Sunlight beamed down onto the endless expanse of stone, sand, and dead-looking trees that made up the Radi Desert. Far off in the west stood a massive construct of steel, thousands of square miles in size. From Axios, this country of machinery, several clouds of smoke endlessly streamed from numerous vents, and from the walls of the city, vast rivers of waste streamed outwards. The sludge cut through the desert, visibly turning the surrounding sands a greenish-brown, the surrounding plant life all but dead except for the short branchy trees, tainted the same color as the sands. These rivers of sludge continued forwards for miles and miles, until it reached lands where the sand gained more of its natural color back and the sky was back to a natural blue.
It was here the rivers would come to an abrupt end, now entering large man-made water refineries topped with numerous solar panels. Around these refineries laid hundreds of building constructed out of wood, clay, scrap, or whatever else the populace could use as material. Houses, markets, stores, bars; Enough variation in types of buildings to call it a city, but more scattered rather than densely structured. There were still plenty of people moving about between buildings or this single of many settlements scattered near rivers of sludge. Just about every civilian wore practical work clothes, often with a gun of some sort slung over their shoulders or tucked away in a holster.
At one of these settlements, amongst the crowds of people, a small group of overall-wearing men, covered in soot and scratches, pushed towards a single wooden bar in the midst of several commerce buildings.
They opened the door to a quiet establishment, one person sitting near the back with their legs on the table, a few others at the bar itself drinking, and another few trying to enjoy a meal. One of the overalled men called out, “Which of you is the android?”
The figure in the back raised an armored arm up into the air. The men hurried over as the figure took their feet off the table, standing up revealing a fully armored body, a large revolver at her hip another smaller pistol on her other, and a knife snugly tucked away behind her metal boot. A feminine face made of synthetic skin looked towards them, casually smiling.
“Ferra Jane, pleased to do business with you! So, what do you need me to do? Sludgebeasts in the purification system? Help with repairs? Outlaws bugging you?”
“Well…” The man at the front of the group stared at the ground for a few moments before making eye contact with the droid. “Have you ever dealt with demons before?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Cultists, and maybe a few little things here and there.”
A different overalled man stepped forward. “Cut the drama man! Cultists slaughtered several civilians to summon some massive beast right in our water plant! We just need you to kill it, and we’re willing to give-”
She held up her hand. “We can negotiate payment later, sounds like you all have an urgent situation on your hands!” From behind her seat she picked up a grenade launcher, slinging it over her shoulder. “Hurry up and show the way!”
After several miles of trekking through the desert, the men lead her to a smaller settlement than Ferra’s, but barely a soul was seen outside. She glanced around, every shop and home was closed and locked up tight, the only few men walking around holding rifles and wearing tattered military garb.
“The mayor ordered martial law as soon as we told him about the demon” said one of the men. “Apparently every person that thing eats makes it a bit larger, so he doesn’t wanna take any risk with worsening the situation. I can’t believe we were harboring people who just wanted to use this town as a feeding ground for some reason…”
She nodded. “What kinda people would live out here just to do that?”
Continuing through the deserted streets, they arrived at the front of the water plant, where six other men waited, each also with old looking rifles and discolored uniforms. They took notice of Ferra and hurried over.
“So, give me a quick rundown of how it’s like in there.” She said while drawing and checking her revolver.
“An uncounted number of cultists are holed up in the water storage room, along with that beast of theirs, most of them using either tranquilizers or tasers. They need live sacrifices to feed that beast, and with the manpower we can spare, any attempt of ours risks giving that beast a fresh meal.”
She openly chuckled. “This sounds like it’ll be a cinch then. Stay far away from that beast and try and pick off those cultists from a distance. I’ll provide all the cover you need.”
“Hold on-” Before the soldier could finish his sentence, she kicked open the door and bolted down the hall. Quickly glancing at a facility map on the wall, she hurried forward. The men tried their best to follow.
Kicking open another door, she found herself where she wanted to be. Several large house-sized water tanks were dotted about the room, with several metal walkways running around and between them. In the center of the room rested a beast half the size of the tanks, with a boar-like body and the front of it’s head an exposed, toothy maw. She suddenly felt something strike her abdomen. Looking down, a small tranquilizer dart layed on the floor. She glanced up, meeting eyes with a man on the walkway aiming a tranquilizer gun right at her. Quickly drawing her revolver, she fired at the man, knocking him back and off the walkway with a hole in his chest. Dashing for a ladder, she climbed all the way to the top of the walkway, meeting face to face with several other cultists. Dashing behind the water tank for cover, she looked back at the door, seeing the other soldiers come in.
“Hey boys, take cover behind any of the tanks and keep your eyes up! They’re in the walkways!”
The group of men glanced at her for a few moments before scattering behind several of the tanks. Reloading the round she shot earlier, she dashed out of her cover, firing a few more shots and easily offing a few other cultists wielding tranquilizer guns. A few others had already drawn small submachine guns and returned fire. Realizing no cover between her and her targets, she opted to slide on the ground towards them, this time drawing an autopistol of her own and sprayed a flurry of bullets. One of the men was filled with multiple bullets while the other hit the deck, barely being grazed by her assault. Quickly getting back up to her feet about to draw her revolver once more, but he was cut down by fire from some of the soldiers. She turned to them and gave a quick thumbs up.
