Deep in a haze of darkness she breathes, in and out.  Her chest slowly rising and lowering with each deliberate exhale.  Into static the cool dark took her.  A dull buzzing enters her suspended stasis as the tides in the dark flow and carry her.  Movement, movement, she has not felt movement in centuries.   The dull buzzing becomes a sound she knew, words.  They are words.  Someone, is speaking.  Her mouth opens as she takes in a deep inhale as though breeching the surface of water.  The sound of rapid footsteps running along tile floors echoes inside a hall.  It rises her, as her mind opens and turns to life.   Her fingers grasp as her body pulses.  The words, what were they saying?  She jolts as she realizes she still exists as the illusion of long-suspended slumber is broken.  Her eyes burst open to see the dark sterile white ceiling fast traveling as an occasional light passes over head.  The sound of footsteps ever more clear as the remaining fog of sleep depletes.

She looks up to see something that looks humanoid but moves wrong, like a reproduction.  Its upper body hunches over, cables and cords line its scratched timeworn metallic armor.  She looks to her left to see another pair of these things on the other side of her.  A whimper leaves her lips arousing one thing to turn in her direction.  An imitation of a human face looks back at her.  Imitation as to the extent it is something akin to a cheap plastic mask.  Her eyes grow as her jaw opens agape releasing a shriek.  A sheen of fog clouds over the glass in front of her face.  Her head darts around the strange claustrophobe compartment she lays in.

In the dark she can make out she is inside something like a stretcher surrounded by a glass tube.  “She isn’t supposed to be awake.” says one thing.  The sound is distorted and digital, broken, artificial like the rest of the things.

“Stay quiet.” one machine demands.  The group comes to a full stop.  She halts her breathing hoping that she has not angered her captors.  They stand still, the tension of no reply grows.  Only the slight whine of their servo motor‘ sound while they observe the empty hall.  “They have spotted us.” the machine says.

A loud ear-piercing scream from the dark sends shivers down her spine.  She cowers into herself as the screaming grows in number.  The roar of gunfire is too loud.  It hurts.  She covers her ears curling up closing her eyes.  She can hear the buzzing of a chainsaw carving through something with a wet pulpy slathering.  A splatter of red splashes onto the view.   She’s thrown against the glass of the container as the carrier is swung aside.  Her eyes grow as she sees the three mechanical soldiers fighting with chainsaw blades and rifles.  Her view of the swarm of malformed tumorous bodies ridden with pullups is mostly blocked.  They claw and shriek in an unbridled feral rage.  Kicking her feet against the glass she pushes away from the sight.  She knew it is futile, there was no escaping.  Her silent dream released her to this nightmare.

The capsule shifts again jostling her.  She looks behind to see another pair of the mechanical soldiers pushing the cart; their arms slung over with rifles in hand.  Each one popping aimed shots into the swarm.  The three in front swing their multiple arms cutting into the creatures.  They paint every wall with dripping blood as insides and limbs rain to the floor.  She is getting closer to the tide of battle.  The machines are pushing the tube towards that horrid visage.  “No, no, I don’t want to go there!  Please, no!” she begs with a loud scream.  They give no answer or even a consideration.  Her gaze meets their cold unfeeling masks, molded with a false smile.

She observes one of the three soldiers in front getting latched onto by fleshy claws and metallic arms.  It disappears into the swarm.  “309!” one android yells.  They show concern for each other, the girl thinks to herself.  The front two soldiers increase pace cutting and chopping to get to their fellow.  Among the fleshy horrors she can make out the other android’s arm, and its head, but that can’t be right.  The head is too far from the arm.  She contemplates what she is seeing.  “Grab his tracer!” commands one android.  The girl’s eyes opens wider as she realizes they ripped the machine to pieces.  The two android soldiers in front stop.  One holds back the unending hoard of monsters.  Four arms slashing and cutting against the swarm.  Valient and proud, a shining conqueror, her defender.  Were these things trying to save her?

Her view is becoming fast covered by the amount of blood there is raining down on the group.  The other android picks through the ripped torso of their fallen comrade.  It lifts a small card out of the thing’s body.  Fleshy tethers ripping free as they deposit it into their own frame.

