Nanite Verge Union Component Breaker. He was a tall, thin, merciless killer. Talon's bane and self-proclaimed War Elemental, Verge scoured the Fishbowl, his home, for remnants of his enemy; that cursed empire.
No more than two years ago, Talon had brought his blightful presence to Enuth. And, in no more than two years, Verge had brought Talon and his empire to his knees. It was said that Law, that Fate, that god, brought Talon to the Spawning Dimension to exact revenge against The Twelve. Verge didn't care. That wasn't his war. And so, in under two years, Nanite Verge Union Component Breaker brought ruin to the empire of Talon, killing the emperor and laying waste to all planets who served him.
It is common knowledge that everything in existence is sphere-shaped. It is common knowledge that at the center of it all sits the Spawning Dimension, source of all worlds. All worlds, planets, and dimensions issue forth from its blinding light, slowly drifting to the edge of existence and out of sight. It is common knowledge that at the center of that, The Twelve live in their pure, white palace. They are the gods of the Fishbowl. They brought the Fishbowl into existence. By their will, the Fishbowl remains.
The moon shone blood red as it silhouetted Verge's slender form. His glowing red eyes could have been holes in his head, but regardless, created a fearsome image for the survivors of his latest attack. Cleaning up after yourself was always the worst part of destroying an empire. Verge found out rather quickly, that it was not as simple a matter as cutting off a snakes head. However, he didn't mind finishing off any planets that still groundlessly and faithfully followed Talon.
Verge stood among the ashes of the recently destroyed temple. Those who survived the collapse crawled out from the remains of what had been a holy place. As he approached, readying himself to kill those who remained, they called out to their heathen gods and to Talon himself to deliver them. He might have let them go if they hadn't called upon Talon's name. Maybe. The names of Shameth and Creej didn't bother him. It was his name.
"A promise is a promise," he said quietly to himself, the smiled from ear to ear.
A sharp voice came from behind him. It was strong and bold. Verge knew it. He only knew one person whose voice sounded like it was made of rusty knives when he was mad. "That's enough, Verge!" shouted Owen from behind him, every consonant scraping him with oxidized metal.
"Nanite 01 has requested an audience with you. You will come with us," a harsh woman's voice boomed in Verge's ear. Scarlet stood just to his left.
They say she was named Scarlet because she was born with pure red hair. Verge's hair was still its original black tone. Scarlet, Owen, and all of the other old Nanites, had hair of a thin silver color; a Nanite's hair.
"This is no time to be thinking about hair," said a third voice behind him. That arrogant tone. More arrogant than himself. That sharp "h" in hair. The mind reading. It was Ford, that bastard Technician. "Now now, Verge. That wasn't a very nice thing to say."
"I didn't say anything," Verge said coldly as Ford smirked.
"You have no idea how much trouble you've caused me," said Owen, closer now. "The Nation can no longer allow you to go around and do as you please. Don't try to fight this. You know any one of us could take you now."
"Very well," said Verge. He began to turn towards Owen; his commander.
There was a hard blow to his head. As he faded away, Verge heard Owen speak to his tumbling body, "I wasn't asking."
There was a warm darkness that grew colder and colder. Still unconscious, Verge became aware of what was happening. Breaker was shrinking. Breaker was gone. No, that's impossible. It's impossible to remove a component from its host without killing them both. That's what Verge had been told. Still, Verge remained helpless as that little voice in his gut faded and was replaced by what usually talks back down there, guts.
A sharp pain in Verge's head jolted him awake. The pain was like two white-hot needles in his eyes. It was light. It was the kind of pain one experiences when one lives underground for a decade and then returns to the surface on a bright summer day, or so he imagined.
Muddy voices floated around his head as the room spun beneath him. Things became clearer. Verge could make out where he was. It was the grand hall of 01, lord of the Nanite race, his master. He lay in the middle of the cold, white marble floor and tried to get his bearings. Things got clearer still.
