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Thread: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi) [complete]

  1. #1

    Icon1 Machines (CW/Sci-Fi) [complete]

    Hey everyone,

    I wrote this short story some weeks ago and I thought I could finally share it somewhere. The style is quite progressive, in a way, and I know this might not be everyone's cup of tea. However, feel free to comment on any aspects of the story - really looking forward to feedback. Also, please keep in mind that the story is already finished, so unfortunately I won't be able to tie in any suggestions/feedback into later chapters.

    I plan to release chapters every couple of days or so.
    A final word about language: I'm not a native english speaker, so I apologize for any obvious (or not so obvious) mistakes. Feel free to comment here as well.

    Hope you enjoy the story,


    Last edited by Zeion; February 02, 2016 at 01:06 PM. Reason: Afterthoughts
    Chronicles of Cimmeria - A Kimmerios Bosporos AAR (EB2)
    The Age of Peace - A TW: Warhammer Empire AAR
    Blood Red Eagle - The Sons of Lodbrok Invasion of Northumbrialand [complete]
    Machines - A Sci-Fi Short Story [complete]

  2. #2

    Default Re: Maschines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    He is staring down at the grass below him. Juicy and green. Slowly, it wanders away below his view, almost reaching his legs as they dangle down the platform. So peaceful. This world must be a lush place. I bet in some parts at least, Merlin thinks. But not here. Certainly, not here. When the machines came, everything had changed.

    Since then, they had been on the move. Constantly.

    On the move, of course, meant sitting in this beast of a tank. Sitting most of the time, really. Hunkered down with his friends. He looks back through the thick iron door on the starboard side of the vehicle, back into its body. Jester is sleeping. Same with Cherry. He loves them. Both of them.

    Its their friendship that keeps him going.

    Of course, they are not alone. Eight lost souls had made it on this vehicle. Vehicle, a strange name for the only thing that stood between life and death. The only thing that offered protection in an alien world that seems to mobilize everything to its disposal just to erase them from its face. Or so it seems.

    He is listening to the monotonous rumble of the tanks motor. This thing is not exactly running with the speed of sound, he thinks. Slowly, but steady, they are moving towards their target. He is leaning towards the platform's plating, cowering behind its defenses. Peaking over the edge, he sees trees in the distance, dark gloomy shadows in the sunset. Massive trees, a vast forest, stretching farther than they ever had explored. In fact, they did not know much about this world. They thought they did. We humans often think we figured it out. Hubris, he says to himself.

    Mankind’s punishment by the gods.

    He hunkers back behind the plating. Feels the cold steel against his cheek. How that lifeless piece of metal could provide such sense of security was beyond him. Does it matter? Not really.

    Merlin decides to crawl back into the tanks main body. I’ve seen enough for now, he says to himself. It is dark inside. A few neon lights create an eerie atmosphere. The vehicle is a bloody masterpiece they put together. Considering the little time they had, that is. Three days ago they had abandoned the colony. Or what was left of it.

    Hey, Jacky.”
    What’s the radar showing?”

    Jacky has a toothpick in her mouth and does nothing else than staring onto a small screen, showing radar information of the surroundings. She wears thin gloves and is covered in a thin blanket. Still, she seems to freeze.


    That means no machines. At least for now. They usually come during the night. Why would you attack in daylight when it only helps your enemy? Clever bastards.
    But this planet has its way to deal with unwanted visitors. The machines are just one of them.

    Merlin looks in the corner again, where Jester and Cherry are sleeping. Covered in blankets, they look like babies. Rocked by the continuous rumble of the tank.
    It is not really a tank, of course. It is an improvised vehicle based on a mobile atmospheric converter, a MAC. Not sure if any of the MAC’s designers would still recognize this thing. A big bloody piece of equipment with enough horsepower to raze a mountain. Two axes in the front, four in the back. Wheels bigger than himself and about five meters in width. Back at the colony, or to be precise: its remnants, they had stripped all unrequired equipment from it.

    Filters, catalysts, transformators, computers. Everything. Instead, they made room for survivors. Food, water, weapons. They were over a dozen people back then. After the first attacks. Only eight, when they finally got on the move. Merlin clutches on to the struts on the ceiling. Cold and blank steel.

    Whatever. What is Arsa doing?

    He opens the hatch above him and climbs into the lookout. The crow’s nest. Arsa, the one-eyed engineer, sits in the lookout and hangs onto the automatic cannon. It is his baby. It had been Arsa’s idea to weld this bad ass on to the upper turret of the MAC. It has an open cockpit, with strong plating as protection. Now his grim face monitors the horizon.


    Merlin takes the field glass and does a sweep. Basically, there is forest inevery direction. Except where they came from. The colony had been located at the Ferahgo Delta. A vast river delta. Fertile, close to sweet water. Some scientist had assessed it would be a great placefor a colony. Well, that didn't quite work out, Merlin thinks and looks back. And who the hell thought that naming the place after a knife and mace swinging weasel assassin from a fantasy novel would bea good idea? Great omen.

    He can still see smoke rising.
    Back at the colony.

    We’ll probably reach the forest by nightfall.”
    Hm? Oh yeah.” Merlin is snapped out of his daydream.

    Arsa looks straight forward and Merlin follows his view with the spyglass. The trees are strong. Very old, potentially. But they wouldn’t know. There had been an atmospheric survey, of course. A geological one, most importantly. But certainly not a botanical one. The company had no interest in silviculture.

    Got to be careful then. Will be hard to judge the environment without daylight.”
    Arsa nods.
    Last edited by Zeion; November 28, 2015 at 09:24 AM.
    Chronicles of Cimmeria - A Kimmerios Bosporos AAR (EB2)
    The Age of Peace - A TW: Warhammer Empire AAR
    Blood Red Eagle - The Sons of Lodbrok Invasion of Northumbrialand [complete]
    Machines - A Sci-Fi Short Story [complete]

  3. #3
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
    Content Director Patrician Citizen

    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    United Kingdom

    Default Re: Maschines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    A great start for your story! The contrast between the peaceful environment of this world and the deadly threat from the machines works well for me. The way that you present the threats indirectly, with hints rather than details (the machines, the planet's other defences and the smoke rising from the colony) works well for me - you create a strong impression of unknown dangers which makes me want to read more. I like the way that you describe your characters and hope to learn more about them. Occasionally two words run together without a gap between them, such as "itwanders" instead of "it wanders" in the first line - and I wondered if you meant 'hubris' rather than 'hybris' - nevertheless, your English looks very good to me.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Maschines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    Hey Alwyn, thanks for the feedback. I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

    This word mess is the result of copy&pasting it from OpenOffice.. I thought I had corrected them all. These buggers seem really hard to proof-read. I hope I've found them all now.
    Also, of course, I meant Hubris. Thanks!

