Feral Cyborg.
Copyright 2013, 2018 by Raymond Johnson. Fourth edition.
Cover picture provided by Felix Möckel.
(www.iStockphoto.com).

Dedicated to Sara and Vonnie for pointing out that I had yet to write a sci-fi set in the future.

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." - Ambrose Redmood.

While caught in a solar storm a spacecraft containing a family is forced to crash land upon a desolate planet. However they soon learn that they are not alone and that the planet has been used as a dumping ground for broken cyborgs including highly dangerous war bots. The family, consisting of two parents and their children, hide in a nearby temple ruin while awaiting their rescue but the older of the siblings, 19 year old Cassie, becomes seperated from her parents and soon discovers she is being stalked by one of the cyborgs.

 

 

Chapter 1 - Crash Landing

It took all my might to keep my mouth closed to stop my teeth chattering as the vibrations of the ship shook me in my seat. My body was secure in my harness along with the rest of my family in theirs, while my dad fought with the controls, but I felt every single internal organ shake within my body and was worried there would soon be nothing left of them other than a mixture of gut soup.

"Hang on!" My father yelled at the top of his voice, "We're going down!"

Once the ship managed to break through the atmosphere of the planet below the vigorous vibrations ceased only to be replaced by intense heat. Our heat shields could handle it and protect the ship, but from the steep angle in which we entered the atmosphere there was still a chance we could boil inside leaving nothing left of us but poached corpses. I closed my eyes tightly as beads of sweat already formed around my forehead dripping down my face.

"Are the retros on?!" My mother screamed out.

"Fully!" My father yelled back.

My younger brother Richie remained totally silent, most likely crying silent tears, as his innocent mind tried to comprehend the panic and terror around him.

The ship began to wobble from side to side as if the thick atmosphere was trying to reject it and throw us back into space, yet at the same time I could feel our descent and I knew it wouldn't be too long before we crashed into the ground. I hoped our deaths would be quick and it was at times like those that I wished we possessed some kind of suicide pill, for the chances of our survival were practically nil.

"Not long now!" My father screamed out.

"Brace for impact!" Shouted my mother.

The rest was a blur. I remembered an awful noise of metal tearing as our ship slid along the ground, followed by what sounded like an explosion, then there was dust and darkness everywhere causing me to splutter whilst trying to gain breath. The smell of something ghastly oozed all around as the ice cold outside air blew into the ship's cabin.

After a few moments, as the dust started to settle, I could see light coming from the control console ahead of me but I couldn't see clear enough to know whether my father was still sitting in front of it. I tried to speak but I knew my tears were on the brink of flooding out and I wanted so much to remain brave, so instead remained quiet in the hope that someone else would speak first and reveal that I wasn't the only survivor.

There was an eerie silence all around but I was sure I could hear something else, something outside in the distance, over the sound of the ringing in my ears. I wondered if it was an occupied planet and whether help was already on its way.

There was then the unmistakable sound of the side door being opened letting in light along with more of the ghastly smell that oozed within the very air of the planet. I could see the silhouette of my father as he attempted to take a breath of fresh air but instead started coughing loudly.

"Is everyone..." he said between loud coughs, "Is everyone all right?"

"I'm okay. I'm okay!" I quickly screamed out making sure everyone could hear me.

"Richie's unconscious," my mother said with panic in her voice.

My father rushed over and helped my mother unfasten the harness that held Richie in his seat. My fingers tingled as I tried to unfasten my own harness as quickly as possible before rushing over to join my parents and Richie. Luckily I felt a sense of extreme relief when Richie started crying, however his tears where the trigger for my own and it wasn't long before we were both wailing loudly.

My mother picked Richie up and held him tightly in her arms while I hugged her shoulder. My father then wrapped his arms around us all and we remained in a fixed pose of a group hug while listening to both my own and Richie's cries. He was far too young to understand what had happened and was crying due to his own physical discomfort whereas I was crying due to the emotional relief of surviving such an incident. I also felt a sense of apprehension as to how we were going to get back home, for if the planet was unoccupied then the only way to expect a rescue was if the communications were still working. The region of space in which we had been travelling was busy but even so, space and planets were still extremely large areas to search.

"Don't worry," my father said calmly, "We're all okay, that's all that matters for now."

