The blue refugee and ran his plated fingers through the rough surface of the frozen world. It was a fitting place as any. His journey had been long and hard. He had survived the blitz and a manhunt that spanned more universes than he thought possible to exist. He had bleached his exosuit beneath pulsars, and felt the warm breeze of a beach that straddled a monster world, eight times the size of his home planet.

The behemoth before him hummed, its core reconstructing the appropriate hardware in order to properly dispatch this lone threat to its young. Of course through the hard vacuum he couldn’t hear it; rather he felt it through his legs. The thing was churning up the silvery ground beneath it, rebuilding the world to suit its needs.

It was the ultimate survivor. It would be an honor to die by its maw.

“I’m not sure if you can hear me.”

He started, lifting the glare visor on his faceplate. It was a difficult movement, the micro machinery it his suit hosted resisted him the whole way. They were creatures of habit, it was hardly ever was it necessary to lift it. Grown accustomed to their life in the shade, the pinpricks of sentience fried in the harsh radiation of the skyless horizon.

What does a dead man had care about radiation poisoning? He’d be damned if he’d be the first.

“Maybe you can’t even figure out that this is my way of telling you I’m sorry,”

Chuckling sadly, he approached it. A mass of swirling talons eating into the frozen landscape, he wondered what must be the brain of the thing. Where did it first sense of his presence? With what eyes did it see him carelessly stomp all over presumably, its young?

How did it feel when he squished the life out of the seamless spheres? Was this all just a preprogrammed response? Or was it alive? Was something in all of that metal and plastic screaming in pain?

“Hell, for all you know this could be how we are. I come here out of nowhere in the first light you’ve probably seen in your entire life. What’s the first thing I do? I take my first steps in this dismal place, and squash your nest.”

At that point, the presumably enraged creature had attacked him and the partially buried gate booth. He fought well, like he was trained to do. In the end of things, he was left virtually unscathed, but his only method of escape from the surface had gone up in a puff of smoke –quite literally.

Part of him was glad the thing seemed to be rebuilding itself. So he threw his rifle into the regolith three football fields away. Maybe it’d do him in before he succumbed to his oxygen recycler dying in the lack of usable sunlight.

He sure hoped so. When he joined up with the Roman Expansion Corps, he was hardly promised a slow death as air bled from his body. He had imagined a glorious demise at the hands of some enemy of the empire, or at the least in a horrible accident on board an overly elaborate warship.

Romans, as much as they preoccupied themselves with living and their pursuit of means to expand their ways, were even more preoccupied with the concept of death. More importantly, how they would happen upon it.

War or famine? Quite and dignified? Or maybe in a blaze of glory, riding an atmosphere stripper to its target like a mechanical bull.

Holographic tables and data cubes materialized behind his eyes. The biomechanical algae in his backpack were starting to chill. It was only a matter of time before the resilient little buggers became frosty slurry.

“Then I come here, coming at you like some sort of monster from the dark. I throw bits and pieces of radiation at you like no one’s business."

...Maybe I’m just wasting my time.”

The creature sprouted hundreds of barbs on its flailing, digging, ever moving cords of shiny metal. Burrowing beneath a surface harder than steel, they sowed themselves like mechanical seeds.

The man let himself feel a glimmer of regret and was surprised by the fact. He was Roman. He was legion. How could he possibly dare contemplate such a thing here, on the edge of his own death? But throughout all of his mental and spiritual tinkering he felt it like a knot in his chest. He regretted what he had done, he regretted his journey. The blue refugee, in all of magnificent glory and wit, had led a life that he would never wish on his worst enemy.

He was probably worse off than this thing churning in the dark here, like some sort of bastard plant. Unaware of where he was, isolated and alone, it was probable that he was the last of his kind. The war that had driven him here was decades past, and his enemies were as efficient as he. They wouldn’t leave any stone unturned, or any system untapped. Their plan was epic, a genocidal scheme that spanned far more than the cosmos.

Within the mass of swirling tendrils, a knot formed. It grew into a formless mass, and within a couple of minutes of watching severed itself from the rest Deadened, the tendrils stopped moving.

The seamless sphere reflected his face perfectly.

With trembling hands, he reached out to touch it. The suits resident A.I. protested, but his will was stronger than metal and motors. He forced himself to grab it.

Exoplating or not, it radiated heat. A lot of it, and he could feel the pinpricks of it travel up his forearm. It could be anything, delta radiation, gamma, some sort of nano-virus. But who the hell cared?

It was unusually heavy; the mass of a watermelon crammed into a volume the size of a golf ball. Maybe he had killed it in their duel. An arrant blast could have done the creature in before it had the spiteful will to obliterate his only method of escape.

Dying, maybe it had meant it. Its young dead and itself mortally injured, it was would he would have done. Destroy the invader’s crazy gateway and lay down to die. Let him watch you go, then realize that there’s no way home. That there was no way out. That death was the only option, slow and brutal.

He smiled sadly.


Joke is on you, you clever little bastard. I had no way home to begin with. You just sealed the deal.”

Hefting the sphere in his hand, he vaulted it out across the horizon. Maybe it’d leave orbit altogether. Let someone find it in a million years and wonder just what it was.

It was quite surprising, a half an hour later was he sat in the frozen soil watching his oxygen recyclers sputter and die, when the little silvered sphere came around from his backside and hit him in the back of the head.



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