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After The End, A Beginning
After The End, A Beginning
We called it the Traveler. And its arrival changed us forever. Great cities were built on Mars and Venus, Mercury became a garden world. Human lifespan tripled. It was a time of miracles. We stared out into the galaxy and knew that it was our destiny to walk in the light of other stars... but the Traveler had an enemy. A Darkness which had hunted it for eons across the black gulfs of space. Centuries after our Golden Age began, this Darkness found us, and that was the end of everything... But it was also a beginning.
Sometimes, you know from the moment you wake up that the day is just going to suck. Given that I woke up with the sun high above me, and I was lying on what was clearly dirt and some rather pointy rocks digging right into my lower spine, I was definitely in for a lousy time. Rolling away from the rocks and dragging myself up to my knees, I couldn’t contain a groan at the exhaustion running through my body, that odd feeling of both not enough sleep and sleeping too long. Holding back a yawn, I reached up to rub at my eyes, only to pause as my fingers bounced off some sort of visor.
As I started to actually wake up, it dawned on me that I wasn’t just wearing a visor. My entire head was encased inside a sealed helmet, and when I managed to open my eyes, I saw my hands and forearms were covered in a thick, grey material, armor plating included in the less flexible sections. Some sort of bodysuit, maybe body armor. Not a good sign. I didn’t know where I was. Another bad sign. And as I thought about it, I didn’t know how I got here. Maybe it was just the uncomfortable awakening, but when I tried to remember yesterday, it just refused to take shape in my mind. What the hell had happened to me?
“Guardian? Guardian. Eyes up, Guardian!” The woman's voice cut through the panic that was starting to form, and the exhaustion vanished as alarm filled my body. I jumped to my feet, ready for anything, ready to get some damn answers. That would have been nice. Instead, I found myself staring at what looked like some sort of tiny robot, slightly bigger than my hand, just floating in the air at about head height. A blue diamond optic stared at me from the grey central core, as a set of four white cones rotated around its forward half. “It worked,” it said, sounding almost gleeful. “You’re alive!”
Before I could ask for details on just what the hell that meant, the drone continued on, bouncing up and down in the air slightly. “You don’t know how long I’ve been looking for you. I’m a Ghost. Actually, I’m your Ghost. And you… well, you’ve been dead for a long time. So you’re going to see a lot of things you don’t understand.”
Luckily, with my face hidden behind my helmet, the machine couldn’t see the utterly baffled expression that comment caused. Dead. It thought I’d been dead? How did that even work? Death wasn’t some temporary condition you just got over. It was a permanent and final end. Really, the concept was ridiculous. This ‘Ghost’ had to be faulty.
I was completely certain of that. And then I turned my attention away from the robot for a moment to consider my surroundings. In front of me was a highway, one that looked like it had been abandoned for decades, maybe more. Grass, plants and even some small trees had done a good job of destroying the asphalt, and at least one section had collapsed at some point. But worse than that were the vehicles. Car, trucks, motorcycles… the road was covered in their rusted out shells. Swallowing instinctively, I took a step closer to the nearest car, looking in through where the passenger's side window should have been.
Flinching back, I couldn’t contain a gasp of horror as my brain processed the sight. The car hadn’t been abandoned. Inside, some still somewhat buckled up in their seats, were the long-decayed remains of the passengers. Between time and scavengers, almost nothing but bones remained, but that was still enough to get my heart racing as I looked at them. Especially the smaller pile in the back seat-
Thankfully, before I could truly finish processing the sight, and probably collapse into a panic attack, my attention was pulled away by a cry that echoed towards me from far down the highway. It was a mixed blessing though. While it distracted me from the graveyard in front of me, it was not a sound of safety. It was a shriek of rage and menace, a strange, animalistic bark that didn’t sound like it could have come from human lungs. And as I listened to it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was directed at me.
Next to me, the Ghost looked down the highway, then turned to me. “This is Fallen territory, we aren’t safe here,” it explained. “I have to get you to the city.” Considering that, I nodded slightly. Fallen was a word that invited all sorts of images, and none of them were really that pleasant. Wherever this city was, it sounded like the better option, at least until I could find out what the hell was going on. “Okay, hold still,” the Ghost added, before flying towards me and vanishing in a flicker of light.
As one would expect, that made me jump and look around slightly, before the Ghost spoke again, this time with an odd echo behind it. “Don’t worry, I’m still with you. Now, we need to move, fast.” I raised an eyebrow. It almost sounded like it was coming from... inside my head? What was this thing, and what had I gotten into?
Glancing back down the highway, I caught sight of movement in the distance. Humanoid figures, clad in red and brown, darting between the ruined cars in an attempt to stay out of sight. But even at this distance, I could see that they clearly weren’t human. Their proportions were slightly off, and the way they moved wasn’t quite right. They had to be the Ghosts Fallen. “Okay, you got a plan?” I asked, actually speaking for the first time since I woke up.
