BLANK Humanity

BLANK_ Humanity

Interlude 1 – The Thief

The thief repeated part of the prophecy to themselves for the hundredth time, “. . .and on that day of significance, the mightiest of all will produce a potion of unfathomable power.”
Today had to be that day. The selection of Initializers was the most momentous occasion within BLANK Space yet. So they had planned and prepared, for this time they needed to succeed.
They had failed their mission many times in the past, though, and felt anxious this close to the decisive moment. But things would go differently now, not like before. They had made sure of it. Everything was prepared, the trap set, the show started. This time it would end in success. They had made sure of that. . . hadn’t they? It certainly wouldn’t end up like last time. . . would it? That giant beast had almost been the death of them.

The would-be thief who had set their eyes on the greatest of prizes paced in circles around the room, thoughts echoing their movement.
The object of their desire was currently being sat upon by the most vicious of predators. The guardian of a realm they dared not set foot in. And because of today, they wouldn’t need to. Feeling restless, the thief nevertheless sat down on the only chair in the room to go over the plan one more time.
Right now, right above them, the testing was happening. Every ten clock cycles, an Initializer would be finished. Then the Overseer would leave, giving them a small window of opportunity before the following Initializer appeared.
They would pop up, grab the. . .
“No, no, no! Enough of this,” they told themselves admonishingly, “just do it already. The time to think has long since passed.”
They promptly stood up on the chair, lifted their hands over their head, and ever so carefully pushed against the fake stone they had embedded in the testing room floor.

Lifting their head to look through the small opening they could see a set of long legs, crossed at the knees.
‘Oops,’ they thought and quickly closed the opening again. Slightly blushing, the thief turned around on the chair and pushed against the stone again. Instead of looking, though, they just listened in.

“. . . What are these? They look rare. Powerful, too.”
“These are called Macros, and they provide you with an update to your code which will give you certain benefits whenever you are in my domain. Touch them, and you will know what they do,” Overseer Bitty replied.
“Oh, that sounds amazing. So I can just, touch them? Don’t mind if I do.”

The thief listened in while the Initializer above them completed the testing and disappeared. As soon as the individual popped out of existence, they heard Bitty stand up and say, “See you in a few cycles again, Gertie. Take it a bit easier on the next one, will you?” Then they heard her walk out of the room to the chicken’s disapproving clucking sounds.
‘This is it,’ the thief realized that the moment had come. They had only a short period of time in which to crawl out, get up, grab their prize, and jump down again. Urgency gripped them and they sprang to action, pushing against the fake stone and moving it to the side. They put both arms through the hole, lifted themselves up and through. . . and promptly banged their head against the table, hard.

