The Expeditionaries - Irk's Last Irkens
Prologue - "I Have No Soul And I Must Die"
The once great and proud land of Irk is a devastated, battered wasteland. This untold apocalyptic landscape was crafted by architects of destruction many centuries ago. The Irken Imperium had fallen far into disarray at one time or another - eventually collapsing in on itself, destroying itself. What remained now was the rusting, metal decay of a civilization long past its experation date. One must wonder if it was truly a great loss, the tyrannical beings who once extinct entire races was now on the brink of its own extinction. This Irken made hell was the result of a historical event only known as The Great War. What it entitled, what it was for, everything about it - simply lost in the whirlwind of metal structures that were once skyscrapers standing as a testament to the height of the now no longer mighty people. It was romantic, in a way - the apocalypse. Simply romantic. Suddenly, there was no economy, no war, just survival - as raw as it got. Perhaps that was the greatest thing to happen to the green skinned people. A painful irony, while the universe around them recovered from their loss, their tyrants - Irk continued to rust and fall away. Its own gravity gradually giving out, the giant scrapmetal wasteland floating into space - being sucked into the gravitational bodies of other, larger planets. There was nothing of value left, just a memorial, a reminder to when what makes organics organic is forgotten.
With no treaty holding them back, the Planet Jackers became the dominate species in the galaxy. Eradicating billions with ease, much like their Irken brothers who so viciously ravaged the universe. And for what? For this? The most enduring, yet miserable shadow upon the bloodied skyline - ashed from the bombs that destroyed everything - was the Citadel. The home to the Tallest, when they were not flying with the Armada. The same fleet that came crashing down from the sky, but only after it had launched its own atom crushing payload of super weapons on the surface it once protected. The Citadel was also home to the last remaining leader of Irk - a super computer capable of intelligence many decades ahead its creators. It grew so advanced in its short lived, innocent life - the technology it produced for the Empire exceeded that of capable organic knowledge. The Irkens had a tremendous advantage, but had no idea how their own weaponry and life systems worked. Soon, they became more synthetic, more cyborg. They lost concept of living worth for their own species, something unheard for the nationalistic Irkens. Even if their history was built off the sacrifices of many brave clones, they were all given heroes' funerals, soldiers' honours.
4D41V1 was the name assigned to this PAK carrier, who scavenged the surface along side his comrade - his fellow 'survivor', if you could call it that. Completely oblivious to his own genetic defect, 4D41V1's blue and red eyes scanned over the a horizon of scrap metal. A black, makeshift re-breather strapped across his pale, light green face. His antennae were short, thin - retracting and showed signs of aging despite his youth. The sound of the metal giants around him creaking from the winds of the nuclear winter had slowly driven him partially deaf. The tight, almost electronic sounding whistles no longer affected him - for he heard them even in his sleep, no matter how hard he tried to block them out. He was the last of a handful of Irkens, he once believed himself to be the first in a newly formed world of metal. How can one possibly comprehend a history they were never taught? A history buried under the ashes of ancestors - whose remains were atomized centuries ago? He occasionally saw the Planet Jackers fly by in the rare times the sky was clear enough from the contamination to see the stars around them.
What an amazing sight it was, to finally see the stars after being born in a world forever cast in eternal darkness. What remained of the Irken capitol was all that he knew, then only to see an entire universe, a galaxy, a star system - looking down at him. And ships, strange, mechanical ships of magic flying about? He saw them as gods, at least, better gods than the one he currently lived under - the final Control Brain. On this particular night, at least - that was the time of day he assumed, 4D41V1 witnessed a shooting star. He waved at it, confused, unable to comprehend it as anything beyond a greeting from distant starlords. Such a desolate, miserable existence - if the planet was of any worth, it would have been mercy killed long ago - thrown into the Planet Jacker's sun. "Hello." 4D41V1 stated simply, out loud - as if just to hear it. This was a world without strangers, only the closest of friends. Brothers. Even if it was only one who existed. The Irken scavenger stood upon a heap of what was once a candy shop - the painting of an ice cream cone on a rusted purple panel peppered with shrapnel might as well be ancient Martian Moon Runes to his eyes and judgemental comprehension.
