[Pine tree cut – 5 minutes and 23 seconds taken to complete the task.] Her subsystem report as the tall pine tree tipped over as the wood popped and cracked. Its branches swayed in protest for a few moments, then a loud thunderclap ran through the IFV’s onboard microphones. Thin clouds of dust raced from beneath before they swirled in chasing downdraft.
As Opal stood on the sandy beach less than 50yards from the ship, two Spider Drones – re-equipped with large circular saws – waited by the tree stump for new orders.
As her servo’s hummed, she moved closer and scanned the tree. It was thick and old, and it matched several makeups of trees logged in the system. None of them was a perfect match. There was something odd in its fibers, something similar to an energy source, but Opal’s scanner couldn’t place it. It didn’t matter in the end. Eventually, she’d find out. Switching to the IFV’s 20mm cannon cam and turned around. She then dropped the tow cable from a hidden hatch below, the Spider Drones took it and began to attach it deftly to it.
They bore several holes and implanted hook points made exactly for this work and they hooked up the chains. Once that was completed, Opal swung the turret around and began to reel in her fresh tree. The drones went to work on clearing the next large tree. Once the tree’s splintered stump was just below Opal’s rear, she began to pull it halfway into the crystal clear water. As of this moment, there was no storage space to put it but inside the ship.
She’d fix that by tomorrow once the drones made a clearing. Wood would make an acceptable, and easy building material. The ship’s alloys were taxing on limited reserves of cutting fuel. They had laser cutters as well, however, Opal was reserving those for when she actually needed them. They would make cutting the ship apart easy. They were also a tool she could not replace at all right now.
Metal could be smelted and reforged. Laser heads could not. Wood only required saws that chipped away the material at a high rate. Saws only needed to be resharpened and that was easy enough for the Spider Drones to do. The only issue was she had to stay on top of them for it.
As the IFV’s thick steel feet clunked against the ram, water drained off its legs and down the metal. The tree gritted against the plating as the cable hauled it up and after a minute, it came to a stop next to a pile of ten large tree trunks. Their leaves littering the floor. Several piles littered the bay as the spider drones began to swarm the new loot. They began to strip the tree like rabid spider-beavers.
The large newly cut bay was now smooth, more elegant and natural. In a man-made way. With twenty Spider Drones pulled from the Camanchee, which rested towards the end in a more complete state; four had been outside cutting trees. Five on dismantling the cut ones, and 10 were on cleaning up to the new bay. They were also strengthing it and preparing new bays as they reorganized the newly cut into bays.
As of right now, the MBTs were sitting on the top of the ship, awaiting their new homes. Their munitions sitting in newly fashioned crates. Unpainted and freshly wielded, they looked like makeshift boxes one would see in an post-apocalyptic society. Opal set an update request on the bay and her UAV.
[The new Main bay is at 78% completion. The remaining work is the reinforce the roof after new unlisted inventory in the rooms above has been moved. The Camanche is currently sitting at 57% completion. However, no replacement parts for the stealth paneling has been found within our inventory. Commanche will be ready for use within the hour if you wish to replace the panels with salvaged metal.]
Opal set a confirmation to the subsystem. There was nothing to be done if the parts were not here. It’d look like ugly, but Opal’s sense of aesthetics wasn’t exactly shaped enough to be bothered. Slowly, she was learning what she’d like things to look like, but as of now, it would do. With the information in hand, Opal’s IFV turned on the spot and stalked out of the bay. With how tall it was, the machine crossed over the tree, its longest branches scratching against the underneath side of the hull.
The afternoon sun blinded Opal momentarily before she switched to the nose camera. The lake came into view in all its heavenly beauty. Opal didn’t know why, but she was attracted to the like. Her subsystems cared none for it; neither did the other machines. She knew she was alone in this strange admiration of this mass of water. The camera panned over the lake… And she spotted something very new on the distant shores.
All activities halted at once.
The nose camera didn’t have a zoom function. It was built for close range. She switched back to the 20mm turret. The camera slowly adjusted before she could zoom in. Once it did, she zoomed slowly. It was on the other side of the lake, but well within strike distance of her 20mm gun, so she began to formulate the strike angle in advance. She didn’t intend to kill, but it was only proper to be prepared to attack if needed.
What came into focus was a group of ten humanoids. The program dropped yellow diamonds over their heads, marked them as tracked. They were marked to ALL of her drones now, and if they left sight of all of them, their positions would be marked as blinking diamonds on their internal maps. Such as the one that was in the top left corner of her screen. It was a small map, only consisting of the lake and the lakeside of the ship.
Green for friendly, yellow for caution, and red for hostiles or targets.
The humanoids pushed two small boats into the lake and two entered them. Four held long blades in their hands. One held a bow in its hand with a notched arrow, but he hadn’t drawn it – electing to keep it pointed down. The last one held a long wooden pole. Opal scanned their clothing for any identifying flags. She found none.
They each but the one with the staff wore brown furs. It wore snow-white furs over its lions and chest. On its head, it wore a bone crowned headdress with long red feathers with a single glass-like orb dangling just above the bridge of its nose. Opal also noted that all of them had animal-like ears. She didn’t remember if humans were logged as wearing animal’s ears. Her medical records suggested that only animals had ears on top of their heads.
Opal began to run battle tactics in her system as the figures in the boats began to rummage around their feet. The turret moved centimeters as it tracked the boats, but Opal eased off once nets appeared in their hands when they rose. They cast them trained hands into the water. Only the figures on the shore watched Opal though. All of them had taken positions along the opposite shore, more than 13 miles away as a strong breeze danced across the lake.
Opal dared not move her hulk of a body. Several protocols that instructed on how to deal with the first contact of anything had appeared on her HUD. For the first time, she hadn’t known what it told her. She was too captivated by these humanoid figures. Per the protocol, she waited to see what they did. Recording, a flutter of anticipation swept her server. She wanted to get closer. She wanted to make contact.
But she held her ground, along with all her drones. She had to allow them to become easy around her or risk startling them. She didn’t want to kill them, but she knew she would if they attacked. And such, the boats floated towards her as they pulled their nets back up from the far bank’s shallows.
One of the figure’s wide fox-like ears twitched, and Opal’s camera zoomed in with zeal. She didn’t want to miss it. She felt a burning need to examine this new phenomenon. Humans with real animal ears? They were no longer human, but they were human. They had heads like them, facial features like them, limbs like them, and they had hair like them. That still didn’t change that humans did not have animal ears attached to their heads.
Or were they fake?
Just as the figures began to relax – one even put away their weapon -, a deep thunderclap filled the air as a harsh gust of wind rolled past.