I felt something across my skin, and there was light. I mean I expected to wake up in the vat like I had before. But this didn’t feel like it. I heard rustles, like the wind in the trees.
I opened my eyes, blinking in the dim light that was around me. Stars now twinkled up above me. I wasn’t dead?
I struggled to move my hand, my arm, it was stuck under something. My neck cracked as I moved to try and see what it was. The Dweller was dead, half on me, half off. I wasn’t going to get my hand out so easy. I brought up an image of my body. So many injuries. Broken hand, arm, shoulder, ribs, and then there were the bites, cuts, bruises.
There was a small icon next to my hand, loot? I swiped at it, my internal systems taking it in without much more of a thought.
I didn’t have time to look at it, there were other noises around me, and as I looked I could see movement, things around me.
X 3 FOREST CRAWLER – LEVEL 1
X 8 FOREST NATS – LEVEL 1
X 4 FOREST MILLIX – LEVEL 5
Their names all came up for me now, and their stats, they were basic creatures probably nothing more than just animals that cleaned up after the whole death cycle. When I moved they squeaked, squawked and moved away though.
I tried to move again, realising there was nothing for me to do, but, try and get some strength back.
HEALTH – 8%
INJURIES – SEVERE!
Instead I focussed inside and looked to my stats, hoping that maybe something in here would help get me out of this, or I would have an even slower death while waiting for the dehydration or of course to be eaten by something else out there.
I shivered, it was getting cold.
I looked to my map. I could see more details now.
CURRENT TEMPERATURE 15c and it was falling below comfortable.
I didn’t know how I could increase it, or how I could get better without any nutrients at all. Around me there was nothing but dirt and greenery. I mean yeah there was that, a few shoots of something in the ground.
Really? Was I actually thinking on eating dirt.
The nanites, one sec, they were asking for stuff?
Dirt had trace minerals and other bits in, right?
Dirt it is then. Turning my head on its side hurt and stretched sore wounds that weren’t healing right. But with my face amongst the grasses and dirt I started to chomp on it. Pulling leaves and anything else I could up towards me. It sucked, the taste of dirt was in keeping with earthen stuff dank, tasteless and crunchy.
TRACE ELEMENTS OF - COPPER, IRON, SILVER FOUND.
CLEVER CLOGS YOU, AREN’T YOU? WELL THAT JUST ABOUT MIGHT GET YOU BACK ON THE MEND IN LIKE A MIKRON YEARS, YOU DO REALISE HOW MUCH DAMAGE YOU TOOK RIGHT? GONNA TAKE A LOT MORE THAN THAT TO GET YOU BACK ON YOUR FEET.
KEEP EATING SHIT, FUCKER!
The greenery at least had moisture in it.
FLUID INTAKE 1%
NANITE ORDER 10% FILLED
I really did have a lot to eat, but that wasn’t ever going to be enough. 10% was good enough for something to happen though and closing my eyes I tried not to think of how long. I wondered if the others might actually come back for me, or was I a lost cause totally.
It only crossed my mind when I woke the second time that my next meal was actually right next to me. I mean I could have cooked it, and I needed the dagger. Looking around in the dark I couldn’t see, or find it though. Loot! I quickly pulled up the loot box I’d nabbed from the kill. Fuck….
GOLD X 271
SILVER X 1928
Nothing to help cut though, and I needed a meal, the Forest Dweller was ideal. It was also probably full of fat and protein that I knew I really needed.
With my good hand, I rummaged around as much as I could, trying of course not to get the attention of anything around me. It worked I at least found a rock, it wasn’t a bad sized one, so I felt all the sides till I found something I thought would work then struggling to level myself and my very broken body I started to hack at the flesh of the dead creature. My next meal.
It took forever to get through the thick skin and into something that I thought I could sink my teeth into. It was still warm and in the cooling night was something that I relished floating towards me.
The smell of blood was really strong this was a creature that was totally made of flesh and blood so I did what I needed to and I stuck my face inside the hole and I bit down. Blood flowed into my mouth and I gagged at first. It was still sticky and the taste was rich. But, as much as I was about to gag and vomit it back up I breathed in. I steadied my racing heart and forced myself to eat something solid. The flesh stuck in my teeth but I chewed down on it, forcing myself to swallow.
