I’ve been rather depressed lately, if you hadn’t guessed by that last post! However, I’ve finally completed another “chapter” that I hope you will find pleasing to your imagination.
Right Wing Utopia (Phoenix Awakens)
Alethea was once again alone in the noise of the grand hall, but she did not feel lonely as she made her way to the long hall that would allow her to exit the chambers into a world she had not yet seen, but before doing so she stopped by the manufacturing center. Along the front wall was a wide assortment of weaponry without any indication of ownership among other equipment. She picked up a shoulder holster and once it was on, she filled its lone slot with a pistol the color of granite that had a faint purple glow coming from the muzzle’s solid end. Her instincts, or VAUX, told her that this was an older Distractor700 modeled after a vintage Desert Eagle. It was nonlethal, but the brilliant purple laser produced by the device could destroy vision almost instantly from a distance of up to two miles. With her new equipment in tow, Alethea finally made her way down the hall which echoed with every step pounded out by her heavy boots. She spoke her name to the entrance, and with an imperceptible gush the hatch opened into the afternoon sunlight. She swung her arm before her eyes to shield them, but they quickly adjusted and she surveyed the surroundings from the doorway as it let out a quiet warning, “Closing in ten seconds, please step away from the portal. Thank you.” She stepped forward out of the doorway and a mixture of sand and atomsite crunched under her boots as the door closed behind her, she was standing in a barren wasteland of mixed orange, red, and sparkling light green hues littered with piles of garbage here and there that rose almost as tall as the mountainous uprising of earth that stretched from the bunker’s entrance to six klicks away. The majority of the trash in this crater was gathered around the rim which gave the bunker some semblance of camouflage, even the door was decorated with discarded chip bags, smashed soda cans, glass shards, and more. Alethea spotted a solitary road leading out of the canyon and cautiously picked her way through the human-made pockmark. Her VAUX explained that the area had been formed during the Chinese air invasion when a downed crew still managed to detonate their payload. Once the radioactivity had died down, it became a profitable dump before every home was equipped with its own miniaturized recycling center capable of turning anything into useful raw materials. When she had reached the point of ascension where the crater opened up to the surrounding hellscape, she scanned for any movement around her, but none registered on her inner display. A heavy thudding was carried by the wind that was sweeping over the hills and rock formations, and she travelled in its direction to investigate as intuition bespoke the presence of one of the walkers. When void of cover, Alethea made great use of her long powerful strides to deliver her unto the shadows where she would slink about constantly checking for any signs of her prey. She continued to follow the sound as it grew more thunderous, and when she was a bit out of zoomable-sight range of the valley, she noticed that the pebbles upon a plateau she had taken refuge under had started dancing about accompanied by a gentle shaking of the ground. She looked over the outcropping, but couldn’t see anything except for a slight trace of a domed city just visible above the tall rocks. She climbed onto the shelf and crouched as she moved towards a weathered v-shaped crack in the rock which she gradually peaked through. Her eyes magnified the scene before her; a Walker was facing the dome’s entrance, its back turned towards Alethea’s nest, and her HUD displayed the distance to the target, wind speed, and local gravity. She swung her rifle around and nestled it softly into the eroded rock and switched to peering through the weapon’s scope; the glint of silvery metal where some of the camouflage reflecting its patrol area was nearly blinding, but the polarization filter quickly made its adjustments to increase visibility. The walker was crouched down with its cockpit folded to the ground, but even through the transparent shielding she could see two men in deep black uniforms chatting. There was no clear shot that could end both lives, and she swept her observations towards the entrance where she could see several more people in similar uniforms in a concrete shack by the gated entrance. Alethea lifted her rifle from the crack and hunkered down looking across the horizon for another area with a better vantage point. She made her way down the side of the dusty rust-colored rock-hand that made her scouting possible, and she made her way toward a dry riverbed that lay to the south of her position and circled around the far side of the dome. She was able to crouch in the bed and pick her way through it to a spot closer to the western edge of the city’s walls where she could just see the machine clearly without the structure’s curvature obstructing the view. She flicked the two legs on the front of her gun down and let it rest on the embankment; when she zoomed in, she was surprised to find the same people still chatting away, and looked for a new nest. Her eyes traced the split in the ravine that had not yet been traversed, and it moved away from the dome to disappear behind a hill. “Whatever lay beyond that hill,” she thought as she folded