The elongated bodies of the war machines scattered across the sky like stars in the genesis of dawn. The golden glow of the rising sun accentuated the intricate weaves of metal pipe which twisted in labyrinths on the underbelly of each Gladiatron.
Moving slowly, thick plumes of steam pumped steadily out the back of the machine and the rhythmic sound of pistons breathing filtered into my ears then faded. I was used to that sound, and I had learned to block it out years ago. As I worked the bridge, I glanced back at the steam cloud. It always reminded me of a world I once loved, strong and vivid one moment, and then faded into wispy reflections of nothing the next.
I had learned the hard way. Never take anything for granted. But then, so had all of humanity. There was nothing; nothing but a shell of a world where war, politics and religion melded together as one, making this Gladiatron seem like the best place to be. Up here away from the hi-brid slayers, sickness and crime, I longed to return to life in a world I only remember in my quiet moments.
“Captn, the mask isa torn. We needs to ix it now,” called Bertram.
“When did it tear?” I asked
“Musta bin befores we left.
The main mask created a half-dome above the deck providing cover from the radical elements and those god awful winged creatures.
“Climb the pole and mend it as we go, there’s no time to dock, Bertram,” I said then pulled the lever to ninety degrees effectively slowing the Gladiatron down.
Bertram had been a long-time crew member and we had worked together on many missions; his seedy ways were known throughout the industry.
“I am de leader of da Renabox. We fights against da government and their violent hate crimes.” He had informed me.
“You must never sleep,” I replied.
“We assassinated de Supreme Leader of Heretoris two day agos.” He laughed, before adding, “So I was appy ta come on dis mission wit you. I can lays low for a bit.”
My reverie was interrupted on hearing Bertram yell, “Captn, 4 o’clock comin in fast!”
Twisting and bobbing down to look, I heard them before I saw them. The screeching cry of the carnivore. The winged creatures once thought to be extinct had evolved over years of eating the rotten chemical waste dumped in the forgotten land.
“Hold on, Buddy,” I yelled as I fed the Gladiatron more power, pushing the lever forward and turning the wheel to the right. Wincing with pain as the cry of the birds pierced my ears, I manoeuvred the war machine into position.
“Gladiatron aligned! Steady, steady, now.
Instantly armoured evothetic arms sprang out from the walls of the Gladiatron. They worked like a well-oiled machine as I watched the pulleys turn the gears and begin to align with the bullet casing.
“Fire!” I yelled and covered my ears. I looked at Bertram sitting high up the mask like a baby bird fated to predators. I had to protect him. No-one had ever died on my Gladiatron.
The sharp rapping fusillade screamed out in endless life.
Birds began to fall out of the sky, like World War II planes, twisting, careering, screeching, in out of control spirals to their deaths. Crimson liquid spewed like an unexpected fireworks display as fragments of bone and guts bombarded more carnivores, sending them into the line of fire. They didn’t stand a chance. I smiled as I watched the horror before me. So conditioned to the gore, over the years, that it didn’t even shock me anymore.
“Woohoo,” Bertram squalled, “and tat is why you da best.”
Shading my eyes, I saluted him and skillfully steered the war machine toward the Southland once again.