NANITES ORDER 30% FILLED
Watching my health bar increase I smiled.
HEALTH – 38%
INJURIES – MODERATE - YOUR NANITES ARE ON THE JOB! BUT THEY CAN’T DIG YOU OUT OF HERE!
I had done it, I would get them what they needed and I would survive this.
I ate more, and more, until the order read 100% full and my stomach was bursting with the meat of the Dweller. I sank back feeling the lull of sleep tugging at my mind. I needed it to heal, I didn’t need it to be the death of me.
I needed a way to get this critter the fuck off me! But it was also still warm, its hide nice to curl close too.
Picking up the rock once more I started to dig around my arm. Hoping I could dig my arm out… After a few seconds, I realised it was futile.
The creature weighed too much and my strength was too low to shift it. The arm injured as it was anyway, had to go.
I swallowed. I needed to digest some more of this, get better before I tried that. I mean hack my own arm off with a rock, yeah. I knew it was badly damaged, but I kind of still had bone in there.
No, it was broken bone already. I’d seen it on the internal scan.
I thought for a moment, brought up my body scan again. It was indeed more than broken. But underneath the dweller. Hacking off the skin, muscle and then with sheer might, I could possibly pull it out, right? I could see rivers of green flowing through my 3d image, I understood this as my nanites fixing what they could. There were a ton in my arm section.
Stop repair on my arm, I thought.
Of course. I heard a soft female voice reply. The voice didn’t register much. But I was surprised here to see that the Nanites moved away, coming back up to my shoulder, and flowing other organs.
I let the darkness take me, not wanting to even think about it anymore. If I didn’t have the strength to get out the next time I woke, I would do it.
I would cut that dead piece of me right off.
It was the sun that brought me around. My health bar not quite that full, but enough that I didn’t feel like I was on deaths door anymore.
I wanted to look deeper into how I was doing, the structure of my broken body, what the nanites had actually managed to do, what else I had to do to live.
Shattered bone, broken ribs, torn muscles, cuts, bruises. So much damage.
HEALTH – 58%
INJURIES – MODERATE - YOUR NANITES ARE WINNING!
But that would all have to come later, I needed to get out of this mess. The Dweller pinned me, and something had to give. I forced my legs to slide on closer to it. Feeling its massive weight and flesh to push on. Now finally with some strength I pulled out with my hand, and shoved with my legs. The agony of broken bones screamed form inside my lungs and I coughed out more of what I could only assume was blood. I wasn’t going to do this without the dirty deed. The sun glinted off silver and I let out a sigh of relief, at least I could forget the rock. I scrabbled to reach it with my boot, couldn’t I needed just that little bit more reach. I cried out. Frustration of everything being against me. I hurt more than I ever had, this was evil, this game was never going to be fun. There was play on words from Arndale over the years, but they’d kept all the truth from us. This was brutal, this was real war.
With a breath, I made one last ditch for the dagger and caught it barely by the tip of my boot. Sliding it upwards I managed to get it up higher just in arm reach. I clasped onto it and hope flooded through me.
Taking a little time to get used to the feel and what I was going to do, I breathed in and out. Then turned to look at the dead arm.
I was just about to raise the dagger into the air when I saw a red flag across my screen.
The voice came through to me.
Internal Requesting Conversation
I ignored it.
But it spoke up anyway. Cutting off your own arm is a bit dire, Kyle?
What the fuck would you know. I shouted to the world.
Damned no need to be cranky, I can hear you.
I’m about to cut my arm off, I don’t need sarcasm from some gaming AI.
I am not a game AI Kyle. Would you like to hear what I was going to suggest?
I’d lost my momentum then and paused with the dagger inches from my skin.
What, what is so important you had to interrupt me right this minute?
Would you like the sensors in your arm switched off?
If I’d been standing I would have fallen over. I dropped the dagger, fumbling to pick it back up, I swore, then said quietly. You can do that?
Yes, Kyle. I can. I can numb all your senses like I did last night, while you were so passed out of it you didn’t have the capacity to answer me.
“Please, whoever you are.” I almost begged it. “Take it away, all of it.”
