Our home was a beautiful place. Earth’s greatest archeological discovery, the Atlantis colonial starship, became the ancient prototype for humanity’s colonization of distant worlds. A generation had been spent depopulating the home world a half million people at a time. By now some of the first colonies must have reached their target worlds. Our colony reached its destiny too I suppose.
Initial long range telescope activity led the Admiral to believe we found another sentient form of biological life. A scouting party flew to the lush tropical moon to encounter them. The droid assigned to accompany the five humans transmitted video and audio files of the beings. Bipedal machines with claws and saws for arms tore apart the landscape and wildlife alike. The walking machines delivered organic matter to shining metal monsters that resembled caterpillars. Trees, animals, and soon the scouting party got carelessly shoveled into its maw. Black ash emerged out the tail, as they slowly transformed the vibrant moon into a husk.
Colonial Security Forces retaliated without hesitation. While the harvesters proved formidable, the eaters could more easily be destroyed. The beings adopted no strategy to counter our assault. When human fighters fell to a harvester, their remains were fed to the eaters. Dozens of the automatons had been captured still functional, studied, and dismantled. They seemed to be artificial intelligence harvesting energy from bio mass. We had no idea they were simply worker drones until the true threat appeared on our sensors.
I stood among my comrades in the security force on a patrol for straggling machines to dismantle. It had been nearly a month of combat. Casualties remained thankfully low, the harvesters simply carried out their program unless we approached from the front. The colonial starship reminded me of my childhood looking at the moon from Earth’s night sky. Then it appeared, the true enemy.
From the ground it looked like a spider with eight long legs arched and then flexed. It blotted out the view of the colony and even light from the star as it landed. The mother machine raced over the moon’s surface in search of its eaters and their energy. What little remained from our assault must have been just enough power for its backlash. The Colonial Security Force converged and assaulted the massive machine. Our attack proved ineffective and largely ignored. The starship dispatched its shuttles for our withdrawal, but time did not allow for escape.
Humanity would never know if it became motivated by revenge or merely its unrelenting desire to feed. The mother pounced from surface into the atmosphere. I swear, I felt the tremors from my shuttle rendezvous point two hundred miles south. The colony never had time to maneuver. In short seconds the enormous spider latched onto the propulsion ring behind the colonial starship. It spewed dozens of eater and harvester teams onto the colony’s hull. Thousands of the colonists had been lost to the machines or into the vacuum of space before the crash landing.
The ovoid colony detached from its propulsion ring and the hull blazed through the moon’s atmosphere. Anything close to the exterior got cooked from heat and radiation. Its emergency departure had been as successful as could be. Our home, though badly damaged and permanently grounded, was still habitable.
The propulsion ring, meant to be our orbital construction site for a future fleet, exploded and tore the life eating menace to shreds. In the months that followed we mourned the dead, nearly one in four of our original number. Humanity built and thrived on our new home. Then we began to notice small metallic spiders.