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Spirits of Sol pt. 2
by J. L. Young

The dropships pushed away from the mothership. “Hold, running a passive scan for the Spirits. Scope clear, initiate deorbit burn.”

Three ships flashed their thrusters and were engulfed by the atmosphere. Each settled on the planet with minimal drama. Octavius unclipped his restraints and moved to the door. Masuru sat fidgeting with his restraints, but finally got them loose. He unsecured an equipment box from the bulkhead and proceeded to the aft section where the suits hang. After assisting each other into their suits, they collected their equipment and proceeded to the door.

The outer airlock opened to reveal a snow-covered fountain with blackened bronze statues riding mythical beasts. Masuru arched his back to angle the visor up high enough to see the whole of the massive sculpture. “The indigenous people of this planet were pretentious, weren’t they?”

“We’re descended from those indigenous, genius. Come on. We don’t have much time,” Octavius replied.

“Did you see that statue in the middle? He’s jacked like you.”

The men reached the top of the steps. Masuru struggled to breathe, but he managed to say, “I’m amazed this place survived the attack, giving its proximity to a major seat of power.”

“We’re not here to sight-see.”

Masuru tugged on the door, looked at the lock on the outside door, and took hold of a tool hanging from his belt. Octavius stepped up and threw his armored fist through the glass. His colleague, nonplussed, said, “Really, show off. I know what you’re going to say, we don’t have time.”

They passed the inner doors and came up to a lowered gate. There didn’t seem to be a lock available to circumvent. “Ok, Mr. Impatient, open it up.”

Octavius glared at Masuru before opening his bag and producing a crowbar. He slid an end under the center of the gate and pried. The gate’s lock snapped and a wave propagated through the gate. The sound echoed off the marble walls, floor, and pillars.

Once inside, the men followed directions to the digital archives. When they arrived, Octavius breathed, “Unlock it.”

“What? You’re not going to just bust in like you did the front door?”

“It’ll take too long.”

“So, suddenly my tools are the most expeditious way into a room?” Masuru asked as he pushed a homemade device into the knob.

“Shut up, and unlock the damned door.”

The device clicked five times as it rotated the tumbler. Octavius opened the door. Inside the room, Masuru opened his equipment box and plugged some cables into the back of the archiving systems. He adjusted the power output to match the needs of the system and activated them. “Good, most still retain intact data. Initiating retrieval. The EMP didn’t knock them out.”

“How long will it take?” Octavius asked.

“Judging from the number of files, uh…” A clicking sound found its way to their ears. Masuru looked at Octavius. Fear washed across his face. “What was that?”

“Be quiet.” Octavius approached the door, turning up the volume on his suit speakers. The metallic click propagated. The volume of the clicks increased as they neared their position. Then they became slow and methodical when approaching the digital archives door.

Octavius reached down to his pistol. He used his other hand to suppress the holster as he pulled the gun. The imperceptible friction between the polymer frame and the thermoplastic holster. His heart pounded in his chest as he raised the pistol. He breathed to calm himself.

The approaching clicks were now loud enough to incite pain. The clicks changed shape. Each one separate, akin to the patter of an insect and in time. They fell silent.

Octavius, as quiet as he could, shifted the mode selector to fire on his weapon. The detent issued a slight ting.

A sword-like appendage stabbed through the steel door separating the top hinge from the frame. Another separated the middle and bottom hinges. It pushed the door free of the frame, turned it, and pulled it into the corridor, allowing it to crash to the floor.

Octavius stepped back and pulled the trigger as a mechanical monstrosity pushed itself into the room. It thrust a pair of sword-like appendages toward Octavius. They shifted into a grappling mechanism to take a grip of the man. It pulled him close.

“Bio-mechanical. Controlled by a mass of nerve tissue. Possessing a hollow dorsal nerve cord. Endoskeletal structure encased in multiple dermal layers. What species are you?” It said in English.

Octavius’s fear caused him to stammer, “Human.”

“Destroyer of worlds, whatever is the reason for your return?”

“To collect our history. So we could not do this again.” Masuru replied.

“A noble endeavor, yet you carry the devices of war on your persons. You use them when faced with uncertain ends. Your species has learned nothing thus far.”

“On the contrary,” Masuru began, “humans are still an infant species. We have much to learn and we have learned much.”

Gohan 7 June 17
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