Hive > Work Division > New York Anchor > Worker 4 / 5 : 1 month, 5 days, 44 minutes
All I could hear was my own heart. It hammered in my ears like the panicked fluttering of elephant wings. It drowned out my ragged breathing and washed away the crunch of leaves underfoot. I worried that, somehow, the man with the light, the Hunter, could hear the treacherous thunder in my chest.
Camilla, Camzilla as she went online, was almost out of sight ahead of me. Despite being in my most athletic form so far, she had kept far ahead, her uncanny power of balance helping her pick through the twisting forest floor with ease. It took all that I had to keep sight of her curly hair or lewd jacket.
A brilliant white beam lanced through the trees, causing the wood to implode on impact. A shower of thin wooden shards rained down, punching through my skin in several spots and peppering my limbs with twisted splinters. I stumbled, then quickly swapped to a healed body, letting the last absorb back into me while I ran.
"Are you ok?" Cam asked, suddenly reappearing to take my arm. She tried to slip under it, but I pushed her ahead.
"Go!" I cried, "don't worry about me, save yourself! I'll be ok!"
I meant it, too, for if I got caught it would be uncomfortable and disorienting, but for her, it would be much more permanent. Without time to explain, though, all my words achieved was giving her a conflicted expression. Another bolt of white light cut through my vision and a nearby boulder erupted, then collapsed in on itself. I was dragged to my feet and we were off running again.
"Ladies, please!" A guttural voice called from far behind. It was a lazy voice, with a heavy drawl and a carefree, loping tone that matched his movement. Every time I glanced back I could see him drawing ever closer, casually strolling with a hand in his pocket. "Don't gotta make this hard or nothing!"
"This way!" Cam whispered hurriedly and vanished into the underbrush. I glanced at the deer trail we'd barely managed to follow thus far, then ducked down to chase her into the unknown.
Hive > Home Anchor : 1 month, 5 days, 52 minutes
"No! Wrong way, wrong way!" I shouted, furiously scrolling through online maps and street renders of the forest. I reached through the hive, trying to open the connection to my clone, but found her barely connected enough to share her perspective. She was too focused on staying alive to think right now. I sat back in my chair closing my eyes in preparation as the worker left the trail anyway.
I had been following their path since cam's car first showed up in the parking lot - in fact, most of the hive had been watching through our network. A slow months working and building and led to a general malaise amongst myself and this burst of excitement was both interesting and terrifying. I'd done well so far, looking ahead on the map to keep them running towards civilization.
Now, how knows where they would go?
I slumped in the computer chair, a hand pressed against my cheek as I slowly zoomed out on the map until the satellite image returned to simple shapes and colours. I was about to close the browser when a little icon caught my attention - a landmark in the forest. I clicked the pin and was brought to the website of a sewage plant, the copyright dating the page to nearly ten years ago. It was built up of various buildings that had dilapidated in the years, including access sheds, a caretaker’s cabin, and the main treatment building itself. I crossed my fingers and tuned back into New York Worker 4 of 5’s view.
Hive > Work Division > New York Anchor > Worker 4 / 5 : 1 month, 5 days, 58 minutes
“Ok,” Cam whispered, stepping away from her creation with a satisfied smile, “that should do it.”
I crouched atop a heavy storage rack to peer out of the high warehouse window in the direction we had come. I’d jumped up to my perch after Cam caused the lifting delivery door to close with a rattling slam. Several heartstopping minutes flew by, but our pursuer had yet to appear. Cam however, had not been idle while I was keeping watch.
I jumped down to take a look at her work.
A mad contraption of molded and dusty artifacts from around the room perched precariously against the door, spidered across the wall, and braced against the far corners. Cam crossed her arms proudly, then tapped my shoulder as she walked away.
“Come on, we don’t want to be here when it comes down.”
“Why not?” I asked, eyeing the dilapidated aluminum ceiling with suspicion.
Cam jimmied open a door with a tug and slipped inside. “Someone touches that wall and hopefully, if I did it right, half of the building will come down with it.”
I snorted and stepped in after her. “No wa-”
A sudden drop greeted me on the other side of the door. Before me, twenty feet down, a landfill of abandoned furniture had formed a punji pit where the structure had given way. I wheeled my arms wildly and was about to split to jump back through the door when a hand touched my collar. Cam pushed me back against the wall with a grin.
“Are you doubting me, sidekick?”
I shook my head, raising my hands to admit defeat. The hand at my collar pressed harder as I overbalanced and nearly pushed off against the wall, managing to keep me our narrow ledge.
“No sudden moves, please! Let’s just get out of here and find somewhere to bunker down, okay?”