His calming words sounded too false and I would have felt better if he hadn't said anything. I continued crying.

 

Chapter 2 - Seeking Help

It took me quite some time to calm my nerves. I knew it was imperative to keep composure during survival situations and I tried so hard to remain brave but I couldn't help myself. Just the thought of us remaining on a desolate planet in the tiny hope of a chance rescue caused my tears to flood out again and again. By the time my tears stopped flowing my eyes had grown puffy and they itched badly.

Both my mother and father were at the control console fiddling with things trying to activate God knows what in the hope that something would happen. It was clear there was no chance of us taking off again with the ship so badly damaged but they appeared frantic in whatever it was they were attempting to do. I guessed it must have been something to do with the communications.

Richie started crying again and wanted no one but his mother forcing her to stop what she was doing and attend to him. I wished he was old enough to understand. My mother then picked him up and carried him over to the control console and continued pressing buttons.

"There are no human life forms on the local scan," she said with a sigh, "It appears we're on our own."

"Well the ship's a total right off," my father said, "All we can hope is that we can get a signal through to the nearest starbase, but there's a lot of interference from the solar storm."

I sat within the open doorway of the ship looking down the steps that led to the sandy surface of the planet. The cold breeze blew against my hair but luckily the ghastly smell from earlier had eased off, either that or I was growing accustomed to it. The sandy ground reminded me of a desert yet the cold air and the strange swirl of the clouds made it obvious that it had been many a year since the planet's surface felt heat.

In the nearby rocks was a manmade structure containing a facade of stone pillars around its large entrance. It reminded me of a temple and I wondered what kind of people, or aliens, must have once worshipped there. There may have been items if interest inside.

"Can I go and have a look around?" I said turning to my mother.

"Now you stay put young lady!" She snapped, "There's no telling what dangers there could be lurking around."

I pouted then stared ahead at the temple. The sandy ground was clear near its entrance and I wondered if it was still in use, yet how could it be if the planet was deserted, I thought to myself.

"Yea!" My dad yelled out causing me to twitch as I was startled, "We've gotten through to the starbase."

I jumped to my feet with excitement as my father began speaking over the communicator. The conversation was factual, giving our situation and coordinates, while the communicator crackled with static along with a long pause followed by a garbled voice.

"Say again, say again," was the phrase most often repeated and it was clear it was going to be a very long conversation.

I let out a breath disguising my sigh of frustration then casually took a few tentative steps out of the ship's door into the open air. Sensing my mother's eyes staring into my back I made sure to remain on the step-ramp.

 

Chapter 3 - Father's Warning

Time passed awfully slow and while it had only been half an hour or so since communication with the nearest starbase began it seemed the broken, clicked filled, conversation had been going on for hours. When are they coming to rescue us? Was the question in my head that begged to scream out.

While sitting within the open doorway of the ship I stretched out my legs ahead of me and wiggled my feet. Richie was cradled on my lap as he slept totally exhausted from crying so much. Both mother and father continued fiddling with the controls at the ship's console constantly trying to re-establish contact. A feeling of total exhaustion, boredom, fear, frustration, anger and a little excitement flashed through my mind as my stomach winced wishing to leave this baron cold planet as soon as possible.

My father then calmly stepped out of the ship's open doorway and sat down on the steps beside us while our mother stood behind. He patted Richie's head.

"Now we've good news and bad," my father said.

I turned and looked up at him as he rubbed his hand against his smooth chin. No doubt the bad news was going to be far worse than how pleasing the good news would be.

"Oh," I responded.

"The solar storm that caused the crash is still active and won't disperse for another three days or so, so we can't expect a rescue until then," he said, "Also the damage to our ship's hull means we have no protection against the weather, and I've been informed this planet gets well below zero at night, especially when the winds are strong."

I turned my gaze toward the temple structure wondering how sturdy the roof would be and whether it would offer protection against the elements. I then turned back to my father. It was likely he was pondering the same idea.

"Maybe we could hide from the wind and cold in there," I said, "At least that way we're not too far from the ship and can still access supplies."

My father rubbed his chin again.

"We could," he said slowly, "But um..."