I watched as the red flag turned green, the pain in my arm lessened and I saw a 3d image of my body appear again, noting the broken bones in my arm, ribs, and hairline crack to my hips I smiled just a little as the pain setting there were dialled down and then the whole red of my arm turned green and then black. I can’t take it all away. But it will help for a while.
Then it was gone. I could only presume that I could cut it off now without feeling it.
I gripped the dagger once more and with one strike cut deep. There was no pain and instead of thinking that this was actually my own arm, I thought of it as nothing but a job.
It still took me some time, I was out of breath from the exertion and couldn’t focus for long on doing it. No blood?
I stopped the flow when you asked us not to waste resources and heal your arm.
The voices in my head were some side effect from all the health issues I was sure. Even though I was healing, I was far from being fit for anything major. Hallucinating and hearing things, voices. I was losing my mind.
Once the skin was cut through as far as I could get, I decided to pull. A tug wasn’t going to do it, so just like I did before I place my feet on the Dweller and with counting to three, I heaved with all my might.
The sucking pop that came with my arm being freed assaulted my ears with a sound I would never forget.
What I saw then both fascinated and scared me. I pushed myself up to get a better look at what was my arm. Again, the fact there was no blood was strange.
I looked in closer. The bone that I thought was bone, really wasn’t. There was a hard metal endoskeleton frame shattered now showing with tiny wires as veins I could only presume. However, they were starting to leak a little. Shit, and I knew that I did have to stop. Fumbling a lot, I managed to get my dagger belt off, and wrap it around the stumpy bit of my arm.
I routed around now for the dagger and found it, not too far away from me. But trying to hop across to it did come with some pain. And I winced.
Dagger in hand and injuries stable I leaned against the Dweller, looking around where I was, seeing that the sun was high in the sky but not knowing if that meant anything or not to this world.
I had to get up and walk back to the base. I knew it was going to be long on my own. Not sure of any turn we made, or creature paths to avoid, but if I found Nehi’s gun and my sword I might survive the day. I hoped.
I forced myself to stand and looked around for where I’d thrown Nehi’s gun. I knew it was here somewhere in the trees, but being tossed by the dweller had disoriented me and the exact tree eluded me.
I took a few tentative steps, cleaning my dagger off on my trousers. Then walking off better. I could see where the dwellers had come into the clearing, where the most damage was. I followed their trail of destruction, and spotted the gun, still in the trees. If only I could get it.
I didn’t think I was going to be able to climb very well with one arm, so that was going to be well out of the question. However, maybe I could knock it down with the right kind of rock.
I looked around for anything and found a few likely candidates. I picked them up, gave it a shot. Missed.
Found another few, the second one hit, but didn’t move it. I needed better leverage or something different. Maybe a large stick. There were plenty of damaged branches about.
It took a while longer to find one I thought would be long enough and with a few more tries at snagging the gun, I finally got it to drop. Catching it one handed on the way down. Didn't want that beauty to hit the dirt and damage itself, even if Nehi said she could lose it, it was too nice to let go.
It didn’t, but it only had a half charge left. I hoped that if I encountered any more creatures in here that shooting it on a lower setting would at least give me a few kills and chances to scare them off.
I just about managed to get all the weapons to sit better before realising I could put them in my inventory. I slotted the dagger away and kept the gun in hand. I didn’t want to be worrying about dropping or losing anything else.
I had noticed there was another loot box above the first Dweller I’d killed but as I went to swipe it into my storage, it vanished with a sarcastic -
SUCKER YOU MISSED IT!
“Fuck you timed loot drops!”
Slowly I made my way back tracking the damage, the kills, there were the bodies of the pups, no more loot but then at least there hadn’t been a whole herd, right? I think if there had been I wouldn’t be here right now, trying to live. I would be well dead and eaten, and re spawned. I wondered if that was a good thing? Easiest option, yes, but I would never get anywhere with that level of thinking. If I wanted to survive and be the best I could be, I had to live and fight everything that was thrown at me, and that meant if I could survive I would never pull the trigger to kill myself.
The area around me was something I could now enjoy though and as if on cue I started to notice more, not just the bushes and foliage, there were other insects flittering about, ones that I had no doubt had important jobs. This was a living planet filled with such wondrous details. I was fascinated by every aspect of it.