I nodded slowly and we began to shimmy our way along the ledge. Every time I came close to tipping or slipping, she adjusted her pressure in some subtle way and I returned upright. More and more, I was growing convinced that she was like me, the first alive super I’d met - besides The Hunter, potentially. I took a deep breath to broach the subject, but found the words difficult to say. ‘Hey, I can clone myself’? “Hey, I think you’re actually a superhero too”? How do you start this conversation?
“Hey,” I started hesitantly. Cam turned to walk backwards on the ledge, an eyebrow raised at my tone. She opened her mouth to say something, but was cut off by the light rattle of glass breaking in the other room.
“Oop, lets go!” Cam announced tightly, her touch turning into a grab at my shirt. She dragged me the remaining few dozen feet, then over a heartstopping gap to a concrete walkway. A shuddering groan rolled through the building and the ground began to shudder. I landed flat on my face and had to scramble to chase Cam through a door on the furthest end of the huge facility.
I burst out of the door just in time to turn back and watch the rest of the structure get dragged down behind us. A plume of dust and concrete powder billowed up and we both ran with our shirts pressed to our faces. The dense grey fog rolled up the stoney hill, past a rusted chainlink fence that surrounded the property, and dusted the line of trees hiding a distant, but busy road. Out of the sudden fog, a delapidated cabin loomed, at first a shadow that grew more visible as the dust-screen settled.
“In here!” Cam ordered, dashing up to the door and shoulder-checking it open with ease. I huffed and coughed after her, barely stumbling into the cob-webbed living room before she replaced the door in the mossy splintered frame.
Several moments passed as we struggled to get our breath, then the laughter began. It started with a chuckle of disbelief, then a snort of relief, then a deep rolling belly laugh whose source I could not explain. Cam was quick to join in, and it was several minutes before either of us could get a word through our gasping breaths.
“O-okay,” Cam said, leaning down to offer me a hand up, “Let’s -heh heh - lets find a basement or attic or something? Just in case? Giggle it up there, okay?”
“Okay,” I relented, then had an idea. “Hold on, Cam.”
She turned back, a foot on the lower step of a crumbling set of stairs. She raised an eyebrow and I took a deep breath.
“Give me your phone.” I said. Before she could object, I raised a hand out, palm up, “I’ve trusted you so far, now it’s my turn.”
She took the device out of her pocket, giving it a hard look, then me a confused one, then set it in my palm. I tried to take it, but she kept a desperate grip to a corner for several seconds before sighing and letting it go. “I have so many videos on there, if you break it I swear… Girl the woopin' I will...”
A light outside the window set stark shadows across the cabin walls. I glanced back to see the fading after-image of the laser lancing out of the pit.
“Go, I’ll meet you up there in just a sec.” I said. She nodded and dashed up the stairs. I scurried through the cabin, checking the doors for the perfect place.
Hive > Home Anchor : 1 month, 5 days, 1 hour, 22 minutes
<Oh you have to be kidding me.> I groaned, <Are you seeing this?>
Hive > Base Anchor : 1 month, 5 days, 1 hour, 22 minutes
<I know!> I responded through the hive.
Hive > OG : 1 month, 5 days, 1 hour, 22 minutes
<Home Anchor, get the stream up>
Hive > Home Anchor : 1 month, 5 days, 1 hour, 23 minutes
<It hasn’t started yet!> I responded, but brought up the Camzilla livestream page anyway. Apparently, the jacket was part of her branding, as it featured on videos even before she discovered the balancing stunt work. Fans were still filling the chat with theories about strange ending to the stream barely over half an hour before.
Then, a message popped up on screen. “Hold it Cam Fam! Stream Starting Soon!”
The following minutes would be described as one of the most harrowing things shown live on the platform.
At first, it was confusion, a wild blur of things moving in the dark. Then, the flashlight came on and Cam’s voice came in, loud and muffled as she whispered right into the microphone. The light revealed a tiny basement room, barely more than a storage cellar. The camera spun dizzyingly to fix on the speaker.
“Hey, Cam Fam, fam fam fam -” the voice stammered, her eyes locked on something just off screen. I leaned in my chair, unconsciously trying to look around the edge of the frame at whatever held her attention. Suddenly, she rushed on.
“So, spammer were right, we’re being followed, new girl and me. Say hi new girl!” The camera spun drunkenly to illuminate me, covered in mud and scratches. She, I, huddled at the top of a short set of stairs, pressed against the door to keep it shut. I watched myself look to the camera and wave, then both let out a long bout of hysterical giggles at once. The giggles lasted for several painfully long minutes before fading into silence.
Above, just barely audible on the phone’s limited mic, footsteps and a jaunty whistle could be heard.
