Author : Alex Grover
He breathes in with speckled time undivided, and he breathes out with golden dust. His body is bulbous, a multicolored neon affair, reds and greens and blacks all in lines like that of a heated circuit board, charred from overuse. His beard is human flaw grown down past his chest, and his eyes are weary. His hands are frozen jelly on the levers, yet his arms still move according to the sun. Every second requires a quartz twitch, as his veins are plugged into the machine’s juices, the golden orb’s halves soldered together around Gamberol a long time ago. The face outside reads 34:25 to the 70-hour day.
When a rapping comes from beyond the golden hull, he doesn’t halt his work. His eyes glance to his right, but his hands, fused with the levers, continue to move. As he continues his work, a fiery light—light Gamberol hasn’t seen in eons—races along the half-line of the orb. It runs to the side, sparking fission fireflies as he twitches the clock along. As soon as the alien grasp sinks in on that fault line, the orb collapses in two directions. Gamberol is alone, exposed to a world he hasn’t seen in years.
The two engineers, scaly lizard men that are more hunched shadows than people, quickly run behind a platoon of other lizards, who are their superiors. They’re much taller, covered in sleek white armor, sporting gun-like weapons the size of their massive forearms. The engineers wait. The lizard at the forefront, possibly a captain, moves towards Gamberol, who watches in a blank stare. The captain edges closer, seeing the smoldering fires of the human city in his periphery.
He speaks in a strange tongue, and he knows this. However, he doesn’t know if Gamberol can hear the sounds of his life anymore. Making a clicking sound with his free hand—nails very, incredibly sharp—the captain confirms Gamberol’s deafness. He clicks once in Gamberol’s face, and the old and weary human blinks. He can see. The captain looks to his platoon, then looks back. Gamberol wears a multicolored jumpsuit with an armband, which bears the symbol on the fallen city’s banners. They’d crumbled easily, those who followed the banners.
The captain gestures Gamberol out of the clock and onto the war-torn pavement, to leave the clock, his fingers outstretched as if saying, “You’re free. You’re no longer your race’s slave. We’ve liberated you. Live life in freedom.”
But Gamberol doesn’t move. He looks around, seeing the city he once knew, maybe realizing that he’d lived there once before, maybe forgetting he’d been imprisoned for an arbitrary fault. Something inside halts his motion, if there were any drive within at all, and he remains in his clock.
It lasts for minutes. The platoon stands at command as the captain mediates with Gamberol boldfaced. Inside he sees Gamberol and he knows pity. But he can’t show pity. He can only show efficiency. He’s the captain. So he shrugs and shoots Gamberol. The old human slumps to the ground, the needles pulling from his arms, his body cradled in the one of the half-orb platings. The captain never looks back. His platoon follows him, and the subservient, whipped engineers look to each other, hunched over, backs sore, wondering much about Earth.
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