"This planet is known as Artemis Three," my mother began speaking, "We've been informed that it was once occupied by Artemis Nuns who have since moved on leaving the planet desolate. But over the years it's been used as a dumping ground for unused robots and cyborgs, including war bots. If any of them are still active then, well..."

I had no idea what kind of alien race Artemis Nuns were but I didn't bother asking because I was far more concerned about the cyborgs.

My father heaved himself up and rubbed his shoulders. The cold weather was already growing more intense and from the look of the sky it was clear night was drawing in.

"Don't worry," he said, "We've been informed that if any of the war bots are still active they probably won't harm humans because they were originally programmed to destroy other cyborgs, but we can't be completely certain, so keep your eyes and ears open. The moment you see one of those things then take no chances, run as fast as you can. I'm sure they can't move at speed."

Our ship was equipped with weaponry, but there were no portable hand weapons we could take with us. I was already having doubts about our safety. My father heaved himself up then went back inside the ship and proceeded scavenging for supplies.

"We'll be fine," he said over his shoulder, "So long as we stick together.

 

Chapter 4 - Temple Ruins

It was lucky that we crash landed were we had because it wasn't until we climbed down the ship steps that we noticed the temple structure was the only building within the vicinity. Everywhere was pretty much desert sand all around leading to rocks and tall cliffs in the near distance. The sound of a distant wind intensified the feeling of loneliness on such a vast desolate planet while my spine tingled with an eerie feeling as I sensed impending danger. Part of me imagined an army of crazed cyborgs just beyond the distant horizon with us already within their sights.

With great care we cautiously approached the temple building and entered through the large stone archway that led into a great hall that was surrounded by tall pillars holding up the roof. There were signs of damage due to wear so it was clear the temple was old but as to its age I couldn't even fathom a guess.

My father placed down a pile of supplies in the middle of the hall while my mother held Richie. We all looked around at the building structure wondering who could have built such a wonder. The walls were plain with no decorations or art, but the way in which the stone pillars merged into the rocks was an art form in itself. It was clear this was built as a meeting place where people, or aliens, would congregate for worship.

"I'll prepare a fire," my father said, "Now we don't have much to burn so I may not light it just yet until it gets much colder."

"But I'm already freezing cold," I whined while hugging my arms and hunched shoulders.

"Well unless there's wood on this planet, which I seriously doubt, then we only have what's here," my father replied sharply.

I was sure there must have been more combustible items aboard the ship, it was just a matter of having a good search. But as I thought about it further I realised most of the ship's contents were probably flame proof as a safety precaution.

The wind started to howl causing Richie to wake from his slumber and start whimpering. I was more worried by the cold carried by the wind rather than its noise, but I'd be lying if I said the sound didn't bother me as the thought of crazed cyborgs in the distance entered my mind once more.

"Don't cry," our mother told Richie, "It's just the noisy wind. It can't hurt you."

The wind wasn't blowing from the stone archway from which we entered but rather a small passage leading up to another chamber above. I wondered where it led and took a few steps closer taking a small peek. I was sure I could hear running water along with the sound of the wind.

"Don't wander off!" My father said firmly, "We all need to stick together."

"I can hear running water," I responded matter-of-factly, "There could be a stream nearby."

My father hurried over to me looking as though he was about to tell me off but then caught the sound of the running water himself. He listened intently for a few moments. He then waved his hand toward mum indicating for her to come closer.

"It could be drinkable," he said, "Let's investigate further."

All four of us, with my father in front, headed into the small passage and up a steep incline taking care not to slip on the shiny stone surface as we entered another chamber. My mother handed me Richie as she heaved herself up the sloped ground.

We were greeted with the magnificent spectacle of a beautiful waterfall of sparkling clear water that seeped its way from between the cracks within the rock wall pouring down into a pool below. Surrounding the pool were what looked to be plant life with purple berries encased between green leaves. My mother quickly rushed closer to the pool and took a look while my father gazed his eyes around the chamber looking for unseen dangers. There appeared to be further passageways beyond the pool itself but they were inaccessible due to the water.

"We'll have to take a sample of the water and berries back to the ship for analysis," my mother said as she crouched down for a closer look at them, "But on initial inspection I think they're edible, but we need to be certain."

I felt it a strange thing to say, after all we had plenty of food and water on the ship so why was my mother so excited at discovering such things.

