a pore on the skin,” Kyton said, smirking at Belch’s analogy. “And just like waste material is ejected, we can be injected.”
“Into a dead system?” Horatio asked from his perch at Mission Control.
“Even a dead system can spasm or even seem to come to life if you pump it with enough juice,” Kyton replied and activated a power delivery torpedo that launched from the port side of the Cleopatra, struck the hull of the Dreadnought just below the dimple and sent a shockwave of visible light cascading at a radius of two hundred feet out from its point of impact. The hull within the area became iridescent. “We have to move quickly! Ajax, fire a volley of repulsion magnets at the access port! Achilles, once the magnets are in place, manipulate them to open the sphincter doors! We’ll have moments to cross the threshold, so full burn on your thrusters, everyone! Cleo pull back and lay down some cover fire, as we may have temporarily activated localized defenses. As planned, rendezvous with us in one hour at the WME port two miles aftward from this one! Go, go, go!”
Horatio watched the insertion operation while trying to keep the stress on his own internal systems at a manageable level. Ajax’ aim was true, but Achilles strained his magnetic manipulation abilities to the edge of self-destruction to pry open the doors, and once they were opened, to keep them open long enough for the team to jet through. The iridescent film surrounding the aperture started to coalesce and take on spider-like shapes. Cleopatra rained down laser blasts upon the auto defense bots before they could fully form even as she pulled away to a perceived safe distance. Horatio couldn’t decide if he should relax or not as the aperture closed and the iridescence began to fade. His link with Kyton and his team diminished to a distant muffle of a signal. “I suppose it would be futile to damage my internals for the next hour—” Horatio began to tell himself. Then the localized iridescence returned and three orbs, five feet in diameter, materialized from the hull wall and hurled in succession through Cleopatra, tearing it apart. Cleopatra exploded in three sudden bursts, briefly, and within moments, it was as if she had never existed. “Oh, no,” Horatio said, and felt something collapse within his chest.
“The hull is too thick,” Ajax said, shaking his head. “We’re cut off from the outside.”
“Nevermind that, we continue as planned. Polo, hone in on one of those power signals, faint as they may be. Where there is power, there has to be something of worth,” Kyton said, gesturing for his team to continue towards the interior of the ship.
The halls were cavernous. Mechans ranged from the microscopic to nearly a hundred feet in height, and some of the corridors had arched ceilings nearly that height. “As big as this ship is, astromechs probably aren’t built quite so large to maintain efficiency and maneuverability in an extraterrestrial environment,” Kyton posited aloud. “Though if this is or was a ship of conquest, then somewhere, perhaps in a docking bay or personnel bay somewhere, there may be Mecha Sentinels of great size.”
“Then those should be the places we should avoid,” Belch said, with a little quake in his quadrupedal chassis.”
“It’s so dark, cold and lifeless in here, Sir Toby Belch, that I fear the ship may have passed through a gamma wave or phasic storm or unstable wormhole and its wealth of energy was siphoned off, like a thief in the night, with only the barest systems having somehow escaped the drain. Like a single solitary house still standing in the sea of a tornados’ destruction.”
“What’s a tornado?” Belch asked?
“Oh, pray you never find out, old boy.” Kyton said, as they entered a vast chamber that contained a labyrinthine cityscape within it.
“A dead city inside a ship?” Achilles asked, trying to process what he saw. Great slabs rose hundreds of feet high, parallel in some places, perpendicular in others. In such darkness was the chamber that it was difficult to judge its size and scope, despite having thermal, laser and sonic sensors. It was just so big that their sensors were like drops or pings in an ocean.
“No, I don’t think this is a city. These may be processors of a kind, and not buildings. More like a mother board and less a cityscape,” Kyton said, desperately yearning to find a way to bring it all to life and attempt to harness it for his own infernal purposes. Well, not entirely infernal.
“I’m registering movement ahead, Master,” Polo VII said, “It’s big, and slow, so far, but it seems to be powering up.”
“Powering up?” Kyton repeated, honestly surprised, “I wonder what it could be?”
“Master, it’s circling us now?”
“That’s foreboding,” Kyton said, raising an eyebrow. His own heads up display on his helmet (being a gremlin, he didn’t really need to breathe, but it was a comfort to be sealed up in such a harsh environment as space) was showing him what appeared to be a thirty foot long, four foot wide worm, ringed like a paper lantern and feint as if it wasn’t all quite here yet, but it was picking up speed and would be upon them in moments.
“Power worm!” Polo VII cried, “Switch to ballistic weapons if you got ’em! And don’t get too close!”
TO BE CONTINUED