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          We return every few years, compelled by some disposition towards sentiment, to visit our old home. Each time we pay tribute to our protector, note how well the synth-alloys of his hardware have held up against the elements, and how much more his great mass has settled into the rich ground that used to be our garden. We discuss taking his metal carcass away to a more fitting resting place, and always decide against it. His rusted visage ignites memories of the tales he told us, of how our parents sent us away during the war.
          Waves of invasion forces had overtaken system after system, and were approaching the world we were born on. When it was clear that the Conquerors could not be stopped, our parents summoned their swiftest war machine. He was told that they feared their children would be put into forced labor, or worse. While we slept they slipped us into hibernation cells and consigned us to the mechanoid's cargo tank. They loaded their knowledge into his memory. "Take them," our parents said to him, "Keep them safe and out of reach of the Conquerors' advance. Teach them to be strong, and moral, and just. They must know peace. They must endure." He obeyed and fled, with forty-six of us dead-alive in icy slumber, oblivious to the deeper colds of space. Behind him our world fell.
          We awoke here, on a world far from the war. It had water and wildlife, but little else of value to draw unwanted interest. Our memory of that early time is fragmented. We were sad to be away from our parents, but we had the war machine. He was our giant guardian, keeping us warm and safe.
          Our protector built us shelter, and soon showed us how to build our own. We learned to plant crops and cultivate a garden. As instructed, the war machine taught us the ways of our parents, the ethical codes and laws that were extinguished with the coming of the Conquerors, the works of philosophers and prolocutions of great leaders. We would recite the doctrines and disciplines of history as we sowed and tilled.
          We soon discovered that this world bore a hidden treasure: the environment itself was having an effect on us. The nutrients in the water and food made us stronger. Gases in the thin atmosphere triggered changes in our brain chemistries. Our protector told us we were forming a symbiotic bond with the planet itself. Our wounds healed quickly, our senses expanded, our understanding of things deepened.
          Into our burgeoning minds the protector sowed the knowledge of science. We forged metals, found fuel sources, and learned engineering skills. Our minds and bodies continued to grow. Before long we could speak to our protector, and each other, with only our thoughts. We could cast our gaze into space and see distant suns burning. Every night the protector told us the names of those distant suns, taught us the constellations and how to chart them. 
We had children of our own, born with our enhanced physiologies. Some could even move small objects with their minds. We built our cities, first of stone and later of glistening steel, around our garden. Time seemed to have little effect on us as we grew older.
          Then one morning our protector just stopped. The reactors and batteries designed to fuel him through battle had simply run dry. We tried to replenish his power and restart his systems, but he was gone. Without our teacher's guidance we did not know what to do.
From distant space we heard what could only be called a cry reaching our minds. We looked deep into the cosmos and saw the Conquerors burning a trail of tyranny across the night.
          It did not take us long to build ships.

          We flung ourselves across the depth of space driven by thoughts of our lessons. Be strong. Be moral. Be just. The Conquerors were about to attack a small planet. We stopped them. It wasn't that hard. The thick hulls of their ships were torn open with ease. The Conquerors were ripped from their battle armor and thrown broken into the void. Their technology was salvaged to enhance our own. The people of the planet were grateful, but we could hear the cries of other worlds.
          And so we began our crusade. In the names of our parents and our protector we went after the Conquerors. Their fleets hung over many worlds, but we confronted them all. With our strength we fell upon them. With moral certainty we shattered their hold on the vanquished worlds. With justice we slaughtered them. Space itself was ablaze with the fires of our campaign. Their fortresses were cracked asunder and their supply lines were severed.
          They began to retreat. We followed.
          They hid on barren worlds. We found them.
          There were so few of them left by the time they had been beaten back to their homeworld it did not seem worth attacking. We simply set the atmosphere ablaze.
          We were finished. A thousand worlds sung our praises.

          Those worlds have been under our governance for centuries now. We and generations of our progeny have repaired the damage the Conquerors had wrought. Science and enlightenment have been spread. We have taught the worlds to be strong, moral and just. Each planet hosts a garden of our design.
          Others tried to invade and conquer. They are now dead and forgotten.
          Some of us have heard faint transmissions from far past the edges of our realm. There are stories of cruel empires and unspeakable evils beyond the borders of our influence. We find this unacceptable. Strategies are already in place to expand the scope of our endeavors.
          In all of our realm only one world is forbidden to everyone but us: This one, the world that gave us strength and wisdom, and where our friend and protector stands vigil over the memories of our childhood.
          We know peace. We endure.
Children of the Ironclad       
2002 Bad Day Studio