“I got it!” the machine hollers. 

“There is an elevator shaft ahead.” says the android who hung over the capsule.  Her voice is female even though her body did not match her gender.  They all looked the same to her.  “We can get to the roof from there.  Attaching to the carrier now.”

Between small gaps where the scarlet black fluids had not covered the glass she could make out that the hall became nothing but a twitching pile of meat with a layer of blood wetting every surface.  The closer to the elevator they got the deeper the pile seemed to be.  The limbs that remained grip at the androids.  They jerk themselves free from their reach giving the parts no purchase.  The soldier androids stand guard holding the line against the onslaught as they push the capsule into the elevator.

The capsule lifts into the air by a bright blue light levitating the androids up the tunnel.  The entire thing radiated a blue glow as they rose higher.  The platform stops on a rooftop.  The outside sky is bleak, the color of rusted iron and a dull glow overshadows everything.  The buildings in the city are decayed with long lines of overgrowth of something that reminds her of muscle.  A strange-looking vehicle of some sort waits for the group; judging from the large wings the girl assumes it is  a plane.  From the elevator shaft the other two androids appear.  They are sopping wet with blood.  As they walk bits of flesh rain off their bodies.

“You recovered one.” a man yells from the ship’s open hanger.  She tries to make out the man through the film of red ooze cloaking her view.  She feels herself lift as the androids drag the pod into the threshold of the dock.  Pressing against the window for a look provides none.  It is too dark to make out anything.  At least she can hear a human voice she considers. “What condition is it in?” the man inquires.

“It’s awake.” An android grunts.

A torso covered in a white plastic suit presses into the side of the glass.  “We cannot have that.” says the man.   “My, isn’t she magnificent?” he comments from behind the thick glass.  She looks over her shoulder to see his is face hidden behind a visor.

“Help me, let me out!” she screams retching her body against the window.  The man’s face seems even more unconcerned than the androids.  His eyes only filled with a dehumanizing gaze.  “What is happening!  Why am I here!  Who am I!?” She can feel tears welling in her eyes as she wails out the endless questions.

“Phhhhshhhhhhhhh…” A small vent above her head leaks out a malaise of white smoke.  The smell is rancid and makes her gasp.  She can feel her body tensing.  She gasps for another scream but her chest cannot manage the effort.  Instead, a low moan escapes her mouth as she grows heavy.  She presses her fingers against the glass as the weight on her arms increases.  It is as though she is being crushed as she falls limp.  The lids of her eyes closing like curtains, as the theater of this nightmare came to a sudden halt; the deep slumber of stasis returning.

“So, she is asleep.  Just like that?” an android comments.  His head thin and rectangular, with a single blue upper rectacle, altogether its shape was very similar to that of a pistol.  If one gathered scraps and did their best to construct the human shape, this would be the result of the rest of its body.  Cables and ribbons hung between the gaps in its plating and from the back of its head into its neck and down its spine.  The plastic mask dangles off the side of its head now, no use for the artificial visage.  The entire thing is made of silver black gun metal.  Several decades line its body, scraped and scratch listing incomplete model numbers.

The man nods his head looking over the bloody container.  “Indeed, she is.”  He turns his head to face the machine.  “I see there are only four of you that returned.  I am sorry for your loss.”

“309 will live again, like your girl.  He is in stasis sleeping.” the android holds up the small rectangular chip.  “He needs a new body.  One I expect you to pay for.”

The man bobs his head.  “Why do you expect me to pay for it?  I hired you to retrieve her, not to refurbish your aging bodies.  You knew the risk when I hired you.  If you did not consider the complications that is your own fault.”

The android’s gaze focuses on the man.  A loud creek grumbles as the hanger motors open the doors.  “Then our contract ends, there is no negotiation here.”  The man’s suit whips as the pressure and oxygen is sucked out of the room in a windy blast.

“Wait! Stop!  We can work something out.”  the hanger of the ship’s doors close.  “I should have known better.  Our colony lacks any military grade android parts.  How about a trade?  I will double your payment.”

“That is fair.”

