The Skinnie Gambit
a Roughnecks fanfic by Mr. Hook

This is my third attempt at Roughnecks fan fiction. Of the fanfic I have written thus far, this story is perhaps the least "self sufficient." In other words, this story probably doesn't stand up too well on its own without reading my previous fanfic. Instead of trying to brief you on "the story so far," I heartily recommend that you read both "Human Beings Are Like That" and "Into the Dark Zone" before giving this one a try.


The Xon awoke with a start. Infernal Machines! He* couldn't believe it, this was the 142nd time the Machines had disturbed his slumber (* the pronouns "he" and "his" are used loosely here, there were actually six different types of.....on second thought, let's not go there). The Xon clambered to his feet* and made sure his stasis capsule was in proper working condition (* of course, he didn't really have 'feet' as such, but the analogy suffices). The capsule was working just fine, it was the infernal Machines that kept interrupting his life cycle at the most inconvenient of times. What was the point of creating artificial intelligences if they couldn't make up their minds and kept waking you up to make even the simplest of surveillance management decisions? Infernal Machines!

The Xon-which-was-in-charge-of-making-surveillance-management-decisions* stretched and exercised his various appendages to make sure nothing was damaged (* he didn't really have a name, unless you consider body odor and taste to be a designating factor). Everything seemed to be in working order, but the parts of him that sagged seemed to sag a little more than they had before. The parts of him that were supposed to be firm and taut seem firmer and tighter than he remembered. This was probably due to the relentless pace of being awakened every five hundred years or so to fix the Machines' stupid mistakes. This insidious aspect of his duties had never been mentioned when he had volunteered for the job over 71,000 years ago. The Machines will practically run themselves, his superiors had insisted, they'll only require routine maintenance checkups. Yeah, right.

The Xon sauntered* over to his remote surveillance console and logged on (* technically, the word 'sauntered' isn't even close to being an accurate description of what he did, suffice it to say, he wasn't in a big hurry). The Machines were all excited about some goings-on in the Ongoing Projects sector. The Bio-Engineers had suddenly been wiped out by a new race the Machines had designated as the Tool Users (which was the sort of tripe you got when you let the Machines make the designations). Should a maintenance drone be sent out to reconnoiter or should Project Designate 3495985340 be reset to its original parameters? The Machines wanted a decision. Any fool could see that even if the Bio-Engineers hadn't totally mucked things up (which they had), the Tool Users were just another unfortunate consequence in a long line of unfortunate consequences. The Bio-Engineers contaminated everything they touched, and the Tool Users were no exception. Obviously, the best thing to do was scrap the whole project and start over, which is precisely what the Xon told the Machines to do. Now that the constant threat of Bio-Engineer intervention had finally abated, it was best to nip this Tool User business in the bud by re-terraforming the planet now instead of later. Why the Machines couldn't have figured this out on their own, the Xon didn't care to speculate.

What he did speculate about was the fact that while he was here outside his precious sleep capsule getting older by the mili-second, his fellow Xon were snug in their beds, the exact same age as the day they had entered their capsules so long ago. While his body was now flabby and taut with age, the others were still their perfect, youthful selves. The injustice of it was insufferable! He was going to have to do something about that. Yes, he could see now that measures were going to have to be taken in order for justice to prevail. Infernal Machines!

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