"Don't we already have rations?" I asked as I turned to my father then back to mother.

There was silence for a few moments with only the sound of the waterfall and the wind echoing around the confines of the chamber.

"We didn't want to worry you," my mother said.

As Richie woke up from his half daze he realised it was me that was holding him then wiggled himself out of my arms rushing over to mum. I felt relief as my back was already starting to ache.

 

Chapter 5 - Ice Cold Water

Darkness drew in quickly along with a vast drop in temperature. We sat huddled around a very small fire in the upper chamber of the temple building next to the pool of water while feasting upon cold soup made from the berries. The analysis aboard the ship stated that the nutrition content was low with a high amount of sugar, but contained nothing harmful. The water on the other hand was as pure as water could get and it even tasted wonderful.

"I'm still cold," I said as I sipped some more of the slimy berry soup.

"We all are," my father said as he held me tighter.

We couldn't huddle any closer than we already were and I wished there was something else we could burn. I placed down my soup bowl then blew onto my frozen hands. There was something about the sound of the waterfall that made me feel even colder and I wished we had made our camp further away from it. I was sure I was getting splashed by tiny drops of moisture that bounced as it hit the pool below.

"I need a wee," I said bluntly.

"Well you can't go back to the ship alone especially in the dark," my mother said, "You'll have to go in the corner, over there."

She pointed to the far side of the chamber.

"And stay within eyeshot," she added.

I looked toward the far side of the chamber. It was in near darkness and the shadows caused by the fire gave me the creeps.

"Can't I just wee here?" I asked.

"What? You mean right here?" My father said.

"I could, um, erm," I said while my eyes warmed with embarrassed tears, "I could wet myself, on purpose."

"Certainly not!" My mother yelled, "You really are trying my patience today. You go over in that corner right now young lady, I'm not having you sitting there in piss soaked underwear. Now act your age!"

I jumped to my feet more out of anger than the urgency to pee, then very cautiously made my way over to the corner of the chamber. It was too dark for anyone to see and the sound from the waterfall would easily cover the sound of my urine. But I wasn't used to weeing on the ground and my embarrassment was intensified by the cold even before I started loosening my clothing. I couldn't relax and the more I squeezed the less my urine wanted to flow. I decided to fake it and pretend I had peed with the intention of holding it in until the following morning.

I stood up, refastened my clothing, and started making my way back towards my parents who were still huddled around the small fire with Richie fast asleep.

I wasn't sure what happened next. One moment I could feel the waft of heat coming from the fire and the next an icy cold chill that ate right through my body and bones as I struggled to get back to the surface of the water. I saw flashes of light and the image of both my parents holding out their arms trying to reach me, but the pressure from the waterfall above pushed me down deeper beneath the surface. I was then dragged further back towards the far side of the pool sliding down into an adjoining chamber carried by the constant flow of water. Luckily I managed to regain my breath as I coughed and spluttered. Eventually the water pressure subsided and I was sat in a pitch black passageway as a shallow gentle trickle of water passed around me. I knew I was lucky to be alive and quickly clambered to my feet pressing my hands against the slimy damp stone wall to steady myself.

"Mum!" I screamed, "Dad!"

"Cassie!" I heard my father's voice boom back at me.

The same ghastly smell from earlier that day wafted up my nose filling my sinuses as I panted with exhaustion. I ignored it.

"I'm okay!" I shouted back between breaths, "I'm soaking wet but I'm okay. I think I can get back, I just need to swim!"

"I'll come and get you!" My father yelled, "Wait there!"

My mother then said something but couldn't quite hear over the echoed sound of the waterfall.

"Don't come here!" I said, "I'll see if I can swim..."

"Don't swim back!" I heard my mother's voice, "It's too dangerous. Is there another way round? There must be another passage!"

I turned around and faced the darkness in the chamber ahead of me. There was a dim light coming from the corner and as I stared at it could just about make out the image of the rock wall. It was clearly another passageway but I couldn't tell whether it led up or down. I wanted to get back to my parents not wander further away.

"There is!" I called back, "But I'm not sure if it will lead to you!"

I was surprised by my own confidence. I was acting very brave and even though had just experienced something that was life threatening I was taking it very calmly. It must have been my adrenaline kicking in. I could have a good cry about it later once I was back within the safety of my parents. I also no longer needed to wee.

