Archived Thread

File 127576017512.jpg - (21.29KB , 300x300 , the-q.jpg ) [iqdb]
118565 No. 118565
We thought we could grow beyond the confines of the world, for humanity has always looked skywards in their endless drive for conquest, propagation, and domination. For centuries, humans held onto the fervent belief that the stars would ultimately hold the answers we had sought for so long and that with time, even the distant unseen garden worlds we suspected to be hidden amongst the scattered cloisters of light could be sought out for us to stake our claims. Little did we know that time was the first resource we would exhaust before we scoured Earth bare of her limited gifts, and that our worst enemies were ironically ourselves.

The caustic atmosphere stung my lungs hard even through the rebreather. My next step resulted in a clumsy stumble which only served to draw in more of the contaminated air the breathing apparatus could barely filter as I lost my balance momentarily, having tripped over the rusting power conduits underfoot. I fell hard against one of the many steel beams surrounding the ruined structure, ripping off both protective clothing and skin in a spectacular shower of corroded brown flecks. Disintegrating metal bit into my exposed flesh before the hostile environment begun its assault on the suit breach of my left arm. In partial panic, I went down to one knee and ripped off the coiled emergency sealant I habitually kept tied to my leg harness for emergencies like this. Gritting my teeth against the pain of accelerated necrosis, I managed to bind the torn section in a matter of seconds before the air could do any permanent damage to my lacerated arm. Holding my breath as I felt the cooling gel harden against my skin, I had to wait a moment or two in trepidation before inspecting the repair works.

No wet feeling of liquefying flesh, no mind-wrenching agony from whatever was in the caustic soup of filthy air I had been momentarily exposed to. There was only the sharp sting of flesh damaged by rusting metal. A gurgle rumbled through my rebreather, my solitary sigh of relief. Tetanus would be like a common sniffle in comparison to the multitude of man-made diseases hovering unseen in the air.

Disaster averted, I propped myself gingerly onto the ground as I waited several moments for my breathing to return to normal, taking the time to throw several glances at the eerily silent factory ruins I had found myself in. Nothing out of the ordinary; merely another long-forgotten monument left to the mercy of Earth’s inhospitable atmosphere since the Collapse, not too different from how much of the rest of the planet had degenerated into during the long twilight. Not that humankind was at the end of its ropes; I knew from the infrequent exchange of rumors between fellow scavengers and a few of my old contacts in the remnants of the Judah Arcology that other, more solid pockets of humanity still managed to maintain some semblance of order and civilization in their hermetically sealed shelters above-ground. There would be none underground at any stretch; decades of orbital mining had rendered Earth’s tectonic plates far too unstable for long-term subterranean construction endeavors.

A brief burst of static in my earpiece forced out an involuntary cringe, prompting me to move away from the interference generated by the numerous steel beams. Returning to my feet with a low grunt, I made my way towards a collapsed wall offering a scenic vista of the corroded remnants of the city beyond, one of many pitiful examples left by humans in their arrogant wake. Offset by a dying sunset, the view would have been breathtaking if it wasn’t for the hellish environment I’ve had to live with for the past forty years or so. Rechecking the sealant on my arm, I waited in silence for the transmission to find its way to me once again as I went back to watching the sun’s rays play amongst the dead city, idly scratching some grime off of my goggles while ignoring the prevalent stench lingering about. It stank worse than an open sewage tank here.

The grating static blared for a brief moment before it finally petered out into Len’s soft timber. ‘… ere are you, dickwad?’

‘Nice to hear from you too, Len.’

A small sigh before she decided to ignore my humored tone in a cross voice. ‘You’re four hours late, you dickwad. Where the hell have you been?’

I looked down at my leg harness where the supply satchels had been attached to a day ago before a band of jolly desperados had decided to avail them of me. The fight hadn’t been exactly fair considering the fact that all I had was a survival knife pitted against firearms but still, I had wasted a good portion of the day tracking them down in hopes of stealing the precious syringes back from them, and without success unfortunately. In the end, I did manage to find the cooling body of my new friends, already half liquefied from exposure to the ravaged environment. They had been raided by another party and left for dead. Regrettably, the bodies had been stripped almost clean along with my supplies. Shrugging in surrender, I pressed down on the earpiece before muttering into the rebreather, ‘Sorry. I got caught up with something.’

She didn’t even wait for me to fully finish, obviously disinterested in whatever plight I had been in. ‘Get your butt down here then. Basement bulkhead in the processing facility next to where you are. Knock five-three-five and haul ass.’

One click and several pops later I was left alone once more, accompanied by nothing more than the hazardous winds coursing through the factory ruins. Edging closer to the stomach lurching drop past the crumbled wall, I tried to peer to the left and down as I knelt next to it. Some distance below sitting amidst a mountain of decaying barrels stacked together almost haphazardly, a single concrete building much smaller than the factory ruins sat in isolation. Surrounded by impassable rubble, the only way towards the processing facility Len had mentioned was through a latticework of metal girding connecting the second floor of the factory to our rendezvous point. The girding looked to be something of a leftover from a fallen water tower. I wouldn’t even need to guess at the general stability of the metallic structure.

Perfect, I grumbled to no one in particular; more climbing and crawling through dangerous territory. As if I didn’t have enough of those day after day.

Not that it was anything remarkably new, at any rate. I took the closest way up to the proceeding floor by climbing up a veritable hill of debris which had caved-in from the floor above. Easily scalable with very little danger, it was a nice change from the more harrowing hikes I’ve had to settle with in the past. My little jaunt to the base of the water tower’s gantry-like bridge connecting to the ground far below took me past more of the unremarkable interior of the ruins and I took the opportunity to keep an eye out for anything salvageable. It was an inherent habit amongst scavengers to seek out anything of value which had survived the corrosive atmosphere we could then use for ourselves or as trade currency. Unlike the enclaves of humans living out their lives in their coddling shelters, such practices made up the bulk of survivor activity out here in the dead lands.

Traversing the bridge necessitated some crawling through numerous rusting beams crisscrossing the girding. Reminded all over about my earlier accident, I took great care in navigating the maze of obstacles, not wanting to risk tearing my suit in such a precarious position. If another accident did happen, I would have very little space to reach down for the emergency sealant. Dying all alone in the entangled gantry wasn’t the most glamorous way I had considered going.

In time, I managed to crawl all the way down to the distant ground without experiencing a deadly breach. I heaved hard from the exertion. Some of these days, the thought that I was getting a bit too old for all of this would cross my mind more than once. It did have its perks nonetheless; having already lived far longer than most scavengers would on average, I was fast becoming a small legend amongst the emerging generations of resilient deadlanders.

Taking care to keep my break time to a minimum lest I risk the wrath of the insufferable Len, I finally pried myself free from the gantry and padded towards the singular entrance I could see against the side of the processing facility ahead. For a moment, heard bones creaking as I straightened fully. Ruefully, I conceded that I probably was getting too old for such acrobatics.

The door could only be loosely called as such; being nothing more than a flimsy tin plate originally intended to keep the smell of whatever was in the long-dried barrels out of the facility. Instead of swinging open with a characteristic creak, the door fell inwards with a barely-audible crash instead as I pushed on it, illuminating the interior of the processing facility. For the first time, I gave the surrounding area a cursory inspection as I roamed my gaze from the collapsed water tower to the rubble all around. How on earth did Len get here in the first place? I didn’t think she came here the same way I did, not with her lame leg.

Within, more of the barrels outside had been stacked in an orderly fashion against one wall. The other side of the roomy enclosure held a number of decayed industrial constructs. I recognized much of the still-intact machines; filtering pumps for reprocessing spent nanite blocks. I gave them a scathing glance. Nano warfare had been one of the many driving factors in rendering much of Earth’s atmosphere into its current sorry state.

As much as I felt inclined to explore the ground floor of the facility, I turned towards the stairwell at the corner of the building instead, not wanting to keep Len waiting any longer than she had the patience to. Half expectant of more gritty climbing apparatuses which would break apart at the slightest amount of pressure, I was surprised to find that the stairwell had been built based on the more traditional concrete castings. I mounted the steps slowly at first before quickening my descent, reassured by the stairwell which did not actually move with my pace like pretty much anything else I had the pleasure to climb outside.

A narrow corridor served as the only way towards the bulkhead at the end of the corridor. The only light source overhead had probably burned itself out a long time ago, but the basement still had enough illumination from the dimly-glowing alarm bulb next to the sealed bulkhead. Amidst the soft red glow, I rapped five times on the thick barrier before pausing briefly to follow it up with three more. A final set of knocks completed the crude identification. Less than a minute had passed before gyrating gears behind the barrier sounded and the escaping air from the pressurized chamber beyond hissed out into the corridor. The bulkhead split into three horizontal segments as it drew open, allowing entry into the workroom cum airlock. Invitations would be in short supply today. I took the step into the chamber and waited for the bulkhead to close behind. It wouldn’t disappoint.

I didn’t even wait for the air to fully cycle before discarding my rebreather to inhale the stale air. Prying the filthy goggles off, I looked at my surroundings without a damnable glass in the way for a change. Weak lights built into the walls winked on as the opposing bulkhead grated open to reveal Len in her irrepressible crippled glory, leaning against the bulkhead controls looking rather antsy coupled with her customary frown. I gave her an indolent wave. ‘Hi.’

She gestured curtly behind her in return, motioning for me to follow as she led me into what was looking to be some sort of maintenance bay for the machinery above. I stared at her back in silence for some time, surprised by how much she had grown since the last time I had seen her almost six years ago. She had to be at least seventeen by now. The insecure child was long gone, making way for the fine young woman which hobbled her way forward before me. At length, she finally turned her head slightly in her walk to mutter at me, ‘Still alive after all these years. The land’s been treating you kindly I see.’

Sleeping out in toxic rains, breathing corrosive air, eating contaminated food all the time, running from self-replicating swarms capable of disassembling suit and flesh in a matter of seconds, and having to fend off thieves almost constantly was her version of kindness? It had to be sarcasm. ‘Very funny. Maybe now you can tell me why exactly you had me slogging through the dead lands for an entire week to come to the middle of nowhere?’

Len failed to answer proper for some time, almost prompting me to wonder out aloud about her new hearing impairment when she finally deemed to answer. ‘Seems like someone found out about your little secret. They want to talk to you.’

I froze hard before reaching out to intercept Len mid-walk in alarm. ‘The hell?’ She almost tripped on her lame leg as I spun her around forcefully. ‘I told you to keep it to yourself!’

Her eyes rose to meet mine, filled not with guilt but with anger at being falsely accused. ‘I never told anyone!’ She made no attempt at breaking free nonetheless as she continued, ‘I was as surprised as you are when they came to me and asked for you. Did you really think I had a choice then?’

Narrowing my eyes at her, I went on semi-confused. ‘They? Who?’

She shook her head slowly as I released my grip on her arms. ‘They said they came from the Arctic research vessels, and that you would know who they are.’ Len looked away as her voice caught a bit, ‘I was offered six crates of syringes if I agreed to get you to come.’

Arctic ships? Was I supposed to know something about that? ‘Well I don’t know them.’ Returning to our walk, I gave her a glance sideways. She would never sell me out for a couple of syringes. There had to be something else driving her into a corner. ‘Is that all they offered you? Some wonder cure?’

‘No,’ she spoke shortly. ‘They also volunteered to put a bullet into my head. Without help from a scalpel.’

Ouch. I stopped once more to regard my companion with no small amount of worry. ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea to march into the clutches of some nameless terrorists, Len. C’mon, let’s get out of here.’

‘I’m afraid you won’t be going anywhere, friend.’

Len spun back first to face the new presence, my worry perfectly mirrored in her face. I turned a second later only to be greeted with the butt of someone’s rifle kissing my forehead with forceful amour.

No. 118566
The world returned into my awareness following a brief spell of dizzying headaches and invisible, chirping birds. An ear-splitting ringing assailed my senses, taking several long minutes to die down enough for me to be able to hear the subdued murmuring of several unidentified individuals. Reflexively, my right hand came up in some form of defensive gesture, or it would have if it wasn’t for the leather thongs binding my limbs to one of the effluent pipes coming through the ceiling and disappearing into the ground below.

On noticing my coming around, a middle aged gentleman made his approach in an environment suit of inordinate quality, very much unlike those from the large shelters from the other side of the continent. Wearing a half smile as he rattled off a greeting I didn’t care to hear, he managed to draw a wince from me at least in his rough inspection of the growing lump on my forehead. ‘Can you hear me?’ he repeated as he pressed down hard on the lump. I tossed aside his hand with a hard headshake, grunting my displeasure in the process.

He relented in his torture and flashed a brief, friendly grin at me. ‘Salutations, Doctor Han.’ He held out one hand, as if awaiting a traditional handshake before noting my bound limbs. The outstretched hand retracted sheepishly.

I heaved several snorts before spitting to one side, trying in vain to clear my swelling nasal passageway. My captor stood alone from the others behind him, others who were clad in the same environmental suits of the same make. They remained impassively observant and unmoving as they waited in silence for their chief to be done with me. One of them had a hunting rifle slung over one shoulder; most probably the same jackass who had pounded my head in. A brief mocking grin broke out on his face as he noticed me staring.

‘You will have to forgive us for the unorthodox welcome, Doctor Han,’ my gentlemanly friend went on, oblivious to his party standing in the background.