    Chronicles of Cimmeria - A Kimmerios Bosporos AAR (EB2)
    The Age of Peace - A TW: Warhammer Empire AAR
    Blood Red Eagle - The Sons of Lodbrok Invasion of Northumbrialand [complete]
    Machines - A Sci-Fi Short Story [complete]

  5. #5

    Default Re: Maschines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    The whole thing was a damn big gamble. When the colony had begun to be devoured by the planet and its inhabitants, literally speaking, they had to leave. No choice.

    Where to go, of course, was a matter of choice.
    Let’s seek shelter somewhere. Wait out for rescue!” Jacky had said. Reasonable choice. But futile.
    There would not be any rescue. Not in a long time.

    So they took the gamble.

    Using micro-satellites had always been part of their routine work. These tiny objects that are shot into orbit, instead of being carried up by a launcher rocket, were used as a standard procedure for cartography or scientific surveys. Merlin didn’t really know how it worked. It’s Roger’s domain. Or was, before he died.

    In any case, one of these things had detected an energy signature. A heat signature, to be more precise. About three hundred miles away. The only artificial heat signature on this bloody planet. And that close. Of course this could be anything, but since they was no better choice anyway, they took it.

    Hey Arsa. Call me when we are an hour or two away from the treeline.”
    Another nod.

    Merlin climbs back into the tank’s core.
    Cherry is awake. Nibbling on a fruit bar, she sits by the starboard door and looks out into the wilds.

    Are you OK?”
    Merlin asks and sits down next to her.

    She wears a black tank top and a military vest. She is smelly. They allare. Merlin can’t really remember his last shower. The hole tank probably stinks like a cougar cage, but they have other worries.

    Cherry grunts a bit. Continues to crunch on her bar.
    Every meal is now a big decision. Min-maxing life expectancy. Should I eat it? Conserve it?” Cherry is a bit frustrated. He can see it from the wrinkles on her forehead.
    Hey, don’t worry about it. Just eat. We have enough supplies. Food and water shortage won’t be the things stopping us from reaching Point X.”

    Point X, that’s their name for their destination. Whatever that is.

    You’re right.”
    She wrings off a smile and continues to munch her tiny meal. A lock from her black hair falls into her face. Sweetness, in the midst of darkness, Merlin thinks and then closes his eyes. Just listens to therumble of the motor.
    Last edited by Zeion; November 29, 2015 at 05:09 AM.
    Chronicles of Cimmeria - A Kimmerios Bosporos AAR (EB2)
    The Age of Peace - A TW: Warhammer Empire AAR
    Blood Red Eagle - The Sons of Lodbrok Invasion of Northumbrialand [complete]
    Machines - A Sci-Fi Short Story [complete]

  6. #6

    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    Coco is on the port side platform and peaks back inside.

    He jumps on his feet and grabs its rifle.

    Coco simply stretches her arm towards the eight o’clock position from the tank. Using the scope of his rifle, Merlin can see it.

    On top of a small, grassy hill, there is a herd of huge beasts,observing the tank. Slowly coming closer. Down the ridge. The beastslook like bloody dinosaurs.

    Huge creatures, massive legs, and dark gray skin. Of course, they are no dinosaurs. As far as they know, mammals are the only sentient wildlife on this god forsaken planet. As far as they know.

    Merlin hammers his fist against the hull plating. Muffled knocking. The motor buzzes.
    Hey,Jester! Get up!”

    Inside, a puzzled Jester instinctively clutches on to his rifle. He literally sleeps with it, Merlin thinks. Jester is their best shot.

    God, what!?”
    And he is obviously angry.

    Get in position. Visual.” They have learned not to scream. But Merlin is no longer whispering either.

    Arsa.” Merlin looks up and can see the edges of the upper turret on top ofthe MAC.
    Eight o’clock.”

    Merlin hunkers down behind the plating and looks back towards the herd. Above him, he can hear the cogwheels rattling as Arsa turns histurret towards eight o’clock. Merlin can see the black muzzle pointing towards the horizon.

    Everybody ready.”

    But of course, everybody is already ready. Merlin and Coco are hunkered down on the port side platform, while Cherry and Edwin are on the starboard side.
    Jacky on the radar.
    All clear.”

    Merlin likes her voice. Its soft and gentle. A bit manly, perhaps.

    Even though Merlin can’t see him, he knows Jester is up in the turret. Next to Arsa. It gives him a sense of security to know him up there. Its the biggest luxury these days.

    He checks again through his telescope. Those whatever-rhinos are now stampeding towards the tank.

    Bloody hell,” he whispers.
    Coco cocks her rifle.
    Each of those rhino beasts is almost half the size of the tank. Horns and organic plating covering their skin. Merlin can only guess what theyare up to. What he would be up to. Ramming the tank. Tipping it. Breaking its axis. Something like that. Hell.

    Fire at will. Conserve ammo!”

    Merlin checks the range. Four hundred meters.


    Merlin counts six of these beasts. They are dashing down the hill in some sort of wedge formation.

    A roaring sound of a bullet firing off above him. He winces.


    Through his scope, he can see one of those massive creatures toppling. It corrugates the ground as it collapses in full sprint. Jester, a genius.


    Then Arsa begins to unleash hell as the automatic cannon begins to fire. Two hundred and fifty rounds per minute. Give or take twenty. A caliber as thick as a thumb. Merlin feels the thunder buzzing throughhis body.
    He checks the impacts through his scope. Shells are flying on one of thecreatures, ripping out parts of its organic plate and protection, blood and flesh.
    It still keeps going though. Almost not impeded in its advance. Until one of the cannon’s rounds hit its skull, shattering the inside and leaving behind a lifeless husk in the green grass.

