Dark Road

It didn’t take much time to think about his answer, yes, of course, he’d take the job, who could turn down that kind of opportunity? And now here he was sat in the driving rain waiting for a delivery man. The road was dark a single street light out of a half-dozen seemed to still function, streams of water ran into drains, a burbling sound mixed in with the wind whistling around Georgian townhouses and safety railings. What a miserable night to be out, but it was going to be worth it when he got paid.

Through a window in a house opposite he could make out the top few inches of television, he imagined a family sat in there nice and warm, eating a nice meal. His stomach growled it had been a couple of days since he’d last eaten. He tightened his coat and hunkered down; he’d found a place to squat down by a wall that stuck out a bit further than the others. It didn’t provide much coverage but it was better than none. He tugged at his beanie.

“I fucking hate this.” He muttered to himself, howling wind picked up, and he rubbed his nose. The headlights of a car came into view, maybe it was his lucky day he thought to himself, but it rolled on past. A Toyota Prius. He sighed and stared at the road.

Hey kid. Gotta light?” A low voice suddenly came from nowhere, he looked around and stood hunched over next to him was a figure of a man all in shadow and black a cigarette punching ivory white out of the shadow. He just sat there. How the hell did this massive slab of a man suddenly appear above him, blocking out the rain he was so huge. 

“Kid you deaf as well as dumb, I asked if you had a light.” The voice was intimidating, all the more intimidating because all he could make out was shadow and a the tip of a cigarette surely there should be a face there somewhere. He gathered himself and rummaged through his pockets.

“Sure, here” his voice wavered. His hand shakily held the lighter up and the figures gloved hand took it from him and then the figure stood up, he could of swore it looked like he was over seven foot tool. He cupped the lighter to his face and sparked it up, as the fire lit up the figure face for a moment he could swear he saw a skull. 

“Cheers kid.” The figure handed back the lighter, turned and strolled off down the road, cane in one hand, cigarette in the other. Was that guy seven foot tall with a skull for a face and blue flames for eyes? He asked himself, then pinched his cheek. 

Asylum – Discoveries

The Kuiper Belt 2371June 3rd

18:31 Atomic Earth Time

Deep Space Survey Vessel Utopia

“This is survey team Vulture, I think we’ve got something here…”

“Please extrapolate Vulture.”

A pause on the communication line.

“We’ve got no idea survey command, but it’s nothing we’ve ever seen before.”

“We’re on deep space survey vessel floating in the outer parts of the Kuiper belt Vulture, we haven’t seen much of this before.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m serious, whatever this is shouldn’t be here. I think, wait, no I am not going to speculate – we need a Research team out here command. We need a research team now.”

“We’ll have our internals run over your data and tight beam to Jupiter if it’s as interesting as you say.”

“Oh it’s interesting. We’re dropping the survey beacons and getting out of here.”

“Over”

 

Earth 2371 August 18th 22:00

Atomic Earth Time

London – High Street Kensington “The King William”

A young man stared at a glass half full of synthetic alcohol, actual alcohol was banned in the early 22nd century, flicked the side of the glass and leant back. A screen rezzed up into view and the interface quickly changed, a news stream started to play, he sipped at his drink again.

“Boo” A female voice.

“What the!” He jumped, turned and, looked at the source of the voice so close he almost clipped her nose with his own. Bobbed brown hair, bright violet eyes, ridiculously pale skin amplified by subtle natural makeup.

“For a detective, you’re remarkably unperceptive.” She slipped onto the stall next to him and ordered a drink from the service drone.

“Only when I’m not on the job.”

“That’s when it’ll get you killed. What were you watching? Something inappropriate?” She tapped something by her ear.

“News stream, about the Utopia.”

“The survey ship they found wrecked around Neptune?”

“Yeah that one, all hands lost.”

“That’s deep space survey for you, one rogue rock and you’re turned inside out.”

“Charming.”

“I work with you, I’m hardly likely to be a sophisticated lady now am I.”

“Why are you late anyway?”

She made a disgruntled sound and knocked back the drink “Paperwork, and that dickhead from department two sniffing around again.”

“You mean Administrator Dee? He’s a high flyer you should cash in.”

“If only he wanted me for my body, sadly it’s all about what’s in here.” She tapped the side of her head.

