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About Deviant Artist Daniel Lubniewski29/Male/United States Recent Activity
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The core of the Four Pillars Colony was surrounded a series of concentric walls nested within each other like the layers of an onion. The walls resembled bookshelves stacked with books made of glass and blue light. Kara was wandering through this labyrinth of glass and metal, accompanied by Rankin’s avatar.

“So, what did you say this place was called again?” Kara asked Rankin.

“The Memory Banks,” Rankin replied. “Each of these ‘glass books,’ as you called them, is a data module that stores the thoughts and experiences of every unit and AI that calls Four Pillars Colony home.”

“And at the center of this maze is the central processing computer, or CPC?”


“And inside the CPC is your original – ?”

“You will not be able to see our original bodies. The four walls surrounding the CPC can only be lowered by a unanimous decision from the colony’s four AIs, and you have yet to display any ability that could force open those walls.”

“Aw, you’re no fun. …Say, I’ve noticed that we haven’t heard from the Emorians for a while. Do you think they’re still around?”

“Affirmative. Their ship is still in viewing distance of the colony.”

“Really? It’s been three days. What could they be doing?”

“Multiple possibilities. I have been running simulations for each of them in order to prepare the colony for a potential counterattack.” Rankin, who had been following Kara through the Memory Banks, suddenly stopped. “I must go. Emorian boats are approaching the colony.”

“I just had to jinx things.”

“I will send a unit to guide you back to your quarters.”

“Actually, would you mind taking me to the artifacts?”

* * *

Three small boats carrying a total of two dozen Advent Guards were floating just beyond the reach of the legs of the Four Pillars Colony. Nolan was standing on the bow of the boat closest to the walker.

“Hey!” She yelled out to the colony. “Who do I have to kill to get some attention around here?!”

“Killing will not be necessary,” Vorsch said as his avatar materialized in front of Nolan. “I assume you’re here to continue our… negotiations.”

“Damn right I am, and I’ve got a few things to tell you! One: no, you cannot take our weapons this time. Two: I want to talk to that Marba girl in person. And three: I WILL beat that girl’s location out of your tin head if I have to.”

“And why should we comply to your demands?”

“Because we are the Advent Guard! We carry out the Emperor’s will!” Nolan’s drill gauntlet materialized around her right arm. “And the consequences for interfering with the Emperor’s will are severe.”

“I’m not impressed. At least tell us what you plan to do with the girl.”

“How’s THIS for a plan?!” Nolan yelled as she swung her drill at Vorsch. As he was a hologram, her drill simply passed through his body with no effect.

“As aggressive as ever, I see.”

“Ms. Nolan,” an Advent Guard said. “With all due respect, I think we should bring Chowski into this conversation. Maybe he can talk some sense into these robots.”

“…Fine,” Nolan sighed. “I never was one for conversations anyway.”

The Advent Guard pulled a small egg-shaped projector out of his pocket and proceeded to create a hologram of Chowski.

“Fancy seeing you again,” Vorsch told Chowski.

“The same,” Chowski replied.

“So, would you mind explaining why we should hand over the girl?”

“The Emperor has declared that the girl and all of the other artifacts you found in the crater must be confiscated in order to maintain the dominance of the Empire and the security of the world.”

“Why would evidence that a small Marba town existed independently from the Republic threaten either?”

“I… What? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“We have reasons to believe that you lied to us about the crater.”

“N-no! I only told you what my superiors told me!”

“So you have just been following orders this whole time?”

“…Y-yes, of course.”

“And I take it you don’t know why your Emperor is so interested in the artifacts or the girl?”

“…No, I don’t. But whatever reason the Emperor has, it will contribute to the peace and stability that the Empire embodies. Who am I to question such noble goals?”

“If that’s so, then we would like to ask the Emperor directly why they are so interested in this location. Otherwise, we will not comply with your demands to hand over the girl or any of the artifacts.”

“And there you have it,” Nolan said. “We got to find the Marba the hard way.”

Nolan pointed her drill at the nearest leg of the colony. Two jets of steam poured out of her gauntlet’s elbow. Suddenly the two jets ballooned into an explosion of steam that nearly capsized the boat and propelled Nolan into the air. She landed feet first onto the knee of the colony’s leg.

Nolan quickly realized that she was surrounded by a dozen Rote-4s, all of them concealed by cloaking devices.

“You should know by now that we Emorians have excellent hearing,” Nolan said. “I know where all of you soldiers are right now.”

“And you should realize by now that we know of the limits of your abilities,” said Rankin’s disembodied voice.

Nolan’s drill emitted a loud whir as it start spinning. Steam continued to poor out of her gauntlet. “You’ve only seen me use my Protection Matrix,” she said as she charged into a full sprint.

CeeVee created a shield in front of Nolan, who reacted by thrusting her drill forward. The drill shattered the shield and ripped through the invisible Rote-4 it was protecting. The Rote-4’s cloaking device deactivated with a white flash, revealing that Nolan had completely obliterated the left half of its torso.

“And now you know what my drill is capable of,” Nolan said as she turned around. Several more Rote-4s appeared as they turned off their cloaking devices. CeeVee created a shield for each Rote-4, which flickered in and out of existence at random. “Would you like to see what happens when I infuse my Matrix into my drill?”

“It seems negotiations are over,” Vorsch said as his avatar disappeared.

“Indeed they are,” Chowski remarked as he signaled this Advent Guard to shut off his projector.

From their boats below the rest of the Nolan’s squad could catch glimpses of the fight raging above them. Fiery explosions rocked the upper portion of the leg, sending pieces of destroyed Rote-4s flying into the ocean. The explosions stopped after a particularly loud one followed by the sound of tearing metal, and when the smoke cleared the squad could see a gaping hole torn out of the side of the leg.

“So,” one of the soldiers asked. “What do we do now?”

“We enter the colony through that hole,” another soldier replied. “Contact Chowski once we get inside, and for the love of decency, don’t get in Nolan’s way.”

* * *

Within the colony’s cyberspace, Sirene and Rankin watched as the Advent Guard climbed into the hole that Nolan left behind.

“So, they’ve taken the offensive,” she noted. “Rankin, you know what to do.”

Rankin sent a series of orders through cyberspace directly into the minds of every unit in the colony. “Deploy all anchors. Prepare the walker for potential impacts. All combat-oriented units engage the Advent Guard. All non-combat units retreat to impact-safe-zones. Activate rail-guns and wait for further orders.”

“Matriarch,” Vorsh said. “Nolan appears to be headed towards Warehouse PC13.”

“PC13?” Sirene said. “That’s were the artifacts are being stored!”

“It’s also were Kara is currently located,” Rankin added. “Shall I retrieve her?”

“Negative. Focus on stopping Nolan and her men. I’ll have CeeVee escort Kara to the Memory Banks.”

“Matriarch,” Vorsch said. “The Emorian’s ship is moving away from the colony.”

* * *

Warehouse PC13 was bathed in a soft green light. One by one pieces of metal floated above the rows of artifacts and flew towards the two-story cannon in the center of the room, where they assembled themselves into a pair of concentric rings, floating around the cannon’s barrel, as wide as the cannon was long. Rust and filth fell off the cannon and rings in large flakes, revealing a metallic sheen underneath. In front of the cannon stood Kara, her outstretched hands glowing bright green.

“Kara!” CeeVee yelled as her avatar materialized behind Kara. “We got to get you out of here! The Emorians are on a warpath and – ! …What are you doing?”

“Rebuilding this cannon, of course!” Kara said.


“I have the power to restore things. I can use it to heal wounds and repair machinery, among other things.”

“Interesting. So, what kind of cannon is this anyway?”

“My memory’s still a little fuzzy, but I think it’s some kind of laser cannon. The real neat thing about it, though, is that those rings around the barrel allow it to be aimed in any direction, even directly at the ground.”

“And just how did this thing end up on your island?”

“My father invented it, of course!”

“Father? What kind of father did you – ?” CeeVee was interrupted by the appearance or Vorsch’s avatar.

“Why are you still in here?” he yelled at CeeVee. “You were supposed to escort the girl back to the Memory Banks!”

“Sorry, but we got a little distracted,” CeeVee stammered.

“Distracted with what!?”

