Michael stared forward from the plateau-like boulder he was currently perched on into the distance; where under the shade of a tree laid Nephila, who was staring out into the endless fields. It had been three days since the incident involving the spear took place and in those three days her mood had slowly descended from shocked to depressed. This depression was only made worse by the fact that they were almost constantly on the move and he never had any time to talk to her.
A series of dull thuds echoed from beneath him, and before he could gather his bearings a vast shadow engulfed his position, “Me wonder… why do the gods have so many toys.” Said a powerful voice from his left, lecturing down to him as if he was a child.
Michael felt his body tense upon hearing her speak. Despite having been in Nia’s care for days the fact that just a week earlier she almost killed him still caused some discomfort. He probably would never get used to speaking with her.
He looked down at the assortment of obsolete damaged scanning equipment and a half programed universal translator scattered about the small place he was permitted to work. Michael was almost finished repairing the long-range scanner, “These are not ‘toys’. This is equipment; it allows me to… perform miracles.” He half-lied, his voice trembling slightly.
The girl hands descended to her barely covered hips “Look like toys to I.” Nia replied, a smug grin twice the size of his body plastered across her billboard sized face.
Michael didn’t respond; he had nothing to say to her. The only purpose she served was to get him and Nephila closer to the Axiom. “You no like I much hmm?” she declared getting on her knees to face him properly.
He could almost feel her looming over him, “You tried to kill me. Did you honestly expect a different reaction.” replied Michael with a hint of bitterness.
Her hands squeezed into fists; slender but soft looking blue painted fingers digging deep into her skin with frustration. “Well… Me was thinking. We are Na’Skiŕ’ze. In your tongue that is allies…”
“What’s your point.” He dismissed.
“You and me should get along. For one warrior alone is weak, together we strong.” Said Nia, “And If not for us, then for her.” She continued, pointing to Nephila who hadn’t so much as moved since he last checked on her.
Michael looked up at the towering body of his tormentor turned ‘ally’; if she had wanted to kill him she would have already done it, there was no real reason for him to be afraid, for now. “I can afford to cut you a break. Don’t make me regret it.”
Within an instant the young women’s face lit up with joy. “Me promise not to kill you… intentionally.” She said casually dropping a boulder the size of elephant just meters from him.
It was a strange sight, to see someone who for him represented only death and violence act so carefree; it was almost enough to make him forget who she was. Despite the coy girlish behavior, deep down Nia was a ruthless killer who had neither mercy, nor empathy for her victims; especially if they happened to be Atlantian.
Michael knew that for now the best course of action was to stay on her good side, “I suppose introductions are in order then. Pick me up.” he said as Nia readjusted her fur and leaf skirt that hung loosely around her thin waist.
A perplexed look formed on her face; it was as if she couldn’t comprehend what was being spoken. Not surprising given the fact that up until now, only Nephila had ever held Michael; willingly that is. “It ok? You sure me can pick you up.” she whispered glancing around to make sure no one else was watching.
“It’s alright. You’ve held me before, remember? Just keep an open palm this time and we’ll be fine.” He said somewhat nervous himself taking a seat on the edge of the stony dirt cliff with the broken scanner in his hands.
An outstretched hand with thin articulate fingers the size of his entire body approached from beneath him stopping at the edge of the small cliff right underneath his feet. Nia’s hands were smaller and her skin was lighter in tone than Nephila’s, however what was truly striking was how tough they were. Nephila had lived a sedentary life, devoid of almost all physical activity, but Nia on the literal other hand had spent every second of her life running, hunting, and gathering. It showed in her skin which despite being smooth was as hard as a rock along the base of her fingers.
“S-see. Nothing to worry about.” He said, sitting down in the center of her hand. “Now, let’s start over you and I. My name is Michael Binah, what’s yours?”
“Mother called me Nia, but the gods called me Britannia; so I am Britannia.” She said shyly but with pride. It was clear that she was still somewhat unused to having to talk normally to someone as small as Michael.
Britannia looked past him back down towards the broken equipment. “What can thing with many parts do that man alone cannot?” she said with curious skepticism.
Michael was getting a little sick of the bad grammar, “Before I tell you that… from now on, whenever ‘I’ is used in one of my sentences, that is when you use it. Understood?” he said
The girl gave a perplexed nod, shimmering locks of white hair flowing over and around Michael as she moved. He smiled; in a strange way she was just an ordinary girl, only twice as inquisitive, and almost a hundred times the size. Perhaps he was wrong to label her a savage prematurely. However before he settled accounts with Brittania there was one last question he needed to ask
To his left, about 100 meters left sat and stood the rest of the tribe. Many of them bore the same blue body paint that Nia wore, only to a lesser degree. In addition, they all seemed to follow any order conveyed to them through Britannia. “Nia. Why do the warriors follow Nephila and I? We haven’t exactly done anything to prove ourselves?”