"The chamber you're in is below us!" My father said, "So if the other one leads up you should be on the same level at least!"

"I'm not sure!" I shouted back, "I'll have to..."

"Hoi icca canno!" A voice spoke from directly behind me.

My mind went into overdrive while multiple thoughts rushed through my brain like thousands of overlapped voices telling me what to do. My shoulders hunched while tingles shot down my backbone causing the muscles in my thighs to throb. The memory of my father's words rushed through my brain, take no chances, run as fast as you can!

The sound of the waterfall grew silent as I ran directly through the pitch black chamber as fast as I could towards the source of light, while my mind dreaded bumping into whatever it was that spoke those words. The very instant I entered the small passageway I noticed further light coming from above. I rushed towards it, up an incline, which led to another chamber lit due to the damaged roof letting in moonlight.

The chamber wall contained an archway that led outside. I ran towards it and straight outside then across a narrow stone bridge and followed a sandy path that led further away from the temple.

I ran and ran, not daring to stop, imagining a crazed war bot chasing me, ready to pounce the moment I slowed down. On and on I continued, down the sandy path, into the darkness of night, with the fear of what could be behind me outweighing what may be lurking ahead. I had no idea how long I ran. With my mind acting so much faster than my body I felt I was moving in slow motion, but knew in fact that I was running faster that I ever had in my entire life.

I eventually collapsed to the ground with total exhaustion then vomited the berry soup I had eaten earlier while keeping my eyes firmly fixated upon the direction in which I came to make sure I wasn't being followed. The moonlight made it clear that I wasn't.

I decided to continue to be as brave as possible and not give up in a fit of tears. The best option was to find somewhere to hide for the rest of the night, then make my way back during the daylight hours. I was still wearing wet clothes after all in a temperature that was below zero. Once my adrenaline rush had worn off I knew I was going to feel it and it wasn't going to be pleasant.

I heaved myself up and leant forward resting my hands against my knees taking deep breaths before gradually exhaling. My heartbeat was audible within my head and my muscles twitched. It was imperative to retain control of my exhausted body for my very life counted on it.

The path only led in two directions, the way I had come or further ahead winding its way out of eyeshot. To my left the rock face made it impossible to traverse in that direction while to the right was a cliff. Taking a few steps closer to its edge seeing how far down it went something caught my eye. I could see our ship in the distance outside the temple. I hadn't travelled as far as I had first thought. If it wasn't for the sheer drop in front of me I could have simply made my way over to the ship.

I decided to continue further down the path not daring to turn back with a crazed cyborg on the loose. Forcing myself to remain calm I casually began walking, keeping my eyes ahead of me, while occasionally taking a quick look behind to make sure I wasn't being followed.

It wasn't long before the path turned a corner and I found myself faced with a large pit ahead preventing me from travelling any further. There was no danger of falling in due to a gradual sloping of the path, clearly designed in that manner due to cyborgs having problems with steps, or so I guessed. It was then I realised our ship would make the ideal place to hide from them due to its stair gantry.

The moonlight filled the pit ahead of me an eerie white glow causing me to shudder which intensified the cold I felt making me to twitch then suddenly start to shiver. It was clear there were items within the pit which looked like broken metal, possibly even broken cyborgs, piled up in a haphazard fashion. I suspected it was a junk pile.

"Hoi icca canno!" I heard from some distance behind me.

Without even turning to look I ran forward down the slope into the pit then hid myself among the broken metal components trying to physically hide beneath them.

 

Chapter 6 - Warm Metal

Somehow I imagined that I would be less likely to be discovered if I closed my eyes, so forced them closed as tightly as I could while covering them with my hands. My hiding place, underneath a pile of twisted metal, may have been perfect but I then remembered that the path led nowhere but directly into the pit. The cyborg following me would be well aware that I was around there somewhere and most probably continue the search without giving up. I hoped it was the sort of cyborg that had low intelligence and continue the search elsewhere.

My constant shivering was a giveaway too, no matter how hard I tried I couldn't keep my body still as my wet clothing froze to my body.

"Hoi icca canno!" I heard again from above just at the rim of the pit.