“With rebuilding a secret weapon,” Kara answered.

Vorsch looked the cannon, whose rings were almost complete. “…How much longer will this take you?”

* * *

Nolan smashed her way through another wall made of metal pipes, revealing a hallway made of even more metal pipes, just like every other hallway she had been in. Just like those other hallways, she couldn’t see any Susehpens, but she could hear them scuttling around her.

“This is getting REAL tiring!” she said as she swung her drill, ripping the cloaking field off a Rote-4 while shredding its chest. “I hope you tin cans can think of better tricks than this!”

CeeVee’s shields started flickering on and off throughout the hall. “Oh, what is this?” Nolan noted sarcastically. “Let me guess, you’re trying to confuse me with those shields, you want to make me question which ones are actually protecting a unit. I said I wanted NEW tricks!!” She charged forward, her drill grinding through any shield and unit unfortunate enough to be in her way.

Suddenly a sharp pain ripped through Nolan’s shoulder. She stopped and looked down to see a bullet hole. “The hell? Did you guys just shoot me? Are you telling me you guys had guns this whole time?!”

A series of white flashes indicated that several Susehpens had just turned off their cloaking devices. Nolan looked up to see several Susehpens. Half of the units were K-Licks, which resembled spiders standing on their heads, a rifle mounted atop their spherical abdomens. The other units were Onyx-4s, and they resembled caterpillars with a pair of Gatling guns mounted on either side of their faces.

“To be specific, these units carry rivet guns,” Rankin said through a K-Lick.

“Well, that’s a new trick,” Nolan noted.

The Susehpens all opened fire, pelting Nolan with a barrage of fast-moving rivets. Fortunately for her, she had already activated her Protection Matrix, so the rivets bounced off with no effect. Unfortunately, using her Matrix to block projectile weaponry meant that it couldn’t be used to enhance her drill’s offensive powers.

Nolan heard a thumping sound and felt her arm being constricted. She looked down to see a centipede-like Susehpen wrapped around her gauntlet and drill. Because she was using her Matrix to protect herself from the rivets, Nolan could only watch as the centipede Susehpen dug its claws into her gauntlet, causing the drill to stop spinning and start shooting out sparks.

“Shit!” Nolan said as she ran from the K-Licks and Onyx-4s. She ducked into the first side hallway she came across. Once she was sure that she didn’t have to worry about being pelted by rivets, Nolan focused her Matrix on the centipede Susehpen, stopping it from doing any more damage.

Using the Matrix to enhance her strength, Nolan tore the Susehpen off her arm, snapped it in half, and tossed the remains to her side. She looked up to find herself face-to-face with an Onyx-4. However, before the Onyx-4 could open fire, it was shot through its head by a bolt of plasma. Nolan turned to see her squadron, their rifles charged and aimed at the Susehpens that had been pursuing her.

“About time you guys showed up!” Nolan called out.

“Are you okay, ma’am?” asked the Advent Guard that shot the Onyx-4. The rest of the squadron started trading shots with the Susehpens.

“Could be better. These bozos just broke my gauntlet.”

“We’ll see what we can do about it.”

“Is everyone inside the colony?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“When did you guys get into the colony?”

“About ten minutes ago.”

“Then what the hell has Chowski been doing this whole time?!”

* * *

Chowski was standing on the bow of his ship, looking at the Four Pillars Colony in the distance. Around his arms tiny blocks of metal materialized out of thin air and assembled themselves into a pair of large saucers mounted his hands and lengths of chain spiraling around his forearms.

“Damn it Chowski!” Nolan yelled through his earpiece. “This is no time to be slacking off!!”

“I needed to move the ship to a safe distance.”

“Yeah? Well I need your support right now!!”

“Are all of our men inside?”


“Have they attached their grappling hooks to secure locations?”


Chowski reached out towards the colony. Between his hands a tesseract made of golden light flickered into existence. With a wave of his hands six black cubes appeared around the tesseract, and another wave sent them flying towards the colony. One cube dove underneath the walker and stopped between the legs, another flew directly above, and the last four positioned themselves in a square around the walker.

Chowski continued waving his hands in circles around the tesseract as it rotated upside down.

* * *

A trio of TD-Grades flew through the corridors of the colony. Kara, hidden inside the middle TD-Grade, was alone in the chamber beneath the Susehpen’s carapace, accompanied only by a small pink light.

“Seriously, is all this security really necessary?” Kara asked the light. “I mean, it’s not that hard for me to walk to the Memory Banks.”

“Yes, this is necessary,” CeeVee said through the light. “I’ve been watching the Emorians tear up Rankin’s forces. I doubt they have anything good planned for you.”

“So, what are we going to do when we get to the Memory Banks?”

“Well, for starters, you’ll be under the Matriarch’s direct protection, which means that – “ CeeVee was interrupted by a loud thud. Kara lurched forward as the TD-Grade came to the sudden stop.

“What’s going on out there?” Kara asked.

Without warning Kara found herself being thrown into the sides of the TD-Grade’s chamber by unseen forces, as though something grabbed the Susehpen and started rolling it across the ground. When the shaking stopped Kara found herself lying on what used to be the ceiling of the chamber.

“Kara! Are you alright?!” CeeVee asked.

“I’ll be fine!” Kara answered. “I few injuries, but nothing I can’t patch up in an instant. Seriously though, WHAT is going on out there?”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. It feels like the hallway was suddenly turned upside down.”

“But how were the units affected? They’re still floating, right?”

“That’s the thing; whatever flipped over the hallway also flipped the TD-Grades at the same time!”

“How is that possible?”

“No idea. Going to see if the others can figure it out.”

* * *

CeeVee contacted the other AIs through cyberspace. “Hey guys, something really weird just happened.”

“Let me guess,” Sirene said. “You just saw objects in a corridor act like said corridor had been flipped upside down.”

“…How did you know?”

“Similar phenomena have been occurring all across the colony,” Vorsch answered. “It seems as though the Emorians found a way to ‘invert’ gravity in the area around the colony, causing objects to ‘fall’ upwards, away from the planet’s surface.”

“Objects ‘fall’ upwards? Does that include the colony itself?”

“Affirmative, though our anchors have ensured that the walker remains attached to the ocean floor, at least for now.”

“And how do you know the Emorians are behind this?”

“It’s only speculation. Around the time the phenomena started, we detected seven unusual energy signatures, all of them identical. Six of them were located around the colony in various positions, the seventh was located on the Emorians’ ship.”

“In addition, the Emorian soldiers my units were fighting seemed to know when the phenomena were about to begin,” Rankin said.

“They were able to use the confusion caused by the change in gravity to overcome our forces in sector B-14.”

“Matriarch, we’re receiving a signal from the Emorian ship,” Vorsh said. “They wish to speak with us.”

“…Patch them through,” said Sirene.

Chowski’s deep, gravely voice echoed through the virtual corridors of cyberspace. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to restart negotiations.”

* * *

It had been nearly half an hour since Kara last talked to CeeVee. She was still alone in the chamber of the TD-Grade, which had been motionless this whole time save for a brief period of rocking back and forth. She was really starting to worry about what was going on outside.

The monotony was broken by the sound of something nearby exploding. Kara heard some voices muffled by the TD-Grade’s carapace, then the sound of metal being ripped apart. She put her ear up to the side of the chamber, hoping it would help her better hear what was happening.

A large drill smashed into the chamber a few feet from Kara’s face. Panicking, she scurried to the opposite end of the chamber, as far from the drill as she could get. The drill carved a massive gash into the side of the chamber and afterwards a hand pulled on the gash until it was wide enough for a person to walk through.

“Hello Kara,” Nolan said as she entered the chamber. “Been looking for you.”
Atop a platform on the edge of a vast artificial chasm, Kara stood, handcuffed, surrounded by the holographic avatars of Sirene, Vorsch, Rankin, and CeeVee.

“So, you wanted to ask me questions?” Kara asked Sirene.

“Affirmative,” Sirene answered.

“…Sure!” Kara sat down. “Ask all you want!”

“Please get back on your feet,” Vorsch demanded. “We have specialized rooms for interrogating outsiders.”

“It’s alright Vorsch,” Sirene said. “This isn’t an interrogation. Besides, we’ll still be able to record our conversation from here.” She joined Kara on the floor.

