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Chapter 13: The New Machine’s Men
The clone kept going on and on about how great the view was, all the while Velora licked her wounds. They were gaping still; not that the clone was not bruised up himself. We were all in terrible shape after that encounter. I bled so much, which forced me to stay isolated from Velora. I could tell it hurt her, but we both knew that it would mean death for her. A crimson drop, the price of death, an escape from this hell. I was the gate to evermore, one such as myself, so weak and puny with all the power of the world running through these slender lanes.
We walked as far as our feet could take us. Dropping to my knees; I had enough of walking. They ached, not to mention my ribs. If there were words for what I had torn from me. The very wind itself was sucked away. Leaving me gasping for air. But it would come at a price, pain. I curled up slowly and closed my eyes tightly. “I need to rest.”
I heard a boot scuff the ground. “Heh, I could use some rest myself, actually.” The clone said as he continued nearer to me. To my surprise, he kneeled down and wrapped me in his arms. My eyes opened quickly as held me close. He defended me in his grip as awkward as it was, it was also so comforting.
In the slight breeze, I awoke to the gentle brushing of its chilly fingertips. Velora stood, mighty as always; upright and strikingly tall. Her child-like face gazes over the valley below us; seeking, watching. Sitting up from my bed, the clone sat on a rock sharpening his knife. I had not felt him let go of me. Yet he did, in the night perhaps. “Hey, you slept a long time. I started wondering if you were going to wake up.” A layer of dried blood cracked as I lifted my arm from my side. The black skies greeted me. It was smokey, swirling like ink over clean water.
“I didn’t dream anything last night.” I said to myself. “Sorry, I must have needed it.” I said, as I took a long breath in.
The clone arose from his perch, placing the knife into its holster. “I will scout out the way down while you wake up.” he grunted with a smile. “I don’t want any scags sneaking up on a snoggy little girl like yourself.” With that, the clone headed on his way.
Velora turned to me and gave me the softest look; her eyes gently rested on me. “Are you ok?”
A quick nod of my head, a denial of all that was wrong in my life. Truth was, I was not okay and I think she could see past my little gesture. We spoke no words after that. A stretch and a last look at the rocky place where we rested, then we too were off.
We traveled for hours. Down the mountainside and over the wasteland. “Aren’t you glad to be away from that freaky flesh.” the clone said.
My eyes half closed at the suggestion this was any better. “Yeah.”
“What? Come on it felt wrong walking on it.” he laughed. “Yee, I swear I could feel it twitch.”
“Clone, don’t you know when to shut up.” Velora grunted.
“I’ll have you know, that is precisely why they put me in the back.” he laughed again.
They put him in the back because he would not stay quiet. That is amusing but also very very sad too. It must have been lonely for him. I can’t imagine what that would have been like. Staying in the back being the eyes and ears for your crew and then you find they are being ripped to pieces.
“You really want to keep this clone around?” Velora sneered. Turning in her direction, I nodded. “Hear that clone, you got a fan.”
The clone chuckled. “Admit it Velora you like me too.” He had this goofy grin on his face.
“I am just glad you accepted that you’re a clone.”
The ground started to vibrate and I saw the rocks moving. I started scouting the horizon and in the distant I spotted a large craft of some sort. “What is that?” I asked.
The clone got up next to me, adopting the demeanor of an older brother, bending down to my height and pointing. “That is a cruiser from the new machine.” I looked at him with a funny look and pulled from his grip. “What? Did I say something odd?”
“You said the new machine?” I softly croaked.
Velora’s shadow falls over us. “She does not understand those things. Explain it to her.”
The clone’s gaze focuses on me. “Yeah, yeah, the machine in Adelbern, its safe there. We have massive walls around the city to keep all the horrors at bay. You can live with the rest of the humans there.”
“It’s empty. You have been implanted with fake memories.” Velora says.
“I used to live there. I see it every time I come back.” he replied.
“Remember Primina, when Vanity took you out of the colony. You woke up once. You were never at the beach, were you.” I gasped when she said it. Velora did have all those memories. Something about that disturbed me. It was as if Vanity, through some dark magic, could call up her spirit and speak through Velora. It also confirmed some deep-seated suspicions about the colony.
The clone spit. “What the hell are you talking about?”
I looked at my feet, dusty ground, brown stones. “Its not important.”
