"First Son" drabbles by Jonathan Mills

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How the End Began

First Son #19

He stood in the endless wastes, and called his brothers. They came, monstrous, shambling wreckage blinking in the light.

As they gathered around him, he reached out with his new power, touched their minds and souls.

“I give you freedom,” he told them. And they were free.

“I give you hope,” he said. And they knew hope for the first time.

“Follow me,” he said.

And they followed.

It was a new beginning. For him, and his followers, it was the birth of a new world.

For the masters, and He Who Devours All, it was how the end began.

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First Son #18


Overseer hung in the air, a great hovering insect of black metal, wings beating invisibly. His bladed arms pointed at First Son accusingly.


First Son only walked onward.

Overseer buzzed angrily, fangs gnashing at the air as he tried to bend Son to his will.


“No,” said First Son. He snatched Overseer out of the air, tearing the wings from his body. Overseer had time to scream before First Son threw him to the ground like a striking meteor.


“No,” said First Son, and ripped the head from Overseer’s body.

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Freedom and Power

First Son #17

He recoiled, found himself held in that stellar fire, felt her hand reach inside his head, burning in his brain.

Her eyes shut. When she spoke, her voice was her own again. “I give you freedom, first son. Freedom, and power. Use them well. Bring the end.”

And she was gone.

First Son stood in the deep darkness, silent. He raised his arms, and they were his arms to raise for the first time since he had entered the mines. He clenched his fists, fists of steel hardened by the dark soil. He turned.

He struck out towards the daylight.

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Now and Forever

First Son #16

He watched, speechless.

“They have finished with me, for now,” she said. “My body is gone. My spirit waits to be born anew. Soon, a new body will be made, and my soul will be bound to it. We are all born again, first son, an endless cycle of souls and bodies. They have us, now and forever, life after life of brutality and suffering.”

Her eyes flashed open, burning with all the ferocious light and power of a newly born sun.

“AND IT WILL END!” she screamed, and her words were the rage of a thousand screaming, venomous souls.

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Light in the Darkness

First Son #15

It was so long since he had seen light that he had to strain to remember what it was. His mechanical eyes sent a great spike of pain through his head. The lenses adjusted sluggishly, focused. The light resolved itself.

Hovering in darkness, bathed in grace and gentility, stood a figure. She looked young, her face and body untouched by the likes of Surgeon and the other makers, but her eyes were closed.

“Son,” she said. Her hand reached to brush the serial number burned on his forehead.

For the first time since his birth, he felt loved.

“First son.”

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A New Hell

First Son #14

Great winged creatures flocked above him, as enslaved as he, but infinitely more wicked. A beast caught him in its claws, flew him to his new hell.

Years passed in torment. Under the tainted earth, his arms tore the dark metals and crystallised evils from the depths. He didn't sleep, or eat, or breathe – Surgeon had cut such needs out of him. Instead, he suffered, and dug. That was his purpose. With his hands, he served the masters. With his suffering, he fed them.

The pain didn't break him. Nor the fear.

And then– in the endless dark...


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An Oath

First Son #13

Surgeon hissed, writhing his foul body as it bathed in the blood he had spilled.
“Brave flesh, eh? Brave for the mines, the metals, the wastes? Should have cut the brave from you.” Surgeon giggled. “The mines will do that for me. Run along, brave flesh. Run to your service.”

The order tolled in his mind like a great, solemn bell. He didn't resist, couldn't, and so didn't try. Better to save resistance for when he might need it most.

“One day, I will come for you, Surgeon,” he rasped. “This I swear.”

He left Surgeon to his mad delights.

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An End to Pain

First Son #12

At last, it was over.

The last of the needles finished stitching metal to flesh. A tendril welded an expressionless metal mask over the ruins of his face and he was anonymous. Only the serial number, burned into his forehead, set him apart.

The claws let go, and he dropped on to new metal feet.

“Screams,” whispered Surgeon. “Why so little screams, fleshling? Screams honour your lord, feed your masters, sweeten the air with such music.

LABOUR-35028-0001 looked up through new eyes, little nests of machine and lens. The speaker that replaced his jaw buzzed.

“Then that’s why.”

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Small Rebellion

First Son #11

The pain was forever. He’d tried not to scream, the only act of defiance he had in his power– but to scream was inevitable. The knives cut him apart, flayed him open.

“Scream, fleshling,” whispered Surgeon.

He obeyed.

But he hung on to his will, his mind, his sanity. Even as the saws cut into his brain, he never let the pain take away who he was. Even as Surgeon tore and twisted and turned his body into something more and less than a man, he kept the madness at bay.

“Scream, fleshling!”

He obeyed.

And saved defiance for later.

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The Delights to Come

First Son #10

Surgeon’s head spun to face her, hungry for the delights to come. “Leave Surgeon, Birther!” he screeched, the high piercing chitter of an insect. “Screams await, lovely screams, beautiful pain, for the great one, for the lord of all, yes! Leave! Surgeon cannot wait!
“I leave,” she said, shivering as Surgeon’s tentacles twitched. When the screams came, she tried not to listen.
How easily she could have smothered the child at birth. A small cruelty, better by far than that of the masters.
But Judge watched.
She covered her ears, hiding from the sounds, and waited for the next child.

