The Black Flying Machine
They came like locusts, devouring all in their path.
I was only twelve years old when I saw them for the first time. A massive object appeared in the sky, flying in front of the sun like an eclipse of doom. We didn’t know what it was, or what it meant. We had never even heard of such things. It was like no bird my people had ever encountered. It had nothing to propel itself through the sky, it seemed. We thought perhaps it was a large comet. We thought it was a harbinger of death and destruction.
We weren’t too far off.
Little bits of things fell from the object, and came towards our city. We all braced for impact, but it did not crash into the ground. Rather, it twisted and turned as it came close. And then we saw that it was not dust from the expanse like we thought. It was a great machine, and some odd creature drove it. I couldn’t see well enough through the machine to see it clearly. I wouldn’t have had the time either.
As soon as it saw us, it opened fire in the street. People scattered likes wyrms. Some kind of laser bullet whizzed past my face. I could feel it burn the skin across my nose and cheek as I fell to the ground. I howled in pain as the machine flew down the street, dropping other creatures out its back end.
I saw these more clearly than the thing driving the machine. They were dressed in black, or maybe they just had black skin. I wasn’t sure. It strode toward me. It wasn’t right. It had only four limbs compared to our six, but they were very large ones. That didn’t quell my fear of these things. Even in my intense pain I was smart enough to crawl backward. It had a weapon, a very odd one that glowed at one end.
I tried to run, but I wasn’t fast enough. It grabbed me by the head and turned me around. It spoke to me, its voice coming from a thing on the top of its body that I assumed to be its head. I couldn’t understand it, though. It tried to point to something with its five-fingered hand. I spit in its face. It wasn’t phased at all. I yelled out, hoping someone would come to rescue. No one did.
Four limbs... excessive violence...
I had heard of these things before.
Seeing that I apparently could not help it in any way, it flung me across the street and into one of the homes. I crawled up from my spot, slowly but surely. One of my limbs was underneath part of the house. I groaned. I had to use the strength from all five of my other limbs to finally get me up. I shook my head quickly and looked around. My parents were not around. I scurried around, trying to find them desperately.
It was around this time that I found a machine. It was just sitting there in the middle of the street. Apparently all the other bandit creatures were running around and had left it there. Maybe they had taken my parents, I thought. Maybe they had what they were asking me for. I hoped that had not happened. If they were what I thought they might be, they were unpredictable. They might shoot them both after getting what they wanted. I prayed to Garu that this was not the case.
I got up on my hind limbs and walked slowly, very slowly, towards the back of the machine. It was open all the way. I didn’t see anyone in there. I walked a little closer, then turned my head around the open wall.
Nobody was home, it seemed. I wanted to walk away, I really did. But if I had done that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So I’m thankful that I did what I did that day. Really.
I climbed in.
I climbed right through that back entrance and never looked back.
I walked through a small hallway before finding what I thought was the control spot. It was where the creature had been sitting before, in the front. I’d seen things like this before, but they were all from Wamia, and nothing from out in the expanse. I tried to figure out how the machine worked. I was sure it couldn’t be too hard. There were plenty of glowing objects in the machine. I didn’t know if those were just how the walls looked in the front or if they did something. I decided to find out. I clicked a glowing thing. It didn’t do anything except turn on the light in the back of the machine. I sighed. I tried a few more buttons.
There was this one knob that was shaped like it ought to be grabbed. So I grabbed it and clicked the glowing things on the sides. The machine began to move.
I looked around quickly. It wasn’t doing anything more than moving, but it was definitely moving. I could hear the hum of this monstrous thing, a sound that shook the very machine that caused it. I hoped that nobody would hear it over the din of the chaos outside. As it turns out, I was wrong.
I saw another thing clothed in black, its face exposed with clear glass on its helmet. It was much more natural looking, not like these four-limbed things. They were just freaky. This one actually had a decent sum of limbs. I wondered if it was from Wamia, like me. But why was a wamling helping these abominations?
It tried to get the machine going. He kept moving. I pushed all sorts of glowing things, but nothing was doing anything. Suddenly one of them launched a laser blast, knocking the armored wamling across the street. That was cool, I thought.
I tried moving the little pulling thing. It moved the machine up, and I got really excited. Perhaps too excited, to be totally honest; I hit one of the buildings on my way up. And that’s when I got an idea.
I could see the great machine from where I was. What would one of those lasers do to it? I tried clicking more glowing things in an attempt to get it to do what I wanted. I shot a few strange things, but nothing turned me around. The last one knocked the roof off a bigger building.