“Does a spear need to kill for you to know it can?” she said, an awkward smile curling across her face as she brought his body up to around neck level. “I follow you for I know you have power, I see it myself.
She glanced over at the others, “They follow you, for I follow you, and they know I have power. A true warrior follows the strongest.” She explained, a slight twinge of sadness and fear hanging onto her voice, contrasting her usual bravado.
She looked up and into the distance. The space tether was almost 200 miles away and despite that it dominated the skyline. “Nephila say you give power when worthy. Until then, we follow.” She said looking high into the sky, her hands curling into a cup as if to protect him.
“But what if I don’t have any power to give? What happens if and when I give you everything I have to offer?” he said inspecting the thick but soft skin on her thumb.
The savage girl’s thin pinkish lips curled into an awkward yet devious smile; made all the more intimidating by her blood red eyes. “Simple. I eat you.”
A shiver rolled up Michael’s spine. Then looking down at the device in his hands, he realized that the battery was almost fully recharged. In that case you’re going to have an empty stomach for a long time, thought Michael as he plugged the jury-rigged micro-generator back into the under-carriage of the device
The mechanisms within the scanning device activated and the screen lit up. “And with that. My life is officially saved.” He muttered hitting the large button marked ‘scan area’ on the control console.
Within seconds a steady stream of data poured onto the display area. He was impressed, this model was at least 2000 years out of date and yet it was performing far above expectations. With this we’ll never find ourselves in an ambush again, he thought while reviewing the various statistics collected by the machine.
Unlike newer models, this older bulker model was only capable of scanning a couple miles. Even still, the amount of information it was able to give him had endless practical applications. Temperature gradients, local changes in gravity, chemical composition; any possible piece of information he needed was there. Including everything he needed to continuously convince Britannia of his usefulness.
Nia tilted her head slightly and squinted in an attempt to examine the scanner; however it was too small for her to get a good look. “Small things do no good.” She said, frustrated at the failure of her own senses.
“You’d be surprised just how useful this little thing is.” He replied, checking the screen for anything unusual.
For the most part, the area they were in was completely bland. There were the occasional herds of animals, but other than that the only thing interesting in the area was Nephila, whose anxiety was so high the scanner classified her as a ‘distressed life-form’. At least now I’ll never have to ask how she’s feeling, he thought.
He stared out at her from the edge of Nia’s palm. Something needed to be done about Nephila’s mental state if she was going to leave this planet alive. Obsession was a truly frightening emotion, so powerful it could force even gentle souls like Nephila to kill. She needed to learn how to control it.
He looked back down at the scanner; in the top right corner of the screen was a discolored blotch; a large mineral rich deposit about a mile from their position.
Then peering over at the hunters he noticed a woman pounding two rocks against each other to make arrow heads, it was a miserable task, but with the right knowledge it didn’t have to be, “Britannia, how would you like to learn how to mold the ground? To make the rock into something better?” he said.
“Mold. Rock? Taught from he who cannot move it?” she mocked bending over to pick up a rock twice his size. Her eyes darting back and forth as she compared the miniscule figure in her hand to the hunk of dirt in the other.
“I’ll show you.” He replied smugly, pointing to Nephila. “But I’ll need her to come as well.”
As they walked, the eyes in the camp fell on them. Not only was Michael, who was considered by many within the camp to be a god, being held by someone other than Nephila; but by Nia, the de-facto leader of the entire tribe. It was strange, since their arrival not a single warrior has disobeyed an order given by her. Her influence within this group was that great.
Maybe it was the fact that she spoke atlantian, “Nephila?” he said, looking down on her from Nia’s extended hand.
“This isn’t the station anymore Michael. Out here its kill or be killed.” She replied, looking up at him; her eyes and cheeks bloodshot from tears, and her body shaking as if she’d just been plucked out of winter.
“That’s how nature works Nephila…” he trailed off, feeling ashamed for allowing her mind to deteriorate this far.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone, it’s just…” she said stopping suddenly, gazing off into the distance; an exhausted sadness permeating the frightened giant’s voice, making her sound as if she was near death.
Michael felt Nia’s hand move and before he could react he was back on the ground. “No tears. Those who lie still cannot hear your sorrow.” Said Britannia, getting down on both knees.
The enormous hand he was just on swung forward with incredible speed; her massive fingers gently grazed down Nephila’s cheek, lifting her face up. “It time to move on.”
There was a brief silence, neither party knowing quite what to say to each other. Although the one prevailing thought among both Michael and Nephila was surprise at just how eloquent Britannia could be. “Move where? Everything looks the same around here.” Said Nephila, letting up a bit before gently pushing Nia’s palm away from her face.