“Isn’t it always? One of the only psychics in Urban Pacification, it’s a wonder you ever joined our little band of law enforcers.”

She stretched and flexed her wrists as if they were cat paws “Nyan, Department two just isn’t my style. A girls gotta catch up!” She gave a little smile and ordered another drink.

Two people walked towards them, the young man gave the pair a brief wave.

Late again

“Where was it you said you were from again?” The young man asked me as I glanced around the shop my partner next to me dressed in a stuffy looking suit, fedora on top of his head.

“We’re librarians, we work for the British Library.” Christopher, my partner, was looking tired again, probably up reading all night. “We’re looking for a book” he continued.

“So you said, well there are plenty of books here for you to look at I suppose.” The young man pushed a pair of spectacles up the bridge of his nose.

“It’s not just any book, it’s old, very old,” I said with a sigh, tilting my head to look at the door ajar behind the man.  “The cover is somewhat leathery.”

“Well this is a small library we wouldn’t, however, have anything of that sort.” I watched the young man shift in his seat, a thin sheen of sweat on his forehead.

“Really? It has some rather unnerving pictures in it, and the paper, well wouldn’t seem like paper from a mill.” I had been up all night chasing leads around while Christopher had no doubt been relaxing at home.

“We mean skin,” Christopher announced in a blunt tone. The man’s eyes went wide and a bead of sweat ran from his temple down into his sideburns.

“Sheepskin of course, very old,” I said leaning to the side a bit to see if I couldn’t get a better view through the door.

“We have it on good advice it was here.” Christopher hammered again, today it seemed was not a day for tact. I had had to talk to some very unsavoury, er, people to get the information that led us here.

“W w wu” The man stuttered.

“W w W Where is the damn journal, Cultist!” I snapped at him.

The man sneered at us as the building began to shake.

“I think we’ve found the journal.” Christopher quipped.

“Oh drat.”

“And I think we’re late again.”

“Oh shut up.” I placed my bag on the man’s table, opened it and pulled out a double-barreled shotgun and a stick of dynamite, Christopher already had his trusty service pistol and had already taken a brief moment to knock the young cultist out cold.

“Ladies first.” Christopher gestured towards the door, behind which and likely down into some kind of basement unspeakable horrors once again awaited.

“I hate chivalry,” I said strolling past him

The Concept of Understanding

There was once a time where a single man of average ability and intellect, given all required raw materials and written knowledge would be able to construct all the technology man possessed.

 

Towards the middle of the 20th century this was no longer the case, and by the end of the 20th century there were many individual technologies that were impossible. While a single man could craft all the items required for a steam engine, or an early automobile or a plane, with enough time and knowledge, in a single life time.

 

However the end of the 20th century saw such a vast wealth of new knowledge and most importantly its application in devices. It would take the expertise of a thousand human beings and the understanding of a hundred to construct a single device – of course with mass production those thousands could create millions of such devices. But it would still require those thousand to make one device or a million.

 

By the end of 26th century it would take the whole effort of humanity to produce the massive ships that sailed the skies, and the AIs produced technology as if they were a million Einsteins each in a single room, all communicating and debating. Mankind could never understand the devices they built again.

His Mountain of Death

“Alright squad we’re just going through the numbers, just like training, if you keep your head you’ll get to sleep in your bunk soon enough.” The sergeant’s voice came in clear over Simon’s headset, everywhere he looked a virtual hud was displayed with data feeds and gauges superimposed over the vid feeds from outside of his battlesuit. He was in a trench peaking out over a no-mans land of razor wire, mines and craters along with the other dozen troopers in his squad. He was wondering if any of the others were quaking in their boots.

The battlesuit was a standard model, he had a rocket pod and a rail gun and a good inch of super advanced armoured alloys and artificial muscles between him and the toxic smog of the battlefield, apparently someplace in what was once China. He checked the gauges for his ammo again, then the o2 scrubbers, and then the generator, it must have been the thousandth time today. All in the green. Besides the occasional uplifting speech from the sergeant, the troopers exchanged jokes and begged for the enemy to hurry up. How long had they been waiting for some action?

Then his recon gear lit up, his heart skipped a beat, then. “Sergeant, seismic just went off the chart.” his eyes flicked from menu to menu.

“Distance soldier.” The sergeant’s voice level and professional with a slice of lemon and ice.

