Prologue - Chapter 1 Setting the Stage
"Should we change back to our human forms, so the natives don't freak?" asked Olivia as they sat in their seats, staring at the people in front of the ship.
"That probably wouldn't hurt, but I hate the idea of being as helpless as a human."
Dustin was eyeing their fur clothes and primitive spears. Had humanity really fallen this far? He didn't like it.
"Then don't be. As long as we look human, that should be good enough." Olivia turned to look at her PED, then glanced up at him with a frown.
"What's wrong?" he asked, looking down at his own PED. It looked fine.
"There's something wrong."
"Like what?" he looked at her PED, but it seemed fine too. It was working just fine when they left the space station.
"How the hell am I supposed to know? You're the one who's good with gizmos!" She huffed at him and he sighed.
'PED, change my outward appearance to that of a normal human.'
(ERROR: FAILSAFE HAS BEEN APPLIED. UNABLE TO COMPLETE EVOLUTION.)
The whole tone of voice changed and it went back to that of a monotone mechanical voice. The entire personality it had started to develop was gone.
"What now?" he growled, tapping the device.
"See?" Olivia sat back and watched the people as they sat watching the ship. Dustin wondered briefly if they could see inside, and figured they probably couldn't. The windows normally had a protective film on them to keep the harmful radiation from penetrating inside the ship, and that usually caused a mirror effect.
'PED, removed the scale plate over the PED, so I can access you.'
The scale was removed, but there was no answer from the unit. That worried him as he hooked it up to the computer system of the ship. After 15 minutes of scanning the error files, he finally figured out what was wrong.
"There's some kind of radiation interference, messing with them."
"What's it coming from, and why didn't it have that on the last planet?" she asked.
Typing a few queries into the computer system, he was able to narrow it down.
"There's a solar flare hitting the planet. With all of the debris around the planet, it's causing some kind of echo affect, or something. I don't understand it very well. This sun is different from the last one. It's odd."
Dustin typed a few more things into the computer, before disconnecting his PED.
'PED, remove failsafe program.'
(UNLOCKING THE FAILSAFE CAN HAVE UNFORESEEN EFFECTS. PROCEED?)
(FAILSAFE HAS BEEN REMOVED.)
The tone of voice had returned to the normal personality from before, and he felt relief course through him.
'PED, change my outward appearance to that of a normal human.'
(THERE SEEMS TO BE A PROBLEM. DURING EVOLUTION TO REDUCE SCALES AND PLACE THEM UNDER A HUMAN SKIN, IT SEEMS YOU'VE BECOME ALBINO. IF YOU ENTER THE SUNLIGHT, YOU MAY BURN. INITIATE EVOLUTION TO FIX THE PROBLEM?)
'Yes! Fix me! I can't hide from the sun like some vampire!'
(ALBINISM HAS BEEN FIXED, BUT DURING EVOLUTION, YOUR HAIR HAS GROWN VERY LONG AND YOU SEEM TO HAVE A HUMP ON YOUR BACK. YOU DON'T NEED TO DRINK WATER FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME)
Dustin checked his arms and hands. They were no longer pale white.
"How bad is the hump?" he asked Olivia, turning sideways. Her eyes were wide as she watched him struggle with his evolutions.
"What is going on?"
Moving his shoulders and swinging his arms, he decided the hump didn't hamper his movements any, so it would be alright for now.
"I told you that there was a solar storm causing some kind of interference with the evolutions. It initiated a failsafe to keep me from doing any, but when I removed the failsafe, it caused little hiccups in the evolution."
"I'd say! You look like you have a nose from an ape! And the color of your eye's makes me think big cat. I'm not thinking the locals are going to accept you as human looking like that. Is that a camel hump on your back?"
"Maybe I should try again."
'PED, try again to make me look human, please.'
(YOUR APPEARANCE IS NOW ENTIRELY HUMAN, EXCEPT YOUR HAIR IS BRIGHT ORANGE.)
Turning to Olivia, he held his arms out for her examination.
"Your hair is unique, but not impossible, I guess. I'm nervous about trying myself."
"You can't pass for human when you look like a lizard."
With a sigh, she turned to her PED. Her skin grew fur that was spotted, like a leopard's, before it darkened and became longer. She looked like a bigfoot.
Frowning, she then lost the fur, as it was sucked up, and her skin looked human, only clammy, as if it was aquatic. She still had no hair, too. After sighing, she tried again.
Her hair was white, and spiky, but could pass for a cool hairdo. Her skin looked normal, and her eyes were dark. They could have almost been black, but well within the realm of possible.
"There, now that we look human, shall we go out and mingle?" She crossed her arms as he gazed at her naked body in admiration.
"Perhaps, we should look in the storage compartments for some clothes, after we have a little fun? They've waited this long…" he grinned at her.
They had been naked in their lizard forms, or any other form for that matter, for so long, the need for clothes had slipped their minds, until now.
Several hours later, they finally exited the ship, to find the group of people had swelled to almost fifteen. The suits didn't fit very well, but they covered them.
"Welcome, travelers. Do you come looking for slaves, food, lodging, or information?" asked the elder as he stepped forward.
Olivia glanced at him, and he knew that she was going to let him talk.
"How often do you get travelers?" he looked over the people, and saw nothing technological in anything they had. But if there were people who did have tech, maybe this was just a place for people who didn't want tech?
"We have visitors every couple of years. They are overdue this year, but that may be due to the newcomers."
"Yes, they are metal men with four arms. We haven't had any problems with them so far, but there was fighting amongst them and the last travelers who visited. Several of the travelers died before they left. It was rather shocking for us."
"Wait, you mean robots?" asked Olivia, looking at them then back at Dustin.
"I believe that is what the travelers had called them, yes."
The elder's grin stretched over his wrinkled face, happy that he could answer their questions. Then it faded as his gaze traveled behind them. The rest of the people faded into the forest and ran away.
Olivia tapped his arm, as her gaze moved past him to the trees behind them. Turning, he saw a tree that was huge, shudder, as if a large breeze had just slammed into it. Except there was no breeze. His brow wrinkled as he tried to place what kind of tree it was, for a moment, then his eyes focused on the figures in the tree.
They were robots all right. Their metal gleamed whenever a stray beam of light trickled through the leaves of the great tree and hit them. Their eyes were focused on them, glowing red in the dim shadows. As they watched, their arms transformed into long blades, and they charged, jumping out of the tree.