by Cheeseburger Brown
Things didn't go well. They shot down our skiff with improbable missiles. The landing party was scattered to the wind.
After a bout of largely uncontrolled free-fall and a minor impact my stuff and I climbed out of a shallow crater and walked across a desert for a very long while. Whenever I paused the cargo palette bumped into my calves. I slapped at it with increasing vigour even as my resources dwindled. "Why are you so stupid?" I demanded.
The palette distressed. It wanted to know if it should hover higher or lower. It cowered when it asked. I felt like a monster.
At a muddy watering hole I encountered a small troupe of pests and culled them. Local fauna came to investigate the smoking remains. I walked on.
The trail from the watering hole took me to a walled warren. Even on the outskirts rank odours were apparent. Tendrils of smoke reached into the sky from several sites of busy combustion. Here, then, the infestation had moved beyond timid roving bands: I could smell smelting. My arrival would be met with iron implements.
A few stray animals wandered outside the walls. I culled them before seeking ingress to the warren proper.
Labyrinthine streets packed with a fetid layer of dung. Crowded markets of their bizarre artifacts. Collectives of the immature receiving mimetic indoctrination from adults. Houses of worship. All of them emptied before me, squealing and sprawling.
The palette dropped combustion scat as we went so we left a trail of fire. The ignitions were warm on my back. I roved back and forth, vaporizing according to an improvised pattern that I found amusing in some hard to fathom way; certain spacings of integers just make me smile.
The mewling crowds disappeared with surprising efficiency. From experience I suspected trap-doors in every nest leading to a tunnel network. Even so the action was fast. Rehearsed, clearly. Within minutes I was wandering the detritus-littered avenues of a seemingly empty warren.
In a central square I had the palette unload a drill. I thumped around with my foot for a while until I thought I heard a hollow. I motioned the drill over. It crouched over the spot and activated.
The drill was washed away in an eruption of brown swill.
I whistled to myself. A central sewage system! These buggers were entrenched in a way I'd only ever read-only about.
Irritably pushing the palette out of my path I scanned the structures around me, blocking the sun with an upturned hand. What I'd taken for architectural connections so animals could move from one structure to another was actually a system of gravity-stoked aquifers. The devils!
I splashed around in the sewage some more then waved the second drill over. It seemed hesitant. I added a flag to my argument. The damn thing waddled over. I banged my foot on the stones, splashing in a foul puddle. "Do you hear that?" I said. "Open that up."
The drill squatted and did its duty, then stepped aside to reveal a perfectly circular aperture into an underground corridor. A bit of sewage slopped over the smoking edges. "Get out of here," I told the drill. To the palette I barked: "Hydrogen cyanide!"
With some added slack on the cables to my dispenser I hopped down into the corridor, roving the muzzle in search of animals to take care of.
Instead I saw a strange woman. She slapped me.