The Lighteater‘s spherical hull loomed giant over the golden tall grasses like a burned out ember cast from the sun itself, charcoal black and distorted by an energy shell that could be confused with heat waves. Dotting the field were the scattered skeletons of trees with no leaves, even with the lateness of the season.
From inside, Ackea watched several small squads approaching. The soldiers left parallel lines in their wake like crop circles as they tramped down the grasses. They kept their eyes welded behind the sights of their pulse rifles, looking always down the barrel. By default, everything they saw was a target.
A hard way to see the world, Ackea thought, but not an uncommon perspective. Even now.
Ackea had no harmful intent, but they didn’t need to make it easy on the mercenaries closing in, either. They discharged the Lighteater‘s evaporators, and 35 billion cubic meters of steam erupted from its hyper-compression tanks.
A thick fog rolled away from the ship and over the fields, crashing over the tall grasses like the surf. It was a clear day and the sun was 40 degrees over the horizon, so the soldiers didn’t fall into shadow. Instead they succumbed to a white void, the sun’s rays hopelessly diffused. They had optical enhancers to help them navigate, Ackea knew, but nothing could be done to alleviate the psychological tension.
It was a futile endeavor. How many attempts was this now? Had it been a thousand yet? Endless variations on a dull theme. Even if Ackea did nothing, the Lighteater would not be taken. It had it’s own agenda.
As if it knew it was being thought about—and perhaps it did—the Lighteater alerted Ackea to the proximity of the squad on the northern flank. It wanted to know if it could destroy them.
“No,” said Ackea.
The alert went away, perhaps with some disappointment.
“But let’s try a new tactic. I believe it’s well past time,” they said.
Through its shudders and groans the Lighteater indicated that it understood. And disapproved.
“Don’t whine. It’s unbecoming. Allow them aboard, just those three. We can easily keep them isolated. I think you’ll find them to be compliant prisoners once they’ve learned, and quick learners at that.”
The Lighteater was not convinced.
“If I’m wrong you can kill them just as easily from within as without, can you not?”
It could, it admitted.
“There’s nothing to be lost from trying. And perhaps we gain an ally. I do get lonely on these so-called ‘fact finding’ jaunts.”
A bassy rumble from the Lighteater.
“I’m sorry. You’re excellent company, but you know what I mean. Let’s get on with it,” Ackea said.
A hatch opened along the northern face of the Lighteater‘s base, and three mercenaries stormed inside. The hatch snapped shut behind them and disappeared without a seem, and the Lighteater disappeared likewise into the sky.
Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Kevin Miranda, used with permission.