A year ago, the city of Pineland was invaded by many aggressive class 2 mutants. Their attempts at coordinating an extermination and protecting civilians unsuccessful, the military had to facilitate an evacuation and has since declared the area off-limits. Facing increasing military and ARC resistance in their usual operating area of Hessemer Creek and Stagg City, Techtor decides the two should range further in order to scavenge some supplies.
My part of an art trade with ElektronX.
Clanging metallic footsteps sounded down the concrete sidewalk of Pearson Street. While not extraordinarily loud, the sound hung in the still air of the empty streets. Abandoned office buildings, stores and other places of business lined the streets. Signs of decay and neglect were clear, but the place was not yet a crumbling ruin after a mere year.
Two four-legged figures marched at a steady pace, taking their time to investigate anything that caught their interest. They were scavengers – hoping to find abandoned treasures that had been passed over by others like them.
Turning onto the 17th, the two came to a halt. Huge messes of cables spanned from the tops of skyscrapers to the asphalt below like a vast nervous system spanning the central city. A mesh of wires at street-level effectively communicated a dire portent to any trespassers.
“It looks kinda like a spider’s web. A spider that spins webs of metal. Fun.”
“You said nothing about spiders,” the grey scavenger backed away.
“The papers and reports spoke of a myriad of small and deadly lesser mutants,” responded the other. “Chances there’d be some spiders among them.”
“Small and deadly mutant spiders!”
“Yeah, and we’re big and deadly mutant lizards. You’ll be fine.”
“I hope they eat you first.”
With a sigh, the robot stepped towards the metal webbing and lifted an arm.
“Teeeech,” the grey one whined, “don’t do it.”
A high-energy blade ignited from his gauntlet.
“He’s right,” a new voice confirmed, “you know.” The owner of the new voice suddenly found themselves staring down the wrong ends of a laser sword and a gun. “Woah, woah – calm down guys! I’m a friend. What’re your names?”
“Yeah, ok.” The laser sword was lowered. “I’m Techtor.”
“I’m Scope. Sorry about that.”
The interloper looked to have once been some kind of wildcat – perhaps a cougar. Bigger than its non-irradiated counterparts, this one was about as tall but less bulky than the two lizards. Its coat had become a duller version of what it might once have been, and the creature’s extra tail and pair of ears gave it a curious look. “I’m Bedisa, a pleasure to meet you. I’m sure it’s a pleasure to meet me too, yes?” The creature’s eyes, those belonging to a reptile, only added to its quaint appearance.
The brothers nodded.
“Good. Now, what brings you two to the once-great city of Pineland? It’s awfully dangerous here these days.”
“Dangerous? Pah. We can handle some spiders.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll want to avoid this spider. Eats mutants your size for dinner. Lucky for you, I know my way around these parts. I can lend a helping paw. Stick with me and you’ll be safe. You’re safer already.”
“Good,” replied Scope, “but the sooner we’re out of here the better.”
“I take it you two are scavengers, then? Aside from mutants seeking to hide from the humans, scavengers are the only visitors I get. Would you be interested in some of last year’s latest tech? The humans left behind some good stuff.” The feline lead them around the side of a building, down an alleyway and through a hole that had once been a building’s back door.
“You get lots of visitors?”
Bedisa hummed. “I think I’d say more of a moderate amount. Most not nearly as intelligent or good-looking as you two. But I get them all where they need to be. You can have confidence in my abilities.”
“So why do you help? Do you want something in return?”
“I do appreciate it when my beneficiaries are able to make it worth my while.” She paused, thinking. “What do you do? Create guns from thin air, and…?” The creature looked quizzically over its shoulder at Techtor.
“I’m good with technology.”
“Oh, neat! So you built that body?” The cougar turned around, its ears perking up. “You think you’d be able to make something for me?”
“Most of my tools are back home.”
“My guns vanish if I leave them.”
“That is disappointing.” They resumed walking, soon reaching the exit of the building that faced the other side of the metal-web barricade.
“But if there’s enough good stuff here that I’ll need to make multiple trips, I could make something for you in between? What sort of devices would appeal to you?”
“Things to defend myself, things to hide myself. Anything that can help your standard mutant survive.”
“I’ll see what-”
Bedisa’s tails brushed against Techtor’s mouth, signalling for him to be silent. One of the wires that stretched from on high made contact with the ground beside the three. The cat leaned in near to the wire, gently placed a paw on it and lowered her head until her twitching ears were right beside it. After a few seconds, she stood up and motioned for the brothers to follow her as she rapidly worked her way down the street, dodging the occasional strand of metallic spider web. Strangely, many of the more modern-looking buildings seemed to be worse-for-wear while older brick-and-mortar buildings were still standing just fine.
“Tech stop clanking so much!” hissed Scope.
“I can’t help that I didn’t bring my boots of running stealthily.”
Bedisa suppressed a snort before leading them back into the shelter of a building.
“So where are you taking us?” Techtor queried.
“The industrial sector of the city. More factories with more machines there. Also fewer webs. You’ll be safer while scavenging there. There’s even a vault I haven’t been able to crack in one of those abandoned technology firms. You think you’ll be able to open it?”
“Dawntech? Yes, their vault and databanks will surely have some valuable technology and research. It was one of the locations I planned to visit.”
“Tech, I don’t like this place.”
“Is there any place you like, Scope?”
“Don’t worry,” Bedisa assured them, “You are safe here.”
The three were now making their way down a street that was surrounded by large industrial buildings. The spider webs, which had mostly seemed to favour high-rising buildings, were far lesser in quantity in this area.
