Machine-Men Fall Again | Ted Inver

Thousands of years from now have we reached the end of civilisation or just the beginning?


A Story of Future Mythology

Machine-Men Fall Again

By Ted Inver

The ‘Others’ Award


 

“Back with it!”
Chuva towered over the younger male, kneeling in front him.
“But-”
“The Others’ demise came by these,” he spat at the device, “dark-magic machines.”
The leader eyed his gathering tribespeople. The man’s challenges were increasing. Chuva would lose face, if he didn’t curb them.
“You undermine our forebears’ teachings, Vento, risking us the same fate as the machine-men. Take it back.”
Vento stood, retrieving the cursed object by the campfire but as soon as he made to leave he turned back.
“No.”

*

If it wasn’t for Chuva’s fear of handling the Others’ object himself, Vento knew he’d have been speared on the spot. Instead his disobedience had earned him and his harem banishment. It had been coming ever since he braved entry into the hallowed realm of the Others, situated across the plain from where his, now former, tribe lived.
Vento believed the old stories lacked something; the fiery rock that wiped out the world his forebears once knew, fell because it fell. Not because of dark-magic. And the tribesmen of their lineage were the sole survivors because the Other, machine-dependent men didn’t know how to adapt. It was his theory that had first drawn him to rummage through what was left of the stone structures.
So Vento knew where he’d lead his mates and children, after they were forced out

*

Chuva’s generation was the last to taste fish, before the shamans decreed that it was causing them to get sick. As ever, they were right and a diet, reduced to land and air, reversed their tribe’s extinction. The leader missed it but the red-boar roasting on the spit was a second favourite.
The shaman, handing him the first cut, said. “You were right to cast them out.”
Chuva nodded. “But it feels…”
“Unfinished?”
The old shaman’s skill at completing sentences hadn’t diminished. But before Chuva could agree, his daughter ran into camp.
“Pai!”
Her cry, hitting him straight in the gut, had him sprinting back the way she came, bow in hand. When he reached the forest perimeter he saw what he feared, streaking towards them.
Vento! He needed to be stopped.

*

Vento’s family made fire the first night in the abandoned construct, but tonight he wanted to show them something incredible. His eagerness overrode his mates’ scepticism and within a second his cursed appliance was throwing out heat.
“What is it?” One son asked.
“Light-magic.”
“Woh!”
Around it they sat, warming themselves, without wood! But the inner glow Vento felt, gazing out from their new cave, dispersed when the fireball entered the sky.
Vento had to shake his paralysis, after spotting the trail of torches heading their way. He grabbed the killing-machine—it’d broken his rib when he first discovered what it was but at least it had been pointing away—but didn’t want to use it. Still, the new leader had to protect his tribe.

*

The cross-system voyage was uneventful. After docking with their lunar counterparts, Commander Aerion ordered the descent and gravity welcomed them with impressive ardour.
Dropping through the clouds, the crew saw first-hand the scenes their probes had relayed; a world whose plants now reigned, reclaiming land once squandered by civilisation. But as they made their slow, gliding fall, Commander Aerion had to double-take.
“Pilot, alter course.”
She needn’t have pointed; the lanterns in the coming dusk were unmistakeable. As they neared, the dumbfounded crew realised their probes’ data was incomplete—some species had gone undetected!
“Seems we’re dropping into the middle of something.” The pilot said, indicating the opposing lines of people, before the ship’s approach took their attention.
“Or breaking it up.” Aerion said. She then addressed a lunar-born, crew-member. “Do you still speak Old Tongue?”
“I can, but it won’t be any use.”
“It’s closer than Neo.”
“Ok, what should I tell them?”
“The truth.”
Upon landing, the natives, in the ship’s blinding lights, turned their primitive weaponry from one another, towards Aerion’s crew now descending the ramp. She gave the order to remove helmets and they took their first, gorgeous breath of natural air.
With his, the translator stepped forward to proclaim, “We return in peace.”