The suffocating mist parted momentarily to allow Fabriki a momentary view of the Archoyle. It flew from the mist gracelessly, much like the crows of the time before. Its thick petrous skin shifted unnaturally as it landed on the roof of the bus, talons scraping on the unfamiliar surface. Fabriki looked into its almost human face, but all she saw was beast.
She tried to think of the Archoyles as everyone else did, but all she felt was fear and hatred. The Archoyles were the saviors of the human race. The Archoyles were angels sent from God. The Archoyles were merciful, honest, righteous, humane, and pious.
But they had taken her parents away, and that is one of the few acts a child can never forgive. She hated them. She hated them with all the irrational, undignified, passionate fury of a gone child.
The creature before her was a male. His face was worn with age and chapped from the wind of many frosted, nighttime flights. His body were thick and scarred from a life of battle. He was a Roamer, not one of the hive Archoyles that had taken the adults away. That meant that he was here to take the children to another village, were they could be raised and cared for until more came and took that village too.
The Roamer Archoyle clawed his way awkwardly from the roof of the bus and into an open window near the driver's seat. The bus tipped and creaked to one side under his weight, but all four wheels stayed squarely on the dirt. Fabriki watched him, her eyes narrowing unconsciously as they fallowed his every unnatural move. He reached under the wheel and attached something round and dark from his bag near the pedals. Fabriki was not fluent enough in old technology, or Archoyle magic, to know what it could be; but whatever it was started the engine up immediately. The roar of long abandoned machinery echoed out through the fog, startling Fabriki and drawing scared whimpers from some of the younger children. The somber gathering moved closer together, their forms appearing ire and spiritlike in the mist. There were less than thirty children gathered here waiting for the bus, and only five babies. Fabriki guessed that some of the village kids had decided to remain behind and risk it on their own; she had once done so herself. But it hadn't taken long for her to realize that life was a lot easier with the rules and order of an adult village.
The Roamer shambled across the inside of the bus and braced itself against the walls near the door, then kicked it out of its frame. The sound of screaming metal reverberated out into the deserted town, echoing in the empty homes. A distant cry started up beneath the fog; it was the cry of a baby. Fabriki listened closely, unsure at first if what she was hearing really was a human child. The crying continued on as the other children started to file onto the bus silently, the Roamer standing at the door like an abhorrent sentry.
Fabriki hesitated. Although life had leeched away most of her sympathy, it had left her with some humanity. Could she leave this helpless being behind? She could see the curious faces of the other children as they peered out the dirty windows of the old bus. They were wondering what she was doing. Would the bus leave if she left to get the baby?
She thought she knew the difference between right and wrong. But Fabriki was a child whose ethical values had been built in solitude, and without the normal thought pattern a parent might have instilled; her's was a world centered around individual survival. She saw right as any action that led to safety. Wrong was any action that led to death. Leaving the bus would certainly bring her closer to death. Joining the other children, and getting a new family, was the right choice.
Yet still she stood, alone, in the fog. The need to work out what it was that held her outside the bus caused her to re-examine morality, as best a damaged eight-year-old could. If her choice could be reached by such easy means as deciding between right and wrong, why had she even stopped to consider staying behind? Because she knew she was different from the other children on that bus. She knew she had not been born to live their lives of squalor; barely surviving, moving from one life to the next; until one day, the Archoyles would come and offer them salvation. And they would take it gladly; what the Archoyles had to offer was pure bliss compared to the lives they were forced to live. The Archoyles were the known and revered saviors of humans because they brought freedom from memories, and the never ending torments that walked hand in hand with existence. They took the adults because they were suffering the most. It was the Archoyles who had first recognized life for what it was; an uneven balance between pain and relief.
The suffering children on that bus would go with the Archoyles gladly; but Fabriki would not. That sudden contradictory realization proved to her young mind that she would never be like the others.
Wrong was any action that led to death. Previously, that law had been applied only toward putting off her own death; but now she realized that there were other ways at looking at the laws she had composed. Everything she had ever known about herself was purely relative; was morality objectively true? Could she apply the same laws of right and wrong to every moral dilemma she encountered? Could right contradict right, and wrong be right after all?
Fabriki had questioned herself like this before. But never before could the possible repercussions of her choice affect her life so drastically. She had never been more certain that she was nothing like the people she had lived with all her life.
It was wrong to leave the baby. If she left the bus, that would also be wrong. If she got on the bus, the baby's inevitable death would also be wrong. If she saved the baby, its safety would be right. Did these contradictions cancel each other out, or did one tip the scales? Fabriki's black and white morals had failed her. The potential objectivity of morality had failed her. Anything religion had taught her was tainted with blind faith in the Archoyles, and could not be trusted. She had already decided the Archoyles were wrong.
The baby's cries seemed to be growing louder and more urgent. The Archoyle that stood at the door to the bus, and the door to eventual salvation, seemed to be becoming increasingly impatient as well.
It was then that Fabriki received a moment of clarity. She knew what to do. The Archoyles were wrong; safety, and the avoidance of death and wrong was the right choice. Avoiding wrong is more important than fallowing what is right. That was a law she could put together from her own experiences quite easily. The baby's death would be wrong. The Archoyles were wrong. Her own safety was right, but it was unimportant compared to the terrible wrong she would commit by leaving the baby behind.
Fabriki turned around and walked away from the bus into the swirling mist, into the town and the baby's cries. If she had stopped to look back, she would have seen a curious expression on the Roamer's inhuman face. That expression might have frightened her, but nothing could frighten her as much as her departure had frightened the Roamer.