I’m glad ya’ll have enjoyed the Gearstorm stories so far. We still have high hopes on the kickstarter and it’s only half-done. Today I have another story for you. This one takes place after Day 1, Reboot Humanity and continues to focus on the oddities and dangers of the ICA colony.
If you are enjoying these shorts, please hop over to the game’s kickstarter page and take a look. Thanks!
Now, on to the fiction!
This short is a sequel to the story Short: Day 1, Reboot Humanity. It is set approximately 240 days later. At this point, the ICA colony is unaware of the presence of phage or other humans on the planet.
Note: This story is not a cannon start to the Gearstorm game.
"Reiner," Julia's voice came in over his cybernetic comm, "I need you at the core. We've got a legit reincarnation."
Sergeant Major Tiberius Reiner sighed and turned his armored flatbed truck around. "It's called a code-R Julia and I don't believe in it. Remember we decided not to call this event a reincarnation if it happens? It'll make things worse for them and confusing for us."
"Say that when you get here," she snapped, hanging up on him.
Bumping back down the dirt road from the tree farm, Reiner's truck--stacked half-full of logs--made it to the outer perimeter of "home" about an hour later. Mass-fabricated stone walls stood about fifteen feet high, surrounding a cleared dirt area and a handful of small wooden buildings. In the center of it all was the domed metal crash site of the core. An AI-powered clone fabrication unit which could make people. Including Reiner himself.
"Howdy, Corporal Sato," Reiner said as he drove past the only watch tower. Two stories up, the Japanese-looking man in powered armor shouldered his assault rifle and waved back.
"Welcome back Sir," Sato said. "I've heard a scream from the core. Julia needs your help."
"Roger that," Reiner said. "Watch out tonight Sato. I saw some giant lizard thing out there today and it was eating the guy we've been calling the 'big f-ing lizard'. You might want to keep the big guns in the tower for a bit."
"Yes sir," Sato said, saluting before he returned to sternly gazing at the forest around them.
Reiner moved on to the next problem. Sato was the third person he'd had the core make and he was a military-spec human like Reiner. Unlike Reiner, who was more of a survivalist type, Sato was pure combat. All augmented strength, reflexes, and insanely good aim. If Sato couldn't handle it, well it probably couldn't be handled.
Reiner drove his flat-bed into the dirt parking area in the middle of the compound. He was just stepping down when a naked man covered in green gel ran out of the core waving a pistol.
"Thank god!" the man said. "Reiner! It's you! Tell me where I am!"
Reiner flinched at the recognition. Behind the naked man, Dr. Julia was inside the cloning core. She picked herself up to limp out after the naked guy. Reiner was relieved that she didn't appear to be bleeding anywhere.
"You're on Apollyon," Reiner curtly told the naked guy. "Hey Julia. What's this guy's name?"
"Harvey," she said, as she reached the door. "Doctor Harvey Rodwell. He's an agricultural specialist."
"Alright Harvey--" Reiner started to say but was cut off as a the pistol was shoved into his faceplate.
"You're not the real Tiberious Reiner!" screamed Harvey, brandishing the pistol. Reiner decided that he'd had enough of the firearm. He slapped it out of Harvey's hand with one swat of his armored hand. The piece landed twenty feet away in the dirt.
"That's my name," Reiner stated simply. "I'm Sergeant Major Reiner of the ICA."
"NO," Harvey said, looking around wildly. "No, you're not! Sergeant Major Reiner worked with my lab as a U.S. military consultant on xeno-colonization deployment. You aren't him! You just look like him."
Julia had limped to Reiner's side at this point. She raked a hand through her black hair and took a swing off her flask. He still wasn't sure where the hell she'd managed to get the alcohol.
"I told you this was a code-R," she said. "He's got full memories of the before time on Earth. It's reincarnation. It has to be."
Harvey's legs finally gave out, he sank to the ground before Reiner. "What is going on here?"
Reiner sighed, feeling sorry for the guy. "I'm a clone of Sergeant Major Reiner. The original is probably fourteen hundred years dead. You're a clone of Doctor Harvey Rodwell, I might add."
"Fourteen hundred years?!" Harvey said, his eyes wide in shock.
"Yeah," Reiner said. "Doesn't JulAI teach you anything?" He'd renamed the core's AI to avoid confusion once Doctor Julia had been created by it. Now the AI who stamped out new people was named JulAI. Every now and then, Reiner still chuckled over the cleverness of the name.
"She didn't say we were fourteen hundred years in the future! What happened to Earth and Mars?"
Reiner looked at Julia, neither had a good answer. "We don't know."
"It's EARTH! How can you not know?!"
Reiner shook his head. "I'm only 240 days old, Doc. What do you want from me? Be glad we are standing here at all."
Harvey's brown eyes stared at him in disbelief. Then the agri-scientist looked beseechingly at Julia.