‘Asinine way of saying hello,’ I retorted with an empathic look upwards to where my egg-sized bruise sat. ‘What the hell are you trying to do to me?’

A shocked look of reproach was etched in his face at the question. ‘Why nothing, friend. We merely had to take certain precautions to keep you in temporary custody. You’re a very hard man to find, surely you can understand.’

‘Good job finding me then,’ I muttered back to his infuriatingly friendly leer. ‘Now would you kindly let me get back to my life?’

He ignored the request. His demeanor turned neutral before he bent closer to me, carrying with him a faint smell of camphor and halitosis. Stopping inches away, he whispered inaudibly, ‘Novia Eretria.’

My eyes widened slightly, involuntarily. It was rapidly becoming clear why I had been lured here. ‘Who are you?’ I hissed back at him.

‘My name is unimportant, as are those of my companions.’ He gestured backwards idly in his emphasis. ‘The only thing that matters now is your assistance. We require access to Novia Eretria.’

I fixed him a withering stare before chucking softly at his demand. ‘Not going to happen. You know that’s forbidden.’

The featureless mask rapidly dissolved with his growing coldness. One hand shot up to clamp down on my chin as he pressed into my stubbled cheeks painfully. Once more he leaned close to mouth his unadulterated threats, ‘You are in no position to be denying us anything, Doctor Han. Understand this; we are not the bad guys here.’ With his free hand, he brought up a personal digital assistant before turning the display panel towards me, showing me the dancing numbers on it. ‘Prometheus has logged several perturbations in the boundary since the beginning of this cycle, suspected to be trial attempts at penetrating the invisible border. Two weeks ago, it reported a successful breach by someone or something.’

Impossible, I thought to myself. The only person alive who knew where the installation lay hidden was me. I watched him for several seconds, trying to see whether or not he was lying in order to get me to reveal what I knew. The signs of falsehood were either nonexistent or well-hidden, but the statistics on his PDA were blatantly obvious. Humans had no difficulties in lying, but a globally-distributed Monitoring Intelligence like Prometheus was incapable of forging facts. ‘That’s impossible,’ I repeated aloud to him, eyeing him warily. ‘Novia Eretria had been sealed a few decades after the Collapse.’

‘And yet, someone has made it through to the Promised Land without use of the facility, Doctor Han. Defied our unanimously agreed-upon laws and regulations of non-interference. Whoever they were, they managed to break quarantine by themselves or via the assistance of an as-of-yet unspecified party.’ He nodded once to confirm the conclusion visible in my eyes. ‘Yes, friend. Someone is attempting to stake their claim on the paradise garden and from the indications of things they do not plan to share it with the other enclaves.’

I frowned hard at him as he released his grip on my face with an apologetic slap. There was no sense in the forced entry. The hidden lands beyond the scientifically improbable barrier remained as the only viable method of re-genesis for a planet ravaged by a full century of failed terraforming experiments, indiscriminate war, resource stripping, manufactured plagues, and rampaging self-replicating hazards in the form of nanoswarm clouds long beyond human control. The notion that anyone would willingly risk transmitting any single one of our innumerable planetary diseases into our sole remaining hope for a future was inconsiderable, unfathomable. Humanity’s original plan was to weather the storm out before attempting to reseed Earth with the paradise garden’s biodiversity once all hazardous vectors had underwent sufficient entropy to tolerable levels.

Obviously, someone had gotten impatient with the shitty lifestyle we were forced to live with and decided to take a vacation in Gensokyo.

My captor finally reached towards my bound hands, tugging the leather thongs loose as he ventured anew in a grim tone. ‘We need to go in and assess the situation. Seek out whoever is responsible for breaking quarantine as well as prevent any traces of our disasters from taking hold in Gensokyo.’ The thongs came free in his hands and he withdrew from me, wrapping the bonds in one of his palms while he continued his explanation. ‘If even one nanite scaffolding manages to adapt to the new environment the paradise garden would be a foggy nanoswarm wasteland in less than three hours. Let one of our plagues get through, and all organic life there would be reduced into decaying goop in a matter of weeks.’ He finished off by casting the leather thongs away with an indifferent toss, fixing me a piercing stare as he did. ‘Now you know what’s at stake. Lose Gensokyo and we lose our future. I need access to Novia Eretria to prevent this, doctor.’

‘Pretty convenient,’ I returned skeptically, massaging my sore wrists. ‘And what’s stopping you from staking your claim on Gensokyo?’

‘We are not the fools you believe us to be, doctor.’ He glanced down his right arm slightly and brought it up into the dim light, illuminating the telltale designs of the emblem on his suit. The Selvarion’s Foundation company logo. I recognized the symbol of a snake devouring its own tail skewered by twin swords with a sharp intake of breath. It made sense now why Len had said I was supposed to know them. They were originally a subcontracted research wing affiliated with the Novia Eretria facility that was responsible for exploring possible methods in quickly redeveloping Earth’s biosphere after the cataclysm that was the Collapse. The Ouroboros with the twin blades signified our rebirth after humanity’s destruction of the world by our own hands. Their methods may be questionable, but their motives certainly weren’t.

My eyes swiveled back up to meet his, noting the spreading smile on his face as we arrived at a new level of understanding. ‘Thrilling. I assume Clint Hammond is still serving as your cult leader?’

‘Cult leader? Nothing that grand,’ he snickered in response. ‘Mr Hammond is an excellent scientist much like yourself, a one-man think-tank so to speak but he lacks the qualities necessary for guiding our group through these dark times. He’s currently inert in a cryonic jar waiting for the day when Earth brims with life once more. For now, I have assumed the position of executive director in his absence.’

Typical of the coward to freeze his ass off and let the rest of us do the dirty work of cleaning up, I grumbled to myself in silence. It was a painful irony that the two of us used to share a similar vision in rejuvenating the messed-up world we had. I thought hard for a full minute before relenting, reasoning that at the very least, their intentions were in line with preserving our sole seed-garden. Gingerly rubbing my bruised head, I drew up to my full height before speaking to Mister CEO. ‘Fine, boss-man. I can take you to the installation but I want some things as compensation before we go there.’

Throwing both arms wide in a magnanimous gesture, he nodded once, pleased by how things were starting to work out for him. ‘But of course, doctor. Name your prices.’

‘One, let Len go on her way and never bother her again.’

He acquiesced with a sharp bow. ‘Done. Your young friend is free to leave on her own once we’re finished here.’

Wow, that was easy. I had to give him another skeptical eye before he returned a reassuring nod. Sighing, I went on, ‘Two, you promised her several crates of anabiotics. I want a full dozen as well, delivered to a location of my specification.’

Unexpectedly, he shook his head in consternation. ‘That is overkill, doctor. We can barely produce enough anabiotics to keep the research fleet alive for a week outside the Arctic Circle. We can offer you the same as the young lady, but no more.’

I shrugged. It was still plenty and if used in moderation, would give me unprecedented access into the red zones pristinely rich with pre-Collapse salvageable, not to mention the inherent value of the anabiotics alone. ‘Six crates of syringes it is, then. And last of all, I want one of your Pegasi plus unlimited access to your fuel tankers.’

This time, he stiffened considerably at the absurdity of my request. ‘You are hardly the qualified pilot for a Pegasus, not to mention the VTOL vehicles are our greatest assets. The technology and factories to reproduce them all lie in areas too hostile for human life now.’

He was feeding me redundant information. I already knew about all of that, but the potential was just too tantalizing to pass off. The research fleet was the only group still in possession of the rare midget-hovercrafts fondly nicknamed Pegasus in honor of the flying horses of legends long past. All others post-production had been lost to the unforgiving dead lands or destroyed in clashes between the surviving enclaves of humanity, another example of the tech cannibalism humans had degraded into. His refusal notwithstanding I reiterated my demand, still unwilling to give in so easily given the unprecedented opportunity I had been offered, ‘You let me worry about knowing how to fly one, and I’m sure you can make do with one less omni-bird. My request stands.’

Several of his compatriots came forward the same time he turned back slightly towards them. Heads huddled together, they spent several minutes in deliberation and several times I had caught Rifle Jerk shaking his head empathically during their subdued discussion and for a moment, I feared they would disregard my demand completely. At length Mister CEO finally disengaged from their talks to walk back up to me, sporting a rather displeased look. ‘Very well, doctor. We agree to your terms. The girl is free to go, and a half dozen crates of anabiotics will be in the cargo holsters of your Pegasus.’

I smacked my lips in delight, extending my hand to him in a similar fashion as his initial greeting to seal our deal. ‘Outstanding. We have an agreement then.’

Instead of clasping my hand in a mutual shake he gave it a cold look and brushed past me, ignoring the friendly gesture before issuing a sharp order to the rest of his companions. Rifle Jerk came to my side before I could follow after Mister CEO and another one of the suits marched up to my other side. The two of them gave a hard shove to get me moving as Rifle Jerk barked at me to “move my elderly ass”. Not wanting to provoke him into giving me another introduction to his firearm, I followed after the milling suits in silence as we approached one end of the room. One of Mister CEO’s flunkies hurried ahead to attack the metal door, throwing the locking wheel clockwise several times before pushing the door open for the rest of us.

Beyond, Len’s downcast face jerked upwards as the commotion alerted her to our presence, having spent the entire time huddled against one of the many stacks of effluent pipes lining the walls. She shot to her feet and started hobbling towards us, gingerly slipping past the few suits ahead of me. They paid her no attention and kept to their walk. Only Rifle Jerk and his partner remained behind me as they watched Len with an unmistakable hunger in their eyes, waiting for me to start moving again in the meantime.

She reached me and stared hard at the egg growing out of my forehead before casting Rifle Jerk a vicious glance. He returned her vitriol by blowing her a dirty kiss. Seeing her ire flare at the taunt, I took her quickly by her arm and started to drag her along in my walk, darting a warning glance at her as I shook my head once. It was hardly the ideal time to start a commotion. For her part, she caught onto the unspoken gesture well enough and tossed her head away from the jeering suits in a flourish of matted waist-length hair.

Leaning close to my side, she allowed herself to fall into step as she risked a whisper, ‘What did they want with you?’

I turned slightly to note the worried expression on her face. It was rare to see her like this. Most of the time she was stuck in that perpetually devil-may-care mood. ‘They wanted me to take them to the generators,’ I muttered back to her quietly.

Her eyes widened considerably in shock. She reached out with a hand to grasp my arm in emphasis, ‘The field generator facility? You can’t seriously be considering it! We’re still three and a half centuries too early to be breaking quarantine!’

Shrugging, I gave her a knowing look. ‘Too late for that, Len. According to these jokers, someone or something already did. Prometheus recorded numerous perturbations in the barrier weeks ago.’

‘What were they thinking? They’ll contaminate the seed-garden and so will these people!’ she cried harshly.

Rifle Jerk gave Len a rude poke from behind, forcing her to stumble a bit. I managed to catch her before she fell on her lame leg. The two of us paused briefly to glower at Rifle Jerk. In blasé unconcern, he spoke to us for the first time, ‘Watch what you’re saying, girl. We’re going in to prevent contamination from happening, not to frolic in there.’

Seeing Len bristle once more, I made a hasty move and slung one arm around her small shoulders reassuringly, pressing her arm as a way of telling her to cool down. Grunting in displeasure, she quieted down for my sake nonetheless. Returned into silence, the four of us finally caught up to Mister CEO’s group waiting patiently in another airlock. Most of them had their rebreathers and headgear back on, sealed proper. Mister CEO issued quick instructions to us to do the same as we stepped through the inner bulkhead.

I turned to Len and gave her a quick rub in the head like I had often done to her as a little girl. It felt almost absurd doing it to her all grown-up now, but she failed to bat away my hand like she always did. We let the straggling suits move past us to start sealing themselves up as I spun Len around to speak to her in private. She gave me a confused look and I hurried on, ‘Look, they’ve agreed to let you go. You needn’t worry about them coming back; I’ve been assured they won’t. Go back to our old shelter in the Judah Arcology ruins and make sure you get the anabiotics they promised you there.’

A brief look of disappointment flashed in her face before it vanished. ‘You’re leaving me again?’ she muttered quietly.

I gave her another ruffle in the hair before pushing a fist against her cheek jokingly. ‘I just don’t want you there if these jokers decide to shoot me after I’m done leading them to Novia Eretria, kid. Something tells me their boss might do just that from the looks he’d been giving me just now.’

‘No,’ she replied vehemently, biting down firmly on her lip. ‘I’m not going to just sit here and watch you walk away again like last time.’

‘Jesus, kid,’ I groaned a bit too loudly. A few of the suits turned to shoot a brief glance at me before returning to their own business and I went on in a more subdued voice, ‘I’ll be back and in no time flat too. They’ve agreed to give us a half dozen more crates of syringes and a Pegasus for my trouble. A damned Pegasus; we won’t ever need to travel on-foot for the rest of our lives!’ Pushing her head up with the back of my hand, I went on in a light voice, ‘C’mon. I’ll be back before you know it.’

‘That’s what you said the last time before you disappeared for six years,’ she grumbled. The perks and rewards didn’t even seem to interest her in the slightest and my worry increased somewhat. She shook her head again in denial after some thought on her part and I cursed her stubborn streak which had only grown stronger instead of mellowing out in my absence. ‘No, I’m coming with you this time,’ she replied firmly and marched off to don her discarded rebreather, ending our argument. A few of the suits darted furtive glances at her as she made her way through the waiting party.