I decided to stop pressing the glowing things, and moved on to the thing that got me in the air. I tried pulling it to the left and right, but it was stuck in place. I didn’t want to blow up any more buildings, but I also wanted to stop them from hurting us. I tried a few more times. Still, it didn’t budge. I groaned. I tried pushing it again. It went down. I pulled. It went up. I pushed on the left handle, and that didn’t work. It moved the whole pulling thing at once and just moved it down. I gave it a twist, and it suddenly moved to the left. I grinned.
I flew high into the sky, way too high for my own comfort. I had always hated heights. At the time, I thought we telfinna weren’t meant to be high in the sky ever. If we were, I had said, Garu would have given us wings. But as Garu had not, I decided the ground was the place for me. But at that moment, saving my city was more important.
I aimed the ship and launched a laser toward it. I couldn’t tell if I’d hit it. I was still too far away. It didn’t appear to do anything. I shot a few more. Still nothing. Suddenly some black things came out from the bottom.
I thought that meant the big machine was falling apart. As it turned out, it just meant that some smaller machines were looking for whatever was shooting the big machine. They flew right towards me. I tried to find out how to go backward and forward. None of the glowing things did anything. They came towards me quickly. I stamped my hind legs on the ground in frustration. It moved backward and forward very quickly with each stomp. I tried the left stomp again. It moved backward. Not too bad, I thought.
I took a few shots at them, but they dodged easily. Not what I wanted at all, but what did I expect? I don’t know. I was only twelve. I was barely out of larva stage, really.
I stomped with the other foot. I launched toward the big machine at a dizzying speed. I’m still not sure what happened to this day. I probably hit the pedal a bit too hard. It might have already been in gear. Either way, I was hurtling toward a massive thing and I could not stop myself. I picked my hind leg up, but it did not even do so much as to slow down. I was too close to it by the time I realized that I could have turned left or right. I braced for impact.
I was launched through the wall of the small machine and into the inside of the greater one. There were rooms inside, and the walls were not quite as hard as I had expected. Still, I was hurt. I heard voices inside the machine, but I couldn’t tell where they came from. I was too dizzy.
In my dizziness, I tried to scuttle towards some objects inside the room. I suddenly realized that this big black machine was probably some kind of ship to ride the expanse. Maybe that meant that those two-eyed things were, in fact, earthlings.
I had heard a lot about earthlings at this point. I had heard that they breathed flammable gas, that they were naturally violent creatures that would harm even their own loved ones, that they enjoyed killing. I had heard that they drank poisonous substances as recreation. I had heard that they were living weapons, so much so that one even ate one of their own flying machines just to see if he could do it. I’d heard that they were venomous, that all who had been bitten had died only a short time later. I'd heard that they were two-eyed.
I heard steps coming in my direction. I looked for something to hide behind. There was nothing. There were no crates. I crawled up the ceiling to get a better look. I watched in terror as two armored creatures, some four-limbed as before, some regular six-limbed, came walking underneath me. I sat as still as I could. I tried not to make a sound.
They searched all throughout the area, but luckily never looked up. After what felt like a year, they decided that I had scuttled to another area of the ship. They walked away, and I watched them closely.
Once they had moved out of the room, I slowly tried to move my front limb. However, the same stickiness that let me stay on the ceiling was my downfall – it made an ever-so-slight sucking sound as it came off the ceiling. The sound echoed through the metal ship. Within moments there were ten different footsteps coming in my direction.
I ran across the ceiling as fast I could, the sucking of my feet sound still ringing through the halls. I tried to run as unpredictably as I could, and it seemed like it was working. Just as I thought I had lost them, I felt something bringing me down to the ground. The world went black for a moment.
I awoke to a face staring at me. It was one of them, one of the two-eyed things. It grinned, showing off those sharp things in its mouth. I shuddered from terror.
“Good evening,” said the thing.
I was a bit shocked that it spoke my language, but I was more scared for my life at this point. It was then that I noticed that there was something strapped to my jaw.
“Surprised?” it asked. “It’s a vibration-based touch-free translator. I can understand you and you can understand me. I wear it myself sometimes.”
It had light-brown skin, almost golden in its color. It had long fur on its head and some fur around its mouth and chin. Unlike a telfinna, this thing had colored eyes – black in the center, brown around that, and white in all the rest of it. A piece of its snout jutted out where the nostrils would normally be. I later learned it was called a nose, and that this thing had a rather thin one.
It got up and stretched, sitting back into a seat clearly better suited for four-limbed kind of creatures. “Anyway, you’re going to be with us for a while, so get used to it, darlin’. You’re something of a prisoner today. Have good enough behavior and you can go pirating with us in a few days. We could use that little ceiling crawling thing of yours. We just need to find a way to make it quieter, you know?”
I finally let the terror ebb enough to speak. “Who are you?” I asked.
“The name’s Sinbad, darlin’ – Sinbad X. You’re on my ship, the Nomad. And we’re going to steal a jinn.”