"Don't look at me," she said, patting Reiner on his shoulder. "I'm only 100 days old."
"This can't be happening," Harvey said, mostly to his hands as his face dropped into them.
Reiner shrugged. "Julia, go get your ankle fixed up. I'll get Harvey rinsed off and in clothing."
"Tah tah, don't break his brain. Ok, Reiner? We all busted our butts hunting raptrax to make him," she said, limping off to the 'medical' log cabin to doctor herself. Reiner liked that about Julia, nothing ruffled her for long -- unlike other members of their growing colony.
"I won't," Reiner shot back. "He knows stuff about the old place. I have so many questions JulAI can't answer."
"Raptrax?" Harvey asked as Reiner pulled him to stand.
Guiding the still naked argi-scientist back into the core, Reiner found the jumpsuit Julia had brought over for his awakening. He shoved it at Harvey and turned away.
"They aren't actually lizards," Reiner said. "They are alien what-the-hells who look like lizards. We need a lot of protein, amino-acids, and other assorted biological materials to make a new human. Anyway, the lizards are big, and now we've got a truck to haul them in, it's a lot faster for us to make clones now than before. So yeah man, you're made of like 99% bad-ass space monster."
Harvey put on the jumpsuit quietly, thinking about it. "I really am just a clone... How do I have all these memories then? I remember Earth. I also remember being 76, which this body is most certainly not."
Reiner shrugged. "We theorized this might happen. Skill and knowledge recording is done by these black-box neural AI programs. Nobody knows how they work or what they record. It's likely that the original Harvey was neuroatypical and bound up his language and know-how with his memories in a way the rest of us didn't."
Then Reiner gestured with his thumb in the direction of the medical hut and Julia. "Or you can think of it as reincarnation. Whatever floats your boat and gets you to make a farm for us, I don't really care which. But we'll find out for sure when we make another Harvey one day."
Harvey looked at him in horror. "Another me?!"
Reiner grinned. "Yup. We've only got eighteen people to chose from. Eventually, we're gonna have to make a duplicate of someone." He opened his armor's face plate to scratch his stubbly chin. "Not sure how we're gonna handle that haha. Julia suggested numbering ourselves like Harvey 2 and such. Sato and I aren't fond of that idea. No one's gonna say 'Hi Reiner 2' in conversation. I'm thinking we'll just make people use middles names for round 2."
Harvey put his head in his hands. "Alien proteins, clones, false memories, numbered versions of myself?! Can we call ourselves humans anymore?"
Reiner pointed out the door at a nearby tree just outside the walls. A fat brown animal, kinda like a porcupine, was eating nuts hidden in its branches. "If it makes you feel any better, I made Julia out of those guys. You have no idea how long it took me to hunt enough of em."
"About 140 days going by your ages," Harvey said more than asked. "Not bad for a fully grown medical professional. You know they normally take 35 years to reach the double-doc level right?"
As they both watched the pudgy ball of spikes eat, something scared it, causing the animal to scramble. It gracelessly lost it's grip and fell several branches with a squawk and a plop.
"Yeah, she was mad when she found out..." Reiner said. "But screw you, it was 140 days of living on the razor's edge. I constantly worried that I'd break a leg or succumb to an infection Julia couldn't fix. Starvation and plain old getting eaten by some violent monster were also on the table. If anything bad had happened to me, mankind's second chance was over. And believe me there were some close calls. You have it easy by comparison, there's like six of us now. I don't have to walk around like I'm a precious egg anymore."
Reiner decided not to talk about the incredible awkwardness he and Julia had dealt with in the first few weeks of her life. Shortly after her creation, the core with the clone-stamper had broken. Their playful flirting and friendly bonding over survival had turned weird when faced with an actual Adam & Eve scenario. She'd fixed it a week later, but that hadn't saved Reiner from saying some things he was still embarrassed about. He was only saved by Julia's remarkably easy-going nature.
Harvey sighed. "So what do I do around here then? You mentioned a farm?"
Reiner grinned. "We're tired of being hunter-gatherers. We have a base, so we can't follow the herds or crap like that. I need you to reinvent agriculture."
"You have to be kidding," Harvey said. "This is a collection of wooden buildings on an alien world. Do you know how long it took humanity to domesticate even the Neolithic crops?"
"Nope," Reiner replied, hooking his thumbs in his weapon belt. "My day 1 was 'reboot humanity' and I'm just a grunt who likes camping. It can't be harder than that for a top farm sciences guy like yourself." He held out a hand to Harvey. "Come on, I'll show you how many surprises these wooden buildings hold. We're not exactly the stone age around here."
Harvey took it and stood up, still a little shaky. "I guess I don't have a choice. Ok. Father of modern agriculture it is then."
"That's the spirit."
If you’d like more Gearstorm shorts, then just click the Gearstorm tag and it’ll bring up everything. Same goes for the short stories tab if you just want to check out more of my fiction and such.