“We won’t survive long out in the open like this. Let’s get inside the wall.” Given that there wasn’t any kind of building in front of me, I turned around found the wall in question instantly. It was hard to miss once I was looking in its general direction, after all. The Wall, and it really needed to have a capital letter at the start of its name, was a massive structure, at least a hundred feet high, and stretching off in both directions for as far as the eye could see. Like the highway that ran up to it, it had clearly suffered from abandonment and time, steel panels missing or covered in rust, plants attacking the concrete, windows smashed in. Despite that, it was still an incredible sight that I had to stop and take in for just a moment.
I didn’t know what had happened. I still wasn’t sure I believed the Ghosts claims about my death. But I no longer had doubts about the validity of what I was seeing. Somehow, this was all real. Taking a breath, I ran for the Wall.
My first idea was the tunnel that the highway ran down into, but it was long buried by mud and dirt and was completely blocked off. Fortunately, there was a service entrance right next to it, with the door having fallen off at some point. I couldn’t see any other options, and I really didn’t want to be standing around outside when the Fallen on the road reached this point, so I charged in, taking the steps three at a time. Maybe I could lose them in the maintenance tunnels, find a dark corner or closet and stay there until they moved on.
While I considered that, it became clear that the Ghost was considering more proactive options. “Okay, I need to find you a weapon before the Fallen find us,” it said. “There should be something around here you could use.”
“Not if it’s as old and broken as the rest of this place,” I replied, looking at my surroundings. Rusted barrels, rotten boxes… I couldn’t see anything here that would make a decent weapon, unless I found a bit of pipe to use as a club perhaps.
“There should be something,” it mused. “After all, before the Collapse, this was a military facility.” Before it could continue, the sound of movement echoed through the corridor roof, and I slowed, putting my feet down much more softly. “Quiet,” whispered the voice in my head, rather pointlessly in my opinion. “They’re right above us.”
Whatever was above us, they didn’t linger long, the sounds moving back in the direction I’d come from. Taking the opportunity, I picked up the pace a little, quickly reaching the end of the current corridor. Here, the path was almost completely dark, until the Ghost reappeared next to my head, a light shining from its central optic to reveal another set of stairs. “Thanks,” I said, pausing to give a few oddly shaped storage crates next to the steps. Red, mostly spherical, with odd bulges on the side, they didn’t look like anything I’d seen before, and certainly stood out around all the old steel and concrete of the Wall.
Putting that aside for the moment, I went up the steps and around a corner, finding myself on a balcony that looked out over… something. With the Ghost the only light source in what was clearly a very large room, I had no way of knowing if I was ten feet above the floor, or fifty. Most likely a storeroom of some sort. “Hold up a moment,” the Ghost said, floating ahead of me. “Fallen thrive in the dark, we don’t. We need some light in here. Let me see what I can do.”
“Sure,” I replied, moving over to the railing and resting a hand against it, testing if it could hold my weight. Once I was certain I wasn’t going to go tumbling into the abyss, I took a deep breath and waited, watching as my tiny robot companion floated around. Occasionally, a second set of lights, tiny laser lines really, would sweep over whatever it was looking at.
“Another one of these hardened military systems and a few centuries of entropy working against me,” it grumbled to itself. As I watched, it darted back and forth between two separate sets of cables, running its lights over them. Every now and then, it muttered something quietly, clearly getting more irritated as systems refused to do what they were told. It was interesting, watching the little drone work. The grumbling, the way parts of its shell twitched in certain patterns, even the way it was flying back and forth looked like it was ‘stomping’ its feet in irritations. The Ghost had emotions, or it had been programmed so well there was virtually no difference. Fascinating.
Who had built it? Why was it out here all alone? Why had it been looking for me? I really wanted to get to the city now, if only so I could sit down and get some answers out of the thing.
My musing on the nature of the Ghost and the mystery of today were interrupted by a triumphant “Aha!” from my travelling companion. Looking up, I saw a series of lights in the ceiling and walls flicker to life, some faster and stronger than others. Below, I could see a number of shipping crates, while above was a crane system for movement and retrieval. Warehouse, like I’d thought. If we could get down safely, we might be able to hide inside a shipping crate. We’d need to move quickly, but it might work.
That plan lasted about five seconds, when strange, alien growls echoing across the warehouse grabbed my attention. Tracking the noise, I saw them standing on a walkway about fifty feet away, close enough for me to get a decent look at them. There were about half a dozen of them, most of them rather scrawny looking things that I guessed were about five and a half feet tall, wearing tattered brown bodysuits with red highlights. Standing at the far end of the pack though, one of them was drastically different. He was taller, bulkier, his armor looked more solid… Oh, and he had four arms. Definitely not human.
“They’re onto us!” the Ghost exclaimed, panic in its voice.
As the aliens raised their weapons, I looked around, trying to find something to take cover behind. Nothing like that presented itself, but with the lights on, I could see that a security shutter that covered a nearby corridor wasn’t all the way down. “Through there!” I said, sprinting for the opening. I took it feet first, dropping into a slide just in time to avoid a bolt of blue-white energy that crackled through the air. Skidding to a halt on the other side, I saw the Ghost dart through the opening, even as I scrambled to my feet. “Hiding isn't going to work now,” I managed.