“Matriarch, you do not have to comply with the requests of an outsider. Also, you are currently a hologram. Sitting is not necessary.”

“She’s just a kid, and she doesn’t have any ill will towards us. Though considering that she was able to hold her own against an Advent Guard, it may be a good idea to have some security.”

“I will summon some units immediately,” Rankin said.

“That would be appreciated,” Sirene responded as Rankin and CeeVee vanished, Sirene then turned her attention to Kara. “Now… Kara, am I correct? Let’s begin with the inquiry: what was in that crater we found you in?”

“Crater? I thought your people found me in a hibernation chamber.”

“…Um… Yes, we did, but that chamber was in an underwater crater.”

“Underwater? Crater? Huh, I wonder how I wound up underwater. I was clearly on dry land when I got inside.”

“So, where was that dry land?”

“Jeva, of course!”

“And Jeva is…?”

“My hometown! It’s a little village on an island in the middle of nowhere!”

“An island… So, have you ever been in an Emorian military base?”

“Nope! I’ve never set foot outside of Jeva until now. Heck, today’s the first time I’ve seen non-Marbas in person.”

“This ‘inquiry’ is going nowhere fast,” Vorsch grumbled.

“They rarely do,” Sirene countered. “However, I think we are making progress. Anyways Kara, would you mind telling us more about Jeva?”

“Like I said before, it’s a village built on an island by Marba refugees.”

“Marba refugees?”

“When my people tried to recreate the Republic, not every Marba was on board. In fact, a lot of them, including my family, decided to leave our homeland in order to escape the Republic’s oppression. Unfortunately, nobody wanted us around because everyone hated the Marba, so for a while we just wandered the world. Then we found an uncharted island that we could call home, and that’s how Jeva was born.”

“Interesting story.”

“I’ll say! I have to admit that I was born after my family had settled on Jeva, so for me the world beyond that island was nothing but stories.”

“Clearly you’re no longer on the island and we’re no longer just stories. So tell me, how did you end up in that hibernation chamber?”

“How did I end up there?” Kara’s smile started to fade away. “That’s… That is a very good question. I’m actually having trouble remembering.”

“If you don’t mind, Matriarch,” Vorsch said. “Perhaps I could refresh her memory with my own questions.”

“Feel free to do so,” Sirene said.

Vorsch’s avatar moved towards of Kara, flanked by a pair of floating pill-shaped objects. The pills projected a slideshow of images depicting the artifacts from the crater.

“You are currently viewing a collection of objects that were found in the same crater as your hibernation chamber,” Vorsch explained.

“Do you recognize anything?”

Kara sat there as Vorsch’s slideshow continued. Eventually, she saw a fragment of a brick wall with the remains of a y-shaped neon light near the top.

“That wall… That used to be part of Timy’s Pizza Place! My family used to go there all the time! Wait… the clothes maker I got my outfit from. Where did you find it?”

“It was one of the artifacts from the crater,” Vorsch answered.

“Really? I should have known my uniform looked familiar.” For a few moments Kara just sat there, lost in her own thoughts. “And the feeling I got looking at the cannon…” Tears started to form in her eyes. “Oh god, this isn’t a dream…”

“You’re remembering something?” Sirene asked with anticipation.

“Only fragments, and even that’s too much,” Kara said as she curled up into a ball, burying her face between her knees. “Black ships around the island. Everything is burning. Everyone is dying. My dad takes me to his lab, leads me to the chamber. I see a bright light as the chamber closes, and then… and then…” Kara stopped talking.

“Kara, are you alright?” Sirene asked.

Kara remained silent.

“Vorsch,” Sirene said. “Do you think that-?”

“Yes,” Vorsch answered. “It’s possible that the Emorians lied to us. The settlement that used to be in that crater was not a military base. It was probably Jeva, and I doubt that it was destroyed by a meteor.”

“How long was I in there?” Kara asked.

“We estimate you were hibernating for 50 years,” Vorsch answered. “You mentioned something about your father and a lab. Could you elaborate?”

Kara only answered with a whimper.

“I think we’ll have to continue this inquiry at a later time,” Sirene said.

Roughly a half dozen Rote-4s appeared around Kara in a white flash. “Permission to undo the girl’s handcuffs?” Rankin asked through one of the Rote-4s.

“Permission granted,” Sirene answered.

A Rote-4 stabbed its blade into the ground behind Kara, breaking her handcuffs in the proccess. Though her hands were now free, she continued to just sit there.

“So,” Vorsch pondered. “What now?”

The AIs were caught off guard by a strange growling sound. After a few moments they realized the growling had come from Kara’s stomach.

“I’m hungry,” Kara said.

* * *

A large, lobster-like Susehpen was floating in the choppy waters around one of the legs of the Four Pillars Colony. Kara, CeeVee, and Rankin were standing on top of the Susehpen’s carapace were. It was low tide so one could easily see all the shellfish that had been living on that leg for decades.

“Kara, you sure you want to do this?” CeeVee asked. “I could easily reprogram an excavator to harvest these organisms for you. Heck, I could probably scrape them off with my own shields.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Kara said as she walked to the edge of the carapace.

“I would like to reiterate that it is possible for us to manufacture clothing more suitable for swimming, even at this location,” Rankin added.

“This may be a cheerleading and marching band uniform, but you’d be surprised how much punishment it can take,” Kara said as she jumped into the ocean. “For starters, it dries out faster than you can say ‘give me a J-E-V-A.’”

Kara swam up to the side of the leg. She grabbed hold of barnacle larger than her head, securing herself near a colony of clams. Using a small blade borrowed from Rankin, Kara cut at the fleshy stalks that anchored the clams to the metal. Eventually the stalks were weak enough that Kara could pull the fist-sized clams off with her bare hands.

“Hey CeeVee, catch!!” Kara called out to after she picked her first clam. She then threw it at CeeVee, who caught it with one of her shields.

“Great! Got more where that came from!” Kara said as she turned around to pick some more clams. However, she was interrupted when a large wave came out of nowhere and shoved her face first into the jagged wall of barnacles and clams.

“Kara!” CeeVee cried out.

“I’m fine, I’m fine!” Kara responded, hanging onto the wall of shellfish as she regained her footing. “I’ve done this kind of thing before!”

“Are you injured?” Rankin asked.

“Nothing serious, I’ll be fine!” Kara reiterated as she threw another clam.

The rest of Kara’s clam harvesting was relatively uneventful. After she had collected about a dozen clams, Kara swam back to lobster Susehpen.

“Kara, your leg,” Rankin said after Kara climbed back onto the lobster Susehpen’s carapace. Kara looked down and noticed that her right leg was turning red from the blood pouring out of a gash above her knee.

“Whoa. Thanks for pointing that out,” Kara said as she kneeled down. She held one hand over the injured knee. As her palm slowly started to glow green, the gash on her leg sealed itself shut before vanishing completely.

“Huh,” CeeVee said. “That’s a neat trick.”

“I know, right?” Kara replied. “Say, would you guys happen to have anything I could use to cook my clams? Granted I could probably eat them on the half shell, but – “

A small hatch near the back end of the carapace opened up, releasing a cloud of steam. When the steam cleared, Kara could see a glowing red radiator.

“That’s perfect!” Kara declared. She quickly grabbed six clams and placed them one by one on the radiator. Each clam released a burst of steam and a sharp hiss the moment it touched the hot metal.

For a while Kara just sat there looking at the clams on the radiator. Eventually they started opening with a soft popping sound, prompting Kara to take them off the radiator and set them by her side, making sure to keep the juices from spilling. After giving them time to cool, Kara picked up one of the clams, cut it into rough chunks with her blade, and slurped it directly out of its shell.

“So,” CeeVee pondered. “Does it taste good?”

“Of course!” Kara exclaimed. “Though it’s lacking something.”


“Just a few things to add some flavor. I think I saw some sea onions and maybe a sea cucumber when I was looking for clams.”

“We’ll see if we can find them,” Rankin and CeeVee said simultaneously. A Rote-4 materialized on the edge of the carapace.

“Thanks, but I think I can handle it,” Kara replied.

“We insist,” Rankin said. “Besides, you still have clams to cook.”

