After months of hard work, Opal Fremmity was finally ready to send the machines on their way and at last bring this miserable project to a close.
She sighed as she wiped a droplet of sweat from her brow. She tossed the Init Caster into a tool bag which rested on the ground next to her. She glanced up at the large machine that stood next to her. The thick, massive legs of the mechanical quadruped stemmed from an equally thick and massive body. At the base of its chassis, bulbous eye-like devices encircled and clicked as they turned and observed the world around them.
She slammed the panel door shut. Now that the last of the Vérkatrae was awakened, it could go along and do its job.
Opal lifted her hand to her forehead, shielding the bright starlight of this particular Var from her eyes. She could feel the star’s heat against her body, swarthy, almost burnt from exposure to this Var’s climate. She sniffed the air, which smelled like dust and burning metal. She could see, in the distance, along the horizon, the long line of those lumbering machines, each equidistant from the other in a manner that was most efficient for them to do their work.
“Well, that’s another one down,” she mumbled, her voice cast with a tone of bitterness. She could feel the vibration of the Vérkatrae in the ground, especially from these large ones, the Sleepers. Those giant extrusions on their backs always emitted that deep, rumbling groan, like an announcement to battle, like a thick, belching horn that made the ground vibrate under one’s feet. The Varlings, whoever they were, Opal tried not to know, would never see them coming. They were not meant to be seen. They were designed this way. Not until the last moment, anyway.
The Vérkatros lumbered forward, its ocular devices clicking and turning with each of its steps. The extrusion on its back, like a hunch, started its work. Opal reached down and picked up the tool bag, slinging it across her shoulder. She jogged, steps behind the slow-moving Sleeper. She always followed the Sleepers around, just to make sure they were doing their job. It was the responsible thing. It was what a good Mechanic Class Slave would naturally do.
Opal’s ankles turned on the dry, cracked ground. Small, scrubby brush poked its way through stony soil, its stems and leaves covered in thorny protuberances. Small, yellow berries clung to their stems defensively among rocks and boulders that were baked into a yellow-red tinge. Among them, squat, stone houses rose like empty turtle shells from the dry soil.
Opal paused. The bodies were where they should be. They behaved according to plan. A Var dismantlement project was designed to be humane. The Sleepers made sure of that. Except…