However, wandering around and getting side-tracked wouldn’t get me home. Picking up the pace I made to jog, though my legs and hip weren’t good, and as soon as I did the warnings started to flash up again I stopped running and carried on trying my best not to get distracted by anything else. It wasn’t long before I could see the Delta 81 ahead of me, I wanted to whoop my joy. Then I saw the smoke.
I didn’t have a choice, I pushed past the warnings, and get there as quickly as I could. They were under attack the forces at their gates was larger and stronger than the one from my spawn day.
I approached with caution even though I knew that the M-Wolf’s didn’t have eyes in the back of their head, I didn’t want to upset them and break any chance I had of taking them out from behind.
I had wondered only briefly why the others hadn’t come back for me, this made it pretty clear that no sooner had they gotten back they couldn’t leave.
I wondered if they had survived this, how long had it been going on. Sirens were going off, lights, fighting, it looked dire from here.
I found myself a spot to observe everything, determined that out here I would be able to do something to help. I then spotted the M-Wolf Boss. He was bellowing his orders to his herd now with fever, they were listening and about to make another move on the base. I didn’t understand a word he was saying, but I could see their intent, their eyes glowed and their yowls grew in volume.
I had to take him out. If I couldn’t get close enough for the gun then I’d try and sneak around. Maybe a sneak attack from behind would be enough to land some kind of critical hit.
Who the fuck was I kidding it would be a glorious death, I was sure. “Damn good thing I cut my fucking arm off only to die doing something heroically stupid.”
I sunk in low and then started to weave myself in further towards this destiny.
M-WOLF BOSS – LEVEL 18
It was easy to approach them all from behind I don’t think they would have suspected any of it. I just had to be careful and hope that they didn’t sound a retreat with me right in their path. Watching for any of their patrols. I didn’t know how intelligent these creatures were, but wasn’t taking chances either.
There wasn’t a lot I could do with the stump of arm I had hanging from my side and one almost crippled leg, I hobbled like the worst zombie you’d ever seen holding a gun and pulling the trigger was going to be a no too. I put it into my inventory and made forward much quicker, I could see where I wanted to be to fire from it wasn’t too far away, but it was in open space. I would be a sitting duck if any of them spotted me. I prayed they wouldn’t I doubted would ever get the upper hand on one of them again.
I could see the wave spread out ready to attack the base, I listened to the yelps from their leader and followed where he was looking. I cursed as I saw their target, there was a breakthrough in the line, and the M-Wolf’s were mere minutes from overrunning the defenders.
I checked the area, there was no way I could get a message to any of them on the inside I was as basic as they came, no internal comms lines to anyone else. Or was there?
Nanites? I thought.
My name is XE. The female voice came in. You know this… it’s in your character sheet, right?
I hadn’t put two and two together, but now I did know. It was cool! Can you get me a communication line to the base?
I will try.
When the boss stopped yelping his orders I waited not moving in case there were any more twigs around to trigger them to look my way. When his first line set out I started forwards once more, making sure that each step was surefooted as I could make it. I winced as I did touch a branch with my lame leg. I stumbled slightly and it took my breath away. The ribs hurting a lot more now with the walking. I guess it couldn’t last forever, right?
With my good hand, I steadied my breathing holding on tight to my ribs while I focussed on taking the breaths slower. Then only when I felt I could walk without screaming out did I start up again.
Blaster fire from the base started to light up ahead of me, there were no rounds that would ever make it out this far, hence why the boss never felt threatened, he stayed right where he was, out of the way. There would never be a death for him, he would always skip out and retreat. Though his attacks were always relentless and never-ending.
I was almost to target, the fighting ahead of me reaching a crescendo of noise that my ears were struggling with. There were so many Soldiers and fiery blasts trying to actually take out the boss I realised that the base was becoming desperate. I should have made a run for it, but gut instinct and my injuries kept me here. They wouldn’t be throwing everything they had at him to take him out if they weren’t worried. The boss also wasn’t stupid, their blasts, bombs and rounds were falling far short.
My footsteps faltered when the pain became too much for me once more, and I dropped down to the position I needed to take that killing shot. I had everything worked out, it just wouldn’t take long. But then as I got the gun into its right spot it flashed up when targeting. I was out of range.