With the road beneath, Mykala and Alex along with Gizmo left the neighborhood behind. Mykala stopped and looked back at the lifeless houses. So many fond memories, so many good people, now lost to the devastation. Mykala had brought his wife’s diary, a video recorder and a picture of Iy’Rene.
“I’m going where ever you go, but where are we going exactly?” Alex asked.
“I don’t know. But we cannot stay here.”
“Too many good memories?” Alex queried.
“Lots. I would stay for that reason. But all of Dimeiron is dying. Can’t you feel it? There are several old pathways out of here. Maybe we can find a way through one,” Mykala said, with a glimmer of hope.
Alex knew that centuries before Dimeiron and Paradise were interconnected but none of the gateways had been active for at least seven-hundred years.
“Where do we find these gateways?” Alex asked.
“I would have thought you would know. The entire science facility I worked in was built around one of the remaining gateways.”
Silently they walked on. Alex suggested scavenging for supplies in abandoned buildings but Mykala just kept marching on. They had all their needed supplies, their packs full of food and three compressed water bottles. Mykala kept his eyes on the road, not wanting to see the piles of bones that littered the streets. He wondered how many had survived.
Suddenly Gizmo took off, disappearing between two buildings. Alex followed, calling out to him. For a moment Mykala lingered, half tempted to continue on. But Alex was his friend. Turning into the dark alley he followed. Mykala activated his light source lighting up the alleyway. He had found Gizmo crawling over a body. Alex stood by, asking questions. Dozens of dead lay twisted and mangled. It was like a horror scene. They were similar to Mykala when he was not himself, but many of them appeared to have died from wounds. Many had their eyes gouged out, and had large gashes across their bodies, some with their innards hanging loosely outside. The stench was unbearable as well, smelling of rotted flesh.
Mykala released a small torrent of vomit. He struggled to breathe. Standing, he stumbled away from the alleyway.
Alex called to him, “Mykala! We need your help.”
But Mykala refused to go back in there.
Alex placed a hand on Mykala’s shoulder. “I know it’s not a pretty sight. But you should have seen what it was like before. I mean, look.”
Alex knelt down and scraped back ash and dust collected on the ground. It was so evenly coated, Mykala had not noticed it. Beneath the ash was a rusted brown color that coated the pavement.
Alex stood and said, “That isn’t rust, that’s blood. So many people were killed that the streets literally ran with it. Then the napalms came. Torching buildin’ after buildin’. But it did not kill the crazies; you were somehow protected. Then it rained ash for a few days and as victims of the aftermath turned to dust, their remains moved through the air and covered everything.”
“I’m not going back in there!” Mykala said.
“Alright. I’ll risk bringin’ her out here. But if she dies, it’s on you,” Alex said, frustrated.
Mykala watch Alex move into the alleyway again. The buildings were missing chunks of their exterior, leaving debris in the streets. Some were melted and charred leaving little to the imagination about the accuracy of Alex’s story. After a bit, Alex came out, walking backwards with a body in tow. Gizmo was upon the body, holding flaps of skin closed.
Walking nearer Mykala nearly vomited at the sight of the woman. She had gashes across her body and the bone of her elbow stuck through some shredded skin. Some of her fingers appeared to have been eaten down to the bone. One of the fingers was filed down to blade-like sharpness and scrapes about one eye showed futile attempts at removing it. Despite the atrocity, she was still breathing and Mykala knew exactly what Alex and Gizmo wanted.
“The nanites will not function without the device. I know what you are thinking, but the answer is no. We do not know what she did in there. She could have killed them all; do you want to release that on us too?”
After a moment Alex replied, “As you know, I was in the field medic back in the day. I found a lot of scary things, especially from those made mad by war. Everything between those buildings and on her are self inflicted. Imma not lie to you. We may have a fight on our hands when she awakes. But I’ll handle it, and Gizmo has the kill switch.”
“Kill switch?” Mykala, asked skeptically.
Gizmo moved around to face Mykala, “We did not know what you would be when you awoke. So I programmed the nanites to respond to a signal. If I play the signal, the nanites self destruct. Also, as per your first rebuttal to saving this life, your nanites can sustain without the device for up seventeen days. She will need to be replenished every now and then from your supply.”
Mykala sighed and reluctantly gave in, “Well. . .it is a good thing they self replicate.”
Alex smiled brightly, “Let’s save this life then!”
Mykala collapsed onto the ground and Gizmo immediately crawled over and lifted Mykala’s shirt. It wasted no time extracting millions of nanites and climbed back onto the victim. Gizmo injected the nanites into the body. In moments the woman’s breathing turned from labored to relaxed and her skin brightened.
Alex, still holding her, said, “We need to rest for the night. Probably someplace not about to fall down.”
Mykala felt energized and did not want to stop for the night. But he realized the energy he felt was a direct contribution of the nanites in his body and that everyone else was not as fortunate. Besides, Alex could not be expected to carry the person too far. Alex pointed to a building down the street. It was partially charred with broken windows, its brick and metal exterior almost indistinguishable from the layers of dust. Inside, they found a pawn store. The shop was untouched, it’s merchandise in unprotected cases and lined up on shelves. To Mykala’s surprise, not a speck of dust was anywhere. The windows, clearly broken from the outside, left not a trace of glass.