“Probably not,” the Ghost agreed, looking around the corridor. Thankfully, it had managed to turn the lights on in here as well, which meant that at least I wouldn’t be tripping over things in the dark. I flinched as more bolts of energy cracked against the shutters behind us, panic rising in the back of my mind. “At least, not unless we can prove we’re more trouble than- aha, here, I found a rifle!” Sure enough, the machine was floating over an old, battered assault rifle, still clutched in the hands of its previous owner. “I hope you know how to use that thing,” it added as I reached down and shook the bones loose.
“Hell of a time to be asking me that,” I muttered, looking at the rifle for a moment. Khvostov 7G-02, fully automatic, twenty-five round magazine. Without really thinking about it, I checked the magazine, locked it back into place and put a round into the chamber. “Maybe I do,” I said, slightly surprised. I didn’t really remember using one before, but it felt rather natural. Then again, what did I remember?
Putting that thought aside for the moment, I started moving forward again, even as Ghost vanished back into my head, which was still as weird as the first time it happened. Behind me, the sound of weapons fire faded, which probably meant those particular Fallen probably knew a way around, and were on their way towards me right now. Four armed monsters hunting me in the shadows. Even with the Khvostov in my hands, I was utterly terrified. Still, it wasn’t like I had much of a choice. Trying to keep my hands from shaking, I kept moving through the Wall.
When my path crossed with the Fallen, less than a minute later, only pure luck saved me. One moment, I was turning a corner, rifle up and ready, then relaxing slightly as I saw the corridor ahead was empty. Then, before I had time to react, two of the creatures appeared right in front of me, seemingly out of nowhere. One slipped out through a gap in the wall that had once housed a pipeline, while the second one, one of those larger four armed ones I’d seen on the catwalk, dropped down from a hole in the ceiling. It was that one that raised his weapon first, a bulky, two handed weapon with a muzzle that looked like it was designed to vaporise doors, even as I skidded to a halt and tried to dive back around the corner. Just before it could fire though, the smaller alien tripped slightly on one of the remaining pipes, colliding with the other one's shoulder and knocking him off target.
As the corridor next to me exploded in a shower of shrapnel, I bit back on a terrified yelp, brought my rifle up, and fired. Short bursts, center of mass. Even through the fear, there was an odd sense of satisfaction from that. The closest description I could think of was professional pride. And then the four armed Fallen was falling to the floor, gasping in pain. Next to him, the other alien, the one whose clumsiness had probably saved my life, looked at his companion, then back up to me. Aiming the Khvostov at him now, I glanced at the pistol in his hand. “Drop it!” I ordered, wondering if it could even understand me.
Either it had no idea what I was saying, or it just didn’t care. Hissing at me, it raised its pistol, but it wasn’t even halfway up before I fired. Another short burst, another center of mass. Unlike the first one, which was still gasping in pain, this one was clearly dead as it simply slumped to the floor.
For a moment, I just stood there, looking at the pair. One dead, another well on its way. I’d just killed. Of course, they’d tried to kill me first, but even then, there was something horrible, something pointless about it. Then, taking a breath, I shook my head, stepped over the pair, and continued on my way.
I could wonder about life and death later. Right now, I needed to survive.

Messages In This Thread
After The End, A Beginning - by Matrix Dragon - 01-15-2017, 04:30 PM
RE: After The End, A Beginning - by Matrix Dragon - 11-19-2017, 09:49 AM
RE: After The End, A Beginning - by Matrix Dragon - 11-04-2018, 08:50 AM
[No subject] - by Black Aeronaut - 01-16-2017, 12:02 AM
[No subject] - by Matrix Dragon - 01-16-2017, 01:26 AM
[No subject] - by Matrix Dragon - 01-26-2017, 03:16 PM
[No subject] - by Matrix Dragon - 04-08-2017, 12:17 PM
Re: After The End, A Beginning - by Matrix Dragon - 08-12-2017, 04:52 PM
Re: After The End, A Beginning - by itsune9tl - 08-13-2017, 12:46 AM
Re: After The End, A Beginning - by Matrix Dragon - 08-20-2017, 04:53 PM
Re: After The End, A Beginning - by Matrix Dragon - 08-27-2017, 04:21 PM
Re: After The End, A Beginning - by itsune9tl - 08-28-2017, 04:24 AM
Re: After The End, A Beginning - by Matrix Dragon - 08-28-2017, 08:39 AM
Re: After The End, A Beginning - by Matrix Dragon - 09-03-2017, 04:43 PM
Re: After The End, A Beginning - by Matrix Dragon - 09-05-2017, 08:30 AM
Re: After The End, A Beginning - by Bob Schroeck - 09-06-2017, 02:10 AM
Re: After The End, A Beginning - by Matrix Dragon - 09-06-2017, 08:41 AM
Re: After The End, A Beginning - by Rajvik - 09-07-2017, 03:02 AM

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