“Oh, right! Silly me.”

* * *

Within the cyberspace of the Four Pillars Colony, Sirene and Vorsch were observing Kara from afar.

“It’s strange seeing her now compared to an hour ago,” Vorsch observed.

“She rebounds quickly. I find that reassuring,” Sirene said.

“Perhaps. Anyways, I’ve done some research on Jeva.”


“And nothing beyond the girl’s words. There aren’t any maps that depict an island at this location, though she did claim it was uncharted. However, none of the historical records I’ve researched say anything about a group of Marba refugees wandering the world fifty years ago nor do they mention a town named Jeva.”

“I was observing Kara’s vital signs during our inquiry. Nothing ever suggested she was intentionally lying.”

“That wasn’t what I was trying to imply, though it is a possibility. I’ve heard rumors that the Emorian Empire erases their most hated enemies from existence, destroying evidence and rewriting historical records. Based on what I’ve learned about the crater, there may be some truth behind said rumors.”

“So we have more clues, but nothing definitive.”

“That’s correct.”

Sirene and Vorsch refocused their attention of the Emorian ship a quarter mile south of the colony. It was alone, a black speck in a dark grey ocean, its control tower perched high above the long thin hull like a vulture waiting for its prey to die.

“So,” Vorsch pondered. “What should we do about them? I doubt they’re happy after today’s events.”

“We wait, see what they do next,” Sirene said. “In the meantime, have Rankin run simulations to prepare for any counterattack they may attempt.”

* * *

Kara was lying on top of the carapace of the lobster Susehpen. Next to her was a pile of empty clamshells and sea cucumber husks, and behind her were the avatars of CeeVee and Rankin.

“Just how much did she manage to eat?” CeeVee wondered.

“I counted 35 clams,” Rankin replied.


“I also counted – “

“I’d rather not know the number of onions and sea cucumbers.”

“Well, this was the first time I’ve eaten in 50 years,” Kara said as she sat up. “You know, it’s pretty fascinating that a bunch of robots can band together and form a civilization. I’d like to know more about it.”

“We are not robots, we are Susehpens,” Rankin said.

“Oh, my bad. Still, how do you guys organize yourselves? What’s your government and society like?”

“…The Nation of Susehpe is a race of sentient artificial life forms whose population is organized into colonies. Each colony consists of a colony walker, a mobile self-repairing factory that manufactures and houses non-sentient Susehpens known as ‘units,’ and a series of sentient AIs that control the walker and the units within.”

“Wait. So right now, I’m sitting on the back of a giant unit?”


“And you have to do all of this unit’s thinking for it?”

“Actually, I’m the one controlling this unit right now,” CeeVee said.

Rankin continued with her exposition. “However, this unit contains a computer brain that allows it to continue functioning without direct orders from an AI.”

“Really?” Kara said. “So, how intelligent is this thing?”

“Intelligence is variable. All units are initially programmed with self-preservation instincts. However they are also designed to learn from experience and occasionally a unit will acquire enough knowledge to gain sentience, becoming an artificial intelligence. Once a unit becomes an AI the unit’s physical body will become a hindrance in its intellectual growth. To counter this an AI will to either download itself into the circuitry of its walker or to leave its home colony and start a colony of its own.”

“Wait so you mean that you guys used to be units?”

“Affirmative. Our existence began as units under Sirene’s control.”

"So, what happens to you body once you download yourself?”

“It remains in the core of the colony, integrated into the hardware of the central processing computer.”

“Would it be too much if I asked to see it?”

* * *

It had been two days since the failed negotiations aboard the Four Pillars Colony. Nollan and Chowski were in the basketball court of the ship’s gymnasium, the largest open space on the vessel. At one end of the court was Chowski, sitting in a recliner and locked in a meditative trance. At the other end was Nolan, surrounded by unconscious Advent Guards. She had taken off her uniform jacket, revealing a brown sleeveless shirt held together by leather straps and a matching pair of pants.

“So,” Nolan asked Chowski. “How did I do?”

Chowski’s fingers twitched, indicating that he had left his trance. “Poorly. You were supposed to focus on defensive combat.”

“Oh screw you! I needed to blow off some steam!”

“Those are our men you just beat up.”

“I didn’t do any lasting damage. Besides, the best defense is a good offense. That’s how the saying goes, right?”

“Perhaps, but even a good offense or defense will mean nothing if the Susehpens once again find away around it.”

“You’re giving those tin cans too much credit. They got lucky.”

“I don’t think you’re giving them enough.”

“Whatever… Gah! I am so freaking BORED!! I’m sick of being cooped up in here! I want out! I want blood!!”

“Not without the Empire’s permission.”

“And the Empire is taking their sweet little time with that permission. Honestly, what is taking them so long!?”

A door opened up behind Nolan. An Advent Guard entered the room and placed a small disk on the floor a few feet from Nolan. “I bring you a message from the capital,” he said before leaving the room.

“About damn time,” Nolan grumbled.

The disk started glowing a pale blue, creating a hologram of a slender figure. It wore a cloak that completely covered its body and a helmet that seemed far too big for its head. The helmet vaguely resembled a snake, with a rectangular snout out in front and globe-like eyes on the sides. The cloak was solid black save for a band of white down the front while the helmet shimmered with iridescent colors.

“Your Majesty!” a surprised Chowski and Nolan said simultaneously.

“This is a pre-recorded message,” the Emperor said with a reedy yet booming voice. “Do not waste your breath.”

Chowski was surprised that they were getting an order directly from the Emperor rather than from the DM Commission, though it did explain why it took so long for anyone to respond to his report.

“W Chowski. Kit Nolan. As you may have guessed by now, the DM Commission believed that the appropriate response to your report was to give you a CE order, a decision that I must personally approve. While I for the most part agree with their assessment, I also believe that we need to learn more about the situation.

You are to re-establish contact with the Marba girl and ask her if she knows a man by the name of Fitzroy William Darcel. If she states that she does, then you have my permission to completely eradicate of all the artifacts found in that crater, including the girl. As with any other CE order, you are to erase any records the Susehpen colony have of the artifacts. Should they interfere with your mission, eradicate them as well.

Your actions here shall ensure the continued dominance of our Empire and the security of the world. I wish you luck.”

The Emperor’s hologram flickered away, leaving Chowski and Nolan alone in the gym. For a while there was only silence, but then Nolan started to laugh. Her laughter grew louder until it echoed throughout the room.

“Now THAT is the kind of permission that I was looking for!” she declared. “Get your troops ready, we’re going back to the colony first thing tomorrow!”

“Not yet,” Chowski countered. “We need to form a strategy just in case they don’t take kindly to our return.”

“I charge in, guns blazing, and make my demands. If they give me crap, you call them and tell them where to shove it! If they fight back, you provide some backup fire from the ship! How’s that for strategy?”

“…Just make sure to negotiate before you attack.”
The smoke eventually cleared to the point that Nolan could see what kind of room she was in. It was a dimly lit warehouse, thirty feet wide and tall and so long she couldn’t see the other side. Still, there was enough light for Nolan to make out what was being stored: the artifacts from the crater.

Most of the artifacts were caked in rust and barnacles, but Nolan could tell that the colony had found a variety of objects. Trinkets, scraps, machine parts of all sizes, and even entire segments of buildings were arranged in tidy rows across the floor. Hard at work scraping way the oceanic filth were Cycle-4s, one-armed Susehpen units with their heads mounted beneath their solitary shoulder.

There were three objects that caught Nolan’s attention. First was a partially cleaned cannon near the back of the room, two stories tall, whose design Nolan had never seen in any Emorian base. The other two were about twenty feet away from her. There was a metallic box that seemed to be the source of all the white smoke and an open cylinder large enough to hold a person. Faint footprints led from these two objects to Kara, the Marba girl that was currently standing in front of Nolan.

“You know,” Chowski said to Nolan. “I think that just threatening violence would have been sufficient in coercing them to meet our demands.”

“Well, too late for that,” Nolan replied. “Also, what the hell should I do about this Marba in front of me?”

Kara leaned over until her face was inches away from Nolan’s. “Are you talking to someone?” she asked, still smiling.

“None of your damn business!” Nolan snarled.