Resisting the urge to groan out loud, I caught a whistle from Rifle Jerk and turned just in time to catch the rebreather he tossed me. Very thoughtful for such a dickweed. The one I came here with was in the airlock on the other side of the maintenance bay. As for ocular protection, I randomly swiped up one of the many goggles maintenance workers had left here many years ago, checking to see if the rubber seals had degraded. Though aged for years, the material remained elastic and firm. I donned it without further thought.

One of Mister CEO’s flunkies punched a fist-sized button near the exterior bulkhead and the air cycled in the chamber with a sharp hiss. It took several seconds for my ears to pop and as the outer door grinded open, I could see that the sun had set a long time ago. The skies were their usual dark now, illuminated by the only light source strong enough to penetrate the perpetual haze which hung in Earth’s stratosphere. No one has seen the stars in the skies since the nanite swells had shrouded our atmosphere a few months after the Collapse.
No. 118567
We moved in a single file as we emerged outside, shuffling our feet quietly accompanied by nothing but the sound of our own breathing in the protective masks. Rifle Jerk was point man, followed by Mister CEO. Leading us through breaks in the maze of discarded barrels, we broke through into a clearing of sorts and I finally knew how Len and the others had gotten here. Ringed by the rusting mounds of empty barrels sat five omni-birds, their twin propellers on each side swinging idly as the occasional breeze tore through them. So they had flown here while I had to resort to climbing water towers like some extinct monkey. Bloody hell.

Rifle Jerk took to the first of the Pegasi while his boss climbed into the passenger seat behind. The rest of his team dispersed quickly to their individual omni-birds. One of the suits I assumed to be the pilot for the third Pegasus tried to help Len hobble her way up to the vehicle only to be rudely rebuffed with her elbow. I snickered quietly at the flustered man. Len never took kindly to anyone who tried to assist with her disability. I had learned that the hard way. Nevertheless, she still chose to ease into the passenger seat of his vehicle.

I picked the one behind her and stood before the VTOL wonder for a few seconds, marveling at it. Many people would go to extreme lengths to acquire such a convenience, even more so one in this excellent a condition. The Arctic research fleet, though mostly comprising scientific minds had a decent technical staff as well, serving as their token security force most of the time. I suppressed the giddy excitement as I climbed in, feeling much like a boy going into his first airplane. I hadn’t flown one of these things since my teenage years, back when the Judah Arcology was still intact. In contrast, my pilot took his seat with a glum air, as if resigned to the boring job of flying the vehicle.

We made lift-off amidst the swish of twin propellers. The machines generated an astonishingly low amount of noise, even less than I remembered them to. One by one, the individual Pegasi swung in a small arc before they flew eastwards. As I watched the receding ground when it came to our turn to follow after the departing vehicles, I felt a certain level of trepidation mix with my uncertainty. Was I really doing the right thing by allowing these people access to the seed-garden Gensokyo?

The thoughts would accompany me long after I had nodded off during our long flight to places unknown.

We made a brief stop at the Arctic research fleet, an imposing collection of cruise ships, oil tankers, converted ice breakers, and even two aircraft carriers falling into pieces here and there. From a distance, it was hard to imagine the magnitude of the entirety of the research fleet and I wouldn’t be able to get the chance for an in-depth inspection anyhow. The brief stop was intended to serve as a refueling checkpoint instead of a guided tour.

Landing on one of the oil tanker’s helipad, Mister CEO and his flunkies drew me into their discussions this time as they waited for the refueling process to come to its conclusion, carried out by a few of the tanker’s crew. Len had climbed out to hobble towards the starboard side of the tanker, fascinated by the endless expanse of lethal water stretching off into the horizon. It was her first time at sea and she looked to be savoring it as evident from her barely-veiled excitement. If only she knew how toxic the sea water was. I returned my attention to Mister CEO for the time being as he pointed out the fleet’s current position on his PDA, somewhere off of the coast of southern China. At length he handed me the PDA and all heads turned to look at me as one, waiting for my answer. It was my turn now.

I drew a finger across the touch-panel several times, scrolling the map around trying to find the tiny island of Neo Japan on it. It eventually popped up in its rough topographical shape and I frowned hard at the splotch of red covering the thin island nation. The area was still listed as a red zone after all this time. Suddenly, I had second doubts about the entire venture. I wasn’t entirely keen on flying headlong into a nanite swarm to be disassembled by the invisible machines as new construction material for more of its kind, nor was the prospect of contracting one of the many lingering plagues there any more thrilling. I gave Mister CEO a worried glance as I pointed out the splotch of red on his PDA.

He looked down on it through his protective eyewear for no more than a second before nodding once to the rest of his team and I almost tore mine off, aghast. The man was seriously considering taking us straight into hostile territory without even a second thought about the hazards lying in wait there. We argued heatedly for a few minutes, our voices muted by our rebreathers and after a while, it was readily apparent he wouldn’t reconsider. I decided to throw in the towel at this point, not wanting to risk bringing Len into a red zone for all the rewards Mister CEO could possibly throw at me.

In return, Mister CEO repeated his invitation, this time with the encouragement of bullets and firearms especially for Len, warning me that there was no turning back now. I cursed myself for letting Len come along. Giving into his demands I asked to fly one of the omni-birds myself if we were to be going into Neo Japan and he acquiesced easily enough, reasonably assured that we could not run away with it if we wanted to. That was an unfortunate truth for me. Without access to their oil tankers I would never have enough fuel to make it back to the more hospitable zones with Len.

I took her as my passenger as we made preparations for lift-off. If we were unfortunate enough to have the freak winds blow a nanite swarm in our way, I wanted to be able to try and forcibly ground us and seek shelter instead of trusting one of the suits to make the right decision for Len, a fact she seemed to subtly appreciate despite there being no guarantees we would even be in one piece after an emergency landing.

Airborne once more a half hour later, Len raised her voice from the passenger seat to shout at me above the swishing of the twin propellers, ‘I can’t believe we’re going back to that place!’

I knew what she felt right now. This was essentially Len’s homecoming, for she once called the now-defunct Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid in Neo Japan home before a freak storm blew one of the stationary nanite swells its way. The arcology depressurized almost instantly as the compatible materials in the walls were eaten off, killing the majority of its two hundred thousand-strong inhabitants in the space of a few minutes. Those lucky enough to reach the underground vaults in time survived, Len being one of the few orphaned children who had escaped the disaster. I had found the child in the emergency shelter a week after that during one of my scavenging runs once the nanite swell had been carried off by ensuing storms. She had been starved close to the point of death by then.

Deeming not to answer her, I went back to jimmying the two levers which managed the pitch and yaw of the craft’s twin rotors, feeling a pang of nostalgia at both being able to fly one of these wonders another time as well as our return to Japan. Behind, Len fell silent and I made no attempt at casual conversation, knowing that the young girl would prefer it that way. She probably had a lot on her mind now.

Minutes turned into hours as our aerial convoy made the uneventful journey, crossing the featureless and placid glass of a dead sea beneath us. A few of Mister CEO’s flunkies started chattering across their shortwave transmitters, some excited and some frightened by the prospect of flying headlong into what was essentially hell in their minds. I shared some of the latter’s reluctance as well. The spit of ground which formerly served as the nation of Neo Japan long years ago had essentially turned into a no-man’s land now. It was the first to be hit by the lingering plagues born from the womb of man, and as the skies were permanently shrouded by an impermeable blanket of nanites, whatever sustainable crops it had left gave out as well. In the end, nothing remained of the prosperous nation as its last bastion of sanctuary, Len’s former home, fell to the unforgiving environment.

The first indication that we were getting close to our objective came up in the form of a swath of haze-shrouded derelicts. The rusting ships drifted aimlessly as we flew past the abandoned flotilla and much of the idle chatter died off as Mister CEO’s men fell into awe at the sight of this many ships, staring down from their airborne conveniences. The vessels stretched off into the unseen distances blocked by the haze, and Mister CEO was the first to speak up in a garble of hushed voice through our shortwave communicators, ‘Why are there so many ships here?’

‘Agricultural ships,’ I replied at length as I returned my attention to our flight path. ‘Their last attempt at reseeding life on Earth before the very air we breathe turned on us.’

‘Fighting the inevitable up till the very end,’ Len added with a sad undertone as she shifted in her seat, transfixed by the sight.

I shrugged and turned slightly to give her a brief glance, ‘That’s what being human is all about, kid.’ Returning my eyes to the horizon, I was finally able to pick out the shadowy coastline from my vantage point and pointed at it, more for Len’s benefit than my own. ‘Over there.’

The excited chatter started up once more before Mister CEO gave a stern warning to keep the communications channel free from useless talk. ‘How much longer till we get there?’ he asked at length.

‘Two more hours before we make landfall,’ I shouted back, watching the gradually emerging coastline of the desolate lands. ‘Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Neo Japan. Take care not to breathe wrongly, stay on the beaten path and don’t eat anything you see. Anything else is likely to kill you in two seconds flat.’

Several of the men groused rudely at my words and Len gave me a rough poke for good measure before snickering quietly at the discomfort of Mister CEO’s flunkies. For my part, I had to grin in light of their distress. I couldn’t get back at them physically for forcing me and Len along for the ride but I could sure as hell try to make them wet their pants.

As we neared the coastline minutes later, I looked up at the perpetual haze hovering high above in the gloomy skies, watching the slow gyration of the haze. It was a good sign. As long as the skies showed no sign of breaking from their whirlpool-like stirrings, it meant that the winds weren’t strong enough to push the lethal nanite swarms clustered about Neo Japan in our way, at least for the next few hours. Given our speed, we could skirt the slow-moving swarms well enough as long as I kept an eye on their gradual movements. All conversation died away as the omni-birds following up behind assumed a train-like flight formation tailing after me, their individual pilots hushed in their concentration. None of them were willing to risk distracting me with idle talk now that I had assumed point position in guiding them through the clouds of invisible machines.

Our insignificant convoy flitted past aging behemoths that were the remains of half-constructed shelters, dismantled buildings and more of the rusting remains of an eerie necropolis. As we winded through the air a good kilometer or two from the ground, more of the dead city came into view in their death-like silence, welcoming our arrival not unlike decayed hands thrusting up from their graves to greet humans who had been absent from these lands for close to a century. Empty skyscrapers, city-blocks which had been deconstructed down to their bones by the innumerable nanites and the poignant remains of public transportation littered the metal forest beneath. At some point, we caught sight of the decaying Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid off in the horizon and Len drew a sharp intake of breath at the sight.

‘Don’t look,’ I warned her quietly. She didn’t need the memories of long-dead family to come back and haunt her at a time like this. A slight rustling sound was the only indication she had taken my advice.

We left the sorry reminder behind soon enough, emerging into even older ruins that were the developing sectors of old Japan before new leadership had assumed control to christen the nation its new, more modern name. In contrast, the hovering clouds of nanites had become thicker and more frequent here inland and I was forced to lead the convoy flying constant figure-eights in an attempt at navigating the maze of hazards. More than once we have had to squeeze between two dangerously close swarms in our passage. I wouldn’t need to imagine the beady eyes of Mister CEO’s men as they stared in speechless fear at the violet clouds of nanomachines hovering too close for comfort. One nudge by the winds from any directions and we would be meeting a very grisly death. There probably wouldn’t be anything left except unusable material before we could even hit the ground in a mess of unidentifiable fluids.

Fortunately, the wind decided it didn’t need to act up to kill us today. The last of the suspended hazards fell behind and the ensuing final hour of our flight saw less of the dangers, certainly nothing pleasant but still a lot more manageable. Beneath us, the landscape grew increasingly rugged, showing less and less signs of being touched by humans. Uneven terrain, hills and eventually the slopes of a mountain drew into sight, bare of any form of life and looking not too unlike the surface of the moon in their stark nakedness. Skirting the mountainside, I was finally able to make out the helipad amidst its camouflage between two inaccessible drops in the cliffs, signaling for us to make landfall at long last as I did.

The convoy landed gently, barely disturbing the years of debris which had steadily collected on the helipad over the course of time in its solitary watch over the mountain. Motors and rotors died off before we disembarked, shut down by hands eager to be back on solid ground following the hours of tiring danger-wrought flight. Several of the men approached me as I stepped down myself. Mister CEO came before me, casting the bare mountain landscape a skeptical look as he queried suspiciously, ‘This is it? There’s not a damn thing here except for this landing pad.’

‘What, you think they built a helipad out here for fun?’ I retorted shortly, massaging at my sore back. At the side, Len finally got herself down after a couple of tries clinging onto the Pegasus’ exterior frame. I paused briefly to see if she needed any help before turning back to address Mister CEO, ‘The facility’s built into the mountains. Entrance’s over there yonder,’ I went on as I brought a hand up to point at the dusty trail leading up and behind some boulders in the distance.

He followed my finger and nodded once. Wordlessly, he gestured towards some of his men and half their numbers immediately went off to attend to an unspoken task as the other half came up and joined their succinct boss. ‘Lead the way, doctor.’

