Rune glanced back at Wren, hearing the giant’s breath coming fast and ragged. “We’re almost there,” The sarsh promised. Wren didn’t respond, but his eyes shone with pain and Rune knew he was getting tired. The soldier’s exposed ears pricked backward. “They’re getting close, he have to hurry.”
Wren forced himself into a lumbering run, whispering curses as he went. Rune’s heart pounded as he spotted Sariel’s foot through the trees. “There it is!” Clint shouted, pointing. Keila unnecessarily shushed him, glancing behind them warily. Wren’s mouth fell open as they jogged into the clearing and Sariel came into sight.
“What is that?” He asked.
Clint glanced at him, a frown hidden beneath his mask. “You don’t recognize a robot when you see one?” He asked, half serious, half joking.
“I know very little of technology, I’ve lived on a mountain my whole life. My parents taught me some, but nothing like this.”
“Oh. Well, we call this Sariel. We’re going to get in and leave this planet.”
“So.. it goes into space?”
“Yeah, but have we’ll explain more in Sariel. In case you forgot, we’re being chased.” Clint paused, then turned to Rune. “If my math is correct, Wren won’t fit inside Sariel. Do we have a plan?”
“Yes,” The beacon replied. “One of you guys, take Wren up the ladder until you reach the large hatch in Sariel’s side, below the second right arm; it leads to the resting area; he’ll fit there.”
“I’ll do it,” Keila chimed in.
The sarsh nodded to her. “We’re right behind you.”
The young woman beckoned Wren. “There’s a ladder up Sariel’s side; we’re going to climb it. I hope you’re not afraid of heights.”
The giant shook his head, a rare grin touched his pale face. “I live on a mountain, how could I be?” He and Keila clambered up the metal giant’s crossed legs and began their ascension up Sariel.
By the time Keila and Wren made it safely into the chest compartment, Rune and Clint were halfway up and the soldiers arrived in the clearing and they froze solid, their jaws like broken hinges. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
A four-armed, colossal giant gleaming black and purple in the muted sunlight. The most advanced and magnificent piece of machinery their world had ever seen, and the soldiers were without cameras.
Rune pushed Clint faster and just as the soldiers recovered their senses enough to move, the Embers made it safely inside. The Beacon deactivated his mask and wiped the sweat off his face with his bandaged hand. Clint laughed, doubling over to catch his breath.
Sariel activated, and the Beacon watched the soldiers below scatter into the woods as the mech stood and lifted off the ground. Rune and Clint clambered down the ladder into the sleeping/weapons quarters where Keila was trying to situate Wren comfortably; the sarsh, having reactivated his mask for Wren’s sake, approached the giant. “My real name is Rune Samarvir. I’m going to warn you, I am neither human nor frost giant, and I am intimidating when seen for the first time. Can I remove my mask?”
Wren swallowed nervously. “I guess.” He squeaked. With a hiss, the mask retracted. Wren froze, taking in the unfamiliar features. He swallowed again. “Whoa,” He whispered. “What are you? Sorry. That was rude.”
“No, it’s fine. My species is Sarsh.”
“... And are you all half metal?”
“No, I’m what my people call a Cybersoldier. Sarsh are a military species, and when the Admiral values a soldier, but the soldier is injured enough to warrant a discharge, they recieve all the upgrades to make them as good or better than they were before. A near-fatal incident left me with only two useable limbs and had the Admiral not gave me this privilege, I probably would have never walked again.” The sarsh trailed off, sadness glistening in his eyes.
“And is it a good thing to be a Cybersolder?” Wren asked.
“It is. But...”
Keila stepped forward, deactivating her own mask. “Rune’s people rejected him because he joined forces with a man names Artemis, the leader of rebels who are trying to overthrow the sarsh’s rule. They see him as a traitor.”
“Uh.. Okay.” Was all Wren said, dropping the touchy subject; he swung his head as Clint revealed his face. “You’re all so young,” Wren murmured. “How did you all end up like this? Missing limbs and riding around in a giant metal man?”
“I lost my arm to a poisoned blade. It nearly took my life with it,” Clint answered quietly.
“I lost my limbs to a detonator.”
Keila laughed softly. “Fortunately, I’m still in one piece.”
“And how we ended up here?” Rune said, lowering himself onto a hanging bed, groaning at his screaming muscles. “Their story and mine are different. My story started with Artemis; who compromised my life for the sake of all humans. I honestly don’t understand what he thought I could do, but he uprooted my life for it. I joined him and we planned to bring peace between the humans of my world and sarsh, but my people refused and a battle broke out. During the battle, I dropped to the ground to avoid a bullet and unknowingly activated a small, but powerful transporter called Genesis; it took me to another planet, another world entirely. In-”
“How is that possible?” Wren interrupted.
“Extremely advanced technology and a rare material called Xinvasen.”
“Anyway, in this other world, I met Clint and Keila who came via Genesis. Eventually, we met a man named Tyrene Anthalion. He had started Project Ignite-”
“What is Project Ignite?” Wren wondered aloud.
The sarsh gave him a half-lidded glare. “That’s what I was about to explain.”
The sarsh rolled his eyes. “Project Ignite is a vain and desperate hope, but Tyrene forced us to join it in order for us to go home. It’s essentially selecting certain people to be given what Tyrene calls ‘Flares.’ They are special powers which enhance our bodies, making us faster, stronger and it gives us a gift according to our species, bodies, and personalities. Don’t ask me how that works, I don’t know. Tyrene wants us to use these powers to bring peace to the universe, which, in my opinion, is impossible, but Tyrene believes it is.”
“... So what are your flares?’
“Keila has energy fields, which enabled her to create the ball you saw back at the compound. Clint’s is invisibility, I think you can guess what that means. Also, Tyrene though it would be a good idea to nominate me as the leader of this group and he increased the amount of Xinvasen they put in my body. I have invisibility and phasing. Phasing enables me to pass through almost everything.”
“And this guy, Tyrene, wants me to be one of you guys? To have a flare?”
Rune nodded. “We’re called the Embers. Yes, Tyrene wants you to have a flare and help bring universe-wide peace.”
The frost giant’s eyes went wide ad he let out a long breath. “That sounds epic, but what about my family?”
“Unfortunately, they probably think you’re dead. I read your file. You fell off a mountain; that’s enough to warrant the assumption that you died. If you don’t go back, we can keep that assumption in their minds and you won’t have to worry about it.”
“But.. I don’t want them to think I’m dead. They’ll be heartbroken.”
Rune had no reply, instead laying back and closing his eyes. “I’m sorry. If it were my choice, I would take you home, but in order for me to go home, I have to steal you from yours. I’m sorry, I really am.”
A deep silence fell over the room, interrupted only by Rune rearranging his body on the bed. Sleep knocked on his mind and he gave in; asleep in seconds.