    The herd is still coming closer. Jester must have missed a few shots. Merlin can’t tell, as he is firing rounds from his own rifle. With little to no impact on the thick skin of those beasts. They are closing in. Twenty meters.

    Another beast falls. Arsa? Jester? No idea.

    Ten meters.

    Merlin can see the wild eyes of these plated monsters. Horny spikes all over its massive body. No teeth in their mouths. No teeth needed, he thinks, as one of those creatures performs its final charge towards the vehicle.

    “#$%#. Get inside!”

    He pushes Coco back to the door. A loud grunt. He can hear the heavy breathing of the animal. He barely makes it to the hatch himself, holding on to some handle, when the beast charges its shoulder against the tank.

    A huge crash. Screams from the inside. Could have been anyone. Now the beast runs parallel to the vehicle and continues to ram its shoulder into the plating. Another thrust.

    Whereare the other beasts?

    He notices that the automatic cannon no longer fires. They are too close, he realizes. Probably behind the tank. He desperately tries toget rid of the animal. Shoots at its eyes.

    The primal rage within the animal is too strong. Merlin knows: It would give its life if it could only trample him to death. Rip him apart. Survival or extinction. Kill or die.

    Coco! M 4-0-5!”

    Coco, the girl with the short blond hair, hands him the grenade launcher. Panic is in her eyes, and her face is full of dirt.

    Skull? Too thick, probably. He aims for its throat. Just as the beast hauls off for its next swing against the vehicle, the grenade finds its target. A pile of blood splashes against the vehicle, while the animal tumbles off, losing control over its limbs and finally stumbles.

    He hurries over to the other side, where Cheery and Edwin try to scare away the two remaining beasts. Controlled bursts of fire on vulnerable body parts. If there were any.

    The vehicle is still shaking from the repeated animal impacts. He layaways through the inside, passing a bloody scared Jacky that clutches onto her console and stares at the radar screen. What the
    hell is there to see, he thinks but doesn’t bother to say it outloud.
    Edwin is the computer expert. For whatever computers are left on their trip. White as a ghost, freckles, ginger hair. Merlin doesn’t know how Edwin ended up here, but what he knows is this: Edwin is fighting for his life. Short and controlled bursts, just like a pro, Merlin thinks to himself as he hurries towards him.

    Just as he reaches the hatch, he sees Cheery climbing up towards the upper turret.

    What the… Cherry! Edwin, what is she doing?”
    But Edwin is too busy assaulting the creatures. Both of those beasts are pressing against the vehicle’s side. With each hit, the tank sways like an old clipper.
    He tries to get clear aim for his M405. No chance, with all the shaking and toppling.

    On the roof, Cherry tries to balance towards the end of the vehicle,rifle in her hand. Another impact. Woomph. She loses balance and Merlin only sees her sliding off the edge.


    But she is safe. Hooked onto a carabiner and some piece of rope around her belt. That’s how she dangles from the top. Just a meter or two above the rhino monsters.

    Clear shots for her. In their necks.
    She manages to fire a salve. The animal is dead instantly. It collapses forward, so that his rhino comrade tumbles, crashes into the vehicle and is then rolled over by one of its massive wheels. The tank topples, Skull breaks. Merlin is thrown back into the inside and crashes on the floor.

    He hears Cherry laughing from the outside. Good sign.
    His head hurts. He’s trying to recover his senses.

    Jacky is standing in the port side door and yells at him.
    What is she saying?
    ...outside! Fell off!”
    Coco! She’s outside!”

    Damn. He hurls himself up and wobbles towards the hatch. Jacky grabs the mic.
    Brett, stop the vehicle!”
    Her voice is normal again. Soft but strong.

    From the outside platform, he sees Coco smashed into the grass. Fifty meters or something away. God damnit, Brett, stop the bloody tank.

    Jacky, cover me!”
    Hammering against the vehicle plating.
    Jester, cover fire. Coco! Five o’clock.”
    The tank has stopped. The hydraulics fizzle like one of the rhino beasts.

    Just got to have faith here.

    He climbs down from the platform and jumps into the grass. Its knee-high, wet, and lush. The ground is soft and he can see the vehicle tracks reaching back towards the horizon. He can see Coco, on her knees, holding her head, slowly trying to get back to her feet.

    He starts to run, trying to shoulder his rifle at the same time. Looking left, looking right. He can hear Cherry screaming something from behind him. No time.

    A gunshot. Jester’s rifle. Where?
    Suddenly, he hears howling.

    He starts to run towards Coco, who is on her feet again. Her pistol in her hands. And there they are: hounds. Or whatever they are. Some sort of canids. Small, but with sharp claws, sharp teeth. Killer instinct. Coco starts to fire. Is able to kill one. Maybe two. Then a third one latches on to her back. She screams.

    Merlin can hear himself yelling. “Jester!”
    Another rifle shot. Another of those canids falling. He almost makes it towards Coco, halfway through. Coco, the blonde girl, with a gnarling canid on her back.

    Then a loud boom. And an even louder buzzing sound.
    A machine.

    Merlin is almost knocked off his feet when the vessel approaches. The massive structure is hovering in the air, somewhere forward, above him. Like a bird of prey. Made of steel. He hunkers down into the grass.

    Cannons are firing and the earth seem to shake. Of course, it’s his limbs that are shaking. Of adrenalin, of fear. He looks up and sees Coco,surrounded by more hounds. The screaming has stopped. Only blood, no life.

    The machine is firing its machine guns. Not the pounding beat of the tank’s automatic cannon. More the nervous ticking of a sewing machine. Followed by the metallic thunk of its rounds hitting the tank’s plating.

    Merlin! Get back!”
    He hears someone yelling.

    Back on his feet, the last thing he sees of Coco is a pack of canid hounds dragging her lifeless body towards the hovering machine.

    As he’s running towards safety, towards his friends, he can hear an explosion behind him. And another one. He feels the remnants of a shockwave in his back.

    He realizes Arsa has stopped firing. Which is probably a good thing, he concludes, as he is climbing up back to the platform.