Michael couldn’t help but admire the comradery forming between the two of them. Both came from different worlds, and yet in the face of adversity they were able to instantly empathize with the other. It was a bitter-sweet moment for Michael, who while feeling relieved that they were finally getting along was also ashamed that all of Atlantis couldn’t follow their example.
Two large pairs of eyes like spotlights fell instantly onto him, “Michael’s giving me a gift! Need you too. You come, yes?” said Nia whose sharp red eyes lit up like stars.
Nephila looked confused, most of the limited supplies they carried with them were for Michael, what could he possibly give her as a present? “If I must I’ll come, but only because I’m convinced he’ll get us in trouble again.” She said in a somber tone, reaching for him instantly.
His body relaxed as the familiar feeling of her hand engulfed him, and lifted him right back up into the sky. When her hand released he was at her waist.
The modest pouch built into Nephila’s suit to protect him was gone, replaced instead by a sturdy leather-like belt across her waist. Imbedded in the belt around her right thigh was a solid pouch made of carved wood.
“They may not look like it, but when it comes to clothing their miracle workers.” Said Nephila pointing to the other warriors, many of whom were gawking at them, although most were nonchalantly following some regular routine.
He felt her hands release him. On either side was a fur lined wall carefully curved inward to keep him in place. “One of these days I’m going to start walking on my own.” He said feeling like an infant and settling into what to him was a swinging couch.
She looked down and smiled, “I’d never let you take that risk you know.” She said adjusting the pouch. “Not everyone is as careful of where they step as I am.”
“He die from footstep if not blown away by dust flood first.” Said Nia chiming in and pointing to the rapidly moving dust clouds around their ankles; Michael checked the scanner and confirmed that the winds exceeded anything his body could handle without protection.
One of the interesting things Michael was beginning to notice was how different he and the giants viewed the world. The current area they were in was to him a fertile forestland with plenty of wildlife and land to live on. For him this was a paradise, even if the heat was unbearable. On the other hand, to Nephila and Britannia it was a featureless savanna.
“Where is gift? Do we mold this?” Said Britannia reaching down and ripping up parts of the ground, sending the small animals bellow scurrying away.
“It’s a bit more complicated than that.” He said, looking down at the scanner to see how far they were away from the mineral deposit.
In the distance was a large eroded rock; probably deposited by a flood, then sheared down over time by the wind. It was the size of a small mountain, only instead of smoothness there were jagged edges sticking out from the stone landmark; just looking at it Michael had no doubt that nothing like this could exist on earth.
“Alright! I’m going to need both of you for this to work.” He announced, prompting Nephila to remove him from the pocket.
“Nia.” He shouted, “We’re going to need something that can burn. You know, dried leaves, wood, that sort of thing” said Michael shouting orders from the center of Nephila’s hand.
The girl’s eyes lit up with excitement, and he could tell instantly that this was one of the many moments she was waiting for. Without even a second of delay she sprinted into the harsh wilderness.
“As for you.” He said, redirecting his attention onto his giant keeper. “Put me down on the rock.”
Nephila did as he requested, although she was still absolutely clueless as to what he meant by ‘mold the ground’. “Is this an escape plan? We don’t have any of our supplies.” She said, sitting down a few meters away from him.
“We wouldn’t be able to escape them even if we wanted to Nephila.” He said looking up into her somber eyes. “Besides, I wouldn’t want to break up that precious little friendship you have with Britannia.”
The gigantic woman gave him an annoyed glare, “I wouldn’t call it friendship. Its blind devotion, that’s all.” She said leaning up against the jagged wall behind them, and staring into the sky.
Although he didn’t understand giant psychology very well, it didn’t take an expert to see she was trying to hide the pain. A thousand times across hundreds of years Michael had witnessed what happens to the mind of a person who kills. He of course was no exception, the first time he took a life he was just like her; silent, restless, and questioning everything.
There was rustling in the tall grass, and then from seemingly nowhere Nia appeared brandishing a large heap of sticks, “What we do now?” she said hopping up and down in place, her long white hair flapping around as she did what appeared to be a small victory dance.
“Well… now we make a fire of course.” He said watching the awkward girl flounder about.
“Oh!” she exclaimed as if recalling something, “I can do that.” Declared Britannia dropping down to her knees before pushing some dry leaves into a pile on a flat rock and twisting a stick over them.
The sound of what to Michael appeared to be a tree being grinded into the ground was equivalent to rubbing sandpaper across a piece of steel. The intense gravely sound forced him to cover his ears, fortunately after a few seconds of rubbing a fire burst up from beneath the large wooden pillar.
“What we do now!” she exclaimed, bombastically shaking her finger at the fire like an excited child.
