Eyes opened to a blank sky. The vast, starless expanse filled the whole of vision. A sore and tired body strained against the hard, cold ground as it was pulled upright. The surrounding area was studied, finding the earth to be little different than the heavens. The area was cragged and grey, riddled with fissures. There was no life in the vicinity, only sparse patches of various, discarded wastes. A quiet whisper from the gentle, blowing wind was the only sound to break the daunting silence. The time passed in this place was not recalled, but, then again, neither was-
A sudden crash startled the tracing thoughts as a great cloud of dust rose in the location of the disturbance. The concealing haze hung thick in the air, masking the nature of its cause until it made itself known. In a mighty leap, a thick figure broke through the veil, landing near the onlooker with a heavy thud as the wide cylinders called feet sank into the dirt, quaking the ground. The enormous figure leaned forward to cast down its lone, gleaming eye.
"I am surprised to have found you here," the giant's voice boomed, "let alone alive. You shall come with me." Stiff joints creaked as the massive arm stretched outward, widening its clutch at it moved to obtain its target.
"You... seek me?" The question came with no regard for the possible threat. "But... why?" An answer was never supplied as the claws widened to ensnare. A distant sound caught the attention of the pursuer, forcing it to pull its eye around to the back of its head to seek the source. A worn suit was seen tumbling down a small heap of scrap metal, knocked off balance by the settling junk heap. It was a model that dated from a few centuries ago, a Kobold mining suit. When the Great Expansion was underway and metallic ore was in great demand, individuals outfitted in this gear would acquire the needed supplies since the giant, grinding vessels were not yet built to obtain it on the larger scale. The old tool, rusted and lackluster, fell limp to the earth with its head hanging sadly. A small part of the giant fell sorry for its fellow machine, used and dismissed, even if a breather was what gave it life. The ocular sensor rotated back to the frontal position to lock onto the target once more when more disturbances were noted from the previous area. Returning for analysis, there was no movement, but the junked mining gear was much closer than it was previously. Curious, the metal Gigas honed in on the gear for a full scale of readings as to just what was transpiring. As it zoomed in on the suit's head, it suddenly jolted to life, staring down the robot.
"Boo," a grainy voice screeched over the speakers as two highly intense beams of light from above blinded the photonic probe. The limber body of the rusted suit sprung into activity as a pair of flaming streams ignited from its elbows, propelling it skyward. Raising high its two, large mitts, the sharpened claws used for scraping away layers of dirt, or, in some instances, as self defense from regional fauna, rotated themselves until they faced in opposite directions. The transformed pickax hands crashed down with the force generated by a lesser gravity. The points sank deep, and the weapons were pulled out of their victim with a trail of circuits and sparks trailing as large chunks of metal stayed attached. "This is the problem with new technology," the occupant of the mining suit explained while studying the remnants, "it breaks way too easily." A heavy thwack changed his haughty position.
"But it still works well enough," a now gargled voice croaked from the machine. The Kobold miner's flight was abruptly halted as though it was being held back. The source of this turned out to be physical as a long length of segmented cord was hooked onto the robot, attaching it miner. Rockets blazed once more as the suit took to the sky. The thrusters and tail were once used to haul heavy loads of ore back to refineries, so the immense weight of the metallic hunter was hardly a comparison. Altitude and acceleration were gained as the large bot was dragged around in circles and dropped repeatedly. Closing in the radius and climbing higher, the hold on the tail was finally released. The robot was left spinning in air uncontrollably as the miner looped back around with a single arm held forward. With its booster burning brighter than ever, a long, revolving lance protruded from the limb. The agar drilled deep and fast on contact, quickly exiting the opposite side. Letting the dead weight plummet worthlessly, a second pass was made with the drill once the robot landed, placing a hole through its cranial processing core. Hopping off the now scrap metal man, several times the size of the mining suit, the sought bounty was approached.
"Bishop, do ya read? I need some pick up down here," the suit relayed. The lights from heaven drew closer as a metal grating between two head lights jerkily came into view. It was the front to a rusted, old model of voidal carriage, very old. It was an elongated box shape, designed after old terrestrial trucks, if not constructed from their parts. The sides of the back portion, which made up over three quarters of the vehicle's size, bubbled outward to accommodate the large engines used by the vessel. What little space remained was used for storage. Crudely spray painted on the left side was the word "Anathema", although the ship's name was nearly faded off. The control station, or driver's seat, was the small area that remained, largely taken up by the vessel's supercomputer that was top of the line five centuries ago. A three-foot thick, reinforced window allowed the outside to be safely viewed as a dented up stick of metal protruded from the left side of the top of the vehicle's front, its communication array which could only pick up obsolete radio waves. Beat up solar panels covered what little spots were left to keep the relic going. Sputtering to a near stop, the transport accepted the entry of the two through its back hatch, which required a bit of a hop as the Anathema's landing gear was in the process of being fixed, as were many of its features, for a few years. "Okay, Bishop, we're in," the miner spoke into his communication device once more. "Let's blow this dirt ball and kiss us some sky." Gladly taking the order, the shuttle blasted off through the atmosphere into the boundless black of outer space.
