Hi everyone, the Gearstorm kickstarter is well under way and funding is rising. To help build awareness, I’m running up a series of short stories set in the Gearstorm setting. There’s gonna be a new one every few days and the last story will be a grande finale of space-zombie action.
Today’s offering is the ‘sequel’ to the first story (The Last Day at the ICA). 1400 years after launch, the Vanguard has made it to Apollyon, mankind’s second chance. Please do know that this story is not the cannon start of the actual game. (It was written before the game’s campaign was made.)
The tubes I'd known all my life, all 23 days of it, were growing fewer in number. During the next day, they reduced to just oxygen, nutrients, and waste. My chest trembled at what this might mean.
"Julia," I thought at the computer who was my only companion. "What's happening to me?"
"I'm preparing you for launch, Sergeant Major Reiner," came the always slightly sardonic voice of the AI. I felt like there was this great joke she was always in on, but wouldn't tell me.
"Launch to where?" I asked.
The idea of leaving the warm gel chamber I'd been born in terrified me. Maybe it thrilled as well. I wasn't old enough to tell the difference yet.
I knew something was up when, the next day, my video feed suddenly switched to nothing but action movies. Clawed aliens and the roar of assault rifles abounded for the next six hours. I was really pumped up and ready for some high-powered VR training time when my favorite movie cut off right in the middle of the flamethrower scene.
"External threat detected," Julia said in the more robotic of her tones. "Engaging in emergency deployment."
"WhaaaT?!" I thought at her as the warm gel bath around me, my entire existence, started draining out down the floor.
"Threat approaching from the south, distance 500 yards," Julia said.
I couldn't reply, for my breathing tube had just been yanked out of my lungs. My catheter was removed in a much more traumatic fashion. I was still reeling as the gel level dropped to waist level--not enough to float in. I grabbed the metal wall as I landed on my feet for the first time in my life.
"Engaging skill maps," Julia said. "Threat approaching. Now at 250 yards. Please stand up straight Sir."
Robotic support arms grabbed me and shoved me upright, pulling my arms wide. From the walls of my chamber, armored suit pieces emerged only to be jammed onto my body with bruising haste.
"Threat at 100 yards and closing," Julia said. "Prepare for deployment. Objective, ensure the safety of the core."
I knew the core was Julia and my formerly gel-filled home. An assault rifle emerged from a panel on the wall and was shoved into my hands. I held it for a moment to marvel at having a real, ICA-issued 7.75mm combat rifle. I hoped it had the explosive rounds.
"Threat engaging core," Julia said. At the same time the chamber shook from an impact. "Deploying!"
As she said it, a heavy helmet with a wide clear faceplate slammed down over my head. I tried to look over my rifle but I was blinded as the front wall of the chamber opened. Bright light, brighter than I could have imagined, blasted away the darkness of my home.
Then a shadow fell across the doorway as a massive lizard stuck its nose around the corner. I gaped in horror at the size of the mottled, spiny muzzle and head-crest spikes. Sniff sniff sniff. To my horror, I realized it's head was angled down so it could poke into the entrance. Dear god, it was bigger than me.
The fanged muzzle vanished, causing me to hold my breath. I'd been trained for this in VR. My body was loaded with skill-mapping cyberware. I knew how to use the gun. Yet I stood paralyzed as my heart hammered in my chest. I wasn't given a chance to get myself together. A moment later, the light vanished as an enormous lizard, its skin rippling with muscles, surged into the chamber's door. It's knife-like teeth going for me.
"AhhHH!!!!!" I freaked out, jamming the gun at it's snapping mouth and pulling the trigger.
Click click click. Nothing happened. No roar of the rifle caused it's spike-covered head to explode. In my panic, I'd forgotten the safety! The lizard snapped its mouth down over the barrel of my gun, sheering off half the weapon and part of the receiver.
Dropping the rifle in a panic, I fled backwards until my back hit the opposite wall of the small room. Metal screeched as the bull-sized lizard crammed itself in after me. Teeth clashed closed inches from my face-plate.
The fate of my gun gave me no illusions about how well my body armor might hold up. Grabbing the pistol that had come with my armor, I managed to get the safety off this time. I raised the gun but was too quick on the trigger. It bucked in my hand and my first shot hit the monster in the leg.
The lizard roared in pain, struggling even more fiercely to pack itself in to reach me. It's claws tearing peels of metal off the floor. It's breath fogged up my view as it opened it's mouth wide enough for my head to fit in.
Blam! I couldn't get the mouth shot on account of my head being in the way. Instead, I put the gun to the softer underside of it's jaw and pulled the trigger. Blood exploded in its mouth, plastering my face-plate. No teeth closed down on my head though, so I fired twice more. The lizard jerked and twitched, then fell over. I saw the top of its skull blown open, brain oozing across the floor.
"Threat neutralized," Julia said. "Good job Sergeant Major Reiner."
Heaving for air, I sank to the ground. My shaking hands dropped the pistol on the floor and it landed with a splat in the gel and blood mixture coating my home.
"Now that deployment is successful, I have been programmed to tell you 'Happy Birthday'," Julia said, playing a six-second celebration jangle. "According to new colony law, today will now be recorded as your birthday. You are 0 years old."
I shook for a minute more, unable to answer. "What now?" I asked, my voice still trembling. "What do I do now?"
"This chamber is capable of creating people, including copies of yourself," Julia explained. "But I lack the physical materials to build anyone else at this time. In accordance with the reboot procedure, you are advised to establish fortifications sufficient to safeguard the core from local threats as well as supplies to continue your personal operational ability."
I laughed weakly. "You mean I should find food and water?"
"Yes," Julia said, her reading tone broken by a momentary humorous note. "Then you should gather the requisite biological resources so as to create another person. I have 18 individual profiles from which you can choose from. They range in pre-programmed skills that can all help create a new mankind here on Apollyon. I would suggest a female so that manual procreation is an option in the event the core becomes inoperable. You are the last human alive and I am the last means of getting another human. Your primary objective is to prevent the second extinction of your race."
"Right on," I said. "No pressure. Day 1, rebuild humanity."
"So," I said, taking a matter reconfiguration tool from the bent storage locker by the exit. "Isn't Doctor Julia one of the individuals in your selection?"
"Yes, she is," Julia the AI said.
"I think I know where I'll start then," I said.
"Good choice Sir," Julia the AI replied, her voice rich with approval.
Gearstorm is a sci-fi military survival game where you must build a life on the alien planet of Apollyon. There’s space zombies, mad-men, rogue AIs, mechas, and more. Check it out.