“I’m not sure if there’s any more up here, but keep them busy, I’m going for their prize!”
Almost as if they responded to her, multiple cultists, now armed with proper firearms, scattered from behind other tanks down the walkways. One slid down the ladder towards the beast and screamed an incantation. A full on firefight broke out between the soldiers and the cultists as the beast began to shudder and slowly climb to its hooves, letting out a deafening roar. Ferra leapt from the walkway onto the head of the beast, firing the last rounds of her revolver into the back of its head. Despite the four fleshy holes she put into its head, it still let out an aggressive roar, bucking her straight off. She landed on her feet, easily keeping her balance. It turned towards her, baring it’s uncountable amount of razor-sharp teeth, and screeched before charging. She sprinted to the side, noticing a few points of interest: Not only had the wounds she gave it in the head had healed, but it also seemed immune to the crossfire of assault rifle and submachine gun fire going on, several flattened bullets dotting the ground where it once stood. It smashed head first into one of the tanks, chewing off a large chunk of metal and spilling forth a torrent of water. She quickly drew an energy knife and stabbed into the hide of the beast, holding on as the beast bucked and the water washed around her. Alarms now blared around the facility, adding into the noise of the raging firefight, and several grates opened up in the floor, draining away all the excess water. She pulled her knife out from it and dove to the side, loading her grenade launcher. She lined up a shot as the beast turned to her, but then it whipped its head towards where the other soldiers were, some still desperately firing whatever munitions they had left at it. She slung the grenade launcher back over her shoulder and dove at the beast, stabbing into its back leg.
“All of you, get the hell out of here! I can handle it from here, just stay out of danger!”
While the remaining soldiers bolted out of the room, the beast responded by kicking her off, slamming her into the wall. She grunted, dazedly bringing her grenade launcher back out in front of her. The beast was bearing its hundreds of teeth at her, and she fired, completely shattering a good chunk of them. It bucked back shrieking as she hurried to load one other grenade, and once it faced her again, she fired another straight down its abyss-looking stomach. A fireball erupted from within it as the beast let out one final screech, before collapsing to the floor, slowly dissolving into dust.
She smiled, silently pumping her fist to herself.
With a sizeable amount of cash and ammo in tow, the remaining soldiers and plant engineers thanked Ferra for her service. Normally for her jobs, she would also request spare electronic scrap, but this time chose not to ask, instead wishing the best for the repairs on the water plant. The sun still burned high in the sky as she trekked back through the desert, making her way back to her “home” without issue. Pushing back into the old wooden building, Fewer men populated the bar. A man with an unusually large shotgun slung over his back sat hunched over the bar over an empty glass of the bar’s signature moonshine, and a few others were asleep (or passed out) at a few other tables. As soon as she passed the man, he glared at her.
“Ferra Jane, right?”
“I’m sorry, I just finished a big job and I need to rest for a while. Come back tomorrow, all right?”
“If you wanted to recharge yourself, there’s an entire solar plant you can hook yourself up to you know.”
She turned to face him with a smile on her face.
“Ha, I don’t think I’ve heard that before! But really, I can’t just do that. I need rest.”
The man stood up in front of her.
“So, are you aware of Congeria’s Android regulation laws?”
She raised an artificial eyebrow. “Can’t say I have, as far as I’m concerned I’m the only android around here.”
He sighed. “Well, my name is Scott Runner, and I work for the Bureau of Android Recovery and-”
Here eyes suddenly widened. “You a government agent of some sort?”
“Of the sorts, and well-”
“FINALLY! About time I get some recognition from you folks. Anyways, I need an audience with whoever is in charge, like soon…”
She continued to babble on as he just shook his head.
“So much for understanding laws…” He muttered. He drew a taser from out of his jacket, launching the prongs right at her. They struck square on her chest, the sound electricity crackling through the air, but she responded merely with a flinch and a shocked expression.
“Did you just try and taze me?”
He retracted the taser. “EMP actually. What kinda bot are you even?”
She knocked on where she was struck. “Faraday plating, its some great stuff. Now as I was saying,-”
“How about I start: Since you’re unaware of the law, I’ll just let you know that any unauthorized android on the continent of Congeria is subject to registration and relocation, and because of that, I’m going to need to take you in for a while. We can do this either the easy way,” He slung the massive shotgun over his shoulder, pointing it at her. “Or the hard way.”
In response, she drew her revolver, aiming right at his head. Scott heard another click behind him, turning noticing the bartender had also drawn a revolver to his head.
“Hey now, I wouldn’t try that. If you kill me, you’ll get the border guard here on this town to find out what happened to me. You wanna risk your independence like that?”
The bartender’s hands shook a bit, before he lowered his arm.