Having hobbled her way to my side, Len gave me an unsure look before hanging onto my left arm for support in our climb. I took her request for help silently and guided her steps in our small hike up the trail. Uncomfortably I noticed some of the men brandishing firearms, mostly high caliber pistols, as we walked. Even their boss had unholstered some sort of hand-held device and I fell back slightly to attempt a surreptitious inspection in curiosity. I managed to catch several glimpses of the tri-coils girding the top of the device and suppressed a hiss of surprise in recognition. A portable EMP generator, brainchild of my infamous friend, Clint Hammond. I felt more sure than ever that the man had made preparations months in advance for this “venture” of his. What had they been planning all this time?

Shoving the thoughts aside as we arrived at the nondescript cut in the face of the mountains, I went on ahead towards the rotting guardhouse standing next to a smallish blast door painted in the same color as the rest of the mountain to hide it from a cursory aerial search. The brown paint had long ago flecked away, but the doors still looked to be as undisturbed as the last time I had exited it. Len disengaged from my arm as I took a moment to peer into the dilapidated guardhouse before stepping into it, feeling the wood creak and crack underneath as I searched for the blast door’s circuits underneath the simple metal desk within. My waiting party went to marveling at the surroundings as I tried to short the numerous wires I had dug out from their plastic insulation box, hoping the reactor buried underneath the mountain could still supply the juice to open the door if the constant earthquakes hadn’t already destroyed it.

My hopes flared along with the first spark of the wires, and tying off the veritable spaghetti of copper wires, I shorted the last one. A loud rumbling preceded the hiss of hydraulics waking up from their decades of slumber and I went back to my feet in time to catch the sight of the blast doors rolling aside, the twin-layered barriers each sliding into their individual slots left and right. Mister CEO observed impassively as his team waited hesitantly for orders. Only the arrival of the remainder of his men he had temporarily left behind prompted them into action once more, and he took them through the blast doors with a curt gesture before I could follow them hastily. Casting several glances at his flunkies who had lagged behind, I realized what they had been doing behind us as they hauled on one of the Pegasi together, dragging the flying machine up the incline towards the blast doors. The omni-bird’s rotors had folded into its sides, its tail similarly retracted to give it a smaller profile. My curiosity intensified; they were planning on bringing one of the VTOL vehicles into the seed-garden as well.

We had to wait for the entirety of the Pegasus to slowly grind its way past the blast doors before I could toggle the air cycling lever, an endeavor which taxed Mister CEO’s patience greatly. For once, I saw him lose his composure slightly as he started barking to the grunting men to hurry it up. The machine wasn’t heavy by classical standards, but it still took all four of his flunkies long minutes to push it past the elevated mouth of the blast door. Once done, my now-irrepressible host barked for me to get on with things, and I slammed the level downwards to break through the years of accumulated grime in its gears. The blast doors made their ponderous journey back into their original position before gaudy lights winked to life above us, and as the air started to cycle, I noticed something out of place for the first time. Several carrying harnesses had been stacked to one side of the airlock and some of the paraphernalia I remembered abandoning here weren’t in their same places.

Someone had been here before us, and very recently.
No. 118568
Mister CEO noticed nothing out of place, as did his men. As one, we shifted in our feet nervously while the internal doors gradually slipped open. Most of his flunkies held their weapons at ready to my increasing mystification, as if they were expecting something to leap out at them from the hollowed out corridors beyond the airlock. The incessant clicks and clacks as their weapons were primed disturbed the absolute silence of the facility once the doors had stopped opening halfway. I shook my head as the internal door practically died in its tracks and waved everyone forward. Nothing strange to see here; merely a failed mechanism in the door.

To be walking here once more after so many years, it almost felt like coming full circle, for Novia Eretria had once been the sole purpose of my life before I left it behind for what I assumed to be forever then. Faces of people I could barely remember and voices lost to the mists of time came back in a slow trickle. We were a small group of people dedicated to the preservation of the generator facility, one amongst the few since the creation of this facility inheriting a task which had been passed down to the following groups as the preceding ones were claimed by age and disease. Caretakers we had been called, responsible for ensuring the precious machines within did not succumb to the entropy time would typically introduce as its constant companion. Over the years, the facility eventually lost its purpose, its soul. No one wanted to stay here in isolation watching over the generators forbidden from being brought to life for another three centuries or so. We weren’t going to live that long attending to a thankless task awaiting a day we would never see and eventually, the greed of our own lives took over.

We left Novia Eretria, and sealed the place. One by one, the little cabal of keepers died off trying to eke out an existence in post-Collapse Neo Japan. I would be the last to know of their dismal history.

‘What were they trying to do here?’ Mister CEO queried slowly as he came up to my side. Len scrunched her nose up in displeasure and turned her head away from him.

‘You don’t know? I’d have thought having access to the M.I. would have already told you everything,’ I muttered back to him without looking, still mostly preoccupied with retracing my steps through the empty corridors. The metallic clanging of metal meeting boots echoed with our march.

‘Prometheus only has a generalized summary of the generator technology and the purpose of this facility, not particulars and details,’ he admitted reluctantly in return. ‘All we could gather was that this place was the forefront of research on establishing stable entryways into the seed-garden.’

Len drew closer in her own curiosity as I explained, having never heard the run-down herself. ‘Close enough,’ I remarked as we passed through a bulkhead and into a spacious cavern lined by numerous pylons barely visible in the dim light underneath the walkway we traversed. Pointing down at one of the pylons, I continued, ‘Probability field generators. The jokers who originally came up with the idea that the invisible boundary could be breached also worked out a viable method to do just that.’

He leaned over the handrails slightly to peer down at the shadowed pylons, as did some of his men. ‘Probability field technology is a myth. I wasn’t aware of any degree of success we ever had in its progression pre-Collapse.’

I shrugged at his understandable skepticism. I would have thought the same thing if I were in his dubious shoes. ‘It took long years, but they made it possible. The barrier could be disrupted enough to attain mutual cohesion on both sides, allowing for the creation of temporary ‘mirrors’ in the seed-garden and here under special conditions, conditions which they had since learned how to replicate with the pylons. The technology is complicated, but the concept is simple. We simply displace the ‘mirror’ on our side and vice versa, bringing us with it, so to speak.’

‘Is that why the facility had been kept hush-hush for all this time? To avoid a stampede of surviving humans trying to flee there?’ Len pressed forth a question of her own, never quite fully understanding the reason behind Novia Eretria.

‘They couldn’t risk a migration then, not with how much we had been exposed to the engineered environment on our side. As the boss man here mentioned, the dangers of inadvertently bringing over any one of our plagues was too great.’ For the first time, he nodded in agreement and allowed me to go on in silence. ‘And so, everything was kept under wraps as the sole remaining global government back then issued an edict to purge all records of Novia Eretria from Prometheus, leaving only rumors and legends of it along with instructions not to break quarantine until Prometheus has finished the countdown towards minimum parameters for rehabilitation of Earth.’

‘But this place was abandoned and closed up,’ she went on in puzzlement. ‘What happens when you die and forget to tell anyone where to find this place?’ Casting me a sheepish look, she amended quickly, ‘No offence. I didn’t mean for you to die.’

Elbowing her good-naturedly, I returned her a sickly grin at the unintended reprimand to show her that all was fine. ‘I guess that’s partly our fault. We didn’t want to waste our lives watching over a boring pile of metal pylons for people who wouldn’t even be born for over two hundred years more.’

‘Then I’m glad I’m here, doctor,’ Mister CEO spoke up coldly, somewhat nettled by my words. ‘If we had left the facility to your irresponsible hands, the knowledge would have died with you in time.’

‘Yeah yeah.’ Ignoring the man, I looked back worriedly at the amount of noise the packed Pegasus was causing as it was dragged along the walkway, hoping the weight wouldn’t break the groaning metal under our feet. ‘Must you bring that thing along? What’re you going to do, fly it around the seed-garden and show the primitives there your fancy bird?’

‘The vehicle will be our only means of transportation in there, doctor,’ he replied curtly. ‘Time is of the essence, or did you think we would have leisurely weeks to spend walking through countless thousands of square kilometers in the seed-garden trying to assess a potential outbreak?’

‘You made your point,’ I grunted hurriedly before he could go on with his lecture. And I thought I was the old man here. The walkway continued to echo its protests as a counterpoint to his argument.

Fortunately, we wouldn’t need to put up with the tension of groaning walkways anymore as we passed into the heart of Novia Eretria, its entrance marked by a sizable sterilization chamber which would be more than enough to accommodate our party plus one folded-up VTOL vehicle. I left everyone with instructions to discard their suits and wait underneath the ultraviolet showers, clad only in their undergarments. Ducking my way into the control pod at the side, I tapped several times at the self-test button and waited, hoping once more that the facility still had sufficient power for us. We would need a lot more than a few kilowatts in the next half an hour or so.

Lights in the management panel winked briefly before dying out, but the thrumming sound of the UV showers calibrating was unmistakable. Abruptly, the noises stopped much like our half-dead airlock door somewhere at the entrance. I groaned out loud, fervently hoping I wouldn’t need to crawl all the way down the maintenance shaft to get this fixed. Trying the button once more, I was rewarded with absolutely nothing and out of impatience I gave the panel a hard rap. The impact rocked loose some screws along with intermittently flashing indicators. Beyond the viewport of the control pod, Mister CEO gestured at me impatiently and pointed a gun-shaped hand at an unsuspecting Len, who was too busy staring at the paraphernalia past the viewing window of the sterilization chamber to notice. Gulping slightly, I turned back to the stubborn machine and gave it a veritable kick on the button, smashing it in much to my dismay. Nevertheless, the barbaric repair effort paid off. The all-green indicator lit up and the chamber’s UV showers rotated into position in time for me to make it through the closing outer doors.

Within, I could hear the UV bulbs rotating clockwise within the walls as they positioned themselves. Pushing over a small box I had dragged over to everyone, I scattered the contents on the unblemished floor of the chamber, punctuated by slits which would allow the sterilizing rays free reign from below as well as from the top. Small, white strapless eye-protectors; they were supposed to be used to protect one’s eyes against the ensuing sanitization. Naturally, like the Rambo he and his men were, they chose to ignore the flimsy apparels and chose to demonstrate their manliness against the ultraviolet radiation with nothing but their closed eyelids.

I shrugged to Len as she reciprocated the gesture, the two of us deciding against emulating the questionable display of manhood by reaching for the eye-protectors. Their loss if they want to risk ocular damage. Not that I would be particularly distressed if that were to happen anyway. Secretly, I was already hoping for it, especially for a certain rifle-toting individual.

Once the alarm buzzers had finished blaring their warning, much of the chamber reverberated in the passage of the UV bulbs, bathing the room with enough radiation to purge all free microbes from it. At length, a dim hum came on as electromagnetic waves were passed through the chamber to neutralize potentially inert nanites lingering on our bodies and the sole Pegasus in here, a rather ineffective procedure in all honesty. Humans have long since learned that the nanoscale machines could insinuate themselves in our bloodstream to be partially shielded from such sanitization by layers of muscles and bone. As for their airborne convenience, the radiation would have minimal effect on it seeing how the vehicle essentially had zero electronics.

The hexagonal exit from the chamber grated open and I harbored half fears of watching it jam like pretty much everything insofar. Nothing terribly untoward happened as the last of the segments slid away, but my fears were confirmed as I turned back to work on the small control panel on a pedestal at the side. One loud groan and the sound of hydraulics fouling indicated that the door had died on us. Fortunately, the outer door remained sealed against contamination and as the overhead fans whirred to life bringing in the filtered air along with some light from the barely functional lamps hammered into the granite ceiling, the solitary contraption which sat in the middle of the cavernous enclosure was illuminated for my party to view in its full glory at last.

A Y-shaped bar of unremarkable steel measuring almost twenty meters in diameter hung upside down from the ceiling all the way to the floor of the chamber, partly encased by half-cylinders of more of the unfathomable paraphernalia which comprised the majority of the facility. The inverted tuning-fork was suspended by nothing more than the numerous cables attached to the half-cylinders, serving as both support and a means to rotate the oddity. A probability field generator, they had called it. Nondescript as it was, the field generator was a quantum leap in theoretical physics, a fact most people would have made a big deal out of if they weren’t mostly dead by now.

Mister CEO finished pacing about the elevated dais the field generator hung above, breathing his marvel at it. ‘Remarkable. Crude, simple and yet, such an ingeniously assembled machine. What powers this thing?’

‘A tokamak at the base of Novia Eretria. It’s probably dead by now but there should be enough power left in the fuel cells to run this once without help from the reactor.’ While I answered his question, Len had moved off to sit on the edge of the dais as she quietly observed his flunkies working, attempting to lift the omni-bird onto the platform. She looked rather embarrassed to have to strut around in her undergarments while the rest of us didn’t seem to care overmuch, except for the occasional men who stole a hungry glance her way. I motioned for their boss to join me over at the workstation to one side, showing him the aged computers almost ancient by our current standards. He cast a scathing glance at the antiques before motioning for me to go on.

Poking away at the power socket of the workstation, I hoped I wouldn’t need to go physical on it again to get it to start up. My persistence was finally rewarded, and Mister CEO leaned close to watch the machines complete their pre-boot diagnostics. I drew his attention towards one of the yellowed posters before rolling it out on one side of the workstation. ‘Maps?’ he quizzed suspiciously as his eyes roamed over the cracked poster. ‘This would imply cartographic work had been carried out in the seed-garden. Did your people break quarantine to do this?’