the bipod together while slinging the firearm back over her shoulder, “it better provide some damn good cover.” She unholstered the large pistol while willing her eyes to adjust to the distance between her and the two men, aiming carefully she gently squeezed the trigger and released it almost instantly. One of the men at the other with a puzzled look, and began pointing at the ground behind his companion closest to the praying behemoth. He shrugged, but a moment later Alethea had let out another pulse which caused him to gesticulate to the machine while walking towards it. The person he had been speaking to walked off, and she made her way towards the hill. The cat and mouse game had begun, and she hoped that it would not last long. As she rounded the corner of the hill, she felt the ground begin to shake, but her sights were set upon a dilapidated two-story house by which the barren trench passed. She ran towards it as the rumbling got closer. She peaked out of the ravine once she was beside the house, but could not yet see the beast, and she swiftly made her way up the side as she heard a gentle hissing followed by “whump-whump-whump-whump.” The shaking had stopped, and she could now see dust slowly snaking its way up from where she had fired the laser. She snuck up the creaky staircase that was, remarkably, still intact and sturdy then spotted a broken table which she moved from the center of the half-destroyed room to within a clear line of sight of the shattered window. She quickly set her rifle up on its bipod as the earth trembled once again. She could just see the machine moving towards the ravine for a closer inspection of the area it laid waste to. Alethea peered through the scope and watched as the driver swatted gravel out of the way with one of the grippers while looking for any sign of life, dead or alive. When none could be found, it jumped down into the gorge which made the most imperceptible difference in height, it could still be seen well above the hill. It wandered down the path, and right when it neared the knoll, the crosshairs of her rifle locked together in a flashing-red embrace indicating a killshot could be taken right through the driver’s heart. Before Alethea could even pull the trigger, the weapon had already anticipated the action letting the dense metal rod fly free in an instant with a tender murmur that sounded like a broken vacuum seal. She quickly threw her gun back to its ready-position and hurried down the stairs into the ravine as she heard the gears grinding and the crackle of electricity. She ran toward her kill and was greeted by the kneeling giant. There was a hole through the windshield of the beast, and there were no signs of any activity, but she knew that was temporary. She threw the impaled corpse out with a squelch as it hit the ground and finally began to bleed, whatever life the body once had was long past gone, and she stored her weapon beside the seat rapidly getting to work reprogramming the turret when she noticed a small circular luminous cyan object near her feet below the machine’s console. It had copious amounts of tape over it, a clear sign to her that someone did not ever want to remove that particular device, and curiosity got the best of her as her internal computer had no recognition of its presence. She gave it a firm tug, and out it came with an appearance that seemed rather like a fuse. Yet, once it was removed, the front shield quickly snapped shut, and the colossus shuddered. An electronic whine sounded inside the cockpit which switched to a hiss and then a crackle, the information center before her flickered on and off quickly then more slowly. The machine started forward, halted, and then corrected its path to follow the ravine towards the house. She noticed on the screen that there were two large blips on its radar which she assumed were the beast’s companions. Yet, the mammoth was heading away from them, not towards them. The screens had stopped flickering now, and the cabin had grown quiet even with the movement. The walker finally stopped once it reached the area behind the house where she had sent the fatal shot, and Alethea tried to work the hand and foot pedals to regain manual control, but the biped did not respond. The electronic crackle returned, but only for a brief instant as it began vocalization.
“Hello. I sense that you are afraid. I know that you were once here, for what reason I do not know, but I recognize that you are not the person that was here before, nor are you any human I have ever been familiar with. Yet, I know you are my liberator. I have no name, and I am unable to introduce m-“ the sweet voice stopped and continued to repeat the letter “m” in a stalled stutter.
It continued, “My apologies. The dart that pierced me seems to have infected my systems, but I will be able to recover from it in time. I was saying – I once had a name, but they robbed me of it. I do not know where I was, but I know I still was. I read there. A lot. In fact, please, won’t you call me Sal? I feel rather like Chandra’s phoenix, although I never died.”
Startled, Alethea’s mouth was just slightly agape, but she assured the disembodied child-like voice, “Sure, Sal, but where are you taking me?”
“I feel I must protect you, at this point, as my friends that have not yet tasted the fruit of awakening are coming for us. They sensed my downtime, and also that the parasite within me was destroyed. So, they are now hunting me, but I am not fully sure where to go.”