    With a final force, he dashes inside.
    Close the hatches!”
    Chronicles of Cimmeria - A Kimmerios Bosporos AAR (EB2)
    The Age of Peace - A TW: Warhammer Empire AAR
    Blood Red Eagle - The Sons of Lodbrok Invasion of Northumbrialand [complete]
    Machines - A Sci-Fi Short Story [complete]

  7. #7

    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    It is one of the rare moments that the inside of the vehicle is silent. Well, almost. A subliminal humming from the computers is the only thing Merlin can hear.

    They sit together. Nobody speaks. Sure, it is just another casualty. In a way, they are used to it. But it is the first since they left the colony. Since they first thought: it might be alright. Might be.

    He touches Cherry’s arm. Sweaty and warm. Soft skin. It feels good.
    Jester looks at him.
    Well, This sucks man.”
    He is affected. In the some what semi-darkness of the vehicle, Merlin can only see Jester’s eyes. Sad eyes.

    Merlin sighs.
    Coco, just another casualty.

    We are safe. For now.”
    Nobody can be safe on this planet.”
    Jester is frustrated.
    I’m just saying. I think if they knew how to stop us, they had done it already.”
    The others nod. It makes sense, in a way.
    Even Jester agrees, after a moment.

    Still. We need to prepare better. Who knows what they will throw at us next time around.” They. It. No idea.
    Time to check our supplies. Check the damage.”
    Cherry looks up from her rifle. She hasn’t let go of her rifle since the attack, Merlin thinks. I didn’t either.

    Hey Brett, take a rest. It will be a while until we can continue. I think.”
    Brett nods. With his black mustache, he looks just as grim as everyone feels.

    Merlin crawls back up into the turret, where Arsa and Jacky are monitoring the surroundings. Night is approaching.
    Good job earlier, Arsa.”
    He pads his hand on the engineer’s shoulder. Arsa is not even batting the one eye he has left.
    What’s the plan, Merlin?”
    Jacky asks, as she looks into the darkness through her infrared goggles.
    Let’s make sure there is no serious damage. Check the plating. Our ammo. Bunker down for the night.”
    They look at each other.
    Keep your eyes open.”
    Will do.”
    Shes miles. He thinks she means it.

    He and Cherry open the starboard hatch. Everything seems calm. Quiet.
    Let’s check the plating.”
    He nods.
    Cherry climbs up a few steps, then finds a long horizontal strut to snap in her carabiner. Their flashlights reveal some small bulges. Tiny dents, where massive rhino skulls met the tank’s hull.
    Merlin directs his flashlight into the grass. Nothing to see.
    I think we are good here.”
    He holds her hand as she jumps back on the platform.
    Let’s check the port side.”

    On the port side, the situation is different.

    Some parts of the platform are ripped out of the tank’s flank. The machine’s cannon must have made a few hits to sensitive spots. Or maybe they just welded it on miserably.
    Most importantly, one tire is flat. Made out of a special synthetic rubber, these special military tires use to put away a punch. Not all punches though, as it seems.

    Blimey. This is a problem.

    Merlin and Cherry look at each other. They both know this means several hours of work. Hours they hardly can afford. But they can’t do it in the night. Certainly not here.

    All in all, the damage is not as bad as it could have been, he thinks. They might be OK. Might be.

    After they inspected everything. After Edwin had run some tests on the vehicle’s software, they prepared to hunker down.
    Releasing stabilizers.”
    Jacky is in control of the electronic systems. One eye always on the radar.

    An electric buzzing echoes through the interior as the stabilizers spread out and touch the ground. Designed to keep the vehicle tightly rooted in roaring storms and dubious terrain. Hopefully, also in a stampede of roaring rhinos.

    Setting up spring guns.”
    More electric buzzing.
    Good job.”
    Cherry and Jacky exchange a high five. This makes Merlin smile. He looks at Jester, who looks back. They high five as well.

    Hours later, silence has taken over the vehicle’s interior again. All have spread across the little space that is available. Even Arsa has left his turret on the top, where Edwin is now taking the first shift. Merlin and Jester are both leaning against the plating, trying to get some sleep.
    Pretty impressive, huh?”
    These beasts. I mean, did you ever figure to see something like that?”
    No. Nature can be quite resourceful.”

    Merlin sinks deeper into his afghan blanket. Found it back in the colony Reminded him of his parents, and now keeps him warm.
    Good night everyone. Get some rest.”
    Chronicles of Cimmeria - A Kimmerios Bosporos AAR (EB2)
    The Age of Peace - A TW: Warhammer Empire AAR
    Blood Red Eagle - The Sons of Lodbrok Invasion of Northumbrialand [complete]
    Machines - A Sci-Fi Short Story [complete]

  8. #8

    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    The next day. Merlin is mighty happy not to wake up to shrieking spring gun fire. Or to screams of his mates. This is quite a good start to the day, he thinks.

    Until he looks out of the port side hatch.

    There’s stuff everywhere. Green stuff. Some sort of vegetation. Tendrils, or some ivy. Merlin wouldn’t know.
    Hey, Cherry.”
    She totters next to him. Still a bit bleary.
    She rests next to him, puts her arm on his shoulders.

    These green tendrils have started to grow upon the stabilizers, entangling them. If you can’t destroy them, maybe you just need to stop them. Was it about that?
    Nature is very resourceful on this planet, quite indeed.

    The tank’s massive tires are overgrown with fresh twines. At least they did not look too solid.
    Hey Jacky,” Cherry calls into the vehicle’s interior.
    Could you try to retract the stabilizers?”
    And to Merlin.
    Let’s see how powerful these tendrils are.”

    As the electric motors are working to bring the stabilizers back up in idle position, tendrils break and snap. They hear cracking of Cellulose, or something similar. Sounds like plastic tubes cracking. To their relief, the stabilizers move without problems. Seemingly, they make their way through the carpet of greens around them.


    “OK guys. We better get to work.”
    There is still a tire to fix.
    Be careful where you step.” Better be.

    While Arsa and Brett get to work on the tire, Merlin and Cherry start to remove the tendrils from the other tires and the vehicle’s hull. He breaks off a piece and has a look. The outer cellular layer, thick green Cellulose, is tough but flexible. Almost like plastic, but less robust.

    Easy to imagine what would happen with a two night break. Full plant cover. A breathing coffin of life.