“Two klicks, closing fast, they’ll be here in moments.” His voice had a tinge of panic to it, slightly to shrill, he focused on the readouts to drown out the doubt in his mind.

“Well troopers, time to test your metal.” As the sergeant spoke the blinding white flash followed by deafening booms of tactical nuclear mines erupting in no-mans land. Cheers went up from his squad mates, chatter about the awesome might of the nuclear detonations. A second past as his vid feed regained clarity, another few moments passed, he began to smile, was that it? Then they began to emerge, probably ones from further back who had avoided the full blast of the mines.

Grotesque insect-like things, all claws, teeth and muscle.

“Raptors!” One of his comrades shouted.

“Let them eat tungsten kids.” Sergeant commanded. Everyone let loose, he wasn’t short on targets and fired into the swarm. Screeching sounds coming from the armoured monstrosities as they sped towards them at blistering speed. His could hear the roar of the rail guns and support Gatling cannons. The shouts and whoops of his team members. He glanced at the recon gear, 500 meters, laying down more fire, 400 meters, still firing, 300 meters, the hundreds had seemed to become thousands, the sounds of spent cartridges being expelled from cannons, the boastful shouts becoming more concerned, less chatter. More firing, 200 meters.

“Recon bring in fire on the line 50 meters!”

“Yes sir, fire support requesting fire at marked location, overwhelming swarm.” He shouted into the comms on the support channel.

“Fire support incoming trooper.”

Suddenly a blast of red and gore exploded from Anderson’s helmet, he twisted and could clearly see the gore oozing from what had been Anderson’s skull. He felt his trousers go damp and warm, the fear clenched around his every being.

“Fuck me.” He exclaimed to himself. Whizzing sounds were all around him now, the beasts were firing razor disks. He poured fire into the mass that was almost at the line, raptors leapt over the pilled corpses of their fellow beasts, bloodthirsty shrill screeches. Then the whistling of shells overhead and more blinding explosions. Peterson screamed a raptors claw wedged through his torso, its jaw closing over his battlesuits head. Simon turned and fired shredding the creature. Dozens more came over the top, he pulled out his powered chain sword, another beast landed on Peterson’s corpse and opened his suit like a can of tomatoes, guts, blood and shit spraying over the trench. The melee became a gruesome affair that they were sorely outmatched in, raptor gore oozed and mixed with the eviscerated remains of his comrades, limbs strewn left and right. The red mist of battle rage, he’d not noticed as the syringes sunk into his neck filling him with an uncontrolled bloodlust.

“KILL” was the only thing that flashed through his throbbing chaotic mind, beast after beast fell into the pit with him and he tore them limb by limb like a crazed child with a crane fly but the swarm didn’t slow. From his mountain of death, he turned to look out over no-mans land once more where he saw monstrous giants like titans of legend except formed of twisted flesh, faces of men and women in twisted agony across their bloated torsos. Then as the beasts fell upon him in a hateful frenzy the world went from red to white, then to black.

 

That’s not an interrogation!

“No! Hitting him repeatedly on the head is not an interrogation Constable Tomato!” Seargent Campbell yelled at his young watchman.
“Well, sir, he wasn’t telling me what I wanted” the young chap muttered gesturing at the door behind him.
“That doesn’t mean you can just bash him with you truncheon!”
“I wasn’t using my truncheon, I was using that chair.” Tomato corrected.
“That doesn’t make a difference!”
“Really? Oh… well still, I know he has something to do with it!” Tomato said defensively.
The Seargent glared.
“Right, well I mean he’s a goblin.”
“Goblins have rights in this city you can’t just go clubbing them whenever you feel like it!”
“Sometimes I think this city is too liberal” Tomato muttered looking to his side.
A sudden scream from the room. Followed by a slamming sound. The Seargent raised his eyebrow, sadly he wasn’t able to see past the large bulk of Tomato… Tomato was six foot tall and a couple of foot wide. The Seargent meanwhile was two foot tall, and not particularly wide.
“Is there someone still in there with him?”
“Course not…” A moment passed and the door unlocked.
“The press is in the sewer, he drew us a map,” A young woman with a pale complexion said as she left the room.
“Violet what were you doing in there?!” The Seargent asked suspiciously.
“Just asking the chap nicely where the printing press was.”
“I hate you people.” The Seargent stormed off.