The nothingness fills my dreams, monsters of untold horror stalking me and chasing me through the lifeless barrens that lay ahead of Alvii and I. I jolt upright with a tremor, I sit there a moment trying to puzzle out if it was in my dream or in my waking life when a strong tremor shakes the land. Hastily I unfastened my tent flap and crawl out, far away dust rises up. I crawl to Alvii, in stasis on the ground. “Alvii, Alvii wake up.” I attempt to shake it awake but its weight is more then I can move. “ALVII!” I scream, the dust looks as though it is getting closer, slowly the orange and blue lights flicker on.
“Yes Hera? Is something wrong?” It asks, sitting up slowly.
“I think there’s a dust storm coming.” I point Alvii cocks its head and stares at it for a moment.
“It is not, there is not forward motion.” Well don’t I feel stupid…
“Oh, sorry. I guess I panicked.” Alvii slowly rises.
“It is alright, I should not have been in stasis so long.” I stand up and look out over the barrens.
“What used to be here?”
“A city, a vast center where many life forms lived.” I glance at him, I would say ‘its gaze was distant’ but that’s how Alvii looks at everything.
“Let me pack and we’ll get going.” He doesn’t respond but instead stares intently at the dust cloud. I pack my tent away and shoulder my pack before walking up to him. “What are you looking at?”
“That dust cloud. I believe we should move toward that.” I nod and jump down to the same level as the barren, Alvii steps down, for more gracefully then I.
“What should we expect here?”
“I do not understand your question.”
“Are we going to be in danger?”
“I… I believe so, it is best if you keep close watch on our surroundings.” We lapse into silence, each of listening for any noise that could be considered unusual or dangerous. This barren waste land holds little evidence of the city Alvii spoke of, some buildings still crumble but it seems like most have been wiped away by time and war. I wonder if this is where Alvii landed. “It is.” I jump and look up at the machine.
“Did I say that out loud?” Alvii nods.
“This is where I landed. The life forms were not ready for us, many died. The smart ones fled from the city, at the time my programming kept me from following.” I nod and look ahead.
“What was it like?”
“The city?” I nod “The streets were wide with soaring buildings, art was scattered about the city, and they had a rail system set above the city streets. The life forms that resided here were tenacious, once they learned how to kill us it was no longer a one sided fight. I lost many comrades, but still the life forms eventually fled from us.”
“Oh… Was the city big?”
“Very, it took days for even us to cross from the north to the south side.” I look around and try to imagine what it would have been like but its hard to do when the most people you’ve seen is thirty. With a sigh I give up on the idea and we keep walking, the sun arching high over head and warming the land, it must be close to spring.
Hera is an odd life form, I suppose it is only normal for someone to wonder at what was in a now barren landscape but I do wonder if she understands the scope of the human population. It once covered this blue planet, where there was land, there was bound to be at least one human. They were like an invasive species, everywhere, damaging everything, and strong willed. A hard issue to overcome for the ones who sent me and my kind, a hard issue still yet to be overcome.
The air temperature is rising steadily, it will be pleasant to have the snow melt, although mud is difficult to travel through. My thoughts are interrupted by a shadow moving ahead of us “Did you see that?” Hera looks at the area intently, pulling an arrow out of her quiver and nocking it. “I’ll check it out.” I do not bother protesting, she is already moving away and toward the crumbling structure.
I stand there waiting for Hera for five minutes before she reappears and walks over to me, replacing her arrow in her quiver. “No one was there.” She does the equivalent of a verbal shrug. “I guess we just keep an eye out for whatever was in there.”
“I must agree.” We begin our walk again, this time I am acutely aware of something follow us but when I chance a glance over my shoulder there is nothing. We walk till the sun begins to set, the wind picks up and it chills us both. “We should stop, we will need a fire on this night and that is easier to build in the light.”
“Yeah, let’s find a more sheltered place to set up camp.” We walk a little further before finding two low walls, Hera sets up her hut as I locate some dry wood. We manage to get a fire going and the heat from it prevents anything from freezing though my reactions are considerably slower at the moment as the fluids move sluggishly through me. The sun dips below one of the walls and Hera stares into the dimness. “Alvii,” she whispers, I follow her gaze, there is something there. I cannot make it out, as it draws closer Hera sits up and is ready for a fight, finally the being steps into the light of our fire.
“Greetings, travelers.” He seems joyful.
“Who are you? Why have you been following us?”
“Because you’re not from around here and this is a dangerous place. I came to offer you shelter and food for the night before you move on.” Hera considers this, I do not desire to stay with this man but she is more fragile then I.
“What’s your name?”
“My name is Theo, what is yours?”
“I’m Hera, this is Alvii.” He looks at me and nods, no fear crosses his features. That is more concerning then when Hera shot me.
“It is a pleasure to meet you. Perhaps we should stay with him tonight, we do not want to freeze.” Hera nods happily and starts breaking down her hut while I use snow to put out our fire. The man smiles at us and then leads us toward his home, just a little ways away from where we were camped.
It is a small hut, but warm and with more then enough room for us. Hera sets her things down and I sit on the floor “Hera, I am going into stasis, the cold is not good on our batteries. Please wake me if you need me.”
“Ok, Alvii.” She is not paying attention to me, instead surveying her surroundings. The peace of stasis is a welcomed thing after a day in harsh cold and whipping wind.