“Hey, what do you mean?” Ferra still kept her aim steady at his head. “Look, all right, I’ll do it your easy way, just let me know what it is, all right? I don’t want any trouble.”
She holstered her gun as he still aimed. He slowly lowered his.
“I have a bad feeling about this, but let’s just get this done.”
From his jacket he pulled out a stack of papers alongside a pen, placing them on the counter beside him.
“I got quite a few questions, just cooperate and we can get you registered and throw you wherever the council wants to throw you. Now, I need your manufacturer, and the date and location of activation.”
She smiled, snapping her finger. “Easy, I was constructed by maintenance unit W00005 two years and one hundred twenty days ago, inside Axios Waste duct 572.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Quite the… eccentric creator you had.”
“I wouldn’t call him that. I didn’t get enough time to know him however.”
He penned down on the paper: “LOCATION DATA TAMPERED.”
“Now, model purpose?”
“Multi-purpose chassis, currently equipped for combat situations.”
He nodded. “Dangerous. AI model?”
His eyes slightly widened. “Guess you must have built by somebody who ran a museum. Power unit?”
“An Axios TR-PPU-1.”
“A what now?”
She tilted her head. “You don’t have perpetual power units out here? I mean I knew human technology was a bit behind Axios but…”
He sighed. “Cut the Axios shit, seriously. Are you rechargable? Solar? Hydrogen?”
“I told you, perpetual power. It isn’t much, but sleeping for a night can give me a full day’s worth of power properly.”
“You can quit it with the fantasy crap, seriously. I can almost hear the bolts bouncing around in your head.”
She suddenly bounced a few times.
“See, my heads just fine!”
“Whoop-dee-doo, you’re more crazy than I thought!”
She slammed her hands on the table. “Hey, why the hell are you being so rude to me?”
“I don’t know, why are you looking to be turned into scrap heap when I take you back? Quit the lying and run some kinda fancy diagnostic or whatever.
“Look, you want proof? I’ll let you erm… I’ll let you look at it…”
He stood up. “As long as I can identify the crap and get done faster, hurry and show off. I can’t wait to find a hamster running in a wheel in there.”
She looked away as a compartment in her chest opened up, revealing an almost alien-looking blocky device firmly nestled between several cables.
“I can pull it out, right?”
He grabbed it, yanking the device out, towing along the cables, and Ferra Yelping in response. His eyes widened as he rotated the device around, checking every crevice. Most interestingly, he noticed an engraving of a capital A with a hammer within on the bottom of it. He shoved the device back in, slamming her chest shut, staggering her.
“All right, I’ll admit I have no clue what the hell that is in my years here, but maybe some people back at the bureau do. So I’m still gonna have to take you back, but I’m legally obligated to let you know that we’re going to have to run an autopsy on you to figure out what that thing is.”
She stepped back, bearing shock on her face. “First, it’s a PPU. Second, Isn’t an autopsy supposed to be for things that are… you know, dead?”
He shrugged. “Not like you were alive in the first place. Maybe I’ll get a bonus or something for discovering some new component or whatever. Anyways, let’s-”
“A bonus you say?” A smile grew as she opened up a small compartment in her hip, pulling out a stack of cash and tossing it on the table. He glanced at it for a moment before looking back at her.
“Aw thats cute, you managed to save up some cash in this shithole. I thought you said you wanted to do this the easy way?”
“And I have an easier way, yes? This is merely today’s earnings, and I have much more stowed away.”
A somewhat more interested expression grew on his face. “You gotta be shittin me… Well go on, show everything you’ve made out here then!”
She hurried to the back of the bar, returning moments later with a few hefty sacks in tow. She tossed them on the table
“Not exactly the most glamorous way to carry them around, I know, but I got this and more if you can take me to some kinda official!”
His eyes widened slightly as he peered into the bags. “How the hell did you make all that?”
“Bounty work out here really. Oddjobs, hunting jobs, killing off a few outlaws here and there. A lot of people really need help keeping beasts and bandits out of their cities, you know.”
“I’d expect that for a place like this…” He tapped his fingers on the table. “Tell you what. I can’t exactly take you to any official, let alone anywhere important since you’re kinda an android and all. I can do something beneficial for us both however.”
She sat down across from him. “Well that’s unfortunate, but what do you have in mind?”
“With a bit of ‘mistakes’ with some paper, I can label you as dead, at least in the eyes of the Romitum government. So all those reports of you out here won’t catch anyone’s attention anymore. In turn, however, you’ll be working for me. I can provide some transport to wherever we find work, you and I do the jobs, and we split the cash seventy-thirty. Not a bad price for being disected, right?”
She tapped her chin a few times. “And what about getting me connected with Romitum officials?”
He leaned back. “It’d take some time, but you just present your case and I can see how long it’ll take.”
“Well, what I need to say is-”
“Hold on, I’m not doing anything for you just yet. So what’s it gonna be, autopsy or bounty work for me?”
She pondered for a few moments, but then her eyes lit up. She held forth her hand.
“You have a deal Scott.”
He grasped and shook it.
“All right then Ferra, I’m gonna be looking forward to this.”