“Oh. Okay then!” Kara darted around Nolan and headed towards the AI avatars.

“Sorry about all the smoke! The clothes maker blew up after I was done. Hope you don’t mind.” Kara said to Vorsch.

“Of course not. That was just a priceless artifact you just destroyed,” Vorsch said.

“Priceless? It’s just a clothes maker.  Well, at least I was able to get an outfit out of it. A marching band uniform, no less!” Kara posed in her uniform. It consisted of a long-sleeved, creamed-colored shirt with two rows of buttons running down the front, maroon briefs, and knee-length maroon boots. “So tell me, how do I look?”

“Um, lovely?” CeeVee said.

“Unable to answer,” Rankin said. “Our designated tasks to do not include aesthetic assessments of non-susehpen fashion”

“Meh, it was worth trying to ask,” Kara said to herself. “Say, you guys wouldn’t happen to have a mirror around, would you?”

A Mono-Blast, an octahedron-shaped unit with a chrome body and four limbs sprouting out of its top and bottom points, floated up to Kara. “Yeah, that’ll do,” said Kara as she tied up her hair. By the time she was done, her hair was in an elaborate hairstyle. Near the back of her head was a high-set red ponytail. Sprouting out of that ponytail was a smaller silver ponytail, and out of the silver ponytail sprouted an even smaller black one.

Nolan, who had been talking to Chowski while Kara was busy with her hair, approached Kara from behind. “You know, Kara,” she said.

“I’ve got two things to tell your. First, your outfit: it seriously needs pants.”

“Well, it is designed for acrobatics,” Kara said with a cheeky smile.

“Second,” Nolan said as placed her hand on Kara’s shoulder. With a swift motion, Nolan threw Kara to the floor face first. “I’ve got a few friends that would like know what a Marba like you was doing in an Emorian facility.” As she pinned Kara down with one knee, Nolan handcuffed Kara’s hands behind her back.

“Emorian facility?” Kara said with shock.

Nolan turned towards the AI avatars. “If you tin cans don’t mind, my squad and I will be taking our weapons back.”

A sudden flash of white light filled the room. When it faded, Nolan noticed there were two Susehpens in front of her. They were Rote-4s: headless units that rolled on a single wheeled foot and had mantis-like arms that ended in large blades. Nolan turned around and saw about a dozen more Rot-4s surrounding her squad, accompanied by a second TD-Grade. The AI avatars had disappeared.

“Request denied,” Rankin said sternly.

“Oh, you want to play rough?” Nolan asked. “Fine by me. Get ‘em, boys!”

“With all due respect, Miss,” protested one of Nolan’s squad mates. “These things did just steal our weapons.”

“JUST DO SOMETHING! We need to fight back!”

“We’re not upper guardsmen! The Emperor didn’t give us-!” The man was interrupted by a Rote-4 striking him in the arm, causing him to collapse in pain. The rest of the Susehpens closed in on the squad.

One of the Rote-4s next to Nolan swung its bladed hand down onto her head. It broke in half without even leaving a scratch on her.

“Seriously, do I have to do EVERYTHING by myself?!” she yelled as she sent the unit flying across the room with a single punch. She proceeded to do the same thing to the other unit.

Nolan turned around just in time to see the other Rote-4s push her squad into the shell of the second TD-Grade. She ran over to try and rescue them, but unexpectedly found her punch being blocked by a pink hexagon made out of light.

“Oh, so you’re trying to stop me, eh?” she said with barely contained frustration. “IT’S USELESS!!” She threw another punch, shattering the hexagon like glass. As the shards of light faded away, Nolan realized that the Rote-4s and TD-Grades had all vanished, leaving her alone with the Cycle-4s in the warehouse.

“What the…? Where the hell are you cowards?! SHOW YOURSELF!” Nolan yelled out. As if on cue, Rankin and CeeVee’s avatars reappeared. “THERE you are! Give me back my squadron or else!!”

“Or else what?” Chowski said. “You’re alone in hostile territory. You’re in no position to make demands.”

Nolan ripper her earpiece off her ear and held it directly in front of her face. “I don’t need your stupid advice!!” she yelled.

“Very well, I suppose there’s no changing the fact that this peaceful mission has just turned into hostage crisis.”

“It never was peaceful! In case you forgot, these things stole our weapons the moment we set foot in this scrap yard! No, they were stealing our stuff before then!!”

“Still, you didn’t have to stoop to their level of aggression. In fact, I feel that you were also excessively rough with the Marba girl.”

“Excessively rough? She is a Marba! You do not play nice with Marba!!”

“Um,” CeeVee interrupted. “Didn’t you want to talk with us?”

“YES!” Nolan shouted back. “I still want my crew and weapons back!”

“We have no obligation to obey your request,” Rankin said. “I will tell you that your squadron is still alive and that they and their weapons will be returned to your ship.”

“Oh, playing hard to get, eh?” Nolan chuckled. “Fine, I’ll play. I’ll rip this place apart piece by piece until I find my men and then I’ll-!”

Nolan was interrupted when Kara, who was still handcuffed, planted a diving kick squarely into the side of her head. It knocked Nolan off her feet and into a nearby door. She crashed headfirst into the door with a loud clanging sound before collapsing.

“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” CeeVee asked Rankin.

“Affirmative,” Rankin answered. “It does not compute. That girl’s kick should not have affected Nolan the way it did.”

Kara walked up to Nolan. “Wow,” she said to herself. “I didn’t think my cheerleading training would translate so well into fighting.”

“You. Got. Lucky.” Nolan growled as she stumbled back onto her feet. She turned her head to reveal that the tip of her left horn had been broken off and embedded into her cheek, golden blood dripping out of the wound. “Really, REALLY lucky!!”

Nolan swung with all her might at Kara’s face, but Kara was quick to duck and return with a knee to Nolan’s stomach. This time Nolan didn’t even flinch. Kara stumbled backwards in pain, feeling like she had just kneed a brick wall.

“Don’t get cocky, bitch!!” Nolan yelled as she swung down with both fists. Kara rolled out of the way, causing Nolan to strike down on the floor. Surprisingly, she didn’t even scratch the metal plating.

“This makes no sense,” CeeVee said as she watched the fight. “One moment Nolan’s a juggernaut, the next she’s no stronger than Kara.”

“STAND STILL DAMMIT!!!” Nolan screamed as she continued to throw punches at Kara. Even with her knee hurt, Kara continued to dodge Nolan’s attacks with ease. Eventually one of Nolan’s punches struck a pipe in the wall, leaving only as small dent. Nolan’s stumbled backwards, clutching her hand in pain, giving Kara time to run away towards Rankin and CeeVee.

“Hey, would it be too much to ask you two for help?” Kara said to the AIs.

“Sure! Though I don’t what I could do, seeing how I’m a hologram right now,” CeeVee responded.

“Start by bringing more of your shield units to this location,” Rankin said.

“What? You saw how she smashed through my first shield!”

“I have a plan. Both of you follow me.” Rankin said as her avatar flew down the hallway. CeeVee’s avatar followed suit.

“I’m not done with you!!” Nolan shouted as she stomped the floor, causing it to ripple and knock Kara down. She then ripped another door out of its frame and threw the twenty-foot disk at Kara. Kara rolled out of the way, jumped back onto her feet, and continued following the AIs down the hall. “GET BACK HERE!!!” Nolan yelled.

* * *

On the bridge of his ship, Chowski reflected on how the situation was getting out of control. He always knew that Nolan had a bad temper, but normally her aggressiveness was useful in making sure negotiations worked in favor of the Empire. Yet as he could clearly see, it was useless against an opponent that seemingly had no fear. It baffled him that there were sentient life forms on this world didn’t realize the Emorian Empire was a force to be feared, something to be submitted to.

“Chowski, there are two objects approaching our ship,” one of the bridge operators said. Chowski could clearly see through the windows that it was a pair of TD-Grades approaching them. “Shall we shoot them down sir?”

“Not yet,” Chowski said. “They might be the units that captured our squadron. Send them a transmission to meet me on the main deck, but be prepared to attack.”
“Will do sir.”

* * *

A few minutes after receiving Chowski’s message, the TD-Grades descended onto the main deck of the ship, where he was waiting.