Mykala called out, “Hello? Somebody here?”
Some clatter came from behind a wall. The wall whipped sideways and an exchange droid came out. It was little more than a cylinder with arms and digits for handling money. It rolled behind the countertop and into a station behind what would normally be a protective field.
In a mellow-tone voice it recited it’s script, “Welcome! We have anything and everything. If you do not see it on our displays, ask one of our knowledgeable customer representatives. How may I help you?”
Alex smirked and asked the droid, “What decade were you made?”
It responded, “I am approximately sixty-seven years old.”
“Oh, well you look good for your age,” Alex said, turning to find a place to lay the woman he was carrying.
“Thank you, sir.”
Alex found a corner and put the woman down. Already the cuts and gashes were half closed, and even her hair had grown slightly.
“Is she in need of medical assistance?” asked the out-dated robot.
“No, the medical droid has it taken care of, “Mykala was quick to reply.”But we do need to crash here for the night.”
“My apologies for any inconvenience I might cause. However, you and your party cannot remain here for the night. We close at seven in the evening. If you need to continue to browse after that time, you will need to return in the morning.”
Before Mykala could argue, the robot whirled around. Gizmo could be seen hacking into the back of the robot. The robot’s arms, while functional, were too short to reach Gizmo. Then the robot stopped moving and Gizmo closed a door on its back, dropping to the floor.
The robot turned back to Mykala and said, “My apologies sir. I was rude prior, in response to your query. It would be my honor to have you remain here for any duration you choose. Likewise, please help yourself to anything you need, on the house.”
Mykala gave Gizmo a look of approval and browsed about the store. He found some useful supplies and extra rations that he packed away, one of which was a small molecule blade with extendable reach. When he pressed a button on it a few times, causing the blade to come out, growing several inches, then closed up.
Mykala went over to Alex, who rested against the wall with the woman’s head on his lap. She was visibly getting healthier with each passing moment. As she healed, they found she was surprisingly beautiful, despite being very thin. Mykala, even having received nutrients, was still rather thin himself. If not for the nanites, he would probably struggle with many rudimentary tasks, including walking. Despite his disgust for having to rely on it, he was impressed with its near complete functionality. Able to do many of the things the research team predicted.
Mykala sat down next to Alex and closed his eyes. He barely relaxed when a screaming broke out. Mykala sat up and looked at Alex. Glancing at the woman on Alex’s lap, they realized she was still out of it, although she was completely healed. Looking outdoors, the sky shone dull and a thin mist was lifting off the ground.
“What time is it?” Mykala asked, getting to his feet.
“It’s six-thirty, morning,” Alex replied.
Mykala was stunned. He had not felt the passing of sleep at all. The screaming broke out again, and this time, much closer. Mykala stepped out into the mist in time to see a man, bedraggled with some self inflicted wounds, run past. Mykala tried to follow him as the fog thickened ahead, listening as the man’s steps got quieter, until they went silent completely. Mykala, blinded by the fog, ran into the wireframe of a body. Mykala stumbled backwards.
“Who’s there?” Mykala asked.
“Kill me! Kill me! Kill me!” the man yelled hysterically.
“I won’t kill you. I can help you,” Mykala responded.
The man dropped down onto Mykala, straddling him and pinning Mykala’s arms down. Blood dripped from the man, onto Mykala. The man’s face was torn up, one eye swollen shut, and his cheeks were gashed. He had nothing but tattered shorts on which did little to protect his modesty. Several ribs were exposed and Mykala wanted to nearly give over to madness himself.
The man gave Mykala an unusually toothy smile and said, “Then we’ll kill you instead.”
The man’s voice was partially distorted, choked by blood, but calm and steady. As he reared his head back Mykala moved his head just enough to avoid the headbutt. The man’s head struck the ground so hard it caused a tear in his skin. Mykala mustered his strength and rolled sideways, breaking his captor’s grip. Mykala stood to his feet, but the man just rolled back onto his hands and knees. He continued to headbutt the ground with increasing speed. Mykala staggered backwards, horror filling him with each wet thud of the skull cracking. Finally, he heard a few quick hard whacks, the last one solid, then nothing. Mykala pulled the molecule blade from his pocket and extending it to full length. Frozen, he stood for what felt like an eternity. When a pair of hands touched his shoulder, Mykala swung around, garnishing the blade. But the hands belonged to Alex who stood quietly with a look of concern on his face.
“Is that your blood?”
“N-no. It is someone else’s. They attacked me, but I didn’t hurt him. He was like the rest of the people we found in the alleyway. I’m sure he killed himself just now.”
“Where?” Alex asked, and Mykala pointed.
Alex moved in the direction Mykala had indicated. For several agonizing seconds, Mykala stood with his blade out, ready to strike. When Alex returned, Mykala sighed and put the blade away.
“Don’t worry yourself, he is dead,” Alex assured Mykala.