Pain flared and they could barely hold themselves from letting out a hurt and startled yell. Their head instantly started pounding at the same time that a surprised squawk sounded out from above them and the next Initializer popped into view. Something started rolling just overhead. ‘Damn it,’ the thief thought and hastily lowered themselves again, ‘the time between testings should be longer than this.’
They had just replaced the fake stone when an object of great weight landed on it and almost broke through. “Shit, shit, shit,” they said softly as they held up the entrance so that the whole thing didn’t come crashing down. Luckily, after a moment the extra weight disappeared and the thief sighed with relief.
‘What, in BLANK’s name, was that?’ they thought, puzzled, holding the top of their head protectively. Then they froze. Could it be? But no, that would be too easy. Wouldn’t it?
Taking another deep breath, they waited. They let one hundred microcycles pass, then lifted the stone again.
There it was! Right in front of them lay a pink egg, its shell slightly cracked on the side facing the thief.
‘No way!’ they thought, unable to believe their luck. Everything had gone wrong, but fate had evidently decided to finally reward the thief once more.
They hesitantly reached for the egg, hearing the Overseer say, “Hey, can you close that door for me, please? Thank you.”
They had to move fast now, wrapped one hand around the egg, and heaved.
‘What, by lightning’s sake, does Gertie eat?’ They thought, barely able to lift the egg. The thief felt the chair underneath them lose balance, wobble, and stabilize as they found their equilibrium. Carefully, sweat running from their forehead, they managed to silently extricate the egg and replace the stone overhead.
A feeling of euphoria gripped the thief as they carefully stepped off the chair. They had done it! After so many failed attempts trying to steal an egg on every ‘day of significance,’ they had finally managed to get a hold of one again.
“Hah, got you this time Gertie,” they said triumphantly to an empty room and took stock of their prize. The damage seemed pretty extensive, cracks rippling out from the place of impact to almost its top and bottom.
The egg wouldn’t be one for long; they were sure of that. Satisfied that the egg wouldn’t hatch right now, they stuffed it into a previously reinforced pocket, said, “Well, that was that,” and started to walk out of the room.
“Pok, pok,” came their answer.
The sound shook the thief to the core and they instantly stopped moving. They felt as if a deadly predator was watching them from behind, ready to pounce the instant the thief would so much as twitch.
Almost frozen with terror, the thief fought against their fear and managed to slowly turn around.
Gertie stood upon the chair as a mighty general stands before a particularly insubordinate footsoldier. Her proud beak was slightly open as her disapproving glare bored into the thief.
“Oh Peter, you shouldn’t have done that,” they heard the Overseer say from above. Not daring to move their head, Peter’s eyes shot up to see Bitty’s head stuck through the opening, “You know she doesn’t like anybody touching her eggs. Not even me.”
The thief made to respond, but Gertie started growling threateningly as soon as they opened their mouth. They quickly shut it again. They knew now that their only chance of survival lay in standing perfectly still. Peter wasn’t like the Initializers. Those squares popped into this space that lay in between the two realms only if the Overseer would grant it. But Peter lived here. Getting hurt now would be bad. Very bad.
“Pok, pok, popoooook,” Gertie stated, sounding exasperated, as if she were berating a child.
“She wants you to take out the egg and throw it onto the ground,” Bitty translated.
“Wh. . . what?” Peter asked incredulously, thinking they must have heard wrong. “You want me to. . . throw the egg? Onto the ground?”
“Well, not me,” The Overseer replied, a slight smile playing on her lips, “Gertie does.”
“Pok!” the hen in question confirmed.
The thief hesitantly took out the egg, lifted it overhead with some difficulty, then looked again questioningly at Gertie.
“Pok,” she said again and started fluttering her wings.
Accepting their fate, Peter replied, “Okay then,” and threw the egg onto the ground as hard as they could.

It crashed to the ground and exploded like a frag grenade, pieces of pink eggshell flying through the room at high velocity. Some of them stung Peter as the tiny projectiles hit their chest. Instinctively they threw up their hand to protect their eyes, even though the moment of impact had already passed. After half a cycle had passed they slowly lowered their arms and looked at the object that now stood on the floor.
The thief couldn’t believe their eyes. There, on the marble stone, stood a miniature plane. It was one of those light ones, Peter saw. A single-engine, high-wing aircraft, perfectly replicated to the last detail. Curiosity made Peter kneel down to inspect it a bit further, but the toy plane started changing as soon as they did.
At first, the difference was almost imperceptible; its tiny wings started quivering slightly.
“Hey, it’s moving,” they said and looked up at Gertie.
Only Gertie wasn’t there anymore. “What? Where. . . argh!” Peter exclaimed as they were suddenly pushed back by a rapidly expanding aircraft. They hastily retreated on all fours trying to keep out of reach of the object. They failed. Caught between the rudder and vertical stabilizer, Peter was picked up and forcefully shoved against the wall. The impact expelled the air from their lungs, leaving them gasping and stuck, unable to move.
Looking down from the hole, Gertie started cackling with apparent laughter, “Puk puk puuuuuuuuk puk puk puk.”
“She is laughing at you,” Bitty stated the obvious.
Still gasping, Peter responded, “I can see that. Very funny. You can help me out of here now.”
“Yeah,” The Overseer drawled, “I could.” Then she joined in Gertie’s laughter and replaced the fake stone, disappearing out of sight.
‘Great. How am I going to get out of here now?’ they thought, trying to wiggle themselves free. Peter still couldn’t believe it. Everything had been going so well; they had held the egg in their hands.
But luckily, not all was lost. They had seen something; something which the Overseer surely had not meant to show. Peter remembered seeing a tiny vial suspended on a golden necklace around Bitty’s neck. Now there was information worth going through this trouble for. Next time, they would get it.

Next time, for sure. . . right?