I held my breath in the hope to keep my body silent as I listened as hard as I could. I could hear footfalls within the frozen sand and they were coming closer. There was no way I could simply wait until the cyborg found me, it could kill me on the spot, I needed to run and hope that it couldn't keep up.

I quickly jumped to my feet causing the twisted metal components I was hiding among to clash while fall to the ground. However before I got the chance to move I was distracted by the cyborg's appearance. It was nothing like I expected and for a moment I thought it was human. We stared at each other for a few moments within the dim moonlight. I cursed myself for hesitating then ran back up the path only to slip on the loose sand. Before I got my footing back it spoke again.

"Hoi icca canno," it said to me calmly.

I turned to face it. The white of the dim moonlight made it unclear as to what I was seeing but the cyborg's silhouette looked like a tall naked woman with a bald head. Humanoid cyborgs were unnerving to most people yet I felt more at ease with her looking human than if she resembled anything else.

"I don't know what that means!" I screeched while trying to remain calm.

It was imperative not to antagonise it, for if it did possess any emotion it may have been angered by my yell. I raised my palms in a submissive gesture.

"I'm sorry I don't know what that means," I said as calmly as I could muster.

The cyborg tilted its head for it was clear it couldn't understand me either. I began walking backwards up the sloped path while keeping my eyes firmly fixated upon the cyborg. My legs wobbled with each step while the rest of my body shivered with both cold and fear.

"I don't know what that means," I repeated myself as my head span with dizziness, "I don't know what you want."

My feet gave way and I fell backwards against the sandy ground. The cyborg calmly approached and looked down at me with its black emotionless eyes. It then dropped to its knees and leant forward lifting me up before holding me against its body.

"Hoi icca canno," it said softly.

The ghastly smell from before appeared to ooze from the pores of the cyborg in the form of an oily liquid that stank like rotten vegetables, rotten eggs and engine oil all rolled into one. This nasty cyborg sweat felt warm as it held my body closer in a tight embrace. I couldn't tell if it was trying to kill or comfort me but I remained totally still allowing its warm metallic skin to touch against my wet cold body.

 

Chapter 7 - Bright Sunshine

We remained in the same position, with the cyborg holding me within its arms, for the rest of the night. I even managed to sleep within the warm haze of its metallic skin. It was clear that the cyborg held me no malice and had in fact saved my life but it was still unclear as to what it intended to do with me. Was I now its prisoner? I wondered to myself.

The bright morning sunshine offered little heat but that didn't bother me due to the warm oily cyborg sweat that covered my clothes. I stank something ghastly but I was becoming accustomed to the smell.

Within the daylight I could see that the cyborg was a light shade of gold and its metallic skin was far softer than I expected it to be. It must have been an advanced type of soft metal. It even appeared to be breathing too, and its eyes blinked, making me realise this was no ordinary cyborg.

It noticed me staring then broke our embrace standing up in front of me. With our position on the sloping path, me sitting and it standing, the naked cyborg was at an embarrassing position causing me to quickly jump to my feet to avoid eye contact with its more intimate body part.

The cyborg then started walking back up the slope back into the direction of the temple. I quickly followed.

"Hoi canno mya nicka," it said turning its gaze toward me.

I shook my head.

"I'm sorry, I really don't understand," I responded.

The cyborg then continued down the path as I hurried along beside it. I wondered if it was intentionally returning me back to the temple or simply going that way anyway, it wasn't as though the path led anywhere else after all.

My clothing felt damp yet warm, however I wasn't sure if the wetness was due to the water pool I fell in the previous night or the cyborg's oily warm sweat. In either case at least I was no longer shivering.

As we continued down the path heading back toward the temple I noticed the crashed ship in the distance again. I tried to make out any figures in the distance but didn't see any. I guessed my parents and younger brother were still inside the temple in a frantic search for me. I wondered if they thought I had died, then imagined their excitement once we all met up again.

Suddenly the cyborg stopped then crouched down on bended knees. I wondered what it was doing. Maybe it was low on power. I stood beside it.

"Are... are you okay?" I asked, "Are you damaged?"

It waved its hand in a gesture for me to crouch down too. As I did so I could hear something but it was difficult to get a fix on its location. The sound was buzzing yet it appeared to echo as though moving. The cyborg, still crouching beside me, gently took hold of my hand as the buzzing grew louder. It soon dawned on my that the buzzing was the sound of rotor blades and there was a flying object nearby.