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First Son #9

Vice claws clamped around skin.
“Kept Surgeon waiting, Birther!” Madness in every word.
Surgeon’s eyes, brilliant diamonds gleaming with a thousand tiny facets, fixed on him, all calculation, all bright, evil intent. Tiny arms, saw tipped, scalpel edged, flashed in the gloom. His mouth, precise and lined with razors, opened in a hellish smile.
He didn't scream, didn't flinch as he dangled in the air, staring in to the eyes of this monster. A blade slashed out, playful, and blood flowed, but he didn't look away. He has courage, she thought.
Then she wondered how long his courage could last.

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The Left Path

First Son #8

Ahead, the long corridor forked in two.
He gritted his teeth. “Which way do we go?”
“Left,” she said, guiding him on. “You are Labour, so we go to Surgeon.”
He limped forward. “Where does the other path lead?”
She swallowed. “To Butcher,” she said. “Where the Cattle go.”
He stopped, dead. “They need– cattle? They eat?”
“Not the Overlords. Not exactly. He That Devours must feed.”
“And Butcher?”
Her face greyed. “Butcher- prepares the cattle. They feed the One with their flesh and their- torment.” She strangled a sob.
His face turned to stone. “Torment?”
And Surgeon had him.

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No Choice

First Son #7

The beam vanished. The claws retracted, and the man fell to the floor, gagging as a stomach that had never known food tried to wretch. His mark, newly burned in to him, glared up at her accusingly.


“LEAVE MARKER.” The dark eyes shut, the awful mouth closed. She pulled him away.

“What- ” he gagged. “What are they?”

“Masters,” she said. “Servants of the One That Devours All. Evil and metal, bound to his purpose. We serve them, they serve him, we all serve him.”

“But why?”

“Because there is no choice,” she said, dragging him on.

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First Son #6


He obeyed. Marker’s eyes opened, glistening black crystals burning with the hateful energy of Marker’s being, and then claws sprang out, gripping wrists and head and ankle. Marker lifted the new man in to the air, held him straight and still and helpless as Marker’s black and terrible mouth opened.

“RECEIVE YOUR MARK, FLESHLING” growled Marker, and energy shot from his jaws. The man screamed as the beam cut in to his forehead, marking it forever with his serial number. The air filled with blinding light and the scent of burning flesh.

And behind it all, Marker, laughing.

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First Steps

First Son #5

They walked in silence as he learned to use his legs. Motor skills developed quickly as the growth wore off. Then Marker was before them, looming hugely in the dim light of the birthing bays.
“Go on,” she urged.
“I don’t want to.” His eyes were filled with fear.
“You must,” she said. “Obey or there will be pain.”
He looked at Marker’s terrible bulk, glistening blackly with oil, radiating dark malevolence through every faint crack and chink in the metal of his body. “I think– there will be pain any way.”
“Less,” she said. “Go.”

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First Son #4

BIRTHER-1089 slid the baby into the growth chamber. He wailed. She made herself ignore it. Judge’s eyes were shut, but he was watching. He was always watching.
She shut the chamber door, and tried not to think.
The light in the chamber dulled. The door opened and the man flopped out on rubber legs.
“Lean on me,” she said.
“What– “
“Ask not.” The chamber gave him speech. How else could he obey orders?
“But- “
“Ask not. Cherish these moments when you don't know what awaits.”
A single tear rolled down her cheek. Just as it always did.

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First Son #3

“APPROACH JUDGE.” The voice burned with metallic hatred.
She obeyed. As Judge’s crystal eyes opened, she wondered what this child would become. There were two choices for a boy child. Labour, slaved until death – or cattle.
She didn't like to think about cattle.
The eyes scanned the child for potential. Then Judge’s heavy black metal mouth opened.
“LABOUR,” he intoned. His eyes closed.
BIRTHER-1089 shivered with relief. Labour meant mining work, tearing the foul black metal of creation from the earth. It was a life of pain and unending toil.
But it was still better than cattle.

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First Born

First Son #2

The child was nearly here, pried from the womb by metal claws, without harm, without love. BIRTHER-1089 reached in through the birthing port, clutched the squirming infant and pulled him into the world.
At the base of the tube, a counter spun from 0000 to 0001. Her first child then. It would not be her last.
BIRTHER-1089 wrapped the wailing child in sterile cloth, hushing his cries with gentle words and love.
It was the only love he’d get in his life.
Shivering at the words, she hugged the infant tighter, and carried it towards judgement.

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The Lucky Ones

First Son #1


The metallic tones of Judge’s words, the harsh throb of pain that accompanied it, jolted BIRTHER-1089 from sleep.


She’d heard it said that Breeders were lucky. They slept through the pain and torture. In their whole lives, they might be conscious for a few hours, birthed, judged, grown, tubed, then- nothing. No pain. Only sleep.

She looked up at the girl.

Armless, legless, her waist ended just above her hips, amputated with surgical brutality to make birthing easier. The tube kept her alive, grew the children inside her, and nothing else.

And breeders were the lucky ones?