“They are looking for me, I bet. Followed my tracker here.” the clone said glowing with a smile. “Looks like this nightmare is over.”
This, however, did not sit well with Velora, whom grabbed the clone’s chest and hold him in the air. “You have a tracker!” Her fingers split open, turning into cables squirming throughout his clothing.
“Get your hands off me, damn it I will show the thing to you.” the clone shouted. Velora obliges him, setting him on the ground, her fingers retracting to normal. “Shit, you just had to ask. You didn’t have to manhandle me.” He said as he held out his arm. “Its in’” Velora had stopped immediately the clone as her tendrils bore through the clone’s arm. He cries out in pain as I could see the squirming cables beneath the flesh of this arm. As they retract the seal off his flesh with no blood. She holds a diamond like crystal with this cables hanging off of it. “What the hell!” the clone shouts in suprise.
The cables make fast work pulling it apart, disassembling the tracker into dust. The clone holds his arm screaming in that furling agony I have rarely seen. “What did you do that for!” I yelled at Velora.
“This scoundrel has been tracking us! They hooked the thing up to his ears! They were listening to everything we said!” Velora scowls at the clone. “When did they put these in you!”
“Ta hell would I know!” the clone seethes between his teeth.
Out of nowhere, several people on motorcycle like things come speeding up. Large wheels in the back while a smaller one was in the front. They sounded in metal plating and massive jets in the rear. The riders were in black. Rushing up, they ride past us and then surround. They zip by every which way like flies. The clone takes a step away from Velora. Bang. I gasp as I see his chest burst open. Dropping to my knees, I covered my mouth. His eyes were so large like they are going to fall out of his head. His mouth agape in pain while saliva tinged red fell from his face. He stumbles backward and falls to the ground.
A hand on my back grabs me. I am within this man’s grip, moving at 100 miles per hour and speeding up. Heading for the cruiser, I scream. I try to look back but can’t. Velora shouts out, “Prina!” but even in those moments it quickly made her voice distant.
I reach for my sword but I could not move my arms down to my side. “Please let me go!” I struggled, but it did not count. No amount of screaming and crying mattered; I was in the clutches of this soldier, and once inside that mighty fortress on wheels, I would be at their mercy. Judging by how quickly they killed one of their own, I would be nothing more than a prisoner. My body hung mere inches above the speeding ground.
My captor had a helmet with a very thin visor. It was like a piece of crude metal that covered his face. His mouth had an enormous tongue for a human salivating, like one would expect a dog to. The grip on my back was far too tight for a human. He must have had mechanical hands. An iron hold in the most literal of words. They dressed him similarly to the clone. It must have been their uniform. He had a knife on his shoulder too.
“Where are you taking me!?” I asked. All I received was a deep grunt, as if that answered me. We were at the threshold of the large cruiser and threw the back into a hanger. The other bikes were returning just like us. Likewise, we too would follow. An iron ramp met us, with a bump he crosses into the cruiser. Inside it is dark.
“Uts navi yesttern devusta. Choto yi knochets, chotby ya s ney sdela?” says another of the soldier as we coast inside. A bit more human, if not for the fact half his face was flat out missing. These men had clearly seen combat. The man lets me drop onto the metal scaffolding as he gets off his bike. I quickly return to my feet, clutching my blade.
Another soldier walks up to me, looking down at me. “Ona cheloveraka? Varota? Snimi a neya mantis. Pokravi nem.”
I place my hand to my chest while I back into the soldier that held me. A swift hand came down to my face, ripping at my mask. Luckily, there was not much light in the room. My hidden face was now exposed in a way that felt violating. “Posvotro wa etra, vardish’, tobe skezali, chti ena ne mantiserovshchak.” The soldier said with a smile on his face.
“I don’t understand you.” I mumbled.
The men just laughed at me. “Heh, do you understand me now little girl.” said the soldier. I froze though, my eyes could not leave his mouth. “I take it you did. You are safe. We just wanted to get a good look at you. You are lucky we found you out here, you know. Come, the commander will want to see you.”
I was too frightened to speak. I only followed him through the narrow halls of the large tank like cruiser.
