45. Is This Man a Threat?
Posted on February 2, 2012
Sweden cautiously approached the steel horse. It was bigger than he had first assumed towering a good foot over him at the shoulder. He had never seen anything so beautiful in his life.
Argentum sensed his approach and came out of standby. The sudden loud hum and whir of his servos made Sweden jump. He crouched down, ready to make a dash for the door. The horse turned to look at him and Sweden got the distinct impression that the horse was looking right through him. He felt weirdly exposed and naked before the beasts cold, dispassionate gaze.
“Is this man a threat?” Argentum sent the query through his comm link. He could see his mistress looking in from the viewing port.
When Antigua did not respond Argentum took a closer look at her and observed that she was not wearing her armour. This meant she had no means of communicating with him. She did not appear to be in any danger and she nodded and winked at him when he caught her eye.
So this was some sport. He snorted sharply and turned to face Sweden who cowered back from him waving his shattered blade in a feeble attempt to ward the horse off. Argentum starting taking slow, methodical steps towards Sweden snorting and nickering loudly. Each menacing step sparked and rang hollowly as his steel hooves struck the dome floor.
Sweden’s heart leapt into his throat and he scrabbled backwards in a panic. Argentum kept pushing forward, driving him further and further until he was backed up right into the corner of the bay.
A moment passed, followed by another. When a full half a minute had passed Sweden opened an eye and hazarded a peak. Argentum was standing stock still before him, his long equine snout hovering just inches from his face. The horse was kneeling down, one hoof stretched out in front of him in a weird facsimile of a bow. Sweden, a man practically born in the saddle, was familiar with the pose. Was this animal inviting him to mount up? He was dubious of the horses intentions so he quickly shuffled sideways to escape the immediate crushing danger and scrambled to his feet.
“What the hell?” He shouted, rounding angrily on the horse waving his broken sword for emphasis.
Argentum stayed where he was, maintaining the apparent offer. Sweden looked over at the viewing port. Something very strange was going on and he wanted to see if the red-haired woman had anything to do with it. He was somewhat relieved to see that she had not moved and still appeared to have her hands tied. He turned back to the steel horse, eyeing it warily.
There was a soft whirring noise that emanated from the horses lower midriff and Sweden was surprised to see what looked, for all the world, like a small step-ladder unfold from its side.
“Oh.” he said, “Am I to assume that you would like me to climb on?”
Argentum nickered in response, steam billowing from his nostrils.
Sweden was shocked, had this animal just responded to his question?
“You can understand what I’m saying?” he asked, a note of awe creeping into his voice.
Argentum nickered again and stomped his front hoof impatiently, the metal sparking as it struck the floor.
Sweden was delighted. All his fears and concerns were set aside and he beamed an excited grin at the horse. He threw the shattered remains of his sword aside, stepped up onto Argentum’s flank, threw his leg over and settled into the saddle.
There was a loud crack. His entire body spasmed, arched violently in the saddle and was thrown to floor. Argentum rose, turned to him and gently placed his front hoof on Sweden’s chest, pinning him to the floor. Sweden groaned and passed out cold.
Antigua turned from the viewing port. She casually strolled over to one of the remaining enviro suit lockers and with some difficulty got it open. She fished around in the suit’s pocket until she found what she was looking for, with a casual flick she used the small vibro tool to cut her bonds. Once she had rubbed the deep marks on her wrist to get the blood flowing again she opened the internal airlock door and went back into the dome to retrieve her armour.