The man shakes his head.  It had been a long time since he went to the outside world.  Androids used to be the servants of man.  Now they drove a hard bargain.  He wondered where they had learned this kind of behavior.  He supposes through observation over time they had become akin to such things.  “Why exactly do you want seeds, anyway?”

“Unmodified seeds are the most valuable thing in the world at this stage.  They are one of the few things we cannot fabricate.  Unlike our greedy peers in the empire we seek to build a new biome and restore the world as we remember from our nativity, before your cursed decay spread.” the android replies.

“Yeah, well, good luck with that.” the man grunts walking back over to the capsule gazing inside at the fair-skinned girl resting soundly.

The ship carries the travelers over the ruins of an old city, through the slumbering lands that grew rotted.  The lone ship sails through an even more lonely sky.  Over a vast sea and over mountain passes and fleshy fields it flies.  Until it reaches a desert wasteland of hollowed buildings for as far as the eye can see.

As the ship descends to the ground, it opens revealing a secret hanger.  Two people wait on the platform.  A young woman with black hair and a much older man.  When the ship lands the doors open to reveal the ark in which the girl rests.  “They did it!” the girl shouts to the man.

“Brilliant.  I told you we could trust them.” the man says in a gruff voice.  He stands stoic in contrast to the young woman’s excitement.  The man in the suit walks out of the hanger pacing to the older man.  “Bring me the capsule.” the older man commands.

“There was a complication.  We need to give the androids a double payment before they will release the girl to us.” the man in the suit tells the older man.

The older man growls under his breath.  He turns to the girl.  “Vanity, do it, go get another seed for Brainer to give these swine.”

“Yes, Sir Hellibor.” the girl replies taking her leave inside the building.  “So, you recovered a girl.” Hellibor comments.  The two stand next to each other watching the androids who move about the ship.

Brainer looks over to the ship.  “Yeah but one thing, she woke up during the extraction.  It means they broke the seal on the ark.”

“It should not matter.” Hellibor grunts.  “If she is infected, then the contaminants should have no effect on her.”

“They almost threw me out of the ship.  I think they would have thrown her too.  What a way to negotiate extra payment.”  Hellibor lets out a heavy sigh shaking his head placing his hand on Brainer‘s back.

Vanity returns with a pair of test tubes in hand.  “Two seeds,” she chirps handing the pair to Brainer.  “They are still cold.”

“This is all you are giving them.” Brainer says.

Hellibor nods.  The three walk over to the hanger doors of the drop ship.  The leader of the group walks over to Brainer towering above him on the lip of the hanger.  He jumps down onto the platform looking at Brainer’s pair of test tubes.  “May I inspect them?”

“Before we pay,” Hellibor chimes in.  “I want to inspect the girl myself.  Make sure she is without blemish.  To do that, I will need to run scans on her.”

“That will not be happening without my payment.  We agreed upon payment on delivery.  We delivered a specimen.  Our end of the deal is complete.  Now you must oblige yours.” the android replies.

Hellibor furrows his brow.  “Brainer give him the seeds.”

Brainer extends his hand open palmed revealing the twin tubes with two seeds suspended inside.  The android plucks one sample from his hand.  It scrutinizes the vial.  “This will do, where is the rest of our payment.”

“That is it.  One seed for one person.   You wanted double payment so I have graciously allowed two seeds.” Hellibor states with authority hoping the machine would surrender.

“I do not take your humor lightly.” the android groans.

Brainer smirks knowing full well the android would regret his comment.  “As you said before, there is nothing more valuable than a seed.”

The android chuckles.  “Good joke, I have a feeling however, this girl is worth far more to you, than those seeds are to us.  If you wish to continue your little game of negotiations, I will destroy her and call it a loss.”  The smug looks melted off Brainer’s face.  He looks over to Hellibor whose body had stiffened at the machines comment.

It’s true, the did need her far more than they needed these seeds.  They had searched for years to find someone held in stasis and now they have it.  So close to their goal, pride is the only thing holding them back.  He would sacrifice his pride, he must.  “How many do you want?”

“As many as you have inside that little shelter of yours.” the android replies.