Surveyor V-1k watches sixty of his fellow Megadroids plummet, each punching a hole forty meters wide in the clouds. Two seconds later, they emerge into skies of madness.
Colossal mechs fill the heavens above Nexus, exchanging destructive projectiles and rending each other to fiery mist. Weaving through nightmarish cataclysms, V-1k cycles through his dwindling shield options and joins the fray.
Tearing off a giant's mechanical arm while another Surveyor crushes its superheated metal cranium, he marvels at the quickness of the end. Their arrival on Nexus seems an eternity ago, the following few precious hours among the most blissfully productive V-1k has ever known. Now, within a span of ten minutes, the School faces extinction.
Ever since discovering this galaxy, the School had been transfixed by the signature emanating from this otherwise undistinguished system. Nevertheless, V-1k had been stunned that the entire School was committed to the expedition. The cryptic response to his inquiries had verged on the admonitory. Security.
Trepidation among the Binomials was unusual. As peaceful archivists, the School had been forced to engage only three times in a billion years, all incidents tidily erased from cultural memory by saturating the respective atmospheres with nano-hypnides.
In the first hours following their arrival on Nexus, the apprehensiveness seemed unwarranted. Then they had attempted to depart. And the towering Eldan constructs had risen from their subterranean silos. Ten minutes ago.
The battle's mathematics are conclusive. His comrades' dying moments assault him in a steady flurry, far too quickly to cache or interpret. Shimmering grids of plasma roll like breakers across the sky, vaporizing Surveyors in such numbers that massive thunderheads form from the smoldering ashes. The flood of memories slows to a trickle.
And then, alarmingly, V-1k is alone.
He streaks skyward. Despite his shrieking power supply, he accelerates.
A construct grips his foot, then tears it from the socket. Accelerating again, V-1k punches through the stratosphere as seventy-three constructs converge on his location. They surround the Megadroid in overlapping hyper-photonic fields, trying to slow him down. More giants attempt to intersect his trajectory, narrowing his options to deceleration or oblivion. The end is not in question, but he can still choose its nature.
A massive lunar shadow occludes his vision. Corkscrewing spinward, V-1k flips an internal switch.
His face slams into the moon's cratered surface at just under the speed of light.
The resulting detonation is devastating, throwing almost half the moon's mass into orbit. The maelstrom takes centuries to subside. In time, the smoking debris expands into what Nexus's future visitors will christen the Halon Ring.
For V-1k's kind, however, this shape shines more brightly than any beacon, its meaning clearer than any signpost.
The Circle. The most ancient of glyphs, signifying quarantine. KEEP AWAY.
This issue of Tales From Beyond The Fringe is located in Blighthaven