Written by Celia Divry
The sun was setting by the time I had found shelter in a small cavity between a rather large pile of rubble. I was dripping water without my inner cooling system there to moderate my body temperature. I felt grimy and sticky and utterly exhausted. My legs, numb from exhaustion, shook as I trudged up to the narrow opening between the rubble.
The world was awash with colour, tiny specks of light beginning to shine in little clusters across the sky. I felt detached, like I was striding through a fantasy domain, the whorls of orange and yellow swiftly shifting to darkness as unimaginable stories unfolded. It all felt so surreal. I closed my eyes trying to phase back to reality. But I couldn’t feel anything, my mind was blank, completely blank, because this was real.
I longed to refuel my energy, and to flutter into another domain where I could sit by the beach and hear the waves crashing against the sand. I needed to get back online, to find a way to fix the chip, and send a message to the command centre for help. The orb, illuminated by the setting sun, was still visible in the distance. If only I could stand on top of the rubble and wave my arms around. But there were no windows to look out of the orb; we didn’t need any when we could see anything we wanted through the chip.
For probably the hundredth time since I was zapped by the bright light from the sky, I inserted the chip into the port behind my left ear. I searched in the depths of my mind for the familiar presence of the chip, or for any sense of the domains within. But there was nothing, only the sound of my heart beating, and the absence of the thrum of circuits beneath my skin.
The night was quiet, and completely silent as I lay on my back, as far into the rubble as I could have possibly squeezed into. The shelter did little to stop the freezing night air from rushing in, pricking my skin from head to toe. I automatically reached for my wrist to turn on my shield, but my stomach clenched again with the reminder that it was gone.
With utter nothingness in my brain, sorrowful thoughts began to trickle in. If I couldn’t find a way to communicate with the command center, I could die- no that’s impossible, my augment-skeleton should still be intact despite the damage done to the chip.
A low rumbling noise escaped my stomach. Was it because I needed fuel? My chest constricted with panic, but that was a problem I’d face tomorrow. My limbs felt heavy, like bricks on my arms, and a headache was beginning to build between my eyebrows. I gave in and allowed the darkness to take over me.
A loud roar startled me into consciousness, forcing my still bleary mind out of sleep. As my head cleared, the now familiar tightness settled in my chest as I remembered where I was. I got to my feet and scurried to the entrance of my little cave. The morning wind blew my thick hair, making it flutter wildly as I scanned my surroundings to identify the source of the rumbling.
I heard a soft thud and a tall thin figure suddenly materialized on a slab of stone adjacent to my cave. Swiftly like a huntress stalking its prey I inched closer to the thing in front of me, ducking behind a large piece of rubble.
A shudder ran down my spine, the creature was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, his hideous body resembled a disfigured robot, his limbs were long and gangly, and his torso short. I knew that it was a lander, one of the few that survived the brutal years after the destruction of earth.
Suddenly he swiveled around, his unnatural gold eyes locked with mine, his mouth sneering with disgust. Moving with electric speed, so fast that I could barely discern his movements, he shot a long pointed missile in my direction. I froze, my breath caught in an inhale as it came soaring towards me.
But his piercing gold eyes shot up towards the sky and the missile flew above my head, heading towards another target. I heard the same roaring from earlier and felt the ground tremble beneath my feet. A loud explosion reverberated in the distance. Trembling I looked towards the sky watching as the missile hit a pod, reducing it to ashes.
But a dozen more pods were leaving the orb, some of them dropping bombs over the land. My brain frantically put the pieces together: my mission, the bombs, the lander. They had started the clearing process.
The war had begun.