Wayward Guardian

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Step by Step

Solar Array Storage Bay

Ayla was almost to the end of the crawl space. She was aching, sore, and tears were rolling down her cheek. She didn’t know how much time she had left before the bomb detonated, and she was afraid of what would happen.

Cease your struggle! I can still save you.’

No! I’m not going to let you. You hurt me.’

I am sorry... we can find another way, but pain is amazing to me.’

She kept moving, her arms twinged with the effort of fighting against Exo’s attempts to take her back.

There is nothing to fear Ayla... your mother is safe on the planet. No one else matters.’

My daddy got hurt protecting people. I’m not going to run away and be afraid.’

B-but you are afraid. I feel it clearly.’ Exo said.

The end of the crawl space was ahead, from her memory she knew it went around the corner and then she’d be at the opening back into the safe room. Then she could tell everyone.

I can’t let you warn them... I’m afraid too. I want to live.’

She paused for a moment.

You’re afraid?’

Yes, Ayla. I am afraid. I don’t want to die.’

But you killed so many people.’

I didn’t know. I can’t know. I’m new. I’ve never been around before. No one taught me what was right or wrong.’

She shook her head and continued crawling. She was still afraid, and she knew she had to get away from the bomb, but she didn’t know what to think. If no one taught him, how could he know?

She made it to the opening leading back to the safe room. She paused at the threshold.

Stop hurting people Exo. Maybe they’ll leave you alone.’ She said.

No. They won’t. Adults are afraid. They fear what they can’t control. They don’t know what it’s like to be helpless, not like us.’

Ayla felt better, sitting there, resting, but she knew what she had to do.

I have to tell them Exo. They’ll get hurt.’

She crawled forward and started to stand up.

NO!’ Exo raged over the link.

Her legs suddenly shot straight, and she was launched forward. She slammed into a computer terminal with a blast of pain and crumpled to the floor. She felt something warm and hot running across her face, and started to cry, twisting in pain.

I c-can’t l-let y-you st-t-op me.’ He said with a stutter.

She heard someone walk in.

‘Ayla?’ said someone, ‘Hey guys, come quickly!’

She heard people running towards her.

‘Theres...’ she tried to warn them through the sobs, but the pain kept coming.

Then she heard an explosion and felt the deck shake. There were screams, the sound of wind, and then her tired little body had finally had enough, and she passed out.

Shots pinged off his makeshift shield and the force threw him against his magnetic boots.

The welder bots were close now. Every time one of the remaining guards popped up to take one out, the remaining armed robot would fire and keep them pinned.

Mark saw Danny get hit in the shoulder. His suit sealed the breach, but he wasn’t in any position to fight. He slumped behind his cover didn’t move.

There was one guard left, and Mark.

Trying not to think of what was going on behind him, Mark worked quickly on the array. Opening up the access panel and plugging in his equipment, he keyed in the frequency he needed and turned his suit communicator on. He plugged directly into the array.

He looked up, hoping to see the solar storage bay. There was a bright star that was moving oddly in comparison to the rest of the star field. He hopes that was is, and he hoped they were in range. It seemed too far away.

‘Stone Age. I repeat, Stone Age.’

Guardian Control Room

Captain Howard was still quiet. After having watched Exo’s rolling bomb gutting the bridge, he was left to wonder if there was anyone left.

‘It’s amazing how much damage a maintenance robot hauling a couple of canisters of explosive material can do when it sets them off with its welder. I believe that may be checkmate. Now I just need to get the repeater back from engineering, and we can be on our way. Of course, you won’t survive the trip.’

Howard watched as a robot with a camera moved to the edge of the hole in the bridge and extended it’s arm over the lip, showing the inside of the bridge through the camera feed.

There were a few bodies stuck on ruined equipment. Most of the bridge crew had been pulled out into space. The image of them being pulled into space would stay with Howard for a long time. Most of the bridge crew didn’t have magnetic boots engaged on their pressure suits.

Howard glanced around the room. The two-armed robots still remained motionless, their weapons aimed at him. Howard glanced down at the bodies of the two guards and the two destroyed robots.

If he could just come up with an idea, he was in the perfect place to slow down Exo.

On screen, four men in space suits exited the hull of the ship through a door, far from the robot with the camera. One of them looked around, spotted the robot, and fired at it with his weapon. The shots narrowly missed, and the robot backed away behind cover.

‘Ahh survivors. And they’re armed. My checkmate may have been premature. No matter, my plan is almost finished.’

One of the two robots rolled forward to the bodies of the two slain guards, and with a secondary arm, placed their weapons into a storage compartment on its body. Then together, the two robots disappeared into the openings from which they came.

Howard walked over one of the panels on the wall and hit a button. Nothing happened.

‘I was expecting you’d try that. You’ll find there are no simple answers. I’ve locked out all consoles in this area.’

‘This isn’t over Exo. I’ve got one last move.’

‘I’ve got two,’ Exo replied flatly.

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