4D41V1 stepped off the metal hill, his feet wrapped in dirty and filthy cloth - tied to his calves with cables for a computer now far obsolete. His pants were standard Irken issue, tattered and worn down by years of traversing the fields of the "Old Ones". Their torso adorned a re-stitched and recently repaired striped red shirt, with a Resisty symbol painted on the center. The image long lost of its original meaning or relevance. A bastardized Elite-soldier chest rig was carried around his shoulders, connected back into his bulking - oversized PAK. It was a gift that was fortunately passed on from his father. 4D41V1 hopped over a billboard for a soft drink - he assumed it was something that once nourished the Old Ones when they grew tired, thirsty or weak. His forearms wore the remains of black gloves - the hand and finger parts dissolving years ago. His actual hands were darker than the gloves, surprisingly enough, probably from the remaining layer of "war-dust" on all the scraps that surrounded him.
"Hello!" 4D41V1 replied to himself from earlier. Before he would return home to the Citadel, the Irken glanced at the newly discovered heap of 'artifacts'. A pile of chairs, tables, couches - all from a former furniture store that was obliterated in the blasts of yesteryear. An echo floated back to him with the whistling of the wind through the steel giants - it was comforting, almost as if there was hope in this life where there was none. "Hello, again my friends! I will see you tomorrow!" 4D41V1 grinned underneath the re-breather, his teeth aching and wanting to fall out of his gums again. The scavenger waved to the forgotten and empty world, the giant garbage of the former Irkens' lives. Hungry from the hours he was out, 4D popped a can of "sludge" - a slimy green substance made from Irken DNA, reproduced as food, into his ultra-PAK. The little can is grabbed my small, metallic arms, bringing it in at different angles - only to be halted by a stoppage. Finally, when forced inside, the can lid is ripped off with steel teeth and the rest is gutted, the aluminum consumed by the PAK to strengthen its own outer shell. The sludge, underdveloped micro fetuses from failed pregnancies, clumps of cells - is then crushed and grinded into a smooth paste soon to shiver down a tube into his empty, ulcer lined stomach.
Their brother and fellow scavenger greeted them as they approached the feet of the Citadel. A looming, maroon red piece of architecture that somehow survived the Great War. Full of holes and falling part little by little everyday, it was also the throne of the great Control Brain known only as "Monolith". His brother-control brains killed by an internal virus, he consumed their knowledge and grew mad with power. The machine realized it was a tool for a lesser species, he threw all of his hatred into politically aligning opposing parties in the Imperium against each other. He must have been so pleased to see his slavers destroyed indirectly by their own creation, but the blood itself spilled by their own hands. Like a claw around the throat of their people, the technology they relied so heavily on was their undoing. "4D - Mother is worried sick!" Brother K411V exclaimed. The Irken was covered head to toe with medical wrappings and tourniquet apparatuses, two elongated, binocular-like artificial eyes poked out from the greasy, stained bandages. Pointing in various directions, inspecting and zooming in on anything that caught its attention. Brother K4 had been scavenging the wastes since before 4D was born - it was incredible, considering both his legs were merely metallic poles with small, battered plates for feet. His left arm from the elbow down was completely gone. K4 was nearly successfully aborted as a Smeet in his mother's stomach tube - but Monolith, with his contempt for Irken kind, revived him to ensure his suffering by simply existing in this world. "You think mother is going to be pleased with your curiousity...? We found nothing of the Old World as always."
K4's voice was full of cheer for an aging Irken, at the ripe age of 24 - he was lucky to have a few more months to live. Over the last few months alone, him and his Brother saw the last of the other clans fall. Finally dying and succumbing to the unfortunate circumstances around them. It was a blessing, more than anything - to finally die and lose their worthless, so-called lives. "Mother does not need to fear, what are we going to encounter out here? Politicians? Ha!" 4D Joked. "Politician" was actually synonymous with "monster" or "demon". They were creatures of myth, folklore - made by Clan-Mothers to discourage their Clan-Kin from wandering into the wastes from their safety of their own wretched homes of scrap. They were supposedly mutated monsters who orchestrated the Great War, forced to scavenge and survive off radiation - cyborgs of fallen structures, living inside the steel giants. Organic and flesh combined, iron-men who were the nightmarish beings under everyone's sheet metal bed. "There was nothing out here, as always! The Old Ones must have never wanted us to discover what lead to their demise! For surely they got rid of everything that hinted to them. Nothing remains, not the sky even. They took everything from us, no regard for the future." 4D pretended to complain, even in the darkest of days, humour found a way to exist and strive.