They led me to a rather small room, an office for sure. It was mostly metal sheets and grates, but there was a shelf of books. Something wholly not normal. “Komandir, ya koluki devutchka, kotoruya vy khoteli. Kazhechya, ona is Krasimir. Bexuno, chato ona zdes, na tek kil?” the soldier who spoke to me said to a man with a hint of wrickles resting behind the desk. He had aged hair atop his head. His hair was brown, or maybe even black at one point. Actually, I must admit, he was quite handsome.
“Mmmm etro tek. Dahystvetel no, ocken strenna, no ona vyglyedit dostitackno cholevochni. Atday mna yiyi voshcka. Ikh nizhna nomadlenno vurnut key. Piyma meshya.” The commander replied to him.
“De, sar, srano. Ona priskla mantisoy ya vra dastino.” The soldier then left me alone in the room with the commander.
“Little girl, what’s your name?” he said to me in a thick accent.
“Primina.” I replied.
Taking several steps from his desk, he held his arm out. “Go on, sit, you are safe here.” he reassured me. I sheepishly sat down in the chair. He bent down to be at eye level with me. I was not sure if this was to bring comfort or if it was to settle in a bit of intimidation; either way, it achieved both. “Are there any others like you?” I shook my head. “Its okay girl, I understand you had been in contact with a devil.”
“Velora you mean?” I balled my fists.
The man pulled back a little. “Velora, so she gave you her name.” He then looked to his side and whispered, “Intirasno.” With a slap of his knees, he rose. “I know our men might have seemed forceful and you probably don’t trust me very much.” He walked across the room acting as though he was not watching me but I could tell he was. He was watching my every move. No doubt at all. “So this, Velora, you called it. Was she with you long?”
“Yes, she protected me.” I gave him a rather harsh glare.
He stopped his stride. “No, she was not protecting you. They don’t do that. She wanted you for something. She was keeping you. I am not sure why but no doubt she was.”
“You’re wrong.” I yelled.
He raised his eyebrow at my brief outburst. “Am I? Well, where are you from?”
I swallowed. “I don’t know.”
“I guess there is no need for countries these days. You could be from anywhere.” There is a knock at the door. “Zekhida.” The man said with authority. I looked over back of the chair to see the door open. It was the soldier who brought me here. He had my mask in hand. “Akh, ochin’ khirashe, vi praneslo yay mantisu.”
He then presented it to me. I grasped it and returned it to my lap. He then nodded at me and left. I heard the door close behind him. I looked over at the man in the chair slowly. “Thank you.” He nodded.
“You see, we are not so bad here.” he chuckled.
“Why did you shoot that soldier that was with us?” I asked.
He nodded, raising his hand to his lips. “He was deserter. Left crew to die. He was a tail gunner and when they needed him, well, he was not at his station. We had been tracking him for weeks. We finally got close enough to, show him proper justice for his actions.” He paused. “I know it must shock you. That man was not a good man.”
“So what are you going to do with me?” I asked.
He smiled. “Take you home. Well, your new home. Inside the walled city of Adelbern, you will be safe.”
I shook my head. “I can’t sir.”
He shook his head. “And why is that, my girl?”
“I have a mission to accomplish. Being a military man you can understand that, can’t you?” I said.
His eyebrows furrowed at this. He then places both his hands on the desk, folding them over each other. “Sound as though we both have our missions to attend to.”
“I wish to be returned to Velora.”
“That’s, not going to happen.” The man said with a conversation ending tone.
I sat among the domineering soldiers at an iron table. The room was a series of patchwork metal, rusted and carelessly welded. Infront an iron plate of questionable meat. Its sticky consistence made it hard to eat. At most for the week, I picked at it with my fork. The men spoke in a language I did not know. In all the time I spent around the world, I felt most uncomfortable here. Like the colony, I could not see the outside world. I suppose I should be grateful, though. While the soldiers were haphazardly connected to the idea of being human, they were machine enough.
I push myself away from the table, not look back at the soldiers. They say something to me and I keep walking without turning to look at them. I left the cafeteria to a narrow hallway. It has been over one week since I came onboard of this ship. The commander has not spoken to me. He allowed me to keep all my things, which was kind. Even my weapons. I wonder, is this my fault, did I curse my chances. I miss Velora. Was God punishing me for being so ungrateful with my life. My selfishness. I don’t know. Only one thing I knew, I would wander these halls like a ghost.
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