Mykala nodded. They returned to the pawn shop, where a startled woman was backed into a corner. She had ripped off her remaining clothing and attacked Gizmo, who had her hands clasped together.
Gizmo noticed Alex and Mykala and said, “When she woke, she started to tear at herself again. I had no choice but to keep her from doing it.”
The woman stared at Alex and seemed to calm a little as he approached. He hummed soothingly to her and gently touched her hands. Gizmo released her and Alex wrapped her up in his arms. Mykala found some clothing on a rack in the store. He brought the clothing to the woman and carefully laid a jacket over her body. Despite her calmer appearance, her eyes were still wildly darting about.
Watching her, Mykala wondered what saved him from doing this as well. This seemed to be the norm for those who remained alive. What if, Mykala thought, I end up becoming like this.
“I need more of your nanites, Mykala,” Gizmo requested.
“I can only program the nanites when circulating through the M.S.L.N.A. Once they are injected into a new host, they are doomed to a finite existence. She will not need to be on the nanites indefinitely. I determine a three month period before we wean her of the nanites. However, I need to program some new nanites to help resolve the breaking down of her neuron pathways.”
“Why three months?” Mykala questioned.
“The nanites are a band aid; eventually she will not need them as her body will function normally without them. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of you. You will depend on the nanites for walking, blood circulation, your heart, lungs, and other damaged parts.”
Mykala nodded and kneeled down to Gizmo’s level. Gizmo took some of the nanites, beeped a few times, then walked over to the woman. The woman began to breathe harder as Gizmo neared, but Alex tightened his grip and continued his humming. Gizmo injected her with the nanites, which immediately went to work, but caused her to faint.
Mykala just stared at her as Alex lay her down on the floor, “Do you think I will become like that?”
Gizmo answered Mykala’s question, “It is a possibility that you may relapse. With no directive, your violence could turn on yourself. I have not affirmed what caused her condition or the condition of your kind. It is possible her condition is brought on by a continued lack of sleep and nutrition. Something you were not subject too. In which case, you will be okay.”
Mykala’s fear eased, “Alright, Alex, I cannot stay here. I need to get to the lab. Once your friend is stable, come to the lab if I have not returned by then.”
Alex nodded and Mykala dissipated into molecules. He appeared in a large open room, with only a few lights operating. Mykala made way for one of the panels and placed his hand on it. The panel lit up with Mykala’s credentials as he input a command. The lights began to power on, revealing large surveillance equipment. Upon rows of tables were virtual computers that came alive. As they did, they began running complex computations and continued work from before. But Mykala did not recognize the codes running on the screens and he took a closer look. It was always a vested interest in learning how the gateways worked. Their inner parts had only recently become discoverable with new scanning technology. It was magnificent, the secrets of the ancients revealed. It was beyond anything they could ever imagine, even with their vast understanding. Some components even seemed to operate on physical laws not present within their realm. Mykala did not fully understand what he was reading, but he quickly realized that the computers were trying to open the gateway. He looked at the date the program began running and found it started over a year ago.
Mykala started thinking aloud, “Why would they be trying to open the gate? Perhaps they realized some of the parts operate on different rules because they bind the gate between two different realms. The problem is the gate is powered from the other side. Still, it makes little sense to try so desperately to open it, unless. . .Unless they knew something was coming.”
Stepping back, he pondered for several minutes about what to do. Clearly, the best of minds and most advanced computers were trying to open the gate. If he could find a way to power it, it might work. He walked over to a large wall, nearly thirty feet high, and punched some commands into a panel. The wall began to rotate. As it did it revealed a large archway. Memories flashed in Mykala’s mind of his dream about the beginning of his world, the archway that formed, the original gate between the two worlds. This gate was far from the original, much smaller than it, yet it was still a marvel to behold.
Mykala walked before the gate and touched it. As he did he noticed a noise. A machine had risen from the floor, with thousands of lasers aimed at a crystal. The lasers fired into the crystal, and from the crystal to the center of the archway. The machine continued to feed the laser beam and a white light appeared within. Arcs of light webbed to the columns of the archway and it slowly began to open. The further it opened the slower it moved. Just as the opening was nearing completion it slammed shut, throwing Mykala back several feet. The laser stopped funneling into the archway.
The gateway then activated, strange lettering Mykala had never seen before glowed from deep within the stone. The bright light webbed outward and the doorway opened. The doorway revealed a picture of a long golden street carved between towering plant life and a magnificent city ahead. Mykala leaped to his feet when suddenly a hand reached through the gate. A being taller than the archway stepped through. He appeared grayish-blue with a thick belt around his cloak which draped over one leg. Golden scales covered his legs to his feet where thick blood-red diamond-like bracelets were wrapped about his ankles. His forehead was large with a protruding brow over fiery purple eyes. The rest of him was bare and wrapped tightly with unreal appearing muscles.
His voice boomed, causing Mykala to cover his ears, “I am the appointed GateKeeper. You have attempted to enter this gate against the will of the most High Council. Your punishment is death.”
<—Chapter 2 …… Coming Soon!—>