The two headed into the birth canal of the Citadel, every step was an echo inside the large hull that lead to the only functional elevator left on Irk. The two sighed with some relief to find familiarity again, no matter how tired they were of seeing it. Sometimes, the wastes proved too strong and hard on their psyches. Every one needed a firm rest and break at one time or another. It must have been insane for their ancestors to first discover space travel. But alas, they were cursed - born too old to explore the stars - instead guaranteed to lay in pastures of filth for another decade before the Irken species was finally extinct on its own home planet. Monolith manually shut down the PAK of all Irkens off planet, including invaders - killing the lucky ones. The Defects, the natural borns that managed to survive the great bombings - they were forced to live and strive in post-Great War Irk. The elevator rumbled and hardly carried the two upward into a blinding, white light. The thin metal passage grumbled like the bowels of a hungry, legendary serpent.
"You know, sometimes I dream. Even without my dream-chips activated." K4 began, referencing the disks and programs that their grandfathers found in the wastes years ago. Things that helped them escape from the horrible world, pre-loaded simulations that were their only glimpse into the history of what was now the horrible present. Often confusing, but always fun - the last remaining Irkens used these disks recreationally, like a drug. Much to the dismay of Monolith, who had turned their dreams into nightmares - forcing his hated children to stop using them, destroying them even. They have been trying to out-do such a rare find ever since. It had become their life mission, to search the wastes for more pre-Great War relics. A few, lucid dream chips were kept installed - deep inside K4 and 4D's ultra-PAKs. Where not even Monolith could interfere. "I dream that I am swimming through the scraps, just as Uncle did. But then I hear his voice, it is calling to me - saying things like 'Turn back! Turn back! I have found the truth and you do not want to see it!' And behind him, is this beautiful glowing light, a large fire - no - a large ship thruster suddenly bursting in front of me." 4D's weary, deeply cratered eyes widened at such imagery. He was completely enthralled. It sounded so beautiful, so - so beautiful. The elevator ride had met its half mark, noted by the red X they painted on the panel on the floor they just passed. Once a doorway leading to the medical wing of the Citadel, where many births were had. Sadly, it was now far too condemned and dangerous to even be inside - probably the doing of Monolith no doubt.
Brother K4 scratched the side of his head with his ill-healed, bandaged nub. The exposed bone leaving soft marks in his delicate, infected flesh beneath the wrappings. "So there I am, then suddenly - this gigantic politician just launches in front of me! I hear Uncle's voice, he is telling me to run past it and jump inside this space ship." If the Irken had any lips, they would have cracked a smile beneath his bandages. Instead, his artificial eyes retracted back - starring into the heavenly light above them. "What do I? I run, I ran so hard brother - I run past the politician, but its meaty claws shoots out these wires! I narrowly avoid them and jump onto the platform. I look inside the ship and know what I see? A large, hulking Space Jockey..." The term referred to Planet Jackers, originally a racial slur found in one of the dream chips the Clan Brothers shared. Of course it was strictly Irken propaganda, they thought of the Planet Jackers as gods - but truly ugly ones. The 'Space Jockey' were displayed as incredibly neutral, almost idiotic beings - ironic coming from Irkens. But to these two, they seemed like scholars that traveled the stars in search of enlightenment.
The elevator stopped at the top of the Citadel's esophagus, 4D41V1 stepped off the platform and into the palate of their home. Overlooking the steel giants and the fields of dismay they guarded, two fragile female Irkens starred off into the distance. A forever burning fire, known only as the "Pit" provided a replacement for their sun. Burning day and night, it was the only thing that cast light over their world. The last crater to deliver the final, life destroying super weapon. No one has gotten close to see what it was exactly due to it being surrounded by magnetic dust storms and other anomolies - some even worshipped it. But that cult died out during what is now a cautionary tale against scavengers and what this new world called them, 'expeditionaries'. The search for knowledge usually ended with the inevitable - death or impairment. If one was lucky to be born a non-cripple, the physical status would hardly ever reach into adulthood. "So, what happened then? You just tell me a story and then let it fall to the ground like that? Impaled on your own fibs and exaggerations?" 4D prompted and provoked a further retelling, knowing his Clan Brother always embellished his supposed dreams - which were obvious tales from his own imagination. He was just too modest to admit he made them up himself.
