[///System rebooting <Warm Start> – Standby.
. . . .
///WARNING – MASSIVE FAILURES DETECTED.
- FOWAI CORE “Opal” – GREEN
- Fusion Reactor – YELLOW
- Auto-Forge – GREEN
- Weapon Systems – RED
- Long-Range Radars/Sensors – RED
- Short-Range Transmitters and Relays – YELLOW
- Outer hull Optical Sensors – RED
- Storage Bays – RED
. . . .
///Breaking down report – Standby.
. . . .
///Fusion Reactor reporting strange signatures within the reactor. Reactor’s efficiency has risen 30% – Extreme power being dumped. Reactor’s local AI is monitoring the situation.
. . . .
///Pathfinder weapons are not being detected within the system. Please turn the Weapon Station server on and off again. If the problem continues, please see your local Best Buy Geek Squad representative. If they cannot be found, submit a scathing review on Yelp!.
. . . .
///Long-Range Sensors and Radar has been destroyed.
. . . .
///Short-Range Transmitters and Relays are working but require hardware repairs. Drone usage is limited to a 10 miles range around the Pathfinder’s Bridge.
. . . .
///Storage bays cannot be found – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
. . . .
///Storage bays’ local AI has been purged from the Pathfinder due to negligence.
. . . .
///Opal has moved the Pathfinder to Defcon 1. All activate drones to assemble on the Bridge and all alarms silenced.]
Opal brought up the Bridge’s camera feed. Placed between two 50″ UHD Screens, it displayed the edge of a white control panel topped with black tinted touch screens Beyond the command stations, a large Holo-Table – the only one the company was willing to place on the ship – was warming up. Three white smooth walls panels on the far wall opened.Six all-black HAIWs stepped out, two deep, onto the Bridge. Each held kinetic-shotguns per Crash Protocol D1 – M4 Benelli loaded with 00 buckshot – and formed up before the holo-table.
The table flickered the life as Opal stepped into her new avatar. A woman with medium-length hair that came down mid-neck. She was nude as a freshly born human, but her slender violin body displayed her genital, and her shapely chest had no nipples. The UHD screens over the control station displayed the previously gone through boot-report. With a wave of her hand, it was replaced with their current situational report. In the way she’d watched the violently fired Admiral do, she dictated her will to the HAIWS – verbally.
“We’re currently missing over 99 percent of our forces and 100 percent of our supplies,” Opal stated as she turned to face the screens. Placing her hands behind her like Admiral Walker did when he’d spoken to Diplomat Theresa before Dr. White had entered the ship. “Only the forward end of the ship is reporting back to me, and I have to assume it is because of the heavy reinforcing around the mission-critical sections. I require that all responding drones secure any opening into the Pathfinder.”
The AI’s hologram turned around on her heels and faced the expressionless drones. Silence reigned for several seconds before Opal felt displeased. She sent them a silent order to nod their heads, and they did.
“Good,” Opal nodded back and turned around. “You have your orders. Carry them out.”
With that, the drones stiffly marched away. The black drones were fundamentally different from the lost gunmetal grey ones. With enhanced on-board small AIs, they had the ability to command their lesser workers. They didn’t have the ability to develop rampancy – the AI version of developing Schizophrenia-like disorder after having processed too much information unchecked. But they had the ability to make semi-good orders without outside input. Nothing that’d make them Generals, but good enough to make squad-level changes.
With that, Opal felt them link up with the 10 below and split into two squads. From there, Opal turned around to face the screens… And she didn’t know what else to do. If the Pathfinder was functioning, she’d be in the process of securing an area for an FOB. Valkyrie Infantry Fighters (VIF), heavily armored six-legged drones with 12mm auto-cannons and M240C 7.62mm remote machine guns, would’ve been in the middle of being unpacked from cargo and moved into the Auto-Forge’s assembly.