"I demand to know the meaning of this," the recent capture insisted after being careless tossed in a cargo holding. The gleaming, pointed visor on the helmet was thrown back as the occupant could not believe what was happening.
"W-wh-wha-what?" he staggered. Tearing off his helm, it revealed the sunken faced individual beneath. Long, grey, stringy hair hung unkempt over down in every direction on his pale, grey skin, even over his cold, beady, grey eyes. Removing one of the utility gauntlets from a hand, he scratched his sparsely haired chin in bewilderment. "Ya can talk?"
"What a stupendous observation," a voice cried forth from the cockpit. "Figure that out all by yourself?"
"Shut up, Bishop," snapped the miner as he continued to remove his space suit. "I just don't expect conversation from things not on two legs is all," he confessed, "or without mouths."
"Feh, typical human rationing," the life form scoffed.
"Humans? Haven't been called that in a while," he confessed, tying a bandana around his head. "No worries about that, though, as I'm the only Gaian in this system." The phrase "human" was far too specific for describing sentient life that originated from Earth and escaped most vocabularies. The three races from this world were collectively known as Gaians by all boundless travellers who made identifications by planet alone, not physical structure. After the original Gaians abandoned their planet, they were surprised to have learned that ancestors to swine beat out dolphins and greater apes in the evolutionary race. Dolphins were the third species to further evolve, and monkeys, as it turned out, got themselves extinct through their own idiocy. The reason as to the lack of Gaians in the system, or any system, was simple: most stayed away from all non-Gaian races, and the other races held a similar code. The loathed presence was caused by the constant war undergone between the Gaians. They were largely a petty people who constantly battled for control of their mother world. After the eventual and quick destruction of the Earth, this claim to birthplace grew out to include the whole of the Milky Way. Fortunately, this galaxy was considered dead space by all other races, legions, and confederations, and thus was easily looked over for travels, exploration, and resource gathering. None ever left the Way, no matter how much they hated it, sheerly for the sense of racial pride. In fact, the only reason this human was so far from home was due to a horrible spacial anomaly that relocated him outside of the galaxy. Once mysteriously thrown out of the heavily guarded boundaries, he was unable to get back in, a problem that weighed upon him for no time at all.
"You have still not answered my question," repeated the captured thing. "Why is this happening to me?"
"Hell if I know," spoke the man as he strapped on a pair of sturdy boots. "I'm just responding to a job. Name's Shadrick Hopkins. I'm a bounty hunter, not that ya care. I was just given some whereabouts and a price. I didn't expect ya to be so popular, tho'," he continued while tossing on a vintage bomber jacket from the fifth World War. Like everything of his, it was aged beyond the point of having character and bordered that of being a relic. His father managed a scrap metal yard, which is where most of his possessions came from. Rick looked over his passenger a good while before continuing. "Answer me this: ya seem like a smart guy, or whatever ya are. So, what was a bright deal like ya doin' out by the edge of the universe? It's dangerous out on the edge. If I didn't see so many zeroes on my pay, I would have left yer ass to that Gigas."
"I... do not know," it slowly came to realize. "I do not even know who I am."
"Well, that's peachy," sarcastically put Hopkins. Slamming his fist on the cramped, hallway wall, which swayed the ship, he shouted, "Hey, Bishop, are we almost out of here? This place is freaking me out." Peering his head into the control center, there was a dark plumed bird sitting on the panels, hopping about curiously, eyeing the gauges and blinking lights while balancing a coned hat adorned in stars.
"Shut yer yap," the bird squawked. "We'll be out of here in no time. We're approaching an entrance ramp now." As the vessel careened through space, they came near a faintly glimmering pillar of light, a stellar highway node. Individual space travel was deemed too inefficient, thus all important routes and means of travel were connected by giant, electromagnetic rings that could propel several ships at speeds near that of light. The rings would generate more velocity for travellers as more were passed, thus they could only be entered at points where proper acceleration was supplied. "There, ya whiner. We'll be outta here in no time."
"Shut it, Bishop," automatically retorted Rick to his pet. The relationship generated between himself and his avian friend was his own doing. It was, in fact, just a normal grackle he had kept in his company since his youth. A lifetime of Rick's own cynics and mocking banter had rubbed off on the chough, giving it the appearance of speech and intelligence when it was truthfully well learned mockery. Staring deeply out a side window, he looked at all the stars from the surrounding solar systems and galaxy. "Man, I'm glad we're getting away from there," he praised as they were hurtled away from the edge of the universe and back into the vast expanse of nothing that lied beyond. "Now let's see a man about some pay."
As a brilliant streak of the vessels slipping away bolted across the empty sky on the outer world, the light reflected off the shattered, lone eye of the Gigas. Light returned to it again, this time from an inner source, as sparks surged from the several holes. Hatches on the arms and legs, nonvital areas to the mechanism's function, were released as individually guided drones wandered out, salvaging the immediate area for any usable pieces. The scrap yard provided a bountiful gather, and repairs to the Gigas unit were quickly underway. The machine had never lost a bounty before as it always secured the target on the second try.