Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer
“Why are we here, Excellency?”
“My daughter’s xenoarchaeology exam.”
Most Excellent Draug turned to Flag Officer Nang with a smile: “She wrote an award-winning piece on ‘The Assimilation of Miracle-Class Technology as Legendary Artefacts in Pre-Freespace Societies’. It also gained her a pass-with-honours, a post with the Xenobureau, and a publishing contract worth several thousand Brimen.”
Braids flicked as Flag Officer Nang shook his head: “Still not getting the memo, Excellency.”
Most Excellent Draug pointed across the valley: “Across there, beyond the forest, is a little hamlet named Frieburgen. That brown line running from the nearest edge of the forest down to the river bridge is the local equivalent of a road. They call it a ‘track’. The bridge is why we are here.”
He shook his head sadly: “Nang, Nang, Nang. What did the notes say about bridges hereabouts?”
“Oh! They sometimes have a dangerous carnivore that makes its lair underneath them?”
“And what are those carnivores called?”
“Oh. Errrm… Toll. No. Troll!”
Most Excellent Draug grinned: “Now. Let us see if we can change your perspective. If this was a notarised war remnants zone, what would you suspect that bridge to be?”
Flag Officer Nang brought his headeyes and stalkeyes to bear.
“I would say that’s more than likely to be a Lanrunior Assault Bridge, Type Sixteen or better. And it’s in excellent condition.”
Most Excellent Draug clapped his bracers together in approval, then grinned hugely.
“Nang, go and fetch my bridge.”
Nang swallowed and set off downhill, avoiding the ‘track’ – he didn’t want to leave strange footprints to excite the locals. Approaching the bridge, he shook his head. He should have seen it sooner. For all the crud growing on it, it was massively over-engineered for a river crossing in the boondocks.
He stopped his approach when he heard the bridge start to hum. Spreading his hands, one forward, one above his head, he brought the old commands to mind.
“Smartbridge! By Engineering Order Six-Four-Eden, assemble for departure!”
Silence fell. The few birds in the sky descended into cover. With a roar of sundered earth and displaced waters, the bridge contracted at either end and rose in the middle, putting down four great legs as its buttresses retracted. As the clouds of dust and steam blew away on the cool afternoon breeze, the massive mechanical entity settled into a rude sitting position in front of Nang, who had only broken his stance once to cough and spit.
“Lanrunior Zero Zero Eight at your disposal, Officer.”
“Follow me, oh-oh-eight. It’s time to go home.”
“I am an assault-class structure, sir. Home is not a codename, nor a correct destination. But, I must report that my extended duty at this location has allowed a certain improvement in my cognisance routines. As such, I would request leave to reply freely.”
“About frelling time, Officer.”
Nang looked up and back at the monster plodding up the hill behind him: “Oh, they’re going to love you.”