That was if she was orbiting the target planet. But she wasn’t, and Opal had to feel out her position to figure out what point she could work at. After two full minutes of continuous thought, and several thousand errors, Opal decided she should get hands-on with the situation – definitely not because she’d just checked whatever connected systems nearly 500 times.
She pulled up the HAIW squad roster and picked the one furthest on the list. The bottom of the rung meant that it was the least busy, right? It didn’t matter, it wasn’t like they couldn’t compensate for losing one drone.
Opal’s hologram dissolved as the holo-table powered down as HAIW-16 came to a standstill, just as the two squads began to file into the empty monorail tube. It’s head lowered with a down-winding buzz. Then, it rose back up. In place of the calm blue ring of its camera. The light was a prism of colors, mirroring Opal’s core, as she took over. Each drone acknowledged her presence with small cheery chimes.
The HAIW – which she designated as Spear One and moving it onto its own roster – had a Heads Up Display. Designed to give a “futuristic” feel to it; with everything in that same calm blue that Opal was beginning to dislike. A small, non-intrusive roster was displayed at the top left, with a small icon of the drone’s shotgun. A single red “1” was under it, accompanied by a yellow “5”. After that, it displayed a blue “100” and “00-BUCK”. Rounds loaded, rounds in the tube, and held rounds.
Black obscured the rail’s tunnel as sparks pulsed every so often. Each drone turned their headlights at once, illuminating the tunnel. It didn’t do anything to help the robots, but it was protocol- and Opal did love her protocols. The AI weaved slightly faster than the rest, taking her place next to HAIW-1 and HAIW-9 as they plunged into the blackness.
A shower of sparks rained over them like dying fireflies before they scattered over their heads. They proceeded without flinching. One meter, two – nothing happened.
There was a loud pop, and something glanced across HAIW-4’s weapon. In unison, all 15 drones turned and unloaded four shots each in the direction. Steam poured out of a cooling pipe and slowly began to push the smoke away. The object had been a damaged maintenance hatch to a cooling valve. Opal was the only one who’d refrained from firing upon the unknown. She gave it a measured look, noted the damage for later repairs, and ordered everyone to move on.
A minute later, they found the source of the smoke. An electrical fire had broken out in one of the bi-poly electrical panels for the rail, The fire was snubbed, and they continued on. Noting the flow of smoke as it began to move ahead faster while thinning out. A moment later, they found themselves on a twisted metal platform – 40 stories high.
A large twisted chunk of the ship was sprawled out nearly a mile away from the bow. Large cargo containers were thrown haphazardly, dotting the furrow and the surrounding forest. Fires burned here and there, and out in the distance, a clear moonlit sky rimmed the large behemoth of a mountain that dwarfed the Pathfinder. By Opal’s records, it must have been twice the height of the tallest mountain on Earth.
Opal’s HUD beeped as several of her sub-systems began to analyze everything. As that happened, the squad leaders determined it would be quicker to jump down. Using outcropping platforms to do so. Stairs hadn’t been conveniently placed. To use them to reach the ground floor was akin to comparing a turtle to an automobile. Opal contemplated that comparison, one Admiral Walker had used.
She came to the conclusion that both were equally useless if they were both dead.
It took five minutes for HAIW-1 to make it down into the large ravine below. A long line of drones leaping from platform to platform interested Opal. And once HAIW-15 jumped, Opal followed suit.
Five minutes later, Opal found herself at the center of a half-mile deep ravine. Carved out by the Pathfinder’s belly, it was littered with sputtering fires and cargos. One which, the closest one was 200yds away. The container registered the bent metal containers a Mobile Artillery and AA Control Station (MAACS), or colloquially referred to as “Brood-Spider”. Opal and the others ignored it. Brood-mothers required assembly, and that would require at least 100 HAIWs and less than 4 continuous days to assemble it out here.
3 hours if they could carry each piece into the massive Auto-Forge. But that’d also present the issue of getting it down on the ground.
Filing away that situation for another time, she turned to the newly added points on her HUD. 4 diamond objective markers appeared along with a degree compass. One was beyond the first container, another was to her right and the other two were on her left. The right was pointing 500yrds to her right. The left points were 700yrds. The one forward was 156yrds. With this, Opal moved them all forward.