“Listen, Fam, it’s been great.” the camera holder whispered hurriedly, her voice cracking, “This has been really cool and I hop-”
I leaned down, bracing against the counter. Across the hive, I got down, got into private, excused myself in a rush to where I could curl up into a fetal position. I closed all taps, cut the hive connection to several hundred now individual copies of my mind littered across the county. I still wasn’t prepared. I felt every atom of my beings fall apart in a moment, becoming awash in the lonely isolation of only being one person, hundreds of singular persons, in the vast ocean of people and -
I came to a few moments later, glancing up at the screen and blinking away the white light filling my visions. The camera had fallen, but landed upright to catch some of the room. I saw a pair of shiny black leather boots step down the stairs, over the ashen remains of my clone. A hand reached down, gloved in black leather, to lift the Cam laying barely in frame off of the floor.
Chat was going wild. Discussions and speculation and ridicule and disbelief all poured in, bringing with it more viewers as the news spread through the site. Questions about what was going on, why she was doing this, where her iconic jacket was, and if this was related to the cicada thing - all jumbled up on top of each other.
A scream peaked the speakers on my computer and I watched a pair of feet scrabble inches above the floor. I braced once again, waiting for the horrible feeling to hit me. To my surprised, there was a monologue.
“You just had to give it back.” The Hunter crooned gently. His voice dripped like honey, the hoarse tone of his shouts now a smooth drawl. A choked cough was the only reply he got, though, and he shook his head. “I’m just protecting my Queen’s interest and... I don’t think you deserve that interest. I'll have to thank you for being easy to find, miss Camzilla. Just give back what ya took and we can both be on our way.”
I tucked my head between my legs and I could hear spit spatter across fine black leather.
The flash of white light filled both my screen and my mind. Once again I was falling through the cracks of the world, my very sense of selfs crumbling for several terrifying moments. I recovered slowly, reconnected in bits and pieces at a time, only to find the stream closed with a moderator notice pinned over the chat.
I sat back in my chair, pressing my thumbs against my eyes and took a deep shuddering breath. All I could do now was hope that it worked.
Hive > OG : 1 month, 5 days, 1 hour, 28 minutes
<I hope our plan works>
Hive > Work Division > New York Anchor > Worker 4 / 5 : 1 month, 5 days, 1 hour, 30 minutes
Hive > Work Division > New York Anchor > Worker 4 / 5 : 1 month, 5 days, 1 hour, 28 minutes
“What the fuck?” Cam, the real Cam, whispered, “What did you do?”
“Shut up!” I hissed back, lifting a blind so we could both peak out of our second story hide-out. Just outside the cabin, the tall man leaned against the fence, chatting animatedly on a video call. We couldn’t see either face from this distance, especially with his wide-brimmed hat blocking his head from this angle. He turned the camera towards the building and we quickly ducked back down. After a few tense minutes, I lifted the blind again and glanced out the window once more.
The cowboy, the Hunter, ashed a cigarette on the heel of his boot and moseyed away from the cabin. On his back, a glittering silver gun with a green chamber, like from out of a cheap alien movie, slung in a black leather holster. He turned towards the highway and out of sight.
"Is he gone?" Cam asked.
"Fingers crossed," I said.
I slowly let out my breath and leaned back against the wall. Cam joined me, sighing deeply before punching my shoulder.
“I’m not seeing that phone again, huh?”
I shook my head grimly.
“Want to explain why he just took some shots from downstairs and left?”
I shrugged and pushed up off of the wall.
“Where are you going?” She demanded and this time, I offered her a hand.
“Let’s discuss this in the car.” I said, “I rented one while we were in the factory, I should be arriving with it and some cash in a few minutes. I'd like you to meet me, all of me - or at least all of me that's in the area.”
Cam stared at me for a few moments, then hung her head. “Goddamn it. Broke another sidekick.”
- Seattle, Washington, USA
Busy with life and a broken brain, so chapter releases are a tad slow. I'm aiming for releasing a chapter every other Friday between my two active fictions (Ironically, my only isekai fiction is on hiatus until I figure out where the hell I'm going with it). Critique welcome, as I'm aware my style is a bit stilted and overly-wordy and my ideas half-baked.
Additionally, I am looking for any editing work. I focus primarily on flow and subtext analysis and only ask for exposure at this point in my career.
Please join my subreddit for release announcements and the occasional meme or billion.
- La Fusilada: 20 chapter film-script-cum-novella following an alternative history where El Fusilada was a woman and kicked ass. Revenge western ala Kill Bill meets Hateful Eight.
- I Will Be Everyone: Fully pants-ed episodic superhero story following a hive mind of infinite-clones who are too polite for world domination.
- T.R.E.E.S.E.K.A.I.: Reborn as a dryad in a weird new world (will continue... eventually)