“I assume that you have the… goods that were stolen from Nolan,” Chowski said. “I hope it’s not too much to request their return.”

The TD-Grades opened up their shells and unloaded their contents; one was carrying Nolan’s squad mates, all dazed and confused from their ordeal, and the other had their weaponry, still stored in cards.

“Do not return,” one of the TD-Grades said in deep voice as the two of them flew back to the colony.

Chowsky radioed the bridge crew. “Get these men down to the infirmary ASAP.” He then sorted through the cards and picked up the one that contained Nolan’s drill. “Also, prepare a life boat. I’m going into the colony.”

“With all due respect sir,” a bridge operator said. “That second request is crazy.”

“Nolan’s still in there. I have to make sure she’s safe.”

* * *

For a while Nolan chased Kara and the AIs down the halls of the colony. As they progressed further into the core of the colony, the warehouse doors disappeared and the halls grew narrow and twisted. Eventually the hall opened up onto a platform on the edge of a vast chasm, a hundred feet wide and so tall one could only see darkness near the top and a pale light near the bottom. Kara was able to stop herself before she ran over the edge, only to turn around and see that Nolan was about to plant a foot in Kara’s face.

A pink hexagon of light stopped Nolan’s kick, sending her tumbling across the floor. CeeVee’s voice spoke to Kara through the octagonal shield. “Rankin and I will handle her. Just stay away from the ledge.”

“Ri-right!” Kara said as she made her way back to the hallway. CeeVee’s shield followed her, ready to protect her from Nolan.

“You things never learn, do you?” Nolan said as she got back up. “I’ll break that shield like the last one!” She charged at Kara, ready to punch.

“Get down!” CeeVee told Kara. Kara did so.

Moments before Nolan’s punch could touch with CeeVee’s shield, the shield vanished. Nolan tripped over Kara, and as she tumbled across the floor, an invisible force ripped through the front of her jacket and cut into her chest. A Rote-4 appeared in a white flash, Nolan’s blood on the tip of its blades.

“You cowards. You’re all cowards!” Nolan snarled, trying to keep her balance and composure. “What’s wrong, too scared to fight fairly against me, hiding behind shields and cloaking devices? You machines are pathetic!!”

CeeVee’s shield and the Rote-4 both vanished in a flash. “I hope you things know I can still HEAR you!!” Nolan said as she threw a punch. CeeVee blocked it with her shield, but Nolan was able to dodge the Rote-4’s counterattack.

“IT’S OVER!!” Nolan yelled as she charged at the Rote-4’s location, fully expecting to run into CeeVee’s shield. Yet CeeVee shield didn’t reappear, and Nolan ended up impaled through the shoulder by the Rote-4’s blade.

“It is indeed over,” Rankin said through the Rote-4. “We have figured out the limits of your abilities and how to –“

Nolan broke the blade and ripped it out of her shoulder. She then swung at the Rote-4 with a punch that it was easily able to avoid. Nolan tried to throw another only for CeeVee to trip her with a shield. As Nolan fell to the ground, the Rote-4 took an underhanded swipe at her. The blade failed to cut her but succeeded in knocking her to the edge of the platform.

“We know how to counter your abilities,” Rankin continued. “Surrender now before we resort to lethal force.”

Nolan got back on to her feet. “Surrender? Never! I will be leaving this place on my own terms and I will taking that Marba girl with me!”

“Fine,” said Kara as she planted a diving kick square in Nolan’s chest, knocking both of them off the platform. Kara’s fall was stopped by one of CeeVee’s shields, but Nolan wasn’t as lucky.

Kara watched as Nolan fell down the chasm. “What’s down there?” she asked.

“This is the main ventilation shaft of the colony,” Rankin answered as her avatar appeared next to Kara. “She will be falling directly into the ocean.”

“Yeesh. Is she going to be alright?”


CeeVee’s shield floated back up to the platform. “Say, how did you manage to hurt her?” Kara said as she jumped back onto solid ground.

“Nolan’s ability can be only focused on a single object or person at any given time. While she possesses heightened strength and invulnerability when interacting with the subject of her focus, everything else will interact with her as though she has normal strength and durability.”

“Huh, that would explain a lot,” said Kara before realizing she was still handcuffed. “Say, you wouldn’t mind untying me, would you?”

“That would depend on how you answer my questions,” an AI avatar said as it appeared behind Kara and Rankin. This one took the form of a slender woman with long blue hair. Her body was the same color as her hair and featureless save for her face.

“M-matriarch!” CeeVee exclaimed as her avatar appeared next to Rankin. “What are you doing here?”

Vorsch’s avatar appeared behind the blue woman. “Sirene insisted on meeting the Marba girl in person.”

“…Matriarch?” Kara said as she approached the blue woman.

“Yes,” the blue woman said. “I am Sirene, matriarch of the Four Pillars Colony. I coordinate the actions of my fellow AIs.”

“Sirene… My name’s Kara Weslam. Nice to meet you!” Since her hands were tied up, Kara decided to bow to her new acquaintance.

* * *

Chowski navigated his boat between the legs of the Susehpen walker. He was following a ping on a holographic radar display and eventually reached the source of the ping: a half submerged Nolan, clutching onto the side of a walker leg with one hand while letting her other hand float limply in the water.

“You dropped your earpiece,” Chowski said as he dragged Nolan into his boat. “You’re lucky that we have tracking devices installed in our skulls.”

Nolan slumped up against the side of the boat. “Take me back,” she said faintly.

“As you wish. You need to rest after what you’ve been through.”

“No, the colony! Take me back inside the colony!”

“They figured out how to injure you. You’ll be useless without your drill.”

“I’m not done with them yet!”

“I know you lost to a Marba, but we need to put the mission before our – “

“I’M NOT DONE YET! I DIDN’T LOSE TO THAT –!“ Nolan bent over in pain before she could finish her sentence.

“Look, we can’t go charging back into the colony without a plan, nor can we do so without the Emperor’s permission.”


“The Emperor never told us what to do if we ever found a live Marba in the crater. I’ve had the girl’s image and name sent to the DM Commission, so by tomorrow we’ll know how much of a priority it is to capture or eradicate her.”

“…Fine, I’ll wait.”
“People of Nede, today marks the one-thousandth anniversary of the Emorian Empire’s foundation and the one-hundredth anniversary of my ascension to the throne. For one thousand years this planet have been united under the banner of justice, equality, and stability and for one hundred years I have held that banner with pride.

You have all heard the stories of the Empire came to be, of how the nations of Nede set aside their petty differences in the face of a common foe, the Marba Republic. For centuries the Marba lived lives of excessive decadence, forcing others to create extravagant luxuries that only they were ever allowed to enjoy, all while looking down on their subjects like lesser life forms. The people of Nede were right to ask the Marba for a share of their riches and then strike the Marba down when they refused.

Before I was an emperor I was a general in the Empire’s Advent Guard. Throughout this Empire’s millennium of existence, remnants of the Marba Republic crawled out from the shadows seeking vengeance, and it was my duty to stamp them out like the parasites that they were. Yet my time in the Guard taught me that Marba remnants were not the only threat to our empire, that some amongst the other races of Nede that seek to undo all that our empire has achieved.

These outsiders question whether we go “too far” in our mission to eradicate those who threaten us. I say that we do not go far enough! They complain that the Empire’s quest for peace and stability infringes on their personal freedom. I tell you that freedom is worthless when compared to tolerance and security! They claim to support diversity and equality. People from every race in Nede run our Empire and walk through our streets as equals! What more do these ungrateful louts want?

I implore you all stand as equals against those who oppose us, who spout their delusional drabble of freedom and diversity, ignorant of how much the world needs us. Never compromise with those who will not stand with us, for they stand against us, and never falter in your resolve. Persevere! Ensure that justice, equality, and stability reign for another thousand years!”

* * *

As the sound of applause overtook the Emperor’s speech, Chowski shut off his radio. The Emperor’s words were always a source comfort for him, and after a day of traveling in a ship on a choppy ocean, he needed all the comfort he could get.

