She’d forced them to come, almost at knifepoint. With her mechadendrites in plain sight and bladed tools festooning the ends she was a more frightening sight than the dead bodies outside.
But only just.
The two men huddled close together in the darkness. The copilot’s gloves were clamped around the shotgun and the pilot held one of the plasma cutting torches ready, the tip gently glowing. Powerful torchbeams stabbed out from the shoulders of their suits and the rapid back and forth sweep betrayed the emotions of the wielders.
She walked calmly behind them and the two servitors came behind her. They were cargo models, equipped with heavy lifting claws and reinforced frames that would let them lift huge weights. One now held the crate full of consecrating paraphernalia but that would only be needed for a short while. As the two men stopped near the crawler and looked at one another she quickly stepped up her pace.
“No way, let’s get out of here.”
“Right. I’m not ending up like them.”
The men turned and found their throats caught in the lightning fast, thoroughly immovable grip of mechadendrite claws. Bladed tools were poised by the glass of their mask lenses.
“We are here for an item. When, and only when, we find it we shall leave. Is that clear?”
The men nodded, slowly. She reached out and took the shotgun from the copilot, handing it to the unencumbered servitor.
“Unit Sigma-Phi-Twelve. Retain this weapon until further orders. Should any but myself attempt to take it back, crush it.”
The servitor squeeled and clicked a machine code response and clumsily held the gun in the grip of its huge claws.
“Now I hope I can trust you not to try and obtain the Skitarii weapons. If they even work it did not do them any good,” She glanced between them at the dead soldiers. “I point out that they were professionals and something still killed them. If you are unarmed then you will be seen as less of a threat to whatever killed them. And if that plasma cutter gives you any foolish ideas, remember how fast these augmentations of mine are.”
“Fine, let us go.”
She nodded and released them. Neither man made a move until she moved towards the dead crawler and then they scurried after her. Surprisingly, they were being logical. Unarmed they could not defeat her and it would be safer to be around her than alone.
“This machine did not run out of power.” She stated.
“What? There’s no lights, even the status runes are out, so there’s no power, it ran out.” The pilot looked confused.
“No,” She replied. “It was stopped.”
She pointed a metal tentacle up at the belly of the vehicle, several feet taller than any of them. The men moved past the huge rubber tire and directed their lights upwards. A deep crushing dent had splintered through the plates of metal and severed the main power conduit from the generator systems. Looking towards the rear of the vehicle they saw the strange ground texture of smooth, glassy rock below two scorched openings in the hull. Unable to vent the plasma power buildup, the failsafes must have taken hold and opened the emergency vents. The plasma had bled out onto the ground until the fuel reserves were exhausted or the engines deactivated.
That still left two questions, what had done it and did it happen before or after the Skitarii died?
“They must have fired by accident,” Stammered the copilot. “It’s the most likely. A shot in the wrong place and the backups took over.”
“No,” She stated. “Their bodies are slightly scorched therefore they were already dead when the damage was done. And that impact was no weapon discharge. It would take a tank cannon to deliver that kind of force.”
“Then what did it?”
She ignored them and knelt down to the rocky floor. The men watched her as she gathered up a small fragment of metal. It must have come from the damaged crawler, must have. But, the thought nagged, why did it seem to glow in her hand? Logically it must be the lights of the men…it was the only explanation.
“What did this is exactly what I’m looking for.” A note of desire crept into her voice. “It must be nearby.”
The two men looked at each other as she walked around the area, the same impulse in their eyes. If only the cog hadn’t sealed the crawler doors then they’d be out of here. Damn her and damn her prize.
“This way.” She snapped.
Reluctantly they moved forwards to follow her, playing their lights on the ground. There was a mechadendrite, like hers but bigger, and then a trail in the red gravel. Smaller trails skipped either side of the main one, the marks of hands pulling something along. They followed it around an outcrop, then between two great boulders where they almost bumped into her.
There were two figures before them. One looked like her except that she was standing up and still fully intact. Red robes, metal face, mechadendrites, a bloody cog head in other words. He was sprawled on the ground, dried blood and oil spattered on his robes and limbs.
It was the second figure that sent the chills of fear through them. It was big, but skeletally made. The eyes gleamed like dulled emeralds and the grey metallic form was full of terrifying promise. It took them only a second to see the blood on its fists and the shards of paint staining the knuckles of one hand.
“That…thing punched through a crawler’s hull?” The pilot’s voice almost squeaked.
“Yes.” She breathed, eyes wide in rapture.
“It killed the Skitarii and that other cog?” The copilot sounded like he was barely holding onto his bladder.
“Yes.” She was too happy to notice the insult.
“It is my prize. It is the creation of my god and with it, we shall rout the enemies of him.”
“What?” The men spoke as one, shuffling backwards slightly.
“It is a Man of Iron,” She gloated. “It is my Man of Iron.”