Author: Hillary Lyon

Kaz tumbled through the centrifugal force of the prismatic vortex, finally landing on the planet’s surface with a cruel thud. Medical nanobots lining the interior of his suit immediately went to work, infusing themselves through the pores of his skin, worming their way into his bloodstream. From there, the minuscule bots traveled throughout his broken body, quickly repairing each injured organ, each fractured bone.

He woke to a spangled sky on a moonless night. Scanning his surroundings, Kaz noted he’d landed in the middle of some sort of—well, he wasn’t sure. There were organized rows of machines all around. Machines that were two thirds metal, one third glass. Some large, some small. Kaz neared one for closer inspection.

It looked to be some sort of mobile machine, with primitive wheels. A vehicle? Or perhaps, Kaz thought, this is where the robot denizens of this planet rest and recharge, perhaps—

He heard a slam, and approaching footsteps. Kaz ducked into the shadows between two vehicles, and watched a creature—bipedal and about his size—ambulate past his hiding place. The being moved on, until Kaz heard another slam farther away, followed by a brief low rumble softening into a mechanical purr. Which then faded into nothing, telling Kaz that the being had taken one of these conveyance machines and exited the place.

Kaz rose and moved toward the only light source in the area: a small, bright orb positioned high on a thin metal pole situated in the center of this lot. Standing in this illuminated cone, he tapped an emergency code into the device on his wrist; it blinked stupidly until a message came through: No Signal.

Before he could re-enter the code, Kaz became aware of strobing red and blue lights originating behind him. He turned to find two creatures, similar to the one he’d seen earlier, stepping out of a quietly humming vehicle. One shined a blinding beam of light into Kaz’s eyes.

The other creature growled. “Say, buddy, looks like you’re trespassing,” Kaz’s helmet translated. He attempted to respond, but Kaz’s words came out as garbled static, as his outgoing translator was damaged in the fall. So Kaz’s reply was a shrug—universal sign language for, I don’t know.

“A bit early for Halloween,” the first being noted. “Is this a prank?” Kaz didn’t understand the references, so again he shrugged.

“Okay,” the other creature said with impatient authority. “Get in the car.”

The darkly suited creatures grabbed him by each arm and roughly bundled him into the back of their vehicle. Kaz sat inside a cage of some sort with a nicely padded seat, and immediately began tapping in the emergency extraction code into his communications cuff. Again, the device on his wrist blinked in a disorganized fashion, until it finally produced the message: Operating System Update in Progress.

Kaz felt his two hearts sink into his double stomach. The message continued: Temporarily Out of Service.