Chowski was alone in the ship’s reading room, reflecting on the Emperor’s words about equality in the Empire. His bony, four-fingered hands, so long that they nearly touched the ground, were a reminder that he was not an Emorian, that he was not part of the species that founded the Empire. Yet here he was, a commanding officer in the Emperor’s personal army, the Advent Guard, clad in their uniform; a long grey coat, fastened together by black buckles, with armored sleeves, a high collar, and tassels hanging from a pair of metal-studded pouches on the hips.

"Yo Chowski, we finally reached our destination,” a young woman shouted through a speaker mounted to the ceiling.

“I’ll be right there,” Chowski responded. He wrapped his head in black straps until only his large orange teeth were exposed and made his way up to the ship’s bridge.

* * *

On the bridge of the ship, a dozen men sat at the desks that lined the walls, each one covered in countless buttons, levers, and screens. Like Chowski, they were clad in Advant Guard uniforms. Above the desks was a window that wrapped around the entire room and provided Chowski with a clear view of his ship’s destination, a Susehpen colony walker that stood alone in a seemingly endless ocean.

The walker was a massive cone-shaped spire, taller than a skyscraper and nearly as wide, suspended above the ocean’s surface by a series of metal, crustacean-like legs, each of varying size and shape. The exterior of the colony was covered in an irregular jigsaw of metal panels, each one the size of a house and covered in algae, rust, and other kinds of filth. Blue lights shined from the dark spaces between each panel.

Chowski had only read about walkers in history files until now. They were created by a nomadic race of sentient machines called the Susehpens, and they served as the Susehpens’ homes as they traveled the oceans in search of resources.

“About time you showed up,” said the woman that had called Chowski up to the bridge. “The colony’s been trying to contact us for an hour.” She was an Emorian, as could be seen by her hoofed feet and the curved, segmented horns that grew from the sides of her head. Her eyebrows were made of the same material as her horns and her red hair stuck out behind her head in large spikes. She wore a variation of the Advent Guard uniform, with a jacket that went past her hips and a black mask that covered her mouth.

“Shall we patch them through, Nolan?” Chowski asked.

“Like you had to ask.”

A metallic circle in the middle of the room started glowing white, creating a golden holographic figure that consisted of a limbless torso made of six loudspeakers, and a head made from three more speakers. It was the avatar of one of the Susehpen AIs that controlled the walker that stood before Chowski’s ship.

“Greetings, I am Vorsch, vizier of the Four Pillars Colony. And you must be the Emorians interested in the results of our latest expedition.”

“That is correct,” Chowski responded.

“Fashionably late I see. So, I assume that you know why you’re here?”


“Actually,” Nolan interrupted. “I haven’t read the report yet.”

“Nolan, you know it is standard procedure to read the mission report before starting the actual mission,” Chowski groaned.

“I get seasick when I’m trying to read on a boat!” Nolan snapped.

“Perhaps we could refresh the young misses on what you and your ship are doing in Susehpen territory,” Vorsch said.

“Piss off tin man,” Nolan snapped. “I want to hear this from Chowski.”

Chowski started to explain the mission. “Approximately one week ago this Susehpen colony entered this area in search of iridium. That expedition was based on historical records of a meteor crash 50 years ago. They discovered an underwater formation that is believed to be the crater, but did not find any evidence of a meteor. Rather, they found traces of a non-Susehpen settlement.”

Vorsch continued the narration. “There is no record in any historical databank indicating that anyone has ever established a permanent settlement in this area”

“I told you I wanted to hear this from Chowski!” Nolan reiterated.

“Very well. So, Mr. Chowski, what did your superiors claim the settlement was?”

Chowski cleared his throat. “You were told that the settlement was a top-secret Emorian weapons testing facility, and that an Emorian battleship, namely us, would be there to confiscate the classified technology you had discovered in the crater.”

“Yes, that is indeed what your superiors told us. It seems that both sides of this exchange have been given consistent information.”

“So, do we have permission to enter your walker?”

“Indeed. We are sending your ship the location of a docking bay. The AI Rankin shall wait for your arrival there.”

Vorsch’s avatar vanished as the projector’s light faded away. The ship lurched forward as the motors restarted.

“What the hell did they mean by ‘consistent information?’” Nolan asked.

“I’m not sure, but it is possible that the Four Pillars Colony doesn’t trust us,” Chowski responded.

“Doesn’t trust us? But we’re not hiding anything from them!”

“Not necessarily. I for one had no knowledge of this base’s existence until its discovery last week.”

“Really, it was that much of a secret?”

“Indeed. Nevertheless, you have been ordered to accompany the squadron that we will send into the colony. Make sure to confiscate everything they found at the crater.”

“I have to go in that junk heap? I am really starting to regret going on this stupid mission,” Nolan remarked.

* * *

Deep inside the cyberspace contained within the walker’s circuitry, Vorsch conversed with two of his fellow AIs.

“Rankin, the Emorian ship will be docking at Bay 428. Make sure there are units there to greet them.”

“Understood,” Rankin replied.

“Sirene, just like the agents that contacted us two days ago, the Emorians on that ship claim that the crater was a site for weapons testing.”

“Interesting,” Sirene pondered. “Tell me Vorsh, based on the tests you’ve run on the artifacts found in the crater, do you think they are telling the truth?”

“It’s doubtful,” Vorsch said. “I would like to single out two specific artifacts. The first is the box-shaped object, which I have identified as a portable clothes maker. Its design does not match any maker the Emorian military has ever used, and the motherboard, while heavily damaged and corrupted, contains no programs of any kind for Emorian military uniforms. In fact, the clothing programs I have salvaged have more in common with uniforms found in Marba high schools.”

“Marba? You’re saying there were Marba living there?”

“A possibility.”

“Then you’re right to doubt the military base claims.” Sirene went silent for a few moments as she processed the information Vorsch had given her. “So, what is the second artifact of interest?”

“The cylinder. I’ve been able to determine that it’s some kind of hibernation chamber, and it’s from the same time period as the other artifacts we recovered, including the box. More importantly, whoever or whatever is hibernating in it is still alive.”

“Then figure out how to awaken it. It might help us figure out what used to be inside that crater and if we can trust the Emorians with what we found.”

“As you wish, my matriarch.”

* * *

The Susehpen walker had dozens of legs arranged in two concentric circles surrounding the base of the structure. Bay 428 was located on a leg in the inner circle and could only be accessed by a rope ladder. Chowski’s ship was too long to properly navigate in between the walker’s legs, so Nolan had to approach the walker with a lifeboat accompanied by five other guardsmen while Chowski stayed behind.

“Chowski, Can you hear me?”

Chowski’s voice rang through Nolan’s earpiece. “Affirmative.”

“I’ve made it inside. The rest of the squad will be coming soon.” Nolan looked up. The interior of the walker was a dark, claustrophobic labyrinth of pipes, wiring, and other assorted bits of machinery arranged in narrow, vertical shafts. “I’m not sure you would’ve been much use in here. We’ll be doing a lot of climbing.”

“As a Sidrasian, I am adapted for life on the side of a cliff.”

“Really? But you’ve got like a stomach-foot-thingy instead of legs.”

“We should focus on the mission.”

“Yeah, fine.”

“That AI said that they were going to send someone down there to greet you.”

“It’s just me and the boys.” A soft rattling sound rang through the pipes. “Wait, scratch that. Someone’s finally showing up.”
From the shadows emerged the inhabitants of the Four Pillar Colonies. Susehpens, mechanical life forms resembling every invertebrate one could imagine, crawled down the metal piping on metallic claws, tentacles, and wheels, navigating their surroundings through glowing blue eyes. They surrounded the increasingly nervous Nolan and her squad mates, but stopped beyond arm’s reach.

A small flying ball left the crowd of Susehpens and positioned itself in front of Nolan. It activated a bright light that created the hologram of an AI avatar. This avatar took the form of a young woman in a white kimono. Her silver bell-shaped hair blended seamlessly into her pale-skinned head, which had no facial features other than three eyes, one red, one green, and one blue. “I am Rankin, Guard of the Four Pillars colony. I have been informed that your mission is a strictly diplomatic one, so I will have to confiscate all of your weapons for security reasons.”

“I hate welcome wagons,” Nolan noted dryly. “Look, we’re not here on vacation, we’re here for business.”