“This is the one,” Bedisa motioned towards a compound which had enough security measures to make its abandonment almost comical. They crossed a broken-down gate, traversed the courtyard under the lifeless eyes of dozens of unpowered security cameras, and pushed their way through what was once a magnetically-locked door granting entrance to the facility.
“I’ll stay and watch be the lookout, as usual,” Scope declared sourly.
“Oh?” Bedisa looked back. “I wouldn’t advise splitting up.”
“He’s right. Now, show me to the generator. Place like this is guaranteed to have a backup.”
“Are you sure he’ll be ok?”
“Yeah.” Techtor grabbed a pair of headphones from one of his bags and tossed it to his brother, who first gave him a quizzical look then – under the solemn stare from his brother – rolled his eyes and nodded.
“Ok, right this way.” She led Techtor through the building until they reached his desired location. After some tinkering, Techtor managed to get it up and running. The two exited the room, the door closing with the click of a magnetic lock behind them.
“Now that’s done, shall we see what’s in the vault?”
“No,” Techtor turned to face the feline, “You’re going to tell me what your game is.”
“Oh, that’s so boring,” she sighed, “Seeing what’s in the vault would be a lot more fun, don’t you agree?”
“Oh yes my brain does, but I’m no longer operating from there. I’m running on my suit’s processing units now.”
A baffled “What?” was the only response he received.
“You see, I’m kinda like you. You can mess with organic circuitry – mess with our heads – but I can do more than just mess with machines. And I’m a lot better at it too. My suit’s processes detected an unusual number of irregularities with my organic brain’s thought patterns, and brought this to my attention.”
“Oooo, now that is interesting. I’ll tell you: My goal, just like any of us, is to survive in this world that seeks to rid itself of us one way or another. Anything else that benefits me is also a goal, but comes secondary. Unfortunately for you, I’ve brokered a deal that means I cannot let you leave here without forfeiting my primary goal. Now, shall we see what’s in the vault before you become dinner?”
“How about you tell us how to get out of here, or you forfeit your life anyway?” Scope called from behind Bedisa, a gun trained on her head.
“Oh,” she glanced at the grey reptile, “I wouldn’t do that.” His hand spasmed, causing him to drop the gun which then disintegrated. However, she quickly found herself facing the end of a plasma sword. A look of frustration flashed on her face before a smug look plastered itself across her features – her previously reptilian eyes now a cloudy grey.
“Fine. Run if you want. You won’t get far.” She turned tails and ran towards Scope, shouting “Duck!” and leaping over him as he did so – vanishing around the corner.
“What do we do, Tech?”
“Hold on, I’ll check the cameras.” He replied before his mechanical body froze for several seconds. “She’s moving too fast and probably knows this place too well for us to catch her. And we’ve got bigger problems. There’s something big and ugly out front.”
“No, this one is long and has more legs. Lots more. And it seems to be waiting for us.”
“Ugh,” Scope shivered in disgust.
Some thuds sounded on the roof. “We should get out of here, but first…” Techtor quickly reentered the generator room to shut the machine down. “I want to be able to use it when we return. Let’s head out the back.”
“We’re coming back?!”
“I’m leaving that open as a possibility at a future date. Now come on!” The two sprinted in the direction that Bedisa had – eventually finding their way to another door. Techtor shoved it open and burst into the open air, only to be suddenly plucked from the ground.
Scope, who had been close behind, looked up to see a monstrosity. A body as big as a house was suspended by eight pole-like legs that reached from one side of the factory to the other. It held a hideous face whose defining features were its great big mandibles and bulbous eyes. It’s abdomen curved forwards – towards where it spun a squirming bundle in its forelegs.The sight of the creature was enough to produce a terrible sound from Scope’s throat that could barely be called a scream.
Fortunately for Techtor, Scope was so enamoured with his guns that his base instinct to run was almost as strong as his base instinct to shoot anything he didn’t like. Unfortunately for Techtor, the barrage of bullets did not harm the beast. But they did cause enough of a distraction for it to hesitate.
This was sufficient opportunity for Techtor to slice through the web and one of the spider’s legs. It too released a bloodcurdling scream, dropping Techtor. The brothers scurried off at a speed that startled even themselves, weaving their way through broken buildings and narrow alleys almost at random.
They eventually found themselves surrounded by dead-ends.
“Dangit Techtor, why’d you leave your wings at base camp?”
“You know why!” He moved to cut the wires blocking their way.
“Have you ever seen what cables under high tensile stress do when cut?” A familiar voice called from an undetermined location, “It ain’t pretty.”
“Leave us alone, you monster!” Techtor waved his blades at the air around them.
“Darling, aren’t we all? I can’t help but say that you have piqued my interest. In the vault, in you, what you could make for me. Next time you come, bring me something interesting and I’ll make sure that those two -” a guttural scream from where they had come punctuated her sentence “ – don’t even know you’re here. Light a small fire on the middle of the three mountain peaks two nights before, and then come in the same route you did today. Don’t try anything else, it’ll end badly for you. Since I oh so want there to be a next time, I’ll give you a way out for free: the manhole in the street will take you into the sewers. Head north. Two lefts and then the third right, then you’ll be home free.”
“Why should we trust you?”
“You can’t, but nor can you remain here. Go now, I’ve already signalled to them that you’re here. They know of my disdain for the sewers, but the centipede won’t hesitate to follow you down there.”
Unsure of how to respond, nor of what other options they had, the two brothers silently and hastily followed her instructions to make a frantic retreat through the putrid and stale sewers.