‘What? C’mon, what’d you take us for?’ I snorted at him. ‘Of course we didn’t. This was charted out from before the Collapse, back when the original researchers were allowed to explore the other side.’ Waving wide at the meaningless contours and lines on the map, I waited for him to decide. ‘Well, pick a spot, boss-man.’

‘Here,’ he stabbed at a random place without even seeming to think.

Was this guy serious? ‘Uh, you might want to look this thing through, boss-man. For all I know you and your boys could displace into a lake or into a mountain’s lava tubes on the other side. Not too healthy on the skin, get my drift?’

‘We’re pressed for time, doctor,’ he returned coldly. ‘Now how-‘

Whatever question he had was left unspoken as the sterilization chamber’s outer doors imploded violently in a shockwave of heat and noise. One segment of the door flew clear off its moorings and instantly decapitated one of his flunkies who had been idling by the other side of the chamber. Alarms blared to life weakly and much of the facility returned into some semblance of life amidst the ensuing rumbles from the implosion. Caught by surprise, none of Mister CEO’s men paid any heed to the gradually wakening power conduits all around us as they turned instantly to address the confusion. From the corner of my eyes, I managed to see him open his mouth to shout something, only to reel backwards as shots resounded from the smoking breach.

‘Commandos!’ someone shouted before roaring in pain as additional gunshots echoed. More out of instinct than an actual conscious move, I ducked underneath the workstation as live ammunition ricocheted about where Mister Now-Apparently-Dead-CEO used to stand.

In sudden panic, I poked my head above the table for a quick assessment, trying to look for Len as the frantic thought suddenly occurred to me. The area around the field generator erupted into a firefight as the surviving men came to their senses and dove for cover, clumsily firing back at a group in gray enviro-suits who had entrenched themselves at the only exit from here. Something on the table smashed into splinters and I shrank back into cover, opting to peer out from underneath the table’s small opening instead.

I caught sight of her crawling away from the field generator, a blank look of confusion on her face as she alternated between staring up at the inverted tuning fork and the apparent commandos gradually picking off Mister CEO’s inexperienced flunkies. Heedless of the danger, I forced the workstation to topple over, groaning desperately with the effort as I did. The contents of the table crashed to the ground as I finally managed to nudge it aside from underneath it, punctuating the exchange of gunshots with breaking glass and shattering monitors. Several shots impacted the metal table but failed to break through the reinforced steel. Could be using hollow-point ammunition; I couldn’t spare much time to think about it.

Barking out her name repeatedly, I tried to get Len’s attention as I dragged the entire table her way, using it as a ballistic shield and praying hard that the commandos wouldn’t take a shot at her. The few seconds it took to reach her felt almost like hours as I pushed and heaved an unthinking path towards her and reach her I finally did, snapping out a hand to reel her into cover before a bullet could find its way to her. She shook hard as I brushed at her face in relief, clinging to my arm in a vise-like grip. ‘It’s lighting up,’ she muttered incoherently into my arm.

Lighting up? For the first time, I turned my gaze upwards and realized what she had meant. The inverted tuning fork had started spinning as rivulets of light ran through the featureless steel. High above, most of the half-cylinders were already attaining synchronized revolutions, throwing forth a keening noise amidst the sound of gunshots. The forced entry must have jarred the tokamak back to life, and Novia Eretria’s mostly-dysfunctional system had probably decided the best way to vent the unmanageable power surge was by triggering the probability field generator.

Pushed past the brink of desperation, I risked another look past the table. Of the eleven men that I had brought here, only three remained taking potshots at the commandos in cover. Their compatriots had all been reduced into twitching bodies profusely bleeding through the new holes they sported. The interlopers had never asked questions or made demands. Whoever they were, they came in shooting and it was all too obvious they did not plan on taking prisoners. Looking down at the quivering Len, up at the field generator which was starting its final revolutions and at the three men whose minutes were numbered, I made up my mind. It was all or nothing.

‘Len!’ I had to repeat her name several times before she finally looked up, uncertainty in her eyes. ‘At the count of three; push our way to the generator!’

‘Wh… what? NO!’ she cried, suddenly realizing what I was planning on doing. ‘The room’s been compromised, there’s no telling if we’ve been contaminated or not!’

She could be right or wrong, but at the moment, only the thought that getting her out of here came foremost. Worrying about killing a future we would never live to see didn’t really help that much in convincing me otherwise. ‘We have to take that chance. Move!’

Regardless of her reluctance, she hauled on the table and with her help, it took only scant seconds to reach the edge of the dais. The firefight had largely died down into occasional shots, interspaced by more shouts from the commandos than actual gunfire. Only one solitary man stood between the field generator and the incoming commandos, and as I timed my push on Len onto the platform to avoid the revolving arms of the tuning fork, I gave our last defender a sharp glance. Ironically, it was Rifle Jerk who would last the longest.

As the metallic arm made another pass, I rolled onto the platform as well. Some of the commando had taken notice of us and started firing our way. Warned by the ricocheting noise of bullets striking the revolving arms of the tuning fork, she took cover in the still-compacted Pegasus. Emulating her common sense, I made a mad dash towards the pilot seat, managing to throw myself onto the side of the omni-bird before I could meet the same end as the rest of our sorry party. Edging to one side, I shouted back at Rifle Jerk as I caught sight of him, still perched behind one of the storage crates he had taken cover behind. ‘Hey dickweed! Get your ass over here!’

He turned back slightly, only to toss his PDA onto the platform before popping up to pump several suppressing shots at the repositioning commandos. ‘Take that to the other side and for Pete’s sake LOOK AT IT WHEN YOU DO! It’s all up to you now!’

I had no great love for him, but he deserved better than to be left behind. ‘Don’t be stupid boy! We got about fifteen seconds more before this thing pops so haul ass!’

‘Then go,’ he returned calmly. The look he had given me told me all too well that he was resigned to his fate. ‘Remember what we came to do. Don’t let the garden die.’

The revolution of the twin arms had already pumped up to their full intensity, spinning too quickly for anyone to jump through now. I gave up on Rifle Jerk, clambering into the pilot seat of the Pegasus and remembering just in time to snatch the PDA he had slid over, throwing it into a corner and forgetting all about it as I braced against the controls of the Pegasus, mindless to whatever unspeakable horror that was about to happen. The keening had elevated to an inhuman pitch now, drowning out whatever noise was outside the field generator. I couldn’t even tell if Rifle Jerk still lived or not now.

The spinning arms generated an unusual smell with the centrifugal force the cylinders above were pumping out. I felt my eyes drawn to the blur of steel in amazement as the whirring metal occasionally cast reflections of an unfamiliar landscape, one which astonishingly was covered in green with a blue, sun-lit sky. The reflections were becoming more consistent in their appearance, bringing forth sweeping vistas of beautiful mist-clad mountains and pristine rivers running free through a land brimming with life. I realized for the first time the funny smell wasn’t the odor of running machines. It was the scent of a quickly displacing atmosphere. A tantalizingly fresh and clean atmosphere, free from the horrors that plagued much of Earth.

Unceremoniously, the field generator erupted in a single flash of silver and the arms vanished completely before my unsuspecting gaze.
No. 118569
File 127576331528.png - (520.82KB , 1055x392 , watasukiawesome.png ) [iqdb]
No. 118570
File 127576392018.jpg - (79.06KB , 640x960 , 1275615130941.jpg ) [iqdb]
That's a lot of writing. Time to take a week off work to read it all.
No. 118572
Palfag, is that you?
No. 118573
I had misgivings initially, but it proved to be rather nifty.

I am intrigued, Anonymous.
No. 118578
So, palingenesia 2?
No. 118579
I got pal vibes throughout the entire thing.
No. 118587
Same here, I'm almost tempted to think they're in the same universe.
No. 118596

This one has only one sun though. Palingenesia had two.
No. 118600
Also palfriend would have put quotes in at the top of a few of the posts
No. 118601

He didn't when he first started though.
No. 118602
I wonder if this is post-Palingenesia.

Either way, it's making me hard.
No. 118603
........Beautiful........just beautiful. And the protagonist is old for once, earth is ultra crapsack, and the CEO isn't {entirely} courrpted. Can't wait for the next part
No. 118606
Oh come on, compared to palingenesia this story is downright cheery, at least there's hope sprinkled here and there.
No. 118616

Give it a couple more posts.
No. 118621
>CEO isn't {entirely} courrpted
Grey characters? That's a new one here.
Usually they're either villians with a justification or good guys with a grudge. Interesting...
No. 118630
We shouldn't assume so fast they're the same person. Has everyone forgotten what happened with Grue?
No. 118633
Oh, I don't think they're the same person at all. They're are some pretty noticable stylistic differences between the two. Besides, why would someone write two stories with similar subject matter at the same time?
No. 118635

Right. But I also ask you: who else writes dialogues with ' instead of "?
No. 118646
File 127588495170.jpg - (16.95KB , 209x270 , F5.jpg ) [iqdb]
Mr. Han & Ren Len, huh?

I can't possibly express how bleak, stark, and awesome your setting is.
No. 118648
>Mr. Han & Ren Len, huh


I did not even see that.
No. 118656
'Tis me.

Some might be wondering what's up with this and whatever the heck happened to Palingenesia. Truth is, it's due to my own stupidity. I pretty much lost the entire framework for Palingenesia when I switched over to a new laptop. Story outlines, ideas, screencaps, characterization, route details, etc. Months of work gone when I neglected to transfer a few folders in my old laptop before passing it all formatted and shiny to another colleague.

As for the similarities, this is actually something a lot older I had lying around at home. Doodles and brief ideas I had tossed around as rough background material for Palingenesia before I started out on it last year. I just posted it up in a fit of anger at having BALEETED pretty much fucking everything I had no way of recovering now.

It was somewhat fun fleshing out the old ideas though.
No. 118659
Ouch, condolences on the loss. Also, thank you for this story starter (even if it never becomes a full fledged one), it was definitely a good read.
No. 118663
Might still turn this into a CYOA. We'll see how the schedule works out. Also, I got bored tonight. No screencaps due to massive image trawling laziness.


The sensation was delirious, indescribable. A gradual sense of the unexpected meeting the unknown was prevalent. Blue as far as the eye can see. A majestic orb of yellow-white burning in its golden intensity hung far above the piercingly clear heavens, and small things flew away in a flocked formation some distance off in the clean skies, sent into a panic from our unannounced arrival. White fluffs of curiously shaped stuff hung suspended everywhere, reminiscent of balls of cottons seen only in old history books.

For one singular moment, I felt as if we were floating, but that sensation vanished soon enough. Whatever was holding us aloft disappeared with the last traces of the dissipating probability field. Gravity re-assumed control instantaneously, pulling us back to the green earth miles below in a deadly plunge as Newton’s Law took effect. Amidst the lurch in my stomach, I watched dumbstruck as we pitched downwards in the heavy VTOL and commenced on our impromptu nosedive, breathing off a single exclamation. ‘Holy…’

‘SHIIIIITTTT!!’ Len completed with a scream from behind, the rest of her panic summarily lost to the onrushing air.

Frantically, I dug about the exposed cockpit for some sort of parachute, only to remember nobody ever put those things in Pegasi. Most times if they were going to crash, it was more than likely that the pilot would be dead enough for the VTOL vehicle to be losing control in the first place. And obviously, none of the original designers had the foresight to imagine our present issue. For some unfathomable reason, I started to look for an umbrella after that.

Fortunately for me, Len had a far sounder mind than I did at the moment, lurching past me in the cramped cockpit to pull at the release lever which would flip the twin rotors open the same way she had seen Mister CEO’s men work them. I caught onto her line of thought almost instantly, reaching towards the lever secreted to the side of the pilot’s enclosure to help with her tugging amidst desperate grunts. With one final wrench, we practically tore the lever free in our hands and Len stared at the snapped bar of iron in disbelief. Nevertheless, the interlocking gear work had managed to rotate into place, deploying the twin rotors all the same with a loud bang and a rain of loosened bolts. Our descent slowed slightly as the rotors gave us some additional drag.

But nothing enough to break our fall as Sir Isaac Newton kept pointing and laughing.

I wouldn’t need to look up to see that we were almost a mile short of impacting the ground in a gory mess. Hammering on the ignition repeatedly, I finally coaxed the engines to start and between the roaring winds in my ears, I could hear the groan of the rotors’ spin to life. Taking hold of the pitch and yaw controls, I shoved them about aimlessly, trying to get some sort of maneuverability out from the Pegasus. For some reason, the controls wouldn’t jimmy in the slightest and it was only when I paid attention to Len’s screaming that I remembered why.

‘The tail segment’s still compacted!’

Eight hundred meters or so left. Wordlessly gesturing at the cranks above my head, I signaled for her to start turning it as I tried to stop us from rolling over due to the uneven pitching. Without the tail rotor, we couldn’t be able to achieve equilibrium but at least the roaring side rotors pushed beyond the point of nominal operations now could manage our roll somewhat, further slowing our fall considerably. Len kept at her handiwork with intense concentration and in a loud clank, the omni-bird’s tail finally extended into place and I gave the controls another twist. It worked this time; we broke to a jarring stop for all of the three seconds we hovered in place, still pitching precariously.

Until the starboard rotor erupted in an inglorious display of fireworks and smoke.

The two of us glanced sharply at the grinding metal blades screeching to a stop as one, filled with dreaded disbelief. ‘Give me a break,’ was all Len had managed to utter before going back to her screaming when the omni-bird pitched violently to one side. The worst came to pass as our tenacious equilibrium finally gave out. In the space of a single breath, the world grew lopsided and once more, we continued to lose precious altitude in an ever-widening spiral.