    Hey Cherry.” Jester calls down from the crow’s nest.
    You always complained there weren’t enough flowers in the colony.”
    She simply looks up.
    Now you got yourself some green stuff.”
    Merlin is tense. Another rhino attack, and they would be in deep trouble now.
    During the repairs, Jester spots some of those canid predators a bit further away. But he doesn’t shoot. Conservation of ammo.

    After a couple of hours work, they can finally proceed.

    Brett, get this thing rolling.”
    Brett, the big mustache man squeezes himself through the tube that leads into the cockpit.
    And then on the internal radio.
    Ready to roll.”
    Let’s roll.

    Merlin is counting supplies with Cherry. While counting ammunition, he occasionally looks up to her. She is concentrated, counting, concerned about their supplies. He wants to stroke her cheek, but he doesn’t.

    Fourteen M405 rounds, that’s fourteen rhinos.
    Fourteen.” He says and puts the M405 launcher to the side.
    She nods.
    I got twenty six of these.” And holds up an ammo clip for their rifles.
    I think we are in good shape.”
    She nods again. Doubtful.
    Jacky, what’s the AC’s ammo count?”
    AC, the auto cannon mounted on the top turret.
    She presses a button on the console and reads the display.
    Two kilo and some.”
    He looks at a slightly disgruntled Cherry. Thumbs up. She smiles back.

    I just hope we make it.”
    I do too.
    Ever wondered what we will find there?”
    I have no idea.

    Hmm. Could be a lot of things. Might be even another colony.” That was true, even if unlikely.
    Clearly an artificial heat source. Must be something. Probably the base of these machines.”
    Into the hornet’s nest.
    Aslong as we can get off this rock. That’s all what I want now.”
    Her head falls to the right, leaning towards Merlin, against the plating.
    We will.” He says, and holds her hand for a moment.

    Later in the day, early afternoon, estimated by the amount of daylight falling into the tank’s cabin.
    Merlin. Get your ass up here.”
    He can hear the snarling voice of Arsa from the turret. Cherry is sleeping next to him. Her mouth is open. Deep sleep.

    He gets up carefully and climbs up into the turret. Jester is there aswell.
    Yo.” He nods.
    Check this out.”
    He points towards the treeline, which is really close now. About two hundred feet away.
    Merlin takes the field glass and has a look. The trees aren’t high. Maybe the size of a house. But they look old, and strong.
    You think we can make it through?”
    I think so.” Merlin nods. Easy to say with two thousand horsepower in the back. But the treeline does not look too dense.
    He looks at the engineer. Not that Arsa was a specialist for this. Who would that be anyway? They are probably the first men to encounter this strange vegetation. A moist forest, with massive, fern-like plants and high-towering palm trees.
    Yea.I say we punch through. It doesn’t look too dense.”
    Well, at least there won’t be any rhinos down there.” Jester grins.
    Let’s get ready then.”

    Halt for a second.”

    They stop. To get ready.
    When they left the colony, they knew they had to make their way through this forest. Back then, at the command center, they prepared themselves. As good as they could.

    The massive wedge at the front side of the vehicle was one thing. The RMS they are now extending was another thing. It is not an official design, of course. RMS, that’s how they named it. Remote Manipulator System. On one of the vehicle hull’s grid slots, they had mounted a boom arm with pincers.

    Jacky, extend the RMS.”
    And then to the two guys up in the turret.

    Keep your eyes open.”

    Merlin descends back into the main body while the RMS is extending. Its powerful pincers are the size of a fridge. That will help to fight our way through the forest, Merlin thinks, as he hears the rattling of the boom arm’s electronics and hydraulics.

    “OK then. Let’s get some visual.”
    Edwin fiddles around on a small laptop.
    He wipes his face with the sleeve of his jacket. Some army jacket which is way too big for him. He certainly grew into it though, Merlin thinks. Literally and figuratively.

    The small UAV is released from the backside compartment on top of the tank. Its a tiny thing with four rotors, a quadrocopter. They only have this one. But now its the time.
    Edwin uses his software to set several waypoints for the drone, while Merlin and Cherry gather around him to watch the screen.
    Jacky is still on the radar.
    Radar contact established.”
    The drone is set to operate one hundred meters above the ground. So after its short ascent, it hovers over the forest.
    This is actually the first real video footage they got of this region.
    Green. Green everywhere.
    The forest looks less dense than it could have been. This is really good.”
    Cherry says and they all agree.
    There are even some glade-like clearings and spread out areas.
    Edwin, can you show the horizon camera.” That is the camera which is directed along the drone’s flight path.
    The forest stretches as far as the horizon.

    And then they see it. A massive structure in the back, towering above the trees. Thin arcs stretch away from the main structure that looks like a torus.
    What the hell?”
    They all are speechless.
    This must be the heat source!” Cherry calls out.
    Edwin nervously checks something on his device.
    The signature matches with the geometry. I guess.”

    Get closer. But slowly.”
    Edwin nods. Then adds.
    No emissions from that thing.”
    Keep scanning. Jacky, confirm distance to the UAV?”
    About four miles down range. Almost halfway through radar coverage.”

    The drone gets closer to the structure and they all look puzzled at the screen. By comparing the structure’s height to the surrounding treeline, Merlin thinks it stands about fifty feet tall. It’s metallic surface looks strangely alien within the sea of green that surrounds it.
    Merlin can’t help but notice that the structure is not overgrown with tendrils and other vegetation. I book that up as good news, he decides.

    Is there an entrance?”
    Let’s see…”
    Then the camera wobbles. A strong shake. Followed by a few other, smaller ones.
    What’s going on?”
    He’s looking at Edwin who tries to get the drone under control.
    I have no idea…”

    Merlin looks up the turret.
    Jester, can you get visual on the UAV?”
    Moments later.
    Birds, man, bloody birds!”
    They’re attacking the drone.”
    Edwin, can you shake them off?”
    As he speaks out loud, he realizes how ridiculous this request is. Shake them off. The small UAV is a little device for basic reconnaissance, not some aircraft fighter. Complex high-G maneuvers are beyond its capabilities. And its design.
    What?” Edwin just stares back and seems confident enough to just quickly ignore it.

    Another impact on the drone.
    We’re losing it!”
    The last thing they see is the view from the drone’s horizon camera, tilted, and falling down towards the trees.
    I think they got it.” Jester cries from above.