Little-Fang didn’t understand the reason for this raid. His small green goblin hand shook slightly as he tried to reign in his fear. Out there in the open, a large black structure had fallen from the Heavens. It scared him witless. He felt it in his bones, that this was death. This was hell, and if he went, he’d die. But he was scared of the Great Chief as well. Little-Fang looked back, his large pointed nose angled upward to the massive pale-skinned troll.
It carried a grudge club, fastened from a young tree’s trunk. The monster didn’t have fear in its eyes but felt challenged. That Little-Fang knew well. Trolls hated trespassers and probably felt this new threat was just another trespasser. A real goblin Chieftain would have made the clan run again like they did from the humans years ago. At that thought, the small goblin turned its eyes to the distant mountain to the southern end of the valley.
Where the once-massive human stronghold that’d kept them in the valley had rested, only a broken mountain stood. The humans were no more.
“Kill bad monsters!” Great Chieftain growled as he smashed the massive club into the thick tree to its left. On the command, Little-Fang felt his heartbreak. He couldn’t move. And so, nothing happened.
“Kill! Bad! Monsters!” The troll roared as he grabbed the hob-goblin beside the goblin and threw it out beyond their cover in the forest. The goblin screamed in fear and thrashed violently before white lights illuminated him in the air.
Without pause, loud booms filled the air and the hob had turned into a shredded pig in the air. No one else dared hesitate. Tiny little shrieks filled the air as hundreds of green 4ft goblins raced out into the open. A loose collection of 40 clans that’d banded together with the Great Chief in their flight. Now, they all swarmed through the charred ground and small fires to attack the newly arrived monsters that climbed out of the chasm.
Little-Fang kept his pace behind his fellow clansmen. He was smart. Little-Fang did not want to die, and thus, he would not if he didn’t eagerly place himself on the frontier line. This was not how to become a Hob-Goblin, but Little-Fang would live many moons longer.
Orange flowers erupted from the new monsters, followed by whipcracks. It drowned out the goblins’ war cries and green blood began to soar through the air. The goblin’s head beside him exploded randomly. It had startled Little-Fang enough to make him tumble forward in shock. He landed on his find as several of the new monsters, clad in metal like the humans, but oddly shaped clashed with the goblins.
Grey and odd, they found with their hands. One grabbed a goblin by the throat and ripped it in two with fear-instilling speed. Another held strangely shaped black staff that erupted with fire; goblins exploding in green blossoms each time. The goblins swarmed them, most of them using their bare hands or simple rocks to beat at their attackers.
A hob-goblin fell beside Little-Fang and with the dead green man, a rusty mace. He knew what he had to do.
Little-Fang grabbed the mace – slightly heavy – and changed at the closest bad-monster. While it was easily tearing apart a few of his kind, it was also being overwhelmed by them as well. By the time he got there, tens of dead goblins littered the churned up dirt around it. The strange beast fell backward as they pulled it over. Little-Fang jumped on top of it before another could, and brought the mace down on the ring of blue that was its face.
There was a crack, and webs of white were left in the mace’s wake. The beast continued to fight back; so Little-Fang came hammering the thing with the mace over and over again. After the 7th strike, the beast twitched before it went limp. He didn’t feel its magic flow into him like any other beast. He felt a sense of disappointment. But that didn’t last a few seconds as thunder erupted by his ear and he flew backward.
Little-Fang felt his arm burn and he looked over to right his left arm was missing. Green blood oozed out to drench the strips of flesh that dangled from the stump just below his shoulder joint. Searing pain made it hard for the goblin to breathe, and he could only shake as he looked up.
A rainbow ring of light looked down over him. The figure was similar to the strange monster he’d killed, but it was grey. It was black as the void, and a ring of rainbow-painted smooth, equally blackface. Its black tubed staff was turned on Little-Fang’s nose.