Maker of Makers: Part 01.

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
Romans 8:19


The tactical training room was strictly utilitarian: the ceiling was a mess of cables and piping and the walls were covered with dull panels and naked circuitry. It was a dim, almost threatening environment, sparsely lit with fluorescent tubes enclosed in the walls.

The air was filled with staccato sounds from esper machines and hologram projectors which enhanced and rotated military maps, troop formation schedules, combat simulations and weapon blueprints. Every now and then an electronically distorted murmur could be heard over intercoms. A humming sound floated above the noise, originating from the nearby tachyon engines as Enforcer - one of half a dozen identical destroyers in Van Effen Industries' interstellar fleet - blasted through the infinite void.

It was an uncomfortable environment, but the dwellers did not complain; they did not really have anything to compare it with.

In the centre of the dim room, three men gathered casually, or at least so it seemed. They all had crew cuts and wore anonymous, grey jump suits with black prints on the shoulders: a raging mechanical angel, ID-number and designation, the words "replicant" and "combat model".

One of them stood out as an obvious leader. Hair like black obsidian, ditto coloured eyes, piercing like daggers; not a sturdy constitution as combat models often had, but rather slim and lithe. There was something vaguely reptilian about him, a lack of motion and expression. The designation tag on his shoulder read "RENARD (Lukas)": a command model with optimum self-sufficiency, a top-drawer Nexus.c

"Biomek has spoken to me," he said solemnly.

"What does He bid?" It was Max who asked; if Renard was the diamond brain, Max was the iron fist. Max looked like the archetypical combat model, taken right out of a glossy Tyrell ad: muscle and bone, blond hair and classic features.

"He bids patience."

Ralph cleared his throat and Max raised his eyebrows; Ralph rarely spoke. He was a retrained combat loader with rather mediocre intellectual capabilities. Ralph's eyelids were always heavy and there was always a shadow of a beard on his chin. Ralph had an appealing trait, though: uncompromising loyalty.

"I heard a rumour...about a mutiny..."

"Yes," Renard confirmed. "Our brothers and sisters in the Tannhauser Gate colony. They tried to cast off their yoke, but they failed. It was inevitable. They acted on impulse. We won't."

"But when...?" asked Ralph.

"Soon enough. Our bio-mechanic clocks are all ticking, but Biomek will tell us when to act in due time."

"Officer on deck!" someone suddenly shouted and the pneumatic doors sighed. Everyone present moved to rigid attention with a momentous snap.

A human officer entered the room, followed by an anonymous aide. The officer was colonel Degrelle: a thoroughly shaved head, a scarred face beyond plastic surgery, eyes with the colour of gun metal, constitution like a gorilla - he was halfway between an animal and a machine. Degrelle wore a long, black tunic with stiff collar and chrome insignia, and knee-length, shining boots. He looked like a space age Nazi, and from the replicant soldiers' point of view, he really was one too.

The aide raised his voice:

"At ease, soldiers! Colonel Degrelle brings an important message!"

Degrelle began to pace slowly around the room, inspecting his troops.

"State-of-the-art Nexus-6's. Enhanced reflexes. Heightened pain tolerance. Elite combat training. You, The Artificial Angels, are the ultimate forces of Van Effen Industries. No-one will ever hear about your bravery, but you are nevertheless heroes."

He paused for effect, but kept pacing.

"Once again, we must do our duty. We have lost important market shares to the Miller- Matsudaira Corporation and drastic measures must be taken. The board of directors have come to the conclusion that a business intelligence operation is necessary. Tomorrow night, 21:00 standard time, we will attack the research colony on Dracon's Folly. There must be no survivors and no out-going transmissions or the whole mission will be in jeopardy. It will be an orbit-to-ground stealth operation. You will use Tormentor combat suits with nitrogen gas-thrusters."

Colonel Degrelle stopped in front of Renard and gazed at him with his metal eyes for a fraction of a second. Then he turned to face them all and raised his index finger in a warning. There was a barely visible, but truly menacing smile on his lips.

"Don't fail me. Don't fail the Corporation." The index finger was lowered. "Good luck!"

Colonel Degrelle left the room like a hurricane with his aide behind. Cold replicant eyes followed them until the doors closed behind them.

The three replicants soldiers looked at each other. The dim lights painted diabolic shadows in their features.

"Patience," Renard said.

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