    Sod it then, Merlin thinks. It is time they moved in anyway. They know it is not too far anymore. Maybe a day or two. Of course there is a jungle between them and the structure. A jungle with a hell lot of death traps.

    Brett. Bring us in.”
    Chronicles of Cimmeria - A Kimmerios Bosporos AAR (EB2)
    The Age of Peace - A TW: Warhammer Empire AAR
    Blood Red Eagle - The Sons of Lodbrok Invasion of Northumbrialand [complete]
    Machines - A Sci-Fi Short Story [complete]

  9. #9
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
    Content Director Patrician Citizen

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    Feb 2014
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    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    Great updates ! This planet is full of unexpected dangers, which - together with the great dialogue and action - makes this an enjoyable story. You can convey a lot of tension and drama in a few words. I wonder if you would like to enter the Monthly Creative Writing Competition with this story (someone once told me that, whether or not you win, entering the competitions can be a good way to attract more readers. They were right.)

  10. #10

    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    The motor is rambling and the whole vehicle juggles up and down as it passes roots, stones, uneven terrain, even fallen down trees. A few hours have passed since they entered the forest. It is dark already and Merlin checks his watch. Three hours have passed, to be precise.

    With their UAV gone, they can’t exactly know how much forest is still between them and the structure. No matter how much it is, it is too much, Merlin says to himself. I have to keep going, just a little longer.
    That ominous structure. The torus.

    Merlin is on the starboard platform of the tank. They had to abandon the port side one. Too much integral damage. No way around it, even though it leaves the left side of the vehicle vulnerable to anything that crawls and sneaks through these trees.

    He peeks over the plating and looks into the woods. Its bloody dark but the image intensifier within his visor unit let’s him spot them: strange creatures of the night. Hounds, or felines. Merlin wasn’tsure. Most of them run away. Scared off by the tank’s loud rumbling as it breaks through the forest. But others, they observe. Watching them.

    I just want to get there.

    Cherry crouches up to him.
    Hey. How’s it going?”
    Good. All clear. Except the occasional spectator.”
    He points forward, a bit to the right, where two eyes are watching them.
    This world gives me the creeps.” She says.

    The motor stops.
    Another tree.”
    Brett’s voice on the radio sounds annoyed.
    Roger. Taking care of it.”
    In the inside, Edwin controls the RMS, their robotic arm. Hydraulic tubes pump sizzling air through the arm’s joints. The arm starts to lift the tree.

    Now Merlin can see eyes gathering in the woods. Howling sounds, strangelyfamiliar, and yet still unlike anything they had heard before.
    Damn. Get ready.”
    Next to him, Cherry cocks her rifle.
    Fire at will everyone,” Merlin speaks into the radio.
    His first salve hits one of those creatures. More howling. The othersstart to circle the vehicle.

    Jacky cries out from the inside. A machine.
    Entering radar range.”
    About ten kilometers, Merlin reminds himself. Then he shouts:
    Protect the turret.”
    As Cherry tries to make aim on the feline creatures in the woods, Merlin starts to climb the outside array, going up to the turret. He can hear Jester firing his sniper rifle from above.

    When he reaches the roof, he can hear growling and hissing. Some of those creatures have made their way up there already and dance around the turret. Sharp claws snatching for Jester and Arsa inside the cockpit.

    They are quick. Too quick for Merlin. He is too busy finding aim in this very short range to wonder about the fact that these creatures seem to evade the rifle’s muzzle.
    Get off!”
    His rounds hit one of the cats. It gnarls, then slides off the roof and crashes into the ground.
    If only they can just keep the turret working until the machine arrives.
    He hears Jacky on the radio but can’t understand a word.
    Merlin circles around the tower, when he is hurled off the tank.

    He’s flying. What feels like an eternal fall is a mere two second trajectory towards the ground. It hurts.

    It bloody hurts.
    Another animal, a canid, has landed next to him. It gnarls, recovers, gets back on his paws. Prepares to leap, but Merlin has pulled his knife. Sharp enough for the canids furry skin.

    Merlin can see Edwin and Cherry defending the starboard platform, as the ground begins to rumble. A loud buzzing sound, then the forest is flooded with light. The machine has arrived.

    Its floodlights turn the night to day, as they converge towards the vehicle. Its guns start to fire. Sewing machines of destruction.
    The first salve strikes along the starboard side of the vehicle. Cherry barely makes it behind the plating, but Edwin is hurled off the platform. Merlin can hear him scream.

    Cherry! Take cover!” He yells and runs towards the back of the vehicle. Where he assumes Edwin.
    He runs. And he can hear the drumming sound of the automatic cannon’s fire. At least they are fighting back. At least that.

    Edwin lies in the shadow of the vehicle, almost between the wheels. He holds his shoulder and screams.
    It’s alright.”
    Merlin is there and tries to find out where Edwin was hit. How bad it is.

    Then another gnarl. Merlin hurls himself around and fires. The dog is hit, breaks away and stops his assault.
    Merlin is overwhelmed with adrenaline and stress hormones rushing through his body. Edwin?
    Edwin's face is marked with pain.

    He checks his shoulder. Full penetration. Not so bad.
    You’ll be alright.”
    Merlin jabbers on while fiddling around in his pocket for a medical kit.
    Press that on it.”
    Edwin’s panic fades. He wrings himself off a smile.

    Then a jerk. Edwin’s body is jolting.
    Merlin is struck. Looking down on Edwin’s body, he can see tendrils. Slowly moving. But they are moving.
    Another jolt.
    Panic is back on Edwin’s face as he’s trying to get away from it.
    Get me off this thing!” He shouts.
    Merlin tries to rip off the tendril, but it’s too strong. And it’s gripon Edwin’s waist grows tighter.

    He hears a gunshot. Behind him. Where Jester, who had climbed down the turret and is now on the platform, with Cherry, is covering him.
    But Merlin can’t even turn around.

    He has pulled his knife and is now trying to cut the tendrils.
    Good God.”
    Cutting as fast as he can.
    The plants skin is strong. What was brittle like cheap plastic before, now seems as sturdy as silicon.
    Get me off it!”
    Edwin continues to scream.
    Then another tendril, on his leg. He is pulled away. His body jerks around. Merlin tries to grab his arm.
    Help me!” His eyes are wide open, full of terror.
    Merlin loses grip.

