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Completely Hollow



by Allan Maki
Turbine Entertainment Software


Late.

One second beyond the time they had arranged for the exchange, it began sending. The Collective sang behind its mask as he relayed the incompetence of their servitors.

Inconsistency, absence, gray meat no better than purple.

Within the second's time, the Collective became aware of their servitors' failure and issued orders to the fracture.

Understood.

It freed its death mask from its cloaks for a moment and cleaned it. Mimicry leads to acceptance. In the distance, three shapes coalesced within the driving snow. They would arrive at the designated meeting place within the next twenty seconds.

Late.

Behind him, puppets waited in its presence--their master--flanked by the newest members of their forces. Were it not for the importance of the materials the gray beings provided, they would have been eliminated. Flesh could be used to collect what energy could not grasp.

After the twenty seconds had passed, three Lugians stood before him. They pulled a makeshift device for carrying objects.

Primitive.

Late. It spoke into their minds.

"We are here, and this is the hour that we agreed upon." The largest spoke in its language, a deep resonation that reverberated against its mask. Its essence crumbled apart and reformed into coherence.

Silence. Delivery. Cascading energy in an unseen field filtered the thoughts into formative words that the lesser being would understand in its fleshy mind. Transfer was instantaneous and invisible to the lesser being.

The Lugian motioned to the others and they dragged the heavy sled, weighted with a purple ore, closer to the Virindi. A bee-buzz hum filled the air as its puppets moved closer. Flickers of lavender licked from behind their masks and surrounded the makeshift sleigh.

A sound like a swarm of locusts clearing away a field churned and split the storm. The sleigh rose from the snow as energy leapt into the ground, melting away a perfect half-sphere. Flanking the sleigh, the puppets floated away from the Lugians, the sleigh following under their command.

"You have the ore, where is our payment?"

Payment.

Silent commands, carried by the space between, touched the Virindi's other companions. They jangled to life in a mockery of motion, arms swaying in opposition to the momentum of their feet. Heads sealed in a swathing of leather flesh hid an etched cylinder of chorizite framework. Fiber cloth covered the chorizite skeleton to rounded hamhock hands; glittering bands of anti-magic locked in an incandescent azure and pink swirl. A pair of rickety mock scarecrows trundled toward the Lugians.

Payment, made. Learn. Teach. Fear.

Streaks of azure and pink hung in the air as the Hollow Minions rained blows into the Lugian's body. Dumfounded, his companions stumbled away from the onslaught. A voice thundered in their minds as shimmering hands passed through armor, bones and flesh in ghostly images. No blood flowed from their wounds, but their leader winced in pain as life fled from his body.

Deliver. Learn. Time. . . Death.

The mannequins twisted their chorizite heads over the living specimens and examined them with hollow eyes. Swallowing their fear, the Lugians rose and turned back into the thick sheets of the snow, hoping that their fallen brother would greet them in their camp. The Virindi floated away from the lifeless form, flanked by his Hollow Minions.

Termination. Life force removed.

***

Liquid flooded into the shell. Strings fastened from the Singularity, pulled by the masters beyond, slid through the liquefied energy to establish a harness for their control. Chorizite hands fitted into place by servitors unaffected by the nature of the ore spun to life. The minion sat upright, a sheer crystalline shell.

Incomplete.

The observer looked over the model once more. A rotting orange husk of flesh, long turned rancid, sat upon a wooden pole. Straw poked through a moth-eaten blue smock. Trousers filled with leaves and wooden slats ended in an old pair of leather boots.

Previous control over these constructs had resulted in surprise in the meatlings, but they were built fragile and offered limited control from the Singularity. Gray fleshlings had been offered gifts in the form of distillation and processing, in exchange for continued delivery and collection. Inspiration had come from the meatlings who had created these stick constructs.

Drudges pulled the clothing from the scarecrow and fitted it onto the crystalline figure. Flames engulfed the cloth and spread onto the Lurker. Mews of pain echoed in the stonework room rising above the hum of portal energy.

Cease. The Drudge imploded, leaving a neat red stain and perfect hide on the floor. Others scampered from shadows and collected the remains. They hurried the remnants to a large chamber and added the skin to a growing pile.

The crystalline stick-man sat perfectly still, no features visible save for the azure and pink swirling fists. Cloth had burned away on the shell. Compelled by its master a Lurker reached out and took hold of the spinning fist. No ill befell the Drudge.

It moved behind the slab where the crystal scarecrow sat and was joined by two others. Portal energy swirled as they moved the slab toward an opening portal. Speckled white and purple dust fell from the place beyond the portal--then the rent closed. Once again the Lurker reached for the being. It mewed in protest, helpless to defy the command. Its hand pressed against crystal coated in chorizite, and no pain came.

Compose. Gathering clothing from fallen comrades and piecing together fabrics from the hides of their brethren, the Drudges obliged. A poor replica of the construct of the meatlings came into being. Invisible strings etched the finishing touch by way of the pumpkin face on the thin cylinder of the Hollow Minion.

Puppeteered by unseen masters it rose and moved on ramshackle legs, swinging fists at unsuspecting and unmoving Lurkers. Fists passed through flesh and bone rending life to stasis. No blood flowed. No mess.

Lurkers emerged from the shadows. They collected the corpses and added them to the growing pile in the other room.

Complete.

Construct.

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