“Regardless of intent, you will still have to go through customs and security,” Rankin reiterated. “Please hand over any weapons you might possess.”

“Oh, you mean this weapon?” Nolan said as she raised her right hand. Cubes of light and metal materialized out of thin air and rapidly assembled themselves into a heavy gauntlet that covered her forearm. In place of a hand was a thick drill that tapered to a point. “Come and take it tin head!”

“That language is unnecessary.”

Nolan started to charge towards Rankin, but two of her squad mates grabbed her by her arms to hold her back.

“Nolan.” Chowski said. “Our mission is supposed to be peaceful.”

“The hell it is! We don’t have time to deal with a bunch of stupid machines and their bureaucracy! We’re here to recover imperial secrets!”

“I know that, but we do not have to resort to bloodshed for such goals.”

“They don’t even have blood!”

“Perhaps I can offer a compromise,” Rankin said. A huge, pill-bug-like Susehpen with two stubby arms floated up to Rankin’s side, propelled by a pair of rockets. The rear segments of its armor opened up like a lid, revealing that it was mostly hollow inside. “Your weapons will be stored within this TD-Grade unit during your stay in this colony. I will ensure that this unit remains within 3 meters of you and your squadron at all times.”

“I think we should do as they say for now,” Chowski said.

Nolan wrestled her way out of her squad mates’ hands. Her drill gauntlet disintegrated into cubes of light, which converged into a small metal card in her hand. “Fine, you can have our weapons. But we will be taking them back when we’re done.”

Rankin’s avatar disappeared and Nolan and her men placed their collection of metal cards into the body of the TD-Grade. “I will guide you to the storage sector,” Rankin’s voice said through the TD-Grade. “One more thing; we are Susehpens, not machines. Do not confuse the two again.”

* * *

Guided by Rankin through the TD-Grade, Nolan’s squad made their way through the inner workings of the walker. Eventually the pipes, wires, and gears stopped forming tight vertical shafts and rearranged themselves into wide rooms with low ceilings, a sign that Nolan’s squad had moved out of the leg and into the main body of the walker. Around them Susehpens crawled in and out of the nooks and crannies in the walls the pipes formed, focused only on the tasks the AIs had given them.

Eventually Rankin led Nolan’s squad to a corridor lined with circular, twenty-foot tall doors. Rankin prepared to insert one of the TD-Grade’s arms into a control panel next to one of the doors, but was interrupted by the appearance of an AI avatar. This avatar consisted of series of seven pink disks, five arranged in a circle to form a body and the last two on either side of a cartoony face.

“Hello Hello Hello!!” The avatar declared in the voice of a little girl. “My name is CeeVee and I’m the colony’s miner! Welcome to the storage sector!”

“What are you doing here, CeeVee?” Rankin asked.

“I know, I know. I’m supposed to be out in the ocean looking for resources, but I was just so curious about those artifacts that I just had to help Vorsch examine them. I mean I am the one that found them after all.”

“Speaking of examining artifacts,” Vorsch said from the other side of the door. “Would you mind keeping our guests outside for a little longer? We’re in the middle of a very important test at the moment.”

“What? This is bullshit!!” Nolan blurted out. “Are you hearing this, Chowski?!”

“Affirmative,” Chowski said.

Back on the ship Chowski, who had been observing Nolan’s journey inside the walker through her earpiece, pondered the implications of Vorsch’s latest statement. What kind of experiments could the colony be doing on the crater artifacts? Were they trying to reverse engineer something, or did they find evidence of something that the Empire was trying to keep a secret?

“You know what? I’m done playing nice,” Nolan said. “I am going in there and I am taking those artifacts whether they like it or not.”

“Very well,” Chowski sighed. “Just try not to get too carried away.”

Nolan walked up to door.

“Um, what are you doing?” CeeVee asked.

Nolan threw a punch. The door was a disk of solid metal over a foot thick, yet it buckled beneath her fist like cardboard. CeeVee yelped as the sound of the crunching metal rang through the hall.

“Your current actions constitute breaking and entering. This is a violation of Susehpen law,” Rankin protested.

“Yeah? Well you robots are trying to steal imperial technology!” Nolan retorted as she effortlessly ripped the door out of its frame and threw it down the hallway.

White smoke billowed out of the entryway, engulfing Nolan, her squadron, and the AIs. “What the hell where you doing in here?” Nolan yelled between coughs.

“We have recently and successfully awakened someone from hibernation,” Vorsch answered.

“Wait,” CeeVee asked. “Didn’t you say to keep that a secret?”

“Given our current situation, keeping that a secret is no longer possible.”

The smoke started to clear, and Nolan could now see a girl, roughly her height, standing in front of her. The girl had tanned skin, dark red hair, and bright blue eyes. Her ears were long and pointed and on each cheek was a pair of dark triangular markings.

“Those ears… the cheeks… Chowski, is she what I think she is?”

“Yes, I believe that girl is a Marba.”

The girl walked up to Nolan. “Pleased to meet you! My name’s Kara,” she said with a friendly smile.
First Chapter of Thirdborn is up! Unfortunately, computer problems mean I won't be able to add an illustration to it yet.


Daniel Lubniewski
United States

Current Residence: Midwest United States
Favourite style of art: Surrealism, Science Fiction Illustration
Operating System: Machintosh
But I did get a chapter of Thirdborn done! I just have to get around to making an illustration and I should have it uploaded by the end of the this week.

So, how does a chapter with an illustration every other Friday sound?

Also, I have been able to do work on my friend's project.
  • Mood: Lazy
  • Watching: Science Channel
  • Playing: SimCity BuildIt
  • Eating: Pad Thai


Portrait, Black and White
Thirdborn Bust Sketches BW by dalubnie
Mass Effect Portraits BW by dalubnie
AmiKuma B+W by dalubnie
4 x 4 inches, 300 DPI. Can be head only or bust shot.

Your commission can be of your characters or my characters. Fanart is free, but I'll only do a maximum of 4 per month. You can also do an art trade in lieu of paying for a commission.

Please provide some images for reference. If you want, you can also make requests regarding the character's pose and/or actions. Please keep your requests around a PG-13 level (so nothing overly violent, sexual, or fetishistic). 

Expect commissions to take about a week to complete. Send me a note with your email so I can send you a full-resolution PNG copy of the image when I'm done.

Portrait, Colored
Thirdborn Bust Sketches COLOR by dalubnie
Mass Effect Portraits COLOR by dalubnie
AmiKuma by dalubnie
4 x 4 inches, 300 DPI. Can be head only or bust shot.
Half Body, Black and White
Kara WIP 2 by dalubnie
Gabriel Half Body BW by dalubnie

4 by 6 inches, 300 DPI. Your choice of waist up or hips up.

Half Body, Color
Kara MFA Thesis Portrait by dalubnie
Gabriel Half Body COLOR by dalubnie

4 by 6 inches, 300 DPI. Your choice of waist up or hips up.

Full Body, Black and White
CIA B+W by dalubnie
Kay B+W by dalubnie
JMAart B+W by dalubnie

6 by 9 inches, 300 DPI. Will add a simple background upon request.

Full body, Colored
Agent is Go by dalubnie
Kay by dalubnie
JMAAart by dalubnie

6 by 9 inches, 300 DPI. Will add a simple background upon request.

Add a Character
Chaos Corp Sample by dalubnie
After you've selected one of the above options, you can press this button if you want second character in your commission. The resulting picture will be larger to accomodate said character. You can only add up to 2 characters to a commission this way.

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Raynaldo Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2015  Student Artisan Crafter
:iconparty1plz: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! :iconparty1plz:
mrphillup Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You are welcome on the fave
Raynaldo Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014  Student Artisan Crafter
:iconparty1plz: HAAAPPY BIRTHDAAAAAY!!! :iconparty1plz:
vilss5 Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014  Hobbyist
Happy birthday ! :cake:
Suesanne Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Happy B-day!
xiaorobear Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2014
Hey, thanks for favoriting my Starcraft chart!
3Dogz Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2014  Student General Artist
Thanks For The Watch! :D
HolderofTruth Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Your commission is done! :D
fusiondax Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Nice icon. Lurker was awesome XD And nice ID as well... gosh, been a while I haven't checked the nerf guns
levitan71 Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
youre wellcome :)
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