Reality, I am afraid, is not so kind.
– From The Skulkers in the Void, by Amoxtli.
Martin and Gutiéres came to rest in a metal cathedral amongst strange machinery and vaguely Mesoamerican artwork. Through big curved windows, blue light fell into the room. The force that had kept them safe from the maelstrom that had killed the traitorous agents gently laid them to rest in a hollow of twisted metal – proof that the vortex had devastated this side of the transport as well. But as they watched, the metal bent itself back into shape, seeming to flow while staying a solid. At the same time, a ring of hills rose outside the hollow from the metal floor – and quickly took the shape of things that were easy to identify as some sort of gun batteries.
Martin lay naked on the low ground in front of an array of guns, in the company of agent Gutiéres who he hardly knew – and gave up. There was simply no point in continuous struggle anymore. He felt a gentle warm feeling float over him and realized he was being scanned in some way by the guns. Then they swung over and aimed at agent Gutiéres.
“No!” Martin shouted. It was a mere instinctive reaction to the realization that the only other person here would be killed.
Nothing happened. Then a voice rang out: “Confirm command: cease removal of lower being?”
“Confirmed! Do not harm him! Do not harm anybody!”
“Confirmed. New ethical parameters set.”
The guns turned back into mercurial puddles and vanished into the floor.
Gutiéres spoke up “What… was that? What did you say?”
“Didn’t you hear…?” Martin interrupted himself. No, Gutiéres hadn’t heard. Or rather, understood. Martin had once again spoken in the hissing of the snake things. Now he also remembered that this is what caused the first of these beasts to kill itself.
When he rose to his feet, another hill rose from the floor. The apparatus it became seemed like a storage closet with a transparent front. Inside, Martin saw a black mass rapidly becoming some sort of fabric, and then a uniform. It was beautiful, somehow both ornate and unimposing. If nothing else, it had Martin think of the uniforms of bygone fascist regimes, albeit with Mesoamerican motifs. The doors of the apparatus opened, and when Martin reached out, the uniform flowed out and onto his body. It felt like ordinary cloth, but Martin could tell that it was some sort of smart material, infinitely adaptable while remaining nonintrusive.
Gutiéres gasped when the cloth flowed onto Martin on its own accord. Somehow, the surreal quality of all of this was lost to Martin.
Another device, this one mounted on the wall, became active. Martin and Gutiéres witnessed a metal skeleton being assembled before long fibers were spun from nozzles moving on robotic arms. What began as a roughly human shape soon turned into the most beautiful girl Martin had ever seen.
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