When she finally reached the cavern floor, Ellie again stood frozen in awe. The figures were neither men nor statues. They were robots. Androids, she believed was the correct terminology for the humanoids that stood nearly seven feet tall and appeared to have been molded to have the same structural appearance as the Eidyn people. This had to be the army Julian had mentioned. The very thought created a cold lump in Ellie’s stomach. Was that why she was here? Did the Kyroibi make her some sort of military commander?
“Princess Robot Commander reporting for duty, sir,” she said with a wry giggle and haphazard salute to the row nearest her.
The idea was at once laughable and yet so very frightening. The Kyroibi gave her nothing. No indication as to what it was she needed to do or how the mechanical men fit into the plans. A growing sense of dread ate at her. She was certain now that Julian should have been there. He would have known the purpose of coming to the cold, dark world.
An anomaly caught her eye and Ellie paused. The perfect formation was broken by a single empty space, as if one of the androids had stepped out of line for a momentary break. The thought sent a creeping chill down her spine and Ellie spun, as if expecting to see one of the automatons bearing down on her like some sort of horror film jump scare, but much to her relief, she was still very much alone. Still, the empty space was unnerving.
With her heart still hammering, Ellie slipped herself into the lineup and stood as still as possible, hoping that perhaps she was the missing piece of the puzzle. When absolutely nothing happened, she felt foolish for attempting video game puzzle logic and blushed, despite being on the opposite side of the galaxy from anyone who might have laughed at her attempt. She stepped back out of line and continued her inspection of the ranks, keeping one eye out for rogue robots.
When at last she reached the other side of the cavern, Ellie found herself at the base of yet another giant staircase, a mirror image of those she had descended, and let out a deep sigh of frustration. The Kyroibi urged her upward and she had to wonder what the Eidyn had against elevators.
Halfway up, a lone figure came into focus and Ellie realized she’d found her missing android, but as she climbed, she noticed something different about this one. He too was just as immobile as those below, but he sat upon the stairs, elbow on knee and chin cupped in contemplation, reminding Ellie of Rodin’s Thinker.
The closer she got, the more she felt drawn to the figure. In some impossible way, he was familiar, despite knowing she’d never seen him or anyone like him before in her life. When she finally reached his resting place, Ellie nearly lost her footing in surprise. This was no machine, and yet, he had to be. Any other explanation was impossible. Surely anyone left on the planet would have been long dead.
Unless he too had only recently traveled to the planet…
Suddenly, she understood. Whether it was her own deduction or the Kyroibi, Ellie knew exactly who he was, though how it was possible remained a mystery. She reached out, without hesitation, and took his stiff, cold hand into hers. At once, the diodes connected and the statue-like man came to life.
Turning, his eyes shone with an inner light and a smile warmed the features of his face.
“El’iadrylline. At last we meet.”
Christina McMullen is the author of ' Space Girl from Earth. ‘The Needs of the Many’ book three of The Kyroibi Trilogy is due out May 1 and will be up for preorder sometime this month.