Within a flash an object resembling a metallic spider on rotors appeared from the side of the cliff face heading directly towards us. The cyborg beside me let go of my hand and jumped to its feet physically punching its fist at the metallic spider sending it plunging back down the cliff.

My heart raced and I twitched my head from side to side wondering if any more of those things were about. I was so glad this cyborg was on my side.

"Um... Thank you," I said while gasping with emotion while still glancing my head in all directions.

"Canno nikya," the cyborg said rubbing its sore fist.

Taking a step closer to the cliff and peering at the sheer drop below I caught a glimpse of the spider crawling along the ground with its mangled rotors. In the distance to the right was our crashed spacecraft while to the left I could see human shaped figures. For a brief moment I thought they may be my parents searching for me then realised they weren't human after all. I initially counted two of them then a further six in the far distance, as their shiny metal bodies glistened in the sunlight, however these weren't the same type of cyborg as my rescuer for they appeared skeletal in structure. Luckily we were in no immediate danger but just one turning their gaze would be enough for them to spot me so I quickly leant back.

"Hoi icca canno," the cyborg repeated.

I nodded and proceeded to follow it down the path heading in the direction of the temple.

 

Chapter 8 - Back To Safety

The cyborg's skin looked incredibly shiny as the gold metallic surface reflected in the sunlight. I could literally see my own reflection and was aware of my dirty face. I licked my fingers and rubbed them over my forehead to rub away the dirt, however when I tried to do repeat the action I tasted the oily sweat that had transferred from the cyborg onto me and it tasted similar to how it smelled. I gagged and had to spit onto the ground which caused the cyborg to look at me with puzzlement.

"I'm sorry if you find that rude," I said knowing full well that cyborgs had no concept of what was considered rude or not and that it had no idea of what I was actually saying.

I chuckled with myself. I actually felt comfort with this mindless machine and wondered if we could keep it. I had never owned a cyborg before it would be fun having one around. I was lying to myself. This was far from a mindless machine and it had twice saved my life. I wasn't sure how to express how I felt inside but knew I needed to say something.

I stared at its back and its wobbly bottom as I continued to walk behind. Surprisingly its bare feet appeared smooth without a hint of sand stuck to their underside causing me to wonder if its oily skin protected it somehow. The cyborg was moving at a steady pace and I was already quite breathless. I trotted a few steps to keep up and continued to walk beside.

"Thank you," I said turning to face her, "For, you know..."

I couldn't finish the sentence for I couldn't find the words. Instead I nodded as though it meant something more.

As we got closer to the small stone bridge leading to the temple roof I noticed a smaller pathway leading around the building in a downward spiral. I wondered if that was another way down to the ground.

The cyborg slowed its walking taking extra care to cross the bridge as I followed. It then headed right so I continued to follow as we both traversed the path around the outside of the temple down to ground level. In some ways the path reminded me of a helter-skelter.

Once we reached ground level and saw our crashed ship I immediately ran into the stone archway of the temple and shouted at the top of my voice causing a large echo to bounce around the building.

"Mum. Dad!" I shouted, "I'm here. I'm okay!"

"Cassie!" I heard my mum screech as she ran out of the small passageway in the corner.

Within moments my mother rushed closer, wrapping her arms around me, catching a whiff of the ghastly cyborg sweat that covered my body.

"What happened?" She asked in a panic with tears in her eyes, "Where have you been? We've been searching all night."

My dad peeped out from the small passageway and hurried over to me carrying Richie in his arms. I could see my father's clothing was drenched where he must have been attempting to search for me.

"I'm okay one of the cyborgs helped me," I said.

As if on cue the cyborg entered the temple entrance with the bright sunshine reflecting against its metallic golden skin. My mother stared at it bright eyed.

"Hoi icca canno," it said.

My mother placed her hands together and bowed her head with respect.

"Hoi nana cina chino," my mother responded, "Thank you for looking after our daughter, we are forever grateful and we'll always be in your debt."

I was stunned I had no idea my mother could speak the cyborg's language.

"That's not a cyborg," my mother whispered to me, "That's an Artemis Nun."

THE END.

 

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