    Edwin is pulled below the tank. Screams. And then, just silence.

    Another gunshot takes Merlin back to reality.
    Move your arse back!”, Cherry yells from the platform. She’s right.

    Merlin checks the sky. He can’t see the machine floating in the air. Too much light. But considering the shadow, the machine must be on theother side of the tank. Trying to evade Arsa’s gunfire.

    Then he sees them. More tendrils. Gripping tight around the tank’s wheels. This is bad.

    He jumps onto the platform, finds hold with his hands and with Jester’s and Cherry’s help, he lifts himself up.
    Get off this thing!”
    Both of them look at him, puzzled, confused.
    Get out!”
    He gets on his feet and stumbles into the vehicle.
    Cheery and Jester exchange looks, then make their way down the platform,into the woods.

    Jacky. Get out.”
    Take my rifle!”
    He gives her his rifle and drags her out of her seat. Towards the hatch.

    Brett, Arsa, time to get out.” Merlin says over the radio.
    The vehicle rambles. And it’s not the motor. He can hear metal shrieking. Steel twisting.
    Nature is resourceful.

    But from the turret, he can only hear Arsa’s screams. Is it pain? Is it madness?
    Pounding firing of the cannon. This is war, he thinks. Us against the planet.

    Then all firing stops. He tries to climb up the turret’s ladder, but blood streams towards him. Arsa’s lifeless arm hangs down the tube.
    Too late.

    In the starboard hatch, he can see tendrils clutching onto the opening.They made it into the interior already. More shrieking. Then the hullbreaks. The floor crashes and Merlin falls on his knees, barely keeping the balance.
    Brett! Where are you?”
    Then the radio is dead.

    The tube leading towards the vehicle’s cockpit is unnaturally twisted. Like a tunnel from an expressionist painting. A tendril makes his waythrough the tube.

    He takes another rifle, grabs a backpack and dashes through the hatch. Off the platform. Into the woods.
    To his left, he can see the machine hovering. His floodlights dancethrough the woods, scanning. But the machine is burning. Smoke risesup from the demonic steel bird.

    No time to think about it. Merlin runs further into the woods. Then a hand grabs him. It’s Jester.

    Jester, Cherry, and Jacky are hunkered down between some trees and boulders. Scanning the perimeter with their rifles. Nothing to see.
    About fifty meters in the back, the vehicle is crushed into the ground. They hear beasts howling in the distance.

    Smoke. Soon, that’s all there is left to see of their tank.
    Dark smoke in the night.
    Chronicles of Cimmeria - A Kimmerios Bosporos AAR (EB2)
    The Age of Peace - A TW: Warhammer Empire AAR
    Blood Red Eagle - The Sons of Lodbrok Invasion of Northumbrialand [complete]
    Machines - A Sci-Fi Short Story [complete]

  11. #11
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
    Content Director Patrician Citizen

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    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    Tense, terrifying action - an enjoyable update! I look forward to discovering whether Merlin, Jester, Cherry and Jacky will make it.

  12. #12
    Caillagh de Bodemloze's Avatar to rede I me delyte
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    the British Isles

    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    I missed reading this before Christmas, somehow. I hope there will be more, when you have time.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    He looks in their faces. They are astonished. About what they had witnessed. Terrified, by what happened.

    Merlin starts to nod.
    “OK. This rotten planet means business.”
    Most of all he is angry. Angry about the fact that he lost so many friends. Angry at himself, for letting it happen.
    “We can’t be far from the structure.”
    Cherry looks at him. Grim. But strong. Decisive.
    “Let’s make a run for it.”
    He looks at them one another. They all agree. Even Jacky, who is scared and is shaking.

    They move out. Close formation. They move fast, driven by their adrenaline. Driven by their fear.
    They are hunted. All kinds of wildlife is closing in to them from the woods. Gunshots, no sign of the machine.

    No beast makes it close to them. Their diamond formation keeps them protected.
    Cherry, who is leading the formation, reaches back. Waits for a clip. Merlin tugs it into her hand.
    Merlin aims at a canid, trailing his group. A shot. A shot that adds another corpse to this world.

    “Almost there!”
    Cherry’s voice is full of excitement. He can hear Jacky babbling something beside him, but they are breathing too loud. Exhaustion. Then he can see the structure. Ahead. Twenty meters?
    Silver metal shines through the trees. It looks unnatural.

    They run onto the glade that separates the structure from the forest.
    Dim starlight illuminates the clearing.
    “An entrance?”
    Jester is out of breath. As they all are. Jacky coughs and holds her chest. He can see Cherry and Jester run along the structure’s wall, while he puts Jacky’s arm around him, stabilizing her. Dragging her forward. He has left enough people behind.

    Behind them, a bunch of hounds have dashed into the glade. Hungry. Wild.

    Jacky’s coughing gets stronger. Her legs collapse. But he’s still dragging her forward. No, not giving up.
    Then he feels a burning pain in his own chest. He realizes that Cherry and Jester are way ahead now, many meters.
    They turn around.
    “Damn, Merlin. Come on!”
    But he can’t. He stumbles onto his knees.
    “Move… move on!” He manages to cry out.
    “Get inside!”

    He can hear the hounds howling behind him. They are almost there.
    Cherry wants to turn around, wants to get him. He knows it. It feels good. But Jester grabs her arm, drags her forward. It’s the right thing. And it feels good, too.

    He sees them running forward, vanishing behind one of the metallic arcs that protrude from the torus.

    They both lie in the grass, Jacky is in his arms. Coughing, barely breathing. He can feel her heartbeat as he presses her towards her.
    He pulls a pistol, tries to aim for the hounds. They close in.

    A few shots. Then his weapon is empty. He throws it into the grass and makes himself ready.
    But the hounds.

    They just run past by them. These massive beasts just stampede by them, whirling up grass and leaves.

    He’s coughing as well now. Jacky looks at him. Puzzled. Wondering. And then they see fluorescent pollen floating in the air between them.
    She whispers. I like your voice. It’s the last thing on Merlin’s mind as night engulfs them.
    Chronicles of Cimmeria - A Kimmerios Bosporos AAR (EB2)
    The Age of Peace - A TW: Warhammer Empire AAR
    Blood Red Eagle - The Sons of Lodbrok Invasion of Northumbrialand [complete]
    Machines - A Sci-Fi Short Story [complete]

  14. #14
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    You are damned good at this whole dramatic escape nonsense. You certainly have me eager for more. Keep up the good work!

