It was awake…
But…something was different. Shouting and gunfire filled the air, a situation it had found itself in countless times, yet a deafening silence permeated every thought and notion. Thoughts unchecked raced through its mind and concentrating on one, in particular, proved particularly challenging. Where was it? It realised it was on its back, yet it could not rise to its feet. The cold steel of the ship’s floor pressed against every part of its body…yes, a ship. It was fighting on a ship.
It had not yet opened its eyes, and when it finally did it discovered what the enormous weight on its chest had been. The chaos had ruined the spacecraft, and a large girder pinned it to the cold floor of the ship. For a moment, its thoughts flashed to the cargo crate aboard that the human crew had been so fiercely protecting, to the expression of the first human who had spotted it, to the flash of her gun as she fired on it…concentrating in the thundering quite was proving very difficult. Still, it needed to focus if it intended to make it out alive—the first objective; freedom.
Through great effort it managed to pull itself from under the wreckage, and as it heaved with one final attempt, cloth and flesh was rent from its body. Pain receptors fired with a burning intensity, but this was a feeling it had become accustomed to, and weeks later it would reflect on this moment with a peculiar sense of comfort. But for now, it could not afford to linger at this moment. With its connection to the Hive severed, the overwhelming quiet persisted. This had never happened before.
It assessed its surroundings and logged a new objective; find its brethren. This was a simple task; their parts and corpses littered every surface of the ship, although at present, no functioning units could be found. At least, it thought so, but thoughts were so much more difficult without the Hive’s reassurance. Another new thought flashed to the forefront of its mind; the humans. Where were the humans it was hunting? This new objective was logged and prioritised. The galaxy spawned many that were considered “brave”, but it had yet to come across a life form that did not flee from it. It entered the cockpit and found its targets still in their chairs. One human male; succumbed to its injuries. One human female; functioning but damaged. She gazed at it without moving. Perhaps she foolishly believed that it could only register motion, as such fantastical rumours about its kind were rife in the galaxy, or maybe she was just terrified of what the quiet passenger they had picked up had transformed into. It mattered not; she was no longer a threat.
It had accumulated a vast knowledge of the beings it had encountered since coming into existence. Watching, learning, mimicking, killing; all valuable data for the Hive. But now that the connection was severed, it retained just a fragment of that immense data reserve, yet this was more than enough information to overcome its present situation. It collected one of the chemical stims hanging from the blood-stained jacked of the female and assessed its compatibility with its biology. It was indeed sufficient to make temporary repairs. It injected itself without hesitation. As it reached for the second stim the jacket held, an intrusive and never before considered thought flickered across its consciousness; should it use this final stim to aid the human? Such an illogical notion, this would not assist it in any way, and as it tucked the stim into its robes it quickly dismissed this as a glitch caused by its disconnection from the Hive.
Reconnection to the Hive still was not possible, and repairs to its Link Circuit would need to be undertaken as soon as possible. For now, there were still other objectives more pressing; in its damaged state, it could not enter into any more combat without the risk of annihilation. Wreckages such as the one it now stood in attracted covetous lifeforms with staggering speed.
At some point in the engagement the damage to the craft had proven too great and split it into two, but without the need for oxygen it had barely even noticed this fact. Moving slowly, it walked to the site of the rupture and stared out into the stars, only just registering that the damage to its flesh had almost disappeared. The stims had proven effective, and it logged this for future upload to the Hive. Several other spacecraft loomed close but paid no attention to the wreckage; and it assessed its next course of action. Option #001; camouflage and lure. Conclusion: damage too great to camouflage modules, discovery certain. Option #002; relocate to passing vessel. Conclusion: too many variables to calculate, severe risk of missing target. Option #003; search and salvage. Conclusion: safest course of action given current conditions.
It turned and headed back into the wreckage, searching for any of its kin whose parts could be salvaged. Despite it being the best course of action, chances of salvage decreased by the second. They were designed to purge immediately after being rendered disabled… Purge… this is what they called it, and its kind. The Purge. Its newly isolated consciousness began to ponder the meaning of this term, but quickly dismissed the notion. It was starting to adapt to this new…detached…way of processing. The first of its kind it stumbled across was too far gone, reduced to its basic polymers, but the engagement had been fierce, and there were many more units to inspect. Harvesters, Devastators, Assassins… all names given to its kind by the other life forms of the galaxy. Still, it could not yet recall the moniker the other beings of this universe had designated for it.
Just as it believed it had become accustomed to its disconnection from the Hive, what were once controllable processes began to escape its grasp. It had started with little errant thoughts, but now its mind was assaults by millions of details of its surroundings in hyper clarity and countless probabilities of potential outcomes, until at last in desperation it shut down every single sensor and motor function and regressed into its memory. Here, it existed for months, wrestling with its newfound independence, until finally, it opened itself to the world once more.
It was finally awake…
As soon as its sensors were reactivated it remembered the moniker; the Live One. It had a name. It gazed at the fallen comrade at its feet and realised that what had felt like months of internal struggle had been mere minutes. It looked at all the units in their various states of decay, but there was one unit that had not begun its purge. The Live one knew what precious Raw Blue it held, and rushed to the Assassin unit with great speed. Pain flooded its wound of flesh, and as it loomed over its former ally and poised to strike, the briefest flicker in the eyes of the Assassin made the Live One completely abandon this course of action. It stood silent…perhaps this unit could be saved.
by Colin Young and Adam Smith