The temple ruins were older than the forest by several thousand years, and older still even than its current invaders. Automata DC-70785 first learned of their presence when they crossed the exterior columns delineating the temple space, the building itself having long since sank beneath mud, moss and the gnarled roots of rainforest trees. The visions it received were at first blurred, grain-spotted, and the cracks on the ancient lenses cast lines of throbbing color across the subjects. DC-85’s mind quickly set about correcting the images, tearing and twisting and refocusing the footage, correcting the color, balancing the movements of the beings recorded.
Once thoroughly edited, all images were stored. DC-85 never forgot an image once it had been corrected to its satisfaction; it was not within its logic to overlook trespass upon the temple. Ancient mechanisms within its body readied to repel the intruders.
Deep underground, the spherical machine unfolded eight legs, each akin to a switchblade with a sensitive footpad. The red central eye upon its hull was the only source of light within the ruined expanse, cast upon rubble and rust, upon seeping water, sprawling moss. DC-85 crept over the soft, slimy vegetation, across a room splintered by broken iron beams and mounds of displaced steel plates and intruding topsoil and mud. It navigated this terrain expertly, its body close to the ground and its legs bent outward, each of its pads touching the ground lightly and quickly rising again for the next foothold with unbroken precision.
At the end of the room, the automaton reached its front legs carefully and with its footpads wiped mud and filth from a portion of the wall. Soon it saw its glowing red eye reflected back at it on a spot of glass, beside which several control pads hung by their mechanical entrails. The Logic Engine was injured, but at least it was not wholly buried. DC-85 cleansed the object daily, hoping its glass face may someday shine again. This resting object still served, providing the images with its many eyes that DC-85 picked up over the network and acted upon.
Nature crept ever further into the once pristine, sterile, perfectly mechanical world the Humans had tasked DC-85 with protecting. The engine was buried daily, and beset with gushing mud in storms, and frost formed within its entrails in the cold months, so far away were they from the sun. These were the only threats to DC-85’s duty. Time and decay, the encroachment of those enduring, breathing green things that sought to consume all that was machine. This was the true challenger to its domain.
A group of hapless Adelian lifeforms, it could handle.
DC-85 crept up one of the steel beams that had collapsed the roof to the control room, finding itself in a black, dusty gallery. Though it despised the asymmetry of this particular collapse, it was a useful way to reach closer to the surface. All other paths out of the control room were buried shut. As it advanced, it played and replayed the footage it had captured from the struggling logic engine and its spy network.
The lifeforms were Adelian indeed. It did not wholly know when this term had entered its lexicon, or what harbinger had planted the information. But that was what the people in this strange place were called. All their features were anthropic, save for their strange ears and tails. The anthropometry was almost perfect – they were just a tick shorter and with seemingly less body hair than Humans. These Adelian lifeforms all belonged to the most diverse, common and intrusive group of invaders, known as “Iomadi.” Using what it knew about Human biology, DC-85 had surmised that the Iomadi were probably some sort of offshoot, tainted with those select animal traits by the atmosphere pollution (carbon dioxide, sulfur and radium levels in the atmosphere were at an all time and very alarming low). DC-85 detected patterns in their clothing, weaponry, as well as a uniformity in the color and texture of their furry ears and tails.
This suggested organization – DC-85 increased their threat rating accordingly.
From the gallery DC-85 climbed the walls and entered a jagged crack in the ceiling, weaving through rubble and dirt to finally emerge from a muddy pit outside the temple clearing. Hidden by the rainforest tangle and the filth that had collected on its chrome surface during its climb, DC-85 crept unseen, magnifying its view of the surroundings to better spot the intruders with its eye. The Iomadi had tarried – rather than digging through the mud, into what was left of the temple entrance, they had chosen to remain around the esplanade (or what remained unconsumed by rainforest), admiring the columns. DC-85 adjusted its audio channels, trying to translate the alien gibberings of its foes. The one talking appeared to be male, though with its long hair, rounder features and slight frame, common to Iomadi of all kinds, it was difficult for it to tell.