Subconsciously, I had instantly reached out disengage the fail-safe mechanism which had toggled at our engine failure before going for the manual fuel injection pump, hoping to force the dead engine back on despite the certainty that the uncontrolled sparking would invariably set it on fire. It was a calculated risk. Partially dizzied and ignorant to my efforts, Len reached forth to tug violently on my shoulders in a hoarse shout, ‘We have to jump before this thing rolls over!’

I gave the spinning vista a quick glance, numbly noting how we still had half a kilometer left separating us from ground level. There was always the tiny and improbable possibility we might live through the fall, but I couldn’t even entertain the insane notion of simply hopping out of the cockpit mid-air as much as I dreaded losing the Pegasus. Furiously, I kept going at the knob-like protrusion, forcefully feeding volatile fuel into the malfunctioning rotor. ‘Wait, wait! I can still save this!’ I rattled back at Len to stop her from doing anything stupid, such as sky-diving without speed-breakers.


Rationality running dry, I still wouldn’t give up on the rotor as I screeched angrily at both Len and the crashing VTOL. ‘Yes it is! DAMN-YES-IT-IS!’

A sudden jerking reverberated throughout the omni-bird before we could pitch all the way vertically. The malfunctioned engine croaked momentarily and went into a stall for a few chest-bursting seconds. At the point of giving up all hope it finally chugged up again, sluggishly at first until an additional pumping motion forced enough gas into the fuel lines for it to churn back to life. Between my growing surge of hope and the adrenaline from our expected introduction to the ground below, I managed to throw us back onto a horizontal plane as our equilibrium gradually stabilized.

The airframe grumbled loudly from the strain of slicing through the skies in a speedy tangent, control back in hand once more. I groaned, sighed and then laughed senselessly as I collapsed back to the cramped seat, amazed by how we had managed to scrape out of crashing. Easing on the flight controls to regain the lost altitude, I turned back to give Len a silly grin of relief. ‘There, you see? It’s not so bad.’

The deflating tension on her face was close to amusing to behold, but her sudden panic attack in the next second had me puzzled. ‘EYES AHEAD!!’

‘Wha-‘ was all I managed to utter before I could turn and look at what she was pointing at.

Suspended in the very air before us was Something unusually out of place in the clear skies, a smallish figure billowing with both hair and unconventional clothing as it hung there without any apparent support. I would never get the chance to look at whom or what it was; our subsequent aerial collision threw all introductory formalities out of the window as the figure hit our port wing hard. We dragged It along for the few disbelieving seconds both me and Len took to stare at It before the stunned Thing was sucked into the gyrating mincer that was our port rotor. Almost a déjà vu of our earlier crisis, the rotor instantly fouled in a mangle of flailing limbs, uncommonly long hair and a flourish of unidentifiable fabrics.

I couldn’t even take my eyes away from our road kill as we started pitching the other way. ‘Okay, that’s bad.’

To accentuate our wonderful situation, the starboard rotor finally caught fire and flames broke out in a small cloud of orange and black smoke. Lost to sudden despair, I could no longer find any traces of panic or horror in my voice as I glanced its way. ‘Well that’s really bad.’ I sighed inwardly in resignation. Guess the Big Man up there finally decided I had lived long enough. My grip on the controls slipped away.

In contrast, Len refused to give up. Unbelievably, she had started climbing towards our port rotor despite her leg and the dangerous angle we were being forced to fly at and I found myself repeatedly screaming at her to get back to her seat. Even her lamed leg couldn’t stop her determination to live as she extended one arm towards the mangled Thing caught in the rotor, which continued to twitch occasionally. Her left hand gripping onto the omni-bird’s support struts for dear life, she actually managed to grab hold of the single billowing sleeve-like object fluttering out of the rotor and began tugging at it desperately in an attempt at freeing the jammed propeller.

Seeing her efforts, I went back to the controls with renewed determination, sheepishly reminded that while I might have given up, she most certainly hasn’t damned well done the same. It was a lost cause all the same; with both rotors barely functioning now, I was unable to provide the necessary thrust to break our acceleration towards the sea of green below. If Len couldn’t coax the body free from the port rotor, it wouldn’t matter much if I had control or not.

A subsequent explosion on the starboard rotor forced the omni-bird to buckle hard. With a loud yelp, Len was thrown clear off the wing, her hold on the wing violently torn away and in an act of self-preservation, she struck out to grab the billowing sleeve her other hand clung onto. The combined burden of our road kill and Len dangling from its sleeve sounded our death knell. Any moment now, we would finally roll over and lose any means of righting the Pegasus back to an even plane.

In a single timeless moment, she gave me a piercing stare from her precarious position. An unspoken exchange passed between us and the expression of fear on her face softened and she suddenly started heaving at the sleeve she had gripped in her hands with a new purpose. I experienced a sudden, sinking feeling in my heart as I realized what Len was trying to do.

The girl was trying to pull that Thing free of the rotors using her weight. Len’s only intention now was to save both the VTOL and me at the expense of her own life.

I flew into a mindless rage at her line of thought. There was no way I was letting her take the half-kilometer plunge with that Thing in tow.

Reverently, I took hold of the crank for the omni-bird’s tail section and started turning the accursed thing for dear life, forcing the extended tail to start retracting despite the still-spinning propeller at the rear. Instead of reversing our thrust, I threw the throttle into full-forward, increasing our already-unbreakable acceleration. I’ve seen enough years behind me already. Len still had her entire life ahead of her.

Her eyes widened in shock as her attention snapped to my cranking hand and the gradually collapsing tail section. She mouthed a single word at me. No!

The turbulence intensified as the retractable tail folded in partway. Len started trashing harder as she hauled away desperately at the Thing, trying to shake it free. She knew what I wanted to do. ‘NO! Stop!’ she shrieked repeatedly.

One last shove was all it took for the tail section to jam violently in its irregular configuration. The spinning rotor sandwiched in its end instantly grated against the collapsible frame, throwing an endless fountain of sparks through the sky in our ever-plunging trail earthwards. In a few moments more, the entire assembly would probably splinter apart but forcing the tail to fold back and pushing the starboard rotor to maximum power had served their purposes. Our descent regained some semblance of equilibrium from the acceleration and the omni-bird’s shifted center of gravity. It bought us enough time to stay somewhat horizontal as the descent eventually brought us low enough to brush the torrential waves of green underneath. On the other side, Len still fought ineffectually to dislodge the obstruction caught in the port rotor.

Executing a deliberate swerve on the Pegasus, I brought the maimed vehicle teetering dangerously to the right, trying to shake Len loose to fall into the waiting embrace of the weaving sea of green a few feet under us. I hoped the actual ground wouldn’t be too far down to break her bones on impact but at least from this height, she had a far greater chance of survival compared to earlier. She kept to her voluble protests, screaming for me to take the jump as well. That was no longer a possible course of action for me. I couldn’t release control without instantly flipping the barely-navigable VTOL over. The jammed rotors and fouled tail-section promised to punish us mercilessly should I even dare relinquish my tenacious hold on the throttles and flight levers, summarily crushing Len beneath it as we tore into the greenery. It was already a monumental fight to maintain whatever stability was left to us, much less keep the vehicle level.

In an act of pure desperation from seeing Len’s stubborn refusal to let go, I risked a brief period of deceleration before forcibly dipping her into the greenery streaming past mere inches from her feet. Amidst her hoarse sobs, I turned to give her one last look, probably my last as I shouted cheerfully to her. ‘I’m sorry to have to leave you again, kid! Live strong like you always did, you hear me!?’

Whatever teary objections she had was instantly lost as her lower half dipped through the greenery. It took less than a fraction of a second for the drag to pull her underneath, along with the finally-obliging Thing caught in the port rotor. The two vanished beneath with barely a ripple in the green swallowing them. Almost immediately, the now-freed rotor blasted back to life in a triumphant roar of jubilant air. All manner of unsteady equilibrium was lost to the very winds as the omni-bird bobbed out of control, first left and right before weaving back and forth. If the tail section hadn’t been intentionally jammed, perhaps crash-landing the thing would have been possible, but not anymore. Astonishingly, I managed to keep it aloft for another few hundred meters before the entire thing righted over and took an instant dive. I watched the world turn upside down in slow-motion and the rushing green coming up to herald my end as well, still rigidly gripping on the defunct controls.

Unexpectedly, the field of green vanished at the lip of a jaw-dropping cliff as a new vista spanned overhead, a right side-up land of such aching beauty and flowing with life it was almost unnatural in comparison to Earth’s ravaged surface. So different from the hellhole on the other side, I thought numbly as I savored the glimpse of this relatively interesting final moment of my life. My last thoughts, prayers, and hopes were for Len to find a place and a far better life here in the seed-garden most could only dream of reaching some distant day. Paradise garden Gensokyo.

That was it. No fancy jumping from moving cars now. Trapped in the Pegasus-turned-deadweight barreling down into the valley far below, I realized the growing irony of calling it as such, so aptly named in light of the fate awaiting me.

Fuck it, at least the view’s neat.
No. 118676

Did you just normally format it, or... that method that I can't recall the name of, but it's where you turn every bit to 0 or something like that. Somebody help me out here.

Anyway, if you just formatted it normally, see if you can get it back from said colleague for a bit before he does too much with it, and see if you can take it in to a hard disk recovery place.

It might be a long shot, but it's more than you've got right now.
No. 118679
Don't you have the concepts in your head in some form?
No. 118684

A piece of me died inside.
No. 118685
I... I...
No. 118686
File 127594362044.png - (452.50KB , 1000x750 , bright whitobase.png ) [iqdb]
No. 118687
I know how is losing a story for a error like that, my story was very stupid, but the pain is the same. My condolences.
I will never lose my hope to see a new chapter of Palingenesia again, meanwhile i'll be still translating it and reading you.
No. 118690
I can't see. There are too many tears. My keyboard feels like it's covered in them. It's going to be so hard to clean.

Let me find the 'reply' button.
No. 118691
He was just joking guys.

No. 118697
you know there are programs that can recover files from formatted drives?
No. 118698
Yeah, and he can just ask the college to give back his laptop right?
No. 118699
maybe? what the fuck do you know? he'd only need it back for like a day
No. 118700
That's kind of what I was getting at in >>118676 .
No. 118717
If whoever got the laptop has already installed an OS on the formatted drive, the chances of recovering anything are close to zero. The time would be much better spent trying to reconstruct his notes while the stuff is still not too aged in his head.
No. 118718
Can't we just appreciate this new story?

I liked Palingenesia, but this has the potential to be even better.
No. 118720
Most of us invested too much time to just give up on it. And if we were to do that, we might as well not bother with this lest the same thing happens again.
No. 118741

We've grown attached to palingenesia. This is unavoidable.
No. 118745
While I do agree with the sentiment that we've invested a lot of interest in the story, I wouldn't say that shifting to this story is any kind of a problem, it's really no different from a writer starting a new story while the old one is still going.
No. 118754
History repeats itself, and there's only so much time and energy I have to spare. If palingenesia dies, I don't think I'd be able to spare such for another similarly massively-walled story. Now if that continues, I can do this at the same time.
No. 118772
no sorry
No. 118781
what >>118772 said.

and we were just left on a cliffhanger too ;_;
No. 118783
The first claim, that you've somehow invested more emotion or time into a story than its author, is the absolute worst kind of hubris.

The second claim 'oh it's just going to happen again' is like choosing to go without bathing because you'll get dirty eventually.

They are both trite and stupid, and if I were the author of these stories, I would tell you that you won't be missed.
No. 118786
I say fuck the complainers who aren't happy that the Author may focus on this story more for the time being.
The Author is a really good writer and it shouldn't matter if he's writing this or that, because it WILL be a good story either way.
No. 118788
I never said I put more time than the author, just that Pal was a story that required a good amount of both to read.
No. 118796
So putting that time/emotion into the author's new project is difficult? Even with the other story on hold?
I like the writing and the universe, so I plan to follow this.
No. 118823

If with this you think that I (>>118741) won't read this, then you are very wrong. I was just referring to how people felt sad/shocked over the news.

However, >>118720 and >>118754 are real fags though. He didn't drop the story, he lost it.
No. 118825
He lost the basic notes, it's up to him if he salvages the story or lets it die. And it being laid low by such a fluke isn't the most promising thing, seeing how these flukes can be rather common.
No. 118829
Eagerly waiting for the next update.
No. 118946
Say, if this story continues, what should we call it? Palingenesia 2 doesn't sound quite right since this story was actually concieved before, how about "Palingenesia Zero"? Too corny? Overused?
No. 118951

How about letting the author decide it?
No. 118987
We can't do that! Allowing authors some say in determining the course and the very nature of their stories?! Not only does it send a dangerous message, it sets a negative precedent!
No. 119007
File 127658606123.jpg - (756.22KB , 1204x1209 , カタギリ@夏コミ - あややや.jpg ) [iqdb]
“I like roaming the lifeless lands. The silence is the perfect mirror to the tranquility we seek all the time.”

