Author : cchatfield

The small group marched forward in loose formation, swaggering with the confidence that their training would kick in when needed. The sandy landscape offered no threats, no hiding places, no life.

Their destination: a lone tower, hidden in a secluded valley lined with flat, open rocks.

“Looks like it was built to last,” commented the leader.

The tower stood a hundred feet high, pale sunlight illuminating its simple apex. The rusty surface silently boasted of the hundreds of years it had stood untouched and promised tenfold more.

“It’s just up there?” asked the navigator, rubbing his hands.

The leader nodded, “Should be a stairwell. And don’t get excited, we don’t know what the security’s like.”

They soon located a door leading to a winding stair that filled the entirety of the tower’s innards. It opened to a dark room and the group of mercenaries froze, alert for booby traps. They knew from experience that the ancient treasure hoarders had perfected the technique of turning empty spaces into dangerous surprises.

They entered slowly, adjusting to the darkness.

“We got it,” whispered one of the mercenaries, eyes wide at the sight of the altar sitting on the opposite end of the room. An archaic padlock hung limply from an unassuming chest seated in the place of honor. Guns held tightly, all attention focused on their quarry.

Off to the side was a standing oval, four feet tall. It resembled a woven basket, braided with dusty metal strands rather than plant fiber. The navigator motioned towards it with his gun. “Looks like a cocoon doesn’t i-”

A razor blade grew from his throat. The rest of the team was in motion before he hit the floor. They ducked and rolled to avoid the flying whips of metal hissing around the room. A few strands of razor thin wire bisected the leader. Thicker vines of ropy cord snarled the second and third-in-command. In a moment the group had deteriorated into a pile of corpses on the floor, the echoes of their sparse gunfire bouncing into oblivion.

Fully unwrapped, a small robotic figure tread softly around them. Green orbs acted as eyes on a childish body. Hundreds of wires fanned from her head in a constantly writhing, prodding cloud. They worked quickly, dissecting the team and slipping the remains through a thin grate to land with dull clacks on a pile of bleached bones.

After inspecting the chest for signs of damage, the mechanical girl stood over the leader’s cooling form. The corner of a picture peeked from his pocket. While the wires busily stripped bodies on the other side of the room, she snatched it and folded it into plated metal hands.

Their job done, the girl regained her position in the corner. She unfolded the picture, her emerald eyes feasting on the image while the wires reassembled, sheathing her form.

The tower, built to last, crouched in silence.

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