The morning sky is black, thick with the ash spit from the stacks of the trawlers. The metal-plated machines stretch two kilometers straight upward, maybe more, with wide bases that could cover my entire village twice over. They hover on a cushion of plasma and crawl across the surface in long, ponderous paths, harvesting the materials they want and dispensing of the rest.
The Empyrean Priests sometimes use their bodies to block the trawlers’ passage. I’ve seen entire conclaves swallowed up that way, many, many times. I’m not sure the trawler pilots notice. Just insects in the orchard. The useful components are separated from the chaff. The starships collect the fruits, and the skies remain blackened.
I see dozens of trawlers today. Dark as it is, the glow of their intake vents dot the landscape like burning oil wells. Sometimes the scout ships flit by in loose formations close to the ground, giving the trawlers wide berth. They occasionally scorch the land they fly so low. Sometimes they fire bright violet beams at the distant mountain ranges just for target practice. Sacred mountains that my ancestors named and held dear before taking residence in the tombs they built for themselves there.
The scouts are patrolling for me. They search and scrape and scour and fly home empty handed when they fly home at all. I kill scouts like the trawlers kill the priests: efficiently and without satisfaction.
I crawl over a jagged obsidian hellscape where molten rock had slushed like the tides before the waves froze mid-crash. I feel little but the pressure of my weight, my skin a thick webbing of scars upon scars, exposed too long to the breath of starfire. I’m a hairless, nailless thing that no longer sweats and rarely finds a corner sharp enough to bleed. I can pull a trigger though. I can see, and hear, and hate, and that makes me an effective weapon.
A lone scout rips through the air before me. I wait. I can tell by the exhaust streams from its twin engines that it’s throttling down to sweep around the nearest trawler, and indeed that’s what it does. It banks and jets upward to the trawler’s pinnacle, then spirals down and around it like a comet escaping the orbit of its star one pass at a time. If I still had my lungs I would slowly release my breath, but as it is the exchangers keep my blood oxygen levels steady. Even so, the thought is all that really matters. I squeeze.
I should make my escape immediately, but I never do. I watch the the scout spew smoke and shrapnel as it spins out of control along all three axes before diving beneath the trawler’s maw. The scout and pilot alike are annihilated, metamorphosized into an ionized miasma. The desirable bits would be kept, probably used to make more scouts, more pilots. And the rest worked its way up the stack on its journey to the sky where it would waft and settle and fall, and I would catch it on my tongue like snow.
I relish the thought for another moment, and then I’m satiated. Alright, time to go.