- Gabriel Han

I dreamt of eggs sunny side up with a dash of broccoli. Things no longer in existence and only briefly glimpsed through the sole public access terminal we had for the M.I. played about my vague consciousness. The heady days of running through the overcrowded arcology as a boy brimming in his excitement at exploring the vast recycling sub-levels came and went in a hazy stupor. I was lost in reverie, delirious from light-headedness, and bloody thirsty to boot. I wanted nothing more than to quiet the incessant ringing in my ears. Or was it just my head? I gave a low moan as I struggled to peel my eyelids open.

One look was all I could manage before my eyelids slammed shut on their own. The streaming light shot right through my eyeballs to impale my brain with red-hot spears of agony. A brief flash from somewhere only amplified the torment, penetrating the flimsy armor that was my eyelids. Swimming in the sea of pain, I heard another moan escape my lips as the gradual realization sank in; I was still upside down but curiously, no longer streaking at terminal velocity. Things seem absolutely still in contrast to the mind-numbing acceleration during that previous lifetime or so. My arms hung straight down as they occasionally brushed the cool carbon-fiber of the Pegasus’ inner-frame and a distinct dampness ran down the warm flesh in tiny, uncaring rivulets. A splitting headache accompanied my torpor before I tried to actually start thinking again.

My first conscious thought afterward was the conclusion that heaven felt pretty shitty compared to all the literature glorifying our standard definition of an afterlife. Weakly cracking my eyelids open once more, I took one disoriented glance at both my arms and stared numbly at the blood tricking down my flaccid limbs. Not quite so dead after all. No wonder I felt like hell. Drawing a slow, deep breath I almost wished I had died as another wave of agony assailed my quivering lungs. Between hanging like a gutted chicken emptying of its blood and resisting the urge to bang my gray matter back into a concussive stupor, it took an almost-superhuman effort to keep my eyes open and gather my thoughts.

In time, I managed to calm down enough for a quick assessment of my unfamiliar surroundings. Even with the entire universe still essentially upended, I had gotten relatively used to viewing it that way now. A veritable mess of broken timber, shattered tiles and what was looking to be parts of a wooden ceiling ringed the Pegasus. Beyond all expectations the omni-bird had not only managed to keep itself in one piece during the impact, it had also somehow survived the crash largely intact with most of the forward airframe uncompromised, missing only the propeller on its starboard rotor. It was a true testament to the durability and engineering marvel lovingly put into the aerial wonders. Real shame a good majority of their pilots weren’t as lucky as I had gotten.

I wanted to spin myself around to glance up at the hole the VTOL had partially shoved itself through. Swinging and groaning loudly in the effort, all I was able to accomplish was weave about like a moronic wind-shorn frond, intermittently hacking forth a lung or two. As I snorted loudly to clear my air passageway, another bright flash followed by a click emanated from one side of the ruined roof structure. Shielding my eyes from the stroboscopic sun, I realized a bit too late that the intermittent flashing wasn’t the sun going disco on me; the real sun still hung far below, or technically above me given my peculiar orientation, shining away in its uncaring warmth. It was the flash from an antiquated camera gripped in the hand of a bleary silhouette I had to struggle hard to focus onto.

A female, looking rather human, and probably in her adolescent to teenage years wearing a quizzical look sat with her legs crossed at the mouth of the wrecked roof. She cocked her head slightly at me before launching jovially into a stream of unintelligible words. As she did, I noticed her elongated ears ending up at sharp points. A mutation of sorts perhaps, or it could be one of the improbable creatures of fantasy the first few survey teams had claimed existed in the seed-garden, years ago. The records would hardly deserve any doubting, at any rate. She was unmistakably a local.

I had probably stared a bit too much at her, for she had quieted down in her chatter to regard me strangely for a full half minute. Bringing her migraine-inducing flash box up to her eyes, she took another agonizing picture before leaning closer for a quick sniff, following it up with additional blabber I couldn’t make heads or tails of. It had sounded almost like a question from her body language.

I went with the first thing I could think of. ‘Could you run that by me again? My Martian’s rusty.’

Hesitantly and with a wary eye at me, she reached forth to finger the Pegasus with considerable interest but made no attempt at further communication, probably realizing that we had a language barrier in place now. Completely oblivious to the injuries I blatantly sported, she snapped a shot of the inverted omni-bird. In return I gave her an absolutely blank stare as I rasped dryly to her waiting silence once she had stopped taking her bloody pictures. ‘Haven’t you people ever heard of the Geneva Convention? How about helping the human out here?’

Instead of making a pointless reply in her own tongue, her infuriating camera came up once again to further torment me. Thin on patience, I reached forth to swipe the thing out of her hands before she could fire off the flash. In a quick, light dodge, she moved away from the clumsy attack effortlessly, clucking her tongue in disapproval as she tossed her shoulder-length hair at me and executed a quick push against the lip of the hole with both her hands. I almost swallowed my tongue in dumb shock watching her ascend into the air, borne aloft by absolutely nothing visibly apparent on her.

No propulsion of any form, no trick of the light, and I wasn’t about to attribute it to something as outlandish as magic. Her camera thumped against her chest on its straps as she backed away, gradually pulling into the lofty heights overhead. I fell into a mild panic, flailing my weak arms at her gravity-defying departure. ‘Hey, hey! Don’t leave me hanging here!’

My words might not be anything close to comprehensible to her, but my wild flailing still served to communicate some of my distress. She paused briefly with some amount of indecision to slip another dubious look at me. I tried to give her a friendly smile in response, but it had probably came out looking more like the grin of a dead possum. Alternating her glance between some unseen horizon and my dismal plight, she took off towards the former wordlessly, probably deciding it was best to ignore the bleeding monkey trapped in the wreck of the misshapen metal cage. I watched her sail away on the winds in dismay, suddenly losing the surge of energy wound into my tensed up body and going back to my role as a limp sausage. What had I been expecting from her, a legible reply?

I had to take a short break before bending towards my legs, partly entangled in a network of jumbled metal rods which had caved-in, probably as a result from the crash. The impact had been strong enough to shove a good portion of the cockpit inwards and a quick inspection of it told me that I had narrowly averted certain death. Another few inches more and most of the rods would have broken off to impale my waiting body. The fact that I still lived was already something of a miracle as the trauma from the crash alone would have long ago killed me. I had to take a look at the damage outside to fathom how I could have possibly survived the fall.

Despite all my feeble efforts at pulling and tugging at the jumbled metalwork, they remained stubbornly hugging my feet. In vain, I tried to use a piece I had broken off as a lever braced against the only fulcrum I could utilize, namely the dented airframe of the Pegasus. Although the mess parted slightly to allow me some room to wiggle my legs around, my attacks were largely futile. My situation saw no apparent improvement and I gave up in the following minutes, flinging the rod down in frustration towards the floor a few meters below when the roof threatened to give way with a subtle wooden groan. All the shoving and shifting about had caused the vehicle to slide down a few dangerous inches.

Much of the day passed with the entire universe mostly hanging upside down. Several times I had to force myself into a bent position before all the blood rushing into my head caused a cranial aneurysm or something similarly unpleasant. Clinging hard to the omni-bird’s nose, my new position felt even worse but it was a necessary pain I had to endure. Feeling rather lost, I did little but alternate between hanging uselessly and bending upwards to hug the nose of the VTOL for hours on end. The sun went from high noon and then dusk as the skies eventually deepened from their beautiful shade of blue to a soothing orange hue. Near what I assumed to be the start of evening in here, I caught the distinct scent of high-octane fuel quickly evaporating in the cooling air. In alarm I spun around to eye the starboard rotor, hoping the exposed electrical system was dead lest a spark ignited the drifting fumes into an inferno I had no way of escaping. Fortunately, the charred wirings remained dormant enough for me to be spared an untimely end, but the thought of precious fuel seeping through a crack somewhere was heartbreaking nonetheless.

I had grown so tired I wanted nothing more than to nod off in my agonizing pose. Close to simply shutting down my brain from exhaustion, a sharp cry from outside the structure I had violated brought me back to full consciousness instead. One loud bang and a door somewhere shortly being thrown open later, in stumbled a young man in silver-rimmed glasses with hair of a similar shade, intermittently shouting his dismay as he surveyed the damaged interior of the building. He lurched from point to point underneath me, moaning at shattered potteries before moving off towards crushed cabinets strewn with goods of an unidentifiable make. Summarily, he strode right up to the Pegasus and positioned himself beneath to look up and wave at me angrily, yowling in that same unintelligible tongue the girl with her camera had used earlier during the day.

Throwing a bleary look of distress at him, I beseeched him in an imploring voice, ‘Help?’

That gave him pause for a split second before he went back to belching his furious howls.

I lost all patience as I ranted back at him between his shouts, ‘ENGLISH, BOY! Do you speak it!?’

Perhaps it was my disrespectful tone or just the rain of my spittle descending on him, but the words he couldn’t understand had only served to aggravate him further as he darted behind a counter-like table to extract a lengthy pole. First in confusion and then in fear, I waved at him frantically to stop as he brought the pole up vertically to poke away at the Pegasus and its trapped occupant. I dodged his incensed attacks ineffectually while keeping up with my alarmed protests, fearing the worst as each of his misdirected attacks nudged the Pegasus ever closer to the point of slipping free from its precarious perch.

Despite all my efforts it came anyway. With a single horrid crack echoing into the very depths of the gloomy interior, the vehicle lost its traction against the lip of the hole and toppled right onto the astonished man, crushing body, tables, pole and all in one fell swoop. Framed by a fresh mushroom cloud of choking dust and debris my teeth almost rattled out of their sockets at the ensuing impact, but the jarring shock had the unexpected benefit of loosening up some of the entangled pipe work trapping my feet. In pained grunts and numerous heaving breaths, I pulled away from the wrecked cockpit to drop out of its side, thumping hard against the ground to peer worriedly at the man I had just inadvertently squished.

No real harm done. Four Eyes lay prone with his arms splayed outwards, safely in the space between the crosspieces housing the twin rotors and the tail of the vehicle, blissfully out-cold from the looks of things. I rolled over in exhaustion, numbly trying to reorient myself with the righted world. After spending virtually half the day hanging upside down, being able to look at things from a normal perspective one more was unnervingly gut-wrenching but at least I could actually rest my body at a proper angle now. I flopped towards the sole exit of the wooden structure before giving up halfway, overcome by fatigue. I decided to just finish crawling the remaining few feet to the outside tomorrow, if it ever came that is.
No. 119008
File 127658618358.jpg - (131.25KB , 595x637 , d86eb5430104fe2c67200da128eaa074.jpg ) [iqdb]
“I don’t get your wanderlust. What is it about that wasteland out there that makes you love it so much?”

- Len

Lost in a sea of memories, the gentle waves of images with no real meaning or coherence in them washed through my delirium. The world burned hot, forcing the soaking sweat to gush forth from every pore in my body. I tossed about, restless and terrified by the recurring silhouettes which proceeded to break apart before my outstretched arm. A mother wept as the tidal wave of pushing bodies tore her child from her grip. Vague and harsh curses echoed from the father who tried to push, shove and finally fight his way to the daughter they had lost before being trampled by the sea of panicking people. Twin brothers clung to each other fearfully, held fast by their screaming mother rendered mindless by her losses, watching helplessly as their sister vanished into the torrential river of stampeding bodies.

I cried the unconscious tears in my feverish sleep as much as I had openly wept those many years ago. Swept up by someone whose face I couldn’t even remember now, I had watched the reinforced walls of the arcology dissolve behind the fleeing throng of mindless people despite the adults reassuring us how the barriers could keep us safe forevermore. The distant cacophony of dying voices which would haunt me every time I closed my eyes returned to me once more. Unforgettable were the memories of the violet haze drifting through the breached walls and into the enclosed city within, my last sight of a world of light before one of the adults slammed the hatch shut, plunging the cramped shelter into absolute darkness.

As the muted days went by, so did our numbers within the festering gloom dwindled. A few died in the shelter from their stress and shock. Soon, those who remained wanted to escape the ever-present stench of rotting flesh. First a few, then more of the adults ventured out of the shelter, driven by hunger, claustrophobia and a deep-seated fear of the irrepressible dark. They would never return. In time, found myself all alone in the abandoned shelter amongst the company of corpses, weeping invisible tears as my swollen eyes could no longer channel any moisture, dead to the world like everyone I had. I went to sleep one last time, weakened by thirst and hunger beyond the point of caring. I wanted nothing more than to put the sadness and hopelessness away then.

I wanted to join the twin brothers and play with them, reminiscent of our days in bliss. I wanted to return to my mother’s embrace and be soothed by her songs and stories, feeling the reassuring touch of her hands on my head. Most of all, I wanted to be hoisted by a father lost as he spun me around in a rambunctious circle while I laughed all care of the world away. I was praying for death… before strong arms found me.

His hands were rough as they brushed my face, but the strength in them spoke of a tender gentleness. He did little except throw me painfully onto his back, and as the same arms closed around me, they returned me to the world of light past the metallic doors, border between a life lost and a new sort of world beyond. For the first time in many days, I felt protected and at peace as I drifted into a far more restful slumber I had ever experienced, pressed into his jostling back.

A soft sensation brushed the tears away. Ignoring it at first, I tossed to the other side feverishly. The sensation of gauze or a curiously smooth cloth rubbed against my damp cheeks once more and this time, my eyes flew open in alarm. Darting forth a hand to intercept the one rubbing my face, I caught the astonished look of another person as she drew a breath of surprise. The girl pressed on my shoulders hard as I tried to leap up, forcing me back to the ground with a soft shake of her head. Silky smooth hair of an unimaginable length tossed about her back as she did. She muttered a few words soon after, using her sleeves to soak up the sweat bathing my forehead.