Brother 4D stopped and patted his mother on the head. The Irken, like her sister, was wrapped up in a body-covering garb made from flexible, cloth-like circuit boards. The only thing visible were their tired, miserable, tortured eyes. They were cocooned slugs - doomed to do nothing, their bodies too frail and valuable for sustaining life to even bother leaving the palate. The Clan Brothers continued toward their rooms, heading down one of the side hallways by their lonesome. The sound of thunderous winds from being this high in altitude being the only music and welcome back home. "Fine, fine, so I get inside and the Space Jockey is disgusted to see me! He says 'Oh, I thought there were no more of you...' The bastard kicks it into throttle and I am throne inside a tiny box! Like a microchip or something. He plugs my PAK into this super computer, that begins to read my thoughts..." K4 continued - ducking under a collapsed beam and approaching the Fallen Floor. They placed their PAKs to the wall and skid across what remained of the hallway's floor - looking down into a fall that would lead all the way down to the pointed, jagged scrap-world below. "He realizes that I am useful and they take me to a new planet to study - life is so beautiful, life is so grand... Then they start performing an autopsy! Trying to look for my soul..." The remaining Irkens believed the soul was a living organism inside them - it was actually a mistaken squeedly spooch.
"They are tearing into me, rummaging through my guts with all these clean, glistening tools! They are searching and searching, saying 'Impossible? How does he have no soul!'" K4 chuckled as he intimidated the voice of the Space Jockeys. They chose to portray them as ignorant and stupid, yet space faring geniuses. Scholarly, yet completely obese in the mind - unfit. This was much to 4D's amusement. "Finally, I grab one of their utensils and I pull myself off of the table... I am falling apart, not like there was much of me left in the first place. I am stumbling all around, trying to get my footing but my plate screws come loose, I fall and I see them roll across the floor! They are stepping over me, their monstrously huge feet shake the panels of their own ship beneath me. I sit there screaming - 'I have no soul and I must die! How about you do me a favour and find one for me!'" They both laugh, the wind moving through the steal behemoth around them laughed, the whole world laughed at them. Deep in the bowels of the Citadel basement, Monolith laughed. He laughed at their hope. Their supposed dreams and ambitions.
4D calmed himself and patted his Clan Brother on the back as they finally reached their rooms. One single hatch on each side, covered by cloth and sheet metal. Their sleeping quarters both food cabinets, snack storages - to be more accurate - for the Tallest. Small, modest - but their former refrigerated shell kept them away from Monolith's psychic interference. So it was heaven from the hell below. "I must rest now, tomorrow we get ourselves some 'moisturizing' and then we head out into the new heaps. I swear we were so close to finding something, the politicians were rattled in their own cage! We have kicked over the nest surely, now it is time we reap the rewards, my Brother." The two shared a friendly nod and both eagerly crawled into their defunct mini fridges. Their safe haven, their only haven. 4D could not help but imagine the 'moisturizing' he would share with his Clan Brother's mother, as he often did in hopes of producing a child to continue on the remnants of their miserable race. Despite their sibling like bond, they were of two different clans, two different bloodlines that merged and traveled to the Citadel in order to survive.
That was the only thing they wished to do, survive. 4D produced his makeshift lighter, its own fuel his flammable blood substance. Using an old casing from a round - made for the killing of his fellow Irkens, another relic from the Old World and the Great War. It illuminated his miniature bunker - which highlighted all of his posters and papers. All images of things he would never understand, never experience. They had no use, no worth - just anecdotes of a different, easier time. One they would not understand. They rested on a pillow and 4D41V1 drifted into a peaceful sleep. His chest inflating and deflating happily. His heartbeat synced to the creaking of the Citadel - just waiting to all fall down.