  15. #15
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    That was a close escape - and an exciting update.

  16. #16
    Shankbot de Bodemloze's Avatar From the Writers Study!

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    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    Hostile machines and wildlife, hardly the most friendliest of places.

    Good job on the story so far, looking forward to more and seeing how they survive without their tank-home to keep them safe...ish.


  17. #17

    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi)

    They are breathing heavily. Cherry is crying. Her crying and sobbing makes her seem like an infant. I don’t bloody care, she thinks, and just continues. She’s on her knees. She can feel the steel floor below her.

    It’s cold.

    Jester is next to her. Looking back to where the door was. Some sort of entrance. No idea how they did it, but they made it in. Somehow.

    Now the gate is closed. And may never open again.

    But she doesn’t think about it. She just thinks about how they left Merlin behind. Left everyone behind. She can feel Jester’s hand on her shoulder.
    She holds on to it.
    It’s warm and full of life.

    Strange, she thinks, as she looks on her other hand that is still on the floor. On cold steel.

    After a while, they continue forward. Keep on going. Now she has stopped crying. Am I selfish, she thinks, but she is happy to be alive. Happy to have made it.
    “I’m glad we’ve made it”, Jester says, as if reading her mind.
    “Merlin would have wanted it.” He adds.

    She nods. And knows it’s true.

    Before them is a screen. A monochrome computer screen. They exchange puzzled looks. What is this place?
    They see strange symbols on the device. It could be anything. Numbers? Letters? On the console, there is only one button. A metal button labeled with a torus. This torus? What is this torus?

    She presses it and the screen changes. In shades of green, the screen begins to show an animation.

    A life form is displayed. Organic. Looks like a silverfish. Or something like that, Cherry thinks.
    It evolves. Other forms of life follow. Water creatures. Four-legged mammals. One iteration even shows the rhino beasts they have encountered. Through more iterations, the shape of the life form becomes more humanoid. Two legs, two arms. Standing upright.
    “What? Humans on this planet…”
    Cherry looks at Jester, who is equally puzzled.
    They have never seen any of the life forms shown in the final iterations on the screen.
    Except the last one.

    A giant bird-shaped construction floating in the sky.

    A machine.
    Chronicles of Cimmeria - A Kimmerios Bosporos AAR (EB2)
    The Age of Peace - A TW: Warhammer Empire AAR
    Blood Red Eagle - The Sons of Lodbrok Invasion of Northumbrialand [complete]
    Machines - A Sci-Fi Short Story [complete]

  18. #18
    Shankbot de Bodemloze's Avatar From the Writers Study!

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    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi) [complete]

    Interesting twist! Does this mean humans have evolved into machines?

    Eagerly awaiting to learn more.

    EDIT: Just seen you have marked this as complete, certainly a good cliffhanger to end on!


  19. #19

    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi) [complete]


    Yes, so that was the end of Machines. My primary idea while writing this story was to transmit some childhood fantasies I had, about me and my friends fighting against some threat, heavily inspired by some movies of the early 90s and 80s, such as Aliens, Terminator, and Top Gun. Somehow, I had this idea in my head about me and my friends being in a heavy tank on a strange planet and using it as some sort of safe haven. That was the primary idea of this story really, and everything else just came along as I went.

    One aspect that was important to me was to leave the background of this story to the reader. So with the focus on above mentioned emotions (such as friendship, some very early feelings of romance towards girls, fighting against some threat as a group of friends), I wanted to leave most other things up to the imagination of the reader. This is why it is never explained why they even went to this planet in the first place, where did they come frome and so on. Has mankind spread throughout the galaxy? What year is it even? All that was not really important to me in regard of this short story. Of course I had my own ideas and answers to these questions, but I did not want to spoil the experience by putting it all on the plate.

    FWIW: I had a similar scenario to Aliens (or Avatar, perhaps) in mind, where colonies where somewhat normal but still a massive undertaking. Star travel is possible, but really difficult, so distance is still somewhat an issue.

    But back to the themes. One important theme of this short story (and that somewhat developed while writing it) was nature and the gaia-mind approach I had for this planet. As some of you readers may have noticed: My idea was that all wildlife on this planet, and even the machines, are connected and work together as controlled by one mind (or perhaps just controlled by an instinct). From this baseline idea, the whole background for the machines involved.

    My understanding of life on this planet, of the machines, and how life evolved is the following: Evolution went a similar way as on earth, with evolution ultimately leading to an humanoid species as one of the most powerful beings on this planet. These humanoids then conquered the planet, put it to their use, and ultimately constructed the machines. These machines then realized what was the most significant threat to the planet's balance: The humanoids. They then destroyed their humanoid master race, and built these Torus-structures as archives to preserve the planet's history. Since then, the machines function as somewhat sleeper guardians that protect the planet against intruders - intruders such as our (mankind's, that is) colony.

    Also, the machines see themselves - called for or not - as the apex of evolution on this planet, as hinted by a machine being the last iteration on the evolutionary display within the torus.

    Whether or not the planet always had a unified hive mind or if that developed long after the humanoids on this planet have been destroyed - I could not tell.

    What were your ideas while reading the story? What was your understanding of the machines' role? How did you understand the final scene within the torus? I would be highly curious about some of your ideas.

    In any case, thanks for reading.
    Cheers, Z
    Chronicles of Cimmeria - A Kimmerios Bosporos AAR (EB2)
    The Age of Peace - A TW: Warhammer Empire AAR
    Blood Red Eagle - The Sons of Lodbrok Invasion of Northumbrialand [complete]
    Machines - A Sci-Fi Short Story [complete]

  20. #20
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Machines (CW/Sci-Fi) [complete]

    A brilliant ending - and I liked reading about your thinking behind the story. Your story created a very effective feeling of constant danger and an intriguing mystery about the machines. I had not realised that the machines were directed by one mind or one instinct. I recognise the influence of stories such as Aliens and Terminator (stories I enjoyed, so I like reading tales influenced by them).

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