“…characters are beyond even my knowledge of the Old Tongue. All I can do is take pictographs of the columns and see if the archivists can make some sense of this writing.” He said. He quickly added, “You’ll be paid regardless though.”
One of its partners wagged its fox-like tail furiously, brushing its chin and staring deep in thought at the columns. The suggestion of monetary exchanged seemed not to trouble it or draw its attention. When it spoke, it still sounded deep within the muddle of its own alien thoughts. “I wonder why this culture would put writing on their columns though. Surely, words would not be as timeless as images for this purpose? Our temples are all decorated with vast portraiture to the spirits, that would be obvious to anyone.”
“Arrogance.” Said a third Iomadi, standing behind the other two with a dour look on its face. “The people of the Lost World thought they would outlive time itself. For them, probably the very idea of us three standing around their temple, unaware of their intentions, was madness itself. Yet here we are, and where are they?”
The first speaker rolled his eyes. “You don’t have an ounce of curiosity do you?”
“No. By the way, I want extra pay for going out here to do nothing.”
“Well, you’re not getting it.” The first speaker replied, its ears dropping low.
DC-85 had no capacity to be infuriated, and hardly understood the context or purpose of their discussion. All it knew was that the Adelians weren’t technically humans and so they had to be exterminated as part of the Directive – and that in the short term this would keep the temple safe. Had its heat sensors not been damaged, it might have analyzed their body temperature for signs of alertness. For now it waited only for an opportunity, calculated with no data but what its single red eye now witnessed.
The first Iomadi removed from over its shoulders a leather bag, from which it drew a tormented piece of technology that seemed to be a box with scribbled lines upon it. He applied a powder into the object, and placed a small roll of paper within. Its face twisted in a wickedly satisfied smile, the Iomadi prepared to unleash the object.
DC-85 did have a capacity to be alarmed – and it believed this device to be explosive. Disregarding all stealth, the machine bore down along the jungle floor at the intruders, one of whom now raised the object to his face for whatever monstrous purpose. A spray of heat from now exposed miniature turbines seared a line across the mossy jungle floor, and DC-85 leaped, switchblade legs ready to eviscerate its foes.
The automaton soared past the column; the object flashed suddenly, blinding DC-85 mid-flight. DC-85 toppled over the Iomadi, its legs thrashing blindly, slicing the air, cracking the scattered cobblestones on the ground and splashing the intermittent pools of mud. It tumbled along with the Iomadi, its senses baffled by the explosion. They suddenly settled unto level terrain, and the warm, alien being beneath it squirmed. DC-85 raised its legs for a final, fatal thrust, when suddenly it heard the roar of an Adelian gun, and its eyesight never returned. Its red globe shattered, and the primitive’s pelleted round struck deep into its logic cortex. DC-85 was instantly snuffed.
The younger mercenary rushed to her employer’s side, mere moments after he had taken the pictograph with his camera, and the metal beast had lunged from nowhere and taken him to the mud. She put down her gun, which, spirits be praised, had been powerful enough to put out the creature’s malevolent eye. The professor feebly reached out his hands, and she helped him to his feet. His side was red with blood, as were his shoulders, but while the cuts shed freely, they were not fatal.
“He’s not responding!” She said, trying to prop him up. The professor gasped for breath and his whole body shook, but he was otherwise rendered mute.
“He will live,” said the older mercenary, putting down his own pack and taking from it vials of elixir and palm-leaf wrappings. “He’s just shaken, anybody would be. He was just attacked by angel! Just hold him steady so I can dress his wounds.”
“Why did that thing even attack us? We weren’t doing anything to the temple.”
“How do you know we weren’t? You two had no respect for this place.” The older mercenary said. “This is a terrible omen. We must report it to the Archeological Society.”
The older mercenary approached and kicked aside the small metal frame of DC-85, consigning it to a pool of mud, and dabbed elixir on the professor’s wounds with a cloth. The man’s eyes still looked like they were blinded by his own pictograph.