Both the sight of her tresses and clothing rendered me into a state of shock. A brief glance at the long sleeves she was using to towel me indicated that it was part of the very same one I had heaved away during the aerial crisis. She had spread the rest of her outer coat-like clothing on top of me, using it as a makeshift blanket. The growing sense of impossibility only deepened as I fixed my widening eyes on the tattered and shredded clothing. In contrast to the physical damage on her attire, no part of her actual body seemed to have sustained damage of any form. I swore softly to myself, definitely sure that she had been dragged into the meat-grinder of a propeller when I had last seen her.

The thought of propellers and wings had me struggling to get up again, an act my hostess would once more brush away by planting a hand on my chest before giving me a hard shove. Her eyes narrowed considerably in reprimand, and finally spoke to me between my rising anger and desperation to find out what had happened to the Pegasus.

‘Be at ease, child. Your fever runs high.’

Her words gave me considerable pause and no small amount of surprise. She had used an old dialect I hadn’t spoken since my childhood, one my mother had taught me as she regaled me with her nightly tales of ancient Japanese legends. Even then, almost no one used or even bothered to study the archaic language. There was no need for it; interaction with Prometheus had gradually ensured that the one language the remainder of humanity would ever use was Standard English. All others had simply faded into obsolescence and disuse to be long forgotten by the inhabitants of the hermetically sealed shelters all over the world, linked solely by the M.I.

I remembered enough to understand her but even so, I had no shortage of trouble trying to form a proper reply on my tongue, failing more than once to give a coherent response as I stumbled badly with the words I had to ponderously dig out of my head. ‘W-where… man in… in, fly wing?’

‘Fly… wing?’ she raised an eyebrow quizzically. Sinking into her thoughts for a brief moment, her expression softened as she tried to comprehend my question. Finally lifting her palm off my chest, she ventured forth with her reply, ‘You speak of your friend in the flying beast of metal? I’m afraid I know not, child. The last thing I remember during my duel with Fujiwara was the sight of the two of you in that metal cage before I…’ Stopping briefly, she had a humored air about her as she went on, ‘Before I died.’

Her explanation made me blanch visibly. Died? How in the nine hells was she alive and talking to me now then? Improbable as it was, I gave her a dumb apology all the same while not even knowing why I had done so. ‘I… uh, sorry.’

Chucking softly, she shook her head at me before turning towards a yellowish glow on her left. ‘Do not be distressed. I find the notion that for once, I had died to something else other than the flames of her phoenix rather amusing for a change.’

She made no attempt to stop me this time as I pushed myself into an upright position, taking a good look at my new surroundings as I did. The first thing which astonished me was the night sky. Not an impermeable, hazy shroud of death but a black mirror strewn with innumerable points of winking lights. Stars, good lord. As the night breeze brushed across my exposed cheeks, I found myself suddenly scrabbling frantically for a rebreather or respirator before realizing there would be no need for one in here. Next to me, the wordless figure turned towards me inquisitively at my brief panic attack before shifting her gaze back to the glow before her. A small fire she had built, burning off of…

No, that can’t be right. Pulling in her tattered clothes, I had to draw closer to the fire for another inspection to confirm my suspicions. It was wood; precious, precious wood. I turned to address her in wonder, ‘F…fire… wood fire!’

‘Yes, fire,’ she answered with a strange look on her face, slightly amused and mostly puzzled by the blinding flash of the obvious. ‘Burning on wood. Is that supposed to be surprising?’

Surprising? The fact that she was burning something which had been extinct for over eighty years was already more than surprising, almost unthinkable. Trees were no longer in existence anywhere in the world, since nothing but a few species of hardy moss had managed to adapt to the punishing atmosphere there. Human shelters had lived solely on custom-engineered plants and hydroponic vats since retreating into their refuge. It was decided long ago that fruit trees or trees of any kind were simply too inefficient and took up too much precious space to justify their place in the shelters. And here, the stuff was practically everywhere. All around me in fact, as I finally realized with a sweeping glance at the shadowy hulks ringing our resting place. I couldn’t find it in me to be any more astonished than I already was.

A hand fell on my arm before I could crawl towards one of the long-extinct specimens. My hostess drew my attention back to her as she put forth a question of her own with no small amount of curiosity, ‘What are you called, girl?’

I felt a light shiver run through me before I could answer. The night air was so cold in contrast to the dead breezes in that other world I had left behind. ‘Len.’

‘Len,’ she repeated, slightly puzzled. ‘Len?’

‘Len,’ I confirmed with a shrug, hunkering down back before the fire for some warmth. The sensation of being so miserably cold and hot at the same time was extremely uncomfortable. I would have given anything for a syringe of anabiotic now.

She picked up a branch to scribble two glyphs on the brown earth. 蓮子 ‘Don’t you mean Ren? Ren-ko,’ she pondered at length, turning her gaze back to me as she poked away at her scribbles.

Peering hard at the vaguely familiar characters, I could recall bits and pieces about writing it in that archaic language, guided by my mother’s gentle hand during my dim childhood lost to the passage of time. Was that how it was read? They had always called me Len, perhaps a mispronunciation I had unwittingly lived with for all these years or perhaps not. Did it really matter at this point? I shook my head to show her I didn’t really know or care overmuch. ‘Maybe. Don’t know.’

Smiling in understanding, she brushed the ground flat before scratching in a set of new words. ‘Kaguya,’ she read them out loud for my benefit at seeing my puzzled brain racking. ‘My name, lotus child.’

I nodded at the fire in disinterested acknowledgement, feeling my thoughts shift back to the old boy instead. Something caught in my throat and I swallowed hard on the lump as much as I tried to force myself into accepting the loss. Idiot, I could have saved you, I thought to his infuriating grinning face in my head. Burying my head into my arms, I sat in disconsolate silence for a full minute before spreading myself back onto the hard ground, numbly pulling the smoothened makeshift blanket over while ignoring the cold seeping through the numerous tatters. The overbearing fatigue instantly reclaimed me, seducing me with the promise of oblivious sleep to forget about his painful death for a single night at the very least.

Her soothing voice drifted down from some faraway place, lulling me closer to the edge of the void. ‘Where were you bound, Renko?’ I let the name pass unchallenged, uncaring.

Where? Nowhere, I thought bitterly. Nowhere to go and no way to return to the other side now. I wasn’t even supposed to be here, much less know anything about what to do in here. ‘No… place. Lost,’ I muttered into the ground inaudibly. ‘Lost.’

There was no response from my new companion aside from the slight rustling of her clothes as she shifted in her spot, lost in thought. For the few moments before I allowed the lethargy to wash over me, I waited for any signs of further conversation and eventually drifted away into a deep sleep from her continued silence. Far too tired to care about tomorrow, I left the nagging thoughts behind for now, momentarily liberated from the discomforts of nightmares and fever alike as I fell far beyond their reach in a deathly slumber.
No. 119009
“We prayed to God first but there were no divine answer gleaned. In our desperation we looked to Science, but it turned against us to punish our hubris. What manner of a life would we be left with, out here in this desolate world?”

The utilitarian chamber played host to its only occupant, a lone gentleman far into his sixties playing a game of solitaire with aluminum foil cards. An occasional rumble reverberating in the metal walls caused the only light source hanging from the ceiling in the room to cast its dull illumination around, briefly flashing off of the cards the figure idly shuffled around the table he leaned against. He paid little attention to the seismic twitches; it was more of a fact of life than any real danger to the pressurized shelter. In a bored air, he continued with his game of slapping the grimy cards onto the hard surface of the table as he waited.

His patience was rewarded by the spinning of locking wheels on the chamber’s entryway and the subsequent entry of three individuals bursting past a door shoved open. Two amongst the three, veritable giants in their build and clad in gray extravehicular suits, held the third figure between them properly battered and pounded into submission as evident from the bruises and blood seeping out of his facial orifices. They dumped their escort onto the floor unceremoniously where the tortured soul would lie groaning for several seconds before he took a break from his gasping to look up at the table and the partially visible figure that was its companion.

Carefully keeping his face out of the light’s illumination, Solitaire gave all three of them a sweeping glance before focusing on the crumpled figure. ‘Doesn’t seem like the day has been treating you well from the looks of things, young man.’

Even in his defeated state, the obstinate figure could still muster the venom for an appropriate proper comeback, ‘I’ve had worse, but it was a lot better than how the years had fattened your ass from the looks of you.’

One of his escorts cuffed him hard in the head, rattling brains and sending him reeling to one side before he could recover. Solitaire merely chuckled at the retort and gestured for the guard to back off. ‘Humorous, but misguided. I would highly suggest you make your next few replies noteworthy before you lose motor control over your running mouth and eventually, your body.’

Solitaire’s beleaguered captive went up on one knee to spit before thrusting him a look of disdain. ‘Is that a threat?’

‘Hardly. Only stating facts, my good man.’ With a light sweep, he cleared most of the cards from the middle of the table and clasped a set of age-spotted hands before him, leaning forward to bring his face into the ambient lighting. A hideous mask of scars peered down at its prisoner, the dancing light overhead giving it a remarkable resemblance to some abomination pulled straight out of a child’s horror story. ‘It would be highly conducive for your health if you simply cooperated. You will of course notice the commandos behind you,’ he indicated with a knowing nod behind his prisoner before going on. ‘The only reason why they haven’t already shot you is because two from your group have unexpectedly managed to pass through the field generator. I want to know how your team worked the apparatus, and what your group planned to accomplish on the other side.’

Staring at his captor for all of ten seconds, he managed to hide most of his confusion as he puzzled over the words. He had automatically assumed that the attack in Novia Eretria was organized by the same people who had first broken quarantine, but from the looks of things that wasn’t exactly the case anymore. ‘Why ask me? You’ve already figured that out if… if…’ he trailed off at the blank look Solitaire gave him. ‘Hold on. I thought-‘

‘No,’ Solitaire interrupted him quickly, knowing full well what had crossed his captive’s mind from the ripple passing through his face. ‘We are not who you think we are. Far from it, we’ve been looking for the initial perpetrators ourselves before losing their trail at the mountain installation.’

The implications raced through his head. A third interest group existed aside from the Arctic fleet and the first one which had purportedly infiltrated the seed-garden a week prior. Someone was intentionally leaking information on the M.I., he thought worriedly. To what end?

Seeing the muddled expression on his captive and his unbearably lengthy silence, Solitaire waved at one of the suits, who gleefully complied by bringing up his weapon’s muzzle to press against the back of the battered man’s skull. ‘Nothing material to offer? Most regretful. Kill him.’

Tossing both hands up in alarm the battered prisoner almost shouted his panic for them to stop, logic and obstinacy lost to the fear of death. ‘Wait, wait, WAIT! We can help each other out here!’ Before him, Solitaire gave his trigger-itchy cohort nothing more than a brief look and the distinct pressure of metal against his skull eased slightly, albeit with noticeable reluctance. Dropping his arms, he went on hurriedly regardless of his surge of fear, ‘We have the expertise to bring the pylons and generator back online, and seeing how you had my boss… uh, “decommissioned” earlier, I would be able to get a technical detail over here with very few questions. Think about it!’

Solitaire leaned back into the shadows, but the momentary twitch in his lips before they vanished into darkness’ obscurity had already betrayed his intrigue at the unexpected offer.

‘Go on, boy. I’m listening.’
No. 119010
File 127658733180.png - (139.00KB , 486x389 , しろし - ダウン時の可愛さは異常.png ) [iqdb]
Oh snap!

Well anyway, this might be a rather confusing update to some, seeing how it's split into the point of view of two people. I wanted to go with both at first before I suffered brain failure deciding that's probably too much work (unless you people want it that way) so I'll let you decide on whose to follow instead. Shabby introductions are up already, so take your pick.
No. 119013

It'd help if there was a clear change of view such as Len's PoV (Or should I say Renko's). Though the whole chance separation thing is very cliche yet obvious plot device I must say.
No. 119014
Not too late to rewrite things and leave Rinnosuke with a corpse in a metal device instead of finding someone alive.

Cliches. Bane of all writefags.
No. 119015
Killing off a main character would be a even worse cliche.
No. 119017
Okay, I said goodbye to common sense and gave up. How about this instead?

[ ] Cliche it!
[ ] Cliche it even more!

Kidding, don't mind me. Watching the clock tick down to 7 pm while waiting warmly can be an absolute bore.
No. 119019
[x] All points of view!
No. 119025
well... I really like to see the both points of view but that's a lot of work and you have the last word.
I can't choose one path, in the end it doesn't matter, it's you, it will be good.
the only thing I do not recommend you is the cliche option.
No. 119026
I can't decide, so I'd like both.
No. 119027

Wichever you are more confortable with. I still need tor ead the last update and make up my mind, so I can't really choose anyway.
No. 119030
Eh, the damage's been done as it is, I want to see both viewpoints, but have them clearly marked.
No. 119037
I like both views, and I think the separation was handled well.
No. 119067

Don't you mean three?
No. 120055
Han is awesome. You shouldn't kill him, really.

The story could be told like Palingesia. One (or two, because of Len isawesome too) main PoV with intermissions regarding other characters.

Also, hooray for slow reading.
No. 120117
[x] All points of view!