At one end of the great hall were five thrones, one for the head of each Nanite caste. He looked behind himself as he became more aware of his surroundings. He saw in the amphitheater at the other end of the hall, more nanites than he had ever seen before sat. They seemed agitated and were throwing insults, apparently at him. There was a small wooden stool beside him. The world snapped into order.
In one of the thrones sat Owen, leader of the warrior caste. Beside him was Scarlet, head of the Defenders. Ford, the Healer, and the Runner were there as well. Verge was terrible with names. He tried to stand but his strength failed him. He steadied himself on the stool, easing himself onto it, holding his still-spinning head in his hands.
"By Eros, It moves!" Ford said. The crowd jeered. Owen gave Ford a dirty look. Under his breath, he snuck in, "Funny, isn't it? How the renegades always come from your caste."
Owen glanced sideways, but said nothing. He slowly and deliberately stood up and made a motion for the crowd to become silent. The roar died down.
"Nanite Verge Union Component Breaker," Owen began, "You have been brought here because you have deliberately and most villainously disobeyed the will of the Nanite Nation and, even more disgraceful, the will of 01. You have been charged with the needless destruction of over thirty-seven innocent systems. You have avoided and on two occasions, assaulted your pursuers. What can you say in your defense?"
"They were followers of Talon. They had one intent and that was to disrupt the order of the Fishbowl. They had to be stopped!" Verge said, pleadingly. He began to realize that the consequences for his actions were about to catch up with him. And he still couldn't sense Breaker.
"And Nanites Breia and Nother who were assaulted while attempting to apprehend you?" Ford interrupted.
"They attacked me," said Verge, trying to stay calm, "I was acting in self defense."
"They were acting in the defense of innocent people!" Scarlet shouted as she jumped to her feet. "You were supposed to let the dissemination teams and the Guardians deal with clean up. They are specially trained for such circumstances."
"But I didn't," said Verge, matter-of-factly.
"No, and your record was far from perfect. In fact, we can site at least two incidents when–"
"Ah hem!" Owen cleared his throat with such volume, the hall was left silent. "If the two of you would stop chatting with my subordinate, perhaps this trial could finish."
"QUITE RIGHT. WE HAVE MADE A DECISION," came a booming voice from the floor near Verge. Familiar though the voice was, he was still always knocked off his feet when 01 spoke; proof that he was still young. The voice had a certain warmth to it, like Verge's grandfather, but was commanding and filled your head with every syllable, markedly unlike Verge's grandfather.
The tall figure was with them suddenly, or perhaps had always been there. Regardless, 01 stood in the center of its great hall, looking down upon the sprawling Verge.
Verge tried to get up. He couldn't. He tried to speak, but he suddenly found himself without volume. The world began to grow smaller, black around the edges. The edges pushed in further until only 01's head remained in an infinite cloud of darkness. Then there was again darkness.
In the great hall of 01, the Nanite god stood over its fallen subject as the boy faded from view. It turned to the caste leaders.
"Well?" said Ford.
"WE HAVE DECIDED TO CAST HIM INTO AN ORDEAL."
"ENOUGH. OUR DECISION IS FINAL. ANYONE WHO WISHES TO CHALLENGE US IS WELCOME TO TRY."
There were several seconds of uneasy silence. Scarlet and Ford took their seats again.
"YOU MAY ALL LEAVE NOW. OWEN, YOU WILL REMAIN."
Several seconds of blurs and flashes later, the room was empty save for Owen and his master, the first Nanite, 01. A slight breeze was all the evidence that, only moments earlier, thousands of members of the Nanite Nation had filled the marble hall.
"Yes, my lord?"
"OWEN. THIS BOY IS STILL NEEDED. WE HAVE GIVEN TO HIM A MOST PRECIOUS GIFT, OUR HERO COMPONENT. THE ORDEAL WE HAVE THRUST UPON HIM WILL PREPARE HIM FOR WHAT IS NEXT."
"And what's happening next?"
"PERHAPS ANOTHER TIME OWEN. GATHER TEN OF YOUR BEST NANITES. THE GUARDIANS HAVE REQUESTED A HIGH SECURITY ESCORT. THE DOCUMENTS HAVE BEEN SENT TO YOUR DESK."