Michael looked up at Nephila, she was rolled over on her side, completely un-interested in what was happening. “Neph, I didn’t bring you out here to try and cheer you up. There’s an actual purpose to you being here.” He lectured towards the monolithic back that was currently facing him.
Nephila let out a small frustrated groan and then sat back up. “Do it then.” She said exasperated, no longer even making eye contact with him.
A hint of ire seeped its way up from the back of his head, however given her situation he had to do everything in his power to be tolerant, “Alright Nia…” he said redirecting his attention, “I’m going to need you to draw two of this shape in the ground.” Said Michael drawing a disproportioned cross in the dirt
The white haired savage gave him a perplexed look; for her this was becoming more convoluted every second. “I unsure, but I do.” She said, sketching out a larger wider cross in the dirt with her hands.
“Good. Now this is where the magic happens.” He said, leaping down from the rocks and sprinting towards the two massive ditches created by Britannia.
The heat from the fire was intense, from a distance it seemed like a small campfire, but for him it was a raging inferno. He looked up at the titan of a woman who smiled back at him, satisfied with her progress.
“See those rocks over there.” He said pointing to an area around Nephia’s feet. “I want you to take them, one by one, and put them into the fire.”
“Then we mold ground?”
Relief washed over him, they were finally on the same page, “Yes! They will turn into liquid, and after a while they will become solid again.” He said to the increasingly wide-eyed girl.
“Then what?” she questioned skeptically, throwing rocks onto the fire.
Michael checked his scanner, and almost leapt with joy when he discovered that the rocks they were using contained 70% iron. “Then… you won’t ever have to use a bone for anything again.” He said coyly turning his back to her.
Two hours had passed, and through a series of simple instructions Michael had managed to do the impossible, and probably unethical; he had taught a giant the secret of iron. With this he and Nephila’s fate were secured, for now.
“Alright, they’ve cooled down enough, you can pick it up.” he said, not even a second passing before the enormous hunk of iron was plucked from the ground.
“Truly this is the power of the gods! I have finally become worthy.” She said proudly examining the crude unsharpened dagger.
For a brief moment he feared she would grind him into paste, “Not all of my power. You’re not quite worthy yet.” He bluffed, remembering her warning about what would happen if he became useless.
She flashed him a wide smile. Two menacing rows of teeth staring back at him, “I look forward to that day.” Said Britannia before walking off into the distance.
“Why did you make me one of these? Why would you give me this after… I killed them.” said Nephila softly but with world weary bitterness leaking from of every syllable.
Fresh tears the size of his head flooded out from her eyes. She was beyond devastated, which was understandable considering what she had done. Truth is, nobody is ever prepared to have to take a life, and Michael knew that more than anyone. Across hundreds of battlefields he had slain so many people both man and alien alike; seeing her panic and question herself reminded him of how he felt many years ago.
He put on a stoic face, and tried to appear as strong as possible, “I gave it to you to use of course.” He replied blankly, attempting to make it seem as if he had all the answers. “Now tell me, what is that you’re holding in your hand? And what is it used for?”
The girl looked confused, “It’s a dagger.” She said through gritted teeth. “And it’s used to kill.”
Michael smiled. Even if it was an unpleasant conversation, it had been three days since they had last spoken; he missed her company. “Wrong.” He said.
“I can’t argue that it’s a dagger” He said, climbing back onto the ridge where she was sitting. “But what you’re holding in your hand can be used for a lot more than killing.”
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about?” she said, perturbed at what she immediately knew was another attempt to convince her of something
“I’m trying to say that it’s up to you to decide what it is.” Said Michael, taking a seat on top of her ring finger which sat quietly with the rest of her hand.
She looked away, “Don’t start this with me, please. I’m trying to forget what I did.” She said, jerking her hand away as if she touched an insect.
Michael felt the world shift beneath him and before he knew it he was flat on his face,
The enormous woman leapt to her feet. The lighter gravity pushing her right onto her feet, “I killed them Michael! It’s that simple, why can’t you understand that I’m a killer?” she screamed, her powerful voice thundering around him.
He could feel fear creeping up his spine; there was something instinctually terrifying about a person hundreds of times his size standing over and yelling at him.
This time he wouldn’t allow himself to be intimidated, “You’re wrong Nephila… about everything.” He screamed, looking her dead in the eyes as he did; his fear paralyzing him in place.
“What you did, you did in self-defense. I’m not going to try and pretend like it won’t be different from now on, I know from experience that you have a lot of hardship to face.” He continued, craning his neck up and pleading to the goliath of a woman whose face soared meters over his. “You can’t change what happened, but you can change what you do now.”
“I gave you that knife to protect yourself, so tell me Nephila… are you really a killer, or are you something more than that?”